Christmas is over, the New Year has passed and life returns to normal both here in rural North Yorkshire, and also in the Gambia. For me this means more time spent in the workshop on the Land Rover restoration project, and now at last it seems we are about halfway. For a while it seemed that my days were taken up by degreasing and cleaning the various parts that had been removed from the vehicle ready for shotblasting to remove all traces of rust. Meanwhile Dunstan was busy replacing sections of the bulkhead that were badly corroded – a time consuming task, but there are no half measures here. The phrase “near enough” doesn’t appear in his vocabulary, so if the repair is not up to his exacting standards, work continues until it is. As a result, the old bulkhead has now come back from the paintshop looking like new with no visible seams to show where he has replaced metal, a tribute both to Dunstan’s metalworking skills and to the care taken by Rob the painter. If all the panels are to this standard I will be highly satisfied. He has also replaced some panels on the rear tub, and that is now ready to go into the paintshop.
I thought that my days of leaving work with fingernails black from the degreaser were over, but having spent yesterday morning spraying etch primer onto the newly shotblasted axle casings and a myriad of other smaller parts I found my left thumb completely black from holding small pieces so I could turn them as I sprayed. A rub with white spirit made no difference, but fortunately a few minutes scrubbing at home with a Brillo pad made my nails look reasonably presentable again, and I was no longer one of the Black Hand Gang! We have suffered a few delays due to holiday closures, waiting for parts, and some unforeseen problems. The rear axle tube when cleaned up was quite worn on one side and although it may have lasted for years, we decided to replace it rather than risk it cracking, so have found a good secondhand replacement from a military vehicle supplier. Similarly we found that the splines on the gearbox output shaft were very worn which has necessitated a gearbox rebuild.
Unfortunately the shaft in question is the very last part to come out when dismantling the gearbox, but at least it means that every part will be inspected, checked, and if necessary replaced while the gearbox is in bits. Currently we are delayed by the brand new front doors as it seems that some of the brackets which secure the window winder mechanism in the door frame are in the wrong place. I am now trying to source the necessary brackets so that we can weld them into the right place on the frame, but of course this means that the doors cannot go to paint yet, and unless we are lucky finding the necessary brackets quickly it will hold things up.
In the Gambia meanwhile there has been an attempted coup. It seems that during the night of 30th December while the President was enjoying a trip to Dubai, a group of armed men attacked his official residence, the State House in Banjul, hoping to take power, but were fairly easily beaten off. The plot seems to have emanated from a small group of Gambian dissidents, (some formerly in the Gambian army) based in the USA and financed by a Texan Gambian businessman who rather naively thought that if they mounted an attack, that other Gambian soldiers would rally to their cause and topple the current regime. In the event, several of them including their alleged leader Lt Col Lamin Sanneh were killed and the remainder fled. Two of the ringleaders are now back in the USA being held by the FBI and charged with trying to overthrow President Jammeh. This is a rather curious, not to say embarrassing situation as the USA is a strong critic of President Jammeh who is known for his repression of the opposition and his outspoken anti western views, and the Americans now find themselves in the strange position that they may well be helping him to tighten his grip on power
The President meanwhile has reshuffled his cabinet and declared that he is “going to get rid of these elements one by one until the last person”. He has denied that this was a coup attempt, just an attack by terrorists. Perhaps there is a difference between this attack and his own seizure of power back in 1994, but I find it hard to perceive, and hope he will not use it as an excuse for a clampdown and a further purge of anyone who opposes his rule.