Africa is approaching fast at

                                                     5 cm a year.

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By Robert de Mayo Dillon.

 

 

To see a world in a grain of sand

                                         And a Heaven in a wild flower

                                   Hold infinity in the palm of your hand

                                            and Eternity in a hour

Auguries of Innocence c1803

 

 

To All that value living time.

 

 

Introduction.

To this day the gregre (charm) is still hung around my neck. A cowrie shell has replaced my wristwatch and wallet. We’re skint. So what; the poverty of our minds has being enriched far beyond our dreams.

St Malo is on the bow. My mind is telling me that Sitting Bull died with an Irish Papal Medal around his neck.

“Passengers are requested to join their vehicles”.

In the confines of a Polish ship, Williwaw’s engine, (our Land Rover) comes to life with a roar worthy of a lion on heat – not that I have ever heard an over sexed lion roar, other than in Dublin Zoo when I was five or six. On that occasion, in the heat of the day, in the moment of terror, I squirted urine all the way back to the ice cream van.

Fanny beside me, Florence our seven and half year old daughter is perched behind on the one remaining seat.   No going back. We are fully loaded. Fanny has never seen the inside of tent.   Florence is not going to see the inside of a conventional school for the next two years.   Its four months since I put Travels to Africa in Fanny’s Christmas sock. Eight months since the collapse of our business.   Thirty years since I went swimming in the 1979 Fastnet Admirals Cup race.

Many have asked and still do ask, why? Why Africa?

The question has no real answer, other than the sea in 1979 had spared my soul from Albatross flight.   An uninvited swim in the worst yachting disaster of modern times had somehow or other released me from living my life on the HP of a Banker’s monthly salary. The mortgage and the pension at all cost syndromes were well and truly canned.   The Fastnet swim unstrapped my corset of security and replacing it with a living clock that is ticking fast.

So Sitting Bulls spirit is at this very moment whispering in my ear,

“If you don’t write a book on this trip it will remain between language and silence

the most beautiful musical notes ever heard. “

 

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FRANCE

WHAT WE KNOW:  

Paris, Eiffel Tower, Napoleon, Frogs Legs, Cocks, Resistance, Foreign Legion, De Gaulle, Mona Lisa, Guillotine, Revolution, D. Day, Pasteur, Van Gogh, Garlic, Wine, Quasiomodo, Perfume, Cognac, Mitterrand, Mount Blanc, Chateau, Seine, Riviera, TGV, Burgundy, Louis, Boules, Scandals, Love, Fois Gras, Fêtes, Bastille, Le Monde, Cannes Film Festival, Grapes.

Down the ships ramp – Within a wink of the eye our first navigational problem, a T-junction is upon us. Bristling with information that is entangled with graffiti an arrow hints at the direction we want to go – Left or Right.   Right we go. I drained of colour, looking somewhat like an Aids Victim, swearing that I will never again be nobbled by Polish cooking. (Sauerkraut with polish widows memories or sausages if you likes is the cause of my dull complexion)

If by any chance you might be thinking of following in our dust. Be warned! The Left or Right syndrome is fraught with dangers, far greater than any African off road driving hazards, wild animals, frontier crossings, AK 47, diseases, malaria, racism, wars, bushfire, or letters from the bank manager.

After a day’s driving, using all the skills acquired from our four-hour 4X4 course in Andover we arrive, at our first campsite.

“Allo bonjour, une place S’il vous plaît”, with Dieu Merci being the operative word”.

Darkness is falling. You guess it right; it is raining les chiens et les chats.

(French for woofers and pussies) Enough to irrigate the Sahara, I struggle to get our tent pitched. ” Where is the effing hammer,” ” In the tool kit my dear,” which of course is on the roof, under the Jerry cans, lashed with chain, and bonjees, and for good measure locked to the roof rack with a combination lock, which of course refuses to open.   All of which combine in a sense – to a stunning introduction to the do’s and don’ts of camping.

“Well done my love,”

Who gets wet that night? The wife of course! Who else?

By late morning, on the completion of our first re pack, plastic bags are banned.   I discover we have no loo paper the frustration of which I take out on an oversize red wok. Wrong, I didn’t crap in it. I did however reshape it with the wheel brace.

We no sooner on the road again, yes! In thunder and lighting a little voice asks, “Are you really my daddy?”

“Of course I am.” “What do you want a DNA test”

“Well if you are.”   “Where’s the wedding photo?”

Pitch number two; see us in the darkness of the night drinking wine out of yoghurt jars. Rather than picking out what is on the dinner plate our head strapped campers lights are beam fencing. Founded on decades of western education there can be no doubt that we have moved into a different world, and for the moment I am the undisputed leader, the shining light.

Next morning, I find myself, in a shower with a push button on the wall. You know the type. Push the button and it delivers a squirt of water sufficient to wash one pubic hair at a time. Then when you most need it to work for no visible reason it decides to come to a dribbling halt, leaving a long streak of white frothing shampoo down your back that disappears into the crack of your ass reappearing for good measure down or up the inside of your legs depending on who is looking. I am all for water conversation, but there are some pleasures in life that requires a certain amount of inanity such as enjoying a hot shower.

After my rationed of organic soup I emerge, disgruntled, lifeless in Royal.   (France)

One p.m., we’re on the move again, straight through an overhanging red light.

A hundred yards further down the road concentrating on the next set of overheads; we go airborne over a speed ramp. The look on the girl’s faces said it all.   Stop for a beer, and start again.

Out in the country once more:

Wine to the left, wine to the right: Where do we stop?

A Vineyard!   Of course not! We stop at a Napoleons Brandy tasting house. Why? Because we don’t speak French that’s why.   Two hundred francs lighter, one bottle heavier we hit the Bordeaux ring road, where doubting Thomas takes over.   Don’t worry luck is with us.   Fanny’s satellite navigation ausfarts (Germany phonetically sound for Exit) has us on the right road number, according to Michelin 989.

An hour later after acquiring some rubber matting for the hall of the tent, some fresh food for the evening meal, not forgetting a plastic three litres barrel of wine, plus the connoisseur complementary bottle, we arrive in the valley of the owls at Lou Broustaricq Sanquinet base de Loisir et d’Accueil Route de Langeot Nr Arcachon.

 Pitch no three.    

That night, from inside the tent, every hoot is followed by,   “What is that?”

“What is that noise?”   “It’s a too twit too how “I slur in ever improving imitations of a pissed owl, owls, till noddyland arrives.

We are awakened at six thirty am by a squadron of French Air force Jets. Their low flying passes resulting in the nerve end of my scalp causing an accidental erosion of the hard disk of my brain.   Shrieking at tree level they scare the B Jesus out of the girls, displace the resident population of owls who immediately start a dawn concerto to add to last night’s entertainment.

Bleary eyed, I venture over to the Sanitary Unit this time to be confronted with a stand up and do it French Toilet.   Not for the amateur, not the faint hearted, or the hung over, not to mention my microchips warped by last night’s Napoleon juice and the French Air force.

A deep knowledge of gravity is required. The whole trick is in the use of wishbone knee pressure to hold one’s shorts out of the firing line. Finding the precise angles of squat, which I am sure I will never master. No matters how often I adjust the angle the turd misses that goddamn little hole in the middle of the floor. A fact, which is customarily confirmed by a revealing bout of coughing, with extra flushing, a set of wet shoes, and rapid retreat to whence, I came from.

We decide to venture down to La Dune de Pyla, a small sandcastle down the road on the coast, which turns out to be a Micro Sahara. A few hours later Fanny with a thousand other Chesterfield, Gitane, Gaulois, lovers is panting as we labour up the first Dune.

“Jesus I wish, I wish, I had given up the fags “.

Venturing over the slip side off a dune I leave her with a concerned Florence puffing, on top of the first dune. “You’ve got to give up Mum.”

Away from the great unwashed, I spot a set of footprints in the deep sand disappearing in the direction the blue sea. Incoming waves carry more gritty troops in a relentless attack to secure a beachhead for the Sahara. I can’t help thinking that perhaps the foot prints belonged to that bloke we have all seen in one of those old world war desert movies.

You know the Monty desert rat type.

A curly red head of short squat statue, in threadbare khaki shorts, stiffer upper lipped he-man. Hairy chest, in a string vest with moveable sweat stains, clasping an oil rag, standing in hob-nailed boots. Each weighing a ton- socks optional.   Yes, you’ve got him. He is the one that clambers over one dune after another, with ten thousand dunes to go in search of water. While back at the other end of his footprints his buddies are lapping up the sunshine till all of us are panting with the thirst, and can’t wait to get out of the cinema to down a pint of beer in the nearest pub.

I see him in my mind eye arriving at a four-star hotel set in the classic palm filled oasis. Agonizingly, crawling, crawling under the scorching unforgiving noonday sun, he reaches the revolving lobby doors. In his demented mirage the whole place is spinning as he gasps through cracked blistered lips, “Water! Water!”   Only to be confronted by a doorman in full number ones who retorts, in classical Lord Irvine style English   “Sorry Sir, one must have a tie to enter here.”

Thank God! Tomorrow, it’s up and over the Pyrenees before I lose my marbles.

to be continued

After a day’s driving, using all the skills acquired from our four-hour 4X4 course in Andover we arrive, at our first campsite.

“Allo bonjour, une place S’il vous plaît”, with Dieu Merci being the operative word”.

Darkness is falling. You guess it right; it is raining les chiens et les chats.

(French for woofers and pussies) Enough to irrigate the Sahara, I struggle to get our tent pitched. ” Where is the effing hammer,” ” In the tool kit my dear,” which of course is on the roof, under the Jerry cans, lashed with chain, and bonjees, and for good measure locked to the roof rack with a combination lock, which of course refuses to open.   All of which combine in a sense – to a stunning introduction to the do’s and don’ts of camping.

“Well done my love,”

Who gets wet that night? The wife of course! Who else?

By late morning, on the completion of our first re pack, plastic bags are banned.   I discover we have no loo paper the frustration of which I take out on an oversize red wok. Wrong, I didn’t crap in it. I did however reshape it with the wheel brace.

We no sooner on the road again, yes! In thunder and lighting a little voice asks, “Are you really my daddy?”

“Of course I am.” “What do you want a DNA test”

“Well if you are.”   “Where’s the wedding photo?”

Pitch number two; see us in the darkness of the night drinking wine out of yoghurt jars. Rather than picking out what is on the dinner plate our head strapped campers lights are beam fencing. Founded on decades of western education there can be no doubt that we have moved into a different world, and for the moment I am the undisputed leader, the shining light.

Next morning, I find myself, in a shower with a push button on the wall. You know the type. Push the button and it delivers a squirt of water sufficient to wash one pubic hair at a time. Then when you most need it to work for no visible reason it decides to come to a dribbling halt, leaving a long streak of white frothing shampoo down your back that disappears into the crack of your ass reappearing for good measure down or up the inside of your legs depending on who is looking. I am all for water conversation, but there are some pleasures in life that requires a certain amount of inanity such as enjoying a hot shower.

After my rationed of organic soup I emerge, disgruntled, lifeless in Royal.   (France)

One p.m., we’re on the move again, straight through an overhanging red light.

A hundred yards further down the road concentrating on the next set of overheads; we go airborne over a speed ramp. The look on the girl’s faces said it all.   Stop for a beer, and start again.

Out in the country once more:

Wine to the left, wine to the right: Where do we stop?

A Vineyard!   Of course not! We stop at a Napoleons Brandy tasting house. Why? Because we don’t speak French that’s why.   Two hundred francs lighter, one bottle heavier we hit the Bordeaux ring road, where doubting Thomas takes over.   Don’t worry luck is with us.   Fanny’s satellite navigation ausfarts (Germany phonetically sound for Exit) has us on the right road number, according to Michelin 989.

An hour later after acquiring some rubber matting for the hall of the tent, some fresh food for the evening meal, not forgetting a plastic three litres barrel of wine, plus the connoisseur complementary bottle, we arrive in the valley of the owls at Lou Broustaricq Sanquinet base de Loisir et d’Accueil Route de Langeot Nr Arcachon.

 Pitch no three.    

That night, from inside the tent, every hoot is followed by,   “What is that?”

“What is that noise?”   “It’s a too twit too how “I slur in ever improving imitations of a pissed owl, owls, till noddyland arrives.

We are awakened at six thirty am by a squadron of French Air force Jets. Their low flying passes resulting in the nerve end of my scalp causing an accidental erosion of the hard disk of my brain.   Shrieking at tree level they scare the B Jesus out of the girls, displace the resident population of owls who immediately start a dawn concerto to add to last night’s entertainment.

Bleary eyed, I venture over to the Sanitary Unit this time to be confronted with a stand up and do it French Toilet.   Not for the amateur, not the faint hearted, or the hung over, not to mention my microchips warped by last night’s Napoleon juice and the French Air force.

A deep knowledge of gravity is required. The whole trick is in the use of wishbone knee pressure to hold one’s shorts out of the firing line. Finding the precise angles of squat, which I am sure I will never master. No matters how often I adjust the angle the turd misses that goddamn little hole in the middle of the floor. A fact, which is customarily confirmed by a revealing bout of coughing, with extra flushing, a set of wet shoes, and rapid retreat to whence, I came from.

We decide to venture down to La Dune de Pyla, a small sandcastle down the road on the coast, which turns out to be a Micro Sahara. A few hours later Fanny with a thousand other Chesterfield, Gitane, Gaulois, lovers is panting as we labour up the first Dune.

“Jesus I wish, I wish, I had given up the fags “.

Venturing over the slip side off a dune I leave her with a concerned Florence puffing, on top of the first dune. “You’ve got to give up Mum.”

Away from the great unwashed, I spot a set of footprints in the deep sand disappearing in the direction the blue sea. Incoming waves carry more gritty troops in a relentless attack to secure a beachhead for the Sahara. I can’t help thinking that perhaps the foot prints belonged to that bloke we have all seen in one of those old world war desert movies.

You know the Monty desert rat type.

A curly red head of short squat statue, in threadbare khaki shorts, stiffer upper lipped he-man. Hairy chest, in a string vest with moveable sweat stains, clasping an oil rag, standing in hob-nailed boots. Each weighing a ton- socks optional.   Yes, you’ve got him. He is the one that clamper’s over one dune after another, with ten thousand dunes to go in search of water. While back at the other end of his footprints his buddies are lapping up the sunshine till all of us are panting with the thirst, and can’t wait to get out of the cinema to down a pint of beer in the nearest pub.

I see him in my mind eye arriving at a four-star hotel set in the classic palm filled oasis. Agonizingly, crawling, crawling under the scorching unforgiving noonday sun, he reaches the revolving lobby doors. In his demented mirage the whole place is spinning as he gasps through cracked blistered lips, “Water! Water!”   Only to be confronted by a doorman in full number ones who retorts, in classical Lord Irvine style English   “Sorry Sir, one must have a tie to enter here.”

Thank God! Tomorrow, it’s up and over the Pyrenees before I lose my marbles.

To be continued.

If you like what you read a donation would be much appreciated.

R Dillon. Account number 62259189. Ulster Bank 33 College Green Dublin 2. Sorting code 98-50-10 . Many Thanks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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