Tuesday, March 31, 2009

At 9 pm on the 26th of March, as I was preparing my suitcase at Ann’s in order to depart from Bamako and from Keita’s life the following morning, there was a movement at the door.
Two tall, elderly gentlemen entered, dressed in long embroidered ‘bou-bous’. It was clear by their solemn bearing that their visit was of a ceremonial nature. It was Dr. Keita, a retired military doctor at Kati, the oldest male member of Keita’s immediate family. He introduced the other old man as ‘un homme de caste, un forgeron’. It was the Keita family griot, or the ‘minstrel’, what Mungo Park called a ‘singing man’, the emissary of tidings. In this case his errand was to ask me (in the absence of any father or any other relations) if I was prepared to marry Keita.
I said yes, they could leave with a cautious acceptance, but with the condition that I saw Keita the following day to talk to him directly.
So I went to Kati again. Keita was still very weak and was not able to talk very much. But what he did say convinced me that he had finally realized that it was not going to be possible to wait with our marriage until he got better: that day may be very far off, or indeed it may never come. He had understood that he was about to lose me.

The marriage took place at Ann’s last Sunday the 29th of March, with the Imam of Kati as the celebrant. Keita’s immediate family was present and very few others. The loveliest wedding gift was that Ace had travelled through the night on the bus from Djenne just to be there: lovely loyal Ace who had at first fought for my just being able to see Keita at all in the Djenne hospital, then worked tirelessly behind the scenes in order to prepare the way for our wedding.
Keita and I remained in our room during the ceremony- the couple is not present. The family griot represented my father. This detail moved me, because my father Sten died before I was born, and until this day he had never been represented in any event in my life before.
After the ceremony the bride goes to greet the guests, and that is what I did, dressed in the white wedding outfit that had been presented to me by Djenneba and Lun, a female cousin who was acting as matron of honour.
When the guests left Keita remained with me at Ann’s. The following morning I left for Segou at day break to greet his mother, sister and two little boys, on my way back to Djenne to put things at the hotel in order before my trip to Europe.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A picture of the Senofo room, bearing no relevance to anything.
Cam't be bothered with any more drama. Still in Bamako, but not for much longer. May explain later. But meanwhile, just out of idle curiosity I decided to google myself this evening, and came across this old article which appeared in the Independent in 1999. I survived this disaster, so I am likely to survive the present one. Here is for some light relief: ( I am the 'Swedish catwalk model')

It was certainly a junk, but to call it the `Nuttin' Wong' was not the most accurate of descriptions, as Wilson Muir and his shipmate Sophie Sarin discovered on a very unusual voyage to Trinidad:

Sunday, 21 March 1999
One hot Tobago afternoon, I was playing Scrabble with Sophie, a Swedish model, when a figure turned up who could have starred in a dramatisation of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
He was called Ahab and was the captain of a Chinese junk in the bay below, looking for crew to sail north through the islands to Miami.

It must have been the romantic appeal of sailing in a junk that made us lose all reason and prevented us from noticing the legions of cockroaches crawling over the galley and the rust devouring the hull before paying $600 for the passage.

Within two days, I had become First Mate, Gourmet Chef and Chief Recruiter of Tourists on the misnamed Nuttin' Wong.

The Chief Recruiter set about his task of converting tourists into passengers with the zeal of an early Desert Father. He soon picked up four enthusiastic and unsuspecting Germans for a passage to Port of Spain. The Nuttin' Wong was set to sail for Trinidad at first light.

Halcyon days in the making, one would think. However, the junk turned out to be exactly that: junk. The Brazilian cabin-boy was on strike, so when the bilge pump gave up the ghost, the captain - a character distilled from the bottom of a rum bottle - barked "I need some help over here!" to the "crew", the four very earnest young German professionals, who jumped to startled attention.

"Vas is der problem?"

"I need an engineer!"

"But ve are on holiday..."

"All hands in the fumigator!"

Having established the upper hand, Ahab instructed the Gourmet Chef to prepare a meal from a gulag recipe for bully beef and root vegetables.

Later, the Gourmet Chef put on his First Mate's cap, took the wheel in a moderate wind and nearly succeeded in capsizing the rustbucket, with cries from his Swedish helper of: "Look what you're doing!" The deck took on the appearance of a bungey-jump target. Things were resolved as Ahab took charge.

Not only were the Germans being slowly poisoned, they had narrowly escaped being drowned. The Gourmet Chef scurried back to the galley to prepare yet another brig masterpiece.

As sunset approached, increasing mutters of dissent were heard from the German camp. But as we neared the harbour, there was frantic bag- packing and excitement at the thought of the comfort of a porcelain toilet. It was not to be.

The engine was cut to quarter revs. This had the same effect as Andy Warhol's film of the Empire State Building. One take: 24 hours. After an eternity, the anchor was dropped by the "crew". But it just slid around without getting a grip.

After another eternity, the anchor was to be hauled. The windlass now decided it was close to retirement age and whined to a halt every two seconds. The paying guests had no option but to grab the rusty linked snake and help it back on to the spasmodically revolving drum with much Bavarian blaspheming.

As midnight approached the captain, mumbling about mutinous dogs, ended the cabin-boy's strike. This had a cathartic effect. He was able to find the anchor a home at last.

Meanwhile, at the stern the catwalk model extinguished her 37th Camel of the tedious evening and the German crew clambered into an overladen dingy to be carried off to a Trinidadian Valhalla.

Ahab came astern and dismissed it all with a shrug: "Worse things happen at sea, man." Sometimes, for example, whole crews jump ship at the first port of call instead of going all the way to Miami. Fortunately, Ahab was good enough to give us back our money.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Keita and I at Ann's on my birthday.
This is no longer the square root of emotional turmoil- Birgit’s phrase now seems too solid somehow. The circumstances change with the speed of quicksilver. A more apt phrase would perhaps be the Cresta Run? We are speeding down an icy slope in a toboggan towards some sort of resolution, the nature of which is not yet clear.
I have spent the week at my friend Ann’s place in Bamako, where Keita and I stayed for two or three weeks in January. When he arrived here he still walked. He left here in a wheelchair.
Meanwhile Keita and his wife have been staying at his sister Djenneba’s place at Kati, where his large family are passing by daily to greet him.
Keita and Djenneba have been coming down in the car every day to take me to the various laboratory and scanning appointments and the clinic visits which I arranged for him, and to pick up the medicines prescribed at the pharmacy. Then, after the visits they have disappeared up the hill again, leaving me here waiting for the next day’slaboratory/specialist/scanning visit.
During this time I have been patiently waiting to be told when I can have my meeting with the family. On Tuesday it was my birthday. I bought us all lunch take-away from Amandine’s: Keita’s favourite, Steak au Roquefort.
The following day we went to have a new scan done. Like last time in December, I sat in front of the screen with the technician while Keita was rolled into the machine, lying on his back.
As soon as the technician switched on the scanner and the picture appeared on the screen, I saw that there was something quite wrong- there appeared to be only one lung. Keita has had problems talking- his voice is very faint and he says he cannot seem to get enough air. I immediately ordered a scan of the thorax too, although Youssoufa, the neurologist had only ordered a scan of the spine. The technician objected that it would be highly irregular because the doctors don’t like it if things are done without their consent. I said: ‘I don’t care, just do it’. So he did.
The rest of what we saw on the screen seemed to me very wrong too- there seemed to be holes everywhere and I thought there was a very bad deterioration. The results with the interpretation were to be picked up the following day.
Of course I said nothing to Keita, only that there was something showing on a lung. Meanwhile I started thinking that Keita was now dying, and in my mind I was certain he would never return to Djenne. It suddenly dawned on me that the ‘fight’ for my future life with Keita at the hotel was already an irrelevance, a dream which would never be realized- the disease had taken over. That afternoon I did have a little time with him when he rested for an hour or so at Ann’s. ‘Don’t worry about anything, cheri,' I said. ‘These problems between Mai and me are not important. It will all sort itself out. Don’t think of anything, just rest and know that I am here next to you'.
Then they disappeared up the hill again until the next day’s appointment with Dr. Toure, the oncologist/hematologist who is in charge of Keita's cancer treatment. We arrived with the results of the scan and the blood tests, both of which had seemed to me like a death sentence with more or less immediate effect.
But no! Dr. Toure was not as concerned as I thought he would be. It was good that I had insisted on the thorax scan, because it revealed an inflammation of the lung, which Toure said might be quite banal and should be treated with antibiotics for ten days. In the meantime the new course of chemotherapy and thalidomide which was due to start should be postponed. Even the blood test with their values, so wildly different from the indicated ‘normal’ values was not to be taken too seriously he said. The infection of the lungs has sent the values off into their abnormal levels, it was no indication of the progress of the cancer! Well, all this was of course quite good news and on the way down to buy the antibiotics and to drop me off we were quite cheerful in the car. It seemed like some sort of relief and respite. Keita would stay another couple of weeks in Bamako of course.
And me? What would I now do? After the first rush of relief and happiness, slowly a great anxiety took hold. It was Thursday night when they dropped me off. The following day, yesterday, we only had one appointment with the neurologist Dr. Youssoufa Maiga again. He was to look at the scan results to see whether he thought it might be worth attempting an operation on the spine to try and reverse the paralysis. The meeting was at 7 pm in the private Clinique Pasteur. I suggested in the car that perhaps Keita could come and spend the day at Ann’s? My suggestion was turned down.

During the following day I heard nothing. All day a great smoldering anger grew in me. I prayed that I would get rid of it; that if it was wrong of me to be angry it should go away and that I should have patience and understanding. But somehow, the fact that Keita was no longer immediately dying brought back the same old problems again, only more acutely. I spoke to Ann, with whom I have been talking recently about spiritual things, about faith etc. I said to her that I was trying to understand if I now had a right to be angry. There is of course righteous anger, Christ turned over the sellers’ tables in the temple. I prayed that if my anger was righteous it should stay, but if I should continue to be patient and giving, God would let peace descend on me.
My anger grew and grew.
They turned up at 6.45pm, just in time to pick me up to take me to the clinic. I sat down next to Keita in the waiting room.
Cheri, what are the plans for this weekend now?’ I asked. ‘Can you come and stay with me at Ann’s perhaps? ‘No that is not going to be possible. There are too many people who are coming to see me’ he replied.
‘But they can come to Ann’s, I have already spoken to her, and she says it is OK’. I suggested.
‘No it is not possible’, he said.
‘Ok’, then can I come and stay with you at Kati then? I asked. ‘No that will not be possible either’ came Keita’s reply.
At this point I decided not to be angry with him but to be angry with Djenneba instead, because I was worried about Keita’s breathing. So I went over and sat down next to her in the waiting room.
‘Have you arranged the meeting with the relatives yet, for me to be introduced?’ I asked.
Djenneba said she had not had time.
“Djenneba, I am extremely angry’ I said. ‘But why, cherie?' she wanted to know. I did not have time really to launch into my speech. Instead the door opened and Dr. Youssoufa called us in.
So the consultation began. He looked at the scan results and decided that Keita should come and see him and his neuro surgeons on Monday at 11am at the Gabriel Toure hospital in Bamako. At this point it would be decided if a surgical intervention would be a good idea. It would also be discussed where this intervention would take place. “Are you confident that an operation here in Bamako would be a good idea? I asked. Dr. Youssoufa said that of course it would be better to move him to a hospital which was better equipped, either in the Mahgreb, Libya or Morocco for instance, or even better of course Europe of America.
At the very end of the consultation things took an unexpected turn. Djenneba said something to Youssoufa in Bambara, which I understood to be something like:’She is very angry. She doesn’t understand our African customs, please talk to her’.
So Youssoufa asked me: ‘what is the matter, why are you angry?’ I replied that it was hardly the place and that it had nothing directly to do with Keita’s disease, but rather to do with his family and his private life. ‘That is fine, Youssoufa said. ‘just tell me. Keita is ‘mon petit frere’, (meaning that he is older than Keita and that they are both in the medical profession.) I want to know’.
So I let rip:
'Keita and I have been together for three years. On the 7th of February they took Keita away from my side, when his wife arrived to Djenne from Segou. She has not left his side since, and I have been put aside- first of all I was not even allowed to see him for two weeks, but finally, at the insistence of some friends I was given visiting rights- for half an hour a day or so. In order to be able to resolve the situation, it became clear that Keita and I would have to be married. In order for me to be able to continue caring for him, he would have to take me as his second wife.
So I went to see the Bishop of Mopti who agreed that it was a highly irregular situation, but that he saw someone here who was not going to leave her friend when illness struck but who was going to do everything and was going to remain with him until the end if necessary. So the Bishop of Mopti agreed that he could even do a blessing on our marriage, after the religious Muslim marriage. His sister Djenneba went to see his mother, and they both agreed to the marriage. BUT KEITA REFUSED!’

‘Petit frere, is that true?' asked Youssoufa. Keita said nothing.

‘That was nearly the end between us’ I continued. ‘But for love and pity of Keita, I decided to stay with him. I didn’t want to come to Bamako, but Keita assured me we would be here together, and that his wife was not going to come. We would stay together at Djenneba’s place, then we would stay for a few days at Ann’s. I would be introduced to the family and given the status of his wife. So I came to Bamako.
And now I am here, and Keita has brought his wife! They stay in Kati while I stay in Bamako. Everyday they pick me up here in Bamako, we go to his appointments, I pay the bills and then they drop me off!’
‘Petit Frere, is this true?’ Youssoufa demanded to know. Keita said nothing.
Petit Frere’, she has every right to be angry!’
But I hadn’t finished.
‘And do you know how much I have paid already for Keita? And do you know how much his thalidomide will cost a year?’ (and I told them) And do you know that they have even refused to let me meet the family here! The family does not even know I exist! They have no idea that I am here!’
‘Is this true, Petit Frere?’ said Youssoufa. Keita said nothing.
And then Youssoufa, the heavenly creature said:
‘I have known this woman from the very beginning of your illness. I see her by your side always. There seems to be no doubt that she loves you deeply. It is of course not for me to say, but Petit Frere, how can you treat her like this? This is not right.
I know you have lost the use of your legs, but you have not lost the use of your head’.
Keita said nothing. Djenneba said nothing. I said: thank you Dr.Youssoufa.

Then we drove in complete silence to Ann’s. I left the car without a word.
I am writing this the next day. It is 12. 30. I have heard nothing. I will wait here until Monday. I will not go to the meeting if I have heard nothing from Keita or the family.
This may or may not be the end, let’s wait and see.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

I visited, yet again, what Birgit called the square root of turmoil and high drama last night, and sojourned at least on the outskirts of the Valley of the Shadow of Death.
I finally managed to speak to Keita last night- he had arrived in Bamako. I had a premonition all day that all was not right. So I asked him: ‘is your wife with you?’ His voice was barely audible.’ Yes’.
I cut off the telephone.
Why? How can we get on with all that we are supposed to do here if I can’t even get near him? Why didn’t he make her stay in Segou as planned?
I didn’t even want to go to Bamako, I certainly didn’t want to go here and hide from his wife! But for love and pity for him, I left the hotel yet again, travelled to Bamako on the hot stinking bus and organized everything then waited for him to arrive. And he arrived with his wife!
I swore this was the end. I phoned Ace, I phoned my ex-enemy Dra, I howled and ranted.
I said I didn’t ever want to see him again- I didn’t care if he died. He could rot as far as I was concerned. I felt totally and utterly betrayed.
I spent most of the hot night tossing around and cursing him. But towards morning there was a calm descending on me. I knew somehow that it wasn’t his fault. In the morning I decided to go to the Military Academy at Kati where his sister Djenneba lives and see him.
I found him lying under a fan in a hot room at his sister Djenneba’s house, his wife sitting by his feet on the bed, and Djenneba sitting in a chair. His face was thinner somehow, and changed. He looked very beautiful but extremely sad and pained. I asked is wife: ‘Mai, would you please be so kind as to leave me for a couple of minutes with Keita?’ She refused. I said: ‘please Mai, it is important’ She didn’t budge. Then Djenneba stepped in and on her insistence Mai left.
She had simply refused to stay behind in Segou, just like she had refused to leave his bedside for 5 weeks in Djenne. This is not some sort of moving wifely devotion; it is more a dogged refusal to give up her position. She does not care that Keita doesn’t want her there. Keita’s feelings are not important.
Keita can’t stand it, but he is too weak to act, and anyway, she has the whole family on her side. It is her right to sit there as much as she likes, even if it kills him.
She has spoken to senior members of Keita’s family; to Lassana the architect and his brother. These are key figures in Keita’s large and distinguished family (above his father as Governor of Segou in the late seventies). She has told them she doesn’t want Keita to go back to Djenne, and she has managed to give me a bad name. They are at the moment on her side, and Keita said they are planning for him to stay in Bamako. Noone asks what Keita wants.
So it is War.
I asked Djenneba to please call a meeting with all the most senior members in Keita’s family within the next few days. I would like to introduce myself and at the same time I have an offer to make the family I said, hoping that this might elicit enough interest for a hearing.
I took farewell of Keita, who said that he would come and see me every day. We would go to the appointments together after all in Djenneba’s car. He wanted to go back to Djenne with me again and he did not want his wife around. He wanted to live at the hotel with me. So this is what we have to fight for. This is the only hope Keita has- let people realize that they have to listen to him!

And then, after my meeting with Keita, I went to spend a lovely happy afternoon at the pool side of the Hotel Amitie in Bamako. I am ready to fight now, I am happy, we will do all we can together to beat this disease and live as normal a live as is possible at the hotel.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

'The Lord is my Shepherd', it says on the front of the Djenne/Bamako bus which I boarded yesterday to travel to Bamako. Above we are crossing the Bani river on the ferry as we leave.
The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want...
Yea, though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death...
Is this the Valley of the Shadow of Death?
I have hardly been able to speak to Keita for a week. This is because his wife is constantly by his side and she is not supposed to know that I am travelling to Bamako too. Keita is travelling today to meet me here and he will, supposedly, drop his wife on the way in Segou.

I refused at first to travel under these circumstances- I said that everyone, including Keita's wife has to know what is going on. I can no longer hide like this. But after long deliberations with my relatives who are here from Sweden, it was decided that Keita is too ill and is in a state of chock still about what is happening to him. It is wrong at the moment to put any more pressure on him. He will not be able to handle it. I therefore agreed to travel to Bamako alone, to set everything up for his arrival with the Djenne hospital ambulance today. He- and I- are supposedly going to stay with Djenneba, his big sister when he arives tonight. He has a full week ahead of him which I arranged in detail yesterday: laboratory tests, treatments and appointments with his two specialists- one the hematologist/oncologist and one the neurologist who will give us a prognosis of his paralysis- is there any hope that he will walk? I am also here to take his next batch of Thalidomide through the customs at the airport- this has to be done by me since I made the order.

Meanwhile I have not been able to talk to Keita. I sent him a text last night (I can of course not speak to him, his wife is always next to him): 'can I talk to you?' I received a text in reponse: 'I don't have the strength to talk".

If this is not the Valley of the Shadow of Death it it certainly the darkest valley I have ever attempted to cross.

There are now two compartments in my life, running along side by side. One is labelled "Keita's Illness' and the other is labelled "Hotel Djenne Djenno'. Nothing else exists really. And in the 'Hotel' department, all is well and flourishing. This time there is no Birgit any longer to look after the hotel in my absence, but Beigna and Baba are in charge, jointly for a few days and we are in constant telephone contact.
This Swiss lady just stayed for two nights in the Peulh Suite. I said she was certainly the most elegant hotel guest we had ever had and would she mind appearing on my blog? She graciously gave her consent.

Friday, March 06, 2009

I have never had much faith in the Mali postal system and don't pay much attention to B.P. 40, our post box, since I never expect there to be anything. But lo and behold, there was quite a harvest the other day, including a key for the Bobo room,kindly sent from Bamako from a hotel guest who had put it in his pocket. But best of all this parcel sent just before Christmas from Kathy and her family in London with lots of seeds and other goodies.
Just before Christmas- how different everything was then...
I have been doing some book keeping, looking through accounts for the season which is now coming towards its end. It is a melancholy task- or it is I who make it so: everything has now become BI or AI: Before Illness and After Illness. When I look at the week of the 15th to 21st of December, just the mundane entries of what was bought and what was invoiced, I can hardly concentrate on the work before me because I think that it was during these days that Keita started to falter- he had to suddenly hold on to things to steady himself. After this moment it all went so fast..
But even when I look at the entries of the beginning of January when we were back here for a while I think how different things looked then. Keita could walk- slowly but he could walk if he held my hand. And we were sitting here for two weeks waiting for test results while all the time the cancer was eating into his spinal chord and day by day destroying the fine remaining nerves.
And now he is in the Djenne hospital surrounded by hundreds of well-wishers, not one of whom have the faintest idea what this desease really is, and all of whom thinks that he will be up and walking soon. Noone, including the doctors here it appears, seems to understand what a severe spinal chord injury means or indeed what multiple myeloma means.
I see Keita for half an hour in the morning at the hospital with about ten people in the room including his wife glaring at me. Keita lies there, kind and gentle as ever, telling everyone he is getting better: 'A Ka f'sa',his poor legs suppurating with the terrible burn from the witch doctor medicine that his well meaning misguided friends are applying on him.
He has a terrible thirst always he tells me. I just looked up on the internet that this very probably means that he has one of the common symptoms of myeloma-overproduction of calcium. This can be very dangerous and cause kidney failure. There seems to be noone here at the hospital among the medical staff to reach any such conclusions.
There is instead plenty of movement on the 'traditional healing' front, and people say things along the lines of: 'I had an uncle with Keita's problem. He went to see this old man in Diabolo who applied something at midnight on the night of the new moon and my uncle could walk within a week.' And more and more of these cures are brought to Keita's bedside. He, of course, is too kind to refuse.

I am completely isolated without a soul to talk to. Keita, who always was my only friend, is now public property. There is not one person here who would understand that Keita needs peace and he needs to start exercising the remaining healthy parts of his body- or even if they would understand, they would shrug their shoulders in that terrible African way which says 'what can we do about it? That is the way things are here'.
His friends are all around him. They carry him as if he were a suitcase. When Keita was with me he was able to move from the bed to the wheelchair by using his arms. Nothing has really changed since then, his paralysis has not progressed to his upper limbs. But now he doesn't even get a chance to move. He is no longer there somehow, and in this traditional African way of behaviour he seemingly has no longer any say in anything. He has become a parcel, a Thing, a focus point around which turns a Catherine Wheel of misguided good intentions, petty jealousies and ignorance.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

There has been a black cat with burning charcoal eyes slinking around the hotel for the last few days, making a lot of noise. I was quite pleased at first, thinking he would help sort out our mouse problem.
‘Give him something to eat!’ I said. ‘We’ll have a Hotel Cat, that might be fun!’
But Oh, no.
‘Don’t touch him- don’t even look at him!’ was the unanimous reply from my staff. ‘But why?’ I asked, puzzled.
‘Because he is evil. He is not even a cat but something far worse. You must ignore him, he wants evil here. Ask any Marabout, they will tell you what it is!’
‘What nonsense!’ I replied, cheerfully.
But I wondered quietly what it is that makes black cats hated and feared universally? How did this superstition spread? Why do we cross ourselves when a black cat crosses the road? Why did I as a little girl in Sweden paint witches, broomsticks and black cats at Easter time to celebrate a bizarre tradition the distant roots of which are mixed up with the German Walpurgisnacht?
Why did Mephistopheles take the shape of a black cat when he prowled around Faust’s study?
And there are plenty of signs that there are strange powers at foot here, trying to destoy what has been created at our hotel in the last two years.
The hotel has had its best month ever. The figures are soaring and we are more or less fully booked all the time. We were featured in Air France in-flight magazine in February as one of the ‘must go stay’ places of Mali. The staff are behaving themselves- perhaps out of loyalty- they know I am under great stress because of Keita. Even Beigna is exemplary.
But there are great difficulties:
Keita’s wife, to start with seemingly so calm and understanding, has now made her position clear: she doesn’t want me at the hospital. In fact she doesn’t want me around at all. Of course I understand her perfectly- God knows I would react the same way! It is only something of a puzzle- I had been under the impression, naively, that she was perfectly OK with the situation. It had been an arranged marriage, they had never lived together etc. Therefore, in my naivety, I had thought it wasn’t really a marriage, in our sense of the word. I had underestimated her feelings for Keita.
One part of me wants to withdraw now- she is his wife, she has made her position clear, I should withdraw gracefully.
However, what does Keita want? It is after all he who is desperately ill. Boucoum said the other day when I wanted to pull out: ‘If you do I give Keita one week, no more. Don’t leave him please!’.
Meanwhile Keita’s mother sends me messages: I must be patient and of good cheer- all will sort itself out’.
And my own mother sends me messages: ‘Close the hotel down or put it under management and come home and rest- leave!’ She is also completely horrified that I am spilling all the beans of my private life and that of Keita’s on the web like this. Up until now I would have completely agreed with her- why open oneself up like this for all and sundry to know what is going on? I find this sort of ‘Princess Diana syndrome’ which has changed at least the British public in the last ten years or so into either voyeurs or those prepared to open themselves up indiscriminately something despicable. I don’t want to be a soap opera! But now, since I have started, I will finish. The wheels are in motion. I am alone here and very isolated, this is my way to remain in touch.

Meanwhile the hotel grows. I am building a wall around the new land that I have bought. I am not leaving. I am not to be stopped. Djenne Djenno will continue to flourish with the help of God, and hopefully Keita will be able to be here to enjoy the fruits of our labours. And all the black cats in West Africa can congregate, they will not deter me au nom de Dieu.
(However, I make sure to sprinkle a bit of Monsigneur’s Holy Water around my bedroom at night just to be on the safe side…)