Bats and rats

I must say I was happy to get back here from England (even though I sit writing this by candlelight as we suffer yet another powercut). This time it wasn’t so much the excessive consumerism that bothered me, as it was last time, but the excessive drinking.

The Africans I have met drink very little alcohol, in some cases because they are Moslems, in some cases because they are Catholics (which I admit I don’t understand – isn’t drinking wine an intrinsic part of the Catholic mass?), and in other cases because they are just not part of a culture where alcohol is a big part of life. I admit that I enjoyed all that I drank in the UK (thank you Howard for sharing your last bottle of 1966 Chateau Talbot!), although I suffered for it a few times having lost some of my tolerance. However I was embarrassed, in front of my colleagues from Africa and other foreign parts, at how big a part alcohol plays in our culture – it seems to be a vital part of everyday life in the UK now. I was also embarrassed when we walked past people hanging round outside the bars and clubs at night, clearly the worse for drink. I’ve never seen that in Africa.

I came home to Dakar to find a fridge bursting with mangoes, and no matter how fast I eat them (two with my morning yoghurt, two for lunch, one stir-fried with my dinner…) their number continues to grow. At least ten fall into my courtyard every day – in fact, right on cue, I just heard another crash to the ground outside. They are also attracting big fruit bats to the trees, which squabble over them noisily, and a number of birds, but there are more than enough for us all to share. If anyone reading this knows how to make mango chutney/mango jam/dried mango pieces the advice will be appreciated!

Once the rains come, apparently the mango season will end. The clouds seem to get thicker, and greyer, and more oppressive, every day, but so far the only rain has been a couple of short-lived storms in the night. (just heard another mango – must go out collecting if the lights come back on) The heat is building, not so much through high temperatures but through high humidity, and hopefully some rain will clear the air a little. (oh, another mango….) I do have air conditioning in my house, but I know how environmentally damaging it is so even when there is electricity I am trying to get used to the heat. After all, not that many Senegalese can afford air conditioning in their homes but they still manage to sleep, and to function during the day.

Oh, and now I can hear a scratching above my head – which means the animals in my roof have woken up for their night-time games. For six months I have fondly imagined them to be cats (or rather less fondly when they keep me awake…), but yesterday I heard a kind of rasping squeaking noise, definitely not the sound of a cat, and I fear that they may actually be rats. Whatever they are, something in the roof above the corner of my study is attractive to them, and they constantly scratch at it. The ceilings are metal, so they could not scratch a hole (could they?), but nevertheless I now have in my head a rather alarming image of a whole extended family of rats falling into the room. Time to sign off and shut the door behind me, I think!


Christina said...

Hello Louise,
According to the media, drinking (especially among the young) is a real social problem in the UK - I am not sure if it really is worse than it ever was, but one does see it perhaps as a parallel to the problem with gin-houses in the 18th century. That was "solved" by the advent of Methodism, where drinking was deemed sinful, and social change was exacted by example - people could see that the Methodist families managed to achieve a better way of life despite their poverty.
I think Christianity in general does not approve of any excesses which would include drinking - and one of the miracles was changing water into wine... However, your comment about the wine at Catholic mass - the mere plebs do not get to drink the wine - only the priest drinks the wine - and of course at that point it is no longer wine - it has been transubstantiated into the blood of Christ....

Christina said...

PS Best wishes in your struggle to acclimatise. It is always the humidity that is so hard to bear.

Louise said...

Thanks Christina, yes the humidity this weekend was up towards 90% and I must say it was pretty unbearable. I'm tyring to work without the air conditioning on in my office so that I can adjust, but I see even the Senegalese were struggling at the weekend!