We met Denbah Bah on a beach in The Gambia after we’d decided to go for a romantic stroll along the soft sand in the moonlight.
Denbah was a police officer assigned to ensuring that dozy tourists didn’t get themselves into trouble…whilst walking along a beach in Africa in the dark no doubt.
On a balmy night under a glittering African sky we wore light clothes whilst Denbah was wrapped up as if he were on ski training in Finland…in winter.
“Because it’s cold,” he answered when we asked about the need for a khaki cagoule and long trousers.
We told him that if he felt the cold in those tropical surroundings, he’d die if he ever visited Britain.
We struck up a friendship with Denbah over the next couple of days and he invited us to travel with him to his home in a village inland whose name I can’t remember – if I ever knew it in the first place.
First stop was the village shop. Coarse sacks of rice acted as surprisingly comfortable chairs as we were introduced to the shopkeeper and Denbah’s younger brother. The shopkeeper’s hospitality threw up an awkward moment as he brought us water to drink in brightly coloured, scratched Tupperware bowls.
Water from an unknown source in Africa, do you drink or not? Being British there was only one answer; the risk of causing offence is worse than the risk of catching some tropical disease.
After the shop Denbah took us to his home and en route told us about the scourge of Africa, green tea, which he made sound as though it some narcotic qualities which rotted the brain and made you sloth-like.
His small home was filled to bursting with family and friends, no doubt curious to see the two naïve tourists dressed in clothes more suited to a Greek beach.
As we sat and chatted, tiny hand after tiny hand reached through a curtain that acted as a door to the back of the small house and stroked my leg.
“They’ve never seen a white person before,” Denbah explained. “And your leg is so hairy. It feels funny to them.”
The children queuing outside to take turns in touching my alien body giggled.
Then it was Andy’s turn to be the object of attention.
“What age are you?” Denbah asked in an openly direct manner that made Andy squirm and me laugh.
“My God,” he exclaimed when Andy told him…after making seasonal adjustments of course (clearly I’m being a gentleman here and not saying). “But your skin is still like a young chicken.”
I guess he meant it as a compliment.
Anyway we had a fascinating and unforgettable day, including getting caught up in a jail break, and I could ramble on about it forever. But there’s a reason why Denbah Bah popped into my head.
Last night whilst talking on the phone to my mum in Scotland last night she asked what the weather was like.
“Not so great,” I told her. “It’s just started chucking it down. It was sunny most of the day but the temperatures have dropped to around 22C. So it’s a bit cool.”
“Twenty two degrees, twenty two degrees,” she laughed. “You think that’s cool?”
At that point I realised that sometime over the last seven years I’d become Denbah Bah. Anything under 24/25C feels on the fresh side to me.
If I ever have to return to Britain outside of summer, and maybe even during, I’m going to die.