Posted by Alex Stronge on April 19, 2010
The Devil walked through our camp this morning. No really!
This meant that for once I was not awakened by the delicate sound of hacking and coughing of my neighbours at ablutions but by a great deal of wailing and chanting and banging of drums. So much so, that I thought for the briefest of moments, that the J Giels Band were currently touring West Africa! He was on his way to Money Camp where no doubt he had great and mysterious work to do.
I tried to peek out of the window of my tent at him but was unable to catch a glimpse of the heralded figure making such a racket behind the buildings. This, it turned out, was a good thing. For much as the small bells in a communion mass are rung to encourage the bowing of heads and looking away from the alter, the hullabaloo out there was warning people not to look, for fear of unexplained things happening to them.
I had met some folks during the week who had met the Devil, quite by chance, whilst on their travels and indeed bad things had happened to them.
The first was a man who was drowning in a ditch, trapped underneath his motorbike. As is the local way here, he passed us on the road and tooted his horn, waving his appreciation of our moving aside as he passed us. Now I don’t know if you have ever ridden a motorcycle before or if you have, perhaps ridden one across country, but my recollections are that it was bloody difficult to do if you take your hand off the accelerator. His cheery wave caused the bike to slow rapidly and he lost balance on the rutted road, hurtling headlong into a ditch!
This in itself wouldn’t have been such a bad thing had the ditch not been full of water or the bike so heavily laden with what appeared to be the entire contents of Steptoe’s yard. Once we’d taken the bike off him and he’d gulped large lungfulls of air, he mentioned, in a quite matter of fact way, that this kind of thing had been happening to him all week! Ever since he’d rounded a corner at speed and damn near murdered the Devil and his entourage, in a freak, black magic and motorcycle massacre! He believed, perhaps understandably, that he’d been cursed ever since. I dare say that if he’d nearly run me over, I too would have had a few choice curses for him also.
The second was one of our surveyors whose work takes him out and about in our splendid rainforests, where you can stare in awe and wonder at the marvels of nature whilst eating your fill of the bugs that have flown into your teeth. He also had inadvertently stumbled out of the bush and landed smack, bang in the middle of one of the Devil’s roadside gatherings. The drummers had given no warning and the singing had long since stopped. It appears the Musician’s Union rules on regular refreshment breaks for drummers have also reached Liberia! (Always first to finish playing, always last to the bar!)
Now rather than being burned inside some giant wicker man for his heinous crime, (or does that just happen in Scotland?) our miscreant was duly fined the sum of $50 Liberian. How very civilised! Y’see it appears that this is the way the Devil works. He travels around the villages and settlements, pontificating and making judgements about this and that before, kissing a baby or two and pocketing a great deal of public cash! Sound familiar? Well if it doesn’t now it soon will, as we head ever closer to a general election. I may have to poo in the woods from time to time but I won’t get the Devil knocking at my tent door asking if he can count on my vote!
Good luck with that!