The Inklings: Chapter 75

To read the story from the start go to:

As Fanta was preparing dinner she explained to Ruby and Nancy that she had to go to a job interview the next day and that they were going to stay with their friend Tony while she was at the interview. Tony lived in their street. He was older than Ruby but younger than Nancy. His parents were not really friends of Fanta’s but she did like them, and they often took turns walking the three kids to or from school. Tony’s Dad Malcolm would be taking them all to the park while Fanta went to the city for her interview. Ruby was happier with this arrangement than Nancy was. Nancy had been hoping to go to visit one of the girls in her class, but when Fanta reminded her that the flying fox in the park had been fixed Nancy stopped complaining. She loved playing on the flying fox.

“Why are we just having salads for dinner?” Ruby asked Fanta.

“Because it was a very hot day and on hot days a lot of people don’t like eating heavy food or hot food” answered Fanta. But as Fanta answered Ruby she started to doubt her decision to make three different salads for dinner, plus fruit salad for dessert. There was no time to change anything though, because the doorbell rang.

John and D’arby had arrived and it was as if they’d been able to anticipate Ruby’s uncertainty about salad for dinner because they’d brought some bread rolls and butter with them.

“The flat felt so much like an oven today that I decided I may as well make some bread” explained John as he showed Fanta the bread rolls.

The smell of the bread made Ruby and Nancy excited. Then the doorbell rang again and this time it was Syafika. While Syafika was getting settled and Fanta was getting everyone a cold drink Ruby and Nancy came up with a cunning plan. They requested that they be allowed to take their plates of dinner to the backyard. They said it was because they wanted to enjoy the cool change that had just arrived, but really it was so they would be able to flick any bits of salad that they didn’t like off their plates and into the garden.

Everyone was quiet until Ruby and Nancy had taken their dinner to the backyard. Then everyone started to talk at once. Fanta managed to be the first to get her story out, which was convenient because her story was the shortest.

“I have a job interview tomorrow – for a job in the same team as Syafika” said Fanta. She couldn’t help adding a big smile to the end of the sentence. She was very happy.

Even though Syafika was feeling exhausted by her distressful day this news made her smile too.

“I knew you could do it!” said Syafika “And they must like you a lot to have called you in before the closing date for applications”.

Syafika stopped talking just long enough for John and D’arby to be able congratulate Fanta then insisted that everyone listen to what had happened to her that day.


“Before you start – I’ve been wanting to know all day – what did Christine say about working part time?” Fanta asked Syafika.

“Oh no! I forgot to ask” admitted Syafika. “I’m sorry!” Syafika was sorry but she didn’t feel too bad about having forgotten. She thought that what had happened to her that day was more than enough of an excuse.

“That’s ok” said Fanta, pretending it didn’t matter. “It might be better if I don’t know anyway. If Christine had said she wouldn’t consider part timers then I’d have a hard time turning up to the interview.”

Fortunately Syafika’s story of Anthony and the disappearing haircut was so interesting that Fanta forgot about her job interview and D’arby and John forgot how urgently they wanted to share their own news.

“Really?” asked John. He had started to doubt that Syafika’s stories about Anthony were true.

“Why would Anthony disguise himself with a wig?” asked D’arby.

“I wish I’d been able to see you running after Anthony!” said Fanta.

The four were still discussing Anthony when Ruby and Nancy came inside with empty plates and asked if they could have some fruit salad.

When everyone had a bowl of fruit salad in front of them the discussion started again.

Fanta, John and D’arby thought that Syafika should keep away from Anthony because he could be a criminal but Syafika wanted to do some more spying on him. Syafika pretended she was taking their comments on board but secretly she had decided that she wouldn’t be satisfied until she knew what Anthony was up to.

John was chewing on a chunk of watermelon when he remembered that the meeting was meant to be for discussing activist stuff and so he mentioned that while he’d been waiting for the bread to rise he’d read D’arby’s notes about combining banking and renewable energy and thought that was something they should try to get started.

“I don’t think that’s such a good idea for us” said D’arby. “Wait until you hear about my day and then you will understand.”

John was confused and a bit angry. He had put a lot of effort into understanding D’arby’s notes and was just beginning to feel confident that he knew what D’arby was talking about. He began to suspect that D’arby didn’t really want anyone else to be able to understand his ideas because he wanted to be the only one who was the expert. Luckily John took D’arby’s advice to wait before he said what he was thinking.

“At uni today I was asked to apply for a job working for a new bank that wants to do just what I was thinking about” said D’arby. “I don’t know if I should even be telling you this though. They want me to do some tests first and if I get the job then I won’t be able to tell anyone about the stuff I’m working on”

“Why not?” asked Fanta

“They say it is because it would upset a lot of powerful people… all the powerful people actually”

“Well what are we going to do then?” asked John. He was cross that everyone else’s lives seemed to be turning into spy novels and he wanted to be a part of the action. “And what happened to us developing your special pills D’arby?”

The tone of John’s voice made D’arby cross too – so cross that he forgot to think twice before he said anything.

“The pills don’t work” said D’arby.

“What? Yes they do. I’m living proof” said John.

“I used to think that too” said D’arby. “But then I looked at all the data and saw that the pills only have a placebo effect. You just thought they worked, but really you changed on your own.”

As John listened to D’arby the back of his neck tingled. If what D’arby was saying was true then it meant that John had achieved something really significant. But it didn’t make sense.

“Why didn’t I feel sick or crazy then?” asked John.

“I don’t know” said D’arby. “Maybe because you believed you had been cured instantly your brain was able to trick you into feeling fine. I don’t know. All I know is that the pills didn’t cure anyone else of anything. Have you seen them fix anyone else?”

John tried to think of another example but couldn’t and had to answer “No, but what if there was something different about me. What if they do work but only in certain circumstances?”

All John’s questions gave D’arby an idea.

“What if I hand over all my research to you, and you work out whether the pills work and if you find that they don’t work, you can work out why they don’t work and then maybe you will be able to fix them so they do work” suggested D’arby.

John was happy to accept D’arby’s offer. He was flattered that D’arby thought he would be able to continue the research and delighted to think that he might be able to help other addicts.

When dinner was over John and D’arby walked home in silence, but it was a happy silence.

As Syafika walked home she was looking forward a shower and sleep, but also to the next time she chased Anthony around the Botanic Gardens. She was disappointed that John and D’arby hadn’t wanted to be involved like they had been when she needed help with Vincent, but decided it didn’t matter because Syafika thought she’d prefer to do the spying herself.

When everyone had gone home Fanta encouraged her sisters to go to bed so that she could practice answering imaginary interview questions but in the back of her mind the question she was really worrying about was how to explain that she only wanted to work three days a week.

The Inklings: Chapter 74

You can read the story from the start here:

At lunchtime it was very hot, but that didn’t stop Mamadou from doing a bit of work in the garden while everyone else lingered over their cups of tea. While Mamadou was at the back of the yard he noticed that the western boundary fence was leaning to one side. He walked over to the fence and gave it a shake. It wobbled. Mamadou could tell that the supporting posts were rotten.

“Hello, who’s that?” said a voice from the other side of the fence.

Mamadou looked over the fence and saw a short lady who reminded him of a tortoise. When she saw Mamadou she got a bit of a fright.

“What are you doing in Rose’s garden?” asked the Tortoise lady.

“I’m Mamadou. I’m helping with the renovations” said Mamadou. “Who are you?”

“I’m Gina” said the lady. “I live here with Penny” said Gina, gesturing behind her to Pennny, who was sitting at a little table under an umbrella. Penny was taller than Gina and had long, silky silver hair.

“This fence is rotten” said Mamadou.

“Yes” said Gina. “I need to talk to Rose about getting a new one. But first I want to know what you are building behind the fence. Is it something I will want to see, or should I make sure the next fence is much taller?

“I am making the most beautiful garden you will ever see” said Mamadou. “So beautiful you won’t want a fence at all”

By the time Rose and Festus were ready to get back to work Mamadou had made friends with Gina and Penny and they’d decided that the next fence would be easy to see-through – probably just steel posts linked with wire.

During the afternoon Mamadou kept asking Rose questions about Gina and Penny. He was excited because they’d told him that if they liked the garden he did for Rose he could do their garden next. He was already imagining an archway linking the two gardens.

At the end of the working day the garage had been dismantled and sorted into different piles of materials. Most of the garage was going to be reused and even the concrete slab was going to stay. Festus was very glad at the good start they’d made but he was nervous because they were still waiting for Council Approval to build the new bathroom. Festus decided to take a gamble and put in the new plumbing while they waited. Zikpi was glad because this risk taking would add drama to the story.

As Mamadou, Ousman and Beth walked back to Ousman’s house they were all feeling very satisfied with the day they’d had. Aminata seemed satisfied too. She was riding on Ousman’s shoulder and making various noises that were similar to the sound of a garage being dismantled.

Binta’s day at work had been terrible. She’d discovered that she was most likely going to lose her job and that she’d find out for sure in the next week. Binta was scared about what would happen if she did lose her job and couldn’t find another soon. She couldn’t wait for Ousman to come home so she could give him a cuddle.

Binta was drinking a glass of water when she heard the front door open. Ousman was the first to get to the kitchen and he still had Aminata sitting on his shoulder. Aminata was thirsty and when she saw Binta’s glass of water she became excited and started bobbing her head up and down.

Ousman quickly got a bowl of water for Aminata because he didn’t want her to try to drink some of his mother’s glass of water. Binta watched and didn’t say anything. She liked how Ousman was taking care of the galah and she predicted that Ousman was about to ask her if he could keep it. Then Binta looked at Mamadou and could tell that he wanted Ousman to keep the bird.

While Aminata was drinking water from a bowl Binta gave Ousman a cuddle and asked him what the bird’s name was. Ousman was excited to be able to tell Binta the whole story.

Beth smiled as she watched Ousman telling his Mum about Aminata. She couldn’t wait to tell her parents about her day. Beth’s Dad was late picking her up and it upset her. Everytime her Dad neglected her for work she felt abandoned and being with a family that spent time together made her even sadder because she could see the lovely things her family was missing out on.

When Beth’s Dad finally did arrive Beth gave Ousman a big smile and thanked Mamadou and Binta with a cheerful voice, but as she walked out the door a couple of tears escaped.

As soon as the front door closed Binta gave Ousman another cuddle and told him that he was a lovely kid.

“Will we have leftover stew for dinner?” asked Mamadou hopefully. He was really hungry.

“Yes. If you cook some rice, Ousman and I will prepare some greens and we can eat dinner in 15 minutes” said Binta.

“Why are you sad?” Ousman asked Binta as they washed broccoli. He could tell his Mum was close to crying and hoped it wasn’t because she didn’t like Aminata.

“I think I’m going to lose my job” said Binta.

“You will find another one, won’t you?” said Ousman.

“One day” said Binta. What she didn’t say was that she was worried that before she found another job they would run out of savings and not be able to pay the rent anymore.

Mamadou had overheard Binta’s news. “Don’t worry. You must own this house by now. You don’t need much money if you own your house.”

Binta felt embarrassed as she explained to Mamadou that she was renting the house and didn’t own anything. When she was younger she had been keen to buy a house as soon as possible and had saved a large deposit. But then she’d become a single mum, and when she decided that she wanted to cut back on work so she could spend some of the week with baby Ousman, Binta had discovered that there was a stupid idea ingrained almost everywhere that you only deserve a ‘serious’ job if you are willing to commit at least 40 hours per week to it. For Binta this meant she had to be happy with a series of precarious and not well paid jobs, often with gaps in between. During each gap Binta’s house deposit had been eroded a bit more until the idea of buying a house became just a daydream.

“What about your inheritance money?” asked Mamadou. He was only really asking because he was feeling guilty – he realized how much Binta had given up so she could have Ousman. Binta’s parents had died in a car accident not long before Mamadou had left Australia. They’d left Rose and Binta their house but not much money.

“We didn’t sell the house” said Binta. “We have rented it out to the same family ever since.”

Mamadou didn’t suggest to Binta that she move into her parent’s house because it was far away and he didn’t want to live there. “Maybe it is time to sell that house and buy your own” said Mamadou. Then rather stupidly had added “Before you get too old.”

“I don’t want to sell the house!” said Binta. “Half that house wouldn’t be enough for a house deposit around here anyway, not now.” Binta was cross with Mamadou now. She thought that instead of making suggestions he should be asking more questions – there was so much he needed to catch up on.

Binta was quiet during dinner. Aminata ate some of Ousman’s food and then climbed to the top of the bookshelf and fell asleep, with her head tucked under her wing.

Mamadou went to bed as soon as he had finished eating. He was feeling depressed because he couldn’t help Binta.

Ousman washed the dishes without having to be asked because he knew his Mum was feeling sad and angry, and because he still wasn’t sure whether she would let him keep Aminata.

The Inklings Chapter 73

You can read the story from the start here:

When John woke up he felt happy because it was his day off. John was even happier when he realized that D’arby was there. D’arby was busy at the kitchen bench and John began to anticipate a nice breakfast, but as he watched he realized that D’arby was just making some kind of coffee drink. D’arby poured hot coffee from a saucepan through a tea strainer into a jug full of ice. Then D’arby added a splash of milk and poured out two glasses of what he called ‘iced coffee’. As John sipped his glass of the bitter drink he longed for sugar and whipped cream.

“Did you see the note on the fridge?” D’arby asked John.

“Yep. I’m looking forward to dinner time” answered John.

“Why aren’t you at uni?” John asked D’arby. John had begun to hope that D’arby would head off to uni soon so D’arby wouldn’t know if he poured the rest of the iced coffee down the drain instead of drinking it.

“I’m taking the day off to refine some thinking” said D’arby.

John had no idea what D’arby meant, but guessed that he wouldn’t be leaving the house for a while. “What thinking are you refining?” asked John.

“About combining banking and money with renewable energy” answered D’arby and he walked to the bedroom to get his bundle of notes. He was keen to explain his ideas to John.

John quickly tipped his coffee down the sink and had started rinsing the glass by the time D’arby got back.

Then the phone rang. It was someone from uni. They were wondering where D’arby was.

“Oh no!” said D’arby. He’d forgotten that there was a special event on that morning where PhD students could meet potential employers. D’arby evaluated what he was wearing and decided to quickly get changed. Then he ran all the way to uni.

After D’arby had gone John made himself some toast and while he ate it he sat at the table and looked through D’arby’s notes.

When D’arby arrived at uni he ran straight to the drawing office, which had been transformed into a kind of gallery for research. There were research posters up on every vertical surface and all the PhD students and post doctoral researchers were standing near their posters looking serious.  D’arby was relieved to discover that his friend Cate had put up his poster for him. He sat down near it and tried to get his breath back. But D’arby didn’t have much time to recover before an intimidating couple approached him. When the woman looked at D’arby he felt like she could see right into his mind. It made him feel naked and he wanted to hide. The man at her side looked unimpressed with the research he could see around him, but as he approached D’arby he gave him a hint of a smile.

“I’m Rudnika and this is Leopold” said the woman and she shook D’arby’s hand firmly. D’arby introduced himself and turned towards his poster. He was about to start explaining his research when Rudnika interrupted him.

“We already read your poster” she said. “We want to talk about something a bit different”.

Leopold handed D’arby his card and explained that they were from a new bank that also supplied renewable energy and were looking for someone with impeccable character who wanted a challenge.

Then Rudnika explained that what they were attempting to do was so revolutionary that it needed to be kept top secret and that if he joined them he needed to be as discreet as if he were dealing with state secrets.

Leopold then told D’arby that the application process involved him sitting a number of tests and that he would need to consent to a background check.

“Are you interested?” Leopold asked D’arby.

“Yes” said D’arby. He didn’t know if his heart was still racing because he’d run all the way to uni or because this opportunity sounded like just the thing he wanted to be doing next. D’arby couldn’t help looking over his shoulder and wondered how much Guitarman had to do with Rudnika and Leopold.

The Inklings: Chapter 72

You can read the story from the start here:

Fanta was happy on Monday. She’d sent off her job application the night before and so was anticipating that she’d hear back about it that week. Although Fanta was not confident that she would get the job, having an application in the pipeline gave Fanta hope for the future.  Fanta was also happy that John and D’arby were going to move in to her house. She’d been losing sleep over how to pay the bills, but with D’arby and John paying rent she wouldn’t have to worry anymore.

Ruby and Nancy were helping Fanta sort out the spare rooms. The room her aunt and uncle usually stayed in was in the best condition. It had a comfortable bed and the wardrobe was empty. Fanta had decided that when her aunt and uncle came to visit next time she would give them her room and squeeze in with her sisters, who had a spare mattress that they put on the floor when their school friends stayed.

The other spare room was less inviting. It had no furniture and there was a pile of cardboard boxes in the corner. The boxes had old clothes, books and toys that needed to be given away.

Ruby threaded a clean curtain onto the curtain rod while Nancy tied some boxes onto a two-wheel shopping trolley and Fanta put some other things into a backpack. Fanta had the backpack on and Nancy was pulling the trolley towards the front door when the phone rang.

Fanta answered the phone and was delighted to hear that she’d been shortlisted for the job. As Fanta agreed to an interview the next day she created a mental list of people she could ask to look after Nancy and Ruby while she was at the interview.

Please leave your ego at the door.

I wrote this article for another blog because of how upsetting it is when people can’t get along, but I’m not sure I’ve found the complete answer. Then today I listened to the radio program Contemplating happiness with Matthieu Ricard  who at least made me think I’m on the right track. Below I have put some of the things he says.

I’ve put this one in for my friend Sweta, who has been horrified by how awful some activists can be in private: ‘I met all kinds of wonderful people, but it was puzzling that the particular genius, whether it was mathematics, science, literature, playing chess or music or anything, there was no correlation between an exceptionally good human being. But when I met a great spiritual master, then it’s quite different, you have a complete coherence. The messenger is the message. You can’t say it’s a great spiritual master but it’s a pity that he’s so greedy and jealous and angry all the time. That doesn’t work. That coherence made me taught well. There’s something there. So I was more inspired by the quality of the person than by the particular skill that they developed.’

‘If you have a group of altruistic people, they usually like to work together by nature, they are altruistic, they are cooperative, they love working with each other. So as a group they have a huge advantage of…I won’t say even a group, a collection of selfish people that actually kicks the other leg all the time. So as a community, which is not a real community, it’s a bunch of selfish individuals, if the altruistic get their act together they have a strong advantage’

‘So individuals and groups and culture shape each other like two blades of a knife that’s sharpening each other. Individuals make culture change, the next generation changes even further, and then they change the institution, then the whole thing takes a different picture.’

Panania Free Rangers


Figure 1. CC BY-SA 3.0,

This post is not directly about growing food or other Free Ranging, but I wrote it because getting along with a particular person is sometimes essential to being able to grow food. We can watch Gardening Australia for advice on how to get our plants to grow, but it isn’t as easy to find out how to make relationships flourish, particularly when they have already started to go bad.

Congratulations! You’ve decided to make the world better (or at least make your town, street, school, family, or something else you care about, better) and you’ve worked out how you are going to do it. But you can’t do it all on your own, so you need to tell people about it and see if they will help. If you keep confidence – in yourself as well as in society – you will eventually find…

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The Inklings: Chapter 71

To read from the start, go to:

It was Monday morning. The sky was cloudy but the air was warm and it was predicted to be a very hot day. Syafika was feeling nervously excited about going to work. As she walked along she was humming to herself. Would she be able to contribute anything to the morning team meeting now that she understood so much more of what the team was working on? Would she be able to go for a walk in the Botanic Gardens at lunchtime, and if she did, would she bump into Anthony there? Then after work Syafika was going to Fanta’s house for dinner with D’arby and John. It was meant to be one of their activism meetings but Syafika anticipated that the others would just want to talk about the plan for John and D’arby to move in with Fanta and that was something Syafika didn’t want to hear about because it made her feel left out. She felt like John and D’arby were stealing Fanta from her.

The closer Syafika got to work, the more anxious she felt. Her usual response to anxiety was to eat or drink something and so Syafika stopped at a cafe to order a takeaway coffee. As she waited nervously near the cash register for her coffee to be made Syafika noticed an elegant woman walk in. Syafika noticed the woman because she was everything Syafika thought she could never be – so neat, so clean and confident. She had sleek hair and very thin arms and legs. A bead of sweat began to run down Syafika’s face and as she wiped it off with the back of her hand Syafika noticed that the elegant lady had no signs of sweat or grease on her face – it was as if she’d just walked out of a fridge. Syafika watched as the woman sat down at one of the tables where a man was sitting with his back to Syafika. Syafika wished she could see the man’s face because she was sure he would be handsome.

Syafika’s coffee was ready and it was time to go but she didn’t want to go. She wanted to watch the couple at the table. So she sat down at another table and pretended to be looking for something in her bag while watching them. The waiter took their order over – two black coffees. Syafika took a deep breath because black coffee reminded her of Anthony and at the top of her breath she thought she could smell Anthony. She looked at the back of the man’s head again. If it was Anthony then he’d had a haircut, but it could be him. Then he turned his head slightly to the side and Syafika saw that it was Anthony.

By then Anthony and the elegant woman had each taken their mobile phones out. It looked like they were swapping phone numbers. Syafika had never before wanted to own a mobile phone because she thought they were a sign of unreliability and poor morals, but for a moment when she saw that elegant woman putting Anthony’s phone number into her phone Syafika wished she had one too.

Syafika realized that she had to leave the café before Anthony noticed she was there because she didn’t want him to see her distress. So she rushed off to work, making it just in time for the morning meeting. Syafika didn’t pay attention during the meeting though. She was too busy keeping tears at bay and wondering about things. Syafika wondered why Anthony was having coffee with the elegant woman. She wondered whether Anthony was in love with the elegant woman already or whether there was still time to stop that from happening. But the thing that hurt Syafika the most was Anthony had given the elegant woman his mobile phone number when he’d only given Syafika his landline phone number (and that number didn’t even work).

At lunchtime Syafika did manage to get out of the office and walk in the Botanic Gardens. Her reason for walking there had changed though. She didn’t expect to meet Anthony there, or even want to. She just wanted to go somewhere where she could cry without anyone at work seeing or hearing. As soon as Syafika got through the gates of the gardens her tears started flowing. At first the tears stayed inside her sunglasses and Syafika thought she might get away with impersonating someone who was fine and just enjoying a lunchtime walk, but then the tears started escaping the sunglasses and running down her cheeks. A couple of ladies carrying containers of salad noticed that Syafika was crying and asked if she was ok, but they didn’t really want to get involved with Syafika’s troubles and so when Syafika told them she was ok they were satisfied and left her alone.

Syafika looked for somewhere to hide because she didn’t want to have to spend the rest of her lunchtime fending off strangers who were uncomfortable when they saw someone crying. Syafika realized she’d have to leave the path. Feeling grateful that she’d worn sensible shoes, Syafika squeezed between two bushes and sat down on some freshly laid mulch with her back against a large tree. If Syafika peeped between the branches of the bushes she could see people walking past on the path, but they didn’t seem to be able to see her. Syafika was so pleased with her spot that she was no longer feeling sad enough to cry. She decided to try and relax instead. She rested her head against the tree and looked up at the shapes the canopy made as the wind moved the leaves. Then the tears started again. Syafika felt well and truly sorry for herself and cried for ten minutes or so before being distracted by the sound of someone running along the path. Syafika peeped through the bushes because she wanted to see what sort of person went running on such a hot day. When she saw that it was Anthony, and that he had somehow managed to undo his haircut Syafika shook her head at how ridiculous that was. Then, before she could really think about what she was doing, Syafika was up and running after Anthony. She didn’t want to catch up with Anthony. She just wanted to see where he went. The trouble was that Anthony could run faster than Syafika and so Syafika had to take a couple of short cuts through garden beds to keep sight of Anthony. Syafika laughed as she jumped over a low hedge of azaleas and hoped the Ranger wouldn’t see her.

Anthony ran a complicated path around the botanic gardens before sprinting uphill towards Government House and then stopping to stretch. By then Syafika was so out of breath that her throat was sore, so when she saw that Anthony had stopped to stretch she stopped running too, but kept walking towards Anthony. After Anthony finished stretching he left the gardens through the gate behind Government House and crossed the street. Then he went into a block of apartments that overlooked the harbour. Syafika couldn’t follow Anthony inside, but she didn’t have to go inside to know that it was strange that Anthony could afford to live there.

The Inklings: Chapter 70

To read from the start go to

On Monday it was Beth’s turn to spend the day at Ousman’s place. Her father left her at the front door on his way to work and when Beth nervously rang the doorbell Mamadou was the first to open it. Beth seemed shy. She struggled to explain to Mamadou who she was and what she was doing there. Fortunately Ousman was up and soon came to rescue Beth. He took her to the kitchen to make her a cup of peppermint tea.

Binta was sitting in the kitchen writing a list when the phone rang. Binta answered the phone and as she listened to the person on the other end Mamadou noticed that her expression become worried.

“I have to go to work afterall” announced Binta after she’d hung up the phone.

Binta had told Mamadou that she had a week of holiday and was going to be looking after Ousman while Mamadou started helping Rose and Festus with the renovations. When Mamadou was more settled into helping with the renovations Binta would go back to work and Mamadou would have to take Ousman with him for the rest of the school holidays. Binta thought this was only fair – it wasn’t as if Mamadou was being paid to help Rose and Festus. Besides, it was possible that Ousman might even be a bit helpful. But now the plan had changed and Binta couldn’t take a week off.

Mamadou was a bit annoyed but then he noticed that it looked like Binta was going to cry and realized how disappointed she was that she couldn’t have a break from work.

“No worries” said Mamadou, trying to sound like a local.

Beth looked frightened when she heard about the change of plan. She’d been imagining that she and Ousman would spend a lazy day doing puzzles and playing chess. She didn’t want to go to Rose’s place with Mamadou because she didn’t know Rose or Mamadou and had no idea what it would be like.

Beth watched as Mamadou took a handful of fruit and nut mix from a glass jar and put them into his pocket. It comforted Mamadou to take a snack with him like that because it reminded him of when he was a boy and his Mum had put peanuts into his pocket before she sent him out to go shopping. Then Mamadou filled three water bottles and put them into a bag.

“Let’s go” said Mamadou to Beth and Ousman and so Beth followed Ousman and Mamadou out the front door and up the street. The trio was about halfway to Rose’s house when a galah flew down and landed on the fence next to the footpath. Ousman stopped and looked at the galah, then smiled and said ‘hello’ to it. Beth thought this was a bit strange but the galah seemed to think it was perfectly normal and it hopped onto Ousman’s shoulder. Mamadou remembered the fruit and nuts mix in his pocket so he took out some sunflower seeds and put them in Ousman’s hand. Ousman held his hand out like a plate for the galah and the galah ate the seeds thoughfully.

While the galah was still eating, a man came out of his front gate. When he noticed the galah he walked over, told them his name was Stan, and said to the galah “Back again are you?”. Then Stan told Ousman, Beth and Mamadou how the galah had turned up in his backyard a week ago. “I thought she was a pet who’d escaped so I took her to the vet, but all the vet could tell me was that she was a female and because she has no microchip or leg-bands she could be wild. So I took her to the park and let her go.”

Mamadou looked at Ousman, who was looking lovingly at the galah as it sat on his forearm. Mamadou could tell that it was going to be hard to separate the two. Beth seemed to like the galah too, but was a bit scared. “Will it bite me if I try to pat it?” she asked Stan.

“She likes tickles on her neck better” said Stan.

The galah seemed to have understood what Stan was saying because she tilted her head to one side and fluffed up her neck feathers. Stan showed Beth how to tickle the galah and then Beth had a go.

“You should keep her” Stan said to Ousman and Beth.

Mamadou suspected that Stan just wanted someone else to take responsibility for the galah but was pleased when Ousman asked him “Can I keep her?”

“What will your Mum think about that?” Mamadou asked Ousman.

“If she won’t let Ousman keep the galah, I will take it” said Beth.

The galah looked at everyone like she found them amusing, but kept sitting on Ousman’s arm.

Stan wished them luck and they continued their journey to Rose’s place. As they walked they discussed names for the galah.


Zikpi had been at Rose’s place for half an hour. She’d been instructing Rose and Festus on how they had to try to ignore the film crew – to not look at the camera or microphone and to only acknowledge her when she had told them she was going to be in the shot. When Zikpi went out the front to help the film crew unpack the van she saw Mamadou and the kids (and the galah) approaching.

“Quick” said Zikpi “Get a shot of them arriving”

When Rose opened the door to Mamadou she was surprised to see he had an entourage with him. She assumed that the galah belonged to the shy girl and wondered who she was but thought it might be rude to ask and she could see she was being filmed so she just invited them all in.

Festus was sitting at the kitchen table with a teapot, milk jug and three cups in front of him. When everyone walked in he asked “Who have we got here?”

Mamadou explained that Beth was Ousman’s friend who was staying with them that day and that the galah had made friends with them on the way.

“I’m going to keep her and call her Aminata” said Ousman.

Rose tried to picture what Binta’s face would look like when she came home from work and saw a galah sitting on Ousman’s shoulder. “You will have to tidy up whenever Aminata makes a mess” she told Ousman.

Then Rose got two more cups out of the cupboard and Festus poured everyone a cup of tea while Rose explained the work plan for the day. They were going to start by demolishing the garage. It had corrugated iron walls and a tiled roof on a wooden frame. The iron and tiles were in pretty good condition but some of the wooden frame had started to rot. At Mamadou’s insistence they were to take care when they demolished it so as many materials as possible could be reused. By this time all the tea cups were empty so it was time to go outside and get started.

“Did you get all that?” Zikpi asked the film crew. She had started to think that this renovation would be the most interesting one she’d filmed.

“What are you two, sorry, three going to do? Do you want me to tell you how you can help or would you rather entertain yourselves?” said Rose to Ousman, Beth and Aminata.

“Help, if we can, don’t you think?” said Beth, looking at Ousman to see if he agreed.

“Yep” said Ousman.

“Ok. You kids can take these wrenches and start taking the sheets of metal off this wall – make sure you put gloves on first though” instructed Rose as she pointed to the garage wall that faced the house. Then Rose and Mamadou started moving the pieces of scaffolding that had been dropped off in the driveway by one of Festus’ friends. While this was happening Festus sat on a chair and watched. He thought it wasn’t really necessary to put up scaffolding just to remove the tiles from the garage roof, but Rose had insisted. She didn’t want any more injuries to happen during the renovation.

Ousman thought he and Beth looked funny in their giant gloves as they struggled clumsily with the wrenches. At first they didn’t even know which way to turn the screws to loosen them but Festus was able to give them instructions. Soon they were moving quite quickly and began to have races to see who could undo a row of screws the fastest. Aminata made herself useful by picking up any screws that were dropped on the ground and putting them in a pile under Festus’s chair

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