Paperback: 256 pages

Publisher: Eye Books

ISBN-13: 9781785630262

Product Dimensions: 14 x 1 x 20.3 cm

Chasing Hornbills

Simon Fenton

£8.99

"This book is the closest thing I have read to an outsider understanding our culture." Kemo Conteh, Gambian Development and Governance consultant

Chasing Hornbills charts Simon Fenton’s further adventures in Senegal. Now a father, and expanding his business interests to include a taxi firm and a restaurant, he continues to face the everyday frustrations and exhilarations that made Squirting Milk at Chameleons such a compelling and entertaining read. The Accidental African of the first book has become more deliberate! 

But as his understanding of Senegalese life and culture grows, so do questions about his future. Will Simon settle permanently in his adopted home, or will be give up and return to his old familiar life?

Extracts


I’m driving down the smugglers’ route with Omar. We pass through the forest, down from the Gambia to Abéné, across the border in Senegal. After weeks in England it’s exhilarating to speed through mile after mile of vivid green forest and lakes of mud through which Kermit, my fluorescent green Land Rover, slithers and slides. As we cross an open patch of land, I spot two large birds pecking at the ground.

They’re huge – perhaps a metre tall each. Omar screeches to a halt, leaps out and runs towards them, flapping his arms and squawking like a bird himself. The two birds, Abyssinian ground hornbills, start running, then take off, and I see a flash of white beneath their black wings as they only just clear the trees. Bemusedly, for I thought I’d heard it all by now, I ask a slightly breathless Omar what’s going on.

“Simon, this bird is very special to the Diola people and we always make it fly if we see one; otherwise we will have bad luck.”

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Extracts


I’m driving down the smugglers’ route with Omar. We pass through the forest, down from the Gambia to Abéné, across the border in Senegal. After weeks in England it’s exhilarating to speed through mile after mile of vivid green forest and lakes of mud through which Kermit, my fluorescent green Land Rover, slithers and slides. As we cross an open patch of land, I spot two large birds pecking at the ground.

They’re huge – perhaps a metre tall each. Omar screeches to a halt, leaps out and runs towards them, flapping his arms and squawking like a bird himself. The two birds, Abyssinian ground hornbills, start running, then take off, and I see a flash of white beneath their black wings as they only just clear the trees. Bemusedly, for I thought I’d heard it all by now, I ask a slightly breathless Omar what’s going on.

“Simon, this bird is very special to the Diola people and we always make it fly if we see one; otherwise we will have bad luck.”

Not long after, I was sitting on the roadside while my Land Rover was being fixed. It was nearly finished when I felt a large splat on my leg. Africans aren’t the only ones with bird-related superstitions…

Back in Abéné, I go to see my African mother, Diatou. She will often explain the finer points of Diola culture to me and I want to check if hornbills held any deeper meanings for the Diola; they don’t – or if they do, she isn’t telling.

“But Simon, don’t you remember when we went to Ziguinchor with Tom?”

Of course I remembered that trip. Khady and I had taken a car with Diatou and her late husband Tom, who had died while we were there. Then Khady and I had taken a bus back, and it had crashed en route, nearly killing us both.

“Well, we saw that bird on the way there and I told the driver to stop, but he just carried on.”

We’d neglected to chase hornbills that day, and seemingly paid the price.

Over the coming months, when I experience tropical illness, near death, voodoo madness and seriously question my own sanity, I find myself wondering if I should have joined Omar and chased them today.

quotes

reviews

"Fenton's love of Senegal, its people, and West Africa shines through in every paragraph, despite his regular frustrations with officials and family... Truly, this book deserves a wide audience. In my mind it's an absolute winner and a gem. Worth every one of the five stars I'm giving it. Roll on Book No.3"

Grant Leishman

extras

The launch of Chasing Hornbills

 

 

ABOUT

Simon Fenton

Simon Fenton was a photographer, blogger and author.

After an early career in the morgues and pools of southern England, Simon lived, worked and travelled in Asia for several years, travelling independently through bush, mountain, desert and jungle. He financed himself by teaching English, acting in Bollywood movies and working as a pig farmer in Vietnam.

He returned to Britain to settle down, got married and set up the award-winning social enterprise StreetShine before a perfect storm of events re-ignited his wanderlust. He found himself in Senegal, where he set up home with his Senegalese partner Khady and their sons Gulliver and Alfie, running the guest house that he built.

Tragically he died in a road accident in West Africa in May 2017.

Read a tribute to him here and read more about his life in Senegal at thelittlebaobab.com.

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