After the football on Saturday evening, an English fella, David – who we met in the street – takes us to a St Patrick’s Day party at a bar in Aberdeen in Freetown’s West Side.
David’s been working out here for more than a year with the NGO War Child Holland but he’s finished that work and he’s deciding whether to stay or go back home. He’s a bit of a character from a Graham Greene or Conrad novel, home counties colonial with Freetown under his skin.
The party’s bizarre. It seems like every white person in the city is there. The car park’s full of big SUVs, the ex-pat band are playing Dancing in the Moonlight by Toploader, people are wearing silly green Guinness leprechaun hats, the palm trees sway in the breeze.
We don’t stay long. Paddy’s seems like a better proposition, even though when we arrive at midnight it’s too early for things to really be taking off – it doesn’t get into its stride until around 3am.
We sit and watch. Such a complete mix of people – courting couples, dancehall girls, wide-boys, a handful of white people. Pounding music, pneumatic dance moves.
David turns up, as does Andrew Benson Greene from iEARN – the organisation we originally worked with on our first visit. David and Andrew know each other and there’s some water under the bridge between them. Andrew’s not too happy to see Jon, blanks him a little. This is all part of the stuff that’s been going on that I mentioned earlier and I seem to be cast in the role of peacemaker. I tell Andrew that we’ll catch up in the week and have a proper talk, rather than yelling into each other’s ears at Paddy’s.
Back at the hotel Jon falls asleep and me, Murray and Simon drink whisky and try to understand the Salonian mindset. I argue that Europeans and Africans are sometimes as different as cats and goats.
So what’s the big difference? The difference is that 60-70 per cent of Salonians believe in and practise bad magic. And you can’t fight bad magic with western democracy.