Paperback: 256 pages

Publisher: Eye Books (31 Jan. 2015)

ISBN-13: 978-1903070918

Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 13 x 2.3 cm

Squirting Milk at Chameleons

Simon Fenton

£7.99

“Much more than A Year in Provence goes to Africa.”

On the cusp of middle age, Simon Fenton leaves Britain in search of adventure and finds Senegal, love, fatherhood, witch doctors – and a piece of land that could make a perfect guest house, if only he knew how to build one.

The Casamance is an undiscovered paradise where mystic Africa governs life, people walk to the beat of the djembe, when it rains it pours and the mangos are free.

But the fact that his name translates to ‘vampire’ and he has had a curse placed on him via the medium of eggs could mean Simon’s new life may not be so easy.

Extracts

(When in Africa…)

Sometimes my friends tell me I’m an African now. Then, as was the case when I went to Guinea, I was offered a free room that was so dirty and squalid that I ran to the nearest hotel. Checking in, I felt bad realising that I couldn’t put up for one night with what is the reality, day in day out, for millions of people. Or I’ll be squatting around the dinner platter, eating communally with my hands and feeling like I belong here, then everyone talks together in Wolof, Mandinka or Diola – often all three – so fast that I’m lost. Some communication is non-verbal and I’ll probably never understand it.

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Extracts

(When in Africa…)

Sometimes my friends tell me I’m an African now. Then, as was the case when I went to Guinea, I was offered a free room that was so dirty and squalid that I ran to the nearest hotel. Checking in, I felt bad realising that I couldn’t put up for one night with what is the reality, day in day out, for millions of people. Or I’ll be squatting around the dinner platter, eating communally with my hands and feeling like I belong here, then everyone talks together in Wolof, Mandinka or Diola – often all three – so fast that I’m lost. Some communication is non-verbal and I’ll probably never understand it.

(On buying land in Senegal)

Our decision came with certain conditions. Khady’s Muslim so didn’t like one place because it was teeming with pigs. She says they’re salty(dirty) because they carry a worm that buries itself in your feet. That’s true and she’s dug a couple out of mine. Another piece of land was close to

Recruitment and retention, Senegal style

Shortly after, we had a problem with the Jakarta driver that Khady employed. I’d purchased the Jakarta – a cheap Chinese motorbike that the local youth drive as a taxi service – in order for Khady to run a small business. It was

Finding a new driver was a frustrating experience. Several people failed to show up after promising to do so. I thought people were desperate for jobs.

“No,” said Khady. “They’re desperate for money.”

quotes

“His strength lies in his description of the various characters he meets and works with and his ability to bring his life, there, alive for the reader.”

“Fenton writes simple, direct prose, aware perhaps that this is the best way to present a continent which lives in the same way.”

“If you get to visit the area it really brings the book to life but even if you've never left your home country it’s still a very entertaining read and I cannot recommend it highly enough.”

reviews

No mere accident: Simon Fenton captures a tiny part of Africa's big soul 

(4* review)

Squirting Milk at Chameleons is more than A Year in Provence goes to Africa. Author Simon Fenton details both his fall and rise, his growing disillusionment with his home country and two failed marriages, and how his need to escape led, through sheer serendipity, to a new life, and a new family, in Abene, Senegal. But just as he refuses to wallow in the bad times, he's not blind to the corruption, the poverty and all the other festering sores on the skin of this great continent as he narrates the good times. Fenton writes simple, direct prose, aware perhaps that this is the best way to present a continent which lives in the same way, and he's particularly good at picking out the seemingly mundane from the thrall of the exotic, finding joy in mangos, observing how a self-proclaimed witch doctor turns tail in the presence of his mother-in-law, and exposing the fault-lines along which his two cultures clash.Squirting Milk at Chameleons isn't merely the story of one man's journey from mortgage slave to accidental African. It's the story of Africa, in all its filth and its glory. It won't necessarily make you yearn to visit, but it will make you damn glad you can.

This book is a great and easy read and is a must for anyone ... 

(5* review)

I have a house in the village of Abéné and Simon's account of life there is spot on. From having spent time in Africa I see that here in the West with our analytical mind-set and an almost permanent belief that we understand how life works, we actually understand nothing at all! Simon shares his journey with us, he shares his courage, vulnerability, and his faith. His story is an example of what life is really about. This book is a great and easy read and is a must for anyone wanting to understand the mystical side of Africa through a Westerner's eyes. Highly recommended!

NOT ACCIDENTAL AT ALL! 

(5* review)

The really strange title was quite enough to make me curious, and as the book was about Africa, there was no contest. This was a book I had to read and I am so glad I did. It took me to a part of Africa I don’t know and the author describes it so vividly, I can imagine being there. Many of the things were familiar, many were strange and new. I loved the way the characters were described with such fondness and love, as so often people from the west can be so critical of other cultures. I liked the way it was so clearly explained that the more you complain, the longer everything takes and the more difficult the task. I have to admire the writer’s commitment to living in an area, which although beautiful, does not have the modern amenities such as a shower, running water from taps and electricity. I think he blended in the old and the new so beautifully while still regaining his respect and love for the local people, even when the house they built for him fell down. I am eagerly awaiting the next book about his amazing and very adventurous life. I cannot recommend it highly enough. I wish I could give it 6 stars. 

A really entertaining read. 

(4* review)

Simon Fenton is a seasoned traveller who has lived and worked in many exotic places, but now he seems to have found a home. Simon's account of how he ended up in Senegal and established a life there, makes for fascinating reading. There is much humour in this book but also a deep empathy for the people amongst whom he now lives. But he also outlines the difficulties of adjusting to such a different culture. I very much liked his description of the clearing of the land, the difficulties in finding workers and the fact that the house, being built for guests, fell down, due to lack of cement. All this rang only too true for me, having had a house built in Senegal, albeit in a very different area. I find his love for the people around him and his patience in some very difficult circumstances, endearing.Simon writes in a clear, easy flowing prose. His strength, for me, lies in his description of the various characters he meets and works with and his ability to bring his life, there, alive for the reader. Please may we have a sequel, very soon. 

Great Book. Great guy. Great family. Buy it then visit if you can! 

(5* review)

I was lucky enough to stay at Simon and Kaddy’s gorgeous lodge a couple of times whilst staying in nearby Gambia and got to know the family a little. Simons love of the area and its people is obvious and if you happen to be in Abene just ask literally anyone where Simons place is and you'll be taken there...He's a very popular resident.The book itself is a very honest account of his experiences and an absolute must read for anyone interested in Africa as a whole and especially Senegal, beautifully written with a self-deprecating humour yet packed with loads of facts and fascinating recollections it really is a great read; If you get to visit the area it really brings the book to life but even if you've never left your home country it’s still a very entertaining read and I cannot recommend it highly enough. BUY IT!

A life less ordinary... 

(5* review)

Resembling something of a 21st century everyman, Simon Fenton leaves behind the disappointments of his life in England, in search of something more. Having slogged his way through the barren wastes of the Sahara, he emerges on the other side, in the apparently paradisiacal tropical region of Casamance in Senegal. Inevitably – and entertainingly – his pursuit of love, fatherhood, and a new life, doesn’t always go to plan.Written in clear, straight forward, easy to read prose, it’s the kind of book that you can speed through in no time. If you’ve ever fantasised about leaving it all behind, to pursue a life less ordinary, then this comes highly recommended.

extras

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 more about his life there at thelittlebaobab.com.

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