The Road to Banjul Excerpt from "Day 9: the Long and not so Winding Road"

"The search for victuals was abortive, so we returned to the hotel and Graham dug out the gas camping stove from the bowels of Black Betty. I returned to the dark streets of Dakhla in search of his juicy steak. Predictably, I suppose, the best I could manage was two bread rolls, purchased from a grinning Muslim patissier.

Back in the room I swiftly took the stove from its neat plastic suitcase and proudly erected it on the table. I'd selected a few tins from our reserves, bought in Agadir, and would attempt to impress Graham with my famous sausage cassoulet, a side serving of bread and frankfurters, and a rice soup starter (optional). The delicate preamble of food prep having been placed in my capable hands, I put the saucepan containing all above ingredients on the gas ring and twisted the ignition knob. Nothing happened. Nothing, that is, but the dull and barely audible electronic click and a blue spark. I tried again. Nothing. A third tentative twist on the ignition was equally disappointing.

"You have tested this equipment, haven't you?" quizzed Graham.

"Well, not as such," I countered, remembering vividly and with painful embarrassment the affair of the undersize tent in Meknes. "I'll try a match."

The special damp proof camping matches had also not been tested, as such, but they did the trick. They ignited the gas ring in a flash, quite literally. They also ignited the ball of butane gas that had by now leaked from the defective stove, which in turn ignited our eyebrows, most of the remaining hair on Graham's head, the little hairs up my nose, and our T shirts, and left telltale scorch residue on the curtains. When the fire ball had completed its obligatory three circuits of the room, consuming any other hairs and inflammables on its way, and finally subsided, we took stock. Graham blinked the soot from his eyes, and commented that the gas stove evidently needed some attention. It did. And this is where his engineering expertise again proved itself. In no time he had dismantled the stove, into its many component parts, deftly replaced the feed pipe from the gas cylinder to the burner element where it should always have been, and we were, quite literally, cooking on gas.

"Have you a tin opener?" chanced Graham, noticing that the meal's ingredients largely, if not entirely, depended on one.

"Why, of course," I rejoined, proudly presenting the tin opener I'd purloined not a few weeks previously from the Tyrrel charity shop in Ilfracombe's High Street, an establishment noted for its superior merchandise and above average customer relations.

"And have you tested this equipment?" posed the ever vigilant Graham.

"Well, not as such," I responded nervously, hoping that the damn thing would at least open tins. After all, I'd paid 5p for it, in good faith, and believed it must come with at least the guarantee that it would perform its essential function.

Of course, and rather unsurprisingly by now, it wouldn't. The Swiss Army Knife came into its own here, for cunningly concealed between the thing for getting stones out of horses hooves and the all weather cricket pitch, I found a selection of the most vicious implements and pointy things known to mankind. With a little stabbing and hammering, and only minor blood loss, the tins were duly opened."