A warthog in the restaurant and other issues

Senegal is a former French colony, and you can certainly see the French influence here – the road signs, street signs and some of the shops look exactly the same as they do in France.

And there are some other signs which, although I haven’t actually seen them in France, definitely look as though they came from the Gallic handbook of acceptable public behaviour …

Gorée Island, just off the coast near Dakar, is full of pretty streets of pastel-coloured houses, and could easily be mistaken for a little corner of Provence. It has what is probably the smallest boulangerie in the world, where the baker sits outside reading the paper until someone turns up wanting a baguette.

But Gorée Island also has a darker past, due to its location. It’s the closest place on the West African coat to the US, and it was used to house slaves waiting to be shipped abroad. There’s one slave house remaining, but there were originally twenty-eight on this small island, each housing up to two hundred slaves.

The slave house is now a museum and the curator showed us the different cells where the men, women and children were kept separately while they waited for the next ship to arrive and transport them to the New World. The most poignant place in every slave house is the small door in the wall which leads straight out to the sea, and is called The Door Of No Return. The slaves were funnelled through this door out to the ships, and it was the last thing they ever saw in their home country.

Senegal is also home to a huge number of different animals, which we saw on a trip to a game park. I was rather taken with the hyenas, who seem to have suffered from bad press over the years (I blame Disney) and looked very cute and loveable.

The restaurant inside the game park was very unusual. For a start, all the waiting staff were armed with catapults. At first I thought they might be a new toy, to be given away to young diners, but then I saw a waitress put a stone into hers, take aim and fire it at a monkey that was attempting to steal someone’s food.

The pizza chef worked inside a large wire cage because it’s the only way to stop the monkeys stealing the pizzas.

But the most surprising thing of all in the restaurant was seeing the warthogs, who strolled in casually and started hoovering up any stray crumbs that had fallen on the floor. Nobody aimed any stones at them, and they didn’t bother anyone, they were only interested in the food on the floor. I’d never seen a warthog before, and I certainly never expected to be sharing a restaurant with one.

And now that I’ve seen a few warthogs, I can tell you that their legs are the most bizarre limbs ever. Their front legs bend at right angles like our knees, to enable them to get closer to the floor (and to the food) and they shuffle around like a group of penitents hoping for forgiveness.

I wonder if we could introduce the same idea in England? Zoos could rent their warthogs out to nearby restaurants. That way they’d earn their keep, the zoo would save on food costs, and resident warthogs would be a winning USP for the restaurant. So, in modern parlance, what’s not to like?