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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

British granny and the African waiter

A 59 year old British grandmother didn't think there could possibly be an ulterior motive as to why a 25 year old black waiter from Gambia would want to marry her.

Mary Cotnoir, who describes herself as a lonely divorcee, was on holiday alone in Gambia.  She often went on solo holidays and she thought that this one would be no different.  But it turned out to be a very hurtful experience and one she will never forget.

She went to the private beach belonging to her hotel and met Demba Sanneh, a waiter at her hotel.  He offered to act as her guide and would 'protect' her from other young men, vying for her attention.  She tells us what happened.

"The next day Demba showed me around a local monkey park and that night we went for a drink.  At the end of the evening, he escorted me back to my hotel room and he tried to kiss me.  I was surprised and told him I wouldn't open the door to my room until he had gone.

"I had not had a sexual relationship for over ten years and the sensible part of me was saying I'm nearly 60, he's 25, and that I wouldn't know what to do in bed after so long.  But the other part of me was saying that I would probably not get another offer like it again and I would be stupid not to take it - I thought it would be a nice holiday romance.

"It was just lovely to be with someone who was so caring and deeply religious - he was Muslim - and who didn't drink.  Two days before I left, we slept together for the first time and it was so exciting.  It had been so long since I was intimate with someone.  At some point during the week Demba laid his cards on the table - he said he was offering love, sex and companionship but in return, he wanted my help.  He suggested I buy him a laptop, then he could go to college and get a better job.  I thought a laptop was nothing and I wanted to help him, he only earned about 25 pounds a month and lived with 20 members of his family."

By the time she left Gambia, Mary was hooked and she returned to visit him again a few months later.  On the second day, he proposed marriage and gave her a ring he had made himself.  Mary readily accepted.

Once back in the UK, Mary agreed to pay for her fiance to take driving lessons so he could set up a taxi business.    They also applied for a tourist visa so he could visit the UK for a holiday but it was rejected by the Home Office who said they were suspicious of his true motives.

Demba convinced Mary that it was wrong for people in love to have sex outside marriage so they needed to bring the wedding forward and she should come to Gambia as soon as possible.  She did and the wedding cost her 500 pounds and was attended by 50 of Demba's friends and relatives.

"The wedding was the happiest day of my life" she recalls "We did sleep together on our wedding night but the next day I made a joke about how, if the marriage lasted until I died, or until I was too old to want to visit Gambia anymore, I'd buy Demba a property to live in.  I told him he'd only be 45 by then - that he could have another wife and children.  The look on his face was one of horror, it was obvious he'd been hoping for a property far sooner than that.  He refused to speak to me for a day then he started on about what he was going to do when he moved to the UK, and how I'd be putting him up."

"I was stunned and hurt, this was the first time I'd heard about him wanting to come to the UK and I knew that I'd been lied to.  Up to this point, we'd planned for me to spend 6 months in Gambia in a property I would rent, then I would move out there permanently when my mother passed away.  We'd only ever talked about Demba coming to the UK on holiday.  Physically too, everything changed, he ordered me not to wear strappy tops any more and to cover myself up in bed with a nightie.  I felt incredibly confused and hurt and spent most of the time in tears.

"Meanwhile his entire extended family seemed to be queuing up to chat to me about their plans for the future.  One wanted to go to college, another wanted to set up a business, and they were all intimating that everything would be funded by me."

By the time Mary was due to fly home, after eight nights together, she knew it was over.  "After my last visit, he was the one crying at the airport but now he could hardly bear to kiss me, he gave me a peck on the cheek and then started on about money.  He wanted money for his parents, my traveller's cheques, my euros, he even had the cheek to ask for the perfume I'd just bought for myself, probably wanted it for another woman."

Mary knew what her childrens' reaction would be and that's why she didn't tell them about her romance with the African waiter.  She has two sons 39 and 32 and two daughters, 40 and 37.

Three weeks after Mary arrived home, Demba was declaring his love and promised to make the marriage work.  But Mary won't be co-operating with a divorce which means that he will have to wait five years until he can ask for the marriage to be dissolved by a court of law.

"Now I realise Demba must have looked at me and seen a fool" she said.