Former Birmingham Mail Business Editor Jon Griffin’s “Letter from Gambia.”

It was just like being back at Trinity Mirror again - you wait for the announcement of your departure and enjoy the good life whilst it lasts....but there's always the prospect of some monkey business around the corner....

Admittedly the view of the beautiful white sandy beaches of Gambia was a considerable improvement on that of the skyline of Castle Bromwich over at Fort Dunlop - and the only obsession with clicks was the sound of frogs issuing their mating calls somewhere in the undergrowth.

My wife Julia and I had flown out to Kotu by the Atlantic coast in the West African state to soak up the sunshine for a week and escape the desolate grind of January in the freezing West Midlands.

It proved to be a little like Evelyn Waugh's novel Scoop, the famed journalistic satire where the Nature Notes correspondent William Boot is mistaken by his newspaper the Daily Beast for the war writer Henry Boot and sent abroad to report from the fictional African state of Ishmaelia, which is on the brink of civil war.

As we flew out there were some slightly worrying similarities with the Waugh newspaper masterpiece from 1938. The Gambia's president of 22 years Yahya Jammeh had been defeated by his rival Adama Barrow in December's election but was refusing to leave office.

Mr Barrow, an Arsenal fan who once worked as a security guard for Argos in North London not far from the Emirates, was left waiting to take up the presidential reins while other African leaders from Nigeria, Mauritania and elsewhere tried to persuade Mr Jammeh - a so-called 'strongman' with a disconcerting habit of putting political rivals behind bars - to accept his fate and step down.

There was little sign of any impending civil war as we soaked up the African sun's rays. The biggest dangers to a peaceful life were the monkeys that crept into our room to steal bananas, oranges and apples from the fruit bowl - not that we minded sharing with the charming little primates who swung down onto the roof for a free supper.

It was also difficult to keep some of the native population at arm's length. One young fellow decided that Julia and I were his long-lost parents and would appear at the end of the evening having stalked us after we had eaten in the local restaurants.

There were also the ' ladies of the night' on the beach who offered tourists everything from fruit, peanuts, and juices to 'massages'.... In time-

honoured journalistic fashion I declined and carried on walking in the Atlantic surf.

But the deadline for Mr Jammeh to step down was getting closer. Then we were told that troops from neighbouring Senegal were massing on the border ready to invade the capital Banjul - a mere half an hour away from our holiday paradise - if the stalemate continued.

Life seemed slightly less comfortable as thousands of Gambians fled from Banjul to Senegal to avoid a possible civil war....Was I about to become a real-life William Boot, stuck in a war-zone through no fault of my own?

In the end sense prevailed and Mr Jammeh agreed to step down. But not before Thomas Cook decided to evacuate all the tourists and fly everybody back home, leaving holidaymakers stuck in huge queues at Banjul airport.

Luckily we avoided the queues by 24 hours, flying home as scheduled just before the Thomas Cook evacuation was ordered....Another day and we would have been queuing up alongside all the poor tourists whose holiday plans were wrecked and had to fly home without even seeing a monkey pinch a banana, let alone risk being stuck in a Scoop-style civil war....