Councillor Bob and wife Fatou together at last... on their first anniversary

Coun Bob Thompson and his wife Fatou have spent the first year of their marriage separated by thousands of miles. Now their dream of a life in Calderdale has come true. Brian Coates reports

IT was a dream come true for Coun Bob Thompson when he and his Gambian wife Fatou spent their first wedding anniversary together in Calderdale.

After a frustrating 12 months, Fatou was finally allowed into the UK and the couple celebrated with a meal in an Indian restaurant.

Fatou and her nine-year-old daughter Sira arrived last weekend and have been living with Bob in Lower Edge Road, Elland.

The couple met when he went on holiday to The Gambia. He helped her peel some potatoes and the rest was history. Within a week they married and he converted to Islam.

Bob, 53, and Fatou, 26, are now looking forward to settling down in the UK.

She has been granted a two-year settlement visa after which she could apply for British citizenship. Both Fatou and Sira are being financially provided for by Bob, a Lib Dem councillor in the Elland ward.

The family have been shopping in the Halifax Borough Market and Fatou will meet Bob's colleagues in Halifax Town Hall today. She has already met his fellow workers at Pennine Housing 2000 and her parents-in-law in Scarborough where she enjoyed fish and chips.

In The Gambia Fatou lived in a hut compound with 100 others. When they married she moved into a modern three-bed detached home, bought by Bob, for 49,000 while the struggle with the authorities to be reunited in the UK began.

Bob made several visits to The Gambia and ran up 400 monthly phone bills but has no regrets.

Fatou and Sira speak Mandinka and have a basic grasp of English but they can't yet read or write.

Sira starts school today at Old Earth Primary School, Elland, and Fatou has expressed an interesting in becoming a volunteer non-teaching assistant.

Fatou said she was amazed at the size and range of goods in the shops and is unused to seeing farm animals contained in fields.

She misses her family in The Gambia along with the sunshine and long daylight hours. The family intend to return for holidays and are considering letting their Gambian home. And while everything around her is an exciting adventure at the moment, she still found time to reassure Bob of her love for him.

"I love him very much. He respects me and loves my daughter," she said.

"His family like me and I like that he prays with me also."

Sira, apart from asking if the sun ever shines in England, seems to be settling into her new home quickly, said Bob.

"It is a case of bedding into our way of life after a frustrating year but we can now take things a day at a time. Everybody has been delighted to finally see Fatou," he said.