Dennis Jones is a Jamaican-born international economist, who has lived most of the time in the UK and USA, and latterly in Guinea, west Africa. He moved back to the Caribbean in 2007. This blog contains his observations on life on this small eastern Caribbean island, as well as views on life and issues on a broader landscape, especially the Caribbean and Africa.







**You may contact me by e-mail at livinginbarbados[at]gmail[dot]com**

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Brighton early morning

Taking my Saturday breakfast in the bucolic setting of Brighton's Plantation has now become a regular feature of the end of the week. The heavy downpour of rain around 5.30 am was not going to dissaude me from seeking my fish cutter (with plenty of pepper) and cappuccino at around 6.30 am. This Saturday, with my family doing their part to bolster the US economy, I had no other program; my simple intention was to read The Economist. As usual, I was privy to a lot of conversations, as people shared little tid-bits with each other. One lady was so taken by the chatter she did not realise that she was not sitting with her group of friends; she moved her stuff and went to find her friends and presumably continue talking up the same storm. I did not feel at all lonely, even though none of my usual posse had decided to come to the market this morning.

"Come and sit with us", suddenly hit my ear. "I sometimes come to the market on my own and no one talks to me." A white Bajan lady, who had arrived at the same time as me, and adjacent to whose car I had parked, smiled in my direction. I slid my towel and my truck to the next table, and off we went into conversation.

My new "friend", whom I will call "Ms. Barr", introduced me to her one-time-neighbour and acquaintance, whom I shall call "Ms. Madam", a native of Holland. Language quickly became a topic of discussion and Ms. Barr told me about how she and her husband had travelled to east Africa, where he had worked on a tea plantation, and about living in London for some 30 years. Africa had allowed them to learn Swahili, and that skill came into amusing play one day on the Underground, when they sat near a group who were criticizing everyone--supposedly without anyone understanding. Wrong. Their jaws dropped when Ms. Barr's husband gave them a Swahili greeting on leaving the train. I recalled a similar situation at my former work place, where two Russian senior officials were in the elevator criticizing staff mercilessly; in my case, I just said "very interesting views" in Russian as I stepped out the elevator. I saw their eyes opened in disbelief as the doors closed.

Ms. Barr's family has a long history in Barbados--over 400 years--with ancestors who came here as pirates. Her grandfather had done a lot of retracing, but had destroyed the records when he came across some family "skeletons" in the form of villains who had committed serious crimes and had to go to prison. The family's roots were from Scotland, and these were solidified in modern times when Ms. Barr married a Scot. She shared that she was now spending her retirement time writing from her 20 years of journals, but also waiting for her ex-husband to die--he has several forms of cancer and is now living out his days in Scotland's Outer Hebrides. Where he has chosen is one of those places known more for things than people: peat cutting, some special highland plants; a stable if cool temperature (about 40-50 degrees all year round) because of its location between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf Stream; a long history going back at least 5000 years.

Her friend, a poet and photographer, had been diverted by a chance meeting with some Dutch people and had been off speaking to them for a while. When she came back she asked me how I was enjoying my time with these "kooks"--at first, I thought she was still speaking Dutch, and wondered what she was talking about. But she elaborated: people like her and Ms. Barr, who see the world so differently, like the lady who makes the calendars of flowers that we all see but she manages to capture differently. I shrugged and told her that I had never been encouraged to follow the flock and be like other people; I was in my kind of heaven. We all laughed.

Our little group bounced along and I shared some of my recent doings, having to explain what a blog was and getting a lot of nods regarding the peculiarities of Barbados. Ms. Barr shared one of her "please don't expect service in Barbados" stories: the three month wait for a modem to give her an Internet connection, was trumped by a call to say " We comin' to gi yu di modem tomorra mawnin'". "No," she had replied. "I wont be here." Some discussion followed with the "business prevention officer" about whether or not she still wanted the service. Suffice to say, she still has a dial-up connection.

Ms. Barr told me a story too about how, having been out of Barbados for over a generation, despite all the history here of her family, since her return several years ago she has been excluded by the tight cliques that form on this little island. My friends and I who wonder about the seeming inhospitable nature of Bajans need to think hard about how and why Bajans like to keep "doors tightly shut".

Two other acquaintances then came along, or I should say I encouraged them to come over and say hello as they were sauntering to their cars. One, a Bajan lady, whom I will call "Ms. Marcos", is a friend of my better half, and is a reader of my blog; she was quick to ask me if I would be taking up her invitation to visit her parish church. We jostled on this topic for a while, as I tried to explain that I was having trouble reconciling my Church's position of accepting gay bishops but wanting to reject women bishops: their definition of "inclusion" was baffling me (cartoon courtesy of The Times). The other acquaintance, a Canadian diplomat, whom I shall call "Ms. Firestone", came and boosted my ego with praise for my writing and asking me whether I was writing a book from all of this material. These two acquaintances already knew each other and shared with us some thoughts that had come up during their recent book club--the need for a good editor to eke out the best story. They urged me to find an editor, and a publisher (especially one that paid an advance). That was a lot to come from a quick exchange.

I did my part: I connected these newer and older acquaintances and hope that they will find each again as a result of this chance meeting.

So, there I was, not surrounded by the usual group of women and girls as on other Saturday, but surrounded by ladies. Nevertheless. My morning breakfast had been much longer than usual; it was nearly 9 am. My head was buzzing with what the morning had already served me. I really wanted to write about it all straight away.

It's now Sunday morning, and I have had a very different morning. A walk on Carlyle Bay at 5.30 and enjoying sunrise and rainbows. Seeing a man strip off naked to shower at the outdoor the public facility--something I would have gladly said I would never see in Barbados. Having an attractive buxom Jamaican lady bare her body next to me while I rinsed off the sand from my feet at the same public facility--something else I would have gladly said I would never see or experience in Barbados. Vive la difference! I feel refreshed as I take my coffee, and listen to the news of gloom and doomin the affluent suburbs near where I lived in the US that is being caused by housing prices that have halved and increases in abandoned homes in the past two years.

I wonder what else will be served to me. The third heavy shower of rain is lashing down, as promised earlier on the radio. No two days are ever the same; no two people are ever the same. The bright and early morning that followed my Brighton early morning will no doubt have a few more twists and turns.

No comments: