Barbados, West Indies
After I'd gone he woke to loud crashes through the railings. The windows had no glass. Swift clean hacks then long whistling falls. Round leafy landings like heads in a basket from a high execution. Bird had an army of shirtless men cleaving the coconuts from his palm trees.
He pulled on shorts and joined them. That would be the way of him. Even in a West Indian swelter he was most satisfied at useful enterprise. What else was there for him to do after I'd gone.
Photograph by Margaret O'hare. Fine Art Imaging
It's a story by Frank Collymore from The Oxford Book Of Caribbean Short Stories. Is it true? I don't know. There's a little bit of truth in nearly everything isn't there. Perhaps in this little chattel house. Out the road from Mullins Bay in Barbados, heading for Speightstown. I pass it and wonder who lives there every time. Such a preposterously small abode. One day on local leave we're flip-flopping back to Bird and Delias. I'm admiring the blue house as we approach. Suddenly a preposterously tall man throws his bicycle against the white pickets and let's himself in under the tiny front door. I'm quite thrilled. The tallest man in the West Indies lives in the smallest house in Barbados. Now what were the chances of that happening. I want to knock his door and demand to be asked in for tea so that I can look at him properly.
Chattel House is Bajan batter for small moveable wooden houses that date back to the plantation days. Chattel being moveable property of course. Assembled without nails and set on blocks rather than anchored to the ground they could be disassembled quickly by their working class occupants in the event of a dispute with the landowner. Then moved right along to the next place flat packed on the back of a cart. The original Ikea. There are wonderful chattel houses all over the island. Often carefully tended in terrible colours. Some people were meant to live alone and some Little Sheds were meant to move along.
Later we are chewing the jaw with Bird and Delia on the warm drive. The Palm trees look down sternly. Then like the fall out from a bomb blast that's a hundred miles away there is a quiet implosion in the air pressure. A swoosh you feel rather than hear. Instinctively we all look up and silently see two unseasonably large blue birds fly right overhead taking the warm evening air with them. Time stops. It's a pair of parrots they tell us. Off to who knows where. Then goodness me if the tallest man in Barbados doesn't cycle up the path and disappear around the back yard. It was turning into rather an unusual day altogether.
Oft quoted from Corinthians and interpreted that humans have an imperfect perception of reality. I'd say we make a decent stab at it considering what's thrown at us. And what we throw at each other.
And some days we have a painfully lucid grasp of reality and all its grim carnival.
Barbados, West Indies. The Four Square rum factory. It's my favourite rum. Spiced and Just Perfect with a fist of lime wedges and ice. It was late in the day and we were the only people there. There didnt even appear to be anyone making rum. Certainly noone that took issue with us wandering about the place. The light was about to fall right out of the Caribbean sky that way it does and was Just Lovely. It's all about light.
Fed up with the relentless gurning lately the comms spike bursts the sky and it bleeds all over Cave Hill. Which puts me in the mind for a pink dusk. And I remember one with a rather yellow wall attached. 'Her and her yella wall n all'
On the drive back tonight I pass a man in navy surf shorts with big white flowers on the corner of Sandy Row. 'Hope you get the weather you're expecting' I smile to myself. Brave in Belfast where you'll earn yourself that for sunglasses on Royal Avenue. Passremarkable, this caustic town. So we are.
Meanwhile in sailor town crew rush to cabins, frisbee rubber waiting trays onto bunks and rip off velcro epaulettes. The Fillipino laundry have pressed a centre crease into their going-out jeans but nobody cares at The Boat Yard. If you've been to sea you've been to The Boat Yard. Like The Orient in Sydney. Everyone says Why go there everyone will be there it'll be just like the crew bar and then everyone goes there. But it's not like the crew bar because the ranks are in their going-out jeans The Great Leveler. And sure where would be the fun if everyone wasnt there. Those that can, go further along Highway 7 to St Lawrence Gap. The Gap. Fish restaurants that would make Vigo revolt Barbados Finest humid fillet steaks $100 dollars a chewy slab before fries. Before we knew better (Yellow reggae bus up the west coast for Fried Green Banana. Kit-form Cubre Libres that come from under the counter in quarter bottles and cans only. Ice and lime if you're lucky. Old men that wont let you pay in the Speightstown Cafe.) Before we knew better we did The Gap either side of a christmas leave. I choose the hotel for sentimental reasons, The Coleraine or Craigavon or something like that. Sandy concrete and old wood it's perfect. No tv or aircon and that lovely yellow balcony. The nights are resonant with The Nasal Americans baying for the debauchery of Cozumel. They ought to go to the Boat Yard, but nobody tells them.
We laugh. The best night we have is chewing the fat and two dollar hotdogs with boys by a filthy smoking cart in the middle of the street.
Margaret O'Hare is a fine art photographer in Northern Ireland. Commercial photography with a creative edge for practical application. And the hotel was called The Rostrevor. Funny that. It's been done up now what a shame.
- St Lawrence Gap, Barbados