On this small rock we can provide for both of these needs. I am reliably informed that Habour Lights, (a.k.a. known to some as Habour Whites, because of the pale complexions of the majority of its clientele), is an excellent joint for a quick fix. But for something with soul you really want to be grooving at Lexie’s Bar in Oistins. That’s where I was last Saturday night - accompanied by not one, but two, handsome men. Sadly neither of these was The Husband as the European Parliament had summoned him to provide wisdom on urgent matters of state. In these troubled times democracy demands sacrifices of us all.
My version of how we ended up in Oistins goes something like this. E. and B. popped round to borrow some art house DVDs and we ended up having a little wine and a long chat, during which I told them I had heard of a mythical rum shop at Oistins with ball room dancing on Friday nights, among the many stalls selling fried fish dinners to tourists. They knew the place and after a phone call we established that there is dancing on a Saturday and Sunday evening as well. E. is a native son and B. has spent so much time here he should be given citizenship. Yet it was not clear they had ever ventured there. I said they were welcome to join me. With the kids at a sleepover with the grandparents (bless ‘em), we enthusiastically agreed on an Oistins evening of dinner from George’s Fish Grill stall followed by hanging out at Lexie’s.
E. has stated that as a matter of natural justice, and mindful of the principle of audi alterem partem, I am obliged to give blog space to his version of events. He and B. popped round to borrow some art house DVDs. I insisted they stay and drink with me as I don’t as a rule drink on my own. Every time they attempted to leave I refilled their glasses or fed them cheese and crackers. Then I pumped them for information about this bar I had heard of in Oistins. Once it was established that ballroom dancing was on that night I whined and pleaded like a baby for them to take me to Lexie’s because I was too scared to go all by myself. Being well brought up gentlemen they could not refuse. That is how we ate dinner at George’s Fish Grill stall followed by hanging out at Lexie’s.
Whichever version of events you buy into, the evening was one I that will make me smile long after all my expensively straightened teeth have fallen out and been replaced by ones that float in a glass of water when not in use.
Oistins is a place that reputedly ninety percent of tourists will visit at least once during their stay - and usually on a Friday night. It used to consist of numerous small, tented, eateries selling fried fish, which you ate at communal picnic tables. Permanent booths have recently replaced these makeshift stalls. It is always heaving with people. There is even a stage where we witnessed some pretty dreadful karaoke. I’ll never understand how Brits, who behave with such decorum in their nice little suburbs, with their nice little allotments, can turn up to this rock and metamorphose into drunk louts who insist on murdering Kelly Clarkson’s Because of You in a public square.
But if you leave this tourist section of Oistins and walk to the farthest corner where the little fishing boats come in, you pass, like Alice through the looking glass, into a magical space. Neon signs inform you of Lexie’s Bar with pop hits from the 50’s and 60’s blaring from speakers the size of refrigerators. Next-door is Kathy’s Bar, silent by comparison, except for the distinctive sound of dominoes being slapped down on wooden tables. There are a few scattered picnic tables where people are sitting having drinks. The waves lap the shoreline a few metres away. There are no tourists. Gradually, I realized that people were staring. Could it be my bright pink dress and matching florescent pink flip-flops? Or is it that I am the only Indian woman there? Or maybe they are staring because, hanging off my arms, are the only two white boys to have made the journey from there to here. And these lads had the nerve to suggest I was the one in need of an escort.
Lexie’s is a small, wooden, single storey building with huge doors open on three sides –just another watering hole. It had a small bar at one end and an ancient, wall mounted TV that showed martial arts movies all night. Otherwise the space was clear of furniture, dark and stiflingly hot. We peered in and saw the most surreal sight. In this tiny shack, locals, largely from the fishing community, and aged seventeen to eighty-plus, were dancing away, by turns doing the quick step, or the waltz, or the foxtrot. Some were dressed quite formally - complete with hats. Others wore shorts and t-shirts. What united them was their passion for this most old fashioned of music and dance. This was what Bajans called a Grand Dance. Couples elegantly dipped and twirled around the room while Skeeter Davis crooned,
Why does my heart go on beating?
Why do these eyes of mine cry?
Don't they know it's the end of the world.
It ended when you said goodbye.
I am not boasting (much) but after about twenty minutes on the sidelines, the best dancer, wearing dancing spats, asked moi to dance. I politely declined even showing him my two left feet in the pink rubber slippers. He was having none of it. With some coaxing from E. and B., I landed on the dance floor. The next five minutes saw me moving in awkward jerks while he tried to sail around the room. I began appealing under my breath to Jesus, Mary, Joseph and all the saints, even the really minor ones who only just made sainthood. Please, I begged, let me get through the dance without stepping on his feet and making a total ass of myself. But he was a proper gentleman who graciously ended the dance with the words,
“Yuh gine get it if yuh keep trying darling.”
Translated, that was a polite way of saying, yup, that chick was not lying about the two left feet.
The dancing continued while we looked on in awe at the grace and beauty in motion. And with each inhalation of the night, all of space, and time, and what was good in the world, flowed through my body. I never wanted to leave.
Then around midnight the music changed completely from country and easy listening golden oldies to rank calypso. Ah! So that whole genteel, old world routine was just a façade. We are back to the usual West Indian “wuk-up” of pelvic gyrations. Saddened, E. and I wondered off to sit near the sea and contemplate. We had just settled in when B. came running up.
“You have to come see this.” he panted.
We went back to Lexie’s. If the fishermen doing ballroom dancing was surreal, the Texan line dancing to calypso was even more so. We kept thinking it was a one-off routine and soon someone would break ranks and “ de wukking up” would start. But for an hour while the DJ treated us to songs like “Wait Fuh Me Gryner Baby, Wait Fuh Me” the dancers never stopped their country line routine. True they managed to add a little West Indian hip thing in there somewhere, but the essence of line dancing remained completely intact. They even line danced while singing along to the 90’s hit from Gaby called Dr. Kassandra that told of the good doctor’s acts of mercy:
She give me one injection,
In my mid-section,
I did not have to pay,
Den she give me something,
And tell me swallow,
Fever gone right away.
Some time after two am, and with my head spinning from the experience, I decided it was time to go home. This was a welcome moment of respite, clarity and grace that allowed us to escape absurdities, like an estimated 90,000 plus ordinary Iraqi people killed since 2003, that punctuate our daily lives. As we were walking off a Rasta wearing rags approached. He identified himself as a businessman.
“Yuh does use weed?” asked “de Dread”.
“No.” replied E., on behalf of the collective.
“Well dat is good, man!” enthused Jah’s disciple. “Yuh does use coke?”
“No.” replied E.
“Well dat is good, man!” agreed Mr. Dreadlocks. “Yuh have a light?”
“Yes.” replied E.
“Well dat is very good, man!” said my One-Love brother.
He accepted E.’s cigarette, lit up, wished us peace, and disappeared down the beach. Tomorrow we would wake to the news that tens of thousands had died as a cyclone hit Burma. But tonight, well that was as good as it gets man.