An evening with dead, stuffed animals and birds is not my idea of a fun night out (unless of course these are mere props in some particularly wild burlesque routine). But a man with the fabulous name of Dr. Karl Watson, who I imagine to be vaguely like Sherlock Holmes’ sidekick, is giving a lecture on our natural history at the Barbados Museum and Historical Society. We share this rock with lots of creatures I am only vaguely aware of and certainly can’t name. So, although I had a slight temperature and a runny nose, I dragged my sorry ass off on Tuesday night to learn more.

Turning up meant I immediately lowered the average age of the attendees by at least thirty years. Various technical glitches delayed the start, i.e. the dreaded power point presentation was not working. All I could do was curl up in my seat, stick Vicks Vapour Rub up my nose, and listen to the conversations around me. And before you get all huffy about snooping on other people’s conversations I must protest that I had no choice but to listen. Many of these folk, all properly dressed up, had either forgotten their hearing aids at home or just routinely shouted. The conversation up front centred on aliments. One lady complained to her companion about having “pressure” and noted “de doctor say to tek it easy or else I gine get tablet”.
“Huh. Yuh only got pressure. I gine and get pressure and sugar” retorted the companion.
A gentleman a few seats away turned to them and shouted out, inquiring if anyone had been to Mr. Griffith’s funeral. Mercifully, before they could go into any detailed discussion of the casket or church crowd size, Dr. Watson’s talk began.

He started by saying that, in the local parlance, he was not going “to give no long talk”. I don’t mean to be picky, but if ninety minutes is “short talk”, I will be bringing pajamas and a sleeping bag for any future lecture billed as either a medium or long talk. But his talk was actually very interesting and premised on a life-long passion for the environment. We learnt that DNA has confirmed that the raccoon, last sighted in Bim in 1964, was part of the heritage of this country’s connection with the Carolinas. There have been rumoured sightings of raccoons many times since then but the reward for a live raccoon, offered by the late Prime Minister Tom Adams, was never claimed.

Dr. Watson made no mention of Holmes in his lecture but he did say he was related to the late Rev. Watson. It was the collection of this good pastor of St. Lucy Parish Church that formed the basis of our Museum’s collection. In said collection there is an exhibit of a stuffed mongoose that has been on display for all the years I have been visiting Bim. I still shudder every time I pass the creepy, giant, rodent-like creature with its disgusting long tail. Some bright spark thought it would be brilliant to introduce the mongoose into Barbados as a means of controlling the rat population. However Sparky forgot one itsy, bitsy, teensy, weensy detail. Rats are nocturnal animals while the ol’ mongoose fancies hunting by day. So our rock still has loads of rats and now we have the added pleasure of mongooses. Unfortunately they will not be engaged as prey and hunter.

Indeed the mongoose is now so fully integrated into our small rock that he is even celebrated in song. For a negotiated fee of two Bajan dollars First Born once performed this folk song at his grandparents’ lunch party. It goes something like this:
Sly mongoose, de dog know yuh name,
Sly mongoose, yuh ain’t got no shame,
De mongoose climb in de lady kitchen,
Pick up half she big fat chicken,
Put it in he waistcoat pocket,
Sly mongoose.

With world food prices escalating we cannot afford to lose the odd chicken like this but our Dr. Watson remains compassionate towards these vile beings. He thought them easily domesticated and genuinely could not comprehend why more of us had not taken them into the bosom of our family and home. Eh, elementary my dear Watson. Remember Sir Eric Gairy? Why do you think he called his band of murderous thugs The Mongoose Gang?

On a brighter note Watson drew our attention to the potential for the Constitutional River Wetland to become a more permanent sanctuary for birds – right in the heart of the capital, Bridgetown. These wetlands, the inadvertent byproduct of various urban development schemes, now serves as a home for the Castle Egret, the Snowy Egret and the Little Egret. If you need a bird-related reason for visiting Bim we are the only place in this hemisphere where the Little Egret has nested. See, this rock isn’t just a good place to incorporate Canadian offshore banks and insurance companies. You can come here, incorporate, enjoy the beach, and satisfy your thirst for eco-tourism. We could even start marketing Barbados as the Isle of the Good Taxation Regime and the Little Egret – although that might piss off the sweet little birdie and make him move to Bermuda. So calculate your carbon footprint and come visit soon. You know you want to.

No comments: