I can no longer tell the time. In London it was easier. It was either British Summer Time of long, light-filled days and late evening walks or Greenwich Mean Time of darkness and damp that I simply endured. We are not so regimented on our small rock. Movements in time are anticipated but cannot be gauged with any accuracy. From November there was a regular cool breeze that everyone said was “Christmas breeze”. So when in March this breeze was still around I was puzzled that Christmas was moving seamlessly into Easter. Now we are in hurricane season. Officially. But until last week the weather was exactly the same in June as it had been in April.
But something fundamental has shifted. In the past week torrential rains arrived and the grass almost overnight went from burnt brown to glistening green. It was fierce, loud, unapologetic rain. The first day it thundered down, time, by contrast, got gentler and slower. Shamefully I abandoned work for a juicy novel and a hot cup of tea under my duvet. At 3pm. I suspect I was not the only one to welcome the rains by crawling into bed. The DJ on our local Love FM station cooed that this was “weather for leather” before fading to Foreigner’s Waiting For A Girl Like You. Pity his poor lover – enduring a man with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer.
But maybe DJ Love is the pick of the crop. Men on the streets of Bim do not miss an opportunity to let the laydeeze know how they feel. Walking from the car to the museum entrance last Friday a gentleman stopped me. I thought he had an inquiry about the museum. He looked me up and down.
“Sweetness, yuh man know yuh leave home looking sexy so?”
I looked him up and down.
“Precious, it is 8am. Do you think you could save the sexist crap till at least 9?”
If you are not safe from these exchanges early in the morning, in front of the Barbados Museum and Historical Society, then nowhere is safe. J. was doing the weekly grocery shopping, and while weighing up the pros and cons of Flash versus Domestos, met the eyes of a stranger. He grinned widely - to best display his gold-capped front tooth that matched the three gold chains around his neck and the six gold rings on his fingers.
“Darling” he declared, “you is ah all beef roti.”
Now what is a girl to do? Is it best to smile, happy in the knowledge that at least you are all beef with no superfluous potato in the mix? Perhaps you should meet him on his terms with a retort like,
“Tank yuh honey. Shame you is jus de roti wid out de beef.”
Or is this the right moment to decide, sod this, I am having both Flash and Domestos, and head for the check out?
A superficial search of popular cultural references equating women with food yielded several calypsos. Special mention must go to the group Madd for the aptly titled, Food. The song’s object of lust is described as having “two legs - tick like a picnic ham”. She is also “top o’ de list, like ah macaroni pie in a Pyrex dish”. Another calyposian said his lady was “like ah lobster, everyting behind”. Being constantly viewed as little more than a small rock sex object is irritating but actually not particularly threatening. Men in the Caribbean are not keeping up with their women folk. For our local CXC exams - the equivalent of GCSC – sixty percent of the entrants are female. We also consistently produce more women than men graduates from our regional university. (Statistics courtesy of another high achieving woman - my mommy.)
But all this talk of food got me hungry and, with no one around to curb my culinary choices, I headed to KFC. Alone, and excited by the naughtiness of it all, I could hardly wait for my turn in the queue. Finally I was face to face with the girl in the red and white uniform. I flashed my best smile.
“Can you tell me what the Colonel’s Catch is please?” I asked expectantly.
“We eh have nutin’ name so.” she replied without looking up.
“But there’s a huge billboard outside saying try the Colonel’s Catch.” I said.
Ten seconds later she was back.
“Is fish.” she said with a completely straight face.
“What kind of fish? Do you serve the meal as fish fingers or a fish sandwich?” I persisted.
“Look is fish. Yuh want one? Yuh holin’ up de line.”
“I think I’ll pass. Can I have the chicken wings with honey mustard sauce please?”
She handed over a box of wings. There was no sauce.
“Any chance of some honey mustard sauce?” I inquired.
She glared at me, her patience finally at an end.
“Look I cahn get none fuh yuh. De air conditioning in here eh working too good and it making hot. De sauce dem down in de back by de freezer and me eh going in no cold, fuh no sauce, and end up ketching stroke yuh hear.”
So no dipping sauce. Serves me right for buying junk food.
And really there was no need to have bought KFC wings with no sauce when in my back garden are two of the world’s best Julie mango trees laden with fruit. The trees are as old as The Husband so they are, shall we say, well established. You have not had a full and meaningful existence until you have savoured a sweet Julie and licked the juice as it trickles down your arm. Our mangoes are particularly good. I have heard people swear they intend to be my friend for the whole mango season – a real commitment as we usually get two crops a year. Julies are all flesh with no irritating strings attached. If Obama were a fruit, he would, without doubt, be a Julie mango.