I remain unreasonably optimistic that this small rock is the location to make a life in our troubled times. This optimism might be fueled in part by email responses I have had to a request that friends, acquainted with our 21 by 14 miles of coral, share what makes it unique. The consensus is that the drawbacks are many - like the unending road construction that is sparring to rival Boston’s Big Dig that went on and on and on. But shovel the rubble and you find deep affection for this quirky rock and its proud people.
There are certain preconditions that must be met before you can settle comfortably into life on this small rock. One such precondition is patience. I don’t have patience. Indeed my patient Papa often sighs, reflecting aloud that this trait is part of my inheritance. He’s seen the same behaviour in both his wife and mother-in-law. But I am really trying to be less wired and more in touch with the good karma of the universe. So what if the container and truck finally made it up the driveway to deliver our stuff only to smash a parked tractor on the journey down the hill. And what if in officially clearing these goods I had to deal with a gentleman who hit on me - albeit without charisma, wit or a dental plan. He even called our home and expressed amazement when I warned I wanted nothing to do with him and was going to put the phone down.
“Yuh gine put de phone down pon me?” asked Joe The Idiot incredulously.
(Note to self: must train Jack to bite on sight all idiots: Joes, Samuels, licensed, unlicensed...)
A much more welcome visitor was someone from school days. Despite the intervening decades it is odd how little people change. Of course he’s all grown up now but R. is still fundamentally the same unassuming, bright kid I remember. Throughout his visit First and Second Born remained unconvinced that we grown-ups were ever eight years old in spite of the stories R. recounted. If I had never moved here this kind of lucky encounter with the past would probably not have materialised. Indeed, so many long lost friends are promising to visit that I have transferred the data to an Excel spreadsheet. The next step is an online booking system for the winter season.
And just to prepare for all this entertaining I had “volunteered” to work the food stall at the school fair. It was a difficult fit. J. warned it would be busy, busy, busy. What she failed to appreciate was the level of fluency in the vernacular required to comprehend complex orders from no less than three hungry Bajans at any given time. Maybe if it had been just the one hungry Bajan at a time, we would have, through a combination of speech and gesture, arrived at a satisfactory outcome. Instead I felt like Ban Ki-Moon being suddenly accosted by Chávez in colourful Spanish, a static, non-committal smile on my face, while someone discreetly provided sequential translation in my ear. The only constant was that each order seemed to end with,
“And put ah five dollar pie.” (Translation: may I have a small portion of macaroni pie.) This is almost a meal in itself, but hey, at least it’s not the eight-dollar portion that is the entire recommended daily carbohydrate intake for an average family with 2.4 children.)
The food stall lacked capacity to cope with servers needing translators. I could see a reprimand followed by dishonourable discharge if I did not act fast. It was time to pull out all the stops. Among other things, the stall served two types of roti – one filled with beef and potato and the other with chicken and potato. All I had to understand was that, “Two beef and ah chicken”, for example, meant two beef rotis and one chicken roti. This was a no frills operation. And being served by a short, Indian, woman might be, from the customer’s viewpoint, a more satisfactorily authentic experience. I could even, ahem, have been the chef. For the longest two hours I filled and wrapped roti after roti while wearing a subservient smile that said, “Please don’t harm me. I am merely serving roti like I do each day of my doomed and troubled existence, which of course you can trace through hundreds of years when my dirt poor ancestors were tricked, or kidnapped, or sold into indenturship and dumped on the strange shores of these islands.” And if you had any doubts about the power of humility, the proof of the roti is in the eating: this dumb ass woman’s bad ass food sold out first.