Fact: people in Barbados enjoy long lives. UNICEF thinks Bajans should count on living an average of 77 years. Bajans think this is linked to the popular daily habit of going for a pre-breakfast dip in the sea. My semi-retired parents have turned this early morning ritual into an art form. The old market basket Mom has kept for too long, yes, the same one she almost shamed us by taking to Kensington Oval, is packed daily with bananas and freshly brewed Blue Mountain coffee. By 6:30am they have already made the ten-minute walk to the beach and are in the salt water bobbing up and down while sipping coffee and chatting to the other early bathers. So well known are they now that one man passed her basket on the sand and remarked to his companion
“Dat de Trini lady basket. She gine be in de water ever since.”
Their ritual, minus the basket, is one relished by a good portion of BARP (Barbados Association of Retired Persons) members. The old timers swear by the magical properties of a “sea bath” which, coupled with a healthy dose of Church attendance, should see you to a century. There is the added attraction that when you reach these dizzy heights in Bim it is done in style. We don’t settle for some generic greeting from HRH. Here we do things proper. You get nothing less than a visit from the Governor General and his good lady wife. The press are invariably on hand to photograph the event and next day your picture is in The Nation or The Advocate accompanied by an interview where you reveal your secret recipe for long life. I’m with the gentleman who swore that it was his daily two units of alcohol that took him to three figures. My parents may be in secret agreement with this gentleman. Why else are they so reluctant to share that flask of “coffee”?
Whatever the secret to long life, if you are living longer, and in a long-term relationship, “till death do us part” means, eh, perhaps a bit longer than you might have bargained for. So how do you keep the music playing? Is it love, obedience, respect, passion? I think it’s selective hearing and I’ve been practicing.
“Where’s my wallet?” asks The Husband every, single, freaking, time he is about charge out the house.
For the past two decades I have responded by hunting for the elusive wallet that is not mine and which I have not touched. But times have changed.
“Where’s my wallet?” now elicits a response like,
“Yes, I would love another cup of tea dear.”
“Not tea! I need my wallet now.” his voice rising.
“Of course I don’t mind if you take the kids for a long bike ride this afternoon.” I reply breezily.
Just a few days of these senile moments and he no longer wants to play hunt-the-wallet with me.
Of course instead of being petty and pre-maturely senile I should be worshipping the man. So I have decided to heed his pleas. While I cannot agree to his exclusion from this blog I will honour his request for a more dignified role commensurate with his professional standing. It's nice to have a challenge. He could become He Who Must Not Be Mentioned. That has a nice ring but may be too close to a certain dark lord from the Harry Potter series. Maybe The Husband could become The Children’s Father or as we like to say on this small rock, De Man Who Tink He De Chilren Fadder. But after several sleepless nights I think I have found a title that suits his requirements and my blog….. drum roll please… all hail L’Éminence Grise.
Now you are probably thinking that I have stooped to a new low and that it is reasonable for this man to engage the services of some Rottweiler divorce lawyer who will lend a sympathetic ear to his sobs of “mad woman” and “irreconcilable differences”. But stay with me - there is fuzzy logic to my madness. You see the island is very, very small and he is a bit of a top dog in his field (something to do with regulation, finance, blah, blah, boring, boring). The demand for his wisdom is so great internationally that recently he wrote both the speech for one person and the rebuttal for his opponent in a debate on regulation. And then he flies off to privately advise the top grizzly bear in the great north ahead of an international summit.
But the pudding in the souse that secured his new name was a phone call he got last week. His Grey Eminence (or Eminen to his friends), answered the phone to a lady who said something like, Hola, hablo español? to which came the reply,
“Terribly sorry but I don’t speak the lingo.”
“Ay caramba! Hombre! One moment… de madre… You hold there.”
I gestured violently and mouthed to him,
“Don’t believe anything about winning a lottery.”
“She didn’t sound Nigerian.”
“Yeah well Nigerians don’t have a monopoly on the scam. It could have moved to Equatorial Guinea. They speak Spanish.”
“And remember not to give out your bank details whatever she says.”
“I’m not an idiot.”
“So you keep saying.”
At this point a man comes on the phone and, in heavily accented English, identifies himself as the Under-Secretary General of the UN and asks if The Husband would agree to be on the Commission of Experts on Reforms of the International Monetary and Financial System under the chair of NL, Joe Stiglitz. Well he never asked for bank details so I gestured a thumbs up to get rid of the daft señor. But this week I saw something official from the UN roll off the printer. Yup, that call was genuine – they’ve found L’Éminence Grise. As Eminin would say, let the bodies hit the floor…