It’s an awkward time of the year. November is over but the New Year has yet to begin. For once the American model of celebrating Thanksgiving is worth consideration. You get to do the whole turkey dinner a month early. This either frees you to have something more enjoyable for Christmas lunch, or, if there is lingering commitment to this bird, an opportunity for experimentation - and all before Santa makes a stop here as part of his Caribbean cruise. The day after Americans have had the turkey, mash, corn etc. they shop with deadly determination for all those presents they want to give themselves or their loved ones. By 1 December everything is bought, wrapped and waiting.
On this small rock we also have a marker to bridge November to the holidays. Independence was granted on a rainy November 30, 1966. And here’s the spooky bit: it has rained every single 30 November since then – even though the rainy season is supposedly at an end. This year was no exception. The heavens opened and poured its blessings for a solid 4 hours. Nearby in Trinidad, Independence is just another holiday – at best a signal to enjoy shark and bake on Maracas beach. For Bajans it’s a huge deal. Buildings were draped in blue and yellow bunting - our national colours – for weeks. Instead of Beyoncé on the radio wistfully lamenting “If I Were A Boy” you might have heard The Merry Men’s patriotic cry:
Gem of the Caribbean Sea
Come back to me
My island, Barbados
Come back to my island and me
Every Bajan to the bone wore as much blue and yellow as they could manage – reaching a frenzy on the day itself. It is quite likely that on Independence Day citizens of this small rock were wearing blue and yellow smalls. It is great to see a nation so proud of independence. But with each passing year I am more and more unsure of exactly what we are independent of.
However, even before Independence Day, this small rock’s version of Martha Stewart (Canadian and no convictions) inquired if I had decorated my tree or bought my Christmas presents. I thought she was winding me up. No. By 29 November her tree had been delivered and was about to be decorated. Is your tree bought and decorated yet? Am I the last civilian not to have lugged home an imported Norwegian Spruce to take pride of place in the front room? We already have thousands of fairy lights festooned to a huge Samaan tree in our front garden – lights that have been turned on for every festive occasion since September: Divali, Obama victory, First Born doing really well in his spelling test, Jack surviving “the snip” – you get the picture. To place a dead tree, alien in this landscape, within a house surrounded by old Mahogany, Samaan and Immortelle trees, seems perverse. However, as I am not above the unspoken competitiveness of middle class mothers worldwide, I consulted the boys.
“Kids, shall we get a tree for inside the house like we had in London?”
“How big will it be?” asked Second Born.
“As big as you like.” I enthused.
“Eh. Maybe. But we already have that pretty tree outside with lights.”
Out of the mouths of babes…
Even if there is no Spruce sprucing up our home we need to make an effort this year. Our first Bim Christmas was pretty dire in spite of my parents providing presents and the full turkey spread. We missed London rituals like Handel’s Messiah at St. John’s Church in Smith’s Square. We missed our friends and we missed the home that First and Second Born had inhabited from birth. This year has to be different. One year on we have some friends here, a home, and I at least have an invitation to enjoy some sweet, sweet music at THE Parang party of the season. Handel can wait.
The one small snag to the Yuletide festivities is that our new home is kitchen-less. The previous owners had worked tirelessly for ten years making the grounds and house beautiful. But the kitchen was left untouched. If that kitchen were human we would say it had “issues” and “challenges” to overcome. We would have its mismatched colours treated for ADHD. The cupboards would have triple bypass surgery and the sink and faucet would need a course of colonic irrigation. Now you understand why I had to hack the thing to bits while in the background Gloria Gaynor sang:
First I was afraid
I was petrified
Kept thinking I could never live
without you by my side…
By January that loser will have been replaced. I have secured a hot Italian model – smooth, elegant, perfectly proportioned, and providing unbeatable performance for ten, guaranteed, years. In the meantime we are often caught out in the pouring rain while walking to the guest cottage kitchen to get dinner or make a cup of tea.
You think I'd crumble?
You think I'd lay down and die?
Oh no, not I
I will survive.