How we landed on this small rock still puzzles me. I remember The Husband said I had three choices.
Perhaps what is astounding is not that there were three possible paths but that I actually believed these were my only options.
One. Two. Three.
They say bad things happen in threes. So, if you break your wrist, then lose your wallet on the bus, you know there is only one more nasty surprise coming your way before the cosmos is properly re-aligned. Good things on the other hand never come in packages of three. No one wins the lottery, finds true love and gets the Nobel for discovering a cure for cancer.
‘I have looked at all the places in the world we can live that would give us and the boys a good life and I’ve come up with a short list.’ he announced.
‘Really? You’re kidding right?’
‘Okay. Just for fun, where should we live?’
‘Bangalore, Singapore or Barbados.’
Just like that.
There was not a hint of doubt in his voice. From nearly two hundred countries in the world he could coolly narrow the field to three.
‘Humm. Seems a bit arbitrary to me.’ I ventured.
‘Not at all. Bangalore is a very happening city where the kids will also have a chance to understand their cultural heritage.’
‘But they have lived all their tiny lives in south London. This is their culture.’
‘They will never be fully accepted as British. Not in their lifetime.’ he snapped.
‘Well, I’ve never even been to Bangalore so can’t say it appeals to me.’
‘You should go visit then.’
He was completely serious.
‘Ah yes. Very safe. And the kids will come out disciplined and ready for university.’
‘But Singapore is one big, soulless, shopping mall.’
‘We could leave on weekends and long vacations.’
‘Why can’t we stay in London and continue they way we are? What’s wrong with our life here?’
‘Didn’t you always say you wanted to go back to the Caribbean?’
‘That was when I was twenty-one. Not now. This is my home. I have spent my entire adult life here. I learnt to drive here. Voted here. My kids were born here. I’m not leaving.’
But even as I spoke I knew it was pointless to argue. It had been a brief, bloodless coup. Besides, wasn’t Barbados paradise?
Two and a half years on we are settled into our new home and have just completed works on His Office and My Studio. A tiny part of me still nurses jealousy and resentment as to who got the better deal. If we are talking square footage and views then, yes, the bastard won. But my space, while smaller, is better organized, also has views and is well positioned for nipping to the kitchen for cups of tea. And our contract expressly states that I have reserved the right to occupy such other spaces (including His Office) as is deemed necessary for the completion of art projects.
The Husband’s office is admittedly more tasteful than I thought him capable of creating. Instead of a traditional desk he has opted for a large refectory table and two Eames office chairs. There is a large white sofa that Jack the Jack Russell views as his bed and it all overlooks the garden of Samaan, Immortelle and Mahogany trees. But the most interesting thing is the pride of place he has given to a large crystal ball – a present from TK, a close friend and former colleague. The Husband may have moved on from predicting dollar/yen but he still divines the future and what he has to say is not nice. I live in fear that one more public statement of doom and gloom will tip the authorities over the edge and he will be stripped of citizenship.
Of course we all wish we had a reliable crystal ball to know the future. Obama could use it to know how and when to pull troops out of Afghanistan. Indonesians would have minimized the deaths and devastation these past months from tsunami after tsunami pounding their islands. Our friend Brian would have known he would soon influence the development of a nation as the next governor of the Bank of Jamaica. And the crystal ball would have assured us that this small rock was indeed the best place for our children. It is a place with low crime, great climate, decent education and good connections to the rest of the world.
But there is no need for a predictive tool – crystal ball or sophisticated mathematical model - to know that paradise does not come cheap. I have only reluctantly accepted that the price of living on an island of 270,000 people is that I will forever be an outsider finding friendship and solace with other outsiders. And to have the same variety of intellectual and cultural stimulation that I had in London would be arrogant.
For today it is enough to be writing in a room with a view of a garden filled with Samaan, Immortelle and Mahogany trees.