Monday 24th March 2014
Turn left out of the Global Villa Hotel,
walk a few hundred yards, turn right at the sign that points to Bulls Bay Neighbourhood Watch,
walk past a very littered outcrop, become disappointed and disillusioned with what is supposed to be the closest beach, decide this could not possibly be a public beach, walk on further, ask a man where the beach is, take his advice and walk another few hundred yards, come across a secluded bay with water so clear you could make your tea with it,
marvel that there are only two people in it at 6.30 a.m., walk on a little further to a second bay, only one person here working out and getting into the water, know that this will be your spot each morning for the next two weeks, know that you have found a personal piece of paradise.
Continue your walk of discovery past flowers opening to the rays of the sun, revel in the caress of the wave’s constant whispers, stop and have a chat with a man who tells you that if you continue you will come to a fishing village called Lances Bay, take a detour past Pedro,
a community of mansions guarded by palms and broad leafed almonds, rejoin your route into the slowly awakening Lances Bay, say hello to the man walking by with a huge fish on a hook, listen to the morning noises coming from the house built on stilts,
walk past the fisherman repairing his boat along the long crescent beach, have a chat with the man doing press-ups to impress you, thank him for sharing his knowledge of Lances River which runs into the sea, and his tales of swimming in it as a boy before becoming too afraid of the crocodiles Know that you have found a personal piece of paradise.
Walk back to your hotel in time for a cooked breakfast of ackee and salfish, roast breadfruit, boiled green bananas and yellow yam. Know that you have found a personal piece of paradise.
Sunday 23rd March 2014
The taxi picked us up this morning at 7.30 to take us to the Knutsford Express bus station in New Kingston. The slick operation of the Kingston to Negril service left five minutes before our 8.30 scheduled departure as we were full.
It was a most delightful trip. Our route took us to the edge of Clarendon, past Linstead, Ewarton, before branching up to Fern Gulley. I have fond memories of Fern Gully. As a 21 year old undergraduate Biology student I did part of my field study here tracking the many different species of ferns that grow here. There’s a broody feel to the gully, broken occasionally with vibrant splashes of red flowers.
An hour and a half after leaving Kingston we were in Ocho Rios and I began to feel the vacation atmosphere. Hard not to as we drove past miles and miles of resorts, Sandals, Couples, and Riu to name but a few.
Quite a number of passengers decanted here, and we made a ten minute stop for food and toilet. Unfortunately the only food on offer was manish water* and curry goat and rice. As I don’t eat red meat and it was too early to start on the alcohol from the bar, I settled for a bottle of water.
We made a brief drop off stop at Falmouth before pulling into Montego Bay at 12.30 p.m. which was the final destination for all but five of us. We were decanted into a smaller bus and told our leg to Negril would take 85 minutes.
It was ironic that we drove past our hotel in Hanover to get to Negril and had to get a taxi at a cost of approximately £15 to come back to it.
I stayed awake throughout the seven hour it took door-to-door because I didn’t want to miss a single sight of this amazingly beautiful island of mountains, valleys, rivers and sea. I could fully appreciate why Jamaica is called the land of wood and water.
*Manish water = soup made from the testicles of the goat
Saturday 22nd March 2014
If you are ever in Kingston make an effort to head out to Port Royal to Gloria’s Fish Place. You will understand why people come for miles to sample the array of fish on offer.
I had the Escovish fish with fried bammy*, my firend the garlic prawns also with fried bammy, and her husband the steamed goat fish with seamed bammy. (I didn’t realise you could steam bammy).
The place was heaving when we got there, and although we had placed our order half an hour before we arrived it still took 45 minutes before we got it.
The wait gave us a chance to catch up with a couple of my friend’s husbands friends –also out there to eat fish. They were two brothers who are both doctors at the University of the West Indies; named Disraeli and Clinton.
*Bammy – a round cake made of ground cassava.
Saturday 22nd March 2014
After a long night of catching up with my friend that I’ve not seen since we were both 17 years old, it was past midday before we sat down to the delicious brunch of salt fish, cabbage, plantain, yam, dashine, and dumplings that she had prepared.
During our meal her husband received two calls from friends who had previously lived in England. They agreed to come over for drinks and it felt like we had an instant party.
We sat out on their veranda unaffected by the overcast and occasionally drizzly day outside and soothed by the gently swaying of my friend’s fish. It’s one of the great things about living in hot countries – rain does not equate with cold.
After a life time of drinking my rum with coke I was introduced to a new mixer. Ting is a Jamaican grapefruit soda which works remarkably well with Wray and Nephew white over proof rum (70% by volume) and lashings of ice. Slipped down way too easily, and very moreish.
It was a meeting of Directors and CEOs of diverse organisations such as transport, University, power and shipping. These were people at the top of their game who had travelled extensively, and the one thing they had in common was their love of Jamaica. We talked about the unique blend that can make this island (for some) the worst and (for others) the best place to live. While some are desperate to leave, others are queuing up to return.
Friday 21st March 2014
After my disappointment with The Golden Macca Fat my faith in Jamaican drama was restored by the Little Little Theatre’s production of Basil Dawkins My God Don’t Wear Pyjamas. I went with a friend that I’ve not seen since we were both 17 years old. By some super sleuth work she tracked me down – but that’s another story. Even though we arrived nearly an hour early (my friend had not booked and was keen to get tickets) there were people already seated in the one hundred and fifty- seater younger sibling to the Little Theatre. This was a good sign. From the very beginning when we stood for the national anthem (most productions in Jamaica, and Jamaican productions abroad, begins with the audience standing while the national anthem is played) there was sense that something special was about to take place. We were taken on a roller coaster journey of, betrayal, greed, misplaced loyalty, rejection, and finally reconciliation. The characters moved and amused us in equal quantities. There was definitely no chance of me falling asleep in this production. In fact I was stunned to find that two and a half hours had passed so quickly. I’d thoroughly recommend this production which runs at the Little Little Theatre till April 27th.
Wednesday 19th March 2014
While in Clarendon I went to visit the graves of two recently departed relatives, my Aunt who was 101 years old when she died and my nephew who was just 55.
As I sat on my Aunt’s grave in St Peter’s Church in Alley a gentleman rode past on a bicycle. He looked across at me and asked jokingly ‘Are you reasoning with the duppies?’*
‘Yes,’ I replied, ‘they seem to make more sense than the living.’
He laughed as he carried on his way.
I was struck with the beauty and tranquillity of my Aunt’s final resting place. Huge trees provided shade as well as food (if they needed it). There was an ackee tree laden with fruit a few yards from her grave. Herons stood respectfully to one side. It was hard to imagine that in other parts of the island people were in conflict.
I next visited my Nephew’s grave. A different affair altogether. He’s buried in the yard of the house in which he grew up ,along with several others. He was surrounded by orange trees. Seems like the needs of the dead are well catered for.
*Duppies = ghosts
Wednesday 19th March 2014
In the last post Brandon Hill by the scenic route I described the journey to Clarendon. This was not just a tourist outing, but a journey to re-connect with my family, some of whom I’ve not seen since I was eight years old – many of whom I have never met.
This trip was also a response to spirit guidance (mainly my maternal grandmother whom I’ve never met) to come home, as there was a role for me in healing the generational pain in the family.
I arrived tired at my uncle’s house, but was instantly refreshed by his welcome (he didn’t know I was coming). He is the keeper of the family’s history. Imagine my amazement when he pointed to the land next to his house and said ‘that’s the burial ground’.
All I could see was a relatively bare patch of land with a few trees and some stumps. No head-stones, no mounds, no actual graves. Yet he knew the exact location of generations of my family. The first one he took me to was my grandmother’s, the one who had been so insistent that I should return.
He then showed me others; her parents and grandparents burial spots were marked with tree stumps, some looked newly pruned.
He explained the relationships and the feuds which has left a rift within the family and divided loyalties.
I asked ‘Has the land ever been consecrated?’
‘Not that I know of’ he replied, ‘and I’ve been here a long time.’
I had a sense that what was needed was healing and reconciliation. I asked if he’d mind if I said a prayer on the land. Meeting with no objection I agreed to do so the following day as I had no idea what I was supposed to say and to whom, but I trusted that if I slept on it I’d be guided. I couldn’t have been brought this far to be abandoned.
After joyous meetings with my brother and many nieces, nephews and their children I returned the following day to the land.
The two main protagonists were buried side by side, each with a tree. They were close enough for me to just about hold both and I imagined that I was holding their hands while praying for their hurts to be healed so that they, and the family, can be at peace. As I did so a hummingbird appeared beside me, its feathers a shimmering green as it drank nectar from a nearby tree. It stayed till the prayer was complete. I then walked around the ground speaking to all the others and praying for their peace also.
I’m not sure how this will play out, by I had a sense of personal peace that I had responded to the call and done my bit.
Wednesday 19th March 2014
After 2 days on the road going from Kingston to Clarendon and back by public transport, I’m feeling jet-lagged again.
The journey went something like this. Kingston to Spanish Town by bus. Spanish Town to Linstead (yes, of the famous song) and the rest of the way by taxi changing at each stop. This is not taxi as we know it in the UK, it’s more like a bus with five seats, so anyone can get in with you. Linstead to Ewarton, Ewarton to Kellits, Kellits to Brandon Hill, our final destination. This distance of approximately 39 miles took just over 3 hours. I’m told that without the road block created by residents of Casava Pond in St Catherine,protesting against the lack of piped water, it would have been two and a half hours.
Without the road block we would still have had to change at each town and the roads would still have been full of pot holes making the journey slow. It wasn’t till we got to Ewarton that it really began to feel like Cameroon. We were already five in the taxi when the driver asked us to make space for another two – plus himself. Yes, four in the front and four in the back. Yes Fred – you are not alone. But we can go one better.
On the way home space was made for us in an already overloaded taxi. When the four of us were squeezed into the front I turned to do a headcount of the back seat. There were five plus the gentleman who was wedged into the boot of the car. Ten in all!!
I was unprepared for that. I was also unprepared for the absolute beauty of the countryside, of the lush river banks, the foliage clad mountains that seem to watch over us like a benevolent uncle, the splashes of colour as the car occasionally picked up speed, and the sweet smell of the air, which even the exhaust fumes could not erase.
Maybe this is best appreciated at a slow pace.