BootsnAll Travel Network



A Caribbean Christmas

[no pics, I'm in a rush and the net is shaky. Forgive lousy editing]

Here, Christmas is called ‘The Season of Joy’, without a hint of irony. People getting onto the bus wish each other a happy Christmas for a week beforehand, and they mean it. In TT, Christmas is first and foremost a religious festival.

True, the women work hard, preparing a feast for family and friends, and the Trini Express is heaving with people and their shopping. But yet…

This is not a patch on the sicko commercialism that drives me away at this time of year. Religious music is common, but Christmas jingles are rare. The same tired old carols aren’t played here, with the possible exception of ‘Silent Night’, and that only occasionally. This may be the first time since moving to the UK that I haven’t heard ‘A Fairytale of New York’ once. Bliss.

*

For all the noise during the night (a repeat of yesterday), today the town was quiet. Christmas songs played softly in the neighbouring house, for once not swamped by soca beat.

I waited until nine, then set out towards Pirate’s Bay. There is a solution to my petty woes: send home all my pretty skirts and dresses and get some man clothes. I pulled on my husband’s grey, stained swimming shorts and the piss-ugly but hard-wearing T-shirt I’d bought in Australia.

On the way to Pirate’s Bay, I saw the national bird of Tobago. You can tell that there are no significant predators on the island because it flew right in front of me before diverting into a treelet that was much too small to take its weight and disappearing among the leaves, wings flapping. There it sat cawing, startled by its own clumsiness. It was practically waiting for me to approach it, which I did, but not too close. The Cocrico is about one step up from a chicken, except that here the chickens are smarter and have more grace.

I got to the bottom of the steps but didn’t spot the rainforest trail. It must lead past Mathio’s fruit stall, which I saw to my disconcertment was open. Of course, he’d told me that he had no family. Maybe he had no mates either: the most dangerous specimens at Christmas time.

The beach was deserted, the water wild and whipped up after yesterday’s rain. I hesitated for another moment while frantic mosquitoes bore down on me, the citronella-laced vaseline long since dissolved away in sweat (I’m trying something new every time).

I would not provide his Christmas entertainment.

I backed away and ascended all 107 steep steps plus a more shallow 46 that led back to the top of the hill. At least the enforced purdha would be good for writing.

*

Judging from the sounds drifting up the street, the party started again at eleven. I waited until it was time for my lunchtime dose of Vitamin X. Part of me was reeling to put on a dress and go out again—to hell with the bums. But it would be wise to wait. The sound had deceived me before, coming from the green-and-pink beach bar on the corner, which was no place to hang out.

By now a steady trickle of tourists were making their way up the hill to the bay. It was still not particularly calm—the waves kept crashing onto the beach—and I wasn’t tempted to brave the sweat and mosquitoes again. One of the bastards got me on the eyelid.

At least Mathio would get some trade, and maybe some diversion.

At half past eleven, the music and mike sounds fell silent again. It was probably a warm-up for the party later on. I went and did some more writing, scratching at a mozzie bite every now and then.

The Grassroots piece was still not coming together. Back then I had been a different person. I no longer felt like a traveller.

As the clock crept towards noon, the street had a deserted feel. In front of the balcony—right in the middle of Charlotteville’s busiest junction—a dog stretched out to sleep in the sun. I envied it.

In the afternoon, I took a walk around town. It had clouded over and the water was stirred up even more. I found out that there is an ABM machine right next to Customs & Excise opposite the sports field, which might have saved me a trip to the bank (the LP claims there are no facilities). In the fishmarket some men were busy cutting up four large baracudas. Unlike meat, the fish was professionally butchered and I watched with interest.

“You want some?”

“I wish I had a kitchen. I can’t cook it.”

One of them glanced up from chopping up a baracuda head, presumably for stock or fish soup. The corners of his mouth drooped with disapproval. “Where you from that you can’t cook?”

“I can cook. I’ve cooked at Gleneagles in Scotland. The fish wasn’t as fresh there.” That wasn’t even a lie.

Charles’s place (‘Jen’s Kitchen’) was open as advertised, the remains of one solitary meal on the tables. Yesterday I bought the finest fishburger I’ve ever eaten there. Shame that I’d just had my lunch of chicken Viennas and crips. I might be back later.

All the bars were closed and the streets were peaceful. There were no bums.

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