As a reward for remaining cheerful during our long challenging winter, we have treated ourselves to one whole week of wide-brimmed hats, gauzy fabrics, sunscreen, sandals and rum punches. We are in Barbados.
A dark shape rises through turquoise water and for a long second a sea turtle pops up. “Look! – oh, it’s gone.” Like a falling star.
The sky brightens at 6 am. Palm fronds wave tirelessly in the constant trade winds, and sturdy bright blue beach umbrellas graciously bend and nod, like gentlemen tipping their hats to the ladies. At noon our shadows are dark and directly underfoot, for we are only 13° above the equator. On our first dip in the sea who should join us but two women from… Borden-Carleton! We are cordial to one another but we all came to get away…
A cheeky little Barbados bullfinch – we call her Louise – visits us at lunchtime. Barbados finches are seedeaters, but Louise has developed a taste for crumbs, particularly from sweet crumbly cocoanut bread. She is welcome to our crumbs but must be shooed away once she starts plucking strands from our towels for nest-building purposes. Several times Louise has shamelessly performed a seductive little dance whilst peeking around the corner at her shy boyfriend (Ralph) who flutters anxiously nearby.
At 6:30 pm the sun plunges abruptly into the sea and cool welcome night begins. Street life picks up, food trucks appear, and music, laughter and whistling frogs join the symphony of waves crashing against coral reefs. As my friends and I head down the street to Pronto’s outdoor café, a smiling man beckons us over. “Lay-deez.” He lays his hand on his heart. “Anything you want – ANYthing at all – you ask me first. Here, you like these necklaces? No charge for looking.”
A street vendor offers to lop the head off a green cocoanut and stick in a straw. How much? $5 US. No thanks. Coconut water is warm, grassy and nourishing but we’re holding out for a Banks beer (3 for $5 US) at Pronto’s café.
In the midweek we hire a taxi and head into the countryside. The Toyota van climbs to the roof of Barbados (1100 ft) before plunging into gullies where perhaps the island will one day break apart. Lewis our driver points out mangoes, cashews, breadfruit, bananas, mangrove, mahogany, cocoanut palms, frangipani, sugar cane. Our conversation drifts to politics and Lewis assures us that last year’s election will go down in history, for didn’t the Barbadians elect their first woman Prime Minister, Mia Mottley, and didn’t her party win every single seat in parliament? “Will that ever happen again?” he asks in wonderment.
By the end of the week, sun-warmed and relaxed, we are in the air heading back to our home and life in the Cove. The plane circles over the Atlantic and then, as if by magic, Barbados slips once more into view. The little girl in the seat behind us cries, “Oh mummy, look at the beautiful world!”