Riding along in my automobile

I casually cast a sideways glance at Dan sitting in the passenger seat of our rented vehicle. I am pleasantly surprised to see that for once he isn’t clinging onto the seat with the usual vicelike grip, but in fact seems relaxed and, heaven forbid, might actually be enjoying the ride. The illusion of calm is soon shattered when a breeze though the car’s window lifts up a corner of the map resting on his hands, revealing a tightly clenched fist, knuckles white against the beginnings of what I suspect may be a tan from a few sunbeams able to penetrate the factor 50 barrier.

My driving simply isn’t that bad. At times it’s possibly a bit on the swift side but I just see myself as enthusiastic. There is also little point in being tense. I could be wrong but I believe that they do advise you to go limp if you think you are about to be involved in a car accident and I am surprised that he hasn’t read up on that yet. There was only one time in which I thought, blimey Charlie, this is a bit hairy, after I had to take a run up at a steep incline and we ended up pretty much airborne going over the top. However, we successfully (not entirely sure how) cleared the corner and carried on our merry way.

The roads here in general are pretty unkempt and I would say it’s better to start off with a car that doesn’t have good suspension (if any), so that when the roads inevitably take their toll, you won’t miss the little you had. I know some people think Islington Council do a meagre job maintaining their roads, but let me tell you, those streets are more glorious than the Yellow Brick road compared to these. A satellite view of my driving would suggest that I was motoring along completely wasted, when actually I’m just dodging the potholes and the occasional monkey.

Barbados is also particularly hilly and given its diminutive size (a mere 21 miles in length and 14 in width), you do have to go on many magical mystery tours to get from A to B.

Our first car, a Kia, was not built for this island and we would almost grind to a halt on an uphill climb. This was really exasperating on two counts. The first one being that there is no way on God’s green earth that anyone could or would push a car in this heat and certainly not up a hill. At best you would have to call it quits and walk away, leaving the car for the monkeys to shred. Similar I suppose as to what would happen if you got stuck in Knowsley Safari park. The second and most irritating reason of all is that we have the tourist ‘H’ plates. These plates have the Bajan’s assume that it isn’t the car shy of getting up a hill, but rather a meek mannered tourist with a fear of getting anywhere, anytime soon.

Using cars indicators to signal a turn is fairly an infrequent occurrence here, mostly arms just pop out of car windows and frantically rotate in circular motions and other times there is no warning at all. I like to see the positives in all of Barbados life, so just laugh it off as a sweet idiosyncrasy, though I know should that happen back home the air in the car would be blue, and my passenger’s ears bleeding.

If you want to give way to someone here, you beep your horn to let them through. I love taking on new customs (in Thailand and Vietnam I bowed my way through every conversation, like a vintage Drinking Bird), and I am no less keen to adopt the Bajan way of being. The problem is it’s easy enough to adopt new behaviours but leaving old habits behind is a lot harder. When it comes to letting people in or out, I toot my horn nice and loudly (and I bet I look pleased as punch while ‘getting my Bajan on’) but feel a lot more comfortable incorporating a few classic English mannerisms, such as consecutive flashes of the headlights and a hand wave. All in all between the honking, flashing and waving it gets pretty animated, but I feel better having covered off every possible gesture.

So, there you have it, the roads and driving habits of Barbados. Bet you didn’t see that coming, which is good otherwise you might not have bothered reading this blog post!

In other news we went turtle spotting with some friends on their boat. Friends with boats are very good friends indeedy. After much searching, we finally saw a turtle gliding effortlessly through the waters and swam alongside him before he slowly retreated into the depths. It was an afternoon well spent, though I became a little self conscious after diving off the boat and realising my bikini’s elasticity was not what it used to be. It soon became a source of intrigue to other divers, who were most definitely not taking a look at the turtle beneath the waves…

Well, I have to go now and finish off decorating a 60th birthday cake for my good friend Karen. The cake is for her friend and not Karen herself who is yet to hit this landmark. Though, by the time the cake is finished, she might well be.

Go have yourselves a good weekend, ya’ll.

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