These are a few of my favourite things…

All December long, I have been listening to Julie Andrews vivaciously and repeatedly tell me a few of her favourite things, and while most of her favourite things seem fairly reasonable, I do think some of her worries are a little low on the radar, given that I’m pretty confident that their real problems comprised trying to escape the Third Reich. I mean, it’s not to say that being stung by a bee is the most pleasant thing to happen, but it might be easier to get over than say, Hitler’s regime.

So while I don’t necessarily side with her on all points of the song, she has inspired me to share, with anyone who is still reading, what my favourite Bajan things have been this Christmas.

When we left the shores of Blighty back in August (well, Terminal 3 runway but the shores sounds so much more romantic), Tesco were already putting out the Christmas cards and treats, which in my book is a very early worming bird indeed. As we landed on the shores of Barbados (the Grantly Adams runway) things were very different.

In Barbados, the run up to Christmas begins after Independence Day – 30th November, and shops and folk alike are not supposed to decorate their houses or places of business with anything other than the Barbados flag colours. So the Bajan run up to Christmas is short and sweet, rather than the usual 3 month UK slog. This, coupled with the heat, lighter nights and members of the Made in Chelsea gang parading up and down the beach, made for a very unique and confusing Christmas scene.

Christmas songs

Whilst most Christmas songs are just Reggae versions of the usual Christmas classics, Barbados has a few of its own home-grown classics. Although not an exhaustive list of Bajan Christmas hits, here are some of my favourites, heard on the radio whilst driving along and then frantically youtube’d once home:

  • Santa’s Got a Sunburn
  • Drink a Rum
  • We Wish You a Merry Reggae Christmas
  • Pong Aint Getting Naffin Fuh Christmas

I compiled a playlist so that you too can be lucky enough to hear these classics:

Christmas Caroling

On the 22nd December, we went out with the hiking club on the annual Christmas hike, which not only encompassed the usual mockery of us trying to keep up with the group, but we also further embarrassed ourselves by helping howl out some Christmas carols under the light of the stars.

I couldn’t tell you the last time I went caroling, but no doubt I would have been in a onesie (as a baby – I certainly don’t think they are the correct fashion for adults as some do), nor am I religious, but there was something about the genuine belief in the Good Lord in which our friends rejoiced, and in the sincere giving of thanks, that made it a very spiritual and beautiful thing.

We sang several carols, with only the Whistling Frogs as our orchestra, and George to guide us. I have included a small snippet below for you to experience it. I sang very quietly as I knew I was filming and didn’t want to mar the experience for anyone, but Dan and the others sang like angels in the night. The video is badly shot and at one point I unnecessarily rotate it completely, which for some viewers may bring on a little motion sickness. I hope you enjoy it.

Boxing day in Moontown

After spending an incredibly merry Christmas Day with our Bajan family, Boxing Day was pretty hard to come to terms with, especially once we had left the safety of the boudoir. However, never to be beaten, we decided to join the locals down at Moontown, the smallest village on the island, famed for its Fish Fry.

Initially Moontown was called Half Moon Fort, but the name was changed to Moontown as the MP at the time felt that Half Moon Fort didn’t sound like an actual place, and the word ‘town’ was more befitting against its neighbours Speightstown and Holetown.

In Moontown, all the locals gather to have a good few beers and play very enthusiastic rounds of Dominoes. We were the only whites in the village and the locals couldn’t have been more welcoming. Ironically we wish they had been a bit less welcoming as their idea of welcoming us in was to ply us with beer after beer – not something that I would usually balk at, but we categorically did not need more alcohol. Quite simply put, there was no more room at the inn. However, courtesy prevailed and five beers each later, we were officially locals, with Earl, Charlie and Don as our new best friends.

After managing to pry ourselves away, we stumbled across the road to Mertons Fish Fry and balanced out some of the alcohol with the catch of the day, macaroni pie, sweet potatoes, and butternut squash. All washed down with rum punch. Naturally.

So that was our first Bajan Christmas. For New Years Eve we are going to sit on Holetown beach with some good friends, drink rum and have a picnic. Basically the only thing that won’t have a door charge of at least $350 for the pleasure.

This year, especially because of our Barbados budget, has really taught me the value of money. I have previously plundered vast quantities of money into clothes I don’t need, shoes I won’t wear, and plenty of other meaningless crap that has had no effect on my life whatsoever. Whilst Barbados remains very much an extravagant and expensive place to inhabit, the local Bajans, who may not have the extremes of wealth of some visitors to the island, seem the most content of all.

I hope to return a more grateful person, a better person, and a kinder person, though I will most likely still enjoy a stiff drink, or six. And, although there will still be occasions (including tonight) where there will be countless excuses to go and splash out on a fancy pants dinner, I am now much less interested in investing in the swanky restaurants. I mean you still won’t catch me at Burger King…

I wish you all good tidings for the New Year and hope that 2014 brings new adventures for us all. And for me, maybe a job or two… Heaven forbid!

HAPPY OLD YEARS NIGHT TO ONE AND ALL AND ALL AND ONE!

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Into the wild

After deducing that there was little chance of us ever finding the beaten path again, should we leave it to explore the island unchaperoned, we finally happened across a hiking club organised by the Barbados National Trust.

In the beginning...

In the beginning…

Feeling pretty confident...

Feeling pretty confident…

Every weekend, the club gets together to explore Barbados’ wild and undiscovered landscape and historical dwellings and there are two walks: ‘Stop and Stare’ and ‘Grin and Bear it’.

Stop and Stare, the hike we believed we had set off on, should have been a gentle three hour amble, stopping to stare (hence its namesake) at the island’s flora and fauna and listen as our guide divulged the district’s history. What we actually went on was the Grin and Bear It hike, which, as the name suggests, is quite different.

Grin and Bear It is a fast trek over coarse and uneven terrain, starting late afternoon and finishing in the evening, meaning that the last hour of the hike is in the dark. And being that the only light visible the foothills of Barbados is the one cast from the moon, it makes for pretty dicey hiking.

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Into the night

Into the night

Unlike Stop and Stare, the only stopping on this hike was from one of only two outcomes: to stop and chastise the weaker of the pack into shifting along a bit quicker, or if you fell over after getting entangled in the bushes. We were forewarned by our guide that the hike was for people of a decent fitness level, and after a quick scout I felt there were a fair few people, including a small child, that I thought I could easily outpace. I was wrong, and I have not been that wrong in a while.

The group comprised almost completely of locals, a fact that pleased me greatly, as initially I thought it might be a bit of a tourist trap. It might be worth pointing out that I now consider myself a local (three months seems like a solid enough jaunt to call oneself local), and I regularly find myself getting somewhat irked by tourists. This manifests itself in a few customary ways such as misdirecting them (though with my sense of direction this is not always on purpose), and occasionally having the odd ill thought about not breaking at crossings. Personally, I blame London and the mentality you end up with after having to deal with all the tourists there. Anyway, back to the unbeaten path…

The hike started off at Haggarts Old Factory Sugar Yard, St Andrew, on the east coast of the island. Already waiting to start the hike were a very enthusiastic American couple, decked out in all their hiking finery, completed by matching ‘Hike Barbados’ t-shirts. As Stop and Stare veterans they had many a tale to tell and knew our guide well. That conversation was pretty much the last time we saw them, until passing the husband early in on the hike, without his wife, and looking pretty destroyed. Through sweat and gasps of air, he exhaustedly tried to object that this was not the Stop and Stare hike he’d been promised. We nodded in agreement, and bid him farewell. For a moment, I did consider pulling off his Hike Barbados t-shirt, as he didn’t look like he would put up much of a fight, and I really wanted it. But by that time, I was marinated in so much of my own sweat, that my top and skin had pretty much bonded as one. The only way would have been to put it on as another layer, of which the thought alone made me feel nauseous. I genuinely don’t even remember seeing them finish at the end. I think they were more likely finished.

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Pitstop

Pitstop

George, our 71 year old guide, had the constitution of a 17 year old. He knew every nook and cranny the island had to offer, and shared the most incredible, spine-tingling stories of times past. Every now and again he would abruptly turn round and race back to the beginning to round up his herd. He probably did about 30 odd miles in all.

Gorgeous George - our guide

Gorgeous George – our guide

Our first hike (yes, just last weekend we went back for seconds!) took us through the wilderness of Barbados and into the Scotland district, named so by the British as the landscape reminded them of Scotland’s. The climate, however, is quite dissimilar to that of Scotland’s. The district lies mostly uninhabited due to poor soil and erosion. Most inhabitants had to leave their homes due to the ground collapsing. For the few left, it is a beautiful, unspoilt landscape of green rolling hills and tropical forests.

In the Scotland district stands Mount Hillaby, 340 m above sea level and the highest point of Barbados. Mount Hillaby, and with it the Scotland District, is the summit of an elongated submarine mountain range several hundreds km long, and is the only location in the entire Caribbean where this mountain range is above water. The air is thick with tropical scents and cooled by the Atlantic winds. The paths are mostly only trod by cattle, and magnificent panoramic views of the island lie in wait at its peak.

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Last weekend we went back for more, this time a hike from the Barbados Wildlife Reserve down to Morgan Lewis beach.  The Bajans couldn’t believe it and, frankly, neither could my muscles in their current veal-like state. But the hikes are truly inspiring, and I actually feel a bit sad for those who come to the island and just sit on its beaches, marinating in sun and rum, when there is so much beauty and history, just waiting to be discovered.

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Morgan Lewis beach

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Sunsets worth sweating for

Sunsets worth sweating for

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The Morgan Lewis Windmill. The last working windmill in the western hemisphere

The Morgan Lewis Windmill. The last working windmill in the western hemisphere

At the end of it...

At the end of it…

A  bit less cocky...

A bit less cocky…

The legend of Sam Lord

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On the east coast of Barbados lie its greatest treasures that hold the secrets to its past.

Ragged shorelines, sculpted by relentless Atlantic winds and waves, give way to long stretches of uninhabited beaches. In most parts it is a desolate place, but one rich in unrivaled natural beauty.

In the north east corner stands the stunning St Nicholas Abbey: a Jacobean house billed as the last remaining 17th-century house anywhere in the New World. Neighbouring this is the Morgan Lewis Sugar Mill, the last working windmill in the western hemisphere.

Further south along the east coast is The Crane hotel. Built in 1887 it is the oldest operating hotel in the Caribbean, and those 126 years of operation are also, coincidentally, how long it would take to save up and holiday there.  Apparently they do a budget friendly brunch…

But it is to the north of the renowned Crane resort that brings us to the most legendary edifice of them all. Most recently a hotel until destroyed by fire, the castle was formerly home to Samuel Hall Lord: the original pirate of the Caribbean.

Probably the most illustrious pirate on the island, Sam amassed a great wealth for himself through luring ships onto the coral reefs that frame Barbados’ coastline.

The locals will happily regale you with tales of Sam and his pillaging, which oddly enough is never spoken about in any voice other than that of pride and admiration.  Sam seems to have been quite the charmer, and I have yet to come across or hear word that his work was little more than (albeit slightly disruptive to his victims) a gentle plundering. There seems to be no account of violence, which stumps me a little as I find it hard to believe that pirating on a charm offensive is less work than clubbing someone.

Legend has it that Sam hung lanterns high in the coconut trees around his estate to lure passing ships into thinking they were the lights of Bridgetown Port, knowing they would then make their way to the coastline and run aground. Once the ships lay grounded on the coral reefs in front of his castle, he would board and relieve them of their riches.

Many of the treasures are believed to have been stowed in a network of tunnels located under the beach and the castle, but these tunnels have never been traced. Or at least if they have been unearthed it was never made public. I simply cannot think why…

For Sam, the plundering and stealing gig turned out to be quite the lucrative trade, and in 1820, his Georgian style castle was built.

After his death, the castle was acquired and transformed into the Sam Lord’s Castle hotel. As a hotel it changed hands on several occasions, before finally being acquired by CLICO, a global insurance company.

Shortly after investing in the property, CLICO Barbados ran into financial difficulties and the renovation once promised (estimated at $320m) would never proceed. After waiting on a proposed government buyout, on the 20th October 2010 Sam Lord’s castle burned to the ground.

There is much anger surrounding the cause of the blaze, with many fingers pointing towards CLICO as the body responsible for the overall demise and subsequent destruction of Sam Lord’s.

The charred remains of this magnificent building remain accessible to the curious, ideally those with solid health and life insurance, as its crumbling facade and disintegrating floor makes it a dangerous place to explore. Inside, a safe lies opened, and burnt out drapes still hang from its walls. From inside the grounds, you can feel the vibrations from the Atlantic, as it thunders against the cliffs.

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A brick table cuts a lonely figure down on the castle’s beach, and eerie apparitions form in the leaves of the countless aloe vera plants that encase the grounds. I am no believer in ghosts or ghouls, but one snap of a twig under this deserted ruin would have me running for the exit with the same pace and precision as if someone had yelled out “happy hour!”.

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The ghostly faces in the aloe vera

The ghostly faces in the aloe vera

One of the most significant pieces of Barbadian history, it is also claimed that Sam Lord’s transition from castle to hotel was the first in the movement which saw many European castles follow suit. To think that such a landmark has been left to ruin is incredibly saddening.

As the sun shines through its crumbling walls, it is hard to believe that this tired, collapsing structure, was once the decadent home of Barbados’ most notorious pirate.

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The beach at Sam Lords

The beach at Sam Lords

Ghost Dog

I am frequently asked, by folk from the UK and here in Barbados, as to the well-being of my dog.

I write this post with a heavy heart, because I do not know where she is and this is a fact that breaks my heart. If you don’t yet know who my dog is, this is her story.

It was a stormy afternoon on Tuesday 15th October, and freak storms had been battering the island for a few days. From the safe confines of my homemade office I watched as the storm relocated the garden furniture into the pool whilst I, appearing calm and collected from behind my laptop, feverishly googled a list of local hurricane shelters.

Hurricane shelters are split into two categories: those for category one hurricanes and those for category two. Concise labeling, that’s as maybe, but with no information as to what the categories mean in terms of the chances of survival. If we are all most likely going to die, maybe I’ll just camp out here and save my bus fare. At least my untimely demise will come in under budget.

The pictures that accompanied the list of hurricane shelters at the very least helped pad out the website (works for my blog!) but ultimately they were of little use. One picture was a fairly generic beach picture. In another, a man walked next to a car through a flood. One had a chap hanging off a boat (call me a cautious kitty but I am pretty sure that in times of flooding staying on the boat is your best bet) and the last picture I am pretty convinced was somewhere in India. Undeterred and potentially in need of a port in a storm, I closed in on Roland Edwards Primary school, based in St.Peter. I chose it as it accommodated the least number of persons (just 35), and let’s face it, the papers are going to go to the big shelters to report from and I don’t want the last photographic evidence of my existence to be one of my skirt wrapped around my face, wailing like a banshee and listing my regrets.

My immersion in finding a hurricane shelter was only broken when I heard Dan yell out to me, ‘Hey there’s a dog running around outside our house’. I lifted my head. Someone telling me a dog is loose is the equivalent of telling a five year old it’s Christmas. Because a lost dog is going to need a home!

I ran outside, my hands crammed with biscuits: fortunately for me, the one thing you can’t teach a dog is never to take sweets from strangers. At first, confused and frightened by the storm, she would only approach me briefly then run away, but within half an hour or so of waiting in the pouring rain, the biscuits now just a gelatinous paste in my hands, she finally came over and settled down next to me.

Pupstar, named so because she was only just shy of her puppy years and already a star, looked to be a Doberman Ridgeback cross and a sizeable beast to boot. Her coat was a bright chestnut and four huge large paws were awaiting her body to grow into them. She had beautiful brown eyes, filled with only kindness and hope and quite possibly the most beautiful dog I have ever seen.

Our landlady (Joan), an avid animal lover, immediately fell in love with her and whilst we all loudly protested to passers by that she wasn’t our dog, our silent glances to each other suggested we felt otherwise. We lived everyday like it would be our last with Pupstar, never knowing when she might be claimed and we were never to know how short lived it would be.

Pupstar soon became part of our family. Joan would cook her fresh chicken every day and we would feed her on home cooked treats in the evening. In the end I swapped out my wine for a week to buy her a huge bag of dry dog food and tins of Pedigree Chum. Anyone who knows me will now realise just how much I loved this dog. Never before have I been so proud of a purchase. Never before have I given up wine.

This food smelt like sausage rolls and was hangover free...

This food smelt like sausage rolls and was hangover free…

We made a leash for her out of old rope, allowing us to walk her (albeit reluctantly) around the neighbourhood to see if anyone asked as to why we were walking their dog. But no one did. As we walked, people complimented her and congratulated us on such a handsome dog, and as I nodded in agreement, I realised that I too now believed her to be our dog.

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Out for a walk, just me and my dawg

My fondest memory has to be when I arrived back at the house one day to hear Joan talking to someone in the garden. Not one to miss out on getting to know new faces I pressed my nose up to the fence, only to see Joan cutting down bananas with Pupstar. They didn’t hear me come in and watching her walk around so devotedly with Joan, was the most heartwarming sight.  The dog that definitely wasn’t ours, was now definitely ours.

Pupstar had now two homes; Joan’s friend Maureen (who lives across the road) during the day whilst we were out, and ours in the evening. So much now a part of the family, Pupstar began to follow us everywhere. Trips to the beach had to be executed with military precision to avoid her following us onto the main roads and involved much hiding in the long grass until she gave up looking.  However, you soon learn that hiding 3 yards in a bush from something whose sense of smell could detect a teaspoon of sugar in a million gallons of water, is fairly pointless and mostly we had to resort to driving the 300 yards to the beach. One morning, as Joan left in her car for work, I could hear a yelling from outside, ‘No! Go home!’ I looked out the window to see Joan frantically driving round the block with Pupstar chasing after her. All that was missing was the Benny Hill music. It took 3 round trips to lose her…She was fast and relentless.

The days passed by and Pupstar was now the star in our newly formed Barbadian family, even sleeping in Joan’s house at night. Barbados was, however, less settled than us, and three weeks later the storms came back for more.

On the last night of the storms, Joan remembers Pupstar, although panicked, pining to go out. So around midnight, she took her downstairs to go let her outside. Pupstar was never to return.

It is now 2 weeks on since we last saw her.  We have driven round looking for her, spent many a day and night calling for her, only to be met with silence. She came in with the storms and left with them.

The house is a quieter place and a significant part of our lives is missing. In the kitchen, a half eaten bag of food lies in the corner, a symbol of hope that she may one day return.

From up on the hill behind the house, we sometimes hear a lone dog barking, but there has been no sighting of her to this day.

Pupstar brought us together as a family, and made us realise what was important. She is a huge part of our journey here and wherever our little ghost dog is now, we will never forget her.

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Waiting patiently for Joan to come home

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Late night larking around

It’s winter, Jim, but not as we know it.

For little Chester: who loved all the seasons.

It’s winter! Apparently. But it sure as beans doesn’t feel like it; well most of the time… As I write this one of our anniversary plans, a two hour horse ride across the east coast and down to the beach, threatens to be called off as forecasts predict a weekend of bad storms.

In general though, it rarely looks reminiscent of the winter I am accustomed to. The Barbadian sun rises early and promptly each day and hangs around until 6ish, when it finally calls time on the day. The days don’t get shorter, nor the nights longer. But as the tropics exit their rainy season and transition into winter, volatile and unpredictable skies lie in wait, and out of the bluest yonder, lightening storms emerge from nowhere, making the tropics a fickle place indeed.

Yesterday I was mid swim in the Caribbean on my usual 4 o’clock ‘work’ break (probably more accurately described as just a 4 o’clock swim), when I noticed a rather menacing cloud gathering on the horizon. Within just a few seconds and without warning, lightening forked ferociously at the sea making for an impressive, if not somewhat unnerving, display. The sky either side remained a striking azure blue, unspoiled by the self-contained storm. I watched the lightening for a few minutes before questioning whether or not hiding in water during an electric storm was such a prize-winning idea. I know that ideally you aren’t supposed to dry your hair whilst in the bath in a desperate attempt to shave time off your morning routine, and wondered if the same applied to a highly charged electrical storm piercing the biggest bath of all.  Not wanting to be a Guinea pig in my own trial, as the storm closed in, I made a sharp exit out.

As someone born into a country whose seasons change dramatically (though summer often parades around as winter), and where the daylight hours shift throughout the year, inhabiting a country that has two only seasons and no change in daylight hours is remarkably disorientating. One thing I definitely take for granted back home are the wonderfully long nights that accompany the summer days. Here in Barbados the sun, irrespective of the season, slopes off below the horizon around 6pm each day. Although it makes for some breath-taking sunsets, you can’t help but feel cheated out of several more hours lazing in its beams.

The rainy season is as its name suggests, though the relentless heat and humidity don’t let up and frequent power cuts occur across the island as the storms rage on. Fortunately, Barbados sits off the main Atlantic hurricane belt and is only affected by anything serious approximately every 26 years, with hurricane Tomas being the most recent in 2010. Tomas passed through just 20 miles to the south of Barbados, with wind speeds of 63mph. Although there were no reported deaths, an estimated cost of $17million dollars in damage was left in its wake.

Like the old proverb states, every cloud has a silver lining. The silver lining here being that the worse the weather is during the day, the more magnificent the sunsets.  Well maybe taking hurricane weather out of the balance, though I’m sure you get some pretty clear views of the sunset from your now completely open-plan abode.

From this...

From this…

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From this...

And this

By the end of November, Barbados will have completed the rainy season, which lasts from June till November and moved into the dry season, seeing a drop in temperature and a significant reduction in humidity. This will be a huge blessing at the very least to my hair, which is an absolute write-off. I can’t even bring myself to touch it and avoid mirrors with vampire like deftness. Fans of Friends may remember Monica’s ‘Caribbean hair’, well, mine is far worse. They probably couldn’t even braid it. If I wasn’t so convinced that a fairly unattractive skull lurked beneath, I would have the gardener take the take the hedge trimmers to it.

Well, I need to go and chill some champagne because as anniversaries are a great unquestionable excuse to do exactly what you would do every day in a world with no judgement, if I’m not riding in the morning, I’ll instead be getting good and drunk on champagne from dawn till dusk.

Beers before 10am, dodging debts, and plastic surgery

While it has been some time since my first recipe on Desert Island Whisks, unlike my ability to update the blog, I have not ceased in updating my culinary skills!

We have now been on the island for six weeks, and in that time I have cooked up several veritable feasts. I love creating new recipes with produce native to the island, that either isn’t readily available at home or that I haven’t thought to use before. I hosted my first business dinner a few weeks ago and cooked everything from scratch, including the bread! It was a hot day in my kitchen; let me tell you that much.

I am all about preparing healthy, elegant suppers that use as much fresh organic produce as possible. I am also very budget conscious as some of you well know, and as organic foods are often more expensive it makes for a challenging task.

There are many foods often overlooked (sweet potatoes, oats and pumpkins), which are not only superfoods in their own right, but are readily available all year round and inexpensive to buy. They are also great for bulking out suppers.

I like to incorporate at least one superfood into each meal to make sure I get as many key vitamins and minerals into my body as possible. Make no mistake people, it isn’t your £300 face creams that will have you looking young at 40, it’s ensuring that cell repair and renewal happens from the inside. Don’t get me wrong, surgery would do the trick and I’m not against it (just can’t afford it) but let’s start out carving pumpkins, rather than our faces, and see how that goes!

Initially, I thought sourcing fresh local produce was going to be a real challenge (as previously mentioned Barbados imports most produce and grows little of its own), but after going at it all guns blazing I am happy to report the following finds:

Holders Farmers Market (Sunday only) – This has become a firm fixture on the calendar. Founded by Jack Kidd (brother to supermodel Jodie), Holders market is set in the stunning grounds of the Barbados Polo Club. One of my favourite haunts, Holders boasts some of the best organic fruit, veg and homemade chutneys, though the best part is spent wandering around the stalls to seek out the tasters. I have to swap stalls in and out every week so they don’t catch on to me trying but rarely buying. It’s always delicious, but I just can’t afford the amount I can test.

Most Holders folk frequent the market every Sunday to eat brunch and listen to the live band, and there is a fantastic community spirit to the event. It is also a great place to hang out and drink beer at 10 in the morning. Hey, I don’t make the rules…

Speightstown Fish Market – Just a 5-minute drive from our house, you need to turn up around 10am to get the best fish. Their usual hoard includes Mahi Mahi (Barbadian dolphin but of no relation to Flipper), Bill fish, Red Snapper, Flying Fish, Tuna and Marlin. The fish is fresh off the boats and they happily fillet it for you as well, which is helpful indeed as the sharpest knife I currently own is a bread knife.

Fish markets are ten-a-penny in Barbados, but I choose this one as I love to visit the beautiful and historic Speightstown. I also owe the fish lady 50 cents (20p) and at the very least have to keep returning until the debt is cleared. It’s not a lot of money but Barbados is not a big place, and if the people with their tasters at Holders get together with this lady, they are going to think I have some cheek.

Speighstown veg man – A short walk up from the fish market (outside Courts), this chap is really friendly and grows his own produce, so if Holders doesn’t supply (or it’s not Sunday) this is the go-to-guy. He also gives tasters (I had a whole avocado last week) but only when I have purchased other goods. He has my cards marked.

So, in conclusion, it’s going swimmingly well for all. Except for the fish at the market…

For all my recipes, check out Desert Island Whisks

 

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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