Comfort and good Intent
“Balls! Balls!” I repeated loudly. It is not that I am prone to vulgarity in either my choice of expressions or ejaculations.
It is the name of a plantation in Barbados that now houses the Barbados Horticultural Society – which causes me to recall a Dorothy Parker pun as I pass by: “You can lead a horticulture but you can’t make her think.” She also said, “Ducking for apples. Change one letter and it is the story of my life.”
Well, the story of my life features Barbados in a big way. Actually, I was looking for Comfort and had strayed but eventually Providence was on my side and before I knew it I was in Yorkshire where the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Anyhow, these are all place names in Barbados and if you are ever down and depressed you can at least find Comfort here. The drivers tend to be very fierce, not yielding an inch and the roads are even angrier. I encountered Six Cross Roads but only my Good Intent kept me Constant.
I am in Barbados tending to my two teenage Bajans – Zubin, 15, and Jasmine, 16, and staying with my cousin Liz in Cane Garden, where the canes have long since disappeared since there is more money in housing than in sugar. Zubin is part of an Antigua Under-19 team playing in the Sir Garfield Sobers International Schools Cricket Tournament and Jasmine came to get a new passport. I am here to keep a parental eye on the proceedings and watch the cricket at the same time.
Being back in Barbados is nostalgic and recalls the days when I started my newspaper column here. We initially called it New Man In Town and it featured a cartoon of me tearing around Bridgetown in my “mini-moke” machine. It was a canvas-covered car, without doors or windows. I had paid BDS$1 000 for it and the insurance cost BDS$1 500. This caused me to joke that I had to sell the car to pay the insurance.
Few Barbadians ever accepted my offer of a lift and my ongoing fear was that one of the neighbourhood dogs which chased after me every morning would jump into the car and bite me. I could see myself trying to explain this to the police or the nurses in the appropriately named Casualty Department of the Hospital.
“What happen?” the nurse would ask. “A dog bite me,” I would explain. “Where dat happen?” she would ask. “In my car,” I would reply. “Is your dog bite you?” she would ask. “No,” would be my response. And then it would come out that I own a Moke and she would send me home without even bothering to look at the wound.
I also learnt the vagaries, variations and varieties of the Barbadian art of giving directions to the lost. I was heading north looking for Friendship which as some ladies will know is not far from Mangrove and Husbands and hard by Mount Peter, which is a possibility. Mount Gay and Gays are not too far apart, Six Mens also, and both are subjected to sermons from Bishops.
The use of the word “above” was still over my head. In Barbados it is really further “up” the road and “below” is behind you or where you’ve just come from.
Every direction or course correction involves above and below as well as words like “gap”, “lands” and “bottom”. In driving around Barbados I have seen places like St Lawrence Gap, Prescod’s Bottom and Mottley Lands and wondering why Mottley has only Lands but not a Gap or a Bottom. But this might be a political issue and not something I should touch. Directions from a Bajan are no mere Bagatelle and you are as likely to end up in Bakers, Farmers or Mose Bottom. Pure Mount Misery actually as you won’t find many rabbits in Warrens.
Barbados has everything for the visitor. If you’re looking for friendship it is a “mount” or hill right above Upton. If you’re looking for a place to sleep don’t bother with Tyrol Cot because it is a village and definitely not a bed of roses – Balls will be better for this because of the horticulture.
Barbados being what it is – a country where things work, buses are on time, the most remote villages have sports facilities, especially cricket grounds that make me envious – it is not coincidence that Hope and Endeavour are not far apart and even if you go there on a whim, there is a village by that name also.
• Tony Deyal was last seen saying that only in Barbados will you find a village called Society that is almost as high as you can get.