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Josephine’s at home in island garden

GERCINE CARTER, [email protected]

Josephine’s at home in island garden

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Herbs from her garden enhance cooking flavours in the kitchens at Mango Bay Hotel in Holetown, St James. And though she lives thousands of miles away, British guest Josephine Parkins makes sure she is here to savour the spoils of her labour year after year.

Parkins started the garden over two decades ago at the one place in the world she and her husband Roy regard as their second home.

The couple first visited the island in 1994 and they have been coming back to enjoy vacation after vacation.When they do, Josephine always takes time out to tend the tiny hotel plot that produces cucumbers, okras, spinach, thyme, mint and a variety of other herbs that are a welcome bounty for the hotel’s chef.

The sign Josephine’s Garden stands guard over the original area where the British housewife planted her first garden. It remains a mini nursery from where young plants are transferred to the larger garden.

Josephine has brought gardening techniques from her garden at her home in the British village of Barrow-Upon-Humber and she walks the Mango Bay grounds inspecting her plants to ensure they receive the necessary care.

Always at her side giving support is husband Roy Parkins, who first visited Barbados with an English college cricket team, as he put it, “as excess baggage”.

When the couple returned to the island in 1994, they stayed at the newly-built Mango Bay Hotel in the first room to be completed. That has been their room for the last 50 visits which, between them, collectively amount to 2 191 days. They come twice a year and sometimes stay as long as five weeks.

“It is the people and the feeling of being at home. Why go somewhere else if you have found perfection?” Josephine remarked on their recent visit, the second for 2017.

Sitting with her husband and their daughter Jo-Anne close to her garden, which runs alongside the hotel’s bar and restaurant, she added: “I can’t see the point of trying other islands when this is where we are happy.

“We are told we are more Barbadian than the Barbadian because we take Barbadians to spots they have never been to,” said Roy, a former teacher and retired school inspector.

From the early days of coming to Barbados when the family was chauffeured around by Barbadian Sheldon Branch, they are now so familiar with the beaten and not so beaten tracks that they comfortably drive themselves around.

So well do they know Barbados, Roy quipped: “We spend a lot of time taking Barbadians to see some of their island.”

On her 16th visit with her parents, Jo-Anne was just as sold on the island. She has been visiting since childhood and spoke with excitement about her parents’ love for Barbados.

“When we go shopping, it is all about what we are going to wear in Barbados,” she said, going on to describe the many Barbadian accent pieces dotting her parents’ home in England.

“They have created a shrine to Barbados in their home,” Jo-Anne said. In every room there is either a Barbados map, a Jill Walker print or some other Barbados memento.

“Barbados is a major part of our lives,” Josephine added, and while speaking about what attracted them, Roy interjected: “It is the people, the sunshine, the rum and the ocean.”

It is also the hospitality the couple has found at Mango Bay with staff who, over the years, have become more like family. As a result, the Parkins are big advocates for Barbados as a holiday destination and they have influenced many of their friends to make it their choice.

Their daughter was married here and many of her friends are also regular visitors.

But there is a downside to the island’s hospitality which the couple warns must be given some attention. It is the apparent lack of warmth and friendliness in the reception visitors receive from officers of the Customs and Immigration departments at Grantley Adams International Airport.

“The airport has improved a lot,” Roy observed. However, his wife expressed concern about those officers who were “so abrupt when you get to the desk”. However, Josephine said she knew that any bad attitudes at the airport did not represent the general warmth and welcoming personality of the majority of Barbadians.

As she paused to caress the leaf of a plant in her garden, she exclaimed: “We just love Barbados!” (GC)