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Living ‘free’


SHERIA BRATHWAITE

Living ‘free’

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Charles Mac Douglas Bartlett prefers to live “off the grid” and have as natural a life as possible in modern Barbados.

This is why he has opted to occupy a makeshift structure in a wooded and somewhat secluded area in a St Michael district.

The 67-year-old told THE NATION that his living accommodation was not the result of any turn of unfortunate events or hardship, but rather it was by choice since he wanted to be a “free man”.

His situation is in no way similar to that of Joseph Watts, a homeless man, of Mellows Hill, St Joseph, whose deplorable living conditions were highlighted in last week’s MIDWEEK NATION.

Several people aware of Bartlett’s lifestyle called this newspaper to highlight his condition, but, after locating him, he made it clear that was the lifestyle he had opted to live.

The former labourer said he and his mother moved to Hothersal Turning when he was 15 and he lived in that area until he was 40. He then resided in Haynesville, St James, for five years before returning to Hothersal Turning in 1996.

Bartlett explained that at first he was living deeper in the forested area but, after a year, he decided to move his lodging closer to the boundary of the popular Friendship playing field.

“There really isn’t a reason,” he said. “I just decided to come back up here . . . . Out here, I don’t have any problems, nobody troubles me or anything. I get along with everyone.”

The retiree said living alone gave him peace of mind and the quiet environment was to his delight.

He has no electricity, running water, indoor plumbing, telephone landline or cell phone, and can be exposed to the elements.

When Tropical Storm Kirk recently threatened the island, Bartlett had to find shelter, and this he did by going to a covered bus shelter in the district.

His regular place of abode is under a tarpaulin secured by iron stakes and a wooden frame, where he has several concrete blocks uniquely arranged with pieces of wood on top of them to provide a resting place. A few centimetres away is a fireplace where Barltett cooks his food on open flame. He has several buckets filled with clothes and other items.

He cuts down trees weekly with his saw to burn to keep him warm at night.

He usually gets foodstuff from the shop in the district, explaining that he loved bread as well as corned beef and sardines. He also travels to The City when necessary.

Bartlett is by no means a recluse; he loves to listen to different programmes on his battery-powered radio, which keeps him informed about what was happening locally and overseas.

He uses a nearby standpipe to bathe and catch water, and was well groomed despite opting for the very basic of amenities and having limited facilities.

Bartlett is the father of four grown children whom he said visited him from time to time, especially on special holidays.

He receives National Insurance Scheme benefits and uses that money to keep his ship afloat.

Bartlett, who during the interview kept his responses brief, said he would be willing to move if someone offered him a place to stay that was within his budget.

However, Bartlett stressed that he was not in dire straits but was an independent man. (SB)

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