Julian Armfield speaking about the inspiration behind his book Absolutely Barbados. (Picture by Nigel Browne.)
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As part of the Nation Publishing Company’s 50th anniversary of Independence celebrations, the WEEKEND NATION team – through this series – This Is My Story – will be speaking to people who migrated to the island and visitors who have come and fallen in love with our shores. We invite you to share with us or point us in the direction of an interesting person we can feature each week.
IT ISN’T OFTEN THAT a visit to a country has such a telling effect on a person that it prompts them to write a book on their experiences.
As it turned out, Barbados had such an effect on Julian Armfield.
Just over 20 years ago – 22 to be exact – Armfield, an Englishman and a leading horse racing correspondent with British-based public service broadcaster BBC at the time, begged his employer for a trip to Barbados to cover the prestigious Cockspur Gold Cup.
His own words best describe what transpired after.
“I came to Barbados for ten days, met and married a Bajan beauty and stayed forever.”
As part of his job, Armfield had travelled extensively during his stint at the BBC.
And while he had visited over 22 countries spanning four continents, not one of them was able to mesmerise him the way Barbados did.
“Every place has its merits and I love Australia and I love South Africa, but there’s something magical about Barbados.
Julian Armfield and his wife Sue couldn’t be happier living in Barbados.
“It’s big enough that you have a kind of multicultural feel to it, but everywhere is different. The East Coast is so different to the West Coast and you have these huge variances in little communities and so on,” Armfield told the WEEKEND NATION from the dining room of his residence in Rendezvous Terrace, Christ Church.
“But the number one thing definitely is the people. The people are the most welcoming that I’ve ever met. The way of life is the best and it’s small enough that you can meet your friends whenever you want, so it has this wonderful appeal about it.”
As he recalled his first trip to the island back in 1994, Armfield said his main reason for visiting Barbados was to take in some of the horse racing.
After hearing some great reviews about the Cockspur Gold Cup, he wanted to experience it for himself.
“I persuaded them to send me to Barbados, which is not one of the world’s leading racing destinations, but I had heard so many good things about what was then the Cockspur Gold Cup that I thought it would be something a bit different to the major races abroad.
“I came here and I met the late Bill Marshall, the champion trainer, and we became friends and I loved what I saw about Barbados. I ended up leaving and I returned for his 85th birthday party, but two days before I was due to go back I met Sue and we hit it off straight away and within a year we were married. It was all very good,” a smiling Armfield noted.
He said after a brief “debate” with Sue which “lasted about ten seconds” about whether he should move back here or she should move to England, it was decided that Barbados would be his new home.
He eventually relocated here in 2004.
Armfield said because of his adventurous personality, both he and Sue sought to explore the island.
“We tend to like places which are a bit off the beaten track, so we like ordinary neighbourhood places rather than glamorous places. So for eating, believe it or not we like Chicken Ritas, we like Surfer’s Bay and in terms of places to visit we love Hackleton’s Cliff, St Philip, St Lucy . . . but my personal favourite is Carlisle Bay.”
Describing himself as “curious”, Armfield said he decided to document all of the reasons why he fell in love with Barbados.
After three years of documenting and research, he released his book entitled Absolutely Barbados.
The book has become the number one bestselling non-fiction book about Barbados in the island’s bookshops and is also the number one bestselling non-fiction ebook about Barbados in Amazon’s Caribbean Travel and Holiday list, which comprises over 1 200 books.
He said he wrote the book to appeal to “everyone”.
“I wanted the book to appeal to born and bred Bajans, plus those who have settled here like myself, plus of course the Bajan diaspora all over the world.
“I wanted people to read it and think that Barbados really is a special place. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else in the world,” Armfield insisted. (RB)