Why The Barbados Papers?
Because I woke up with that title and I am in the mood to write a book. Because I moved there lock, stock and barrel and I found it too difficult a place to live. Because Papers is bureaucratic and officious and that’s what the public sector there was. Papers is also old world and reminiscent of maps and truly I was in a strange land trying to get across. I could have used a map and the diversion of buried treasure and a cultural compass – just to start.
(NB: If I am really related to Christopher Columbus - my genealogist father always said - then my comeuppance on that Island makes perfect sense.)
So, people ask 'What DID happen in Barbados?'
Well...it was an Island I already liked. The present day people were sun-kissed and thus I believed they would be good. I presumed I would like the men. I hoped the women would like me. I thought the beauty of the land – which is extraordinary – would act daily as a balm.
Instead within ten days of landing in Barbados I had the first dog bite of my life. I was then chased and attacked by mad and different dogs on two occasions. I was only 'on Island' for a total of four months.
My continuing story:
I had just rented an apartment sight unseen and was now Caribbean-bound. I landed and my favourite taxi driver friend collected me. She gave me a heartfelt hug and I hugged her back. I thought 'I am really doing this'. Then we drove to my new apartment.
My apartment was a big disappointment. I knew it would be even at the gate. Gretchen came out to meet me and there was an uneasiness between her and I which I couldn't remember. Gretchen was my new friend who had brokered the rental for me and now she was my neighbour as well. I realise there is a difference between dancing poolside at a BBQ and having that same someone hand you the key to your future abode.
'I hope you like it' Gretchen said to me before she opened my apartment door. She sounded dubious.
I made a few non-committal comments as Gretchen showed me an unmoored gas stove and a dirty fridge. I waited until she was gone and then I walked the length of my new apartment. My back door opened onto a kind of sea view but my back porch was painted a garish orange. Everything about 88 Sand Trove shouted neglect and uncared-for rental.
I wanted to clean, I wanted to cry and I was aware of a background headache taking hold. I chose cleaning as the most productive of options. Without unpacking or even washing (the bathroom looked sad and I could already see black mould) I set about cleaning. I found what I could by way of cleaning products under the kitchen sink and I looked for somewhere to begin that would help.
There was a multi-dimensional clean needed here. This apartment lacked light on every level and the nub of it needed a good wash. I would have to do something about the shabbiness of the furniture. What was wanted was an overhaul right back to bone. The closets weren't even empty.
I found black bin bags and in a sudden fit of healthy temper I began to pull odd objects out of closets and cupboards and stack them on the floor. The few items I would keep (everything needed a good soap) got left there and the rest went into its appropriate bag: tall closet, big cupboard etc.
Yes, I need some crockery and utensils but no I do not need tired baskets of fake flowers or tobacco-coloured tablecloths or fat purple-ish candles stuck into any old thing and burnt black on their way down. My last bin bag was nearly full now and I crowned the top of that with a portion of surf board and some musty paperbacks.
I was working fast and I was jet-lagged. My Caribbean nest was not all right. I was determined to do something about it. There were moments when disappointment threatened to overtake me and my eyes swam once or twice but by birth I am Canadian. We have harsh winters and snow obsures everything but we don't take it lying down. Besides my landlady would be over to meet me soon and I wanted a genuine smile on my face when I handed the bin bags over.
I couldn't let myself picture the light, clean, streamlined flat that I had left behind in Essex.
To be continued...
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