Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Jessamine


Jessamine

JESSAMINE - an excerpt



Malinda shrugged and looked me over. “These things happen,” she repeated, watching my stomach.
Self-conscious, I smoothed my skirt. Despite my diet, I had gained some weight in the last few weeks. I would either have to lose it or devote some of my hard-earned money to buying cloth for new dresses.
“She in the drawing room.” Malinda led the way downstairs.
I pushed open the doors and went in. Mrs. Threlfall sat by one of the windows, Jocelyn in her lap, and Victoria and Theodore at her feet. She said nothing as I walked toward her, just stared at me with what looked like sharp surprise. The children regarded me silently.
“Malinda said you wanted to see me?” I prompted.
“Yes.” She seemed to shake herself. “I did. Children, please leave.”
“Mother, we won’t listen,” Victoria argued.
“You can come back in a little while.”
“Do you promise?”
Mrs. Threlfall permitted the ghost of a smile. “I do.”
The children filed out.
“Come,” she said, waving me forward after they had closed the door. “Come closer.”
I closed the gap between us, wondering what was the matter. I had thought she was going to berate me for allowing Theodore to be stung, and I was prepared with my response. Instead, she stared at me without speaking for what seemed like hours.
“Is something the matter, Mrs. Threlfall?” I shifted restlessly.
“Are you with child, Miss Adams?”
With child. It had never occurred to me but suddenly I realized it was true. Sally Ann, Aunt Bell’s youngest daughter, was the apple of her eye and Aunt Bell had once explained to me that this was because of how difficult her pregnancy with her had been. She’d said that for the first few months she’d hardly been able to do anything but lie abed as every task wearied her and every smell, particularly those of meats and soap, threatened to upset her stomach.
“Who…. Who?” She watched me with big, frightened eyes, unable to finish her sentence.
I understood immediately. “I do not believe you know him, Ma’am,” I answered, feeling sorry for her.
Relief eased her features. “Are you certain? You do not spare my feelings?” she asked, wanting to be sure.
“No, Ma’am. I mean, I am quite certain you do not know him. He is a businessman.”
She stared at me, wide-eyed. “But how did you meet him? Does he come to church?”
“No, Ma’am. I…I met him on the street that day I was in Wolverton by myself.” I was going to mention that he was a friend of Father Watson’s but thought better of it.
“On the street.” Her hand was at her throat. She watched me with equal parts horror and fascination. “Do you plan to get married? You know you cannot continue here.”
“Of course. I will leave.” I wanted one of those storm winds that they say sweeps across the island every few years to suddenly come and spirit me away. My legs felt weak. Seeing I was about to fall, Mrs. Threlfall jumped up and guided me to the sofa.
“How could you do this, child? How could you? Alone in a strange land. Have you no sense at all?” There was pity in her voice.
“It flies from me when he is around. I love him, Ma’am.”
“And does he love you?”
“Yes, he does.”
“You’ll get married, then?” She nodded as though answering her own question. My queasiness began to pass.
“You say he’s a businessman?”
“He owns buildings in Wolverton and has them rented out.” Leando had also told me of his plans to buy a trading ship but I didn’t tell her this. He wanted to own a fleet of them because he said he foresaw the day when St. Crescens would no longer be able to feed itself; it was scarcely doing so now. Many of the trading ships putting in at the island belonged to companies in England which charged high prices. He thought there was an opportunity in it for him. His ambition was one of the things I loved about him.
“Will you not tell me who he is? Is it Charles Skerrit? That would be a wonderful match for you, dear.” She peered questioningly at me but I shook my head.
She frowned, puzzled. “I can’t think…oh, don’t tell me it’s that Osgood boy. What’s his name? Henry. Is it him?” I shook my head again wishing she would give up this game.
“That’s a blessing, at least. The men of that family are wastrels. As long as you’re satisfied, he must be of good quality. You have never struck me as overly flighty.”
“He’s a good man, Ma’am.”
“Perhaps…but a bit impetuous, certainly.” She glanced at my stomach, and I colored, spreading my hands over the small mound. A new life, a life we had made together. I wondered if Leando would be happy. I thought, I hoped, he would.
 “My dear, the sooner you are married the better. Mary Byde had quite the big belly when she married Francois. You will find that we, here, do not frown on such happenings quite as people do in England. In time, you will be invited to tea and people will make calls on you. I will certainly call to see the latest addition to St. Crescens society.”
I choked on my laughter but, when she looked at me, puzzled, I could not bring myself to tell her who the father of my child was. I had neither the strength nor the courage to be plain about my lover.
“Where can you go until your wedding day?” She said this more to herself than to me. “Oh, I know.” She snapped her fingers. “I will ask Aunt Bridget if she would allow you to stay with her until the arrangements for your wedding are complete. She’s a spinster and fairly free in her thinking. She travels to London all the time and is the greatest friends with artists and writers and people of that stripe. That’s the perfect solution. I’ll have Dodger take you. She lives in Wolverton. You’ll be close to your friend, and he can visit you there without reproach.”
I didn’t know what to say, she was being so kind. For the first time since our conversation began I felt my eyes tear. Perhaps if the circumstances had been different we could have been friends, this Creole woman and I. Then I thought of Leando. I was behaving as though I were ashamed of him and of the love we shared.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Snapshot Saturday - Forever in our hearts

Our cat, Romulus, died about a month ago.  We don't know why.  He was less than two years old and full of personality.  He went missing on Sunday and on Wednesday we found his body.  It is possible that he might have been hit by a car and crawled away to die.  It's also possible that he may have eaten poison in some form or another.  He wasn't sick, though we did have to take him in to the vet some weeks before for a cut in his paw - we thought maybe he'd stepped on a nail but after his antibiotics, he was his old self again.

Romulus was a great hunter and used to catch the local wildlife - lizards, the odd snake and once, most memorably, a chicken, and bring them into the house to have his way with them.  He loved to chase things, he loved to sleep and he loved his food.  He also loved belly-rubs and blanket wrestling.   He is buried among the ginger lillies, his old hunting ground.  We miss him very much.

Romulus as a young 'un.
A pensive Romulus

Romulus looks up at me from my lap.

Gone, but never forgotten!


Today, I'm once again participating in Snapshot Saturday which is sponsored by Alyce of At Home With Books! Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don't post random photos that you find online.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Colonization in Reverse

"Wat a joyful news, Miss Mattie,
I feel like my heart gwine burs'
Jamaica people colonizin
England  in reverse.

By de hundred, by de t'ousan
From country and from town,
By de ship-load, by de plane-load
Jamaica is Englan boun.

Dem a pour out of Jamaica,
Everybody future plan
Is fe get a big-time job
An settle in de mother lan.

What a islan!  What a people!
Man an woman, old and young,
Jusa pack dem bag an baggage
An tun history upside dung!

Some people don't like travel,
But fe show dem loyalty
Dem all a-open up cheap-fare-
To-Englan agency.

An week by week dem shippin off
Dem countryman like fire,
Fe immigrate an populate
De seat o de Empire."  from Colonization in Reverse by Louise Bennett

Louise Simone Bennett-Coverley or Miss Lou,  (7 September 1919 – 26 July 2006), was a Jamaican poet, folklorist, writer, and educator. Writing and performing her poems in what was known as Jamaican Patois or Creole, she was instrumental in having this "dialect" of the people given literary recognition in its own right ("nation language"), located at the heart of the Jamaican poetic tradition, and influencing many other poets, including Mutabaruka and Linton Kwesi Johnson. (from Wikipedia)

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Snapshot Saturday - Those who went before...


Today, I'm once again participating in Snapshot Saturday which is sponsored by Alyce of At Home With Books! Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don't post random photos that you find online.

These are some of the pictures I took of gravestones at St. Thomas's main cemetery, in Charlotte Amalie.  The cemetery is quite overcrowded and some of the older graves are in disrepair but it was interesting seeing the old names and seeing what people had written about their loved ones.

"Nene" is an affectionate term for a grandmother.



This was the tomb of a 14 year-old boy who'd died of a fever.  Vandals have broken off his hand.


This is from one of the older tombs - other parts have been broken off but her face was probably too stern for vandals to mess with.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Ira Aldridge, 1807-1867




Ira Frederick Aldridge (July 24, 1807 – 7 August 1867) was an American actor who made his career largely on the London stage and in Europe, especially in Shakespearean roles. He is the only actor of African-American descent among the 33 actors of the English stage honored with bronze plaques at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre at Stratford-upon-Avon. He was especially popular in Prussia and Russia, where he received top honors from heads of state.



Saturday, 10 November 2012

Snapshot Saturday - Main Street, Road Town

Today, I'm once again participating in Snapshot Saturday which is sponsored by Alyce of At Home With Books! Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don't post random photos that you find online.

Because I live at one end of Main Street, most of the pictures I take are of that area so a couple weekends ago I walked up to the other end.  Main Street still has a quaint, Caribbean flavour but, in the absence of historical preservation legislation, that mightn't last.  These were taken on a Sunday - during the week there are so many cars that you can't really get good pictures.

The bottom of the two-storey blue and white building houses Serendipity, a bookstore.

The palms in the pix below are a mix of Coconut and Royal Palms.


When I was young, two elderly ladies lived in the orange building and they used to feed me cake and tamarind juice whenever I stopped by.



 People still live in a lot of these old houses, some of which go back to the early 1900s and before.



Thursday, 8 November 2012

This is The Dark Time, My Love

"This is the dark time, my love.
All around the land brown beetles crawl about.
The shining sun is hidden in the sky.
Red flowers bend their heads in awful sorrow.

This is the dark time, my love.
It is the season of oppression, dark metal, and tears.
It is the festival of guns, the carnival of misery.
Everywhere the faces of men are strained and anxious.

Who comes walking in the dark night time?
Whose boot of steel tramps down the slender grass?
It is the man of death, my love, the stranger invader
watching you sleep and aiming at your dream." - by Martin Carter

Martin Wylde Carter (7 June 1927 - 13 December 1997) was a Guyanese poet and political activist. Widely regarded as the greatest Guyanese poet, and one of the most important poets of the Caribbean region, Carter is best known for his poems of protest, resistance and revolution. Carter played an active role in Guyanese politics, particularly in the years leading up Independence in 1966 and those following immediately after. He was famously imprisoned by the British government in Guyana (then British Guiana) in October 1953 under allegations of "spreading dissension", and again in June 1954 for taking part in a PPP procession. Shortly after being released from prison the first time, Carter published his most well-known poetry collection, Poems of Resistance from British Guiana (1954).

Martin Carter


Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Caribbean Writers - A Series

Today, I'm continuing with my occasional series on Caribbean writers, past and present.  A lot of Caribbean people don't know the rich diversity of Caribbean literature so this is my meager effort to highlight fabulous writers from the region. 
Lawrence Scott (born in Trinidad, 1943) is an award-winning novelist and short-story writer from Trinidad & Tobago, currently living in London and Trinidad. His novels have been awarded (1998) and short-listed (1992, 2004) for the Commonwealth Writers' Prize and twice nominated for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award (for Aelred's Sin in 2000 and Night Calypso in 2006). His stories have been much anthologized and he won the Tom-Gallon Short-Story Award in 1986. He divides his time between London and Port of Spain.




Witchbroom (Cws (Series)) by Scott, Lawrence published by Heinemann Paperback                                                                    


Witchbroom - "A curious narrator called Lavren, both male and female, tells carnival tales of crime and passion. These tales evoke a visionary history of the Monagas family and their island.
Witchbroom is a brilliant first novel which reveals the history of a Caribbean island with an intensity and originality that is unrivalled." - from the author's website.  I loved this book!  It was fantastic - an epic look at the history of Trinidad from the early days of its settlement to the days of Eric Williams.

The White Witch of Rosehall

Herbert George de Lisser (9 December 1878 – 19 May 1944) was a Jamaican journalist and author. He has been called "one of the most conspicuous figures in the history of West Indian literature".
De Lisser was born in Falmouth, Jamaica, and attended William Morrison's Collegiate School in Kingston. He started work at the Institute of Jamaica at the age of 14. Three years later he joined the Jamaica Daily Gleaner, of which his father was editor, as a proofreader, and two years later became a reporter on the Jamaica Times.

The White Witch of Rosehall is a great example of Caribbean Gothic - beating drums, sinister slave practices and a plantation owner who has given herself over to the dark side.  Very entertaining!
Banana Bottom (Harvest Book, Hb 273)

Claude McKay (born Festus Claudius McKay) (September 15, 1889 – May 22, 1948) was a Jamaican-American writer and poet. He was a seminal figure in the Harlem Renaissance and wrote four novels: Home to Harlem (1928), a best-seller which won the Harmon Gold Award for Literature, Banjo (1929), Banana Bottom (1933) and in 1941 the manuscript of a novel that has not yet been published called Amiable With Big Teeth: A Novel of the Love Affair Between the Communists and the Poor Black Sheep of Harlem.  McKay also authored a collection of short stories, Gingertown (1932), and two autobiographical books, A Long Way from Home (1937) and Harlem: Negro Metropolis (1940).

In Banana Bottom, a Jamaican girl, Bita Plant, who was adopted and sent to be educated in England by white missionary benefactors, returns to her native village of Banana Bottom and finds her black heritage at war with her newly acquired culture.  (I have to confess that while I've read his poetry, I haven't read his novels so Banana Bottom is on my TBR list.)

If you've read any of these, let me know what you thought!

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Snapshot Saturday - Miracle Fruit

Some years back, all the health magazines were full of stories about the health benefits of the Noni plant.  The Noni grows commonly around the British Virgin Islands and is used in folk medicine.  According to the US National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine of the National Institutes of Health -
Noni is an evergreen shrub or small tree that grows throughout the tropical regions of the Pacific Ocean, from Southeast Asia to Australia. Noni has a history of use as a topical preparation for joint pain and skin conditions. Today, noni fruit juice has folk uses as a general health tonic and for cancer and chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
The noni fruit is most commonly combined with other fruits (such as grape) to make juice. Preparations of the fruit and leaves are also available in capsules, tablets, and teas.

A close-up of the Noni fruit

I'm here to tell you that it tastes AWFUL!!!!  So if you're gonna drink it, you'll definitely need to mix it with something more palatable unless you're literally someone of great intestinal fortitude.


The fruit from another angle

 The tree is quite attractive with its big leaves.

 Today, I'm once again participating in Snapshot Saturday which is sponsored by Alyce of At Home With Books! Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don't post random photos that you find online.