One part sour , to two parts sweet
And three parts strong, to four parts weak
And you have yourself a Barbadian Rum Punch. Unlike any other rum punch in the Caribbean I must add. And we know, as we’ve sampled a few on this trip. It’s as vibrant as our tour guide today, the lovely Ronnie Carrington, who led our photo adventure tour.
We were driven to the Eastside of the Island and the so called ‘Scotland District’ in the parish of St Andrews. Ronnie made sure we knew it was the cleanest air, with the nearest land mass due east being the African continent. He felt sure it helped the number of centenarians they have on the island (they have the most after Japan). That along with their community connections, their active lifestyle (they walk a lot), take morning dips in the sea (the waters apparently 27c in the morning due to a heat exchange) and the older generation eat what they grow, not tending to use a supermarket at all. I personally think it might be the Barbadian Rum Punch. Ronnie showed us a picture of his mother who is over 100 and frankly she looks like his sister.
Our first proper stop was at a Chattel house. It’s a small moveable wooden house set on bricks which goes back to the days of the plantation. This was a necessity given that the homeowner didn’t own the land and needed the flexibility to move to another location in case of disputes or termination of job. The house we visited had two pitched roofs (it’s angle and no overhang protects it from bad winds) which is significant as they would typically start with one roof and then add new sections with extra roofs as their family grew. Whilst the house we saw was modest, it was homely and set beside a banana field and palm trees. There’s a simplicity to their lives that’s most attractive. A sunny setting helps too.
We also learned on the tour that a majority of Barbadians live mortgage free, especially in the village areas. They have a robust fear of debt, handed down generation to generation, originating from those who lived through the possibility that debt meant prison, or worse. Although many years ago, the feeling pervades. We saw houses with bricks outside, Ronnie explained that this meant they were buying a set of bricks each month as much as they could afford and they would build when they had saved enough. No one feels out of place doing this when the community works that way. He joked with us that their burglar alarm for the bricks was a line of paint, which if messed up told you bricks were being stolen.
He also shared the importance of education, with free education running right up to university. The Barbadians can take a few years of university on the island but then have to move to another country to complete. It’s a proud heritage, because even if they don’t come back to the island post education, the money eventually flows back, through family ties. It has a darker side, as those uneducated and unable to read and write – he reckoned 3% of the population – then typically end up in prison. So for them, education is the route to a thriving culture. I certainly felt they respected education more than the kids do back in the UK and more than I did as a child.
Ronnie took us to a few beach front locations including Bathsheba (love that name from Far from the Madding Crowd) and Barclays Park. We took our refreshments at the Atlantis Historic Inn, one of the first hotels on the east coast. This was only made possible by the railway, built for the transport of sugar. Talking of sugar we saw the most significant amount of sugar cane fields on this trip. Of course needed for the Barbadian Rum! Barbados suffered the same decline as other Caribbean countries following the EU levelling the playing fields on sugar prices. Prior to this Barbados shipped almost all it’s sugar to the U.K. under an agreed price because of the size of their economy. Once they had to compete with much larger economies, it no longer was viable.
I also want to mention something I found to be very interesting about Barbadian politics, and when I was told this fact I did think about what would happen if this occurred in the U.K. The government is based of the UK Westminster system – they have a PM, two parties and seats. The last election was in 2018 when the Barbadians showed their displeasure with the sitting government by giving every single seat to the opposition. Every single seat. There may only be 30 seats by comparison but it’s the totality of the message. They have some attitude. Today, both the PM and the High Commisioner are female.
If we had any visiting white privilege hangovers, they were busted today. The Barbadians love the British visiting, especially the Barmy Army. Like all Caribbean countries they rely on tourism and foreign exchange. What they like about the British Cricket fans is that they drink the place dry, leaving lots of currency with them. Whilst we heard this from Ronnie you could see it through the big signs hung on the bars. Ronnie recommended a Bridgetown Waterfront Cafe and said we should ask for Sue. We duly obliged post tour, and made our way for some lunch. Our choice of tucker was easy – we picked the two local dishes. Flying fish for Hubby and Crab Cake for me. Both in sandwhich form and tasty. Our choices got the nod of approval from Sue. And of course they were washed down with local beer – we recommend Deputy, a nice light larger. A perfect thirst quencher for a hot day. Sue’s bar has a wonderful view of the harbour and just behind it the parliament buildings.
After lunch we did a quick stroll around the harbour area. But it all felt too chaotic after the relaxed feel of the East Coast. So we made our way back to the ship. The port area was a tad industrial, the most functional port we had visited thus far. But that in itself had its own charm. It made for more good arty photo opportunities, keeping the spirit of the lessons that Ronnie had shared with us that day.
You could be fooled into thinking that the Barbadians simply live well because of the fortunes from the natural habitat. But it’s so much more than that. Ronnie shared with us one of their sayings and I think it best sums everything up.
“Godliness with contentment gives great gain”.