You kindly followed me through ten days of travel pictures, guessing where each one might be. I thought I’d put you out of your collective miseries/make you punch the air with a ‘Yes, I was right’ with a follow up.
Day Seven was
Tobago. For several years, we indulged our children in a week in the Caribbean and visited several of the delightful islands: the rather grand Barbados, the nouveau Antigua, the brassy Turks and Caicos, the delightful St Lucia and Tobago, a teenage boy of an island which is often twinned with Trinidad and which we visited (it’s the grown up in that relationship). We always had fun, and I always ended up wondering at my instinctual prejudices that said sitting on a beach or sitting in bathwater warm sea water for a week was a waste of a holiday, while forgetting no holiday spent with the family is wasted. I wrote a poem about my feelings on that Tobagoan beach… it says more about my blinkered mindset that it does about Tobago which was as welcoming as you could want..
Cinnamon sand, bathwater warm seas.
A rocky cove, delicately whitewashed with guano.
A chorus of gulls,
Hectoring backbenchers all.
Tarty in their coral finery,
Flit with each wave and shadow.
A threatened afternoon shower,
Lurking out west,
Plays Grandma’s footsteps with us.
Insidious if welcome relief.
Dotted about, dolls house furniture, neatly ambiguous,
Gives form to our sense of free play.
There’s a theme-park perfection
To our brochure born dreams:
Delicate palm thatch sits on wood-effect cast steel struts;
Natural gardens of scarlet and lemon,
Are chemically sprayed in the pre dawn
To remove the sweet sucking locals
And maintain their garage forecourt perfection;
Somnambulant waves crunch constantly
On carefully constructed coralesque outcrops
Of concrete and clay.
Intelligent broadsheet readers,
Risk averse to their last mortgage repayment,
Strip to expose fields of white melanoma seeds,
For proofing in the fiery Caribbean sun.
Out here, once cynical plumbers and sceptical lawyers
Believe in miracle potions,
Sold by plc paid shamen
Sitting in concrete and glass.
They poach happily in the calypso heat
Confident in the protection of their chemist’s latest best
Baste, boil, burn, balm.
The daily mantra.
One day, in a break from the lullabying sun,
These successors to Speke and Burton
Hire a guide to explore this foreign country.
Such exotica, so much novelty, the frisson of new experiences:
The baked breadfruit and goat curry to eat,
Specially prepared by curious locals
(My aunt has a stall in Brixton: you know it?);
The glimpses of a bird life unique to this area
(Though the same species has now taken over our local park)
They explore the coral and come face to face with sharks and conger eels
(Through the medium of the glass-bottomed boat).
They will tell how they steeped themselves in this foreign culture,
Deep enough to fuel several dinner party boasts
And oft-repeated family anecdotes
But it is a mere gossamer’s touch
For they’ve paid for the inoculations
That this resort provides.
Later, the first grizzles
From their sand frosted charges
Keep them from sinking completely into
This closed-eye fiction;
Some deep ingrained part of Arnos Grove
Or Clapham remains alert
Amongst the beach buffet of bloated human roti,
Ready to move at the slightest whinge
With due Hampstead haste
To avert disaster,
And return, with reclaimed inertia,
To their sun beds.
Tucked to the side, away from adult sightlines,
Are the adolescent actors.
One side slyly, shyly struts, playground porn movie wannabees;
The other watches with faux indifference hiding lust and acne behind Boots best aviator shades.
Each retains its hard-wired instinct to avoid
The occasional, random tidal surge of parental interest.
A surfeit of Rum cocktails and jetlag
Releases their corralled hormones
From the constraints imposed
And suffocating supervision,
And give 3D shape
To their flat screen, sweet sticky-sweat dreams.
Onto this fired and febrile world
That creeping afternoon shower,
Delivering large wet dollops of reality,
Can’t come soon enough.