Barbados Tropical Waters

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Friday, 23 November 2012

The Bajan dress code

I travelled to Barbados to deal with some family business and in the process I had to attend the registration department of the newly built Supreme Court.
I was advised that I had to wear long “pants” as they are called in Barbados. But being a person who loves to wear to shorts, even up to November in England, I had only brought one pair of trousers and plenty of short sleeves shirts.
Off I went to the Supreme Court, in my long pants and smart casual shirt, feeling rather over dressed and uncomfortable for the weather as it was a scorching day with temperatures of around 30 degrees Centigrade.  As I proceeded through the security arch, I heard a distinctive command from the security guard, some years younger than me, to tuck my shirt into my pants. Immediately I felt like a school kid being told to dress properly for class! I found myself without hesitation fumbling to get my shirt tucked in without wanting to draw any further attention to myself. Luckily there were no onlookers and I was suddenly reminded of when my mother used to tell me to tuck my clothes in. I was happy to escape his scolding look and hastily made my way into the air-conditioned court building.
Having concluded my personal business at the court and without further ado, I decided  to make the most of my being properly dressed and observe a hearing, as I had never really been before and had nothing planned for the rest of the day.  As a police office in London, I had been to many courts and so decided that it would be a good idea to see how proceedings were handled elsewhere in the world.
I headed towards the court area for a busman’s holiday.  Sad or what!
I followed the signs to the swanky new court room heading for the balcony where I could sit unnoticed.  I was surprised at how empty it was and felt unreservedly relaxed. The trial had not started yet so I settled into the seat quietly, glad of the absence of others in viewing gallery.  Within minutes of sitting, I became aware that although the court proceedings hadn’t actually started, everyone had stopped what they were doing and all eyes were glued on me.
I glanced around as I wasn’t sure why they were all looking in my direction. Of course there was no one else sitting with me and I thought perhaps that the area wasn’t really used that often as the chairs were in immaculate condition. 
I then saw a court official look up at me and gesture with her hand for me to come down. Bemused I made my way towards the entrance of the court room and waiting for me outside the court entrance was a stern looking female court official. Her first words were, “What is your interest in this case? Are you a family member?  Pausing and pairing to speak my clearest English in a convincing British accent, I told her that I was a British police officer and that I was simply curious to see what a Barbadian court trial was like.
I repeatedly try to explain myself as clearly as possible without being defensive as she did not seem to understand, why the British police wanted to see a trial.  I explained it was for my own personal knowledge and she considered me intently and then inform me that I was not appropriately dressed as I needed to wear a long sleeve shirt with tie, tailored trousers and dress shoes. Looking down at my brown Karrimor trainers, khaki chinos and short sleeved shirt, I was clearly underdressed in comparison to all those present in the court room. Noticing her discontent at my response, I assuredly produced my police warrant card in the hope that this would reinforce my honest intentions of just observing. After studying my warrant card she seemed satisfied that I was genuinely interested in the proceedings and invited me to return when I was properly attired.
As I shamefacedly made my exit I did notice that I was the only man in the entire court room wearing casuals. The official shut the door to the court room ensuring that I had no sight of the proceedings and with the security guards at the ready should I decide not to leave as instructed.
I hastily left the court and headed for the nearest bar as I needed a moment to reflect on the events of the morning.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Ten miles with no Petrol

Having spent the last few days in Barbados, on business, I finally had a whole day free to relax and do what I want. Rather than relax on a sun soaked beach, I decided to hire a car and travel around the island and take some pictures.I hired a small jeep which came with a tank of petrol, and the instructions were to return it as empty as possible. That’s easy I thought. I’ll just drive as far out as possible across the island which is only 23 miles wide by 15 miles long. I’d had a great day driving around all the tourist areas.
When I returned to my hotel I noticed that the petrol gauge had not gone down to the minimum. I thought I must get my monies worth as it seemed a shame to be giving back petrol I’d already paid for. So after relaxing for a few hours, shower, dinner and a few cold drinks, off I went with a tourist map. Driving without a care in world, tooting my horn as I made my way along the road with arms waving in acknowledgement as I passed people a usual practice across the island,  I was pleased to be able to be on the road again.
Mesmerised by the sunset, I was unperturbed about the unlit and unsigned local roads. Still feeling rather smug I continued into the dark night.  Having driven around the area on previous visits to Barbados, I felt quite happy to follow the roads hoping they would lead me to somewhere worth seeing as the map became somewhat redundant at this stage. I knew it did not cover the local roads. I had driven many miles past small clusters of homes only recognisable by dimly lit windows accompanied by the sound of tree frogs, as I slowed to pass over pot holes in the road. I kept driving as I thought the night is young and I glanced at the petrol gauge and it was still on quarter tank. 
It was a case of just continuing in the direction where the road looked most like it would lead me to somewhere I knew. After many miles it finally dawned on me that I was completely lost, at that point I looked down at the petrol gauge and to my horror the petrol light was on. That’s bad timing I thought. Keep calm and carry on I thought convincing myself that if I kept going I would soon find somewhere I recognised. 
After sometime I began to think that I might have been on the roads more than once that night, but could not be sure as it was so dark. Even with full beams on it was difficult to recognise where I was. I thought if I headed south towards the sea I should reach my hotel which was literally on the beachfront on the south coast. Where is a compass when you need one!
Although it was a warm evening and I had the windows down, with a cool breeze blowing, I could feel a bead of sweat trickle down my forehead. Within a few miles, sweat was dripping from my forehead and I found myself gripping the steering wheel tightly. I spotted some local kids sitting by the side of the street, and asked them for directions. As always I have trouble understanding their Bajan accent and as I thought I was none the wiser to where I was after speaking to them, and hoped that by attempting to follow their directions I would end up somewhere familiar. If sweat could to be used as fuel, I could have easily filled the tank. Alas now is not the time for  invention.
I drove along a few more roads, and realised that I have now driven at least 7 miles to nowhere with the fuel light on. I began to think of the possibilities of the car shutting off in the middle of nowhere. Breathing cautiously as if to preserve what little fuel I had left, I drove a bit further and breathed relief when I recognised a road which led to a place called Oistins, somewhere I had been before. 
No sooner that I breathed easy, my confidence was soon dissipated by fear, as I realised I had driven a fair distance on the empty light and was still miles away from my hotel. The fuel light was now flashing and all I could do was keep going and hope I made it back before the engine died. As I got closer to the sea front, I saw my hotel in sight and let out a huge sigh of relief.
I happily abandoned the car on the perimeters of the hotel grounds in an effort to save what little fuel remained. I did not care that when the hire company came to collect the car that they may not have enough fuel to make it to the nearest gas station. 
From my calculations, the journey on the reserve fuel covered nearly 10 miles, and was fuelled a further three miles only by my excessive perspiration, apprehension and determination. I had a flight to catch early next morning and was thankful to see the familiar surroundings of my hotel room.  Was it worth it? 

Author - David Yearwood