Last year, after I bought a scanner to digitise my 35mm film negatives, I discovered a box full of developed APS film and prints. I was excited when I found a roll containing images from the last time I visited the land of my birth. I quickly sent off the rolls to be scanned. It…
Friendship Bay is my favourite. The water on this southern side is more theatrical, and the view is of distant Mustique. Fewer boats moor here because of the swell and the sound is of clapping masts and of occasional sailors chucking themselves into the brine and coming up snorting. It rains. Real rain. Hibiscus buds and little lizards spin down guttering until everybody walks for cover and waits… until the rain dies as quickly and astoundingly as it rose.
I collapse back on my towel, eating a handful of fried plantain from Bequia Beach Hotel’s epic breakfast bar. The soft, hot sand is eternally hospitable, the optimism in the rain-sun routine a powerful characteristic of the island. That, and the intensity of its history. I take a drive in the afternoon up into the hills with thirty-something Garvin Ollivierre whose family have been boat builders and whalers since the 1800s – humpbacks are still occasionally caught here. We stop at the cricket pitch, where he plays with the local team, to find it covered in lambs and yellow-green butterflies blowing about like unfolding wads of tissue paper. He talks to me about the names of his teammates, one Cosmos Hackshaw (a moniker straight from Moby-Dick) and a Max Kydd. African, Scottish, Carib, French. Everybody is somebody’s third cousin of a cousin going back centuries. There’s a Napoleon Ollivierre and a Leonora Kydd in the old graveyard near the airport.
“Bequia had the trees and the skill to make boats”, says Captain Lewis. “We were always seafaring people, whalers and fishermen, living on the water’s edge. We don’t build big trading schooners now, but there is an active whaling station with much boating still. The Bequia Easter regatta with the double enders, a whaling boat styled after the Iron Duke, is a big event in the Grenadines. We are all descendants of the Arawaks, Caribs and seafaring people. The sea is in our blood”.
What’s the word for a person who hasn’t visited their place of birth in over thirty years? What am I? I have forgotten.