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The Barbados Papers

In search of a golden sun

The Barbados Papers is a memoir that I have not waited 50 years to write. Rather 99 days since I succeeded without drama in getting way too much baggage onto a one-way Virgin Atlantic flight home. God bless the black Bajan woman at Virgin who checked me in. She looked at me with interest and asked if I was a dancer.

I was so stressed in that moment I could hardly talk and when I remembered who I was I said 'No, yoga teacher'.

She then replied 'That's why you look so calm' and I actually looked into her rather pretty eyes to see if she was being sarcastic.

This beautiful Virgin representative then proceeded to wave through my third suitcase with 10 kg of excess weight without asking for anything more. Presumably she saw that I had already paid £180 online in excess baggage for the first two.

How we are and what is outwardly perceived is sometimes so vastly different that I am left dazed. Five minutes before I had actually been crying on the edge of my friend's taxi because she was mad at me for keeping her waiting (my three suitcases wouldn't close) and my good friend Belle - who is Bajan and was doing me a favour with every right to be annoyed - probably thought my crying was too much but by that point I was beyond remaining appropriate.

So Virgin Atlantic flight VS30 left Bridgetown and it was like blasting my way out of a spider's den. Somewhere harder to leave than a mere web or a parlour. I know everywhere we go we bring ourselves with us and if Barbados became treacherous for me then that was my Barbados and my paradigm. But there is also a place and its predisposition.

A positive reframe of this experience - which I can just about do now - is that Barbados was a highly useful nightmare. As one UK client astutely put it 'Well, at least you can cross the Caribbean off your list'. I agree wholeheartedly - and wild horses couldn't...but, you know the rest of that one.

My story went like this:

I met a woman at a BBQ in Barbados. It was a dark night. She seemed plausible and was very physically beautiful. I had been coming to Barbados as a tourist for maybe four years. I never stayed longer than two weeks and often brought clients with me. My clients and I were from the UK mostly and so desperate for winter sun. We did yoga within the sound of the surf and I loved everything about that Island. You can backbend for England in January when the body is warm, and expanding outward in triangle takes on a life of its own when in every direction there is blue and sun.

My BBQ friend was called Gretchen and over the next half year we stayed in touch. I liked her because she was funny and knew she was beautiful and when someone is honest I can be frank. She had a boyfriend who lived in Europe and was down on Bajan men in general which was an attitude I was to encounter a lot. I can understand being down on a thing but all I knew about Bajan men were the three or four of Bajan descent that I had dated in London.

None of them were right - and my happiness index with Afro-Caribbean men was rather poor - but I liked the idea of being with one. If I generalise there was a sexual immediacy to Afro-Caribbean men that I found reassuring, as well as some long ago decision I had taken about my lovers needing to be 'cool'.

I have always been hard-headed.

Ultimately, my desire to move to Barbados was not organismic and not felt. It was like an external movie that I made three dimensional and then let form.

I gave Gretchen an old-fashioned phone call and I asked her if she knew of an apartment I could let. It turns out the one next door to her - same landlady - same dark corner of the Island as the BBQ - would be empty just in time. It seemed to me that lucky coincidence was knocking at my door and I was more than ready.

Thus, sight unseen, I arranged a tenancy that would run for six months. I then set about saying goodbye to one decade worth of clients.

To be continued...

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