Halo polishing

More grilling by the pool yesterday morning, and in the pool on a lilo.

I’ve gradually reduced my SPF from 30 to 8 over the week and I’m moderately pleased with the results. I’ll never been bronzed like the bathing beauties (both sexes) on the sands, because I’m too frightened of getting burnt like I did on the Great Barrier Reef in 1992 (I’ve never forgotten the blisters and pain of overdoing the grilling). But I think TSM will notice a difference when I get home on Friday.

The morning started, however, with a leisurely stroll along the shoreline, watching the sun climb in the sky. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of the changing seasons and unpredictable weather that we have in the UK. It’s lovely being here and enjoying guaranteed sunshine, 30C temperatures and the cooling trade wind from the east that is a hallmark of Barbados.  Lovely for a week, but I think I would ache for some variance after a while. I have some ex-pat friends who currently live in California who don’t understand why I like the unpredictability of the British climate so much.  Ah well, each to their own I say.

So after the morning’s grilling Derek took Donroy and I off for a trip to St John’s on the east side of the island. We passed by Drax Hall en route, so it felt like familiar territory for much of the short journey.  Its a relatively small island as I intimated yesterday, but distances feel quite considerable, possibly due to the nature of the roads twisting and turning, rather rough surfaces in places. And all the while that cooling east wind. All the cars have airconditioning, but equally all the cars on the road drive around with all the windows down … its really rather lovely.

Philip was incapacitated yesterday with a bad back which he swears he’s picked up from me, though goodness only knows how. For myself I’ve had a liberating week, free from back discomfort and I’ve been able to do (and walk) so much more than I’ve previously managed. I truly feel like a new man.  Let’s just hope I can keep this up at home. Oh I’m not looking forward to returning to the UK just in time for February.  I hate February: gloomy, depressing, the depths of winter without a hint of spring to come.

Derek took me to the parish church of St John which is famous for its particularly spectacular location on the crest of a ridge overlooking the east coast. Consequently it gets that trademark cooling breeze to take the edge off the searing heat. Church services are conducted with the windows all open, with distant views of the Atlantic and all God’s creation spread out before one.

The church is classic Gothic and situated on a cliff overlooking the picturesque East Coast. This church was built in 1836, the fifth to be erected on the same site. It replaced a building which had been destroyed by a hurricane in 1831.

In the churchyard rests the remains of Ferdinando Paleologus, a descendent of Emperor Constantine the Great, whose family was driven from the throne of Constantinople by the Turks. Ferdinando died in Barbados in 1678, after being a resident here for over 20 years.

The churchyard also contains some pretty spectacular mausolea of plantation owners from centuries past. There’s not a lot of topsoil above the solid coral core of the island, particular above the principal arable growing areas, and so graves look a little different in Barbados. Very often they have to build up a gravespace because one can’t dig down below ground level for more than a foot or so. This means that little mausolea are a common feature of graveyards: they look rather like domed cardboard boxes which have been rendered and a memorial plaque added to the construction. There were graves like this dating back to the 1700s. No new burials are allowed in this particular churchyard (there is another graveyard about half a mile distant), except for burials in an existing family mausoleum (provided there is space inside), the last one being as recent as 2005.

It was lovely reading the memorial plaques in the church. Its one of my favourite pastimes back home to visit country churches and graveyards. I enjoy reading the memorials and learning about inhabitants from time immemorial. The ones I particularly enjoy are those that ‘big up’ the deceased individual as an exemplar of piety and good works.  I’m all for that kind of exhortation, but its an indication of how times have changed so much that the language used on such memorials is often strange to our eyes, words that we no longer use in daily speech yet brought to life in marble or stone.

From St John’s we made a short trip to Codrington College, an anglican theological educational establishment, found by one Christopher Codrington, who after his death in 1710 left portions of his ‘estates’ – two slave labour plantations on Barbados and areas of Barbuda – to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts to establish a college in Barbados. Construction was started in 1714, and the College was eventually opened on September 9, 1745.

It initially provided a general education but began to teach advanced studies as early as 1748; this served as a preparatory education before the students – usually sons of the local gentry – went to an English university.

The plantation slaves were considered heathens and not suitable for entry into the Kingdom of Heaven and so they were totally ignored by the church until after emancipation in 1834 when a wholesale conversion effort started. Suddenly these heathen souls were lost souls and they needed to be saved. Oh how times change!

The college is now owned and run by the Church of England, which still owns two neighbouring sugar plantations and makes a healthy profit each year!  I understand there was a fuss a couple of years back because London wanted to ditch this college but there was an uproar in Barbados and they backed off.

Finally, for dinner last night we graced ‘Whispers by the Bay’ with our presence – P&D, myself and Donroy.  It was a fabulous outdoor setting right on the beach with the breakers crashing onto the shore just a few yards away.  The restaurant was sumptuously decorated and the service extremely attentive but I have to say the food was only average. We only discovered after booking that it was by no means cheap.  Overall, great location but I wouldn’t dine there again, certainly not value for money and it seems from Trip Advisor that I’m not alone in that opinion!

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