Life’s a lilo


Lilo Lil about to put this guidance into practice

It’s taken me more years than I care to reveal to master the art of getting on a lilo without falling straight off, but I believe I have now got to grips with the means of doing so successfully.

A pre-requisite for this accomplishment, however, is the convenient placement of a shallow spot in the water where one might place one’s feet on terra firma in order to perform the mounting.

  1. Place your feet firmly on the ground, and stand with your legs well apart.
  2. Pull the foot end of the inflated lilo forward through your parted legs (a degree of force will be required to complete this successfully).
  3. You need to pull through just over a quarter of the length of the lilo. Just ignore what the pillow end is doing (that’s not important right now).
  4. Now make sure the foot end of the lilo is aligned with a real or imaginary horizon. NB: Disaster will ensue if this is not effected at this point. Guaranteed.
  5. Once you are content with the foot alignment, sit down gently onto the lilo, releasing your feet from (ooh err!) terra firma.
  6. You should now be floating, complete with lilo, on the water. Next comes the tricky bit!
  7. Slowly raise one knee out of the water, extending the foot as required in order to get it onto the surface of the lilo. At this point you may need to provide counterbalance by extending the diametrically-opposed arm and waving it frantically.
  8. If you have not failed abysmally with the previous stage, it is now time to raise the second leg. Repeat the last process again, paying particular attention this time to balance. If you manage to get your second leg horizontal, you can proceed to the next stage.
  9. You’re almost there! Now gently lie back onto the lilo, using your pinioned feed to keep the lilo in the correct alignment, until your head rests on the lilo’s pillow.
  10. Mission accomplished!

Further tips for enhanced enjoyment of the lilo

If your head does not land on the pillow at stage 9, then considered calibration at stage 2 will achieve results eventually.

Once fully mounted, to get underway use your arms to perform a backstroke motion. Do not be tempted to use your feet for movement purposes, otherwise you’ll be in the drink.

If you wish to lie face down on the lilo, at stage 2 the pillow (rather than foot) end of the lilo should be pulled backwards through your parted legs until approximately 75% of the lilo’s length is ahead of you. Repeat the remainder of the process and you should be able to get underway as before. Use the front crawl to travel forward, and reverse doggy paddle under the lilo (if your arms can reach) to go astern.

Please lilo responsibly

  • For best (and safest) results, operate your lilo in a swimming pool or an open water enclosure with booms.
  • Do not attempt to operate your lilo in international waters. You do not have navigation lights and will likely be mown down by the Queen Mary 2 (which has a stronger claim to being a cruise line than you on your lilo will ever manage).

Sitting in the surf

Apologies, no marathon update for two days despite my best intentions and, at one point, endeavour. I’ve just been soooooooo busy!

But an email from a friend demanding an update has spurred me into action this morning. Truth be told I got a little sunburnt yesterday so I’m staying under cover this morning at least. I hope you enjoy this update plus picture gallery at the end. I do have an ulterior motive though.

Life continues to be a beach. Or rather, lots of beaches. Plus a fair old sprinkling of inland visual feasts. Here are edited highlights, roughly in chronological order

Monday saw me taking a drive up to the north of the island to the parish of St Lucy. Once you get north of Speightstown the landscape gets increasingly flat and windswept as the north point of the island nears. Trade winds from the east mean a fairly constant stiff (but warm) breeze that results in the verdant greenery being ever on the move.

The useful ‘Barbados in a Nutshell’ map (which seems to be the only road map for the island) indicates where beaches can be accessed on foot or by car, and I had decided to head for Archers Bay. It was certainly out on a limb.

The further north I got the more I thought how much the windswept landscape resembled the scattered crofting communities of the Western Isles in Scotland. The similarities end there though. Barbados is entirely coral not Lewisian Gneiss and there isn’t a peat bog to be seen!

Archers Bay beach turned out to be inaccessible, or at least I was unable to find the access path down the razor sharp coral cliff to a small beach. The access road was rather interesting though – I drove for about a quarter of a mile through a coconut grove, negotiating sticky up lumps of coral that could have ripped the tyres to shreds at a moment, and I had to negotiate a flock of Barbadian sheep too.

The Barbadian Blackbelly more closely resembles goats and breed all year round unlike most domestic sheep. Because they are larger and faster growing than most wooled sheep, they are a good choice for commercial production. There is a strong market locally for their lean and mild-flavored meat. They are ‘hair’ sheep which means that they do not grow wool and are therefore able to tolerate the tropical heat.

From Archers Bay I then headed east to Little Bay. I loved Little Bay. Correction, I love Little Bay.

The passing of time has eroded the east coast of Barbados, pounded as it is by the Atlantic Ocean (next stop The Gambia, 3000 miles east). The coral breaks down or simply washes away, leaving amazing rock formations and blowholes which the violent seas crash through very dramatically.

Little Bay is one such place. As its name suggests the bay itself is very little when the tide is in but there is considerable evidence that it would have been much bigger many moons ago. An easy walk down the eroded cliff on a easy gradient path leads you to a small semi-circular bay beyond which are two raised coral platforms with a channel between. Beyond the platforms the Atlantic Ocean crashes in with huge turquoise waves and flying spray. It is quite a sight – see pictures.

Whilst I was snapping away with my camera – shock, horror – someone else appeared on the beach and entered the water. He sat down in a natural bowl, another effect of the sea erosion.

From my vantage point I could see the crashing waves, which would often break over the coral platforms and suddenly whoosh into the little bay where my companion had sat himself down in the water. But as I later discovered when I joined him, when you’re sitting there you have no idea what’s happening up on that platform and therefore when or how big the next wave will be. It’s great fun!

Another place I’ve visited, on recommendation, is Harrison’s Cave.

The site has, apparently, undergone a massive transformation in the past four years with the development of lifts and an electric tramway. When I think ‘tramway’ I imagine trams running on rails. Well this is different – the tram is actually a glorified, articulated, golf buggy seating about thirty people. After watching the obligatory introductory film which described how Barbados was created 60,000 years ago (apparently) by the collision of the Atlantic plate and the Caribbean plate, I boarded the aforementioned tram for a journey one mile underground.

It was, actually, very good, and I’m pleased that I went. But I was annoyed that the tram didn’t stop in various places on the route where the caves were beautifully lit with coloured lights, for example a cascade running down the side of the tramway would have made a beautiful photograph. Here I must acknowledge with ever greatful thanks, my wonderful 50th birthday present from The Sainted Marion. My sooper dooper camera has a night portrait setting which enabled me to take some great pictures in between the camera flashes of the other tram passengers.

Good to my word, at the recommendation of Kyle Boyce, I have visited Foul Bay in the south of Barbados. As Kyle said, its right next door to the famous Crane Beach yet it is totally deserted. Shortly before I pulled up at the parking place the local radio station had broadcast a surge warning for the eastern Caribbean, warning all folk not to attempt to swim in the sea as the waves would be higher than usual and a strong current to boot.

Well the waves they were certainly a crashing! Heeding the advice I decided against an immersion so I didn’t change into my bathing shorts. Consequently when I went for a paddle (without camera I hasn’t to add), a larger than anticipated breaker soaked me from head to toe, covering me in fine sand in the process!  It was rather a damp journey home after that … I mistakenly thought that I’d dry out nicely as I drove along (sitting on a large towel I hasten to add), silly me.

I was certainly able to comprehend how the bay got its somewhat unusual name. The running sea was indeed foul, and I suspect its like it was on my visit most of the time, even when there isn’t a surge warning in force.

This morning I was up with the lark and driving across the island at 6am in the hope of catching the sunrise on the east coast. Unfortunately it broke the horizon when I was halfway over so that came to nowt. However I made up for the bad timing with a return visit to Bathsheba where I had the beach entirely to myself at 7am and for a goodly while after that.

There are certainly better beaches in Barbados than Bathsheba, there can be no doubt about that. But there is is something rather special about the gargantuan lumps of coral rock in the surf and the shoreline punctuated with wildly waving palm trees.

And I think that’s about all for now. More jottings to come, but now its time for another swim, but in the pool staying well out of the sun for the time being!

Gone sunbathing

If you’re sitting in front of your computer screen avidly awaiting my next bulletin from Barbados, please accept my apologies.

I’ve sat down to update it last night and this evening and I just can’t find the words I want to write.  It would seem that inspiration has gone sunbathing. I’ll try to get my head together for a marathon update tomorrow.

In the meantime here’s a testcard to be going on with (draw your own conclusions!):

Life’s a beach

Bathsheba

Life’s a beach. I’ve walked on a few today. All of them clean white coral sand and deliciously warm surf.

Unfortunately these lovely beaches are nowhere in the UK. I’m back in Barbados, visiting the same friends with whom I stayed 50 weeks ago, P&D. I arrived from London yesterday (Gatwick was 3C, Bridgetown 30C).

No hassle with camouflage shorts this time around, so once I’d clear immigration and baggage reclaim I picked my rental car (a Suzuki Vitara) and headed to Bridgetown and Prospect where I’m staying. The sun was going down as I arrived in Prospect and I enjoyed a leisurely evening catching up with P&D.

We were in Bridgetown bright and early this morning to go on a special slavery heritage trail tour. Unfortunately we didn’t make it onto the coach as it was sold out (the advert P had seen for didn’t say that booking was either required or desirable, so he didn’t). The next tour will be on the 20th which is too late for me 😦

So, after returning P home and gathering up my bits and pieces, I set off on a ‘get my bearings’ day out. I headed east for St John’s Church, via Drax Hall, to see the grave of the country’s Prime Minister who died very recently. The attendant at the church told me that they’d had great difficulty locating a free plot in the historic graveyard (the oldest identified grave is from 1666!).

After St John’s I needed to put petrol in the tank which meant heading back to Bridgetown as that’s where most of the filling stations are located on the island. Certainly my tourist map didn’t indicate any where I was. Since I was in Bridgetown I decided to go to the Barbados Concorde Experience. I saw Concorde at Heathrow many times, and recall it flying overhead at some point in the past, but I’d never been ‘up close and personal’. That was fixed today.

And then I headed for the beaches. There are beaches everywhere. Along the east coast they are wide and wind-blown. Here the shore is pounded by the Atlantic (there’s nothing for 3,000 miles east to Banjul in The Gambia) and is consequently popular with surfers who come from all over the world.

On the calmer south and west coasts, you can walk for miles along unbroken white sand beaches, though the way is often barred by clusters of coral rocks jutting out to sea which create delightful hidden coves. These are often difficult to access, or form part of some fabulous resort or private development, but it is still possible to find a beach all to one’s self. All along the shore large and small beaches are broken by coral formations, the soft coral rocks weathered by the ocean surf, forming abstract sculptures pleasing to an artist’s eye.

In the north, coral and sandstone cliffs rise straight out of the sea reaching up to a hundred feet in height. But even here, you’ll find the occasional sheltered cove.

I’ve done several beaches today. Here are the highlights:

1.  A walk on the beach at [the ridiculously expensive] Crane Resort. Yes its quite something but there are better beaches, almost within spitting distance, that remain unspoilt by such development. Not my kind of beach – by a country mile!

2.  A walk on the fabulously unspoilt Bathsheba beach – a sharp contrast to Crane and much more to my liking.

3.  Several rum punches and lunch at The Round House overlooking Bathsheba’s pools (see previous link for details). This was my favourite eatery on my last visit, and when it comes to location, only Applecross in Scotland beats it for sensory delight.

4.  A walk on Brandons beach on the outskirts of Bridgetown. The cruise ship terminal is visible away to the south, and this afternoon I was able to see Queen Mary 2, Independence of the Seas and a ‘Celebrity Cruises’ liner that I did not recognise, plus a traditional four-masted schooner berthed near (and dwarfed by) QM2.

Then it was back home to check out all my photos and decide what to do tomorow (a walk along the beach before the sun gets too high, application of copious quantities of Piz Buin by the pool, and later a visit to a Barbados Horticultural Society open garden).

Turtles!

Well I’m home!  But what a fabulous final day I enjoyed in Barbados. It feels like a lifetime since I was there, yet it was only Thursday afternoon (writing this on Sunday).

I got my packing sorted out first thing, just a few last essentials to go in the bags when it was time to leave for the airport. Then I could forget all about the travel that lay ahead and focus on a last grilling, that last swim in the pool (eeek!) and the prospect of swimming with turtles just before heading to the airport.

We set off to Holetown, just up the west coast, at lunchtime to find Marvin, a friend of Derek’s, who runs a glass-bottomed boat for tourist trips there. We were fortunate to find that he was free and off we set in the boat, just Derek and I as passengers. He asked us whether we’d like to switch to a power boat which would mean that we could go further (and faster) as the turtles were known to be around the bay at Port St Charles some way further up the west coast. We readily agreed to this and a transfer was effected pretty easily.

We headed north, skimming the waves at tremendous speed, though my back got a fair bit of pummelling I coped surprisingly well. We slowed down whenever there was something of interest along the shore. Marvin and Derek were talking about various properties we could see, houses belong to various acquaintances or well-known personalities including one substantial property that apparently belongs to the owner of Matalan, and a fabulous resort, Sandy Lane (check the mind-boggling room rates).

And finally we arrived in the environs of Port St Charles, a resort of minor consequence, certainly nothing to rave about. All pretension and glamour but not for me. Check out the website and you’ll agree I’m sure. I mean, who wants to be able to park their multi-million £ yacht outside a holiday home? I certainly don’t!

But that doesn’t mean I didn’t feel like a founder member of the hoi polloi set when there were, at every angle to behold, some fabulous-looking expensive floating palaces. To say I felt like a bit of an outside would be an understatement. But the waters around Barbados are nothing if not open. There are no private beaches and anyone can go anywhere and photograph anything (within reason obviously). So I was quite content to snap away with my camera (more of which a little later).

About a quarter of a mile beyond the entrance to the marina there were to be seen a couple of tourists boats at anchor with people in the water close by. There was clearly something going on! As we got closer it soon became apparent just what that was. Turtles! We moored up and Marvin set about sorting snorkelling kit for us both.

It was at this point that I realised that I’d never snorkelled before and I hadn’t the faintest idea what it was going to be like. “Oh well, in for a penny, in for a pound!” I thought. The water was so clear I could see the sandy bottom with coral outcrops here and there; I was convinced that it couldn’t be more than six foot deep.  Given that I’m 6’7″ tall, I had serious doubts as to whether I would be ‘safe’ in the water with all that coral around. But Marvin said the depth was around 12 feet, probably more. I was not convinced, but took my heart in my hands and launched myself into the turquoise blue water.

I remember how deliciously warm the sea was. Philip had told me earlier in the week that it was around 27C at this time of the year, and it certainly felt like it could be.  Then I put on my snorkel and mask. Once it was secure I put my head under water and the mask instantly flooded with water and I panicked! After I’d calmed down a bit I adjusted the mask to make it tighter and I tried again. No leak this time but I felt seriously claustrophobic and I didn’t like it at all. I really couldn’t cope with it and decided that I’d have to abandon the snorkel element of the trip.  I threw the snorkel and mask back to Marvin on the boat and swam, now unhindered, in the direction Derek had headed.

I soon saw the shapes of turtles amongst the throng of about eight other people in the water. Of course they were all snorkelled up but I didn’t care tuppence. I was thoroughly enjoying being in the sea, deep enough that I couldn’t touch the bottom. One of the problems of my height is that swimming pools are rarely, if ever, these days deep enough for me to be able to stand on the bottom but not be able to breath air!  So it was pure luxury from that perspective, regardless of all else. And I certainly made the most of it.

But the turtles wouldn’t have known that, and soon they came investigating the stranger in their midst, the one individual that wasn’t trying to muscle in on their swimming session. They seemed to make a bee-line for me. And it was at this point I had a sharp wake-up call about swimming anywhere other than a pool that I had entirely forgotten about up until that moment.

Many years ago, indeed I can’t remember when it was, I had a bad experience swimming in a lake somewhere in the UK. I couldn’t see the bottom, indeed I couldn’t see anything in the water because it was dark (unlike the ultra-clear Caribbean I was now in). Then something touched me – or maybe I touched something (which is more likely I acknowledge). Anyway, I freaked out then, and ever since I’ve had something approaching a morbid fear of not knowing what might be around me in deep water – a shark? a whale? a tiny fish? I didn’t really want to know, let alone say hello to it. And so over the years I’ve studiously avoided putting myself into any such potential situation.

So, just imagination what happened when a turtle swam directly underneath me! Correct, I panicked.  And boy, did I panic! The snorkel incident was as nothing compared to this. I was in seriously bad way, and couldn’t get out of the water fast enough, but where was the boat? I made for it straightaway, but it was quite a distance by now.  About halfway there I realised that I was being silly, and I hadn’t got this far with the experience to abandon it now and regret at leisure. Yes, I gave myself a good talking to and resolved to try again, this time conscious of my limitations.

My subsequent encounters with the turtles was, obviously, somewhat tentative. I didn’t really enjoy the experience as much as I had hoped I would. But I was there and I was now determined to make the most of the opportunity but within certain boundaries which I would try to push out a bit.

I was OK when I could see turtles swimming past me at a distance, and I delighted when I saw a head pop out of the water about six foot ahead of me and then disappear again, but time and time again whenever one passed underneath me I just couldn’t handle it, and panic came on again and again. I came to the conclusion that this was not going to be overcome today.  Perhaps I should go out of my way not to look down! Not very practicable though …

I gave up on the turtles and focused on enjoying swimming in the sea and so for the next ten minutes or so, I swam or I floated on my back, revelling in the deliciously warm ocean. And then I decided that I’d had enough and made for the boat once again. Getting out of the water, onto the boat, is probably left to your imagination. It certainly wasn’t pretty!

Back on dry ‘land’, now I could see the turtles swimming around and under the boat. Altogether more enjoyable I thought. I was pleased that I’d tried to swim with them, and got reasonably close to a couple, but definitely felt more comfortable leaving them to their own environment and I’d stick to mine in future. But maybe next time I’m in Barbados I’ll have another go, this time forewarned about the perils of swimming at sea, a lesson I am unlikely to forget another time.

We retraced our journey back south to Holetown but rather than zip along on the crest of the wave, we made slow time. But I was not objecting, for it was an opportunity to top up the tan and to drink a couple of highly restorative rum punches that Marvin produced from nowhere (actually it was from a coolbox at the back of the boat).

As we passed the Port St Charles marina entrance there was now moored a huge private yacht, Callisto.  It was about 200 feet in length, gleaming in glossy white with a fabulous paper aeroplane-like profile. I asked Marvin to go around it so that I could have a good gander and take a few pics. At the port bow there was what looked like a garage door open, and we saw inside this ‘garage’ that a miniature boat (in comparison to the main vessel but actually quite substantial in size) was ‘docked’ and being cleaned by a crew member. The port of registration was Hamilton, Bermuda. Marvin said that this boat is a regular visitor to Barbados but no-one knows who owns it. Since I’ve returned home I’ve tried to find out via the internet but I’ve drawn a blank so far. Do you know???

It was 2.30pm when we finally made the beach at Holetown, and 3.00pm  by the time we were back home. Philip wanted to leave for the airport at 3.30pm so there wasn’t time for a last dip in the pool as I had those final few essentials to pack and last thoughts to be shared.

We set off for the airport and hit the coming-out-of-school traffic jams. Yes, the school commute is the same the world over it seems, even in the Caribbean! The Bridgetown by-pass was fine, but once south of Bridgetown the two-way traffic flow was interrupted at various points by troupes of schoolchildren crossing the road. And all this designed to hold up someone who had a flight to catch, a deadline to meet. But do you know what? I didn’t care one hoot if I missed the flight, indeed I was rather hoping I would!

Unfortunately we got to Grantley Adams International Airport well ahead of the gate closure time. Philip, Derek and Dale wished me farewell at the drop-off zone, with an entreaty to return soon, and then I was alone, all set for the journey ahead. I left my bag at the BA bag drop desk, managed to get my allocated seat changed (from aisle to window – my preference always), and headed for the duty free shop where I purchased a bottle of Mount Gay Rum (of course) and then headed for the gate to wait for the flight to be called.

And then it was up, up and away from the beautiful island nation of Barbados after just seven days. But I felt that I’d been there for so much longer, and that I felt surprisingly at home there. Was it the English influence, the colonial past? Or was it that it is just such a friendly island to visit? A combination of the two, I think.

Certainly tourism is key to the island’s economic future, and this seems to be fully acknowledged by the entire population. Some places you go you feel that tourists are unwelcome, regardless of the economic benefits they bring, but I never felt that in Barbados.

The only thing that jarred on me throughout my time on the island was what seemed like the automatic responses I received from various people if I thanked them for some small service rendered, eg a postcard seller when thanked for the transaction, saying “You’re welcome” as if it was programmed-in rather than a spontaneous rejoinder. Rather like the extremely irritating American habit of saying “Have a nice day” when you know full well that the speaker doesn’t care two hoots whether your day is nice or not!

I had such a fabulous holiday, indeed as I write this it is hard to imagine that I’ve been at all, though I do have rather a nice tan to show for it, plus a stamp in my passport. Barbados affected me far more than I ever imagined it would, I simply love the place and I can’t wait to return for a further visit. Fortunately P&D said that I’m welcome to return anytime that they’re in residence (they travel a lot) or if I’m happy to visit when they are not there, I’d be welcome to use stay at theirs all the same.

Arriving at London Gatwick at 05.30 on Friday morning was a bit of a rude awakening. The temperature was 4C (it was 31C in Bridgetown nine hours before), raining and with the possibility snow showers later in the day. I was soon reunited with the car and headed for the M23, M25 and the A3. I finally made it home to Hampshire at just before 9am after getting caught up in a jam on the M27 in rush hour traffic between Portsmouth and Southampton.

A trip to Ecuador

At an altitude of 1171 feet above sea level, single-storey Chimborazo House, St Joseph, is the highest residence on the island of Barbados. From any approach it looks down on you and I suspect that’s exactly what the original builder envisioned when he chose the site: to look down on his plantation and workforce.

But there’s also a practical purpose to building these houses on high spots: they then catch the trade winds blowing from the east to west, giving the house air conditioning free, gratis and for nothing. Chimborazo was laid out so that the front door could remain open through the day and the breeze blew straight through the house and exited a door at the opposite end, a door which opened outwards rather than inwards so that it wouldn’t slam shut!

Chimborazo (meaning high spot) is named after Ecuador’s highest mountain (20,700 feet) which is located 1.5 degrees from the equator. Its not the highest mountain on earth, but due to the planet’s equatorial bulge, this mountain is the point on the earth’s surface which is farthest from its centre – apparently.

Chimborazo House has had a bit of a chequered history since it was built in the late 18th century as a plantation house. Being so high (and therefore exposed) it has often been badly damaged during hurricanes, including one in 1898 which caused £1287 worth of damage – quite a significant sum 112 years ago.  It was originally two-storey, but the top half came off in an earthquake in 1927!

The house has been in many different hands since it was first built and is now available as a holiday let through Island Villas. But yesterday it was ‘open house’ as part of the Barbados National Trust’s Winter 2010 programme of fundraising events. Each Wednesday afternoon from early January to late March a different property is available to view and some of them sound extremely sumptuous.  These are not National Trust properties in the sense we know back in Blighty, rather private residences, the sort you drive past and think “I’d love to have a peek in there”.  Well this programme lets you do just that!

Yesterday’s crowd (and believe me, it was a crowd) was interesting to say the least. I’d say the vast majority were Bajans with a sprinkling of tourists like me, with about 95% white to 5% black visitors. Whether its lack of interest (or motivation) or something like that, the black population doesn’t seem especially interested in the island’s heritage or modern day values (ie poking round other peoples’ houses!).

Everyone was in snazzy gear, not necessarily Sunday best but definitely more than the average UK visitor to a NT property would don. It was extremely social, little cliques gathered round some feature or other chatting away about last week’s horse racing event or this weekend’s upcoming polo match.  I think you get the drift! All rather la-de-da in my opinion, a bit like drinks at the big house in a pretentious English village (I can think of several I have direct experience of at home!). Not, I’m afraid, my cup of tea.

The entrance was B (about £6) with 50% discount if you belonged to the Barbados National Trust or a reciprocal organisation like the NTS which I do, and I had my card with me).  The drinks table was doing a roaring trade, including the ubiquitous rum punch and various fruit juices. I paid B for a mango juice, absolutely yummy and freshly-squeezed (do you freshly squeeze mangoes? I don’t know).

It was a lovely house, it is clearly very much loved and the rooms were splendidly large. Being a holiday rental though I did rather expect it to be perhaps a little more sumptuous than it actually was, indeed it felt very spartan, especially the children’s bedroom with stacking bunkbeds, one on either side of the room, and full-size divans at that, none of your foam mattress and a bit of MDF.  The room was austere in the extreme.

Outside there was a lovely kidney shaped swimming pool surrounded by decking beyond which the hillside fell away and there was verdant growth everywhere.

The Barbados National Trust was founded in 1961 ‘to preserve the unique heritage of our island home, be it historic buildings, places of natural beauty or the island’s flora and fauna’. During my stay I’ve seen loads of buildings with blue plaques placed by the National Trust on buildings they regard of historical importance.

I suspect the trust doesn’t have an awful lot of money because about a mile down the road from Chimborazo there’s a semi derelict sugar windmill.  It hasn’t always been like that, P&D told me that it was badly damaged in a storm about 18 months ago when the sails fell off, yet nothing has been done to restore it to its former glory.  I can’t help wondering if someone forgot to insure it. Perhaps that what the fundraising programme is for!

I didn’t take any pictures of the house so I can’t show you what it looks like. There was a threatening sky yesterday afternoon with the promise of heavy rain (which didn’t in the end materialise). The house was surrounded by trees and was very dark and foreboding on the outside, lighting was essential inside.  Consequently I didn’t bother my camera…

Next we visited St Nicholas Abbeyone of the seven wonders of Barbados” (?) which isn’t an abbey at all (and never has been).  It used to be called St Nicholas Plantation but a past owner decided Abbey was better.  Its almost (but not quite) as old as Drax Hall, but built in a very different, Dutch, style.  It is also, unlike Drax Hall, open to the public, and one is made very welcome.  It is under new ownership since 2005 but up until that point it had been in the same family since it was first built in the 17th century.

We were shown a fascinating movie film of the late owner’s grandfather visiting Barbados in the early 20th century, we saw the ship leaving Dover, crossing the Atlantic and arriving in the Careenage at Bridgetown. Later on we were shown how the plantatation worked all those years ago, with manual labour galore. It was a fascinating tale, all narrated by the late owner in a deep, rich English accent “and there you can see him taking orf his pith helmet (which was the sign of a plantation owner)” etc.  Afterwards there was rum tasting session, followed by a rum punch!

Back home again a quick change, wash and brush up and we were out again, this time to a very posh dinner at The Cliff, Barbados’ most expensive restaurant. A very swish affair it was too. I’ve read the reviews on Trip Advisor, a very mixed bag, but I found it delightful.  All open air, with canopies that suddenly swish out if there’s the slightest hint of a shower (there were a few last night). Once the rain stops they swish back again, almost by magic (but I saw someone press a button!).

Here are some pics from our trip out yesterday.

Today (28th) is my last day in Barbados. I’m all checked-in for my flight home tonight, and I’ve just about completed my packing. Once I’ve published this I’m off down to the pool for a grill and swim, and then I believe we’re going out to swim with turtles in the sea if its calm enough (given the wind at the moment I suspect it won’t be). I’m not sure how soon the next blog update will be – depends on whether I get jet lag on four hours’ time difference…

Read on for another post: “Halo polishing” which I published late last night!

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!