Sunday, August 28, 2011

THE HASH


Yesterday Liesbet, Susan and I took part in a “Hash”. The Grenada Hash House Harriers are a group of people that meet once a week to take part in a run or walk depending on your abilities in different parts of Grenada. It’s a great way to get to see the island. The hike takes you through forest and rivers, mud and streams, hills and bush trails that are all marked by white bits of paper that you follow to lead you back to a drinking establishment. The Hash house harriers are a world wide organization originating in 1938 in Kuala Lumpur where a small group of British ex pats wanted to find an energetic exercise that wouldn’t interfere with their drinking routine. Today 110 countries and territories around the world are involved and every two years an international hash is held where up to 2000 people take part. They are self proclaimed walkers with a drinking problem so the hash is always set around a suitable venue, namely a rumshop! Liesbet and I were Hash virgins. It seems a big deal is made of being a virgin and the rest of the group is always very proud to break you in!

The bus picked us up from the Tikki Bar in Prickly Bay and took us to Mount Airy on Grenada’s west coast. Other busses and cars arrived and the cricket club where this week’s event was being held filled out. At 4pm the hash master starts the event welcoming everyone and addresses the virgins so they know what to expect. Anyone with new trainers or sneakers gets them broken in by having to drink beer out of them!

Then the hash beginners – the runners take off first and Liesbet and I with Susan running after us asking “what is the hurry” take of with them; only to realize that we have put ourselves in a group with more energetic abilities. Quickly people overtake as we traipse through the muddy and over grown trail. Vines catch our feet and mud has us falling here and their. We lose Susan in the rush and slowly but surely as old people and mothers carrying babies overtake us we find ourselves at a more comfortable pace at the back of the group. Shouts of “Are You” meaning are you on the trail or taken a false route or “On On” meaning you are on the right path, can be heard near and far. We walk across small rivers and streams, slid down mud banks on our bums and climb precariously steep muddy hills. The sweat is pouring from us and we are covered in mud and scratches. Our faces are bright red from the exertion but it’s wonderful to be walking through the shaded forest or crossing streams and passing through local land with fabulous panoramic vistas. We snap our cameras taking everything in. Two hours and several (small) hills later as I am starting to wonder if I can take any more, the finish comes into sight. Susan is there waiting for us having finish half an hour earlier. We buy local ice-cream, beer and then tuck into yet another Oildown for dinner! It’s getting dark now and there is a somber atmosphere as an 8 year child hasn’t made it back. Normally a party is held but nothing much is really happening tonight. We finish our beers, collect our “loss of virginity” certificates and gather a group for the bus ride home. We sneak into the showers at the Tikki Bar and then head over to De Big Fish to meet the boys, who say they will consider coming with us next week!



Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Rum Shack



We’ve been keenly following the weather forecasts as tropical waves and weather disturbances roll off the coast of Africa and move westward across the Atlantic and towards the Caribbean; hoping that they don’t form into hurricanes or if they do that they track further north of us. Grenada is supposed to be relatively safe from hurricanes – that is why we are here – but its easy to forget that it was only 7 years ago that Hurricane Ivan flattened and destroyed a lot of Grenada.

The days drift by and before we know it the weekend is upon us again. After 7 weeks in the same spot in Prickly Bay Sim and I, after much persuasion from our friends on SY Irie, managed to tear the roots we had grown in “our spot” and move around to Clarks Court Bay to join them for the promise of a party and most importantly free food with the locals that evening. We arrived in time to be hit by rains squalls but we didn’t mind as it cooled the air and washed the decks clean off salt. Clarks Court is a deep bay surrounded by low green hills. The small town of Woburn sits at the head of the bay. A town is probably an over exaggeration, a cross road with a few scattered shacks and houses dotted between the palm trees and fruit trees and small areas of scrub land are probably a better description. Heavy rain, the loudest thunder I have heard in ages and lightening threaten to curb the evenings events but the clouds finally cleared. We bailed the dinghy which was ankle deep in water and made our way across the bay to a dock on the other side and locked up our dinghies. It was then a short walk to Nimrods Bar. Nimrods is a rickety little shack of a bar with a separate kitchen built around a breadfruit tree. There is a small patio with chairs and an umbrella. When we arrive at 5pm (happy hour time) the party is still to get started but the few locals that are there are already well on their way! They show us the kitchen and how they are making Oil Down, which is the national dish of Grenada. Amongst other things it has various chicken and pig parts, onions, potatoes, Callaloo (spinach like leaf) and breadfruit (a starchy vegetable). The rum is served in either quart bottles or full bottles and individual bottles of coke. The night moves on and we chat to some locals. Sep is the bar owner and usually looks completely off his head, which I think he is. Ralf (a rather large guy) was cooking the food and Sheldon and Renny provided us with entertainment. They were extremely funny (and drunk) but also very generous. Our rum was topped up often and they let us sample the moonshine rum that is generally not drunk by tourists and contained in one gallon bottles with dubious bits of plants and twigs floating around in it. Huge plates of Oil Down arrived by which time it was dark and we were unable to recognize quite what we were eating. Though Sim was the only one smiling while chewing on a pig tail the rest of us politely chowed down on the vegetables and interesting lumps of dough that they call dumplings while quietly slipping the stray dogs (or Sim) the unidentified fatty bits of meat! According to Renny and Sheldon if you eat Oildown while drinking rum it is impossible to get drunk! I think it is quite safe to say by their constant singing and shouting that it is not actually true but a nice thought!! The quart bottles of rum moved on to full bottles. The next thing we know more food is being brought out – this time fish broth with octopus and sea urchin. Sim would not participate in this round and I have to admit that by this point even I was getting full and barely able to put another spoon full of a sea urchin soup laced with octopus legs full of little suction cups – ee ewe in my mouth! 5 hours later and we had had enough. I still don’t think the party had got started but it was only 10.30pm….it seemed like a very late night to us.

Sunday had us starting the day with Buckfizz or Mimosas as our American friends like to call them on SY Irie. Mark cooked up a huge breakfast and Susan and Jan from SY Peter Pan joined us, as well as Bjorn from SY Buena Vista. We hung out on Irie for a little while and had a swim before getting ready for the next party. Liesbet dragged Susan and myself for a walk across the deserted island that is slightly hilly and over grown with bush to get to the bar while the boys took the dinghy. Because of the rain the ground was muddy and our feet were getting caked with the stuff, mosquitoes were biting as we lost the path and had to walk ankle deep though warm brown sludgy water …..it was not my idea of fun! Every Sunday Rogers beach bar on Hog Island serves beer, rum and food. A live band show up and locals and boaters alike hangout together on this little island. The beach is lined with dinghies. Kids play in the sea and people wind (rhymes with grind) and grind to the rhythm of reggae and soul. Tunes of Tracy Chapmen float out across the bay. As the sun sets and beers and rums are downed everyone is friendly and chatting or dancing the last light of the day away. Irie kindly have us back to their boat for dinner and when we eventually roll home Sim and I swear that we will have a few days of peace and quiet for a while.



Monday, August 15, 2011

Carnival Chaos


Every year in the second week of August, Grenada celebrates as carnival arrives. Steel band, Soca and carnival queen competitions are held and the streets of St Georges are flooded with people joining in the festivities. Most years Sim and I have taken advantage of the discounted marina rates near the centre of town and joined in all the parties including the Sunday night Dimarche Gras show and then in the small hours of Monday morning J’Ourvert or devils mas continues where Jab Jab or Devil mas bands join the streets covered in black paint or old engine oil! In recent years the Devil bands have moved into other colours as well, with greens, yellows and blues all worn with little else except maybe devils horns. Chains are clanked on the street, this paired with their devilish looks and lewd dancing combine to be a scary appearance to onlookers. But it’s all in good fun and you won’t get away without being dabbed with just a small amount of paint…or engine oil! Carnival Monday ends with the Monday Night Mas' street jump-up, where party goers in brightly coloured T-shirt bands, wave fluorescent wands and dance through the streets.

But as we had done this the last two years in a row we decided to settle for Pretty Mas on the Tuesday during the day where the most skimpy but extravagant costumes parade the streets to mobile Steel bands or calypso music. Its was blisteringly hot, to cool down we bought slushed ice from the roadside vendors that squirted different colour flavours into a cup and top with condensed milk – sounds disgusting but add a shot of rum and you have a rather nice cocktail. Large groups of girls danced past us in ornate costumes gyrating to the latest soca tunes. We enjoyed watching the parades and Sim especially liked watching the scantily clad girls but having stood in the sun for 3 hours we were ready to leave.

The rest of the week saw Sim and I trying the Buffalo wings night at True Blue Hotel where you can get 5 delicious wings for about a pound. According to Sim the only disappointing thing was that you can only order 5 at a time. As the queue grew, Sims desire to have another 5 wings ebbed and he sufficed with just a beer or two! Our friends on SY Irie arrived on Friday and we had a rather boozy reunion with then at the Tikki bar in Prickly Bay. Live music was blaring in the form of the band Barracuda where Sim and I had drunk enough to take to the dance floor by ourselves to a few Bob Marley numbers! Despite being slightly jaded from the night before we made our way out Saturday night to De Big Fish for a more relaxed evening with Irie and Sea Life to listening to more live music. Yesterday after a sweaty but enjoyable walk with Liesbet in the morning we all met up again on Irie for a BBQ, the crews Desire, Sealife and Peter Pan all joined us for a magnificent meat feast that had Sim in his element!


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Back to Reality




Another fantastic whirlwind of a visit to the UK is finally over. After a bumpy start with flights being delayed and a stay in a hotel in Tobago I arrived in the UK 12 hours late. It was wonderful to see my mum and dad and sisters again and to stay in the family home. Mum and Dad have worked so hard on their house and garden. Their garden is simply beautiful and full of so many colourful, blossoming plants and flowers. I enjoyed staying with them so much. I had a fabulous weekend in Bristol with Kristin and Ross and despite being slightly jaded from my first night with them, we managed to take in a few sights like the Bristol Channel and Portishead, where we had a refreshing walk in the brisk Bristol wind which blew away all the cobwebs and left the nose streaming! Watching the hardcore sailors in their oilys brave the cold Bristol Sea reconfirmed my suspicions that I am in the loosest sense of the word only a fair weather sailor.

But for the time being I was enjoying the benefits of masquerading as a landlubber and it was back to London where I became number 3 child in the to-be De Croos-Jones household. Jilly whisked me of to toddler groups and a brief meet with my old boss Neil at Churchills Lettings. Jilly and Loic had organized it well, so that their wedding and the Christening of Luca and Mya were taking place within a week of each other. I was honoured to be one of the four God parents assigned to Luca and Mya and privileged to be a bridesmaid at Jill and Loics wedding. They had a beautiful ceremony and the party afterwards at The Mitre Hotel over looking Hampton Court Palace was just awesome and it was fantastic to see so many old friends and familiar faces. They couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day.

In between all this I hung out with my family, meeting Jen for dinner one night and having fabulous family night at the theatre to see Billy Elliot another. Kristin had a BBQ at her mums while she was up in the Molesey Massive and while a heat wave blessed us with its presence Jilly organized a picnic in Bushy Park. I got to see my old friend If anyone can Fiona McCann at her new pub The Bishops Finger in The City where she is doing an amazing job of running her business with the iron clad fist of Peggy Butcher. I had a lovely meeting with Meg and Giles, Sims mum and brother in Earls Court for a catch up and a delicious Greek lunch.

Now it’s all over and I am back sitting on my boat, it’s all becoming a distant memory. And although I had a wonderful time and miss my friends and family dearly, Sim, cat, sun, sea, sweat and rain are my happy reality now.