Wednesday, 28 December 2011


2012 will be here soon enough, but before we get all excited about the next wave of celebrations and the year ahead, I thought I would just share a few images of Christmas 2011, before it's all packed away and forgotten for another twelve months. 

Monday, 26 December 2011


I'm not a fan of Country & Western music, but for some inexplicable reason, I woke up this morning singing Buffy Sainte-Marie's 1970's song "Gonna be a country girl again".  As a youngster, growing up in inner-city urban London, my mother used to sing along to this song and reminisce about her early years growing up on her parents' farm. She was particularly fond of the lyrics "with an old brown dog and a big front porch and rabbits in a pen"...and now, many decades later, after much hard work and many struggles, both financially and physically (she has had The Last Rites administered on no less than three occasions, during three different severe illnesses), here she sits on her front porch with her old brown dog, surveying her plot, which she shares with my father, her husband of 59 years; back on the land that belonged to our paternal grandparents, in the country where she was born in 1929. Their house occupies a spot just a few hundred yards away from my father's first home that he came to from hospital as a sickly new-born who was not expected to live long, back in 1927 (and from the same hospital where his own father had recently died of "fever", complicated by pneumonia - though I learnt today that they managed to share 14 days between Dad's birth and Grandpa's death and it was during that time that Grandpa chose the name Louis-Joseph for the new son that he would not live to see grow up).

For me, the line that strikes a cord from that song is "all the lights on Broadway don't amount to an acre of green". There were times when all I wanted was to see the "bright lights" and be part of the frenetic hub-bub, and now, here I am, also on part of my paternal grandparent's land, with my own front porch and two black dogs, basking in the veritable peace and tranquility of my surroundings.

Perhaps, there is something deep inside us that carries the "code" of what we are, what we will become and what makes us WHO we really are.   It's like a "Road to Damascus" moment when you reach that realisation, having spent decades in pursuit of happiness and achievement, and suddenly feel that you are finally "home".  I know that my parents view this as their final chapter; having come full circle, they have reached the end as new people with incredibly rich memories, filled with stories and experiences, in the US, UK and Caribbean and very different to the young married couple who left the islands to make the long Trans-Atlantic crossing at the invitation of the "Mother Country", England, in days long before St Lucian Independence.   I feel sure, however, (well, as sure as any of us can be about these things), that whilst the serenity I have long sought is here now, it doesn't mean that this is necessarily my final chapter and believe there are more adventures out there waiting to be had, but as St Lucians like to say, all is good.....FOR NOW. 

As I approach the end of my first year in my new home, it's great to reflect and acknowledge just how much has been achieved in a relatively short period.  Taking just one step at a time, I am living mindfully, savouring all things and every moment. This single behavioural change has brought an immense sense of peace - I have ceased to dwell on what has BEEN, and rarely, if ever, worry about what is to COME.  In so doing, one's mind is totally free to enjoy the "here and now".   So, as we complete our Christmas celebrations and look ahead to 2012, my hope is that many others (known and unknown to me) can come to find the same sense of balance and serenity that I have found in 2011.   

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;

Excerpt from "Little Gidding" by T S Elliot


Whilst we do not have seasons in the usual sense that I had become used to, having lived most of my life in a temperate climate, we do have very distinctive produce seasons and, for the most part, still eat seasonally. Imported fruit and vegetables are available to us but coming by sea, are rarely as good as local. In the same way that I now realise that any mango, banana or papaya purchased from a UK supermarket or grocer, bears little resemblance to the "real deal", so too the reverse is true of imported, heavily chilled berries, apricots, nectarines, peaches and grapes, harvested before they are fully sun-ripened, in order to make the long journey and reach us with little or no flavour - and for which we must pay a painfully high price. 

So, it is gratifying at this time of year to have a range of young trees in the garden able to provide us with ample fruit for both eating and juicing.  Between the mayhem that is Christmas and New Year celebrations, here are just a few photos of what the garden is currently providing, aside from the usual oranges and limes, which are abundant at this time of year.

Dad gathering Coconut Water under the watchful eye of Tiger

Freshly picked Yellow Coconuts

A bumper crop of Pink Grapefruit from a single self seeded tree

Next year's mangoes 

First crop of Custard Apples for the year, almost ready

First ripe Custard Apple for the year