Thursday, December 27, 2007

'You put on some size man!'

I left this little Island some 3 months ago, in the height of the summer sun, the raging heat, the island fever and the empty streets. Now I am back and the season is here (although not as much as it should be by all accounts). The harbour is filling with boats, the streets are peppered with lost looking tourists. It feels strange to see so many foreign white faces after a summer of being one of the few pale skinned souls remaining.

But it is lovely to be back, after so much time on the road, on the water and living out of a bag. It is lovely to stop and take stock and be somewhere which feels like home again. I flew in last week, from Grenada, after leaving the boat, Osprey, which had carried me some 3000 miles across the Altantic Ocean. That became ‘home’ too for a while, but this ‘home’ doesn’t move, it doesn’t rock and it doesn’t throw me across the galley when I am trying to make a cup of tea. This home will do for now.

In the strange way that things go sometimes, the first person I met at the airport was Harvey. Last seen waving me off as we sailed out of Tenerife over a month ago. We sat together on the ferry, swopped crossing stories and photographs and watched excitedly as the Christmas lights of Bequia came into view through the gloomy wet night. It was a good way to come back, with someone who had just done the same journey as me, it brought me back slowly and made me feel as if I belonged.

I awoke the next day to the sounds of roosters and dogs. The strains of dancehall reggae Christmas Carols were blasting out of most of the speakers on the island or so it seemed. The day was spent ‘catching up’. There is much to catch up on after 3 months away from an island like this. The old summer crew were still here, their numbers swelled by the incoming winter faces, some old and some new. There was talk and chat and gossip and news; burglaries and stabbings, break ups and get togethers, paternity riddles solved but murders not (solved but ‘sensitive’ is the word on the street so nothing has been done) it was all too much to take in.

I had missed the slow Bequia build up to Christmas, but was here in time to catch the end. Each night of the preceding week there had been ‘light-up parties’ around the Island. It is an intensely fought competition between villages with months of planning and fund raising to get the lights in place. Then one by one they turn them on, with music and sound systems and chicken stalls and rum. These parties go on all night, until dawn, then the next night someone else does it all again.

So I have caught up with the chat and spent my first Christmas in the Caribbean sun and now it is time to make up for those weeks at sea where I sat, and read, and slept, and ate. There is a much vented theory that it is ‘good for you’ being at sea. You don’t drink, I suppose, so that is a bonus. But people say that your muscles are constantly compensating for the movement of the boat, even when you are asleep, it is like a 2 week pilates class, crossing the Atlantic, 24 hrs a day. ‘It’s good for you, you’ll lose weight’ or so they say. It is a theory I have never bought into, much as I would love to. It’s rubbish. You move very little. Sails are raised, reefs are put in, things are fixed, ropes are winched, there is activity, of sorts. But when you are not asleep, or winching, or cooking, you are eating; all the time. I don’t think I got hungry once on that crossing. We had always put something into our mouths before the hunger had found time to kick in. I ate, solidly, for 2 weeks. So maybe they are right about this pilates thing. It is a 24 hour pilates class, but one you eat your way through too!

Well if I thought I could slip back into Bequia with this little fact unnoticed I was sorely wrong. Apparently it’s a complement with these VIncy boys, it wasn’t the women but the men who commented, 3 or 4 times a day I was greeted by ‘well you put on some size man!’. A complement, they say, it means you’re looking well, happy, healthy, or something. It didn’t really work like that for me. I have dug out my old running shoes from beneath the bed, dusted them off, checked for scorpions nestled inside, and hit the early morning streets with a vengeance.

So I am back, in the sun, for the winter, and I am glad. Another season looms with countless adventures to unfold, I am sure.

A belated merry Christmas and a Happy New Year (or oldest night as they call it here) to you all!