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Takes you back? Not sure you’d get a couple of white lads performing this on TV now, pretending to be Afro-Caribbeans, but hey, that was 1975.
The sharp eyed amongst you – You! Wake up at the back! There’ll be a test later — may have spotted in an earlier post that this blog and its better half have become familiar with the joys of Barbados as a holiday destination in recent years. (Are the words “holiday destination” superfluous there? Do people get sent there for work?)
The original booking was made by the family as an encouragement for me facing major surgery ten years ago (“You can never stop Dad marching round the sites on holiday. Why not book somewhere hot where there will be nothing to do, so he has to chill out and recuperate?”) All this harks back to the 18th and 19th centuries when pale Englishmen and women were sent to the island as a cure for “the vapours”. Now, that’s something I wouldn’t mind getting on prescription.
Didn’t turn out to be a rest cure. The island is blessed with more enjoyable things to see and tick off your list (sorry, that’s just who I am) than you can shake a stick at. We will revisit this theme in future posts but let me for now linger on just one or two.
Cricket. There’s a word to strike terror into the hearts of wife and daughter. But, just assemble these words into one sentence and see what you get: explosive, all over-in-a-couple-of-hours Twenty20 bash; warm, Caribbean sun; all the world’s top national teams brought together for the World Cup; players they’ve actually seen on the telly; a tuk band processing through the stands; go-go dancers. Players enter the arena like Gladiators (Roman, rather than that thing where you wave huge, yellow foam fingers at Jet or Wolf) to the sounds of Vangelis (Conquest of Paradise – check it out). Now, what do you get when you put that lot together? Well, you don’t get a four day game at Hove in a damp April in front of three old guys sharing a thermos, that’s what.
And I got to sit next to Ryan Sidebottom at an outdoor fish fry on the beach during the World Cup, along with sundry data analysts, sports psychologists and groin manipulators from the England party. A memorable moment – I believe Ryan still talks about it.
There was a time when England supporters feared the very thought of West Indian fast bowlers bearing down on “our brave boys”, and back in 1967 Barbados itself took on a Rest of the World team to celebrate independence, they were that good. Most roundabouts on the island seem to be named after former cricket heroes like Everton Weekes or Sir Garfield Sobers. Can’t see that happening here – the Geoffrey Boycott Gyratory, anyone? The Ian Botham mini-roundabout? But these days the game is experiencing something of a dip in the Caribbean, especially in its proper, grown-up, Test Match form with its enthralling prospect of playing out a draw over five days, which, strangely, only the Brits still seem to favour.
I will also mention Mount Gay rum, “Helping men dance since 1703”, as it says on the T-shirt. You know the kind of thing – you join the guided tour and pretend to be fascinated by the mechanics of the distilling process (“So, tell me again, where do the hops go in?”) while glancing at your watch and wondering how long till you reach the tasting room. This is of course the only reason for going. And this is when a teetotal Mrs Blog has her uses – “that’s alcohol dear, just pass those across, you wouldn’t like them, then drive me back to the hotel for a lie down…”
Our countdown to Barbados is under way, and a jolly good thing, looking at recent weather here. It’s easy to tell when there’s a holiday looming. I spend whole days camped out at Stanfords in Covent Garden – the world’s best shop for maps and guide books and therefore, by definition, the world’s best shop. Just scatter my ashes amongst the 1 to 50,000s.
But into every life a little rain must fall. The head of the household insists on marching me down to the nearest M & S for my annual kitting out before I’m allowed to dust down the passports and dig out last year’s cracked heel cream. I emerge from the changing cubicle alongside an array of other woebegone blokes to parade before a row of tight lipped wives, tutting and shaking their heads. “Can’t you hold that in?” “That is so not this year’s knee length. Are you auditioning for It Ain’t Half Hot, Mum in those shorts?” And, most chilling of all, “Well, you wouldn’t see Phil wearing that.”
Just 43 days to go. Have we alerted the neighbour who feeds the cat, and when will we have to start cleaning the house for her coming round?