Living just south of town on the road to the airport provided us with a number of advantages; we were next to the beach, we could walk easily into town, we were out of the way and we had good neighbours.
Tan-Se-Se lived directly beside our house. She was a grand old lady who had beneath her roof children, grandchildren and other children she had ‘taken in’. She had, I was told, been a teacher in one of the primary schools but was by then long retired.
Her house was not grand, far from it. In fact it was a small single storey building with wooden walls and a corrugated tin roof in the vernacular style of local housing. In the front were a few stone steps leading to a narrow veranda. Behind the front door was a single living area with a few sticks of furniture. There was, I think, a couple of bedrooms and a small kitchen out the back.
At the side of the house stood a small rickety shed along with two or three oil drums. These were used to catch the rainwater off the roof; their only water supply. In the small courtyard a few chickens pecked and ran about. It was here that the children often sat and played.
Two of the children were Mary (aged around 10) and Hannah (probably around 6yrs old). Mary would often come round to our house and chat with Cathy. Cathy played guitar and I think Mary liked to hear her play and sing; as we all did.
Tan-Se-Se kept a watchful eye over us and would often send Mary round with useful advice or just to see how we were doing. On one occasion I had been out snorkelling and had caught some fish for our tea. One was a Goat fish and Tan-Se-Se had obviously noticed as I carried it home. I was sitting in the yard about to prepare the fish when I was suddenly aware of Mary standing by my shoulder.
‘Tan-Se-Se say don’t eat de head. De head is poisonous’, Mary commented advisedly. She then leaned over and deftly pointed at the Goat fish. ‘Dat is de head’, she said, just making sure I was in absolutely no doubt.
Living all together in this small ‘shack’ appeared to be extremely cramped but I never heard any of them complain. In fact they all seemed extremely happy. The children were always full of fun and played outside all day long.
I’d not heard from Mary for over forty years and then, a few weeks ago, I received an email from her. In her letter she described what Christmas had meant to her as a child in Carriacou. I was touched by her sincerity as she simply recalled the pleasure of Christmas as she remembered it. I repeat her words here for you now and hope you enjoy her description as much as I did.
‘This website has brought fond memories of my Xmas on the Island of Carriacou. Weeks leading up to Xmas, there would be toys in the shop windows, thinking back it was the same toys every year, but nevertheless it was exciting to see. There would be some little white dolls, mouth organ, Christmas stockings with sweets and small toys and everyday after school I’d be eyeing these toys up. In the eyes of a child in Carriacou they were the most amazing toys ever.
I can’t remember exactly, but I think its a few days before Xmas ,when we had what was called ‘shopping day’, when I would be able to spend money given alongside other monies collected from family, family friends, tourists. I would buy a doll, mouth organ and cakes. That was a looovely day!
On Christmas morning, you would eat cake/ham/drink ginger beer and all bands would come round seranading, and everyone would join in singing and dancing. We would then make our way up to the town centre, where Santa would arrive on a boat and hand out presents to the poorer children. You knew he was coming because they would blow the conk shell to let everyone know he was landing. There would be a big Xmas tree in the market square, with presents hung up on the tree.
Although I didn’t attend the midnight mass, I knew that everyone would start jumping up to the steel band after the mass. Oh it was so lovely-going down memory lane.’
When I finally left Carriacou to return to England, Mary gave me a small coaster to take with me. I kept it for many years in my parents’ home. Unfortunately, when their house was sold and the contents removed, the coaster was lost. However, the memories remain and I can honestly say that Tan-Se-Se and her family were very special neighbours indeed.