Saxon Blue's Blog
Harvey Jones and Andrea Stokes
Wed 9 Mar 2011 01:40
Portsmouth, Dominica, Tuesday night

We're back on Saxon Blue now after another great day in Dominica.

We left Jungle Bay in a small 4x4 driven by Nancy as we were going to leave our bags at a hotel in Roseau while we went to watch the carnival with lots of the other guests. They were in a mini-van and a truck so we got the most comfortable journey. Even while we were driving, Nancy was organising stuff for other guests while holding conversations with us in English and two Spanish people in a mix of Spanish and French. We dropped our bags at the hotel and then met up with the other people from Jungle Bay in the street right where the carnival procession was about to start.

The whole centre of the city was blocked off and the streets were lined with locals plus the passengers from a large cruise ship docked on the waterfront and towering over the buildings. As the parade got under way, the first people to pass us were the winners of the various competitions from yesterday. There was Miss Dominica, Miss Teenage Dominica and a lot of other awards for costumes and dancing along with the runners-up. They were all dressed in incredible outfits, shimmering with sequins and spangly fabric, feathers and fans fluttering in the breeze. Then came another group in even more elaborate costumes. In fact, they weren't so much clothes as wearable floats. The girls had dresses so large that they had wheels on to keep them mobile.

One was wearing a model tree with a humming bird floating around it. The bird was about 4 feet long and every feather was individually made from metalic material. The exuberance of each costume was breathtaking but the effect of a streetfull of them was just magical. Andrea and I wondered at the amount of time invested by all the girls and their various relatives in constructing all this. I think Andrea would love to get involved in making such creations.

After the individuals came a succession of groups. They each had a big truck - one a 40 foot artic - with a sound-system parked on the back. The speakers reach up so far that youngsters are required to move the electricity lines up out of the way as the lorry passes along the road. The music is so loud that you can feel your stomach lurching in time to the beat of the bass. Each truck has a belching diesel generator and a serious-looking DJ on board. The thing is, they all play the same tunes. Each year, 10 groups release a Calypso song and then everyone plays just those tunes in order to decide which is the most popular. They're actually pretty good and the lyrics are uncompromising social/political comment but, in the end, you end up yearning for a different song.

Anyway, behind each wagon there's a group of dancing people. There was a troup of Mexicans with multi-coloured ponchos, a herd of Toreadors with an outnumbered bull, a whole tribe of Sioux in metallic gold buckskins and an army of spandex-clad dancers with crazy Afros. One of our favourites were the stilt-walkers. Their stilts must have been 2 meters high, covered in their trousers so they looked just like extraordinary long legs and they danced around on them with no apparent hindrance. The more acrobatic guys were busy cavorting on one leg while holding the other one behind their back or adopting unlikely and gravity-defying poses. We saw one of them later, exhausted, sitting on the top of a truck with his stilt-legs stretched out in front of him.

Most of the groups contained a complete cross-section of ages. They'd put the tiniest, cutest kids in the front. Some of them looked so serious. They'd clearly been told how important the carnival was and they weren't going to let the side down by enjoying it. Along with them came older brothers and sisters, mums, dads and then grandmas and grandads. All in matching costumes and having a great time. In among the organised groups were random town drunks and occasional people with an axe to grind carrying placards with partisan comments which meant nothing to us.

After watching for an hour or so, we went to walk along with route with Chuck and Sherrard and saw the groups waiting to join in the parade. It was all getting a bit chaotic with the earlier groups having finished their circuit while some others were still getting themselves sorted out. Soon, it was time for our friends to leave to catch their bus back to Jungle Bay and we headed up to the hotel to get some lunch. Our new friends from the women's group at Jungle Bay were there having their lunch so we joined them and had a very jolly time until it was time that we, too, had to get going to meet Jepson at 2pm.

He was ontime and arrived with his friend Harold so we got into the bus and detoured through the backstreets of Roseau to avoid the carnival. We were soon on the potholed road again, heading north and occasionally having to use tiny alleys as we passed through villages blocked by their own processions. We saw Chinese work gangs hard at it on the new road, some of the few people working in Dominica today. We got Jepson to drop us at the Blue Bay Cafe near Saxon Blue and we all went in for a drink. One drink soon became two and then three and Jepson got to telling us more about his work and his life. The best story was about the bar which he runs - or his wife does.

They decided to build it on a Thursday morning one week and, by Friday evening, it was built, the beers were cold and the sound system was up and running. He said "One guy, he goes to Roseau and, when he gets back home, we'd built a bar and it was open." Some time later, the land it was built on changed hands and the new owner wanted to evict them. Jepson just rounded up 20 of his customers from the village and they picked the bar up and moved it to a more friendly location with the counter still inside. I think that sums up the "can-do" attitude of Dominica. Everyone just gets on and does what they need to in order to make ends meet without waiting for anyone to help.

Jepson was most careful to pass us on to the care of Andrew, one of the SeaBird crew, before he left us with warm handshakes and even warmer wishes on both sides. Andrew had temporarily loaned his boat to another chap so we got a lift back to Saxon Blue with Martin on his boat. Kali wasn't onboard so we got out gear stowed and made ourselves at home. Looking at the boat behind us, I realised that it's a Discovery 55 as well. It has black mullions so it must be later than ours. Funny how we're next to them after being next to Kalandia in Annapolis. These Discoveries must be magnetic or something. We couldn't go over to investigate further as Kali was away in the tender.

I got some pasta on the go for dinner whereupon Kali returned. We thought she'd be partaking of the carnival onshore but she'd actually been having a quiet walk near the fort. We ate and talked and swapped tales of what we'd been doing for the last five days. Outside, the sound system is still blasting out although we've been told that it's going to be turned off at 10pm. I'll believe that when I hear it - or, rather, don't hear it. Now it's time for a nice cup of tea at home and watch some Battlestar.


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