I landed in Grenada this morning after a fun flight on an eight seater (including the pilot) aeroplane. I made my way into the capital, St. Georges. It looked a pretty town. I was just getting my bearings when a Englishman approached me and introduced himself. He seemed a little odd, unfocused, as if part of his attention was always elsewhere. We talked for a while and he offered to show me around. First we went down to the harbour where he said he could introduce me to the Captain of one of the local boats who could take me out to see some of the Grenadines. We approached a boat tied up in the harbour and he did introduced me to the Captain, but at a distance. The Captain stayed on his boat, not even shaking my hand and we did not board without being invited. He would take me, he said, but he made it clear it would only be me. The price he quoted was too high so I declined. My guide said he wanted to introduce me to another friend of his, so we walked for a while until we came to a house. There he knocked on the door. No one answered, so he knocked again and called out. From where I was standing I could see there were people inside, but they would not answer the door. We turned and walked away. My guide looked hurt and sad. We talked and walked for a little while longer but eventually I said goodbye and headed for the hostel where I would spend the night. As i walked away I felt as sad as he looked.
I loved Grenada so much I often talked about it. For my sixtieth birthday my wife took me back to Grenada where we met up with our daughter and her husband who were travelling at the time. There I some additional tourism but the island seemed to me to be as friendly and beautiful as it was during my first visit. It is now a democracy but it suffered badly from a hurricane which caused damage to some of the infrastructure. Some of the roads I used were no longer passable.
24th March 1976 - Eric Gairy
The Bus Station in Grenada
I walked back into St. Georges today and had a bit of a look around. The buses here are all highly decorated and have lovely, brightly painted names. The bus station is gloriously colourful. I found out about bus routes and times for when I head north to explore the island, probably tomorrow. The hostel I am staying in seems to be mostly populated by travellers. It is fascinating swapping stories with the others, but I am looking forward to getting back among the people who live here as soon as I can. From what I have seen so far the island looks beautiful, the people seem happy, the scenery is fabulous, and the sun is shining. It would be difficult to imagine a more perfect place, but it seems there are issues. Grenada has only been independent from Britain for a couple of years, the break being negotiated by Eric Gairy, now Prime Minister. He has been in various positions of power here for a number of years, but there have been repeated question marks over his methods. The most worrying is group called the Mongoose Gang, a gang of thugs run as a private army by Gairy and used to enforce his aims. They have beaten or even killed his opponents. There is a strong suggestion that he rigs elections, so there is little that the people can do about it. What Gairy says cannot be contested.
Though buses are still the main way of getting around, the brightly coloured and whimsical named buses no longer exist.
Anne - Eric Gairy sounds scary!
Me - He didn’t last, but Grenada took years to sort its politics out. Remember the American invasion.
25th March 1976 - Snorkelling
Squashed on a hard seat aboard a crowded, gaily painted bus I travelled north to the Sauteurs area of Grenada this morning. The drivers of all the buses seemed to take great pleasure in racing each other. I found a cafe and sipped a cold drink while looking out at the beautiful Grenadine Islands stretching into the distance. With a borrowed mask and snorkel I headed for the golden, uncrowded beach. Swimming in the warm clear sea the mask gave a clear view of everything under the surface. Tiny colourful fish swam along with me.
A perfect day After leaving Sauteurs I decided to walk along a coast road that took me past a very nice beach, a lake and the ruins of a fort during its eight mile length. After walking for about halfanhour I came upon a road junction that was not marked on my map. I choose the most roadlike of the two roads and set off up it. Five minutes walk proved the road to be a driveway leading to the most magnificent house on top of a hill, with lovely gardens being tended by a gardener. I now knew which was the road to Levera beach, but, so that the gardener did not think I was casing the joint, I asked him the way. After he had confirmed the route I commented upon the beauty of the house and gardens, which earned me a guided tour of his handiwork. During the course of this tour I met the owner, Mrs Phyllis Glean, a white Grenadian of Scottish descent. We had a long chat. She had been to England often and knew Billericay and knew of Wickford. After chatting for about an hour I set off once more, went for a swim at Levera beach, couldn’t find the fort and was unimpressed by the lake. I passed a rather nice housing estate which is inhabited by retired Canadians and came upon a bridge where I sat down for a rest. I examined my foot which had developed a blister, flipflops are not the best things for long distance walks. Then I checked my map to see how far to the next village, I was quite thirsty. Whilst I was doing this a car drew up and the owner asked me if I was lost. I told her I was not, the bridge I was sitting on was marked on the map, though she obviously still believed I was. She asked me if I was thirsty and invited me for a drink. We went back to the housing estate where we called on some friends of hers. While we were drinking they asked how I came to be there, and I told them the story of my last five months. They asked where I would be sleeping that night and I said that I did not know. Mrs Betty Mascoll, the lady in the car, offered me a room for the night. After a bit of persuasion I gratefully excepted the offer, I had nothing else planned. She drove me back to her house which turned out to be large colonial style mansion called Morne Fendue. It seems that Betty’s family used to own much of the north end of the island, but that had all changed with the coming of Independence. One of her staff made up a huge bedroom for me and showed me my bathroom. This was luxury I had not known for months.
I kept in touch with Betty until she died. Her house was taken over by a local doctor who turned it into a guest house. Unfortunately this was shut down, but we did manage to sneak in and have a look around when the gardener was doing some work. The house was still lovely from the outside. Some additional outside space had been created for guests to eat at. A pity we could not go in.
Anne - Hooray for Betty Mascoll - your Grenadian angelTessa - Hooray!!
27th March 1976 - The Governor General
Betty Mascal's House
I had a blissful sleep last night and an exquisite shower this morning. At breakfast Betty asked me it I would like to go to a cheese and wine party that afternoon, with the Governor General of Grenada. That would certainly be an unexpected treat, but I did not have any smart clothes with me, they were in my large bag which I had left at the airport. Betty said that wasn’t a problem, she would send one of her staff to get it. I went for a walk around the garden and took a picture of the beautiful house. When I came back in and went up to my room, there was my bag. A word of advice. Don’t leave coins in the bottom of a bag with your best shirt. You might end up with coin imprints on your shirt. Fortunately they were low down and wouldn’t be easily noticeable. We picked up two of her friends and headed for the party. Apart from the Governor General there were one or two ladies and presumably some lords, though I did not meet any of them. I did meet Mrs Phyllis Glean once again. I was something of a celebrity I think, people kept coming up to me and saying things like
“Hello, I’m so & so, I hear you crossed the Atlantic in a trimaran”
“I hear you sailed here from England”
and the Governor General
“I hear you are a Computer Programmer”
All this was quite weird as I had not met any of them before. The party was in St Georges in the afternoon, and by the time we got back to Morne Fendue it was dark and I was easily persuaded to stay another night.
28th March 1976 - Eating peas
This morning Betty told me that a friend of her son was coming to stay for a few days and invited me to stay on longer so that he would have someone of his own age around. As I had already had so much hospitality from her I was a little reluctant, but she is a very forceful woman so I accepted. It does mean I will have to move my flight to St. Vincent, but I can do that without any penalty. I think that one of the ways Betty makes money is to have tourists round for meals. Her cook, known to all as cookie, is reputed to be one of the best around. I certainly have no complaints. So today a group of Germans turned up for lunch, and I was asked to join in. Only one of them spoke any English, so conversation was a little difficult. Peas were one of the vegetables on the plate. I was taught the way to eat peas was to use your knife to push them on to the prongs of your fork. Slow, but safe. Little chance of peas falling off. The Germans were amazed and thought it quite funny. They all went for turning the fork over and scooping the peas. They had never seen my approach before. Small differences.
Anne - Good table manners make all the difference!
29th March 1976 - Tender Love
Tender Love Grenada
I got a bus into St. Georges today, racing a bus called ‘Tender Love’. Once there I changed my St. Vincent flight to the 1st April and bought a thank you present for Betty. I jumped on a bus back, and then hit a problem. Every time I had been to Morne Fendue it had been in Betty’s car with Betty driving, and I hadn’t really paid attention. I didn’t know how to get back. There was a police station just across the road so I went in to ask the way. They seemed a little concerned to be giving a complete stranger directions to a private house, and suggested they should ring the house for me. I explained I was staying there and they pointed me in the right direction. Off I set, happily walking the last mile or so, when Betty drove down the road to pick me up. The police had called her, and now she was more convinced than ever that I get lost.
Anne - Nothing changes then - Betty was right - still no sense of direction!
30th March 1976 - Driving
Sugar Loaf Island
We went for tea today, passing a beautiful view of Sugar Loaf Island on the way. Later the friend of Betty’s son arrived and the two of us went out for a meal with the two Canadians. I drove. My first time driving outside of England. Fortunately, in Grenada they very sensibly drive on the left, like us, though there were so few cars you could pretty much choose which side you wanted.
31st March 1976 - Mike and Maya
Today would be my last full day in Grenada, so we decided to head into St. Georges for lunch. The Canadians wanted to take us to a restaurant they knew overlooking the harbour. We walked up some stairs into a large glass fronted area with superb views of the boats moored below. As we were being shown to our table a loud American voice called out my name. There, sitting in the window eating lunch, was Mike. I walked over to talk to him. Obviously my first question was ‘Where is Maya?’. Mike gestured out of the window with his fork, and there she was moored in the harbour below. How I hadn’t spotted her when I first came in I don’t know. It seems they had just arrived that morning. Mike introduced me to the man sitting opposite, his new crew. The man was obviously English, but largely because he was blond Mike had convinced himself he had all the appearance of a Californian and spent a few minutes trying to persuade me he was. We chatted for a while, Mike had done virtually nothing since I last saw him except sail here, then I went back to my lunch companions. They were all fascinated to see the boat they had heard so much about. The lunch was good and the company pleasant. Back at Morne Fendue I said a final farewell to the Canadians, and went to pack by beautifully laundered clothes ready for the morning.