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Over the moon

residents recall days when fish were plentiful in st. lucy

Monster trucks on narrow roads. Where can this combination be found? Checker Hall in St. Lucy.

Located to the north of the island, Checker Hall is a gem. Journeying to the village would not take too long, just hop onto any Connelltown or Checker Hall bus and you are good.

This morning I hopped onto, not a bus, but a truck and headed “down” north in search of whatever they had to offer.†One of my first stops was at the house of a friendly woman on the main road. When I greeted her she was seated on her veranda conversing with a young woman from “up the gap”.

“Good day ma’am, do you have a second to spare?” I asked.

“You know if I was a different type of person I would chase you from my place,” she said jokingly. “I don’t look too decent; I was cleaning down in the back when she come to shout me — but come.”

“Don’t tek my pictures … looking so,” she warned the photographer.

I asked her for her name.

“Put down whatever you feel like,” she instructed.

When she told me this, I felt in my gut that she would be difficult to talk to, but I smiled and continued. I asked her many questions then about Checker Hall the fishing/agriculture village.

When she heard this question I saw her eyes begin to beam and her high cheek bones became higher as a smile grew broader and broader on her face. For the near 70 year-old, memories of fishing and agriculture were extremely dear to her because of her late husband.

While she declined to give his name, she explained that he died two years. However, before his passing for many years he was, what she termed, a day fisherman.

They have seven children: five boys and two girls and raised them on what her husband made as a result of the sea.

“He would go fishing every day… He didn’t do no deep sea so he won’t stay out for no days on. Fishing was sometimes hard but I wasn’t one of them girls that would want a new dress every week.†Me and my children, we was contented with what we had. We may not have had fives dresses but the one that we had was always clean.

“When my children was young I stay home with them, but when them start to go school, I mek these (raising her hands in the air) work for me. These was my friends. I used to work hard in the field and add to whatever my husband had. I had my own garden and plant my own vegetables.

“That is why I admire the people coming back from England ’cause them does plant them own food but the people them got nowadays lazy… That is why I won’t give them nothing. I still got my garden in the back there and my back bad and my doctor always telling keep from it. You feel if a paro come and ask me for something I should give him?” she asked, and without waiting for my answer, said she would not.

“Them so young and stronger than me, them could go and look for work. My face only look like I is 16 but I got in age. Them ain’t want to work in the field no more and only want to go and catch fish when them hard up for money. All a them so want proper jobs”

“Proper jobs?” I queried. “What is a proper job?”

“Them want to sit down in a office and don’t do nothing,” she said.

As I was trying to get more out of her the cock underneath her mango tree next to the house made his presence known as he persisted in crowing very loudly, almost as if to tell me my time was up.

I know when not to overstay my welcome so I thanked “Mount Pleasant” (an inside joke) for her time and I proceeded to another part of Checker Hall.

Jac’s Pizza was my other stop. It is located right out of the ‘S’ bend after Checker Hall playing field. Here I met Tony, a worker at the nearby Arawak Cement Plant, who was there to have lunch. Macaroni pie and curry chicken stew with a side of coleslaw was his order.

He too lives in the area and reiterated the point that young people of his area were no longer interested in getting into the food industries. He added it was a dying trade because fish were not as plentiful as before and this created a hard life for many of those who might have been interested.

As he spoke, I told myself he could not be right, no way was agriculture becoming a dying trade — not in Barbados!

So I left there, headed to Half Moon Fort to prove him wrong. What greeted me was not boat loads of fish or hawkers negotiating prices with customers; not even the reek of fish, or flies swarming their remains, but lines of traffic. Many people disembarking cars, minibuses, Transport Board buses, and bicycles or just walking from their homes. They were all headed to Moon Town.

Music, laughter and the smell of scrumptious food teased my senses until I finally made my way through the crowd to the spot where all the action was taking place.

Sandwiched between two funeral homes, St. Elmo’s bar could be described as anything but dead. There were people galore in and outside of the bar. They were playing dominoes, eating pudding and souse, drinking some of the very popular local brews derived from sugar cane, all while still igniting colourful conversations with new and old friends.

The occasion was CBC’s Q in the Community. One of my weaknesses is music and when I hear it I cannot help but sing or dance. I saw a friend, Archillus Weekes, so I asked him when would the karaoke session begin and he informed me I would have to wait until after 3 o’clock.

I knew that would be a “no no” as my boss, Roy Morris, would have my head, so I decided the next best thing was to show off my dancing skills if I could not display my singing ability.

I entered the bar, with eyes on me; no one was on the floor. I pleasantly asked Carlos, who people whispered was the best dancer, if he cared for a dance — he did. The DJ selected a track for us and we held hands and began. I danced, in my opinion, incredibly well — the best I have ever, even showing him a few new moves. I had a ball.

Though I did not get the chance to meet any fishermen or agriculturists, I met wonderfully friendly people. For sure I know this visit will not be my last.†

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