Caribbean Cruise – Antigua

The third stop on our Caribbean cruise was Antigua. We docked at the capital, St John’s, in the north-west of the island, which has a deep harbour suitable for large cruise ships. Antigua was named by Columbus when he first visited the island in 1493, and means ‘ancient’ in Spanish, but is also known locally as Wadadli, which has a meaning similar to ‘our own’, and gives a delicious meaning to the name of the local beer! By 1674 its main crop was sugar, and by the 1770’s it had a slave population of over 37,000, and a non-slave population of 3,000! The slaves lived terrible lives, malnourished, cruelly mistreated, and even killed by their owners. The slave trade was abolished in 1807, and slaves freed by 1834. In 1981 Antigua and its sister island Barbuda, became an independent state within the Commonwealth of Nations. Antigua’s economy now relies on tourism, with luxury hotels along the coastline, and throughout the summer months cruise ships visit almost daily.

Antigua is surrounded by coral reefs, with a coast-line of about 54 miles, and (we were told) 365 sandy beaches, enough for one a day for a year! We had decided it was time to spend a morning on the beach, so we took a taxi ride to Fort James, a quiet and pleasant bay not far from St John’s. After paying an ‘umbrella rent’ we strewed our belongings under our huge, hexagonal wooden umbrella, and went for a dip. I expected the aqua-blue water to be warm, or at least warmish – it wasn’t! Instead it was a refreshing cold, not the gasping cold, we’re used to in the UK. There were large, long roller waves that almost swept us off our feet, we were later told this was quite unusual. We dried off quickly in the sun, and did a bit of beach-combing across the hot sand, finding shells and pieces of coral that had washed up on the beach. It was hot but not overwhelmingly so, and a bottle of Wadadli from the beach bar, went down very well!

Palm trees grew along the beach, and there were scrubby trees with bright orange flowers, rather like azalea. A bird, with black plumage and bright yellow eyes hopped around in the sparse undergrowth at the edge of the beach, and then perched in the bushes; we later discovered it was a carib grackle. Fat pink doves cooed at us from the trees, and humming birds hovered around the flowers, iridescent blue and yellow, but they moved too fast to photograph. There were also huge, black frigate birds soaring high in the sky, and then swooping low over the sea.

The beach at Fort James, Antigua was completely what I expected from a Caribbean island beach – pale dazzling sand, clear blue sky, aquamarine sea, and wall to wall sunshine!

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Musings from a winter afternoon

I stand at the window looking out into a cold and blustery winter afternoon. My mind is still. I wait, expectantly, but for what? I see the wind rifling through the dead leaves in the gutter, worrying at them, tossing them high into the air with abandon, as if by the hand of an exuberant child. The clouds zip by, their shape and colour constantly shifting. Now, as I see the light begin to fail, I wonder at how the days slip by so quickly; we are half way through January, and February is already on the horizon. As the forever changing seasons move inexorably on, I realise that spring is a mere heart-beat away. I marvel at how the sun comes up each morning, although at times it is obscured by cloud; and how the moon waxes and wanes, and the tides ebb and fall. I consider how rain waters the earth, and how the sun warms it and brings forth life. And I have questions about myself; how I can be here by sheer chance, and what is the purpose of my own existence? I weigh-up the possibilities. Is all this intricate detail some great cosmic mistake, a huge coincidence or confluence of separate events? But surely not! Surely there is a creative designer and all-powerful hand behind the astounding complexity I see around me, and in me.

Then, as I wait, I sense a voice in the deep recesses of my mind. “I am here my child. I created all the wonder you see around you, and I created you. I created your inmost being, and I knit you together in your mother’s womb. You are not a mistake, you are my beautiful child. There is a purpose in your existence. Wait and see what wonderful things I will accomplish through you.”

 

 

Sunny Littlehampton

Just over a year ago; last June to be precise, I visited a friend in Littlehampton. It was a cold, damp and wind-swept day, and I posted a couple of ‘deserted beach’ pictures. This year, it couldn’t have been more different. The summer sun was shining brightly, the sky was blue, with high vaporous swirls of cloud, and the slight breeze was definitely a warm and gentle one. Despite being midweek, and most children not yet broken up for the school holidays, there were plenty of people spread out on the beach. We splashed our way through cold wavelets in the sandy shallows, while some braver folk were swimming in the icy water. The beach shops and stalls were open, selling everything from fish and chips and ice-cream, to beach shoes and buckets and spades. Gaudy summer dresses and sun hats were everywhere, and the ambient mood was light-hearted and carefree. What a difference a bit of sun, and a bit of welcome warmth make to an English summer beach.

Day – beginning and end

What a beautiful day we’ve had. I awoke to a bright sliver of sunlight streaming through a gap in my blackout curtains. Motes of dust dancing in the golden light, whirling, twirling, bright against the darkness. I think I’d like to be like that, a speck of joy-filled brightness, lighting up my sphere of life.
And now at the end of the day, the sun is sinking fast, a glowing orb sliding down behind the houses at the end of the street, windows like molten gold, roof edges a stark silhouette against the bright sky. But the bright sky rapidly fades to salmon pink.
I can no longer see my keyboard; I switch on the light; and the day is gone.

Sunset1

Summer is just around the Corner

Suddenly there is the feeling of summer speeding towards us. The birds are singing, the rhododendrons and azaleas are in full bloom, and there is the faint fragrance of wisteria on the breeze. I love this time of year, the warmth of the sun on my back, blue skies, and the lazy buzz of bees in the flowerbeds. Life’s journey seems so much easier when the sun shines, when the air is warm and the long summer evenings nearly last till dawn.

Today I’m going to leave you with a traditional Celtic blessing:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
the rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

IT’S ALL A MATTER OF PERSPECTIVE

I’d opened my curtains this morning, and was sitting in bed with my cup of tea, reading, as I usually do. It was still cold and snowy outside, but the sky was blue, and although the sun was out of my line of sight, I knew it was shining brightly. On my windowsill are two pretty cut-glass bottles with crystal stoppers, that used to belong to my grandmother. And at the foot of the bed is a large wardrobe, with floor to ceiling mirror doors.
As I was reading, I was suddenly aware of an intense brightness in the room. I looked up, and in the mirror reflection the sun was shining directly through the crystal stoppers, transforming them into golden balls of light. On the windowsill they were ordinary, but in the reflection they glowed and sparkled, and lit the whole room. I was seeing the crystal stoppers from one angle, but the mirror was seeing them from another angle, and reflecting them in a completely new and unexpected way. And both views were true representations of how the bottles and the stoppers looked at that moment in time. And it got me thinking about how we view things. We may look at something – an event, a person, an object – from one angle; but someone else may be looking from an alternate angle and see something completely different. Neither view is wrong, they are just different, and both have true value to the beholder.
It’s all a matter of perspective.

Sunset

The sun was setting as I drove home this evening.  I watched it slowly sinking, a perfect circle of molten magma in a soft pale peach sky.  As I drove straight towards it, the fiery disk touched the top of the dark distant hills, and for a moment time stopped, and the edge of the sun and the line of the hills seemed to join together, one blurring with the other.  But then the sun dipped further, and the harsh dark stroke of the horizon cut across it, accentuating the brightness against the pale spring sky.  Like butter on a hot knife the red-gold orb slid quickly downwards, as if eager to be gone, until the merest crescent of brilliance remained.  Then in an instant the last gleaming sliver was also gone, and the day was done.  The empty peach sky faded and then gradually darkened to burnt mandarin.  By the time I reached home, the sky was deep indigo, and night reigned supreme.