Our House for the Weekend
My introduction to Jamaica was in 1964. I was doing an M Sc course in Agricultural Engineering at Newcastle-Upon-Tyne University in the North of England.
Chris, a fellow student who was a Jamaican, and the first of his several wives, kindly invited a few of us to a Jamaican meal. I thoroughly enjoyed it and this was the start of my liking for all things Jamaican.
Jamaican White Rum
Then in 1965 we went to Edinburgh, where during a pub crawl Chris introduced me to Appleton White Rum!!!
I still drink a tot most days! Sadly it is increasingly difficult to get supplies in the UK. Fewer and fewer wine merchants sell it, and it is rare to find it in UK pubs. I now get it from a wholesaler in Birmingham, and I was overjoyed to find it in a restaurant in Leipzig last year.
My First Visit to Jamaica
In 1967 I visited Chris and his wife in Jamaica. They had returned to the island after our degree course.
I flew into Montego Bay in the evening and Chris drove me to his father’s house at Ackendown. The house was a beautiful, old style building with mahogany timber doors, floors and windows. The cold shower in the morning was a “pleasant” surprise.
I was stunned the first morning when I went outdoors … the bright sunlight and strong array of colour in the garden was almost overpowering. The garden was the pride and joy of Chris’ mother.
During my first visit to Jamaica I tasted authentic jerk pork bought at the roadside in Boston, St. Thomas. This pork heavily marinated with peppers and cooked on an open wood fire was potent. The two ends of my digestive tract were on fire for hours afterwards.
The ‘fiery strength’ of the jerk pork, and later chicken, deteriorated over the years, probably to cater for the tourist trade.
Subsequent Visits To Jamaica
My visits to Jamaica generally continued every other year until 1995 when Chris and by now his third wife, Ann, moved to England to look after and be near to his elderly mother, after his father's death.
Over that period it was interesting to note the sociopolitical aspects of life in Jamaica as it passed through the phases of post colonial, left wing and right wing.
During the period 1967 to 1995 I stayed with Chris at a number of locations … Ackendown in Westmoreland, Mandeville in Manchester, Kingston and then in Balaclava. During these visits we toured the island extensively. We traveled on back roads that were not really roads, and there was always something new to see and do.
Deep Sea Fishing
On two or three visits we went deep sea fishing with Percy in Belmont, off the coast of Westmoreland.
On one trip, the journey out to the fishing area was dire. We’d had a substantial breakfast and that did not sit well on a rocking boat. I lay in the bottom of the boat feeling sorry for myself. However, once we had a fish on the hook all feelings of sickness rapidly disappeared.
We caught a number of dolphins … it's OK, it's a type of tuna, not “Flipper”. They were beautiful fish and really good to eat. We did have a marlin on the hook once but the line broke.
Golf in Jamaica
Chris was a very keen golfer and at one time represented Jamaica. As a result it was inevitable that I played a few rounds of golf when visiting. The Constant Spring and Half Moon Golf courses were two of the many fine golf courses that we played n Jamaica.
Climbing the Blue Mountains
On one occasion we spent the evening with friends enjoying Jamaican food and drink. It was then suggested that we should go and climb the Blue Mountains. It seemed like a good idea at the time, so off we went.
We drove up the mountain to Whitfield Hall, and then spent some time there delaying our climb so that we would arrive at the summit at sunrise. We made good time on the climb and arrived at the summit about twenty minutes before sunrise. As the sun rose the sight was spectacular.
The climb down was very sobering when we saw that we had climbed up a narrow path with a steep drop to one side, in a less than sober state in pitch dark. And I had done the climb wearing leather slip on shoes … I still have them!
Jamaica Lifestyle - Rustic Living and Mosquitoes
During one visit it was decided to spend a long weekend on the beach at Ackendown in a open thatch-roofed hut, which had no services. The toilets were the mangroves.
Needless to say there was an abundance of mosquitoes, and I was always a chosen target.
Come night time it was therefore suggested that I use lots of insect repellent. The aerosols were over in one corner of the hut, and because we only had a few lamps it was rather dark. I sprayed my arms and legs with the aerosol, but used a cream on my face which was fortunate.
As it turned out the aerosol I used was a spray for the dogs used to keep maggots out of their wounds. The next morning my arms and legs were blue! It took two or three days to wear off. It did however keep the mosquitoes away.
Realising How Well I Knew Jamaica
Chris had built a factory to distil Pimento leaf oil from the Pimento trees growing on the property at Ackendown. During one of my visits Chris was in bed with a high temperature caused by a viral infection, so he asked me to drive up to Kingston to collect some laboratory equipment so that he could carry out an analysis of the Pimento oil.
This was my first experience of the laid back approach to commercial transactions in Jamaica, very different to our hectic approach in the UK.
During this same visit Chris asked me to act as a tour guide for a couple of visitors he had over from the UK.
Until then I had not realised how much and how well I knew Jamaica.
It is such a beautiful island with so much to see and do.
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