Over the years I’ve discovered the Caribbean from afar. I’ve read books and articles about the islands, seen documentaries, and drooled over friends’ holiday photos. I knew that all the islands have a different character, and were a riot of colours. That the flowers were hot pinks and reds, the foliage lush and green, the sands (generally speaking) almost white, soft and fine, and that the sea was a glorious, ever-changing shade of turquoise.
But it wasn’t until 2 weeks ago that I finally made it here for the first time and the beautiful reality of it just blew me away.
As a quilter, I love colour, and so, naturally, I was in my element! And all I’ve been thinking about for the past few weeks is how to capture the essence of the Caribbean in a quilt.
Or, indeed, in several 🙂
Blues, aquas, turquoises
Luscious shades of green
Yellows and oranges
Hot pinks, purples and reds
These photos may not even begin to do it justice, but hopefully will be enough to spark memories of the beautiful colours that we saw during our wonderful holiday.
I’m still not sure how I want to capture all this vibrancy in quilt form, but the Caribbean we saw was gloriously untamed and wild with colour, so I’m pretty sure it will be scrappy and probably quite improvisational. And thanks to an impromptu gift from the wonderful RR, I know what I’m going to use for the backing…
And one more thing I’m sure of is that I just can’t wait to get started!
RR and I love to travel. We love re-visiting our favourite spots over and over, as well as seeing new places for the first time. For us, one of the best things about travelling is the opportunity to try new things. Sometimes this can be as mundane as trying a new food, other times it’s a new activity, like when we went to Japan and learnt the technique of roketsu, or wax-resist dying, or Catalan cooking on Barcelona. But in Barbados it was cricket.
Like many Brits, cricket forms part of the backdrop to my childhood. Dad was always watching the cricket on the tv, or listening to Test Match Special on the radio. Cricket scores were ever-present on the evening news and in the newspapers. And, of course, there were always the summer-afternoon matches on the village green. But until this week, I had never even watched a match on the television, let alone in person.
Whilst RR and I aren’t exactly fanatical about sport in general, we do love to watch baseball (a legacy from our time in the US). And to be honest I had always considered baseball to be the exciting and fast-paced relation to the interminable cricket matches I vaguely remembered from my childhood. When I thought of cricket, I thought of matches that seemed to go on for days and days without anyone actually winning. Dull or what?!
Then we came to Barbados, and all that changed.
Just before we left to come on holiday, RR realised that England would be playing the West Indies in the final match of a 20:20 series on the day after we arrived. Given that cricket is so popular in Barbados, we thought that it would be sold out, but we contacted our hotel on the off-chance to enquire about availability. The upshot was that the wonderful Mr J offered to pop into Bridgetown on his day off to pick up a pair of tickets for us. We were more than impressed – I mean, can you imagine anyone taking the time to do that in England???!
And so, on the Thursday morning, 2 cricket tickets were delivered to our breakfast table, and a mere four hours later, we were at the Kensington Oval cricket ground in Bridgetown.
It was hot and sticky, and we were in what seemed to be the cricket equivalent of the bleachers, surrounded by fans of all ages, from well-behaved and immaculately turned-out school kids through to excitable 70-something grandmothers shouting abuse at the umpire. England won the toss and elected to bat first, and so began an wonderful afternoon.
I have to admit that I couldn’t quite manage to follow all the rules, and cricket-terminology still leaves me totally stumped, but even I got quite caught up in it all. As the scores mounted, and the beer flowed freely, excitement reached fever-pitch, until the West Indies were left to score 6 from the last ball to win the match.
They didn’t. England won. The visiting fans were ecstatic (apparently we don’t win very often…), the West Indian fans congratulating them, and happy chatter surrounded us as we made our way back out to meet our taxi driver. And I really enjoyed the whole experience. It was something totally new for me, unexpectedly entertaining and enjoyable, and, clichéd though it may sound, it made me feel like we connected a bit more with the real Barbados.
Travel broadens the mind, as they say. And the cricket certainly broadened mine, challenging my cricket-is-boring prejudices. It was brilliant! And who knows, I may even go and watch another match some day. It makes a change from sewing in any case!
This morning our boat anchored just off the coast of Ile-des-Saints, Guadeloupe, and RR and I took the tender into the marina at Terre-Haut in Marigot Bay.
It is just beautiful.
Although we’ve loved all the destinations on our cruise, this is our favourite so far by a mile. Bizarrely enough, we find ourselves feeling more at home here, on a French-speaking island, than we have done on any of the English-speaking ones we’ve visited.
And having explored a little, and spoken some French, we’re now partaking of a drink before lunch in a beautiful café on the marina, with the most glorious view.
On Sunday night, RR and I arrived back in Switzerland after a wonderful but exhausting trip to England. RR had driven over 2 weeks ago, and I joined him partway through the first week. I managed to fit in seeing a large number of family and friends, we took in 2 rugby games, went to see the Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain play in Basingstoke, got my sewing machine serviced, and did a not insubstantial amount of shopping.
Whilst the journey back home to Lausanne was long and extremely tiring, one of the major advantages of driving over has to be the opportunity to fit in a proper supermarket trip, and to stock up on what I consider to be all the ‘essentials’ of British life. Whenever I do one of these major grocery shops, I always wonder what the checkout person thinks about what can only be described as the rather odd assortment of products lined up on the conveyor belt.
Not your average weekly shop, that’s for sure!
So, if you’re at all interested in what a longish-term forty-something expat misses the most about England (apart from friends and family, that is), here, in no particular order, is my rundown of the essentials of my shopping basket (or, in our case, a rather large shopping trolley!)
1. Assorted cleaning products.
Swiss cleaning products are rubbish. They are waaaay too eco-friendly, and just don’t seem to get things clean enough. We normally source ours over the border in France, at the local Carrefour supermarket, where one can generally find a large number of British and American expats in the cleaning products aisle, fighting over the last bottle of Domestos 🙂 (for my American friends out there, Domestos is the British version of Clorox …)
This trip back, I took the opportunity to pick up some products that you can’t find in Carrefour, or pack into a suitcase to take back on the plane.
Not Bonne Maman bitter orange jam or any other inferior substitute – the real deal 🙂
3. Assorted curry ingredients and spices
Ok, so maybe we went a bit crazy here, but they were £1 a jar and there was loads of choice, whereas they cost a fiver a pop here for a choice of 2. Poppadoms are self-explanatory, and the assortment of spices – well, you can never have too many. And we do eat rather a lot of curry…
Love it or hate it (I love it, RR hates it) – in my opinion, it’s as much a breakfast necessity as marmalade…
Not available here. Especially not the reduced sugar version 🙂
6. Heinz Baked Beans
Ok, so you can get a tin of beans here if you’re willing to shell out £2, but we can get a four-pack for the same price back in the UK. So we bought 2…
7. Assorted Cadbury’s chocolate
I know, I know, Switzerland is awash with chocolate, all of it delicious and creamy, but trust me when I tell you that there are times when only Cadbury’s will do.
8. English cheese
Ditto for cheddar and Wensleydale cheese. Swiss cheese is yummy, but for a decent cheese on toast or cheese sandwich, you need a proper, sharp cheddar. Gruyere just doesn’t cut it.
I used to live on crumpets back in England, so I really do miss them. And guess what – you can’t find them here…
10. Baking products
Yes, I know you can make self raising flour by adding stuff to regular flour, but it never seems to work as well. This should last me a while, I hope…
11. Marigold Swiss Bouillon Powder
Despite it’s name, it’s not actually Swiss, and you can’t get it here. We find other stock powders waaaaay too salty. And we use it a lot.
12. PG Tips
Last, but by no means least, the mainstay of a British expat’s store cupboard – proper teabags. British teabags don’t come individually wrapped in namby-pamby packets of 20 envelopes. They come in boxes of 240 (which will generally last us 4-6 weeks, depending on how thirsty we are). An absolute essential 🙂
So there you have it. I love living in Switzerland, really I do. We have a wonderful life here, and have no plans to move away any time soon, but sometimes a little taste of home is just what’s needed to put the world to rights.
What do you think?