It is a truth universally acknowledged that a tourist in possession of a bad road map must be in want of a Bajan to give directions. And Bajan directions are not some trite notion of how to get from A to B. They are a narrative of our lives. The other day I was in a rum shop doing research when a tourist stopped and asked directions to Bathsheba. I overheard the following directions given by Clarkey who had been doing even more research than me.
‘Keep straight. When you get by de gas station, you going see a road to the right that got in nuff potholes and that going take you up a hill with a lot of mile trees. ‘Well, don’t go there. You hear what I tell you? Keep straight. ‘You going soon come to a corner where there got a rum shop paint in pretty pretty colours. That shop full-a foolish men who ain’ got nothing better to do than play dominoes and talk cricket all day.
‘In this shop here we’s discuss philosophy and politics. At a high intellectual calibre. You catch my meaning? ‘Well, next to this shop with the stupid men you going see a road that just get paved before the election. That road going take you through the tenantry and put you out by Branchbury. ‘Well, don’t go there. Keep straight. ‘After that you going reach a junction by a mini-mart. You got to bear right. You hear what I tell you. Bear right; don’t turn right. ‘Cause if you turn right that road taking you back to Bridgetown. In other words, go straight but bear right. ‘You can’t bear left cause you would end up in Miss Watson house. That pretty woman who poison she old husband ten years ago, but she get off.
‘About a mile down the road you going see the biggest and sweetest mango tree in St Joseph. Except it aint there no more. That idiot Johnson cut it down. And the joke is, he get a contract for $10 000 from that Government commission not to cut down the tree. You could believe what the idiot do? ‘Instead of staying home and cocking up he foot, the man gone and rent chain saw and truck and thing, and cut down the frigging tree. And now they suing he a… Serve he right!
‘Anyhow, right next to where that mango tree used to be, you going butt up ‘pon a cart track. This would take you up by the yellow chattel house where my aunt Eulene live. The kindest woman that ever was, God rest she soul; but she dead, so she don’t live there any more. Plus the house burn down, so you wouldn’t see it.
‘So don’t go there. Keep straight. ‘You going reach a pasture where Mr B does stake out he donkey. If you turn left, and go down a steep hill you going see a rum shop. This shop was famous for a poet called Fowl. ‘Man, Fowl used to spit poetry. Nothing but sonnets. Every night he used to give the fellows three quatrains and a couplet. And no peeny-weeny couplet, neither. One big rathole couplet. ‘But one night, lo and behold, he in the shop versifying; next thing he step outside, trip over a iambic pentameter, and break he neck.
‘Well, you see that road; don’t go there. Keep straight. You hear? Keep straight and you going end up in Bathsheba. God bless.’
Clarkey, exhausted, came back in the shop to do more research.
The wife of the tourist driver shouted: ‘Excuse me, but we couldn’t quite understand his directions.’
‘Keep straight,’ I summarised.
Credit to Peter Laurie.