Sunday, 26 April 2015



Notes from Home


Just got off the telephone with my sister Anne who lives in Charlottetown, PEI. Today’s forecast for the Island is snow. The week’s forecast for the Island is snow. Yesterday she walked out to buy some books to read while she sits trapped inside her place and sipping her tea (which cannot be tepid). She purchased four novels and discovered too late she’d already read two of them. Today she slogged to the drugstore to buy a plastic shower cap (and not the makings for a tinfoil hat, thank God) just to get outside. I’m worried for her sanity. Canada’s maritime provinces have gutted out a long, hard winter.


Meanwhile, much farther west, spring has sprung here in the cool, blue north. Since our return from Barbados, Ann and I have filled 16 or 18 lawn bags with last fall’s garden waste. Every bag I humped into the alley was stolen; somebody in the neighbourhood is making compost. The beds are ready for planting; tulip and poppy sprouts are up and out in the sunshine. The hairy and downy woodpeckers are back tap-tap-tapping on deadwood and feeding on the suet cake we’ve hung from a limb of the Ohio buckeye in the backyard. Blue jays, squirrels and magpies are gorging on the peanuts the eccentric bachelor who lives next door to us puts out every morning. Great migratory, honking vees of Canada geese veer overhead. Bushes are budding; the grass is turning green.


Something else has sprouted on the front lawn. The provincial election here is May 5th. I went online and ordered a yard sign for the New Democratic Party (NDP) candidate in our riding. The soft socialist NDP is anathema to me and our calculated display of partisanship warranted discussion around our kitchen counter. Since the cessation of the Second World War and the black gold gusher at Leduc Number 1, Alberta has vacillated between God’s country and a ghost town, everything has hinged on a singular economic driver: the price of oil.


Our ‘blue-eyed sheiks,’ the Progressive Conservative party, have held power for 44 years. Our current premier has blamed all Albertans for the current economic downturn. That broad brush stroke is more inclusive than remarks by an earlier PC premier who in the 90s blamed Alberta’s bust misfortunes on eastern bums and welfare cheats. So it goes. Unsurprisingly, a near half-century of prolonged fiscal mismanagement of overly modest energy royalties is not a topic for discussion with this historically ingrained and petrified government.


And so, after requesting a lawn sign, I sent Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley an e-mail instructing her to get the rights to the Parachute Club’s 80s hit ‘Rise Up’ and ordered her to instruct all of her NDP candidates to play it loud on the stump. I received a very polite reply thanking me for my very valued input and how much money would I care to donate to our collective cause? And would I like to volunteer on behalf of the NDP? No, thanks: I’m sweating my sister’s mental state (which reminds me to call my mother in Montreal) and, anyway, it’s spring and the Canadiens have advanced to the second round of the playoffs.

Saturday, 25 April 2015



The Banks Heist


I heaved open the segmented bay door of a south side warehouse. The perforated bodies strewn behind me began to steam in the sudden draught of cold air. I stepped out into a darkness filled with driving sleet and climbed into the back of a waiting black SUV with tinted windows, lights out. My contact wondered if it would be worthwhile to call in the paramedics.


I lit a cigarette and stared straight ahead. I could smell the cordite residue from my gun on the sleeve of my overcoat. ‘There’s no point,’ I grunted. ‘Anyway, they’ll be found when the foreman opens shop a few hours from now.’


‘Jesus, Danger,’ she breathed, ‘they were just kids, most of them.’


I shrugged. ‘So were the brainwashed bastards in the Hitler Youth. You fight fire with fire; you fight terror with terror. At least Adolf’s minions had neater haircuts. I’ve never abided long unkempt beards.’ Maybe because I've always hated biker gangs and their sleazy, tattooed ilk; they've no respect for civilians, all guns and bombs in our streets.


‘You’ll have to leave the country for a while. We’ve so overstepped the parameters of C-51; the Mounties and the Edmonton police will be all over this.’ She handed me two envelopes filled with documents: passports, credit cards, bits and pieces of unofficial identification any average person would carry. ‘Where do you think you’ll go?’


‘Probably Barbados,’ I replied. ‘Ann Fatale’s always wanted to go there. Anyway, some guys from the old days have retired there, sitting on the beach, drinking rum.’


‘Christ,’ she said, ‘you make it sound like a Murder Incorporated reunion.’ She tapped her driver on the shoulder. We pulled away through the slush. Our tire tracks would be investigative mush.


I chuckled, exhaling blue-grey smoke from my nostrils. ‘We were more discreet, sister, we didn’t even have a name.’


My moll flew south under the guise of a prim and religious music teacher. I laughed about her CSIS cut-out; Ann Fatale hates Baptists even more than my jazz records and the only music she knows is the ka-ching of a cash register at Holt’s. I was Moore, Geoff Moore, a burnt-out advertising hack. We settled in Barbados easily enough. Our well-appointed digs in Worthing, Christ Church were owned by a former colleague of mine who’d specialized in black ops and wet work. These days he rents beach chairs and umbrellas to tourists who frequent his leased stretch of white sand on the shore of the Caribbean Sea.


On the Saturday we drove the short distance into Bridgetown to do some shopping. I wanted a short brimmed straw fedora to go with my loose, tropical weight linen suit. Ann needed to sex up her beachwear though she kept talking about a cover-up; I thought it best to keep my confusion to myself. We quickly realized that the Cave Shepherd duty free department store catered to the pigeons disgorged from cruise ships, flashing their American dollars ashore, and was priced accordingly. Outside and empty-handed, we paused to admire the blackened statue of Lord Admiral Nelson situated by the inner harbour, one empty uniform sleeve inserted between the breast buttons of his Royal Navy jacket. A limping man grinning bad teeth announced that this Nelson was older than the one in Trafalgar Square as he attempted to shake my hand and wrap a string of beads he described as a ‘reggae’ bracelet around my wrist. I punched him in the throat.


Our afternoon was filled with rum punches. We attended the thoroughbred races at Garrison Savannah, sequestered and waited upon as honoured guests of the Barbados Turf Club. Apparently this mile oval of lush turf in Saint Michael and maybe the godforsaken bits of ancient construction surrounding it - including the main armoury of the Barbados Defense Force - constitute some sort of a UNESCO World Heritage site. Veddy British once. Ann perused the program, ignored the advice of our gracious hosts and then played all the cash we had on the Pick 6. ‘It’s not rocket science, Danger man,’ she huffed. ‘We’ve got the horses, the jockeys, their records. The variable is how rested the nags are, when were their last races? You know me, I’m all about fresh horses.’


The races were like the roads on the island, everything thundering pell-mell in the wrong direction. Damn me if my buxom blonde beauty didn’t pick the winners of the first six races. We were flush with Bajan dollars after our visit to the pari-mutuel window. So much so that afterward when I saw I’d parked our rented vehicle beneath a ripe coconut tree I was annoyed but not livid about the damage.


However, small things in a small, backward country may detonate explosive and lethal irritation. I’d had one too many rum punches and as we strolled into Nelson’s Arms for our nightcaps, I wondered if the name of the local joint was a calculated insult as the good Lord Admiral only had one. There was no place to sit, not because the dive was full of patrons but because there were no tables or chairs. Ann and I waited patiently at the bar. I heard the click of snooker balls from somewhere in the rear dimness.


The pretty young Bajan woman behind the wood ignored us. I fiddled with the corner of a long rubber spill mat branded by Banks, The Beer of Barbados. She refused to make eye contact or shift her lithe little form. I angrily pondered the price of the dents in our car. My belly announced itself with a stab from inside out, too much hot sauce, too much strange food, I thought. The action on the felt had ceased; I knew the regular hard cases were eyeballing my baby from behind their sunglasses. Ann stayed my arm as I was about to pat the area under my jacket where I normally holstered my piece. I turned and casually gauged their number and my distance from the rack of unpolished wooden cues on the wall. I judged the beer mat at my fingertips to be about 18-inches long and half an inch thick. The strip of supple rubber would have to do.


The bartender finally wandered over. I ordered four Banks. She wanted $16 instead of the $10 we had been habitually paying in every other tavern and rum shop. There is talk in this Commonwealth nation of casting the monarchy aside as head of state. I don’t know that that would be aloe for the historic scars of Britain’s slave trade. ‘Different prices for different folk, eh?’ I grunted. I handed her $20 and then nodded at her to get out of my sight, beat it. Off to my left, I heard a cue ball clack in the darkness. I rolled up the rubber Banks bar mat and thrust it into Ann’s bulging Versace handbag.


‘What are you doing, baby?’ she breathed huskily.


‘None of these rude boys are going to die tonight,’ I grunted. I lit a cigarette and adjusted my straw fedora. ‘So,’ I shrugged, ‘I guess a Banks beer mat is as good a souvenir as any. The price is right.’

My girl laughed; how I love to see her smile. We finished our beers and walked out into the Caribbean night’s gentle silver rain. Nobody followed us. We locked arms and hunched together for the short walk to our bed. Ann’s skin smelled good; I was anxious to experience what lay below her suntanned cleavage as I’d come to love breadfruit during our stay in Barbados.

Thursday, 23 April 2015



Green Monkey Tales: The Paradoxes of Paradise


Barbados in a coconut shell is a Third World country with WiFi. While not exactly backward, there are troubling indicators that progress is as abstract a concept as a level sidewalk. Tourism has fallen off which means unemployment and crime have risen. Disease threatens the island’s citrus trees and the minister of agriculture has suggested that every single one may need to be destroyed. Barbados became an independent country in 1966; the lasting legacy of British imperialism is bureaucracy: imagine untangling red tape with the adhesive side overly sticky in the shuffling heat. If a citizen gets sick, it’s best if they’re well enough and well off enough to board a Miami-bound plane for treatment. Perhaps worst of all was the poor performance of the West Indian cricket side in the 2015 World Cup. According to the Nation, one of the island’s two newspapers, the other is the Advocate and both are tabloids, prospects for 2019 aren’t so great either.


Beyond the fields of sugarcane and sea island cotton are positive signs of stability and recovery. Most of those arrows point to offshore banking. KPMG, PWC, and Ernst and Young each sport an imposing presence. Scotiabank’s You’re Richer Than You Think tag carries over well in Barbados minus the sentimental Saturday night hockey hook Canadians are used to; CIBC is in the country, branded as First Caribbean International. Montreal-based garment manufacturer Gildan is ensconced in a new and modern building near the airport. Co-operators General Insurance is the titular sponsor of the Barbados Amateur Basketball Association (BABA) Premier League. There is talk of exploiting what may be significant oil and natural gas deposits on or around the island for the sake of self-sufficiency. Solar power is an established utility; most homes’ hot water heaters are up on their peaked roofs. And, provided the required changes are made in a timely manner, the 2019 World Cup cricket side could be a contender.


There are ruins amid the beauty or beauty amid the ruins. While the vegetation is incredibly lush, bananas and breadfruit hang heavily, the salty air and humidity quickly combine to devastate poorly maintained or abandoned structures. Stone and cement turn black. Wood rots. Paint and stucco fade. Corrugated tin roofs and fences rust. The number of derelict buildings is staggering and these hulks, once a simple chattel home, once a resort hotel, once a colonial office, are not tucked away in hidden and forgotten places; no, they crumble and rot overgrown, spooky with gorgeous bougainvillea on prime real estate. The most intriguing and mysterious wreckage never even had a chance to have a history. The hoarding along the South Coast Boardwalk reads: HARLEQUIN BARBADOS: REDEFINING LUXURY IN THE CARIBBEAN. According to the various logos, partners include Gary Player Design and Trader Vic’s. OPENING 2013. Behind and above the screen of marketing promises stands a half-hearted skeleton of blackening concrete and rusting rebar. The ocean views would have been postcard-spectacular but for the 2008 economic downturn.


The Crane in St. Philip and originally opened in 1867 seems to have weathered not only hurricanes but the flighty fancies of tourists too. Renovated and revitalized and so over the five-star top with its central artificial village that a Canadian can only imagine Banff fully recreated in the West Edmonton Mall or vice versa. However, an Aston Martin DB5 with a white on black BMT 216A license plate would not be out of place in the Crane’s parking lot either. The discerning eye must necessarily appreciate the genuine survivors of this country’s history and climate: Codrington College, an Anglican seminary whose construction began in 1714 and took 20 years to complete, still stands on manicured grounds complete with a lily pond; the fifth incarnation of St. John’s Parish church was erected beginning in 1835, it is blackened, island Gothic, its churchyard on the precipice of an ocean cliff, a maze of mossy sunken crypts and tilted headstones. Do the dead look out to sea?


Development generally costs less as other people’s money (provided they actually have it) is spent and eventually taxed. The price of preservation is greyer, what heritage totem is worth making a nation’s people pay for? Tourism is valuable, but what’s to become of the ghosts that attract tourists?

(Part 4 and end of a series)

Friday, 17 April 2015



Green Monkey Tales: God Bless Banks Beer, I Think


During our visit the average daily temperature in Barbados was 28 degrees Celsius. In such a hot and humid climate sustained and constant fluid intake is absolutely vital. The first thing I consumed upon arrival was a Banks lager. The last thing I consumed prior to departure was a Banks lager. In between, I consumed more Banks lagers and a dozen or so Deputy pilsners. Both beers contain less than five-per-cent alcohol and the bottles hold less than 10 ounces.


Most restaurants and bars feature the sister brands as specials, four for $10 Bajan, or $5 US. I soon began buying Banks by the case at the Massy grocery store, 24 delightful bottles for $53 Bajan. Beer and soda containers carry a recycling deposit. As far as I can tell everything else in the country once used, rum bottles, newspapers, cardboard packaging, anything, goes straight into the garbage. A quarter million people can create and discard an awful lot of trash. Barbados is a coral island; I don’t know how you landfill solid rock.


Saint Nicholas Abbey is nothing of the sort; it is a surviving sugar plantation mansion, erected over the course of a decade beginning in 1650, very colonial, very British, designed in the Jacobean or late Renaissance style. The Abbey is now home to a craft rum distillery. Jim and his friend Russell have brought their empty etched and numbered Saint Nicholas bottles from western Canada to be refilled direct from the cask. They insist that this artisan take on the devil’s drink, hand-processed in modest batches, is in fact heavenly to sip.


Neighbourhood rum shops proliferate like convenience stores in North America and because rum is seemingly synonymous with Barbados, the drink’s traditional companion is omnipresent. I’ve never overheard anybody ordering a rum and Pepsi. Coca-Cola is the most visible global brand on the tiny island, a sea of red. In store signage and transit shelter advertising encourages Bajans to OPEN HAPPINESS and CELEBRATE 100 YEARS OF THE COCA-COLA BOTTLE. The corporation works hard at being a good citizen. Coke signs on sadly underused public garbage bins remind locals and tourists alike to REDUCE, REUSE AND RECYCLE.


What I found truly refreshing was the lack of the other usual suspects. Mercifully, McDonald’s has yet to invade. In Bridgetown I noticed Burger King, Subway and KFC stores discreetly tucked around the shopping district, within easy sauntering distance of the cruise ship quays. The dominant quick service restaurant chain is homegrown. Chefette specializes in Caribbean fast food, chicken sandwiches and delicious, hefty rotis stuffed with curried meat and potato. The logo mascot with his cat whisker-long waxed moustache could use a refresh; he is a pizza box cliché. The eat in experience jars Canadian eyes acclimatized to muted lifestyle colours; the Chefette corporate palette is a raging hot yellow accented with deep purple. Even so, while sitting alone on our apartment’s porch later on after having opened another Banks and then politely refusing a passing woman’s holistic suggestion of an expertly executed massage, I pondered the possibility of a Chefette franchise opportunity in Edmonton. The nagging question was whether or not Albertans would flip over dolphin burgers.


Eating dolphin fish (not he mammal) when the natives have exotically dubbed it mahi mahi doesn’t quite seem like a First World foodie crime. I ate the firm and white mild meat caught that day, butchered and then marinated in herb-enhanced olive oil and barbecued with blasts of lemon juice as served up from Pat’s booth at the legendary Oistins Friday night fish fry, a weekly excuse for a punky reggae party. I ate it Cajun style on an upscale restaurant’s terrace perched on the edge of a rocky cliff above the crashing waves of the Caribbean Sea. We ate it fried, dredged in a mixture of flour and seasonings, at the apartment because Russell fancies himself a bit of a gourmet in the kitchen and he is not delusional in his belief.


Is macaroni and cheese an endangered species? I ate a lot of that too. Macaroni pie seems to be the only side dish available on the island. Barbadian cooks use the long and hollow pasta tubes, not elbows. Every meal you order comes with a great cube of it. I took to drenching my servings with red hot pepper sauce as I found the baked on cheese sauce a little dry and a little less sharp than I like. Actually, I poured or spread Bajan hot sauce on everything, even using it as a salt bun cutter (sandwich) condiment. Ann and I returned home with three different types. A first-time visitor to Barbados should note that a plain red squeeze bottle with a nozzle on a restaurant counter is not ketchup and nor is its yellow companion mustard. It’s important to note too that once mixed with a few Banks beers the various hot sauces will cleanse your internal nether regions with uncommon vengeance.

(Part 3 of a series)

Wednesday, 15 April 2015



Green Monkey Tales: Getting Around


Every single roadside pole in Barbados has a little sign perched above the askew directionals: JESUS IS COMING. The way people drive here, man, the flock must be tired of waiting. And the tourist will have his come to Jesus moment ripping along a buckled and narrow road rife with S-turns and blind corners in the middle of a sugar cane field or amid the dizzying chaos of an ABC Highway roundabout. The approach to Martin’s Bay is a sheer vertical slope, I was half convinced our friend Russell’s rented KIA would descend toppling end over end.


They drive on the left here and the steering wheels are on the passenger side. Ann’s brother Jim keeps flicking on the windshield wipers instead of the turn signal. Most of the vehicles on the island are small and light coloured although the local speeders display a flair for garish rims: pink, red, blue, teal, purple. Standard license plates are white on black and rental plates are blue on white, indicators to Bajans to cut nervous tourists some slack. Drivers communicate their intentions to others by horn toots and winking headlights. Somehow carnage is deked out, avoided for one more day.


You can never be lost for long in Barbados. All broken roads lead to Bridgetown, the capital. Bus stop signs read simply TO CITY or OUT OF CITY; orienting yourself is simple provided you can find a bus stop. Beyond traditional transit, there are the ubiquitous white Z vans (their alpha-numeric license plates begin with the letter Z), modified soccer mom vans crammed with benches and jump seats. They stop anywhere. They don’t seem to have a schedule. Seat belts and maximum capacity are non-issues, there’s always room for one more passenger. Z vans rock steady at full throttle, reggae blasting and the driver shouting into his cell, beeping his horn. Another man acts as the conductor, opening the sliding side door, herding riders in, hustling them out and collecting fares. A trip on a stranger’s lap costs $2 Bajan (BDS) or $1 US. Braced for impact on the careening No. 11 rocketing toward Oistins, a fishing town four kilometres from our base in Worthing, I notice a sticker near the ceiling: SCHOOL UNIFORM IN CHILDREN $1.50. No helicoptered kids in these parts.


Eyes right! The unwary pedestrian will be killed or at least clipped by the side mirror of a mail scooter, bus or truck. It’s damn near impossible to stroll two abreast along a narrow Barbadian sidewalk that leads to nowhere or the distant dot of converging parallel lines. A passing Z van will spin you around. You learn to keep your elbows in. Nor can a visitor gawp and gape at the surrounding sights as a level surface is an abstract concept in this country. You trod upon uneven paving stones, crumbling cement, rotting planks of mahogany and cracked cerulean ceramic tile. Stubbed toes can be another cost added to a holiday; oh, how the tripping fools mocked me for sporting proper shoes and ankle socks rather than sandals.


We attempt to confine our walks to the relatively cool early mornings. A preferred route is the South Coast Boardwalk which snakes along the shoreline for about a mile between Hastings and Rockley Beach. It’s a relief to be able to stroll without being hyper-alert for reckless traffic aiming for us from our blind side. The beaches are less inviting. Something strange has happened in the region this year, the Sargasso Sea has sprung a leak. The normally pristine beaches are heaped with pungent mounds of Sargassum seaweed. This natural phenomenon is eating Jim up inside, wrecking his perfect place. It’s never happened before, honest. Oh well, time for a cocktail.


While clearing a path through the seaweed to the water for Ann I stumbled across a hideous, turd-sized sea slug of some sort. Imagine you had too much red wine with last night’s dinner and now picture your movement moving. Ann touched it. Ick. What truly bothers me about the boardwalk and the beaches isn’t the organic debris so much as the amount of litter strewn about. There are bins but not enough of them and most are tipped over. If you pause to ruminate on the beauty of our world, it’s difficult not to conclude that as a species, human beings are filthy pests.


Our favourite walk is dictated by the ever shifting waves of the Caribbean. At low tide we set off from the abandoned and derelict Bagshot Hotel, once a thriving waterfront property. We hang our towels on the rusting railings of the defunct Bananas nightclub ocean view terrace and then wade along a sandbar to the reef and the breakers a few hundred yards out to sea. We float face down on the buoyant and clear bottle green saltwater, peering through it, wearing snorkel masks. Coming up for air Ann inadvertently places her feet on a rock which then breaks the surface and reveals itself as a green sea turtle. Beyond the bubbling surf is blue water sailing all the way to Venezuela.


The expanding and contracting, curving and slanting sidewalks of Worthing are tricky after dark, especially after a few Banks beers. I take Ann’s hand and risk a glance skyward. I spot Orion’s belt. The hunter is a fixture in Alberta’s black winter skies. It’s nice to see him migrating south; it’s reassuring to know he gets tired of the freezing cold up north too.


(Part 2 of a series)



Tuesday, 14 April 2015



Green Monkey Tales: A Sense of Place


Our plane tarries on the tarmac for an hour and a half: some light on the pilot’s console in the cockpit is lit or blinking and it shouldn’t be doing that. It’s probably the same cheap Asian solid state circuitry that buggers our household appliances. C’mon, let’s wing it north on one turbine. Ann and I have a connector to catch in Toronto; Pearson has a stupid layout and we’ll have to go through Customs and security again. My back aches and my neck is stiff. My skin is peeling and itching in places where I thought the sun never shone. I squirm in my seat and look through the Perspex window at the teeming silver rain alternating sewing needles and railway spikes. I know that the weather will change in a few minutes. We should be lounging under an umbrella on the white beach instead of being shut inside this close cabin. Even without Air Canada’s unwelcome assistance, it’s really hard to leave Barbados.


The Commonwealth nation is one of the southernmost islands of the Lesser Antilles, a late link in the chain that comprises the eastern boundary of the Caribbean Sea. Barbados is a tiny country, measuring just 21 miles by 14 miles. Its total area of 166 square miles is some 30 less than that of the Island of Montreal where I was born. Prince Edward Island, Canada’s smallest province and like Barbados an island in the Atlantic Ocean, is massive in comparison, boasting a total area of 2190 square miles. Eleven days earlier as our arriving flight began its descent toward Grantley Adams International Airport I wondered irrationally if this paradise was even big enough to accommodate the length of a jet runway.


An hour after landing we are seated on a porch in Worthing, Christ Church, 110 sauntering steps from the teal Caribbean Sea. Wafting on the warm breeze from somewhere nearby are the positive vibrations of Jimmy Cliff’s Wonderful World, Beautiful People. The condensation dripping from my bottle of Banks lager dampens my package of cigarettes. I realize this holiday of ours could prove to be an ordeal. The relentless heat creates its own curious rhythms; we soon learn there is an island-wide economy of movement: a walking stride becomes a shuffle, a thumbs up greeting only reveals the tip of the digit, service people won’t make eye contact until they’re good and ready to shift themselves and road repair crews don’t seem to move at all.


Ann and I are guests of her brother Jim and his wife Shannon who live in Victoria, British Columbia. Jim is struggling with his first few months of retirement because every day is Saturday and it doesn’t get much better than a rum and Coke in Barbados. He grins as if he knows something we don’t. Shannon got her Irish up and took five weeks off from her job to share Jim’s happy place; they’ve been coming here for a decade. We are together on the ground storey of a duplex apartment. There are two bedrooms and two bathrooms, a kitchen, a dining area and a living area with a flat screen television. I’m mystified by the presence of that TV, I mean, how pathetic do you have to be to tune into the idiot box in a glorious place like this?


The bookshelf stocked by transients and travellers intrigues me. There is a hardcover by Slash mit Anthony Bozza, Die Autobiografie, der New York Times bestseller. There are paperbacks by James Patterson and Michael Connelly. My contribution is a British police procedural. The other book I’ve brought, The Surgeon’s Mate by Patrick O’Brian and which opens in 19th century Halifax, Nova Scotia will not be left behind.  


Our upstairs neighbours are Russell and Margaret, long-time friends and colleagues of Jim and Shannon. Russell is West Indian, born in Trinidad and the possessor of both Barbadian and Canadian passports. Russell will be our savvy island guide. Russell’s wife Margaret is originally from Victoria. Her cheery, laissez-faire attitude cloaks a cunning and ruthless Scrabble game. Ann and I learn that Russell and Margaret live near us, just 30 minutes south of Edmonton. We’ve made new friends a thousand miles from home.


Our other neighbours include fellow tourists staying in nearby guest houses, local folk, late night karaoke singers who frequent a dive bar called Nelson’s Arms just up the dusty alley, two chickens, five or six feral cats, lizards and a black faced green monkey. While the animals are shy, everyone else is friendly. One generous fellow I met on the street offered me blow, weed and a woman. I did not ask him his prices. One American dollar is worth two Barbadian dollars (BBD) or Bajan and both currencies circulate freely. I probably could have got one hell of a deal.


(Part 1 of a series)