Sardines In A Can

It was a long and arduous journey from Kingston to my home town, I wound down my window to take in the cool breeze of the early evening, only to be greeted by the unpleasant bouquet from the Palisedoes shore line.  Even still the view remained breath-taking. The sea crashed against the rocks, leaving behind a white foam as the waves rolled backwards, sea stones gently rocked from the force of the surf but the wind against my face blanketed the sounds of the sea’s watery melody.  I sucked in my breath, childishly blowing my cheeks into mounds, allowing the sea breeze to air-condition my body and blow dry my hair as it lay fixed to my scalp with perspiration.

We soon approached Down Town Kingston, it was a mismatch of old and new buildings interspersed between one another.  It had always been a bane in my mind, it should have remained dominated by older buildings in keeping with history.  It seemed some ‘Worldlians’ landed upon our shores and indoctrinated their ideals upon the less knowledgeable leading to its ruination.  I never liked driving through the area, I cringed when the vehicle came to a traffic stop.  Its appearance made me feel closed in under the heights of some the surrounding buildings and the roads seamed to narrow under their darkness. I felt weary, my watery eyes battled with my eyelids, I yawned several times over, jet lag championed as my eyes slowly succumbed to sleep.

I later stirred, inhaling, as the smell of fried fish and the sweet smoky aromas from jerk pans scattered along the road sides, enveloped my nostrils.  We were in the town of Old Harbour.  I looked at my watch, it was five forty-five in the evening, traffic stood still, there were momentary creeps of no more than a snail’s pace at a time.  The drive through the town of Old Harbour around this hour always proved treacherous. There were pedestrians weaving carelessly in and out of lines of traffic, loaded hand carts appearing from every avenue, mini buses coasting along with conductors jumping in front of oncoming vehicles touting for fares.  The taxi stands were crowded by a mix of weary workers and school children clad in uniform, waiting to make their homeward journey, drivers flashed their hands fanned with Jamaican dollars, seeking custom with empty taxis being rushed upon with fervour.  From the corner of my eye I could  see taxis being entered even before the existing passengers alighted or the moving vehicle came to a halt.  I smiled, as I thought of my favourite ‘go to’ nibble, sardines in a can, when I glimpsed four seat passenger vehicles escorting a party of six or more passengers.  At least sardines had oils to ease their burden. The overrun taxis extremities looked as if they would chafe under the heavy overload of passengers, in addition to  car boots full of wares. There were scatterings of vendors yet to close their stalls, beckoning to prospective customers as they passed through, awaiting the last sales of the evening.  The streets were heavily sprinkled with discarded objects, left behind by pedestrians, the earlier market and road side traders.  Though I disliked the drive through Old Harbour I was mesmerised by the urban thoroughfare of the town, as it bustled into the darkness of the evening.

Finally traffic eased bringing us to the outskirts of the town of Sandy Bay, in the Parish of Clarendon.  I often wondered why it was named as such then it hit home that there must have been some kind of beach or sea near by but I never felt keen enough to question it.  Clarendon was a dry parish, the Jamaican Sahara, it reminded me of a deserted town in the Wild West, with mini tornadoes of dry sand like soil blowing every where.  The Parish seemed to have been lost in a drought with the loss of the Jamaica Railway Corporation some years earlier.  Apart from the makeshift honey and molasses stalls that strung the roadways and stray dogs with protruding rib cages, dotting our course, there was hardly anyone around.   As we drove by I spotted a slender woman, bronzed as the evening’s sun pelted down on her skin, her red-brown hair tinged with white dust from the billows of dust clouds that moved around her.  Clarendon appeared to be a cultural desert, maybe the hour meant most people had retired to the comfort of their homes.  My mouth felt dry, I rolled my tongue to awaken my saliva.  I was thirsty.

“Can we stop to get something to drink?” I enquired.  The driver replied “Yeah Man!  But Of course Miss, we can stop when we reach a Porus.”

Porus was in the Parish of my home-town, Manchester, so named because of the porous soil.  I grew up believing the story that the name Porus was somehow related to the newly freed slave lamentations of ‘ Poor us!’ spurred on by the poor conditions freedom had brought them.  The town had narrow winding roads and deep corners, if you were not careful you could get stuck behind drivers of heavily loaded articulated lorries.  It was rare for you to come across a lorry driver who would kindly wave you past or one that kept left, they firmly held their ground, menacing you into a slow crawl behind them.  Porus was a fruitful town. Fresh produce stalls edged the streets, bags of oranges and grey tarnished grapefruit, star apples of purple and green neatly tied into bunches, the yellow flesh of ackees with their distinctive oval black seeds popped out of their red coats, hands of plantains and bananas summoned and green spiky jack fruits hung in huge abundance.  Once sliced a jack fruit’s pungent smell could turn you off one of the sweetest fruits, the yellow flesh of the fruit housed seeds which could serve as an additional meal when boiled or roasted.   Fruity purples, yellows, greens and orange hues popped out at you from nearly every corner, a truly refreshing sight.

We slowed to stop at a tiny road side bar.  I hopped out of the car, rubbed my aching knees, then headed arm in arm with my grandmother, into a small, dark but quaint little bar.  The barmaid beamed at the sight of us, I drank in every little sight within.  My eyes darted over the triangular-shaped display with dark brown bottles of Dragon Stout neatly lined beside the slightly darker shaded bottles of Guinness, on the shelf below sat the fat stocky orangey-brown bottles of Red Stripe Beer with their distinct red and white labels and beside them, the one that stood out from the crowd, the green and white of the long-necked Heineken bottle.  There was an empty glass and a half empty bottle of J Wray and Nephew White Over-proof Rum perched on the counter, signs of an earlier evening tipple.  Our driver brought over a couple of wooden stools, I perched one bottom cheek upon one of the stools and outstretched my other foot for balance.  I hadn’t been in a bar with my Grandmother since I was little.  I used to walk with her to Miss Mavis’s Bar, not far from our home to buy the odd packet of cigarettes.  She hadn’t smoked since her younger sister died from cancer a few years back.  It showed on her, she had replaced her ten or so a day smoking habit to mint balls which increased her waist line and cleavage.  I was handed an ice-cold bottle of D & G Cola Champagne Soda, Nan had remembered, it was one of my favourites.   I gulped my first authentic taste of the island after three years, my Jamaican drought was finally over, as it’s bubbles played with my tongue and saturated my throat.  Life was good.

© 2015 ANL

18 thoughts on “Sardines In A Can

  1. I loved this! You write beautifully, I hope my description will be as amazing as yours one day! 🙂

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    1. Now you are making me blush! Thank you so much! I have a long standing love affair with Jamaica and so many memories happy and sad sit locked away in my head and heart then they just spill out when I put pen to paper. I want to make people see Jamaica through my eyes in all of her beauty past and present.

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      1. I especially liked this story because of that, it warms my heart when people share there experiences about Jamaica & it’s even better when I can picture it perfectly. That’s one of my goals as a blogger, I want people to see Ja as I do, but my blogging journey has just begun

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  2. I just started Blogging 10 months ago and it’s been okay thus far. I’m learning stuff daily from other bloggers out there and there is so much to read! It beats when I used to grab my mom’s copies of Mills and Boons when we lived in the UK and when I’ve finished all my books I just log on and hey my mind is well and truly filled!

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  3. Beautiful…Jamaica is one of my favorite places in the world. I felt I was driving along the road with you. Thanks for a momentary sojourn to a beautiful land. My homeland is covered with a thin layer of snow today, problems are bombarding me at every turn, my heart is definitely in Jamaica today

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    1. I fell I love with Jamaica from my first visit at 6years old. I have a very unhealthy obsession with the place. I feel empty not being here. Being given the opportunity to grow up here has been a true blessing and seeped my mind’s eye with so many fond memories. Glad I could take you along on the journey:)!

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  4. Hi, I’m Robert, living in York – England. I loved reading this post for many reasons, but the main one is about returning home after a while. It’s nothing like on your scale, but I live in York, but I was born in Sheffield. My feelings when I go back there exactly mirror yours. It’s weird how it’s home, but it’s no longer home because of the various ways that things have changed. I’ve been away for about 20 years now. Maybe it’s time I started to make some plans. Thanks for sharing this, and for the beauty and skill of your writing.
    Kind regards – Robert.

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    1. Hello Robert:)! Nice to hear from you. Sheffield is a lovely place I have visited a few times, I was born in Birmingham – England, but came to live in Jamaica when I was 9. I guess it is where my spirit feels at home. Many only dream about returning to the place they call home and thankfully I am able to live that dream right now. The beauty is having my family to share it with. After my 20 plus years of drought it is wonderful to finally be home and share in the experience. I think in the same way I have grown to love this place my children are forming their own bonds and writing their own stories as we speak. Thank you for your lovely comments, I still consider myself as work in practice.

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      1. My first real girlfriend’s parents were from Jamaica. They lived in Hillsborough, Sheffield at the time. Their surname is Livingstone. It would be so weird if you knew them, but then again I wouldn’t be entirely surprised. My wife is from Trinidad (and Tobago) and she seems to know every single Trinidadian we ever meet. 🙂
        As far as the lovely comments go – you’re more than welcome. It’s always nice to meet such a good hearted person as yourself.

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      2. Can you hear me saying Livingstone in my Lenny Henry like Jamaican accent? Everyone knows everyone here except for me. The years I went AWOL made certain of that. Now my Grandmother knew everyone and either went to school or travelled to the UK with them or they are some distant relative:). I am sure if she was still around she possibly would have known them. From the day we arrived back in 1979 my sister never left, she seems to know everyone, when people start talking to me, I act like I remember them to save embarrassment then later I call my sister to ask if she knows so and so! My mind just goes blank, I think I still have baby brains :).

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      3. Hahaha – you’re beautiful! Yes, I can hear that accent very clearly. Perhaps your voice is higher pitched though? 🙂
        Yeah – those old people are amazing. I have an aunt that’s the same – she remembers everyone!
        Hope you’re having a beautiful day. I bet the sun in shining – yes? 🙂

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      4. :). The people here describe my voice as low and throaty, especially when my brummie accent floats in. Now you would think I would have been able to shake it off over the years. Well, I have had no such luck, I’m a brummie through and through! Take me out of brummie land but my accent has stuck like glue!
        The sun has grabbed an umbrella today as it’s a bit overcast and a breezy with an abundance of grey clouds hanging about. I still hung my washing out in the elements I could not have asked for a better tumble dryer. I’m nursing my poorly Little Banana who is constantly craving my attention today she came home with a tummy bug a few days ago and she’s playing the poor wounded lamb, God love her:)! Regardless I am still enjoying my day.

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