Sunday, 21 August 2016

Life in Trinidad Part Three



After three weeks at the hotel mum and dad moved into a rented house. I think it was up San Fernando Hill.  Mum wasn't dead keen on the position as it was rather lonely and being on the edge of a forest, full of snakes, millipedes and super sized lizards.  The other refinery wives lived on a nice estate provided by the oil company.  It was rather lonely for her as dad worked long hours. There was a house either side of us.  One neighbour had an Alsation dog which bit dad one morning on his way to the car in our drive, so he had to have a rabies jab just in case.  The other neighbour used to sit on his balcony playing the guitar and singing Andy Williams songs.  He was pretty good.

All the same, mum and I would have preferred to live with the other oil refinery families next to the Texaco Club which had a massive swimming pool set amongst closely cropped grass.  We did go once a week but it meant staying all day if we hitched a ride with dad both ways.  Sometimes we would get a taxi and on one occasion mum mentioned to the driver she had bad ear ache since the long plane journey.  His advice?  "Madam, you need to fry a few cockroaches and then pour the oil in your ear!"

If dad was off work we would laze around the pool a bit and then he and I would swim as mum wasn't a swimmer. He taught me to dive from the top board. I only did it once and it was a long drop finding myself at the bottom of the pool but I soon came up.  I had my first proper burger there as anything American seemed to be the thing.

On Sundays, we'd drive through sugar cane plantations to Mayaro Beach on the eastern side of the island to laze under the coconut trees and swim in the Atlantic Ocean.  Soon locals would climb the tall Palm trees to collect coconuts, hack the top off and provide a straw. Service with a smile.  The water was quite choppy and the beach sandy and clean.

One Sunday we saw a man in the middle of the road next to the sugar cane walking on the spot near a rather large tarantula!

Most Sundays we were joined by a colleague of dad's and his girlfriend.  They had a row pretty much every time we saw them and the man was a sulker and wouldn't speak to his girlfriend for days.

I always enjoyed the longish drive to the beach, as there were so many fascinating sights and sounds.  Many of the houses in Trinidad were built on stilts, supposedly to make it harder for the creepie crawlies to enter the house.  No idea if that worked but our house was on ground level.

Mum employed a lady to help around the house, Anita, a middle aged Trinidadian who always brought an umbrella, not matter what the weather.  One day Anita found a shoelace snake at the front door.  She swiftly chopped it in several pieces and rushed to the back door.  She told us when you find a shoelace snake at the door, you will always find one at the other door and she was right.  It was sitting on the back door step.

One night Anita was babysitting me and Sandra.  We were sent to bed at varied bed times as I am 10 years older than my sister.  At some time during the night we were burgled.  Anita said she was asleep!  Mum and dad were out at the Naparima nightclub dancing the night away.  We used to put white powder on the floor to kill the millipedes (not much chance of that) and when they got home, mum and dad saw footprints leading to Sandra's bed in their room, obviously checking she was asleep.  There was sugar everywhere, as Anita filled her umbrella with sugar to take home!  So Anita had to go.

This led to several changes in our San Fernando household.




Friday, 19 August 2016

A FEW CAT FACTS





Throughout history the domestic feline has been protected, valued and cherished.  The ancient Egyptians worshipped the cat and most subsequent civilizations have held cats in high esteem.  The cat has managed to remain virtually unchanged in size and shape.  They tolerate a relationship with people and love the comforts of a good home, but barely concealed underneath its domestic appearance the cat of today still has all the hunting skills of its forebears.  If given the opportunity, even the most spoilt cats will react to the thrill of the chase.
Having a cat in the home is both therapeutic and rewarding.  They are easy to look after, are peaceful company and no other pet is as fastidious in its habits.  All cats are beautiful, but the individual tastes of cat-lovers are catered for in the wide range of breeds and colours available.  The cat is equally loving and ferocious, able to live happily with humans or survive as a feral.  Small in stature, the cat has always relied on its skill and speed to escape from predators and to hunt its own prey.
A female is capable of rearing two or three litters every year providing she is well fed.  They have highly developed maternal feelings and are reluctant to leave their litter, staying permanently on guard of her kittens.  As the kittens develop, the mother teaches them to wash themselves, to play and eat.  Young kittens start to develop predatory behaviour from about six weeks of age.  They will crouch in ambush, pouncing on each other.  Cats prefer to hunt alone.  They have excellent vision even at dusk and dawn and with their acute hearing, they are able to ascertain the location of their prey.  They attack with a strong leap, grasping the victim with extended paws before biting the prey.  However, a well fed cat will want to play with the prey for a while before a kill is made, having enjoyed the stalking and hunting.  Even the most domesticated cats will hunt if given the opportunity.  Indoor cats can satisfy their hunting skills by playing with catnip-filled mice.  The cat is an excellent jumper and is usually able to clear four times its own height from a crouching position.  Climbing upwards is easy for the cat as the hindquarters propel the cat upwards, whilst using the unsheathed claws to grip.  Descending is a more difficult move as the weaker forelimbs have to take the strain.
Upon waking a cat generally stretches, yawns and is then ready for action.  It may well start self-grooming with its tongue and paws.  Mother cats spend long periods washing their kittens, creating a bond between them.  Sick cats may not be able to wash themselves and this function should be carried out for them as they are naturally clean and fastidious.  If they have been washed and gently groomed it may help the cat to recover.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Living in Trinidad Part Two


In June 1963, we left our home in Amington, Staffordshire and set off to Grandma's bungalow in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex.  Dad stayed a couple of days with his mum and brother before flying to Trinidad to start his new job on an oil refinery and left me, mum and baby sister Sandra, then just 2 years old, in a B and B in Westcliff-on-Sea close to Gran and Uncle Syd.

Most days mum would take me and Sandra to buy new clothes as dad's company had paid him an allowance to kit us out in new summer clothes. Exciting times as at 11 years old I was just beginning to take an interest in my appearance.  There was the bright yellow striped dress I nicknamed "the deckchair."  Then the one that got away, brown and orange floral as instead I chose the "post office" dress which was white with black and red stamps dotted around.  We shopped for good quality in Hamlet Court Road and cheap and cheerful in Southend High Street. I remember it raining a lot.

Dinner in the B&B was a lot of fun.  My sister was popular with the elderly guests, shouting "You're a right wreck" from her highchair to anyone who would listen.

Mum didn't feel she could cope with the journey on the train to Heathrow, having two young children in tow, so we got a taxi to The Mount Royal Hotel as it was then known in Bryanston Street, Marble Arch, London. I don't remember much about it, but it was my first time in a big London hotel and it was such an exciting time.

The following morning we took a cab to Heathrow airport.  I had never been to an airport before and was impressed by the escalators of all things. We boarded a BWIA flight and I sat by the window, beginning my great love of travel and airplanes. The first stop was Bermuda.  The pilot circled over the pristine white beaches and blue ocean. We were allowed to enter the airport for a drink and when
we left the plane it was like stepping into an oven with a hairdryer blowing at the same time. Young people nowadays are more likely to have flown since being a toddler but to me, back then, it was like stepping into another planet!

 I had a Coca Cola and all too soon it was time to board the plane, but not without starting a collection of napkins from Bermuda and BWIA.

A couple of hours later we landed in Antigua where we had time for another drink but mine tasted like calamine lotion, not that I have ever licked calamine but it certainly smelt like it!

About one and a half hours later we landed in Bridgetown, Barbados. My sister was asleep so mum decided to stay on the plane.  However I felt unwell so the cabin crew took me off the plane and put me in an air conditioned room in the terminal with a fan. Walking back to the plane I was aware of a very warm breeze.

A short while after take off we hit a storm and the pilot decided to return to Saint John's in Bridgetown.  Eventually we took off for our destination of Piarco airport in Port of Spain, Trinidad, arriving after dark. Dad was there to meet us in the arrivals hall and we headed to the upside down hotel, http://www3.hilton.com/en/hotels/trinidad-and-tobago/hilton-trinidad-and-conference-centre-POSHIHH/index.html

I enjoyed my first prawn cocktail in the restaurant and squealed when I realised I was sharing the shower with a praying mantis. It was also my first proper shower as we had a bath at home.



I don't remember anything about breakfast but we got in a cab to drive to San Fernando and it was thrilling to see banana trees for the first time (there was no colour TV back then). I saw so many amazing things, roadside stalls selling exotic fruit and coconuts, little naked children cooling down under outdoor showers.  Eventually we arrived at Todd's Hotel in San Fernando where we stayed for 3 weeks to look for rental accommodation close to dad's job at the oil refinery. Time passed very pleasantly at Todd's and occasionally mum and dad let me stay up late for an hour after dinner to listen to the steel band.  I remember the early evening sunsets. One minute it would be light and within 5 minutes it would be jet black, the palm trees black against a bright orange sky.

Most of the refinery employees lived on the Texaco estate in lovely properties but dad fancied something up the hill for more independent living and less clicky!


Saturday, 13 August 2016

Scallops and calamari with a boiled egg and prawn cocktail salad

Nice for a Saturday lunch and if you have guests, the seafood takes little time to cook. A little update on the 70's prawn cocktail:







Ingredients

Scallops, preferably fresh from the fishmonger
Cleaned and sliced calamari, dipped in seasoned flour
Lemon juice
Olive oil and a knob of butter
Sprinkle of paprika

Salad leaves
Boiled baby new potatoes
Cold boiled eggs
Tomatoes
Prawn cocktail

Method 

Pour a little olive oil with a knob of butter into a frying pan.  Place on a low to medium heat.  Add the calamari and sprinkle with the paprika.  Turn a few times until looking golden, then add the scallops for about 1 minute each side. Be careful not to overcook as they can become rubbery and nobody wants that.  Squeeze half a lemon or lime on the cooked seafood and serve lukewarm with the salad ingredients.

A basket of baguettes with butter or garlic butter would be nice on the side with a chilled bottle of French Viognier.


 Son made his own version, leaving out the prawns.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Getting around London if Disabled

I broke my arm and shoulder back in May so decided to step up "my getting back to normal plans."   Today I walked for 3 hours trying to fight that fear of falling. First had a nurse routine appointment to check my blood pressure. Third blood pressure reading was optimal.....good news.  I saw lots of people in wheelchairs or with walking sticks in the surgery and wondered how they manage.

Weather was cloudy but warm, too nice to just come home so walked from surgery to Portobello Road where I sat in a cute coffee shop to have cappuccino.

Popped in the Post office to buy newly issued Beatrix Potter stamps....they are too pretty to use.   http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-36903865 

The gentleman in front of me at the Post Office had a white stick and he coped very well with sorting out his payment.

Took photos of two Spanish tapas bars thinking of future lunch venues, one of them being

http://www.labodegarestaurant.co.uk     and the second being
http://www.tapasbarnottinghill.co.uk/

Then I passed a better coffee shop with heavenly cakes....next time!

Started to feel a bit weary as skipped breakfast, so after buying sardines en escabeche from the Spanish shop in Portobello Road, http://rgarciaandsons.com, I hopped on the bus to Sainsbury's supermarket......the first time I've done so since breaking the shoulder...I made sure the disabled seats were empty and I popped on my sling.  My surgeon advised me to wear it in crowds and my physiotherapist insists I never put it on.

After a small supermarket shop I walked home along the lovely canal.

I do admire disabled people just getting on with things.  I might be tempted to never leave the house.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

A Jambalaya medley of Chorizo, Chicken and Okra






Ingredients

1 boneless chicken breast for each person cut into chunks
1 chorizo sausage, sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 white cooking onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic peeled and crushed
250g of long grain rice
350ml of chicken stock
A small glass of white wine
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tsp of paprika
1 tbsp of Cajun seasoning
200g of frozen okra
1/2 a teaspoon of salt and few grinds of black pepper

Method

Pour the olive oil into a frying pan and add the chorizo until the oil turns red.  Add the onions and slowly fry for about 5 minutes until they are translucent.  Then add the chicken chunks and turn until browned a little on the outside.  Add the crushed garlic, paprika, salt, Cajun seasoning and pepper.  Add the rice.  Give it all a good stir.  Then add the chopped tomatoes and a little white wine.  Bring to the boil and then simmer for 5 minutes before adding the okra.




Cover the pan with a lid or tin foil and continue to simmer for another 15 minutes.




Monday, 25 July 2016

Living in Trinidad Part One

I was born in Southport, Lancashire, in Northern England and moved south with mum and dad.

When I was 5 mum fell out of love with my dad, a Chief Engineer in the Merchant Navy. If anybody recognises him, I would appreciate information as he has been presumed dead for years and I have no history.  I believe he was married before mum to a woman in the Netherlands, and I may have other siblings.

Mum got together with my stepfather, a man she met in The Peter Boat pub in Leigh-on- Sea, Essex  one evening whilst out with her mum, my nana.  His mum gave them a caravan and their life together began.

Although travel had featured largely in my young life, as my stepfather was also an engineer, trained by the Merchant Navy, we travelled with our caravan to wherever "dad" was working..

We lived on Holmbush Farm in Sussex, just outside of Brighton for about a year, Lincolnshire, Derbyshire, Macclesfield in Cheshire and Amington in Staffordshire, where my younger sister was born.  I was no stranger to moving home, but one day, "dad" came home and said "Have you heard of Trinidad?"  I hadn't but looked it up on the world globe I had received as a present one Christmas to help with my geography lessons.  It was on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, just off the coast of South America.
 
When I told my schoolmates and the teachers, they were just as mystified as to where I was going but promised to keep in touch with blue airmail letters (no instant internet back then, the letters took a minimum of 5 days to receive and were very welcome).  The teachers organised 6 months homework for me, so that I wouldn't lose touch with the British curriculum.

"Dad" was to work on an oil refinery in Pointe-à-Pierre just north of San Fernando in Trinidad.