Mourning in St. Lucia

Saturday 3rd September – Sunday 11th September 2022

Our whole world was rocked this week with the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, on the afternoon of Thursday 8th September, peacefully in her Scottish residence in Balmoral. I have to start this blog with our small tribute to this absolutely remarkable woman, whose death has left us feeling bereft, like lost children. Thank you for your graciousness and inspirational commitment to your duty, your selflessness and humility always displayed for us all to see and to learn by. We loved you, we were so proud that you were our Queen and we will miss you. There will never be another like you and you will never ever be forgotten. R.I.P. Your Majesty x

The Queen and Prince Philip on their tour of the Caribbean, including St. Lucia, in 1966

So the first part of the week ticked by as usual, with our new little St. Lucian routine of chores and chilling starting to feel like normal life. Now that we have less than two weeks to go in the house, we’re trying to soak up all the amazing views the house and grounds have to offer, and its solitary peacefulness, and to appreciate this whole strange but true experience.

Last Sunday, we went to the Mission Church with Betyann and had a good old sing song. It started off with a rousing rendition of “We shall not be moved … we shall not, we shall not be moved …” etc. We didn’t know many of the other hymns but the words were boldly displayed and it was easy enough to get the gist of the tune, with a fair few “allelujahs” and “amens” thrown in. And we easily fell into the dancing and swaying with the rest of the congregation – loved it. There was a lot more besides – readings, prayers, testimonials and a long long sermon from the Pastor. We chose an appropriate moment to slip out after two and a half hours – we felt we had certainly done our bit.

Going into the Mission Church with Betyann

On Monday, I took a walk down to the beach with Betyann. She goes there regularly for her lunch and to swim and she wanted to convince me that I would love to swim there too. It is pretty, and I loved the short walk but, being pebbly and seaweedy, it doesn’t entice me as much as our pool does.

Our local beach

Me and Betyann hanging out at our local beach

This is where Betyann cooks her lunch

This is where Betyann sits with her friend to enjoy the beach most afternoons

Betyann and her cousin

We bumped into this dodgy looking chap on the way to the beach!

On the way back, Betyann took me through our neighbouring farm – goats and pigs … it was interesting but not how we would like to see our farm animals kept.

Betyann’s cousin very kindly gave us a breadfruit from his garden. Betyann showed me how to cook it when we got back to the house – we were eating it for the next 4 days – it’s very similar to potato.

Breadfruit being cooked

On Tuesday, Presley took us out on another drive – this time to Vieux Fort which is near the airport, still in the south of the island. We drove around the town, looking at schools, universities, the Heineken brewery and a race course that was built at great cost and only used once before covid hit, and has now been left to ruins. There is a huge sports stadium too which is currently being used as the hospital as the original hospital burnt down.

The Sports Stadium being used as a hospital

We stopped for a while by the beach and Presley introduced us to ‘sea grapes’ growing on the trees. They tasted similar to cherries but smaller and less sweet. Presley said that the children often come to pick them and then sell them in bags on the street to collect money to pay for their school uniform and books. I was wondering about British teenagers being asked to pick blackberries and sell them to contribute to their school costs – can you imagine!!!?

Sea grapes – they need to be red for eating

A young lad picking sea grapes to help fund his school uniform

Presley, stocking up on sea grapes to take home.

From this same spot, Presley pointed out the Maria islands that are not inhabited by humans but are home to two reptiles not found anywhere else in the world … (1) the St. Lucia racer snake and (2) the St. Lucia Whiptail reptile. That wouldn’t be a great trip for me!

Maria Islands

We also made a stop to buy some Johnnycakes – so delicious – similar to doughnuts but less sugar. Ironically, after centuries of sugar plantations, it is currently almost impossible to buy sugar in St. Lucia. A little embarrassing discussing sugar plantations though!

Steve queueing for Johnnycakes.

Our last stop before the inevitable supermarket shop was to drive up a very long and incredibly steep hill to see the lighthouse, and the amazing views.

Another sad demise this week was the sit-on lawn mower! Steve had it out for another outing and it ceased to cut. He’s very sad not to have the two acres looking like a cricket field when the Doc returns! By the power of Whatsapp we managed to show the spare part required for the Doc to bring on his return.

Thursday came with the sad news of the Queen and since then we’ve been, with unyielding patience, tuning into BBCiPlayer to watch all the footage … with all sorts of interference and buffering. That and YouTube have helped us so much in feeling closer to home at such a momentous time in our history. Not only the sadness of the Queen but watching and listening to Charles as he ascends the throne.

At times this week, with the bewildering grief, we have felt quite alone – so on Friday late afternoon we thought we’d wander up into the village to see if there was any marking of Her Majesty’s passing. There was no obvious wailing or flag flying but we headed to a local bar we’d noticed called ‘Roses Bar.’ We had no idea what it would be like but we thought it would be a great photo opportunity if nothing else. Well, we made many new friends in that next couple of hours … and yes, they were all so sad about the Queen and fascinated with the thought of Charles for King. There was also lots of cricket and football talk naturally as the customers were predominantly men. This is a completely local bar, not an inch of tourism about it (and that goes for the whole region we’re in) … but they seemed to love us – especially Steve who had them laughing hysterically. “Rose” is the super-friendly lady who owns it and and her fabulously funny son, Brad, runs the bar. So, we met Rose and Brad Brett, Roger Charles (who we crowned King) and Thomson Anthony … we did suggest to them that they have a lot of Christian names for surnames. We met lots of others too, including one poor old chap who fell off his chair – well he had been drinking 80% white rum all afternoon! Very basic and only beer or rum to choose from but the best fun we’d had in ages.

Me and Steve with Rose, the owner of the bar

Rose, Brad and Steve

Brad, showing us his gorgeous locks

We promised to return the next day as Saturday is their ‘Pork day!!’ Brad kills a pig in a hut by the bar in the morning and then during the day his customers pull up to buy fresh pork, and no doubt have a rum or two at the same time. He also makes ‘blood sausages’ which he raved about and said we would love. In the morning also he sells bowls of pig head soup which is made from the head of the pig from the week before, with vegetables added! We kept our promise and walked up again, in the heat, at about 4.30pm. Luckily all the pig head soup had gone but there were some blood sausages left which Steve bravely sampled … I cowardly declined … it was the name as much as anything!

Next week’s soup!!

We made sure we left the bar in time to walk down our lonely lane before dark … and we were rewarded with some stunning sunset views.

Extra-ordinary cloud formation

And today, Sunday, despite the fact that Steve had had one of those holiday upset tummies during the night, he medicated up and we headed up the lane for 9.30am mass at the Anglican Church – it felt important to pay our respects to Queen Elizabeth. It was a lady priest today and to be honest she was a bit fearsome. She was half an hour late turning up which didn’t get things off to a great start. She did say some words in tribute to the Queen plus a minute’s silence. Then we were asked to sing the National Anthem for the Queen for one last time!! It was slightly odd singing “Long live our noble Queen.” Steve and I boldly sang out … but came unstuck at the next two verses … so just had to listen along with the others. But then the sermon came and she took the opportunity to rant for over an hour about the lack of commitment and financial contributions from the parishioners – reading out all sorts of regulations. It was tedious and uncomfortable and completely irrelevant to us as visitors so we took an opportunity when her back was turned to make an exit. We’d been there for two hours at this point.

Now it’s Monday again which means we have 10 days left before we head up to the North of the island. We’re hoping to visit the local school sometime this week so it will be interesting to meet the children and find out about St.Lucian education.

I would definitely be there laying flowers and visiting the Queen lying in state if we were home – I feel sad not to be able to do that. We are with you all in this national grief, connected by the love of our beloved late Monarch – may she rest in peace.

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