As a teenager I made the epic journey from coldest England to a strange land where my parents were born in the Caribbean. A place I heard much about but couldn't quite grasp what my parents loved and hated about the place they left.
My maternal grandmother wouldn't come to England and I was brave enough to want to venture across a gulf of water on a plane to stay for 3 weeks.
The first thing I noticed about my grandmother was she was very slim and exceedingly tall for an elderly woman. She gripped my arm like a vice and touched my face, hair, neck, stroked my back with her free hand. No rushing - she took her time. She looked stern. After what seemed like an age, her face broke into a smile and with tears running down her face she kissed me, wet soppy kisses everywhere! People who were stood around her home in the semi-darkness, watched and then clapped as she assaulted me with her kisses! This place is weird! These people are weird!
She was proud that I travelled so far to see her - the first child from her baby who had been born in England. We sat around in the yard with these people who had come to see this visitor from 'Hinglan'. The night creatures sounded too loud. The air was cool and fresh but very warm to me, even as it got darker.
After bathing and creaming myself I got ready for bed. I was very tired and disorientated and my grandmother and she checked my bed for the umpteenth time, plumping it, smoothing it, making it 'just so'. Suddenly I heard a big noise, a screechy sound under the bed. Suffice to say I was hysterical that I was expected to sleep in a room with nasty bugs making a racket.
My grandmother, insisted that the noise was from a creature outside the room. I looked at her as if she suddenly had a severe hearing problem as that noise was coming from under the bed. I was screaming out loud at the thought of being so tired and then having to sleep in a bed with some human-eating creature under it. The next thing I knew she threw herself onto the bed and howled - with laughter- she was holding her sides and rocking, making this big noise, whilst I'm stood there wondering what the hell was going on! Just as I thought she had calmed down and her shoulder shaking slowed down as she eased herself upright, she would look at me again and keel right back to where she was on the bed. Very strange people, I thought.
She wiped her eyes with her scarf and explained through smaller laughing sounds that she had never seen anything so funny in her life and I had come all that way to bring her a good joke.
So that was within a few minutes of meeting her. My grandmother.
She was a devout Christian who regularly gave any money the family sent over to the church. (Headed by a man who lived in a huge mansion on a hill with incredible views and several of the latest luxury cars- some other time.) We used to sit in the shade of the mango tree and I was eating fresh juicy mangos that she had picked and collected for my arrival. The chickens would run around the yard, the breeze would blow and on a Sunday the residents on the other side of the valley (a 4 mile walk away) would move their room-sized speaker boxes outside their house, plug in and play: Jim Reeves. Yes, Jim Reeves.
My grandmother would be preparing for church in her pristine white, highly starched and pressed clothes and as she prepared would sing along. So now, atheist that I am, each time I hear Jim Reeves I get a little misty eyed. Isn't that weird?