Barbados

Now, pay attention. Barbados is NOT part of the Caribbean Curve. It’s 100 miles or so east and isn’t even made of volcanic rock. It’s made of two separate masses of coral rock that merged together.

The motto of Barbados is Pride and Industry. Not much of the latter on show today, that’s for sure. Barbados is shut. Well, it is Easter Sunday, to be fair. But when I say shut, I mean shut. There are opening scenes in 28 Days Later that have more activity. We pootled through the terminal shops, as is clearly standard practice in the West Indies, and purchased some postcards, which mum is now sitting writing industriously. Once outside, we found a cab to drive us into town, but the whole place was shut down. Metal shutters as far as the eye can see. Even the supermarkets and convenience stores are closed. Nothing, except, I imagine, the churches, is open for business. We asked to go to the Waterfront Cafe, recommended by both guide book and personal friends (thanks, Ange and Karen!), but even that was closed. So we fell back on what we knew to be safe – the Boatyard.

This where we came last time and was probably the only place open in Bridgetown. You buy a wristband which allows you to use the beach, the equipment and the bars and restaurants and wifi and then you walk through to the beach. They have cabanas and sun loungers and umbrellas and things in the water to swim out to and lie on and a rope swing to dump you in the water. And a bar in the shade and music that is not too loud if you sit at the other end. And the bluest, most startlingly turquoise water you have ever seen. The kind of blue you see on holiday brochures or CSI: Miami and assume they’ve used a red filter to get it that bright. Water so clear and turquoise and sand so white, it’s hard to believe it’s real. I can’t tell you how lovely it is here. If I’d realised we’d end up here, I’d have bought my cozzie and a towel, because the water looks ever so tempting, although I imagine the sand is scorchingly hot underfoot, so getting there would be tricky! Your wristband entitles you to one free drink, as well, which is a nice touch. The barman accidentally poured two diet cokes, and when we pointed it out, he said “Ah, just take it”. So I got TWO free drinks, which is even nicer!

It’s weird doing absolutely nothing. Just sitting watching the world, with no purpose or action or movement. No duties or plans or things to do or even think about. Mum dozed, dad went for a wander, I just sat and stared at the water. It was almost like meditation, watching my own thoughts wander past. I spotted the DJ from the ship, who is going home this evening, playing football on the sand. That got Together in Electric Dreams running through my head, as we sang it together the other night, which meant I then found myself thinking about the concert at Audley End where I heard Phil Oakey sing it live, and that was the day it rained so hard, we could barely see. So I found myself sitting on a beach in Barbados, where it was blazing sunshine and 30 degrees in the shade, thinking about heavy rainfall. Like I said, it’s weird watching your thoughts wander past – you never know where they’re going.

This evening I voted. My postal vote was sent from Huntingdon to Southampton, whence it was forwarded to Barbados to meet the ship. Despite a little left hand not knowing what the right hand was doing, and repeated denials of the existence of any envelope whatsoever with my name on, with enough nagging they found my envelope and delivered it to my cabin just before dinner. I was then able to complete both ballots, local election and referendum on the Alternative Vote, and seal up the envelope. I then went to reception and bought far too many stamps (possibly as high as three times that required) to ensure that nothing stops its safe return to Huntingdon for the count. My parents went down the proxy route, which means my poor uncle has to deal with it for both of them, as well as his own. Simpler from their point of view, but the control freak in my nature likes it this way.

I have spoken to other people on board whose local councils refused to accommodate their voting whilst being away. After some discussion, they conceded that they may not have asked the right questions or pressed hard enough for inclusion. Having personally been deliberately and maliciously disenfranchised during the last round of local elections by a delay in the moving of a ward boundary, there was no way I was going to miss out this time. I know some disagree, but I am very passionate about my right to vote and being on the wrong side of the world isn’t going to stop me. In particular, the potential for a permanent change to the way Britain votes in the future is far too important to leave to the whims of others and I was determined to make my voice heard. So dad and I went ashore and walked back into the terminal to put the envelope in the postbox ourselves. I could have simply handed it in to Reception for them to post, or put it in the on board postbox, but for the sake of a ten minute walk, I have now personally put it into the Barbados postal system, so the number of people able to make a mistake with it is now reduced to the bare minimum, and all I can do now is hope it arrives back in time. Job done.

I’m always intrigued by intelligent friends of mine who don’t vote. It’s not often anyone asks your opinion, so when they do, why would you not contribute? It’s not like you don’t have an opinion, everyone does, so express it. Never mind the number of people who have fought, been jailed and died for your right to vote, it’s your chance to express your opinion and shape the way the country works. I can’t even begin to comprehend the idea of not wanting to be a part of that. If you don’t vote, you can’t complain about what you end up with – licensing laws, schools, hospitals, the nhs, legal aid, benefits, immigration, potholes, dog licensing, straight bananas, the price of petrol, none of it. If you can look me in the eye and tell me that none of the above affect you or your life or your family and none of them matter, then fine, but otherwise, you should be voting.

Last time I checked there was a spellcheck function in PowerPoint, isn’t there? There’s a page on the television Passenger Information Channel which informs us that the “Captial” of Barbados is Bridgetown. Okay, so you may not give a rat’s whatsit about typing this stuff, but couldn’t you at least re-read it, just once? Pleeeeease? I’m not asking for a great deal and I’m sure it would cost you nothing in time or financial terms. Just click on the spellcheck button. Just once. That’s all we ask.

In fact, we’ve been having issues with punctuation for several days now. Dad has been particularly put out by a plasma screen playing a PowerPoint of information next to the Excursions Desk which said that “Our local agents have informed us that we will be arriving in St Maarten on Good Friday!!!” No, really. Three exclamation marks. Would you like to stick an ‘OMG!’ on the end as well, for good measure? Are you really so devoid of any intelligence whatsoever that you don’t realise that Good Friday is the same date all over the world? P&O, what kind of morons are you employing exactly? We managed to work it out for ourselves before we even left Southampton!!! To try and add extra exclamation marks in a rather fatuous attempt to insinuate that it came as a complete surprise to you is, frankly, insulting to your passengers, and dad, for one, is more annoyed by the exclamation marks than the shop closures. We knew they would be happening, we just didn’t realise how stupid you’d be assuming we are at the same time. And, yes, they did put up a similar message for Easter Sunday in Barbados. *sigh*

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