Meeting Alison Leslie Gold: Au pair boy

I started work the next day. Six days a week with Thor. One day off, mixing with lost-soul expats like Bowery Bill who’d been washed up on the island years ago and had never left. 

Bill was in his late fifties, a gravel-voiced and cantankerous drunk. The young inheritor of a modest trust fund, he’d lived in Paris in the forties. I’d buy him drinks and he’d tell me stories about the Lost Generation of Pound, Joyce, Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Stein. I revered their work and had worshipped them all from afar. Once a week this old man shared his memories that brought me within touching distance of their lives.

A hero, Lawrence Durrell

I was in heaven, living on bohemia’s sidelines. Lawrence Durrell visited the island and I got his autograph. Leonard Cohen had a small villa behind the port. I never talked to him but I sat near him in cafes and tavernas and that was enough.

Leonard Cohen

Alison was a writer, but alcohol was proving too much of a distraction for her to get beyond page one.

I didn’t know who or what I was. And alcohol wasn’t making the picture any clearer.

All I knew was that I felt safe living in the island’s embrace, under Alison’s roof and looking after Thor.

More tomorrow.

Little Good Harbour. Barbados.

Little Good Harbour. Barbados.

Sunday morning, traffic is light and the turtles are having a lie-in.

So are the locals, except for the old fisherman rowing his way north to his lucky spot. It’s a tiny row boat, six foot long at most, and it takes him an hour to get there. He drops anchor, out comes the rod and he starts to fish, his back hunched against the sun.

He’ll be there all morning. A couple of good tuna though, and he’ll have money in his pocket for several days.

A cormorant floats on the thermals looking for breakfast. Then a silent kamikaze dives into the shallows. She surfaces, beak empty, and looks embarrassed - like someone who’s run for a bus and missed it. She glances round to check no one was looking and then takes off.

I sit on the plastic bench at the end of the pontoon. Sea crystal clear, one white sail on the horizon, a lazy swim.

Be grateful Dom. It doesn’t get much better than this.

Travis

 The wind is blowing from the east today. 

A ribbon of white smoke pours from the cement factory and floats out to sea. Against the empty blue sky it looks harmless, a benign and pretty strip of cloud but get too close and the smell of sulphur will tell you otherwise, its acrid taste catching the back of your throat.

The evergreen Travis makes his way along the foreshore with his net slung over his shoulder. Same old blue faded baseball cap, torn Tee shirt and baggy trunks. No shoes and a jaunty walk. He stops and watches the water then inches his way into the shallows until he’s waist high. He raises his net above his shoulders, pauses, and throws. The net billows out in a perfect arc and lands with a soft splash. Travis chuckles to himself as he hauls in his catch. Half a dozen bait fish flap and jump as he pours them into the bucket on the sand.

We board the Grady White and the twin 150 Yamahas power up and we speed half a mile out to sea and then Ralph drops us down to five knots as he plots a course due south. 

Charlie sets up the rods. Five in all. Two outriggers with their pink and silver lures skimming the surface. Two downriggers, their five-pound weights taking the bait down twenty foot and forty feet. The last rod with another surface lure is secured in the middle of the stern.

Charlie watches the new radar he’s had installed. It’s meant to tell us if we’re over any large fish. Charlie admits he hasn’t watched the on-line tutorial. He fiddles with knobs. The screen flickers. An empty ocean floor.

My job is to watch the rod tips. Shout if they bend.

We pass the Sandy Lane Hotel. Charter yachts under full sail, a pest of jet skis skidding across the bay, a glass-bottomed boat lingering over the reef and its bounty. Turtles, moray eels, blue tang. 

We head on down towards Bridgetown. I keep watching the rods but there’s no need for me to shout. Flying fish leap and fly forty, fifty, sixty feet above the waves before disappearing without a hint of a splash. A wonderful, ethereal sight, their silver bodies catching the sun as they fly silently just inches above the surface.

Sea birds come and look at us. Fly alongside at right angles and then give up when they detect there’s no food to be had.

We make a long slow turn in front of the old tanker that’s moored offshore. It’s a rusting, creaking, dying hulk, baking in the noon sun. There’s not a sign of life, a modern-day Marie Celeste. Ralph says it’s been there for years. Why? No one knows. This is Barbados, mate.

We head back up north at eight knots, closer to shore now and trying for barracuda. I sit and watch the rod tips. Not a flicker, not a twitch.

Being at sea is a cure for madness, says Charlie. Well, it certainly puts things in perspective. Brexit, Boris, Corbyn, Cameron. Whatever.

As we head back to Little Good Harbour we pass Travis in his little white skiff. He gives us a wave. There are two twenty-pound kingfish lying in the stern.

No wonder he’s singing. 

Travis heads off 

Travis heads off