Tuesday, 23 February 2010

I know I said I would plunge straight in, but I think you need a bit of my own back story first. A sort of 'laying my cards on the table', so you can have a picture of the young woman who arrived in Grenada in Feb 1982.

So - who am I? That was a question I asked myself throughout my youth. It wasn't until I emerged from my turbulent teens, that I knew I wouldn't be fulfilling my parents' expectations. I was never going to marry young, to a nice Jewish boy, and bring up kids in a semi-detached within walking distance of where I'd grown up.

Once I'd managed to work out that didn't mean I had some fundamental design fault, I set about finding myself. And found 'me' in politics.

The 70s were my decade. While working in straight jobs, all my energy and enthusiasm went into changing the world. They were exciting times, when that felt like a genuine possibility. The revolution was always just around the corner. These were the pre-Thatcher days, before greed triumphed over altruism. I was active in all the radical movements of the time: the women's movement, anti-racism, Northern Ireland, anti-nuke, community politics ...

Though many of the people I knew were members of the Socialist Workers' Party, or one of the myriad other left wing parties that abounded back then, I was never a 'joiner'. If anything, I was more radical, leaning to anarchy.

People associate anarchy with chaos and disorder, but when you think about it, a belief in anarchy as a workable alternative implies a fundamental belief in human nature: that, left to our own devices, human beings will choose to work together for the greater good. That we'll choose to access the capacity to do good that's within us all, rather than the potential for evil, greed and exploitation. It's not about every person for themselves, but about every person for every other.

Starry-eyed? Naive? Without a doubt, but it's still the way I feel deep inside. It's called hope.

So this was the young woman who decided in her mid-twenties that she needed to broaden her experiences and the best way to do that was to travel. To see other ways of living. To learn about other cultures, systems and attitudes. In 1980, I spent several months travelling across the US. The following year, I moved around, criss-crossing Europe. This last journey was undertaken with H, and it was at an open farm in Italy that we met J.

Travelling together by train when we left the farm, the three of us talked about possible destinations for a next trip. Grenada was mentioned in the list. I'd only vaguely heard of the island, and knew little other than that it was in the Caribbean and shouldn't be confused with Granada, in Spain.

Oh, and they'd had a revolution. Obvious choice.

The three of us worked and saved, planning on a week in Trinidad at Carnival, followed by a month in Grenada. At the last minute, J's father fell seriously ill and she had to drop out.

And so, in February 1982, H and I boarded the plane heading for the Caribbean with little idea what to expect, but filled with the desire to learn.