Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Relationships

Since this is a personal account as well as a historical and political one, there are some missing details in the previous posts that I've realised I need to fill, coming under the heading of 'relationships'.

When I was back in London, somewhere between operations 2 and 3, I happened to overhear a conversation at a party in which Grenada was mentioned. I spoke to the woman afterwards and she told me her story, which bore a remarkable resemblance to that of mine and H.

C
and her sister had visited Grenada on holiday and had the same emotional response as we had. Like us, they too planned to return but then her sister fell pregnant and C told me she was planning to go on her own. We promised to look out for each other.

H and I had been settled in Tempe for some time when C came to visit us. She was staying with a group of women in Carifta Cottages - a housing development on the south side of Grand Anse - but the others were due to leave shortly. C asked if we knew of anywhere she could rent. We asked round and found out that the little board house at the entrance to our gap was available.

C moved in and we became (and remain to this day) close friends. With a background in community development in the voluntary sector, she was working in Grenada as a volunteer with NACDA, the agency responsible for developing and encouraging co-operatives, the method that she had chosen to use her skills and experience to conribute to the Revo.

N was a local woman living with her children in Mt Parnassus who later moved further up the coast to Happy Hill. We became very close early on during our second stay and she devoured our collection of books with infectious enthusiasm, providing us with gratifying evidence of the need for the mobile library. In return, N taught us to cook and took us on day long trips into the country, from where we'd hitch back together, laden with sacks of fresh produce.

PC was a local mover and shaker in Tempe. An older man, he took it upon himself to act as our mentor. His street wisdom, connections and sheer good sense, as well as the respect people had for him proved invaluable for us. It was PC, for example, who took H and I into the ghetto - considered off limits to outsiders. The ghetto was a tiny warren of shacks just off the Carenage in St Georges. As soon as we walked in, our presence was challenged. PC only had to say that we were with him for the protests to cease.

It was strange; at first I would often be conscious of being the only white person in a particular place. I never felt vulnerable, but I certainly felt conspicuous. After a while though, as our faces became familiar and our presence drew less attention, I wouldn't even notice. Yet at the same time, it was vital to retain an awareness of who I was and where I came from. My story may have been running parallel to that of the people I met and became close to, but the truth is that I could never forget I was there by choice and not by birth or history.

Another regular visitor to our yard was R, a 10 year old diabetic boy who would come into our kitchen and cook up batches of plantain crisps. And then there was Y, who taught us belly dancing. And M, who'd had a scene with J but stayed on in our yard after she left. And ... and ... and ... many more people who made up our daily landscape.

And then there was L. I have to talk about L.

Remember the background? When I returned to Grenada in June 1983, I had just come out of a disastrous 6 year relationship. I was determined to remain single, aware that I needed the space to sort my head out and work out how and why I had clung for so long to that particular shipwreck.

But remember too what I said about the tourist scene? A single woman was always going to be seen as available. As soon as we arrived, H resumed her previous relationship with B. No matter how much I protested that my single status was a choice and was not negotiable, I was under constant pressure from men wanting to be my 'personal friend'. I didn't kid myself that I was irresistably gorgeous, knowing the lure was what I represented, not who I was personally.

One person stood out from the crowd who would approach me each time I went out and congregate at all hours of the day and night on our balcony. Not because he was any more persistant than the others, but because he was the only one who I felt made the effort to get to know the real me. I'd met L the previous year and had felt the connection then too, but had never acted on it. This time, L was determined to establish a relationship. I was equally determined to remain single.

I lasted two months. Two whole celibate singleton months, before embarking on the most tempestuous and passionate relationship I'd ever had. L of course had many years experience of being with women tourists. And I was certainly no blushing virgin.

Even so, I think it was clear to us both early on that what we had together was different from anthing either of us had ever experienced before.