In Quest of Books or Glory? -Jamaica 2005

Mandeville and the Books

Mandeville and the Books

So, awake at 5:30 am, and then 7:30 having had yet another night interrupted by the noisy air conditioning. I've had to persuade Paul to accept leaving the thing on during the afternoon and then switch it off when we want some kip. Air-Con management was to pre-occupy us for a quite a few hours, especially when the bleeding thing broke down later in the week and leaked like hell -drip-drip-drip.

Nine-Thirty AM. A new driver, Mr.Chaplain's minion No.1, arrives and drives us to the Jamaica Library Service to collect Agnes Mitchell and "Miss Fraser". Jamaican's have a lot of respect for each other and call each other "Mrs." "Miss" etc. How quant! "Miss Fraser" will have more of a starring part in this story as the week's event's unfolds. Suffice to say, she has some of the longest legs I've ever seen on a woman. As she settled next to me and Danny Brown, bowler not author you remember, I wondered quite what was in store for us today.

Off into the Kingston traffic from hell. I soon realize that "Half-Way Tree Road" is the main focal point and main pain in the traffic system in this City and having spent twenty minutes battling the traffic, we get stuck in another interminable jam. Is this Walsall or Kingston I ask? We then find the cause of the problem, a half-flooded road which the driver promptly gets us in , and at the point when the bus is going to tip up and crash into the crocodile laden swamp, we get through it and we're off at Agnes's suggestion to "Spanish Town" . I know we were going to like Spanish Town as it reminds me of certain parts of Bilston that they dug up and forgot about. I must of been looking the other way or concentrating on yet another pile of scrap when the others told me later that there was a naked man waving at us. We contemplated what this man considered wearing when the rain came - shall I wear a loin cloth today or just get it wet? Tough choice really.

Having negociated around the tight streets and obvious pleasures of "Women and sex: $10" we then went to St. Catherines, which after the explosion of Spanish Town, bypassed me completely. I was still trying to sort out what was the point of Spanish Town, and why were there so many garages doing shock absorbers and bearings?

We next take the Toll Road which is manna from heaven! No potholes and a straight run. Forty minutes later we are in Mandeville and we pull into the Manchester Parish Library. We are met by the director, Karen Barton. She shows us around the library, much to the enjoyment of the assembled librarians. I was missing my computers at this point, after all, if you are on a busman's holiday, it's nice to look at soome buses!

After the formalities and presentations are over, we are taken off into Mandeville and up a narrow backstreet, a road climbs to the top of a hill affording beautiful views over the valley. Yep! We arrive at Bloomfield Great House, a fantastic old plantation house now turned into a restaurant. Here we are treated to a three course lunch of fruit, goat curry and salted fish, vegatables and washed down with punch, a non-alcoholic version that is. Miss Fraser is a most attentive hostess and we wander around soaking up the views and the hospitality. Mandeville is well liked by the Jamaicans, especially those who have returned from England as it has a cooler temperate climate, much more like England. If this is like being on tour with England, then I'll have some of this! What an experience! Fantastic. And here is the moment to thank the Jamaica Library Service for something that not every English tourist gets to do!

We bid our farewell's and return to Kingstonvia the efficient Toll Road and then hit another hellish traffic jam thanks to the floods. Some drivers try driving down the verge to escape, but the police are waiting for them. Never mind the state of the vehicle, driving down the verge is a bookable offence. Must have been trained by the West Midlands Police this lot.

We arrive back at the hotel and head for the bar and await the arrival of the "10-dayers". By the time they arrive, we have a table full of Red Stripe and are quite libacious. We greet the team and get some more beer and are happily off to bed as tomorrow promises us the prospect of the real purpose of our trip - cricket lovely cricket!

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Copyright 2005 A.G.Morris