Bits and Bites of Everyday Life


By Alberte Villeneuve-Sinclair
True North Perspective

Alberte Villeneuve-Sinclair is the author of The Neglected Garden and two French novels. Visit her website to learn more:

We are so constituted that we can gain intense pleasure only from the contrast…” (Sigmund Freud)

Image: Detail of photo of Alberte Villeuneuve-Sinclair

  Image: Snow on the author's roof. Photo provided by Alberte Villeuneve Sinclair.
Despite the calendar, winter hangs on, including on the author's roof. Photo provided by Alberte Villeneuve-Sinclair.

Some people will tell you that you appreciate summer more after a rough winter. Some people will tell you learning to love winter is all about changing your attitude. Well, let me tell you I hate winter and have had enough of it, thank you! I’m sure thousands of Maritimers would agree with me. Now if we could only get Mother Nature to respect the calendar date for spring, I would have stopped complaining, but we got -27C weather with bitterly cold winds right after spring’s official arrival. Spring seems so close and yet so far away!

I wasn’t planning to go away on vacation this winter but after suffering through minus 40 degree weather with ever vicious winds, dangerous driving conditions, cars that wouldn’t start (not mine), I decided I had had enough and booked a two-week vacation in Barbados with my friend Marjo. We left in total darkness on the 18th of February. The flight to Toronto was smooth and for our flight to Barbados, we were offered a good deal that bumped us up to the VIP section. Marjo and I have often said that there are no coincidences in life, just perfect synchronicity… and so our trip was full of wonderfully synchronized happenings. The first one was meeting Robert, a wonderful gentleman from Halifax who oversees a construction contract in Barbados. Robert’s initial flight had been delayed because of a vicious snowstorm. As destiny would have it, we struck a conversation that went back and forth during the whole flight. At one point, I mentioned my novel “The Neglected Garden” and the fact that Barbados had been inspirational in its writing. Robert was quite interested and thought of a friend who would really enjoy it. As synchronicity would have it, I had a single copy of the book in my carry-on bag and offered it to him.

Image: Flowers bloom in Barbados. Image provide by Alberte Villeneuve-Sinclair. by Bar  
Our private patio flowers in Barbados. Image provided by Alberte Villeneuve-Sinclair.  

Now for contrasts! Having left Ottawa in total darkness and sub-zero temperature, we arrived in Barbados to a glorious, sun-drenched island delight. Going through customs went well despite the fact that five different airlines had landed one after the other. On arrival, at our Balmoral Gap apartment, my dear friends, Therry and Lynn from Montreal, greeted us and we all went to Blakey’s for dinner. No more boots, heavy coats, scarves and gloves! My greatest pleasure was slipping into my sandals, a short-sleeve top and capris. The evening air was soft and warm and the sound of the crashing waves could be heard in the distance. No more of this cold, colourless white stuff we call winter! Instead, the soft hues of a Barbados sunset.

The next day, we went grocery shopping and then met with my very dear friends, Mary-Lou and Ron from Arnprior, at Haagen Daz. As it turned out, Ron was very well acquainted with two of Marjo’s brothers. We marvelled at the fact that we live in such a small world and there are no coincidences. No matter where you go, you end up making connections! That evening, Marjo and I took a first walk down the superb seaside Boardwalk to Naru’s for dinner.

The following days saw us walk down the Boardwalk to Rockley Beach to enjoy the ocean and the Barbadian sunshine. No more boots! We walked barefoot in the sand… one of my favourite treats. No more heavy coats, just a swimsuit and a straw hat. During our first visit at the beach, we chatted with a gentleman from Ottawa who told us this was his 46th year in Barbados.

“To appreciate life, share it with others.” (Austri Basinillo)
Image: Lunch at Pelican Village! From the left: Tony, Lynette, Carole, Alberte, Glyne Murray, Marjo. Photo provided by Alberte Villeneuve-Sinclair.
Lunch at Pelican Village! From the left: Tony, Lynette, Carole, Alberte, Glyne Murray, Marjo. Photo provided by Alberte Villeneuve-Sinclair.

One of the highlights of this first week was reconnecting with Glyne Murray, former Barbados High Commissioner who was posted in Ottawa when “The Neglected Garden” was launched in 2005. Mr. Murray and his wife, Lynette, had been my special guests at the launch. After reading passages of my novel to my guests and thanking me for describing his country and its people so well, he had invited me on a promotion tour which would materialize in 2006. What a pleasure to see him again, introduce him to Marjo and share “bits and bites” of our personal journeys! Glyne proudly showed us his new book “Barbados – Customs to Treasure”. Before he left, he promised to take us out to lunch at Pelican Village the following week.

What a vacation offers is freedom from everyday responsibilities! The heavy winds of responsibility often buffet us, sometimes knocking us down. Taking a break to disconnect usually renews depleted energies and changes one’s outlook. Instead of lack of sunshine, you see bright skies ahead. This year, as in North and Central America, weather was very unsettled and Barbados experienced more rain showers than usual but we learned to dodge them as they never lasted long. For example, one day as we lounged on the beach and it started raining, we crossed over to “Swagg’s” where we had a delightful lunch, then went back to our beach chairs to enjoy more sunshine.

At the end of our first week, my friend Carole from Hull joined us. It was her first time in Barbados so we had planned more activities for that week. Our first outing was dinner at Picasso and karaoke at the Accra Hotel. When we arrived, the owner of our apartment, Hallam, was singing “Rambling Rose”. Again, we connected with an Ottawa couple, Lise and Michael. Barbadians have music in their soul and the singers gave superb renditions of classics from Nat King Cole to Tina Turner, Frank Sinatra and more. The last song of the evening had such a catchy rhythm that people got up and started dancing. I had warned Carole and Marjo that an evening of music and dance was a must during our vacation so this was our prelude to a dance night.

The following Tuesday, Mr. Murray picked us up and drove us to Pelican Village which used to be a bustling arts community. Lynette, who owns a little bistro/tuck shop there, greeted us with a great big hug and offered the day’s menu. I chose flying fish with sweet potatoes and salad. Delicious! Their friend Tony, a Barbadian who lives in Ottawa and was vacationing in Barbados, joined us for lunch. We had a great time! Glyne and Tony have a lovely sense of humour so there was lots of laughter and good conversation. When we talked about our plans to go dancing at the Southern Palms, Lynette and Tony said they would try to join us there.

After lunch, we walked over to Bridgetown, the capital of Barbados. We walked down Broad Street, took a few photos and went over to Cave Sheperd to purchase a few souvenirs and duty-free Barbados liquor. On that day, I was wearing a light cotton blouse and a “skort”. The temperature was in the 27 to 28C range, maybe a little warmer in the city. In the souvenirs department, we came face to face with a Muslim family. The lady was wearing a black, full-length niqab while her daughters wore head scarves. It sent shivers down my spine. How could she possibly wear such a garment in this kind of weather? The memory of an evening dinner at a favourite restaurant flashed in my mind. A Muslim family of four had been seated next to our table. The lady wore a black niqab and gloves. I couldn’t help watching and wondering how she would eat her dinner. When their dinners were served, she proceeded to lift a corner of her veil and with a gloved hand slowly took one bite. Then her husband made her switch places so she would be turning her back to us. I cannot believe a woman freely chooses to wear those garments. It is beyond my understanding. I find it to be an oppressive garment that should have been abandoned centuries ago.

The next day was a busy one. We went to the beach in the morning and met a lovely couple from Ottawa, the Brendons. In former years, I had met a mix of Brits, French, Germans, Americans… and Canadians. This year, my new contacts would be overwhelmingly Canadian. I guess we all needed to run away from our miserably cold winter! Come afternoon, we got our trusted driver, Ron, to drive us to the Sheraton Mall and then to Southern Palms for a buffet dinner and dance. I was pleased to hear the much appreciated “Syndikyt” band would be providing the music. At eight o’clock, when the band started playing, we warmed up the dance floor. And lo and behold, Tony showed up with three of his friends. Barbadians have this innate capacity to move effortlessly to calypso, reggae and any other music and so we really had fun dancing with Tony and one of his friends. (The other two didn’t dance!) My wish fulfilled, I went back to our apartment with the satisfaction of having danced to my heart’s content.

The next day while Marjo and Carole toured the island, I relaxed and called home only to realize my daughter was sick with a cold and devastated because her best friend was dying. Again, I was reminded of contrasts.

“You couldn’t have strength without weakness, you couldn’t have light without dark, you couldn’t have love without loss.” (Jodi Picoult – “The Tenth Circle”)

I knew I was needed at home! That afternoon, I met Mary-Lou and Ron for lunch at Bert’s Bar and Restaurant and met their friends Mary-Lou and Garry. Our vacation days were now counted. Another beautiful day at the beach, a little shopping for souvenirs and lunch at Tapas with Carole where the seaside scenery is gorgeous… fishing boats, steamships and patrol boats and the turquoise waters meeting the deep blue waters… Days were just zipping by!

For our last full day in Barbados, Marjo and Carole went up to visit the Crane and since I had been there twice, I stayed behind to wish Mary-Lou and Ron goodbye, walk the Boardwalk one more time and relax before going back. Along the way, I met a lady from Perth and her sister-in-law from Montreal. They were faithful Barbados fans also. We had a wonderful chat and when I told them I truly loved Perth, I was invited to drop in for tea next time I went to visit. Everyone we met, Barbadians and tourists alike, were kind and friendly. I walked the rest of the way to Balmoral full of gratitude. It only takes one person to make my day and I had met lots along the way!

Finally that evening, time to share a last evening with Therry and Lynn who had been kind and caring all through our vacation. We all piled into Ron’s taxi and headed for Harlequin Restaurant in St. Lawrence Gap, under rainy skies. I wanted to take it all in: the ocean, the beach, the flowers, the people, the friends, the food, the music… and make it last.

But nothing lasts forever and after our last goodbyes to Therry and Lynn the next day, it was time to return. The trip back seemed longer but only because I was leaving Barbados. My “Neglected Garden” poem resonated in my mind:

Sunny Barbados
Land of my dreams
Here on your sunny beaches
I watched the sun rise and set
And, embracing your beauty,
I experienced your peace
And felt soothed
By the song of the sea and wind.”

“Joy and sorrow are next door neighbours” (German Proverb)

  • On March 14th, beautiful Manon, my daughter’s friend and grandson’s godmother died. Life is full of contrasts but in sorrow, we find strength and support. We weather the storms and come out stronger and wiser and continue to love.

P.S. Marjo and Carole, I really enjoyed your company and I want to thank everyone who shared special moments with me during this journey. I am “a richer person for having been me in a land of dreams. Beautiful Barbados!”

Blessings to all!