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Chernobyl, Barbados

YOU SLEEP for six hours and wake in a strange new world, where it smells like someone slipped your bead into a Three Plumes matchbox. You wonder, for a minute, if you started smoking again and stumble out of bed, dazed by the stench of sulphur. Eyes still half-closed, you step down on to the porch off your bedroom and wonder if you’re dreaming you’re at a beach house because there’s gritty sand under your feet.

Eyes wide open, you realise you’re awake, and standing in two centimetres of ash and the dark grey skies ahead of you aren’t about rain.

And you remember St Vincent’s La Soufriere volcano shot out an ash plume five miles high last night and there was talk of high altitude westerly winds bringing the fallout to Barbados.

You look at your watch and realise it’s not 5am, but 7am!


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He Is Striven

AT 5:05pm on Easter Sunday, my father was dead for 28 years. In 1993, April 4 fell on the Sunday before Easter so, in a sense, he’s gained an extra week of death since passing, which would have pleased him. My father’s whole life was trying to better himself.

Especially on the horses.

Even in smoking cigarettes, drinking Johnny Walker Black, eating rich foods and keeping poor exercise habits, my dad strove to outdo all others at everything.

Except when it came to communication with people he loved.

In that one field, my father strived as hard to be dreadful as he worked for excellence in everything else. He preferred no communication at all, weeks of silence, if necessary, to a single word that might upset him; and the overladen apple cart of emotions he trundled through the pothole-ridden streets of our daily family life.

I knew him for 35 years before he went, far too early, just two months after his 62nd birthday. My elder brother and I have already outlived him and I know, now, how cheated he must have felt, in that last week, when he realised he was dying.

And I knew he knew he was.

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Good Catholic Rabbit

IN 1989, I didn’t know how to say no graciously, or even rudely, and Auntie Nancy got me to be the Easter Bunny at my nephew Devon’s Montessori school.

It involved wearing a thick, hot (very hot), pink (really hot-pink) rabbit suit, with rabbit gloves and feet and a hideous, buck-toothed, floppy eared, stifling rabbit head. The only ventilation was the rabbit’s mouth, a hole I know to be the size of a small child’s fist because I was cuffed through it many times by the little monsters, sorry, tykes.

For two hours, I stood in the dark, in the hot sun, buckets of sweat running down my body and pooling in my rabbit feet and rabbit gloves. It was nearly impossible to see out from below the rabbit’s buck teeth to discern which child was going to launch himself at me next. They came flying through the air at a speed and with a force you have to absorb to appreciate, the ones who loved me generally doing more damage than the hostile ones, like most of the women I’ve known.

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