Spencer is marrying Jessica in Barbados; he and his brother Reed are playpen mates of both Tommy and Louise so it’s an invitation we really can’t refuse.
We return from Bequia on Sunday evening to find Tommy ensconced in our little apartment, Santorini, just a few meters away from Heather and JP’s fabulous Tantalus beach house. I am delighted to find some feline friends to make me feel at home – a mum and two growing kittens who she bats away as she is pregnant again. Soon I am feeding them and mum is bringing me thank you presents of mice.
I miss Monday’s dive day in favour of Bikinis and Bubbles, a traditional wedding shower. The girls are invited for 10 am, and I am busy blowing balloons and helping Heather make the place look girly. She has bought us all matching aviator sunglasses and a goody bag, and bang on 10 am the pink bubbles are popping…Jessica looks gorgeous in a bikini-based bridal gown complete with veil and a bunny tail bow. I discover it’s hard to get on a lilo holding a drink. I lose both! The only man present is the shirtless barman…
Tuesday is wedding day, and Tommy has brought a smart linen suit, while he and Ross don complementary Paul Smith shirts.
The ceremony and party are at Lancaster Great House, which is owned and run by my old friend John Chandler, former proprietor of my favourite-ever Barbados Hotel, the Ocean View, where I always stayed in my Heinemann days – that’s going back over 30 years!
How lovely to be greeted by a rum punch before we sit down in the pretty gardens for the ceremony itself. In a moving touch Spencer is given away by Heather and the mother of his best friend who died in a motor cycle accident. There are more traditional elements – groomsmen, bridesmaids and a gorgeous flower girl, and the bride shimmers in a lacy gown, radiating happiness.
Then to the serious business, party Bajan-style. Lancaster could be a Georgian manor house, and the wood-panelled rooms are magnificently laid up for dinner, while the garden’s tropical palms and exotic bushes lead into obscure and secret hideaways with tables and chairs for guests to enjoy the surroundings. There’s even a Balinese screen for the loos! It’s all impeccably tasteful and sumptuous; food delicious, music addictive and the cocktails scrummy. I stick to Spencer’s Surprise a gin-based mix with passion fruit and bitter lemon.
The following day Heather and JP host a huge beach BBQ with a suckling pig, Argentine style; this time locals are invited who couldn’t come to the wedding. Yet again the rain holds off and it is a beautiful evening.
The third major event is a day cruise on the Excellence II, a party boat catamaran that used to belong to JP. It feels just like old times, eating flying fish, macaroni pie and rice and peas, while those lethal rum punches slide down easily, the soca booms from the speakers, and we stop off to swim and snorkel. I remember doing this with the kids when they were much younger, on the Jolly Roger, both in their red and white stripy tee-shirts. We couldn’t get Louise to take her’s off!
In between all the action, life has its own island pace. We walk along the beach in the early mornings when it is peaceful and where the locals come for their constitutional sea-bath.
The first day I am accosted by a retired head-master who wants to know my views on Prince Charles who is visiting ‘wi’ dat horse-face woman’. He is no fan, and is delighted when I agree with him, the first Brit he has met who does. The next day he bounds out of the water again. ‘You know what, yesterday I was walkin’ in town and who do I meet? Prince Charles! With the Prime minister who introduce me. She is an old friend. He shook me han’ and aksed me how I was’. Oh, say I, and have you changed your mind now? ‘Of course not!’ he grins. But he was impressed when an old crone came up to Prince Charles and asked him for a hug, which he duly gave.
One wet day we motor over to the East Coast with Connie and Adrian who Ross and Tommy went heli-skiing with in Canada for JP’s 60 birthday. Even in the rain the views are stunning. I am determined to find somewhere more local and that’s how we end up in a deserted but atmospheric (colourful table cloths and plastic flowers) bar called De Garage. Alicia rose to the challenge of producing the strongest rum punch I have ever drunk – all I was trying to do was ask her if it was made traditionally i.e. without all that mucky fruit juice they sometimes put in. But I impressed her further when I slathered my flying fish cutter with oodles of hot sauce.
So a week glides by, slowly yet fast, Caribbean time.
Soon we are having farewell dinners last swims, stuffing the cats with leftovers and wending our way to the airport via a final lunch on Worthing beach. As we near the airport, Bobby Ferrin sings ‘Be Happy’ to us, the track that played as we left the crematorium, a poignant reminder of the missing guest Louise, who so loved Spencer, and all the Jones family for that matter, and Barbados where she and I spent a last holiday together before she died.