Monday, 23 September 2013

My Caribbean - The Commitment

And so it was done. After searching for three years, we owned our own acre of land overlooking the sea. I hate to admit how little we paid for it, only three thousand dollars, and even at that, we had to pay it in installments. And I cannot tell you how many of our friends said “Are you out of your minds?

But it was ours. We had land on a Caribbean island. There was no power or water anywhere near the site, but we had our little piece of paradise and some day there would be a house.

It took us a further seven years to make the move.  It was the 1970’s, a period of political
Gas embargo
Gas embargo 1970's
chaos in the United States.  John Kennedy and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King had all been assassinated. We began to wonder at the values that made up America.

It was also the time of the first gas crisis in the United States. It was mid-winter, and there wasn’t enough fuel available to heat homes. Gas lines at the pumps could take up to seven hours to navigate. Whether the crisis was real or manipulated by the oil companies (as suggested by the media), the fact remained that our lives were more and more difficult, less and less satisfying. We no longer knew what we were working for.  We decided to cut and run. 

My husband had developed, as a side line, a business he could run from the island, and I landed a part time position that would allow me to spend five to six months on the island every year. We sold our house and left our high-paying jobs without a backward glance. 

Building in the Caribbean is not an easy process, even today. This was forty years ago. There was still no power to the site. No water. The local builders were accustomed to building without the help of electricity. Even in the town, power was supplied only a few hours a day, by means of a generator on the beach. The workmen constructed a temporary above ground cistern and filled it with water for construction from a distant well. Cement blocks for both the outdoor cistern and the house itself were made on site and hardened in the sun. 

The men worked from graph paper drawings we made of the house we wanted. Architectural drawings would have been pointless. Starting with a general idea of what size house we wanted, (small) they asked me to position the house on the property. I wanted it facing the view and the prevailing trade winds. I licked my finger and held it up to be sure of the wind direction and said, “Here. It’s to face this way.” 

The men put four stakes in the ground representing the four corners of the proposed house and tied a string connecting them. I was asked if I was sure. I stood inside the string barricade and nodded “yes.” It was right. 

Our Caribbean Home
To this day I am both surprised and grateful at the way our house is situated on the property. There is always a breeze through it and the view is exactly as I first saw it from my rock, although a few scattered houses have come along in the meantime. 

We built a real Caribbean house, not a transplanted American one. There are no glass windows in the entire structure; instead we have wooden louvered windows and doors. The veranda is wide and shady, on the leeward side of the house. We can sit there, sheltered from wind and rain. The kitchen is a separate building, connected to the main house by the veranda.  This keeps the heat of the kitchen away from the living areas, and should we have any unwelcome four-legged visitors, they will not be in our bedrooms. 

The lot had to be fully fenced to keep the wandering herds of cattle, flocks of sheep and goats and even the occasional pig from helping themselves to our newly planted hibiscus and baby palms. 

For two years we had no electricity. We had to dip water from our cistern for drinking, cooking and bathing. We had dinner and read at night by the light of a kerosene lantern. We loved it. 

We made fast friends with other islanders.  Living in a society encompassing only eight square miles, one gets to know one’s neighbors very well.  

 It was while working on my novel about the Caribbean, Delighting In Your Company, that the idea came to me of doing a series of short vignettes on some of the intriguing real-life characters I’ve met during the forty or so years I’ve been batting around the Caribbean.  

And where better to start than with the story of José Dormoy, the French pilot who first took us to Statia.  His story should by rights be a novel, not a four page blog, but perhaps that’s for another day.


Following are my published novels. Go to my Goodreads page, to find more info and reviews.  

To purchase one of these books, just click on the book link below and select the vendor of your choice.

 • The Memory of Roses ~ The story of a secret and how it impacts two generations of the McQuaid family.  It unfolds on the beautiful Greek Island of Corfu and is a tale complete with beautiful and passionate women, handsome and fiery men, and an intriguing mystery.

"The Memory of Roses by Blair McDowell is simply an incredibly lovely story. It’s also a love story, and a story about finding yourself, and about closure. The theme running through the book is “all’s well that ends well.”  --  Marlene, Reading Reality

 • Delighting In Your Company ~ Delighting In Your Company is a paranormal romance set on an exotic Caribbean island, featuring a handsome ghost and an adventurous heroine who travels back in time to solve a mystery!

"Delighting In Your Company is a unique paranormal romance that brings together island folklore, history, and mystery with an unlikely romance between the past and present that had me going through a torrent of emotions and made it impossible to put down." -- The Romance Reviews

 • Sonata ~ Sayuri McAllister has just arrived home to Vancouver to find some shocking situations 
~ A robbery has taken place at her family home, and it is being investigated by her old flame;
~ Alyssa James who she barely knows, is about to become her new stepmother; 
~ and Alyssa’s brother, Hugh James, is a charming Irishman who is intent on bedding and wedding the rich and beautiful Sayuri. 

It’s a confusing and difficult time for Sayuri, especially when dangerous accidents happen to her father and herself – or are they accidents?

“I found Sonata to be a charming novel that left me laughing out loud in parts and gnawing nails in others. It was a delight to read.” – Night Owl Reviews


 Abigail's Christmas (short story) ~ An enchanting tale of love and romance, with a magical touch of fantasy.
Abigail's Christmas is a holiday story about Abigail who goes looking for a tree on Christmas Eve, and ends up with the man of her dreams in a sleigh in the Rockies --- with a wedding in the offing! Is it real?  Is she dreaming?  Or is it just Christmas magic?


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Blair McDowell