The “Reggae Bus”

Feeling a little more energetic today, we decided to wander around the local shops in search of a few postcards and a new beach bag. Somehow or other we ended up in one of those pretentious and highly up-market shopping malls, stuffed full of pristine, air conditioned jewellery, handbag and designer clothes shops. Yes, the sort of shops over which my bank manager would have had a week of sleepless nights and palpitations if he’d known I was venturing anywhere near them! Yes, they were those shops that don’t believe in price tags: “….if-you-need-to-know-the-price,-Sir,- then-you-can’t-afford-it” kind of shops!

At one cosmetic shop we actually dared to set foot in, June bought some face powder and a mascara. What a palaver and breathtaking orgy of ‘red tape’, that little transaction proved to be. June had to sign three forms (something to do with Customs, I think I heard the salesgirl say) and was then subject to a barrage of questions – a commercial “Spanish Inquizition”, no less: “How long are you here for?”; “when will you leave?”; “Did you arrive from Gatwick?”; “Can I have your passport, please, I need to take down some particulars?” etc. etc……… I tell you, International arms dealers get less of a grilling!

The psychedelic bull, at the entrance to the Mall caused us some amusement, as we hurriedly left before full-body searches and 24 hr surveillance ensued.

Still unable to find beach bag and postcards, we decided to venture into Bridgetown, the capital of the Island. Walking to the bus stop, I found my first Methodist Church with a corrugated iron roof.

We had heard that there are three types of public transport: the white minibuses, the blue government buses and……….the yellow “Reggae” buses. The latter were an experience “not to be missed”. The buses are frequent and ridiculously cheap. One fare – 2 Barbadian dollars. That’s just under a quid! And with that fare you can travel the length of the island (about the size of the Isle of Wight).

We decided to give ourselves the full-on Barbadian experience by catching a yellow “Reggae” bus. They are so-called because they all play loud reggae music. You can usually hear the music approaching before you hear the engine. We flagged ours down outside the hotel – if you don’t put your hand out they hurtle by. Oh yes, that’s the other thing – they hurtle everywhere! The locals use them a lot. Perhaps they like living dangerously? Old ladies with their shopping, young mothers with tiny tots and distinguished elderly Caribbean gentlemen with grey hair, wrinkles, enviable loud shirts and walking sticks.

The bus took off from the bus stop like a dragster. Most bus drivers use the tried and tested procedure we all learnt for our driving tests: “Mirror, signal, manoeuvre”. Not these guys. They just pull out and goooooo! Just look out if you are an innocent overtaking driver at the time. I had to hold on with both hands because they corner on two wheels and every stop is an emergency stop! The seats are pretty small – all the more reason to hang on tight! We came home on a blue bus, through the floods after some torrential rain. So sedate after the white knuckle ride, I nearly fell asleep.

Bridgetown buzzes. June felt unsafe there. I loved the atmosphere. But there again, as June often says: “I live in my own little bubble, blissfully unaware.”

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