The emergent Caribbean character is laid-back, accepting, benevolent.
This can be charming or alarming.
On a Grenadian beach late afternoon in December Rufus and I strolled barefoot to book a massage for me at a resort.
Amongst the gardens and swimming pool was a verandah with a thatched roof, housing a breezy restaurant.
I made my way towards it, to ask for information.
As I approached, I could hear Jennifer Rush belting out ‘The Power of Love’ on the sound system.
Audible from some distance, close-up it was all-encompassing.
And there’s only one thing you can do, wrapped in a power ballad.
So I’m walking towards this verandah, singing:
‘The sound of your heart beeeea-tiiiing,
Made it clear sudden-lyyy,
The feeling that I can’t go oooooo-oooooon,
Is a- light years a-waaaaaaaaaaaay’…
And as I look up I can see a local woman in her resort uniform, checking on things for the evening meal at the restaurant.
And she’s also singing:
‘Coz I am your la-dayy, and you are my ma-aaaaan’…
And she sees me and smiles and carries on.
So I carry on too and we walk towards each other.
‘Whenever you reach for me,
I’m gonna do all that I ca-aaaaan’…
Until we’re face to face (Rufus in my arms, with an expression somewhere on the trauma spectrum).
And we’re just standing and singing right at each other, for what seems like a very long time, Sonny and Cher-styley; only we’re not married artistes- we’re out-of-tune strangers, in the dying sun.
‘We’re heading for some-thiiiing,
Somewhere I’ve never be-ee-ee-ee-n,
Sometimes I am f-rightened but I’m re-eady to learn
About the Po-wer of Loooove.’
Her: Can I help you, Honey?
Me: Yes. Please can you tell me the way to reception?
Bruno had a stiff neck on New Year’s Eve. He was hot as well, maybe related to the fact it was 30 degrees outside.
But as Jan 1st’s not ideal for a medical moment I took him to the doctor- a 60-year old man in shorts above a shopping mall, surrounded by religious bumper stickers.
Doc: What’s the matter, young man?
Bruno: I’ve got a sore neck. (gets his temp taken, as I give more background)
Doc (shaking his head, breathing in): Oh, no no no no no no. This is bad. This is verrrrrry, verrrrry bad.
Me (panic rising , shallow breathing, leaning forward): What do you mean ‘very bad’?
Doc (sitting back, folding arms, feet not quite on table): You brought him here. You have a mother’s intuition. What do you think the matter is?
Me (panic risen, getting agitated): I think he’s sprained his neck and I want to know how to treat it.
Doc (smiling, raising eyebrows, not getting agitated): Mmm-hmmmmm.
And you don’t think a fever is linked to a very stiff neck? They would have absolutely nothing to do with one another, you think?
Me (not smiling, feeling sick): What fever? I don’t know. What are you saying?
Doc (without panic or visible signs of nausea, preparing to annunciate every syllable):
Me (ohfuckohfuckohfuckohfuck): What do you mean? What do you mean, meningitis?
Doc (wearing a how-stupid-can-a-person-be? face, a bit fed up, sighing): Infection. Meningitis. In-fla-ma-tion of the spinal cord.
Me (Gigantic. Pupils. Trying. To. Be. Calm.): So what do we do?
Doc (wearing an oh-I-see-this-is-how-stupid-a-person-can-be face, incredulous, amused): You take some antibiotics. You go home. You wait.
Me (OMGOMGthisiscompletelynothappening): What do you mean? What do you mean we wait? I can’t do that. I need to do something else. I need to take him to a hospital.
Doc (sitting up, chortling): Oh, really? And you think that’s going to be a good idea?
Let me tell you something, Mummy. The hospitals here aren’t like the ones at home. Standards are different. You don’t know how long you will be there. You don’t know what you are going to leave with.
Do you see what I am saying to you?
He went on to try to explain that meningitis is on a scale of 1 to 10 and that Bruno was most likely at the lower end.
But I was already spiralling towards the ‘m’ word, to which he responded with an amble in the opposite direction (and a long explanation to the receptionist, who was similarly unmoved).
Suffice to say, tears, telephone calls and large-scale bustling to a private clinic followed- Bruno getting more hot, silent and stiff-necked throughout.
Tests confirmed (thank the bumper-sticker Lord) that he did not have bacterial meningitis and we were sent home.
So this could have been a story about a rubbish doctor concluding a wrong diagnosis (even if right in emergency terms).
But events on New Year’s day brought us together with the same doctor and it turns out Bruno probably did have the low level viral meningitis the doc was trying all along to describe.
He took the medications, rested and is now perfectly fine.
So actually this story is about a good doctor with a laid-back manner, in a high-octane situation.
And, yes, perhaps a bit about the power- the white heat- of parental love.