Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Picking up The Barrel

SO, big day.  left Portsmouth at 8:30 am and everything went so well that we were home by 2.  Our agenda was to pick up 15 pink grapefruit trees at the Botanical Garden, Department of Agriculture to plant at McDowell's farm in Destiny, go to shipping agent in  Roseau, go to McD's lawyer to pick up some papers  and deliver some papers, go to 4D, the agriculture superstore (I love it there),  then to the Port to pick up the barrel which had set sail 4 weeks ago. 

We  were in a rickety pick up truck driven by a man called Stalin. I asked McD about the name and  told him that Stalin was a tyrant, McD said he guessed his mother didn't know that! But Stalin, a quiet, gentle man and was only  going to charge $150 ec for the day, and he is a friend of McD's, so why not!.  He drove slowly and well.  McD jammed himself in the back of the cab.  He slept the whole way there (and back). I, as usual, white knuckled it the whole way.

Our first Stop was at the Botanical Garden, Department of Ag. Of course we couldn't get the trees because the quarantine  officer wasn't there to release them.  That's OK, we ordered 5 tangerine and 5 lime along with the 15 pink grapefruit,  and they will call us when they are ready. 

Next stop - the shipping agent -  on a very busy one way street.  We found a good parking spot.  We were quickly in and out and it only cost $35ec.  Next stop was 4D, the Agriculture Superstore.  They had everything except a hanging scale McD wanted to weigh his bunches of plantain and  bananas. We bought fertilizer for the trees we didn't have, and ant poison for the invasion in my apartment.

Finally, the Port to pick up the barrel . No problem. All went smoothly.  But here's the story of the day. 

Anthony had packed the barrel in Ottawa, and he did a smart job.  It is a big deep barrel.  Art supplies and pots and pans were immediately visible as soon as the customs officer opened the barrel and peered inside.  What he saw next was a box that said ROLAND GUITAR AMPLIFIER and he dove for it, probably thinking he hit the jack pot. He  opened it and found more art paint, little canvasses, brushes and crocheting.  He snorted in disgust, closed the barrel without going any further and only charged me $85ec for the lot.  

Yes, indeed the lovely little Roland amplifier was in there, hidden in a doudy, brown cardboard box at the bottom of the barrel.

MCD thinks Anthony is a genius and laughed out loud when I brought the amplifier out.  He is bragging to all about how Anthony fooled the customs  and cheated them out of who knows what they would have charged! He plugged the amplifier in right away and it burst into song!  Wonderful.

Monday, April 10, 2017

The Little Old House on Bay Street

During these last months I have been preoccupied with McDowell, the Bar Patio and mostly getting the old house ready to open as an art gallery, gift shop.  Loni Costello, Lene Larsen and Mait Kangasmaa and I have collaborated on this cooperative project.  Loni does beautiful, detailed bags and beach fashion, Lene has her photographs, place mats and cards, and I have my water colour paintings.  Mait is our stand by/stand in and encourager and enabler.  The shop is not quite open yet, although we have had a good deal of interest. Most of us will  be away off  and on throughout April and May, so we will have our official opening in June when we are all together.

It is the old house that moved me.  It has been empty for years and was falling apart.  The ginger bread trimmings and the wooden louvers were disintegrating. It is the oldest standing house in Portsmouth and is a well known landmark.  Here is its story.

1115 Bay Street, Portsmouth, Dominica
The origin of this house is lost in history, but what is known is that Miss Marion Peter's father (John) bequeathed the house and property to his five lawful children.  All were raised in this house. To support his gambling debts, William Harrison (the eldest son) mortgaged the house and subsequently lost it. In 1958, Miss Marion, the eldest daughter and William's sister, bought the house and property at public auction in Roseau and she continued to live here, with her sister, Miss Henrietta Kitzia, and her niece Gwendolyn.

Miss Marion, who was born in 1893, was a pillar of the Portsmouth community.  She was postmistress and town clerk and a formidable woman.

Not much is known about Miss Kitzie.  She is said to have been "a little off" and rarely went out.

In 1914, Gwendolyn Christophine Peter, Miss Marion's niece, was brought into the house hold after her mother, Sarah Peter, died. She was five years old.  Miss Marion's brother, William Harrison was Miss Gwendolyn's father (yes, the same William Harrison who lost the property). Miss Gwendolyn was fond of saying that she "was a rock Peter" since both her mother and her father were Peter! She too, like her Aunt, became a prominent Portsmouth figure, and is still remembered.  She supported herself as a seamstress, and as a crafts woman making baskets, painting postcards, and selling small souvenirs in her shop. Miss Marion came to rely on her and she became her Aunt's sole care taker.

All three ladies were spinsters and died at an advanced age and are buried in the Catholic cemetery, side by side.

McDowell Magloire is now the owner of this house and property.  He grew up just down the street, next to what is now Joe Duvergny's grocery store (that wooden house is gone and a new 5 story building has just gone up in its place). When he was very young, McDowell's first paying job was to deliver newspapers in Zikac for Miss Marion.  As he grew he became the 'man in the yard' for the Misses Peter. Eventually, he went away to sea, as many Dominican young men do, but kept in constant contact with them and always saw them in his comings and goings to Dominica. After Miss Marion and Miss Kitzie died, Miss Gwenny began to lose her eye sight.  Eventually, as she became blind, McDowell became Miss Gwenny's sole caretaker. He looked after her until her death in 2012.   Miss Gwenny bequeathed the house, the property and the building that is the shop and Sagittarius Bar to him.
          Miss Marion Nethalia Peter born September 28, 1893, died 1988
                Miss Kitzie died soon after
                Miss Gwendolyn Christophine Peter born October 8, 1909, Died March 6, 2012 at 102    

And continues as a gift shop and art gallery

Tuesday, January 31, 2017



I went to the local grocery store to pick up something they usually have.   It wasn't there.  I asked when they expected to get some in and was told that they are not going to get it again because it sells too fast and they can't keep enough on the shelf.

So last week my friend's purse was stolen.  She knew who the thief was and went to the police immediately to report the theft and the thief.  She was told that they couldn't go and get the man right now because they knew that he wasn't feeling well.

Yesterday I saw some nasty huge black and yellow caterpillars on a pretty tree with white flowers.  I put on my gloves and filled a bucket with water and detergent and went out to pick them off.  The cleaning lady from next door came out and told me to cut the tree down to deal with them.  No. The tree stands today, wormless and pretty.

Overheard at the Bar, "She's a hard worker and has her ear to the grindstone".

Friday, December 23, 2016


I'm trying to review the past year, but it flew by so quickly I just don't think I am going to get it all. Let's start with my trip back to Perth in June.

So I was back in my second home, in Perth, in June for 6 weeks after 10 months away.  What changes I did I see there over the past year, and what changes occurred here in Glanvillia/Portsmouth while I was away?  Basically nothing on both counts! Kind of reassuring in a way. I guess things just slog along as they are meant to.  I did enjoy my friends and family, and shopping.  I packed my usual 6 boxes of things and shipped them off to Dominica from Montreal.  Thanks Harold for taking the time to schlep me to the shipper in LaSalle. 

Anthony came back with me for a couple of weeks.  You can see his videos on YouTube.  We didn't see much of him as he was either in the jungle or under the sea.

The prominent event over the next months was a complete makeover of the Bar/Restaurant and then putting in the patio in the back.  We knocked out the back wall of the Bar, put in a door, cemented a portion of the back yard to the sea wall and planted a garden.  It is lovely to sit out there, in the sea breeze under the coconut tree with a cold Kubuli (beer) and a bowl of McDowell's fish soup. Thanks to Ron for his guidance and work.

Then there was the Art and Craft Expo sponsored by Ross University School of Medicine in late November.  A big 2 day event.  We make a lot of money  for the community.  This year the recipients were the Northern Home for the Aged and the Roving Care Givers.  I have the best job on the committee - organizing and looking after the 45+ artists and crafters.

The current project is to bring the front room in the little old house, next to the Bar, into useable condition.  We (Loni, Lene, Mait and I, known locally as "the white ladies" or sometimes "McDowell's Ladies") plan to open an art gallery/gift shop there. Renovations are moving ahead at Dominican rate of progress i.e. slow.  Here's a little story: 'Gouti, the carpenter, had to leave the job early yesterday because he is the bell ringer at the Catholic Church.  There was a funeral, so he put his tools away at noon and went to ring the bell and didn't come back.  Is he there this morning? Not sure! Probably, in his own time.The real barrier is the outrageous expense of materials and paint.  We hope for a January opening, but I don't think we will make it.  It may be ready for Carnival.

I will tell more about the house itself, a century building and the last of its kind in Portsmouth,  in another Blog.

So here we are at Christmas 2016.  Given that Christmas in Dominica is a non-event and the tropical weather, it is very difficult to raise any sort of Christmas Spirit as it is known in n the North.  On Christmas day the expats and their partners and some Ross faculty will gather at Sister's Sea Lodge on the beach for a pot luck meal and Christmas cheer! Thanks to Whitney for organizing this. 

I wish for peace and health and a reasonable 2017 for  us all.  Love, Marian

Thursday, June 9, 2016



Gossip is the single most popular activity in Dominica.  Religion and politics run a close second, but nothing tops the who does what and with/to whom.

Each morning when I stop by McDowell's Bar I get a bulletin on what has happened overnight.  Who has been arrested, who was evicted, who dropped dead, who ran away, who was lost at sea, who spent the night in the police cell, who was robbed, cheated or cut with a cutlass for some perceived insult. 

Then in the afternoon, on my way home when I stop in at the Bar I get the daily news:  who has been diagnosed with diabetes, who didn't get paid, which shop has empty shelves, who lost something, who said what, told what or did what.

Along with this often comes the amazing litany of family ties and relationships going back for generations.  What is amazing is that everyone can recite the genealogy of everyone else's family, not just their own, including the land they own, sold, lost or are farming.  It is convoluted because people have multiple partners and babies with all of them.  So I will hear about the sister of a grand aunt who 'made' seven children, 3 went to America, one went to England, two went to Guadeloupe and the other went to jail.  Then there is Granny's cousin (same mother, different father) who stole land belonging to the family, or Uncle's mother (same father, different mother) etc. Quite dizzying.  I used to scoff whenever a Dominican would say, "Oh, yes, he is my cousin", but no longer.  It is true. Eventually they are all related however remotely, and if you question it you will get the whole, long story in detail.  Dominicans certainly know who they are.

Dominicans are talented story tellers and often accompany their tales with actions, so listening to the news of the day is usually quite entertaining.

Friday, April 15, 2016


I want to tell you about McDowell.  We have been together for a year and a half and we hope to be together for a long long time.

McDoo, as he is called by the locals, is born and bred in the heart of Portsmouth.  He speaks with a deep Portsmouth accent, knows everyone and everything and every place.  Take a walk through Portsmouth with him and he can tell you the history of every house, who lived there, their family ancestry to the most remote third cousin, what happened there, what happened to the people, where their heirs are now.  He has an amazing store of local knowledge under his cap and the memory of the proverbial elephant.

His name is interesting; He belongs to the Magloire tribe, a huge band of Dominicans. He looks like a Magloire. 'McDowell' is derived from his father's name, McDonald.  His mother called him Xavier.  He calls himself Joseph, "My tourist name," he says.  I call him McDowell, (sometimes Mackie) but there is no way, no matter how much practice, can I say it like the locals.  It's something like, Mac Doo wheel with the emphasis on the last syllable. I feel silly even trying.
He knows his reggae, classic and current, and plays the guitar,sings and dances.  He does not know any other music but often listens to Blues.  I'm sure he hears the origins of reggae in the Blues music.  He has never even heard of what are considered  to be the Blues and Jazz greats, much less the classical composers. Maybe because he is too young!

Here is a true Sagittarian born in 1960, December 5.  Even his Bar/Grill is called Sagittarius.  Although out spoken, straight forward and direct, he keeps his thoughts to himself.  He is generous and kind.  He is independent, optimistic, and honest, easily offended, can be a loner, loves deeply, is jovial and good humoured, philosophical and idealistic. He has no formal education to speak of, but is well informed and thoughtful. McDowell is a religious person, Catholic, but not a church goer anymore.  He has come to understand that the hierarchy, patronage and paternalism of the Church are oppressive and man made. He is a deep believer by nature and is always conscientious of other dimensions, both good and evil. He keeps it to himself.  St. Michael and Jesus keep him safe.  He is also a political person, a natural social democrat.

Now, McDowell owns and operates a Bar/Grill in the heart of Portsmouth across from the Credit Union, next to Bourgh's Square.  He has many stories of his happy boyhood and youth spent on the wharf at Bourgh's Square, now a bustling bus terminal. In his early adult years he was on the sea sailing the Caribbean, especially BVI, USVI, St. Thomas, Ste. Maarten. (His father was lost at sea when he was 14 or so).  Stories of a young man's adventures abound, as you can imagine.

In the early 90's he fell for a local beauty.  They had 2 daughters.  He opened the original Sagittarius Bar on the same site as the present one, and a hamburger stand in 'The Shacks", in Picard, by the new Ross Medical School.  Then life's confusion got in the way.  He lost the Sagittarius Bar and  closed the stand at The Shacks.  He had  another daughter (different mother).  All through this he continued to  looked after Miss Gweny, who by this time was an elderly lady. He had been her helper since he was a child.

Two years ago he opened the present Sagittarius 2 Reggae Bar and Grill. The Bar is doing well in these hard times in Dominica.  Not great, but better than simply staying afloat.  Actually it does stay afloat on a sea of rum and chicken and chips and soup.  The habitu├ęs are mostly his school mates and men and  women he has grown up with and yachters off their boats in Prince Rupert Bay at Purple Turtle.

We met a long time ago, when I was with Sono who was trying to buy a guitar from McDowell.  I don't remember, but he does.  After Sono died I would pass McDowell, who was working at Cabral's bar, everyday on my way to CALLS to work.    He would call a cheerful 'Hello', and on my way back I would stop in a have a chat and a beer. We began to look for each other and eventually, easily and naturally..........

He says he is happy, his life is good and his prayers are being answered.  Me too.  McDowell is easy to live with and I love him.

Look on FaceBook for sagittarius 2 reggae bar and grill

Melanie, McDowell, Marian, Melona

Friday, April 8, 2016


Drug addicts, alcoholics,  street people, ne'er-do-wells and people with 'not good head' are called 'paro'.  They are mostly harmless, some are petty thieves, and most beg or will do small, quick menial jobs for a living.  Here, in Portsmouth they are all known and tolerated.  I would even say looked after by the community - sort of!

 For my own peace of mind I have three favourites, i.e. those to whom I give hand outs, or use for errands.  I say peace of mind because I can then easily say a firm no to the myriad others without feeling mean.

FLY is a special favourite of mine.  He has a dilapidated bicycle.  He carries full cases of coke from retailers to Bars around Portsmouth, on his head while riding his bicycle.  I call on him to fetch large bottles of drinking water or cylinders of propane for me.  Last week he came to my door, shivering and soaking wet, hoping I had an errand for him.  I didn't at the time, but I gave him a shot of rum and an old dry T-shirt of McDowell's.  Some days later McDowell he said he saw the T Shirt on Baygone (other Paro).  Fly probably sold it to him for the price of a hit.  My most recent encounter with him was yesterday.  He stopped me on the street, asked if there was anything I needed; he could do it for me NOW.  That should have been my clue, but I missed it. I asked him to buy 2 large bottles of water and leave them by my door. I gave him $20ec.  Keep the change.  When I got home hours later, no water, no $20, no Fly - of course.  I decided to cut my losses and deal with Fly next time I saw him.  I have to say I was surprised.  He always treated me straight and he is too smart to kill his reliable sort of bounty.  This afternoon he turned up with 4 large bottles of water, all smiles.  I told him I was almost mad at him.  "No, no, I don't want that.  I wouldn't do you bad".  I gave him 2 cigarettes and $5ec.  He must have done well with my original $20. to afford an extra 2 bottles.

JENNIFER hangs around outside the grocery store begging for change and talking to the air.  If I have a heavy load I get her to carry it to McDowell's Bar for the price of a shot of rum. They tell me that Jennifer used to be a classy women and owner of a high fashion clothing store.  She still dresses elegantly and holds her cigarette like Rita Hayworth, but she is now a serious crack addict and has lost her senses and looks.  Yesterday I gave her a coin and she turned and ran around the corner.  It must have been the 1ec she needed to make up the cost of a hit.

POTTY or possibly Porty, as in Portsmouth.  I can't tell, and nobody knows when I ask.  Probably Porty as he was a natty man about town in his halcyon days.  Anyway, he will answer to either.  I am told that he taught everyone in Portsmouth to play the guitar, that it was he that started everyone off in music, some of whom went on to have real musical careers  overseas.  He is a   bass guitarist.  He worked as an orderly in the Portsmouth Hospital for many years but succumbed to cocaine and lost everything.  However, although tatty (no longer 'natty') and in need of bath, he maintains some modicum of civility.  He eats real meals not scraps, always pays for his rum, never begs, is respectful (he can be difficult when he is 'under his rum' though), enjoys his reggae. He often carries my heavy bags from the Bar to home (2 cigarettes and 3ec) and does messages for MCD . You could grow potatoes in his ever present red cap.