Welcome to the current series of Posts from Your Archives in 2020 and if you would like to participate with two of your posts from 2019, you will find all the details in this post: New series of Posts from Your Archives 2020
This is the second post by author Apple Gidley and this week she shares a light-hearted look at driving on the island of St.Croix.
Pride is a sin, or so I’m told. But like most things, it’s moderation that really counts. And I’m not talking about pride in other people’s accomplishments – our children, our spouse and so on. No, I mean pride in ‘weself’. Although a little pride is what gets us out of our pajamas each morning. And as a writer, if I didn’t have an element of pride in my work, I’d never pluck up the courage to send it out and risk the plethora of rejections that inevitably come back.
I do confess to also being proud of my sense of direction and, on the whole, my ability to take directions. Do please note I wrote ‘directions’ and not ‘direction’ – I’m not so good at the latter. I am also a good map reader, which is why I despise Google Maps. Something to which I will not resort unless in dire circumstances – like I’m running very, very late… because I got lost!
But that’s all changed now I am spending more time on St Croix. I am now regularly totally and utterly directionally challenged. And that is on an island roughly 84 square miles in area, with the highest point being Mount Eagle at 1,165 feet. Roads numbers do not always tally with actual roads. Island maps show roads that once may have been passable but are no longer – you know those little dash-dash-dash lines that promise entry and egress but in reality peter out.
Like Houston, St Croix is afflicted with pot holes. Neither the powers-that-be in Houston nor on St Croix have not actually figured out the sense of ‘do it properly, one time’. But we have a sense of humour about it. My favourite bumper sticker here is also most comforting. It reads, “Not drunk, dodging potholes!” I almost drove off the road laughing.
I wasn’t laughing though a couple of weeks ago. We had visitors from Australia. Long-standing friends who are used to the vagaries of life – be it unplanned adventures, inclement weather or crazy hosts. Rorie is the epitome of a laconic Aussie farmer. Mary’s sense of humour has been, I’m sure, tested greatly throughout their long marriage, as has his. Be that as it may, they are great chums both to each other and us. We had decided on a driving day, and so our aptly named truck, Otto (Over The Top Off-roader), was geared up and taken for a spin.
I thought we were heading along Scenic Route East – a misnomer really, apart from the east bit. The tan-tan is as tall as an elephant’s eye and the glistening Caribbean Sea is merely a pencil mark through the scrub scrabbling up the hillside covered with creepers. Mainly Bride’s Tears, spaghetti vine and some kind of pea, all attempting to turn the bush into a palette of pink, yellow and purple. Pretty but invasive plants intent on strangling local flora. In any event, after the nails-on-a-chalkboard scratching of thorns along Otto, Mount Eagle seemed to be where we were heading. I wasn’t quite sure how we got there, but there was no turning back until we reached the summit.
I think I told you Rorie was a cool-cat, unfazed by the peculiarities of life in the left lane – oh, let me explain. The Virgin Islands, for some inexplicable reason, manouvre left-hand steering-wheeled vehicles on the left side of the road. It can at times produce, for those sitting in line of oncoming traffic, a dashboard-clutching drive. Anyway, Rorie was doing very well.
Until he wasn’t.
Mary was trying to catch glimpses of the ocean, or anything other than more tan-tan – and was rewarded with a flash of grey mongoose on the dusty red trail ahead. There was no left lane here. But she could afford some element of sang-froid. She and my husband, our driver, were on the hill side of the rapidly narrowing track, and her gaze skimmed over the bushes and through the trees, not down the hill where remnants of rusted vehicles peeked from under vines, giving testament to an ill-advised spin of the wheel.
“Steer left a bit, mate.” Rorie’s words were calm. I had lost the power of speech as I leaned out the window and saw an inch of rubbly road then nothing but a tangle of scrub waiting to claim us in the ravine below. Okay, maybe not a ravine exactly, but a steep gully that would not make any of us feel good should we flip into it.
“I’m in 4 wheel-drive,” John said, his voice soothing.
“Not much use if there’s only air under the wheels!” Rorie commented.
The view from the top was worth the drive and, taking the right fork, the road more travelled, on the way down the hill, we eventually found our way to where I had thought we were going….. It turns out my pride has been misplaced all these years. I am directionally challenged.
But then guidance on St Croix is a little vague. Landmarks long gone are still used as reference points. I have since learnt if we had only turned right, where the tall palm blew down in the hurricanes eighteen months ago, and not at the signpost that categorically stated Scenic Drive East, we would have been fine.
That’s another idiosyncrasy of Crucian driving!
Thanks to Apple for sharing her driving adventure, I am sure you have your own to share with us in the comments.
Books by Apple Gidley
About the book
The Danish-owned island of 1870s Saint Croix vibrates with passion and tension as Anna Clausen, a young Anglo-Danish woman, returns to her childhood home after her mother’s death. Her heart sinks at what she finds on arrival. Her father is ailing and desolate and her beloved plantation, Anna’s Fancy, which has been in the Clausen family for three generations, is in shambles.
The unwelcome lust of one man and forbidden love for another makes Anna’s return to Saint Croix even more turbulent. Despite the decline in the sugar industry she is determined to retain Anna’s Fancy but must first win the trust of her field workers, of Sampson the foreman, and the grudging respect of Emiline the cook and local weed woman.
Fireburn tells of the horrors of a little-known, bloody period of Caribbean history. Anna weathers personal heartache as she challenges the conventions of the day, the hostility of the predominantly male landowners and survives the worker rebellion of 1878, 30 years after Emancipation.
Rich in description, Fireburn is a well-researched novel that shines a light on a historic period in Saint Croix that has received little attention in literature until now. Gillian Royes, The Goat Woman of Largo Bay
One of the recent reviews for Fireburn
Great historical novel blending the local lingo and people with European settlers. Book was fair and objective. Good research on historical sites in St Croix and England.
Never got an explanation why the principal language in the Danish West Indies was English even though the Danes owned them for over 100 years before selling them to the U.S.
Read the reviews and buy the book: Amazon US
And: Amazon UK
Also by Apple Gidley
Read the reviews and buy the books: Amazon US
And: Amazon UK
Read more reviews and follow Apple: Goodreads
About Apple Gidley
A transient life has seen Anglo-Australian Apple Gidley live in countries as diverse as Papua New Guinea and Thailand, Equatorial Guinea and the USA, and another eight in between. Her memoir, Expat Life Slice by Slice tells of the highs and lows of that nomadic life – one she wouldn’t trade for all the proverbial tea in one of the places she hasn’t lived, China.
Gidley’s roles have been varied – editor, intercultural trainer for multi-national corporations, Her Britannic Majesty’s Honorary Consul to Equatorial Guinea, amongst others. She started writing full time twelve years ago.
Gidley writes a regular blog, A Broad View, and has two published novels, Fireburn and Transfer, which are set on St Croix, and she has stories published in various anthologies and is working on a book of short stories. A novel, set in 1950’s Malaya is currently with agents and she is now working on another historical novel set in Poland and India.
Connect to Apple
Thanks to Apple for sharing her post with us all and I hope you will head over to explore her archives in more detail..thanks Sally.