Sucking Air

It’s 8:04 and the entire staff has congregated under the garage, sheltering from the much needed downpour. Before there was any real management on the island, when things were a little slack, we’d have all gone home, for no one wants to work in the rain. There are some bizarre local superstitions about what you can’t do in the rain for fear of becoming ill, and these are enough to stop most people from working. Ironing in the rain holds the greatest risk, for you could potentially catch a fever or if you’re particularly unlucky, have a stroke. Besides, according to my favourite grounds keeper, this is “weather for leather”; weather to abandon your work for the day and go home to your lover. Sadly, we have an imminent guest arrival so we’re going nowhere but back to work the moment the rain subsides enough to get a golf cart up the hill. But I like the sentiment – this is what makes travel and my workday entertaining.

Since relocating to a Caribbean rock I have discovered the existence of yet more English dialects. I had thought us English and Americans spoke the same “English” (with the obvious exceptions such as herbs and aluminium) but unbeknown to me, I have managed to completely offend several non-British people and have given the impression that I am a complete lazy arse. FYI (newly adopted American abbreviation) – the English expression “I can’t be bothered” is not intended to be taken literally; it’s merely a phrase to say that you are feeling a little lazy today, you feel like complaining a little, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t partake in the activity in question.

*click for image credit

*click for image credit

While the differences in language worldwide have become less prominent nowadays, it has still remained strong enough that a conversation with a local in any given country can give you a glimpse into a new world – not dissimilar to a time when local cuisine offered you a new exotic taste experience, before the whole world became “international” and edamame beans were available in Slough, of all places. During my first few months on this rock, I experienced some challenges with communication; I knew people were speaking English but I hadn’t a clue what they were saying. The heavy accents and the local slang used in everyday conversation here in the Caribbean, with the occasional patois word thrown in, were too much for my English ear and it took a lot of listening, questioning, and Googling before I could follow a conversation. Now that I’ve managed to decipher the accent and the dialect has become more familiar, I can share with you my favourite island expressions.

“I’m sucking air, I’m sucking a big massive air”

It’s lunchtime, 12:00 to be precise, and the guys are coming into the workshop to prepare their lunch. I had heard of sucking or kissing teeth but not sucking air, so I asked for further explanation. With great surprise that I didn’t know this already, I was told that “sucking air” is to be hungry, so hungry that all you have is air in your stomach.

“Cheese on Bread”

Not what is on the menu, which would be far too English. Cheese on Bread is one of our housekeeper’s favourite ways of avoiding the blasphemous “Jesus Christ”. You really need to draw out the cheese; “Cheeeese on bread”.

“Fattening the cow for slaughter”

*click for image credit

*click for image credit

In this instance, I am the cow. As has been previously mentioned on this blog, West Indians love the fuller figure and they particularly love to tell you how well you’re doing at developing that fuller figure. I’m almost used to these comments now and they do serve a purpose when living without a set of weighing scales but this phrase was new to me. Apparently I am the cow and my boyfriend is the one fattening me up to slaughter me. There was some visual demonstration of the slaughter that I’ll not try and describe; suffice to say that it was a graphic sexual kind of slaughter.

“You’re not easy”

I’m still confused by this one. I think it means that I’m a little annoying and demanding but I think it is sometimes also said with slight admiration.

“If we live to see”

I was brought up atheist, but I did attend a Church of England school so I’m fairly certain that I’m not just being entirely ignorant in religious matters. But I had no idea religion was so gloomy; locally “if we live to see” precedes almost every statement regarding the future. It’s comparable to something I became familiar with on my recent road trip of the Southern States where ” God bless her” is used a disclaimer to whatever foul language or thoughts come next; “God bless her, but she is one ugly bitch”.

Question: “Can you pick up some bananas for me tomorrow please?”
Answer: “If we live to see, God spare, yes I can.”

Alright then, let’s hope we live to see.

*click for image credit

*click for image credit

“The mood is right”

Often heard on a Friday, said with a big beaming smile. When you’re feeling good the mood is right, when your day is mediocre the mood is OK, and when you’re having a bad one, the mood is definitely not right.

We’re on a tropical island, the mood is mostly right.

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About Baldrick

Baldrick was lured from a life at sea to a life on land with the promise that a real life would be found amongst thirty acres of rock. Forgetting all dreams of world cruising in far flung, frozen places, she found this small rock with a population of three and a considerably warmer climate to actually be quite delightful. Aside from conquering fears of the dark, spiders, and snakes, island life has allowed for a small, personal exploration into the world of water sports. The shark that lurks by the swim dock isn’t so bad after all; paddleboarding is a perfectly acceptable substitute for a walk; and Hobie sailing has become an interesting form of transportation. In her work, she mostly deals with hospitality but has been known to pick up a manual and try her hand at engineering, developing a special fondness for generators and toilet plumbing systems. She loves gin, temporarily escaping to the real world, and the little lizard who works bloody hard to remove all mosquitoes from her room.

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7 thoughts on “Sucking Air

  1. As a kid, my mother would always preface plans for a future time with, “Lord willing.” Not an island girl, just very religious family. Sort of the same as ‘if we live to see’. Depressing!

  2. After 20+ years living in the BVI, my fave phrase is still “me gone to come back” especially from the employees needing a “few minutes off”….they do come back. (albeit later than sooner!)

  3. Wonderful subject – I have been amazed, at times what I thought I heard is Not what was meant ;). “Coming just now” = any time today, ‘noit = anoint as in applying mosquito repellant or any topical application of anything. I am endeared to the “please God” used in daily conversations. I still get lost on the bus into town when all the accents are mixed together and spoken quickly. I once asked our neighbor Popo, local Kayak, if it bothered him that I couldn’t always understand him – his reply “No, I just have to speak slower for you” Well, there you have it 😉

  4. As a nurse, I always left my patients saying “see you later”. The reply is always the same, “God spare life, you will see me later”!

  5. My favourite is “Me un no” meaning “I don’t know” and there are also a few I learned years ago when I first set sail across the Caribbean and ended up for a time in the Bahamas that cannot be defined in polite company such “a walk in the country”.

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