Last Christmas all of the staff received smart phones, which was a great choice of gift. Not only is it a great work tool providing email access to all of our employees, but it also opens up a whole new world of entertainment and communication for them to explore during and after the working day. They’ve assured me that all the games installed are for their children, but who cares, productivity doesn’t appear to have decreased; everyone is happy.
The phone was my first piece of touch screen technology but after considerable effort, time, and frustration, I seem to have mastered it enough to be able to make and receive calls, write nonsense on Facebook, and take countless snaps of paradise. Apps are still relatively new to me and I’ve not gone far beyond Draw Something and Google Stars but thanks to a very charming Swede with superior app knowledge, I now have one truly great one: Tune In Radio. It’s brilliant – when you don’t have TV or a regular radio it provides you with a little sound bite into the real world. It doesn’t matter how long I’ve lived outside of the UK, I still miss the beeb (that’s the BBC for all you Americans). So as I sit at my desk, I can now listen to the sounds of home whilst I work. At this point I’m imagining some sighing and rolling of the eyes, as people often comment about expats failing to get involved in the local culture (“might as well have stayed in England”), but I’m not alone.
Having heard English radio being played from my phone, the interest in the app soon became clear. Tune In Radio has now been installed on all of the island employees’ phones, and as they hail from all corners of the Caribbean, our workplace has come alive with a cacophony of Caribbean sounds. Everyone it seems, yearns for a little piece of home. The musical beats from Grenada and St. Lucia are mixed among the rants of preachers from Dominica and corrupt politicians from St. Vincent and, well, pretty much all of the Caribbean countries. I may not be able to make sense of the politics or the religion but I have become acquainted with some great (and not so great) local music and could now probably manage a few lines from classics such as Kick Een She Back Doh (Kick in the Back Door), if I were inclined.
One day whilst wandering around one of the properties, I came across a couple of the ladies having their lunch outside on the deck. Placed between them, like an old-fashioned wireless, was a phone playing what sounded to me like the familiar, dulcet tones of The Shipping Forecast. This daily broadcast, for those not familiar, provides mariners with weather forecasts for the waters surrounding the British Isles. It has gained quite a following since its inception, for as well providing essential weather reports to all shipping, the rhythm and solemn sounds of the reader offer a soothing, hypnotic voice at 5am to any insomniacs.
“The Shipping Forecast!” I exclaimed.
They looked at me and laughed before stating that it was actually what they referred to as The Death List. Silly me.
“It sounds like The Shipping Forecast,” I said, confused.
They shook their heads and began to explain that what they were listening to was in fact a list of everyone that had died that day in St. Vincent. Indeed, I was confused. I thought obituaries were for the back of newspapers and lunchtimes were for food and chit chat? This seemed like an odd source of entertainment but I sat and listened and sure enough, it was a long list of dead people and an even longer list of the people they had left behind. The radio station charged per word so as the 16th second cousin was named I began to feel that we were perhaps dealing with a drug lord. I tried to explain my fascination – about the sea state, veering, and backing, but everyone was as confused as I was.
Listen to a sample Shipping Forecast parody here:
A couple of days later, I was in one of the other houses on island when I again heard “The Shipping Forecast”. It was livelier than the last time, but it still had that same monotone voice and the same rhythm, now with added backing music. It was Dominica’s Death List. It soon became apparent that The Death List was a fairly common broadcast throughout the Caribbean, with every country declaring their recently departed in their own particular style. The girls loved it, and having grown up listening to the hypnotic sounds of the real Shipping Forecast, I began to understand why. The memory of these takes me back to the warmth of the kitchen where Radio 4 was a regular, and to cold, wet anchorages where the boat had been rolling around for hours. Although I understood the importance of the broadcast, I knew little about the meaning of the words. I imagine The Death List is the same for our ladies; it’s a piece of home and maybe they hear a name they recognise, but it’s more about the connection to their past and a pleasant voice to listen to……
There are warnings of gales in Shannon, Rockall, Malin and Hebrides. Northerly 7 to severe gale 8 soon. Rough or very rough. Rain or squally showers. Good occasionally poor.
William Leonard, 89, died Wednesday, December 8th. He leaves to mourn; wife, mother, children, step children, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, grand nieces and nephews, aunts, uncles, brothers in law, sisters in law, close cousins, other relatives and friends. Funeral to be held at 3pm Saturday.
North Utsire, South Utsire. Southeasterly 5 or 6, backing Northeasterly 4 or 5. Slight or moderate. Occasional rain, fog patches. Moderate, occasionally very poor……
I’ve started listening again, it’s available on Tune In.