Wednesday, 24 October 2007

A Month in the Country -- part 2

My summer holiday would start the moment the car climbed the hill from Vale Royal up to the house at Friendship. Actually, there were two houses at Friendship. Uncle Rodney's house was at the top of the hill, and at the bottom of the hill was the Nash's house, where Len Nash, his wife Daphne (formerly Newman) and their three children, Dennis, Richard and Arlene, lived. Len Nash was an engineer at Vale Royal and first cousin of my Aunt Marjorie, Rodney's wife. I wish I had pictures of the two houses, because I find my memory is not as clear about what they were like inside as I would wish. Uncle Rodney's house was built up off the ground so that there was a sort of above-ground basement underneath where he had his office and made his various liqueurs (more of that later), as well as where the generator was installed. This was known merely as the Delco, and in fact I went through life for the longest time thinking that was what all generators were called. The Delco provided power when the electricity went off, as it often did.

I have a painting, given to me as a wedding present, and painted by yet another Nash, Sylvia Nash the artist, which immediately brings to mind the end of the property where I used to go and walk away over the rolling countryside, accompanied by the two dogs, Jill, a black Lab, and Bessie, a cairn terrier. Here is the picture.

In my imagination just over that hill I would go off with Jill (Bessie being more of a house dog wouldn't go that far with us), and the two of us would walk along the paths by the cow ponds, where I would skip stones and Jill would go in for a swim. Finally, I would go back home ... Jill didn't always come with me, but would return at her leisure.

I remember a guinep tree on the property. The guinep tree (Melicoccus bijugatus) according to Olive Senior's Encyclopedia of Jamaican Heritage, is a large tree bearing small, round, green-skinned fruit which grow in clusters like grapes. Here is a picture of the fruit of the guinep:

The fruit is sweet and juicy with a seed in the middle and I remember, on one my visits to Friendship, gorging on them one day. That night I awoke feeling quite ill and proceeded to be very sick indeed, much to the disgust of my brother, Mickey, who was sharing a room with me at the time. (I don't recall why, but I guess my parents were also there and we had a full house.) I learned my lesson about eating too many guineps!

The highlight of my holiday at Friendship was going to the beach to swim. Not that I was a good swimmer, and it didn't help that Mickey used to duck me in the water. We went to Derby Beach (pronounced Darby), not far from Duncans. This was a lovely white sand beach with a gradual slope out into the sea. Here is a photo of my Aunt Marjorie at Derby Beach.

and one of Rodney, with the Burke family.

Derby Beach is now the famous resort, Silver Sands, and now looks like this:


My Uncle Rodney was a sugar technologist at Vale Royal Estate and as a hobby he made the most wonderful liqueurs. He made a creme de cafe, a creme de cacao, and incredible orange liqueur and best of all, a pimento dram to die for! Pimento dram is made from the fruit of the Pimento or allspice (Pimenta dioca). Olive Senior in her Encyclopedia of Jamaican Heritage notes that the pimento is Jamaica's only indigenous spice. He never made a commercial venture of this hobby, but rather would bottle enough to give away each year as Christmas presents to friends and family. On one occasion he told me that he had been approached by Dr. Kenneth Evans who was also experimenting with a coffee liqueur, to invest in Dr. Evans's project. Rodney declined and Ken Evans went on to develop Tia Maria, and the rest is history!

Another one of my memories of Friendship is of Rodney's collection of books of Punch cartoons. He had bought them, I believe, from a bookseller on a trip to England, and I would spend hours going through them and reading all the cartoons by famous illustrators such as George DuMaurier. One of my all-time favourites is DuMaurier's cartoon, "True Humility", also known as The Curate's Egg. Who can forget the wonderful caption:

Right Reverend Host: "I'm afraid you've got a bad egg, Mr. Jones"

The Curate: "Oh no, My Lord, I assure you! Parts of it are excellent"

Sadly, Rodney had to get rid of all his Punch books due to an infestation of insects which ate their way through the books. To use an old Jamaican expression: "Chi-chi nyam it"

6 comments:

patricia said...

So can you translate that expression for those who are not so Jamaican?

Ahhh, that story about Great Uncle Rodeny and Tia Maria. If only!

Friendship (what a great name!) sounds like it was very idyllic.

Dorothy said...

"Nyam" ... Jamaican patois for "eat", and "Chi-chi" was what we called termites, wood ants, and any other insect that would wreak havoc on books, etc.

judith said...

Oh Dorothy, this blog screams more loudly each day (at me): BOOK! BOOK!! BOOK!!!
If you want information about self-publishing, just ask me!

Judith

Annie said...

Hi Dorothy:
I stumbled across your blog purely by accident, and I have to say I'm amazed and quite thrilled. I was born in Falmouth in 1951 and spent the first 6 years of my life living at Friendship! My father, Winston Muschett, is the grand nephew of the Mr. Muschett you visited up at Georgia and I have many, many memories of being up at Georgia with my Aunt and Uncle, sometimes even spending weeks with them when my parents traveled abroad. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but don't the Muschetts have a Levy branch in their family tree? I don't remember the families who lived across the road and up the hill from us at Friendship, but I'm assuming you are related to them. I grew up spending many glorious days at Silver Sands! In fact, my husband and I and my two children stay at Silver Sands every Christmas (we live in Massachusetts). I have thought many times of writing a book about growing up in the "country" (really the "bush"!!) in Jamaica -- as I get older my memories become more and more magical. We should definitely stay in touch!

Dorothy Kew said...

Hi Annie:

Glad you enjoyed the post! I do remember your father, Winston. I understand he's now living up here in Canada. Where are situated? You didn't leave an email address so this is the only way I can contact you.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dorothy:
My e-mail is annmuschett@mac.com and I live in Wayland, MA. My Mum and Dad spend most of the year in Mississauga. They own a condo. They go back to Jamaica in early December and then stay there until the end of March, usually. My two brothers still live above Falmouth, close to Good Hope. We are going back to Trelawny and Silver Sands on Saturday, and I'm going to be sure to prompt Daddy's memories of our neighbors at Friendship. By the way, I knew I felt confused about the Levy's and the connection. My "Jewish" connection is actually to the Myers family -- nothing, as it happens, to do with Levy! Now you have made me curious to find out about THAT side of my family!!
Take care,
Annie
P.S. I have many memories of being a little girl at Friendship -- in hindsight all exotic and tinged with so called "magic realism". They still used oxen to pull all that cane, there were HUGE cane fires, one of which we had to literally flee from to your relatives across the road, and I used to love watching the laundresses pressing everything (including linen sheets and towels) with those heavy irons they heated up on coals.....sadly, our former house at Friendship is gone, the only thing in its place a stand of coconut trees. Georgia Great House is gone too, anything worth carrying off taken long ago by thieves and scavengers. Did you ever hear the story of Georgia Country Club?

Arras Memorial

Arras Memorial

Trooper Victor Dey Smedmore

Trooper Victor Dey Smedmore
My uncle Victor