Tue | Oct 27, 2020

Around Ja with Paul H | Lone German, john crows, Bertie Green and the Xmas Bun

Published:Thursday | December 27, 2018 | 12:00 AM
The inimitable Bertie Green.
German tourist Felix George relaxes from his journey around Jamaica by bicycle.
Bertie Green's Christmas bun.
The Gleaner chanced upon these John Crows in the Canoe Valley of south Manchester, recently.

Last week, to get to a traditional Christmas get-together in St Elizabeth, some friends and I travelled through Canoe Valley in south Manchester and St Elizabeth along the coast road that leads to Alligator Pond.

The condition of this very lonely road was reasonably good when I passed through earlier this year, but this time around, many sections of the road were damaged, some seriously. At parts, the entire surface was gone and sunken, almost unnavigable. I am still trying to understand what happened in such a short time.

I am also hoping that the German tourist whom I saw at Alligator Hole, a scenic spot in the valley, was able get through some of those rough patches without incident because help would have been many miles away.

Farther along in the valley, we came upon a flock of john crows in the middle of the road. We slowed down. Upon seeing the vehicle, some flew away. Yet, the others stayed put. We came to a full stop. It was a photo opportunity for those red, bald-pated creatures.

We inched a little closer to the three that were still in the road. I could not imagine not getting some close-up shots of these beautiful and useful, but much-maligned creatures. We stopped again - to let the zoom do the work. And it did, to a certain extent.

After a few shots, the birds took off. But when we reached the spot where they had gathered, we saw absolutely nothing that was decomposing, and I thought they must have finished off Donald Trump and were waiting to digest all of that mess.




And the day did not go exactly as planned. There were some detours, which produced much tension, and some great views, such as those of the giant 'windmills' at Malvern.

I had seen them many times from way below. Close up, in their entirety, they are really massive structures, almost overwhelming to look at, with those giant blades dancing to the music of the wind. I also got a chance to see the ancient stone buildings at Munro for the very first time.

Yet, the stop that I will forever cherish, though unplanned, was at Bertie Green's home. I cannot recall meeting another person like this 90-year-old former dancer and master chef.

When we arrived, he was creating a new gate from a wall because "puss and dog" were gathering and parking at the current one. He has a crouched posture, so to look at us, he had to turn up his head slightly and squint.

Upon seeing us, he smiled mischievously, and then the fun began. Between the litany of woes in a slight British accent about his malfunctioning tools and the unreliable youths that he sometimes employs, he had a quick and witty retort for every statement made and every question asked. His wit was as dry and delicious as the coconut drops he eventually gave us.

And while I had finally met my match, it had been a long time since I had laughed so hard, and when he laughed, I had to laugh, too. At one point, he became silent, looked at me, and said, "I used to have teeth like those, but you took them away."

He said that sometimes in the morning he can stand straight up, but by the end of the day, "mi just drop back dung so". Yet, he chops his yard, mixes cement, does construction, bakes and cooks for himself and his dogs, etc. And his eyesight? 20/20!

He was a dancer in his youth and had pictures to prove it. It was poignant to see a young Bertie leaping in mid-air in the pictures and an elderly Bertie crouching and turning up his head to look up at his own pictures.

Before that, as he headed towards the kitchen, he said Lady Diana visited him and never left. I was now saying that he was going a little too far. Then he said it again and walked away, leaving me and the puzzled look on my face wondering what was going on. Then I looked up and saw it, a picture of a young Lady Diana emblazoned on a plate affixed to a wall.

We wished we had more time for this most interesting of personalities, and there is much more that could be said about the visit, but there is no space. However, the bun, the Christmas bun that he gave me, deserves honorary mention.

From Bertie's place, we left to find my intended destination. I arrived late, but there was Jamaican food, live folk music, and merriment - the icing perhaps, on Bertie's Christmas bun? No, the memories of Bertie and his bun are in a totally different realm, forever sealed in my time capsule.

For more Around Jamaica with Paul H, get your copy of Hospitality Jamaica every other Wednesday in The Gleaner.