One more tumble and the tree-lifter would be sure to get it. The newly purchased Christmas tree was being hoisted to the top of a waiting SUV and it had already fallen twice. The customer, a chubby, fair-skinned woman with a sun-burned forehead, was clearly annoyed.
"Yuh try mek sure yuh get it this time, yuh see!" she said, folding her arms. "Mi nuh want any bruck-up tree. Is not dat mi pay yuh fah."
The tree-lifter, a slender, diffident fellow who spoke with a slight lisp, seemed utterly terrified by the whole affair.
The event was unfolding along Constant Spring Road in St Andrew at the spot near all the shopping malls where Christmas trees are sold each season. The man retrieved a rag from the back pocket of his trousers and used it to wipe sweat from his forehead.
Similar manoeuvres were taking place all around, but the other vendors appeared to be enjoying considerably greater success. The woman scanned the man from head to toe. "Yuh sure yuh can manage? Mek yuh nuh ask somebody fi help yuh wid it?" she asked.
The man, apparently stung by the insinuation made about his manhood, attacked the tree with renewed vigour. In a mighty heave he lifted the large tree high over his head and deposited it atop the vehicle with a loud 'plop'. A broad smile suddenly appeared on his face.
"Wait, yuh trang, man," the woman said. "Mek yuh was acting so rolly polly before?"
It was still morning at the busy tree-selling spot and already the vendors were doing brisk business. I was standing about 50 feet away from the centre of activity, not wanting to get in the way. I was next to a woman called Sandra who had accompanied her husband, a longtime grower and seller of trees, to the spot that morning. She told me that the trees were grown at Penlyne Castle, high in the Blue Mountains, where the couple lives with their four children.
"Every year, Christmas come likkle faster," she said, smiling. "It feel like is just like last week mi siddung same place. As yuh quint, it come and gone again," she said.
A man who was standing not far from us called out to Sandra. "Hello, please," he said. Sandra acknowledged him with a nod. "How much for the big ones?" he asked. "Di big one dem done," she replied. "Tomorrow before dem carry down some more." The man walked off.
"Mi tell di crosses bwoy seh him fi come wid di tree dem tideh, yuh nuh," Sandra said mainly to herself. "See it deh now! Man come fi big tree and can't get none fi buy."
I asked her what she and her husband did for the rest of the year. "Well we grow the trees for the whole year, yuh know," she said. "Like right now, we start prepare up fi next year already. Yuh can never really tek a break. We grow coffee and some other likkle dis and dat too. Plus mi husband fix shoes and mek cabinet."
I asked her how long they had been selling trees at that spot. "Good while now, man. Good good while," she said.
Sandra told me that she loves the excitement that Christmas brings. "It just feel nice. Mi nuh really have to be out here, yuh know. But mi just love di Christmas and di whole vibes. Di place just have a different feeling. Mi just love it. It shoulda be Christmas fi di whole year," she said.
Where should Robert go next? Let him know at email@example.com
The following is feedback to last week's Roving with Lalah in Ginger Hall, Manchester:
Big story! Did it again, Lalah. Thanks so much for these absolute gems!
- P Smith
A fine story. Takes me back. Way back.
Ha ha! Loved this story. Read it twice already and plan to do it again just before bedtime.
- Gilbert Triens
Hilarious! Thanks for this! Love Roving with Lalah!
- Shelter Rock Man