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  • Writer's picturetheblacksprayhood

Mermaid's Pool

"My aunt bought a maraca, which she was shaking vigorously; I was jumping around like a madperson and my mum was dancing on the table."

It’s been farewell to auntie this week, but before she left, we made the most of her last week. It’s been an eventful week, with a visit to Urgent Care and some messy results of Too Much of a Good Time to boot.

Before all the drama unfolded and everyone was in good health, we completed a short hike along Antigua’s south coast to visit Mermaid’s Pool. This is a natural infinity pool set into the cliffside, with small black and yellow tropical fish swimming around. The depth is that of a bath, so after you are thoroughly overheated on the exposed clifftop walk, you can luxuriate in the pools and freshen up, while gazing out across the vast blue ocean. Mermaid life! We trekked back to Galleon Beach; but by that time it was afternoon and all the shade was gone as the sun had moved high up into the sky. We lay out in the baking sun with a little swimming in between. Then we dinghied back. The next day my stepdad was feeling unwell - a touch of heatstroke we thought, so Luciano, my mum, my aunt and I headed up to Shirley Heights without him in the late afternoon.

Shirley Heights is a lookout point high above English Harbour. We took a taxi up and gazed out across the whole of Antigua and over to Montserrat. On Sunday and Thursday evenings they have live music - a steel band followed by a reggae jam band. We had our first beer before 4.00pm and soon the steel band started to play. The sun set at around 6.00pm and we had a glorious view below of Anigua and the surrounding waters bathed in an orange glow. At some point we moved on to rum punches. My aunt bought a maraca, which she was shaking vigorously; I was jumping around like a madperson and my mum was dancing on the table. I have no recollection of getting home. But I do remember my aunt and myself vomiting over most of the boat - poor old Luciano was up in the early hours cleaning it. Great night, but all of us were joining my stepdad in not feeling our best, so we relaxed on the boat. Later in the day, we felt better, so my mum, my aunt and I went for a little walk while Luciano and my stepdad stayed on the boat. As we got back, I saw Luciano sprinting past and called to him. He gestured violently and as we approached, we saw my stepdad lying on the ground. The dockyard workers were all around him and had called a taxi. My mum and I accompanied him in a taxi to Urgent Care.

A word of advice: do not get sick in Antigua unless you have very deep pockets. The price of a drip, the consultation fee and a few medicines including antibiotics was about US$1000. The wait was much shorter than we would have in the UK - only an hour and a half, but I am praying to everything that our NHS will not be sold off by the time of the next election - healthcare free at the point of use is such a huge privilege and one we should properly fund and cherish - it’s such a cost effective and fair way of delivering it. It’s easy to forget how much people have to pay in other countries and how many have to forego healthcare altogether because of privatised systems. We’re also very lucky we don’t have unnecessary antibiotics and other medicines foisted on us in the UK, so that the private healthcare companies can profit. My stepdad was prescribed strong antibiotics for no discernible reason whatsoever and has developed other side effects as a result. He’s feeling much better now - we think it was a bit of overexposure to the sun leading him to feel a little faint.

The next day was my aunt’s last day and we didn’t want her to miss out, so Luciano and I took her out for the day in a hire car while my mum stayed with my stepdad while he recovered. We visited Devil’s Bridge, a natural limestone bridge on a windswept peninsula which has been formed over millions of years by the erosion of the softer layers of limestone. The whole area is pockmarked with holes from this process. We looked out at the waves lashing over the bridge and felt exhilarated. Next we drove to Betty’s Hope, a restored sugar mill, which was in operation from the 1650s until the 1970s. It was owned by the Codrington family, who also leased the whole of the island of Barbuda from the British government, which they used as their personal larder - livestock and crops were all grown by the slaves they imported there and the family used it as hunting grounds too. These foods were used as sustenance for the people and workers on all of their sugar plantations in Antigua. The machinery used in later years by the mill has been painstakingly restored since the 1980s and there is some information on the running of the mill and a recreation of a simple hut dwelling that would have been lived in by the slaves who operated the mill.

From Betty’s Hope we drove to an adorable donkey sanctuary where we could brush the gentle docile old creatures. The woman there told us that some are brought there after causing destruction to property, while others are rescued after suffering abuse. We tried to pay some attention to every donkey and it was lovely. From there we drove up to Dow’s Hill Interpretation Centre close to Shirley Heights and admired the views and watched an interactive televisual presentation on the history of Antigua, which spotlighted different props and had interesting narration on the screens until you had turned 360 degrees in your chair - from the earliest Arawak Indians to modern day Antiguan culture and carnival. We attempted to access Indian Creek - a prehistoric settlement down a very bumpy road, but reached a point where we were not allowed to proceed - we thought it might be the entrance to the vast property in the area owned by Eric Clapton. Never mind, we had seen a lot and my aunt had enjoyed her last day.

The next day my mum and I accompanied her to the airport - two buses. We stopped for lunch at Alligators in St John’s where we had been before and we could order vegetable side dishes. One of the dishes we thought was mushrooms - fungi, but it actually turned out to be a cornmeal with okra mush. Very embarrassing, but at least we’ve tried a new Caribbean food. From St John’s we took another bus to the airport, but missed our stop. In typical Caribbean style, that didn’t matter, as the other passengers informed the bus driver and he turned around and took us into the airport - I’ll never get over how great Caribbean buses are. My aunt has flown back to the UK now; it was fun having her onboard. Next stop: Guadeloupe.

This week's Vlog.

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1 commentaire

05 févr. 2023

I'd like to be a mermaid 🧜‍♀️ in Antigua. It's sunny and bright here today so not in a world of jealousy watching the video. Glad Andy is OK. Looking forward to hearing about Guadeloupe

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