They still call England home

Short stories

My husband Brian is a Bajan.

A Bajan? This is the tag the population of Barbados, an idyll in the Caribbean, give themselves.

As Brian tells it, ‘Barbados is a cliché: a tropical island, fringed by white sand and palm trees, yachts bobbing on an azure ocean’. And a fervour among its inhabitants for cricket, he adds.

As a child, for him it was a land of milk and Tate and Lyle’s golden syrup; His family owned a dairy herd, and a couple of sugar plantations. In those halcyon days of plenty, their family’s sugar was shipped to the cold grey climes of Mother England, to a ready and eager market, guaranteed under the British Imperial Preference of 1919.

For most Bajans, England was more than a sugar destination, it was home. England provided succour and wealth. The vestiges of England’s colonial past clung, in slightly tattered but proud exuberance, to the yacht club, the public schools and the cricket greens.

In 1968 the market for Barbados sugar came to stuttering halt. The European Union Sugar Regime was introduced. ‘We were betrayed’, says Brian. ‘Suddenly we had high import tariffs to contend with as the UK artificially shored up sugar prices, and the market for European sugar beet producers. We were left out in the cold.’ In their tropical paradise …

‘I guess the UK was weaning us off the teat,’ he says.

The family plantations have gone and the dairy cows, too. Even so, cricket is still played, God Save the Queen is still sung, and many Bajans still call England home.