England in the Caribbean – 17th February 2019

Barbados seems largely comfortable with the superficiality of its reputation as land of excess, of vacations and beautiful beaches. Like a model who makes a living from her looks, Barbados smiles and accepts the fees. Not that there isn’t the odd ‘snap’ at those who take things for granted. There’s plenty of that – there was even more years back.

The nation has a ‘soul’ which isn’t readily seen by the majority of visitors. Understandable considering the vast majority of them are here for a short time and good time, not necessarily a meaningful one. But for a nation which did not gain independence from Britain until 1966, over three centuries after occupation, it has done remarkably well in coming to terms with itself.

The ‘Father of Independence’, the Right Excellent Errol Walton Barrow’, has a great deal to do with his country being at peace with itself. He was ‘Premier’ from 1961 to ’66 as Britain toyed and tangled with the notion of ‘freeing’ one of its most valuable colonies.

Then he was ‘First Prime Minister’ from ’66-’76 having overseen Independence Day on November 30, 1966. He founded the Barbados Labour Party and was in opposition for ten years until a hugely popular, landslide election victory in 1986. He died in office a year later but not before expanding the tourist industry and establishing a culture of respect which stands to this day. He knew Barbados needed to move away from its dependence on the sugar trade and was determined to get the job done.

Some guests moan about the ‘attitude’ of those who work in the service industry. Others, who ask politely and treat their hosts with respect, are overwhelmed by the friendliness and desire to help. But take things for granted, or complain randomly or unnecessarily, and you might wait even longer for your omelette.

The Independence Arch in central Bridgetown was unveiled in 1987 to celebrate the 21st Anniversary of Independence. On it is a plaque – ‘The Pledge’. As a Barbadian, it is important. Of course there are still many poor folk for whom it remains an ideal, but it is something to aspire to. The Arch is a symbol of what is possible.

England’s cricketers have no reason to focus on anything other than the first ODI on Wednesday, and neither do their thousands of supporters. Barbados is a holiday paradise with a great stadium and so much else to offer. There are many good reasons for it to be so.

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