Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Old Harbour’s very own daughter, award-winning and best-selling author Claudette Beckford-Brady has recently added another feather to her writing cap.

Her young adult novel, The Dixons, was picked as one of the books being used in the preliminary stage of the Jamaica Library Service’s National Reading Competition.

The Dixons was specifically written for the age group 12 years upwards and is being used in the 15-20 age group category of the competition.

The book is set in the town of Old Harbour and speaks particularly to the issue of teenage growing pains. Some of the featured themes of the book are family relationships – both good and bad – child abuse, teenage pregnancy, HIV/AIDS and its consequences, young love, and religion and faith in God. It also contains drama and suspense to make for a very exciting read.

The book cover of The Dixons
Said Beckford-Brady: “I was surprised and excited when I was asked to submit my book to the Library Service for review, and when it was accepted I was extremely gratified. The selection of the book hopefully means that it will become more visible to the target audience and help them to make good and positive choices in their young lives”.

Beckford-Brady, who was born at Lennon’s Ville in the town, is the author of four other novels: Sweet Home, Jamaica and its sequel The Missing Years; Return to Fidelity; The Jacket Doesn’t Fit; plus a collection of award-winning short stories entitled Yaard and Abroad.

The Jamaica Library Service’s National Reading Competition is held on an annual basis. The main objectives of the competition are “to encourage the reading habit and develop reading skills” as well as “to cultivate an appreciation of various genres of literature” and “to foster continuing education in adults”.

Other books being used in the age 15-20 category are: The Boy Next Door, by Mandisa Parnell; and Gone to Drift, by Diana McCauley.

The competition will culminate with the National finals on August 25.

The Dixons, along with Beckford-Brady’s other books can be found at Old Harbour Books and Stationery Centre, Shop 3, 1 Vaz Drive, Glendon Court Plaza in Old Harbour and at branches of Sangster’s bookstores, as well as from the author herself.

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Published in Feature
Editor’s Note: Today we present the final excerpt from another fictional novel of Jamaican author Claudette Beckford-Brady’s Return to Fidelity. Return to Fidelity is yet another intriguing story about a Jamaican woman Enid Maynard-Livingstone, who is disenchanted with her fifteen-year marriage to Basil, who has a predilection toward girls young enough to be his daughters. However, Edith is not about to leave him and give up the comfortable lifestyle she has become accustomed to after having grown up dirt-poor in a rural Jamaican parish. But when she runs into an old friend the temptation to give Basil a taste of his own medicine and have a fling is overwhelming.

Leroy stopped at his local pub, the Little Jamaica on Atlantic Road, where he found his friend, Headley Bryan sitting at the bar nursing a half pint of draught Guinness and chatting up Alice, the landlord’s buxom twenty-five year old daughter, who was serving behind the bar. It was early afternoon, and a Saturday, so there were quite a few patrons in the pub.

Headley’s face lit up when he saw Leroy. “Wotcha mite,” he said cheerfully, and then he saw the scowl on Leroy’s face. “Wait; is what happen fi put such a frown pon yu face, man? Yu an’ ’Vadne have a fight then, did-ja?”

He spoke in the curious mixture of South London English and Jamaican Creole, or Patois, peculiar to the British Jamaicans.

Before Leroy could answer, Alice greeted him with a grin and a cheery “Wotcha, Leroy; the usual, then?”

“No; gi’ mi a white rum.Mek it a double. Oh; an’ give Headley another Guinness and take supp’m fah yourself.” He sat down on the barstool next to Headley, who regarded him curiously.

“A double white rum this time a-day? What’s eating yu, then?”

“My mum’s on her deathbed and all Evadne can say is that I’m making it up because I want to go to Jamaica.” He added water to the rum which Alice had placed in front of him, and took a large swig.

“Honest to God, Headley,” he continued, “I can’t understand the woman. She knew from long before we even got married that I intended to go home eventually. She married me knowing that; so what’s changed?”

Headley and his wife, Loretta, had been best friends with Leroy and Evadne for over twenty years and so Leroy felt quite comfortable in discussing his problem with him. His friend tapped out a Benson & Hedges from the packet, put it to his lips, and then remembered that he couldn’t smoke in the pub. He replaced the cigarette into the box and replied.

“Well,” he said slowly, “yu have to see with ’Vadne. Remember seh she don’t have the happy memories of yaad that you and me and Loretta have. When she come to England she was juss a baby, and she don’t know Jay-A like we do.

“’Vadne is a city girl an’ a social animal,” he went on. “She told Loretta that if yu want her to go home with you, yu going to have to compromise and live somewhere where she can find modern convenience and intelligent people to socialise with. Shi seh shi aint no farmer’s wife, and street dance ain’t her idea of entertainment. Shi seh shi want to live in a city, not in the bush.”

Leroy drained his glass and beckoned to Alice, who refilled it with a caution. “Hope you ent driving Leroy,” she said with a smile. “You seem hell-bent on getting drunk; it’s not like you to drink hard liquor – and in the daytime too.”

“Don’t worry, Alice. I-man can hold my waters. Anyway, I ain’t doing no mini-cabbing today, jusscouplah short errands.”

Leroy sometimes used his car as a taxi; both to supplement his savings and also as a means of keeping boredom at bay since he had stopped working. He returned his attention to Headley as Alice moved off, shaking her head.

“The way she talks you’d think there was no electricity or running water in Jamaica. Okay, so a few of the older folks deep in the country still use kerosene oil lamps and pit toilets, but my place is right on the main road to Falmouth, and light and water and telephone have been there for years. Everybody have a mobile phone, and cable TV, and internet service is available. Twenty-firsecentry reach Jamaica – wha’ more shi want, man?”

Headley licked Guinness foam from his top lip and replied. “She told Loretta seh Trelawny too rural. She wants department stores and classy restaurants with French menus and wine lists. She wants educated neighbours who she can have intellectual conversation wid. She says maybe she could tolerate Kingston or Mo’bay, but she kyaan’ttek di country life.”

Leroy sighed heavily. “I know. She’s told me the same thing over and over. A keep telling her that Montego Bay is just over an hour away and she can go there as often as she likes, but that’s not enough for her.” He finished his drink and stood up. “Wi gwine have to resolve it, one way or another, but right now my mum is my priority. I’m off to the travel agent’s to book miself a flight. Later.” He waved at Alice and left the pub.

RELATED ARTICLES

Return to Fidelity | Excerpt #1

RETURN TO FIDELITY: Edith struggled hard against being aroused by him

Return to Fidelity: Leroy loved Jamaica just as much, if not more

Basil returned to the house to prepare for his morning duties. He noticed that Edith had not set out his stationery and other equipment as she usually did each day. He searched through the desk but couldn’t find them. He tried the filing cabinet, but found it locked and he couldn’t find the key in its usual place in the pen tray of the desk. He left the small room off the veranda that he used as an office to go in search of Edith.

Lamar and Gregory, his two resident sons, were just on their way out to school and they passed him on the veranda.

“Morning Dad; later Dad,” Lamar, the younger of the two sang out as he stepped through the grille.

“Whoa! Hold up there, bwoy!” Basil glanced at his watch. “Yu not late; why di rush? Yu meeting a girl before school, eeh?”

Lamar grinned. “How yu know suh, Daddy? Yu used to meet girls before school when yu was thirteen?”

Basil’s sons had a much easier and more comradely relationship with their father than they did with Edith. They could romp and joke with their father and even share ribald jokes with him, to the utter disgust of their mother, who would accuse Basil of corrupting the boys.

“Next thing you’ll be buying them dirty magazines and letting them watch the adult channel on the cable,” she often berated him, but Basil would only hiss his teeth and tell her to stop being such a prude.

“Is bwoypickney dem, Edith, and dem gwine get expose to these things whether wi like it or not, suh juss loosen up nuh?”

He answered his son with a grin of his own. “Nuff-nuff girls.Trailer load a-dem. Dem couldn’t resiss mi and was always a rush mi. Even now.” He winked at his sons. “How ’bout yu, Gregory? Di girls dem rush yu to’?”

“A weh yu-a seh Daddy, man?Mihave to fight dem off every day!” Gregory, fourteen, replied.

His father patted his head. “Well, mek sure is not yu money dem after, oonu hear? Where’s yu mother? A kyaan’t find the Seal of Office and mi ink pad, an A going need them to sign di people dem papers.”

“Shi gone already, Daddy.”

“Gone a’ready? Gone where?”

The two boys looked at each other and Lamar rolled his eyes upwards and shook his head. The parents were always at it. “Shi didn’t tell yu, Daddy? Well shi gone to visit Granma Iris.”

“Yu mean shi gone to Trelawny? But a jussleff har round di breakfast table not a hour ago. Why shi nevah tell mi dat shi going?”

The boys shrugged and Lamar said, “Don’t know, Daddy. Anyway, we have to go now. See you later.”

“Later,” Basil replied absently and went inside to find Miss Vinette, the helper. “Miss Vinette? Miss Vinette?”

She came bustling out of the kitchen, wiping her hands on a dish towel. “Yes, Mistah Basil, sir?”

Miss Vinette was a large woman in her late fifties, with massive hips and bosoms, who was not at all to Basil’s sexual taste. After their marriage, Edith had found an excuse to fire Basil’s previous helper, who had been too young and too pretty for comfort, and on seeking a new one, had made sure not to employ anyone who could even remotely be considered a rival for her husband’s favours; she had not wanted to be constantly looking for new helpers, so Miss Vinette’s size and age had given her a distinct advantage over other candidates.

“Where is Mistress Livingstone?” Basil never referred to Edith as Maynard-Livingstone as Edith would have liked.

“Shi nevah tell yu, sarr?” Miss Vinette was non-committal. She was tired of the continuous bickering between her two employers, and they always seemed to want to put her in the middle of their quarrels.Well she was tired of it and was seriously thinking of seeking another position elsewhere. It was mainly her age, and the boys, that kept her here – she had been here since before they were born, and was indeed more of a mother to them than Edith had ever been. She loved the boys as if they were her own children, of which she had none, and they too had a deep affection for her.

Yes, if not for the boys she would leave tomorrow, although getting another decent position might prove difficult at her age, and if she left now, she might have to forego the pension her employers had promised her if she remained with them until she was too old to continue working.

Mistah Basil was not impressed with her attempt at evading the question. “Vinette!” he snapped, “if shi did tell mi Ahooden be asking yu! Now stop try proteck har and tell mi weh shi gaan. Shi have a man, don’t it? DON’T IT?!” He repeated the last two words in a shout, thrusting his face down into Miss Vinette’s.

She’d had enough! Pension or no pension. She took a step backwards and said, “Now look here, Missah Basil, sarr, Adoan’t appreciate yu attitude. Juss because A work fah yu doan’ gi yu di right to hangle mi suh, sah, an’ a spit-spit up eena mi face! A tired fi yu an’ Miss Edit’ hah put mi into oonuquaarel, an’ A not gwine tek it nuh more. Yu kyan tek a mont’ notice from mi sarr!”

Basil was taken completely by surprise. In the fifteen years Miss Vinette had worked for them she had been nothing but polite and respectful; he had never once heard her raise her voice, either to him, Edith, or the boys. He looked at the scowl on her face and saw rigid determination. His tone became conciliatory. “Now look here Vinette, there’s no need fah that. Yu is a part a di family; what wi would do if you was to leave, eeh? Is only because yu feel like family mekwi involve yu, y’nuh.” He patted her arm in a perfunctory manner and smiled ingratiatingly.

Miss Vinette was not easily mollified. The scowl remained firmly in place as she made her reply. “Mek A talk plain an’ straight, Missah Baz, wid all due respeck. Is ovah fifteen ’ears A working fah dis fambily, sah, and is true yu talking – oonu really mek mi feel like fambily more time. But oonu have a way fi try involve mi eenaoonu domestic affair, sarr, dat A do not like. Now, if MistrissEdit’ nevah tell yu which part shi gaan, A doan’ sidat is my place fi inform yu, sah. An’ if shi have a man as yu seh, Idoan’ knoahanyt’ing ’bout dat eider, and if A did, it hooden bi my place fi tell yu sah, wid all due respeck.”

She wished she was brave enough to say that if Edith had a man, good for her, since it was common knowledge that he played around with younger – much younger – women. But she could not say it and expect to keep her job, which she did not really want to leave, despite her threat.

Basil began to speak but she held up her hand and cut him off. “A doan’ finish, sarr. A waant to get somet’ing clear an’ straight. If A decide fi stay, oonu have to stop bring mi into oonu argument. Mi is a big ooman, Missah Baz; mi oldadan yu, suh mek mi knoah from now,sarr, if mi fi stay or leave.”

At that point there was a knocking on the gate and the dogs barked a warning as someone called, “Hallo inside?”

Basil frowned and kissed his teeth, glancing at his watch. Damn; people were starting to arrive already to have their documents signed, and he had no idea where Edith had put his things. He had always left the organising of his office to her, and she had always been very efficient. That was one of the things he liked about her – she played the part of a super-efficient secretary, despite her lack of academic achievements.

But she wasn’t here now; he could probably find a pen, but he had no idea where to look for his embossed Seal of Office. He ignored Miss Vinette’s demand for an answer and asked her, “Yu know which part Edith put the things dem that a need to sign and stamp the people-dem papers?” “Dem inside di office.Into the top drawer a di filing cabinet.”

“Where is the key fah the cabinet?”

“Into the pen tray in di dess.”

“It not there; A look a’ready, and the people them waiting fah mi. A going to let them in; you gwaan guh look si if yu si the key in the office.”

By this time another person had arrived and Basil seated them on the veranda, saying he would be with them shortly. He went into the office where he found that Miss Vinette had located the key and set out the pen and embossed Seal on his desk, together with his name stamp and ink pad. He heaved a sigh of relief and called for the first person to come on in.

He signed several passport application forms, certified several photos as being true likenesses, and witnessed various signatures. He found the whole procedure very tedious, and were it not for the fact that it allowed him to meet some of the young and delectable female members of the community, he might consider giving it up.

Usually, in the mornings after he had taken care of his official duties he would go to his business place in Old Harbour just to make sure that all the staff were there and that things were running smoothly, after which he would return to the farm, which he loved more than anything. This morning, however, he decided not to go to the store; he wanted to be on hand in case Bonnie Blue needed assistance in delivering her calf.

But first he wanted to talk to the one Edith. He didn’t so much mind the fact that she had gone – her being out of the house made the atmosphere that much lighter – it was just the fact that she had not said anything to him about going. He had no real reason to suspect that she was not going to visit her mother as the boys had said, but he knew that she didn’t really like visiting her parish of birth, or to use the vernacular, her ‘country’.

He dialled her cell phone number and it rang several times before going to voicemail. He hissed his teeth irritably and, calling to Miss Vinette that he was gone to the farm, he left the house.

FOOTNOTE:

Claudette Beckford-Brady is a Jamaican author who is a native and resident of Old Harbour. Her book Sweet Home Jamaica is among the bestsellers on Amazon and as well as being available on the website can be found at Turning Pages Bookshop in Old Harbour, all branches of Sangster’s Bookstore islandwide, and from the author herself. Her other books are: The Missing Years, which is the sequel to Sweet Home Jamaica; Return to Fidelity; Yaard and Abroad; The Dixons, and her latest release, The Jacket Doesn’t Fit.Visit her website at www.claudettebeckfordbrady.com or email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Published in Entertainment
Editor’s Note: Today we continue to present excerpts (Pt2) from another fictional novel of Jamaican author Claudette Beckford-Brady’s Return to Fidelity. Return to Fidelity is yet another intriguing story about a Jamaican woman Enid Maynard-Livingstone, who is disenchanted with her fifteen-year marriage to Basil, who has a predilection toward girls young enough to be his daughters. However, Edith is not about to leave him and give up the comfortable lifestyle she has become accustomed to after having grown up dirt-poor in a rural Jamaican parish. But when she runs into an old friend the temptation to give Basil a taste of his own medicine and have a fling is overwhelming.

Leroy Duncan has a happy marriage but lately a difference of opinion is threatening the relationship. Having lived in England for years, Leroy now wishes to return to Jamaica, but Evadne his wife has no such desire. She considers the island to be a backwater, lacking in modern amenities, full of criminal elements, and prone to natural disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes. She fails to see why she should give up her comfortable existence in the UK for a life of uncertainty.

Set in the UK and the Jamaican parishes of St. Catherine and Trelawny this story gives an insightful and sometimes humorous look at the marital conflicts which can arise when couples find they no longer have the same objectives.

...Basil Livingstone kissed his teeth irritably as he walked away from the house and toward the field where his cows were pastured. Edith and her hoity-toity ways, her pretensions to grandeur, were beginning to seriously annoy him.

She seemed to forget that she had come to him with nothing more than a rudimentary education – had not even known the correct way to speak until he himself had smoothed out her rougher edges. He kissed his teeth again and grumbled to himself as he proceeded to the cow pasture.

“Dyam blasted woman! Shi getting pon mi last nerve; why shi doan’ gwaan guh live wid her Queen-aInglan’ and leave mi and mi bwoys. Sure wi would-a much happier widout har, to raas! Chuh! Mek A guh check pon mi cow, yaah sah!” His favourite bovine, which he called Bonnie Blue, was well advanced in calf, and he wanted to make sure all was well with her.

Basil had woken up in a good mood; he’d been remembering his escapades of the previous night with a nubile seventeen year-old with a lisp and a loveable space between her two front teeth. Thoughts of last night had naturally enhanced his normal morning erection, which he usually ignored – but not today – and so he had grabbed Edith, wishing she was his partner from last night, and emptied himself into her. She had just lain there like a piece of slab while he pumped himself to satisfaction.

Sometimes, Basil knew, Edith would pretend passion; she probably thought she was fooling him with her “oohs” and “aahs” but Basil was no fool. At other times she would just lay there and let him do his thing, like this morning, but there were times when she genuinely became aroused and made Basil remember back to when their love was new. But these times were rare, and Basil couldn’t help feeling that Edith struggled hard against being aroused by him.

But no matter. He was adequately provided for where sex was concerned, and could pick and choose his partners. It was good having Edith at home, though; it served as a buffer against the young girls becoming too possessive with him.

Basil was fifty six years old, eighteen years his wife’s senior. He had a predilection for women who were much younger than himself, and had married Edith when she was twenty-three and he was forty-one.

It was his second marriage. The first had ended in divorce because the first Mrs Livingstone had stipulated that he stop philandering or she was gone. He had been unable to remain faithful, and she, as good as her word, had taken their three children, then aged six, three, and two, and gone to her parents in Connecticut, USA where they had settled. The children had grown up calling another man “Dad” and Basil had only seen his three eldest children on a few occasions in the last twenty years.

He had not remarried straight away. He had discovered that he enjoyed his new-found freedom as a single man, and had played the field to his heart’s content, until he had unwittingly allowed himself to be caught by Edith. He had really had no intention of settling down, but somehow she had managed to manoeuvre him into matrimony.

At first it had been okay. At twenty-two Edith had been young, pretty and sexy enough to hold his attention for a good while, even while he was supplementing his sexual diet outside of the relationship. But now, at thirty-eight, although still a good-looking woman, she was a little old for his tastes – he found that the older he got the younger the girls he desired.

Basil was what is commonly known among Jamaicans as a ‘brown man’. This meant he was of a much lighter complexion than the norm, and this was something that made him more popular with the girls.

Being “brown” was a coveted status among some darker-skinned persons and some of those who considered themselves not brown enough often resorted to artificial means of achieving the desired complexion by using bleaching creams on their skins.

Light skinned women were known as “Browning” and the perception was that this placed them in a higher social order than their darker skinned sisters. This practice of bleaching was more prevalent among women, but there were some men who followed the trend. But Basil had no need to resort to this method, and could in fact actually almost pass for white if one did not look too keenly. He was descended from Germans on the one side, but on closer inspection traces of African ancestry could be seen in his slightly broader, flatter nose; slightly thicker lips.

Basil’s German forebears had arrived in Jamaica between the years 1834 and 1838 when about twelve hundred of them had come as indentured labourers after the emancipation of the African slaves. The Colonial Government of Jamaica had adopted a programme of settling European peasants in the island in the hope that they would create a thriving settlement and act as a model for the ex-slaves.Several hundred of them had settled in Seaford Town in Westmoreland, while others went to various other parts of the island and began to interbreed with the local populace. Basil himself had been born in the parish of St. Elizabeth where his family owned several hundred acres of farmland, but had migrated to St Catherine when a childless uncle had died leaving him a thriving hardware and farm store, as well as thirty acres of land just outside of Old Harbour.

His ‘brown-ness’ and ‘pretty’ hair, as well as his financial standing made it very easy for him to capture the attention and interest of the young women he constantly pursued; in fact he had no need to pursue them, for they pursued him, and all he had to do was choose which one he favoured at any particular time.

Basil was a tall man – over six feet four – and had once been slim enough to cut a dashing figure, but his fondness for Red Stripe beer and large meals had endowed him with a gut not to be envied. He was also partial to over-proof white rum which put a ruddy flush on his chubby, nearly white, cheeks.

As he entered the cow pasture he noticed that his farm manager, Zebediah Henry, was examining Bonnie Blue. He greeted his employer with the words, “MaaningMaase Baz. Look like Blue nearly ready fi drop.”

Zebediah was a small stout man with a very black complexion and a dour personality. People who knew him called him Zebbie, but those who didn’t know his name – and even some who did – called him Blacka, which he hated. Basil returned his greeting.

“MaaningZebbie. Yes, Atink shi going to drop todeh. Hope is a bull-calf we get.” The two men discussed Bonnie Blue and various other farm matters, and then Basil, accompanied by Zebbie, went on an inspection of the farm before returning to the house to prepare for his morning routine of signing documents in his capacity as Justice of the Peace.

To be continued...

Published in Entertainment
Friday, 29 January 2016 10:55

Return to Fidelity | Excerpt #1

Editor’s Note: Starting today we will present excerpts from another fictional novel of Jamaican author Claudette Beckford-Brady’s Return to Fidelity. Return to Fidelity is yet another intriguing story about a Jamaican woman Enid Maynard-Livingstone, who is disenchanted with her fifteen-year marriage to Basil, who has a predilection toward girls young enough to be his daughters. However, Edith is not about to leave him and give up the comfortable lifestyle she has become accustomed to after having grown up dirt-poor in a rural Jamaican parish. But when she runs into an old friend the temptation to give Basil a taste of his own medicine and have a fling is overwhelming.

Set in the UK and the Jamaican parishes of St. Catherine and Trelawny this story gives an insightful and sometimes humorous look at the marital conflicts which can arise when couples find they no longer have the same objectives.

Chapter One

Edith Maynard-Livingstone frowned as her husband, Basil, leaned back in his chair, patted his round engorged stomach – which he had just filled with a generous serving of ackee and saltfish, roast breadfruit and fried dumplings – and belched loudly.

“Basil, A wish yu wouldn’t be so uncouth,” she declared petulantly. “It’s most unbecoming, and A know yu can control it ’cause yu never do it when we eat out or when we have company.”

Basil belched again and said, “A can damn well be as uncouth and unbecoming as A damn well please inside-a mi owna house. Yu know what, Edith – mek A tell yu somet’ing – is only you one what don’t belch an’ fart; A get to understand that even the Queen aInglan’ do it. A matta-a-fack A hear seh shi all-a shit to’ and it stink juss like everybody else own. Only yu alone too stoosh fi have normal bodily functions.”

Edith was outraged, more at the perceived slight to the monarch than at the barbs hurled her way.

“Yu disrespeckful, Basil. How yu mean to style the Queen that way? Yu don’t know that she is not juss the Queen- a Inglan’ – shi our Queen as well?”

“A don’t style har nuh way. What yu trying to tell mi – shi doan’t shit? Or har shit doan’t stink? An’ furdamore, shi might be fi-yu Queen, but shi certainly not my-own. Is high time Jamaica do away with har as Head-a State.”

Basil pushed back the chair from the table with a noisy scrape, got up and left the room.

Edith glared after his departing back. She was becoming more and more disenchanted with Basil and her fifteen year old marriage, but she was not about to leave him and the lifestyle she had become accustomed to, not to mention the status she enjoyed as the wife of Basil Livingstone – landowner, farmer, hardware merchant, Justice of the Peace.

Oh no; she was certainly not about to give that up, despite his constant philandering with girls young enough to be his daughters, and which was common knowledge in the community, which mortified her no end. But she would put up with it, hold her head high, pretend it was of no consequence, and get on with her life.

She had had to fight for her position as his wife. Several other girls had been in the picture, but Edith had been doggedly determined to be the one who was going to become Mrs Basil Livingstone. Luckily for her she’d had the physical attributes and sexual agility to keep Basil captivated, and once she had made up her mind to marry him, he had been putty in her hands.

She had planned how she would keep her own maiden name and just attach Basil’s surname to the end – she rather liked the sound of ‘Mrs Maynard-Livingstone’ - it sounded so sophisticated and up-townish, giving no indication that she came from deep rural Trelawny where she grew up dirt poor and on a perpetual diet of yam and other hard food, a fact of which she hated to be reminded.

Even now she had an aversion to tubers, and only occasionally did she eat a piece of sweet potato or dasheen, seeing them as a stark reminder of where she was coming from. Yam, with all its varieties, she rarely touched, except for a piece of sweet yam now and again when it was freshly in season.

Life had not been easy for her, growing up.

She had been one of fourteen children, and a lot of the time all they’d had to eat was green bananas, breadfruit and ground provision, which included the oh-so-detested yam.

This was given variety and made palatable by the addition of “salt-ting” which could be saltfish (dried, salted codfish), red herring or shad, or mackerel pickled in brine.

Sometimes, instead of salted fish it would be salted meat such as beef, pork and pigs tail. Being salted meant they could be kept for a long period without refrigeration and not spoil.

And sometimes they could get a few fish or some janga (fresh water crayfish) from the nearby river.

One of her favourite meals back then had been salt mackerel ‘run-dung’ cooked down in coconut milk and well seasoned with skellion and thyme and scotch bonnet peppers.

If no salt-ting was available a green papaw (papaya) or a cho-chuh seasoned with a little coconut oil, skellion and thyme, would stand-in for the salt-ting.

Rice was eaten only on Sundays or on special occasions and on these occasions they would kill a couple of the chickens they kept around the yard, which, as well as providing eggs for the family, reproduced themselves constantly if they could be kept safe from the predatory mongoose.

But sometimes, when there was a little money, they would buy a piece of fresh beef or some goat-meat, and on occasion a neighbour would butcher a pig or a cow or a goat and give them some of the meat.

These occasions stood out vividly in Edith’s memory; strong beef soup with gungu or red peas; stew beef and dumplings; curry-goat and white rice and green bananas. Once in a very long while they would get a string of fresh sea-fish from a kind person who had been into Duncans or perhaps even as far as Falmouth.

Edith licked her lips as she remembered how she used to hold the food in her mouth for the longest while before swallowing, in order to savour the taste as long as possible. But that was all in the past.

These days she could eat all her favourite foods as often as she liked without a thought as to where it came from. Her husband was extremely solvent and she wanted for nothing, so despite her dissatisfaction with the marriage, she was staying put.

It often crossed her mind to give Basil a taste of his own medicine by having an affair of her own; she was a good looking woman still.

Tall, at five foot eleven, she had once been slender, but was now beginning to show a slight thickening around the waist and hips. Her complexion was dark chocolate, smooth and free of blemishes, and her hair, which was naturally short and thick, had been lengthened by means of plaited hair extensions.

She knew men were still attracted to her; she saw it in their admiring glances, and many were even bold enough to put voice to their appreciation. But she paid them no special attention, only smiling and moving on. If ‘question’ was put to her directly, she would exclaim indignantly and declare her marital status. But sometimes she was sorely tempted to have a fling, more to get back at Basil than because she really wanted an affair.

Edith was unfulfilled – both sexually and emotionally. Basil rarely turned to her these days, and on the few occasions that he did it was obvious that she was just being used as a receptacle for his sperm. There was no warmth, no tenderness, no touching, but she never refused him, even though sometimes she hated herself for it, but she would not give him the excuse of saying that his wife was holding out on him.

She had long ago stopped making the first sexual overtures toward him; she had been rebuffed too often – he was tired, or he had a headache – traditional female excuses – and a person could only take so much rejection, but whenever he approached her, she always accommodated him.

But although she was sexually frustrated and longed for the intimacy they used to share, the thought of him being with those young girls chilled her and often made her frigid toward him. Nevertheless, she faked her responses, although, truth be told, it hardly seemed to matter to Basil, who was interested only in his own immediate gratification and release.

But sometimes her own body would betray her and despite herself, she would become aroused and respond spontaneously. She didn’t want to but she was only human, after all, with all the attendant needs, including the need for sexual fulfilment. But she despised herself for it.

Edith sighed dejectedly and got up from around the breakfast table, calling out to Miss Vinette, the household helper, that she could come and clear the table now. She had made a decision – she would go to Trelawny for a few days to visit her mother. She had to get away from Basil for a while – otherwise she would either kill him or kill herself.

Her two boys, Lamar and Gregory were thirteen and fourteen respectively, and would not miss her for a few days. Miss Vinette would get their meals and see them off to school. In fact, Edith was really just a figurehead in her children’s life – she had no real maternal instincts and considered that she had only done her duty by producing offspring.

She had played with them when they were babies, but the physical care-giving had come from Miss Vinette, the live-in helper, who had bottle fed them, bathed them and changed their Pampers.

The relationship between her and her sons was friendly but not openly affectionate.

They didn’t really need her – they had their friends, their computers, DVDs and MP3 players, plus their cell phones, and these faithful companions seemed to take up all their time. She had once made a token attempt to get them to do simple chores like making their own beds and keeping their rooms tidy but had failed miserably. The boys did not see why they had to do work when they had a housekeeper to do it, and she had given up trying to enforce it, especially since she got no support from Basil.

Yes, the boys would be fine without her for a couple of days. She would not stay long, because she still did not like to return to her rural roots, and if her mother didn’t still live there Edith would have never looked back at the district of Warsop, Trelawny.

But now that she had made up her mind to go she moved briskly. She wanted to be gone before Basil returned to the house – she was in no mood for an argument with him. She showered and wiggled herself into a snug fitting pair of designer jeans which hugged her ample but shapely hips provocatively. A tank top completed the outfit which was designed to display Edith’s curves, which were considerable. She accessorised by adding a gold chain around her neck, gold hoops in her ears and a gold wristwatch. She was visiting her old district – the locals needed to be sufficiently impressed.

She threw a few pieces of clothing into an overnight bag, added some toiletries, and checked her purse to make sure her debit and credit cards were there. Then she went to the boys’ rooms, told them she was going to visit her mother and that they shouldn’t give Miss Vinetteany trouble. “Call my cell if anything. And get a move on – oonu going to be late for school.”

She briefly thought about hugging them, but it didn’t come naturally to her, and they would probably squirm anyway, so she just turned and left, saying, “See oonu in a couple-a days.”

She went downstairs and informed Miss Vinette that she would be gone for a few days.

“A might be two or three days; A doan’ sure yet. A will si how mi feel.Mek sure the boys dem doan’ stay up all night watchin’ TV, and mek sure dem bathe and brush dem teeth every night.”

She had no real need to leave instructions with Miss Vinette who had been with her for as long as she had been married to Basil and ran the household like a well-oiled machine, but she was very particular about her boys maintaining good hygiene practices and was well aware that sometimes they tried to skip their nightly shower.

Edith got into her 2006 RAV4 and backed out of the carport.

To be continued...

Published in Entertainment
Editor’s Note: Today we continue bringing you excerpts from Jamaican author Claudette Beckford-Brady’s bestselling novel Sweet Home Jamaica. Sweet Home Jamaica tells a rather fascinating story of the life of a Jamaican-born English woman Michelle Freeman. You can view other excerpts from previous publication in the Entertainment section of our website.

CHAPTER ONE: A Shocking Discovery continues...

My heart was pounding with excitement. I was about to discover the name of the woman who had given me life. Slowly, as if it were something to be savoured, I began to read the information on the certificate. It was not a full certificate, but one of those long narrow ones, stamped on the back as being a true copy of the original. I wondered where the original document was.

I started reading in the far left hand corner which was headed Date and Place of Birth:Fourteenth December, 1960. Gravel Hill, St Catherine. I moved on to the section headed Name (if any).

If any? How stupid. Of course there must be a name, otherwise why bother to register the birth? Michelle Delise. No surname. Next section headed Sex:Female. Name and Surname, and Dwelling place of Father: George Hezekiah Freeman, Joe Ground, Clarendon: 23 years.

Now I came to the crucial part. I read the heading; Name and Surname and Maiden name of Mother. I closed my eyes for a few seconds. This was the moment. I was about to find out the name of my mother.

Just as I opened my eyes to read the information, my room door burst open and the twins came in. I jumped guiltily and snapped the book shut. “How many times must I tell you to KNOCK before you come into my room?” I was furious.

“Hey, keep your hair on, we’re not interrupting you and your boyfriend or anything, are we?” They giggled lewdly.

“Maybe not,” I said, “but I need peace and quiet to do my homework. Unlike you two, I take pride in my school work, because I intend to be somebody big one day, and education is the key. What oonu want, anyway?”

“Our mother says you’re ...”

“…to come downstairs.”

There it was. “Our” mother. I had been wondering when they would start alluding to the fact that we no longer shared a biological mother. Knowing the twins as I did, I had known it would not take them long. I decided that the best way to deal with them would be to ignore the allusion and act as if I hadn’t noticed. I put down my book, pushed past them and started down the stairs, while they trailed along behind me.

The table was set for dinner and Mavis was in the kitchen, dishing up. I went to help bring the food to the table. She glanced briefly at me as I entered.

“Evelin Michelle.”

“Good evening Ma’am.”

Either she didn’t realize what I had said, or perhaps she mistook it for a shortened version of Mummy, or maybe she just chose to ignore it. Either way, she made no further comment.

When we were all seated at the table and Grace had been said, Daddy brought up the subject of the school trip. “Mavis, Michelle seh yu refuse har permission to guh pon a school trip. Why?”

Mavis looked daggers at me. I had been hoping that Daddy would approach her privately and not in front of the whole family at the dinner table, but he was not known for subtlety. Now she would swear that I was trying to cause dissension between her and Daddy, in front of the whole family.

“Dem not getting back till night. Yu want har walking di street after dark? Yu want man rape har, or skinhead attack har?”

Daddy looked at me and shrugged his shoulders. He seemed prepared to leave it at that. I was having none of it. “The other children’s parents are going to meet them when the coach drops them off. One of you could come and meet me too, or if you can’t do that for me, Miss Williams says she will bring me home in her car.”

I placed emphasis on the ‘for me’ because I wanted them to feel guilty, but neither one of them showed any sign of having noticed. Mavis spoke; “A don’t believe a word of it. Yu only sayingdat because yu want to guh. Why would Miss Williams guh out-a har way to bring yu home? Yu too lie!”

It is well to know thine adversary, and how well I knew mine! I wanted to tell her that Miss Williams would go out of her way because I was her star pupil, and if my parents couldn’t be proud of me, at least my teacher could. But I didn’t.

“I have it in writing,” I said. “The letter is upstairs in my bag.” I made as if to get up but my father waved me down. “Sit down and finish yu dinner. Yu kyan show it to mi later.”

Mavis’ hostility was palpable. I could not wait for dinner to be over so I could get out of her presence.

I washed up the dinner things without protest. Usually I would complain that the twins never did any of the work; after all, they were nine years old and I had been washing dishes and doing housework since long before that age. I wiped down the stove and the counter tops and swept the kitchen floor. I couldn’t wait to get back upstairs to my birth certificate.

The dining room was deserted; Daddy as usual had gone to the pub. The twins were in the living room watching television, and I guess Delroy was in his room tinkering with old radios. Mavis was probably in her room too. I turned off the light and went quietly up the stairs.

I knocked at Delroy’s door, and at his invitation I went in. He grinned at me. “Yu really know how to get Mum upset, don’t you?”

“Yeah, and she knows how to get me upset. But in future I’m not going to let her get to me. I’m going to be quietly dignified, and the very epitome of maturity; you’ll see.”

Delroy sighed. “I really hope so, Shell; for your sake. How yu feeling otherwise?”

“Okay. Especially now that I’m going to Stratford.” We grinned at each other. I was tempted to tell him about the birth certificate, but he would probably be shocked that I had invaded Mavis’ private space. Delroy was full of integrity. “Anyway, Del, I’m off to do my homework. Good night.” “Night, Shell.”

I went into my room and shut the door. I wished I could have locked it, but there was no lock on the door. I hoped there would be no more interruptions. I picked up the volume of Shakespeare and opened it to where the certificate was. I was not going to waste any more time. I went straight to the part headed Name and Surname and Maiden Surname of Mother. There it was in black and white. My mother’s - my real mother’s – name: Delisia Campbell, Student, 17 years.

Delisia. My middle name was Delise. I was named after my mother. That told me one of two things. Either my mother had named me herself, or my father had been fond enough of her to name me after her.

I carefully folded up the certificate and thought about where I could hide it. It was not going back into Mavis’ biscuit tin; that was for sure. It was mine, and I was keeping it. She probably wouldn’t miss it for years, and even if she did, I didn’t care. She might suspect, but she couldn’t prove, that I had taken it. But of course, if she asked me outright, I would not lie; I would have to own up.

I looked around my room. Where could I keep it where it would be safe from prying intruders? My eyes alighted on a small velvet covered jewellery box on my dressing table. My best friend, Joy, had given it to me on my last birthday. It had an upper and a lower compartment which could both be lifted out leaving the empty shell, but best of all, it had a lock and key.

I got an envelope from my stationery kit and sealed the certificate inside. Then I placed it in the base of the jewellery box and replaced the shelves. Finally I locked it. I’d have to find somewhere safe to hide the key.

In actual fact I probably had no need to go to such lengths to hide it. We were not a family who invaded each others’ private things. My sojourn into Daddy and Mavis’ sanctuary had been a deviation. The twins, although sometimes a right royal pain, always asked if they wanted to borrow any of my things.

I put the box inside my underwear drawer, but then on second thoughts I replaced it on the dressing table. It might look as if I was trying to hide it if it happened to be discovered in the drawer, and that might arouse suspicion or idle curiosity.

I quickly completed my homework exercise, then had my bath and got into bed. I had so much to think about. I now knew my mother’s name. I had always known that I was born at Gravel Hill in the parish of St Catherine, but it was only a name to me. In reality I had no idea where it was, as I had been only three years old when I left Jamaica. Is that where my mother had lived? Did she still live there now?

I knew that Old Harbour was the nearest town to the country district of Joe Ground where my father came from. Was Gravel Hill in the same locality, I wondered? I decided I would have to get a proper map of Jamaica; the one in my school atlas showed only Kingston and Montego Bay. If I couldn’t find one in the bookstores I would call the Jamaican High Commission and ask them to send me one.

I finally slept, and dreamed that I had found my mother, and that she was so pleased and surprised to see me that she hugged and kissed me almost half to death.

End of Chapter One

Published in Entertainment
Editor’s Note: Today we continue bringing you excerpts from Jamaican author Claudette Beckford-Brady’s bestselling novel Sweet Home Jamaica. Sweet Home Jamaica tells a rather fascinating story of the life of a Jamaican-born English woman Michelle Freeman. You can view the first two publication in the Entertainment section of our website.

CHAPTER ONE: A Shocking Discovery continues...

To my surprise I woke to find that the clock-radio had switched itself on which meant that it was time to get up. I couldn’t believe it was morning already. I had expected to be unable to sleep, what with everything that was going around in my head, but not only had I slept, I felt extremely refreshed.

I got up and went into the bathroom to perform my morning ablutions, after which I went to the twins’ room to wake them up. While they were in the bathroom I got myself dressed and then put my dressing-gown on over my school uniform to go downstairs and make breakfast.

Daddy and Delroy had already left for work and Mavis was bustling around trying to feed the baby her breakfast and pack up the bag for the nursery at the same time. It was the same every morning; Mavis rushing so as not to be late for work, and as often as not, still being late. I wondered why she didn’t just get up fifteen or twenty minutes earlier, in order to save the perpetual rush.

She looked up as I entered the dining room. I tried to read her expression but she returned her attention to the baby. “Good morning,” I said politely.

“Maaning, Michelle. A need yu to pick up Samantha from di nursery fah mi dis evelin. A have to work late; wi short staff. An’ start di dinner fah me till A come; di meat season up a’ready, just brown it an’ put it on to cook. An’ nuh badda full it up a water. Leave di rice till A come because yu always turn it into porridge.”

My God, the woman was out-doing herself to act as if everything was as it had been before she dropped the bombshell! I was still trying to gauge her expression but she was giving the baby all her attention and refused to look at me. Well, I was not going to give her any satisfaction; I too could act as if nothing had changed; well, to some extent, anyway.

“Yes’m.”

Did she notice that I had not said ‘yes Mum,’ but ‘yes’m?’ If she had she gave no indication of it. I went through to the kitchen and started breakfast for myself and the twins. A few minutes later Mavis called out that she was gone, and I mumbled an acknowledgement.

The school day passed uneventfully. At lunch time I was tempted to tell my best friend, Joy, about the events of the previous evening, but decided to keep it to myself for the time being. I felt self-conscious though, as if people could tell that something about me had changed. Of course my common sense told me that this was only in my imagination, but it fed my anger against my father and Mavis.

During the day the English teacher asked for the return of the signed consent slips from all who would be going to Stratford. I had forgotten about it for the moment, but now I was more than determined to go. I spoke to the teacher privately, and told her that my parents were concerned that we would not return till after dark, and were worried about me coming home alone after the coach dropped us back at school.

Most of the parents would meet their children at the school gate, but I knew there was no chance of either Mavis or my father doing that for me, so I had to find a plausible explanation. I told the teacher that my father was on the late shift and that my mother – it galled me to call Mavis that – couldn’t leave the younger children while she came to wait for me. I said that my brother would be willing but he was working and would also finish too late.

I put on a woe-begone face. “Miss, I want to go so badly; couldn’t you give me a lift home in your car when we get back? My parents would be so grateful...” I smiled at her in my most servile manner.

“Well, yes; I think I could do that for my star pupil. I wouldn’t want you to miss your first live performance of Shakespeare.”

“Oh, thank you Miss!” But I wasn’t finished with her yet.

“Um, Miss? I’m sorry to be such a nuisance, but could you write a letter to my parents telling them that you will bring me home, otherwise they might think I’m making it up because I want to go so badly.”

“Of course Michelle. I’ll get the Secretary to type it up and you can pick it up before you leave this afternoon.”

“Oh, thank you so much, Miss Williams. You are the best teacher in the world!” Now I was ready for them at home. I had thought about this carefully. The only reason they could have for refusing me permission was the one I had given the teacher. Money wasn’t an issue; I saved the bulk of my pocket money in the Post Office Savings Bank each week. I could withdraw my fare and spending money.

This evening I would ask my father if I could go. If he said yes, fine. If he said no, I would present him with the letter from my teacher. If he still said no, I would go anyway, and suffer the consequences when I got home. My mind was made up.

I was the first one to get home that evening, even though I had had to detour to pick up Samantha from the nursery. Delroy didn’t finish work till six, and no doubt the twins were idling their way home with their friends. This was indeed a stroke of luck; I could look for my birth certificate.

I didn’t even stop to take off my coat or Samantha’s. I just dumped her on the bed and hauled down the suitcase from on top of the wardrobe. I prayed fervently that it wasn’t locked. It wasn’t.

I would have to hurry; my life wouldn’t be worth living if the twins came home and caught me rifling through Mavis’ things. I quickly opened the biscuit tin and looked inside. There was a clear plastic folder with several passports and other documents inside. I ignored the passports and glanced hurriedly through the other papers; Dad and Mavis’ marriage certificate, and a number of birth certificates. I found mine and slipped it into my skirt pocket.

I was about to examine the other documents when I heard the front door open and the twins laughing. I quickly put the plastic bag back into the tin, closed the lid and threw it into the suitcase. Oh my God, they’re coming up the stairs!

I zipped up the suitcase but I wouldn’t have time to heave it back on top of the wardrobe. I hurriedly shoved it into the corner behind the bed and leisurely started to remove the baby’s coat.

“Hey Siamese,” I called out, to make it look as if it was nothing for me to be in the parents’ bedroom when they weren’t there. “How comes you’re just strolling in? I had to pick up Samantha and I still got home before you.”

They came to the bedroom door and saw me removing the baby’s coat. They did not question why I was doing it in the parents’ room. “We went…”

“...to the library.”

One started the sentence and the other finished it. “Oh,” I said. “Could you look after Samantha while I start dinner?”

Samantha did not need looking after. She was a very happy nine month old child, and you only had to put her down with something to amuse her and you could get on with doing whatever you were doing, but I felt the need to distract the twins.

“Okay,” they said in unison and one of them, Rebecca I think, picked up Samantha and they went off to their room.

I hurriedly retrieved the suitcase and almost threw it on top of the wardrobe. I changed out of my uniform and went downstairs to start cooking.

Daddy came in before Mavis. He was in a good mood and he picked the rice and put it on to cook. “Yu gwine have to learn to cook rice yu know Shellie, or nuh man nuh gwine to married to yu,” he joked.

He acted quite normally, so I assumed he had not yet discovered that the secret was out. Well I wasn’t about to enlighten him - yet. If he didn’t find out from Mavis or one of my siblings, I would bide my time and drop it on him when I was good and ready.

I was very angry with him but I wasn’t ready to confront him yet. The trip to Stratford was too important to me, so I laughed at his joke.

After a few minutes of what I suppose might loosely be termed ‘companionable silence,’ I broached the subject.

“Daddy, my English class is going to Stratford-upon-Avon next week Friday to see a Shakespeare play. Could I go, please?”

“How much it gwine cost mi?”

“Nothing; I’ve been saving my pocket money and I can pay for it myself.”

“Well, A don’tsi any reason why not. Talk to yu madda bout it when shi come.”

“I asked her already, and she said I can’t go.”

He frowned. “Well if shi seh yu kyan’t guh a’ready, why yu aaksing mi now?” He did not like to be put into a position of conflict with his wife.

“Because shi don’t have no good reason for saying no, Daddy. It’s very important for my English exam.”

“Aah-right; when shi come Awitaak to har bout it.”

“Thank you, Daddy.”

I left the kitchen and told him I was going upstairs to do my homework. I did not want to be downstairs when Mavis came in from work, which would be any time now. I detoured into the twins’ room to give them a bottle I had prepared for Samantha and to see if her bottom needed changing. It did, so I just decided to bathe her and ready her for bed. Then I went into my room to do my homework.

I was dying to look at the birth certificate, so I shut my door and removed it from my skirt pocket. I got out a volume of Shakespeare from my school satchel and opened it up, and then I put the certificate into the book. If anyone came in unexpectedly they would see me reading Shakespeare, and I could close the book, hiding the certificate inside.

To be continued...

Published in Entertainment
Editor’s Note: Today we continue bringing you excerpts from Jamaican author Claudette Beckford-Brady’s bestselling novel Sweet Home Jamaica. Sweet Home Jamaica tells a rather fascinating story of the life of a Jamaican-born English woman Michelle Freeman. You can view last week’s first publication here.

CHAPTER ONE: A Shocking Discovery continues...

I collapsed onto the bed in a stupefied daze. Phrases flashed in my head. “……yu faada bring yu come gi me.” “……smaddy else pickney…..” “…..mi own-a children dem…...” “……raise yu from baby like mi own……”

I was roused by a knock on the open door and I looked up to see my brother standing hesitantly in the doorway. Even though Delroy was three years older than me and much bigger in body, I sometimes felt he was afraid of me. He stood there now looking apprehensive, as if he thought I might attack him. I stared silently at him and finally he spoke.

“Yu okay, Shell?”

Delroy and I had a very good relationship as brother-sister relationships went. I did not resent him for being our mother’s favourite because he never took advantage of it or sought any special favours. And he was always ready to offer comfort or support whenever I needed it. Like now.

I didn’t know how to answer his question. I didn’t know if I was okay or not. I had just had a severe shock and was still trying to assimilate what I had learnt. My mother was not my mother! Who then, and where, was my mother? And how did I come to be raised by this woman, my father’s wife?

My father was definitely my father, there was no doubting that. Not only did I resemble him, but she had, in effect, confirmed it by saying that my father had brought me to her.

I had a sudden thought. I ignored Delroy’s question and posed one of my own. “Del, did you know?”

He shook his head. “I’m hearing it for the first time.”

He obviously decided that it was now safe to proceed into the room and he came and sat beside me on the bed. We stared at each other in silence, neither one of us knowing what to say.

After a lengthy silence he said, almost fiercely, “It don’t make no difference to me, Shellie. You’re still my sister.”

“Your half sister,” I reminded him.

“No!” he said vehemently. “My sister; full stop.” He tentatively put his arm round my shoulders, and suddenly the floodgates opened, and the torrent came.

Now, I prided myself on not being a crying sort of person; even when I was being beaten I would refuse to cry, which would infuriate Mavis no end, so no one was more surprised than myself when I started to blubber. It took Delroy completely by surprise because I don’t believe he had seen me cry since we were very small children. On occasions when I felt I just had to cry I would go somewhere private and do so quietly and unobtrusively.

Poor Delroy was completely out of his depth; he just did not know what to do so he just held me. At one stage I was dimly aware that the twins had come to the door, but Delroy shooed them away. I cried for a very long time, and all through the crying I was thinking.

Why had I not been told that Mavis, my father’s wife, was not my mother? If it had not slipped out in temper, would I ever have been told? Were they perhaps waiting until I was older, or did they have no intention of telling me at all, ever?

I’m not sure if I was crying from hurt or from temper but I do know that the more I cried, and the more I reflected, the angrier I became. How dare they keep such an important piece of information from me! I was going to be fourteen in two weeks; surely I was old enough to understand? Well I was going to make them pay. I wasn’t sure how, but they would pay, both my father and his wife.

Not only would they pay for keeping that information from me, they would pay for not taking more interest in my academic achievements, and they would pay for making everybody a favourite except me. My resentment rose in my throat like bile and almost choked me.

Finally, and much to Delroy’s relief, my crying subsided. The tears seemed to have had a cleansing effect on me. I felt very calm; angry, yes, but calm. I eased away from Delroy, embarrassed now by my display of emotion. I just wanted him gone.

“I’m okay now, Del.”

“Yu sure?”

“I’m sure. Gwaan; I’ll be fine.”

He stood up and went to the door, but paused before exiting the room. “Look, Michelle, as far as I’m concerned, yu’s still mi sister; I don’t believe in this ‘half’ business. I’m not going to feel any differently about yu now because yu happen to have a different mother. We have a great relationship, mi and yu. Most brothers and sisters I know can barely stand each other. Mi an’ yu different. Don’t mek it change.”

I stared at him in surprise. Delroy rarely made long statements, let alone philosophical ones. I felt a surge of affection for him and I gave him a watery smile. “Don’t worry Del; nothing will change between me and you. I only hope you don’t get caught in the crossfire when bullets start to fly.”

He looked at me worriedly, knowing from experience that I could be very reckless when roused. “What yu planning to do, Shellie? Promise me you won’t do anything stupid?” He was almost pleading.

I tried to reassure him. “Stupid? Oh, I won’t do anything stupid. From now on I’m going to be so sensible and mature you won’t even know me. I promise.” He didn’t seem convinced and I almost felt sorry for him as he slowly went out.

Delroy and I had been born in Jamaica while the twins, Rachel and Rebecca, and the baby, Samantha, were born in England. Delroy was seventeen, and although he was an avid reader he was not very academic. His literary fare consisted of Westerns, science fiction and electronics magazines. He loved tinkering with electrical things and was never so happy as when he was pulling radios to bits and putting them back together again. He had left school this past summer and was working in an electronics manufacturing company and attending college on Day Release.

He was tall, at five feet, eleven inches, with big bones, but no spare fat. He loved to play football and cricket and followed the progress of the West Indies Cricket team religiously, taking after our father in that respect.

He had never given our parents any trouble. He was thoughtful and soft spoken. Sometimes he would exasperate me with his patience and his kindness, and then I would call him a ‘sissy’ and tell him to act like a man and not a girl. Don’t get me wrong; there was nothing effeminate about him, it is just that he was such a gentle person, and ever the peacemaker.

When he had left me alone I lay on my bed, and thought. Who was my mother? Where was she now; was she alive or dead? Was I with Mavis and my father because she was dead? If alive, was she still in Jamaica, or had she too emigrated in search of greener pastures?

Could she be here in England? It was not inconceivable. Or perhaps she had gone to Canada or the USA. If she was still alive.

How would I go about finding her; for find her I was determined to do if she were at all alive. Would my father be any help in my quest? I was currently harbouring great feelings of resentment against him, but I would need to get some information from him in order to start my search.

My thoughts were interrupted by the arrival of the twins at my room door. “Michelle, Mummy says if you want any dinner you better come downstairs now.” The twins were nine years old and identical mirror image; one was right-handed, the other left-. We called them the Siamese twins because you rarely saw one without the other; they were almost inseparable. If you called one by name, they both came running. If you hit one, they both cried.

They often spoke in unison or finished each other’s sentences. Even within the family it was difficult to tell them apart, so you can imagine how their poor teachers coped.

Their school had insisted that they wear different coloured hair ribbons; Rachel’s were supposed to be red and Rebecca’s green, but they regularly swapped them around. At one point the school had tried putting them in separate classes but this proved futile as they both went into a major sulk and refused to do any work. No amount of threats or promises could change their attitudes, and when they started swapping classes as well as hair ribbons, the school gave in and re-united them.

They and I got on fairly well in general, but from time to time we had stormy eruptions. They had learned from a very early age to take advantage of the fact that they were Daddy’s favourites, and had landed me in hot water with him from time to time. But they were not spiteful or vindictive children, although they could sometimes be detestable.

This was one of those times. The smirks on their faces as they relayed their mother’s message told me that they too had shared in my momentous discovery. I was actually very hungry, being one of those people whose appetites are rarely affected by trauma, but I informed them grumpily that I did not want any dinner. They withdrew, leaving me alone again with my thoughts.

As I continued to ponder my situation I had an idea. Perhaps I could find out something about my mother before going to my father for detailed information. If I could get hold of my birth certificate, it should show my mother’s name and place of residence when I was born. That would be something to go on.

I knew that Mavis kept all our important papers in a biscuit tin in a suitcase on top of her wardrobe; I had seen her go in there to take out my passport for a school trip to France. I decided to get my birth certificate. I suddenly realised that I’d never even seen the document.

I couldn’t get it tonight. I would have to wait until both Mavis and my father were out of the house. In the meantime I would have to decide how I was going to act with Mavis from now on. I no longer saw her as my mother and it would stick in my craw to have to call her Mum. I wouldn’t do it; if they beat me to death I wasn’t going to call her Mummy anymore.

I was nearly fourteen. In another four years I could leave home as an adult. In the meantime I would have to live under her roof and pay her the courtesy which that demanded. I couldn’t call her by her given name; that would be insolent. I made up my mind that I was going to be icily polite to her in future.

It was early evening, not more than seven o’clock, but I decided to go to bed. I had a quick wash and got into my nightdress. I lay in bed wondering how my father would react when he found out that Mavis had let out the secret, for secret it must have been; otherwise I would have been told.

To be continued...

Published in Entertainment
Tuesday, 08 December 2015 11:19

Sweet Home Jamaica: A shocking discovery

Editor’s Note: Starting today we will present excerpts from Jamaican author Claudette Beckford-Brady’s bestselling novel Sweet Home Jamaica. Sweet Home Jamaica tells a rather fascinating story of the life of a Jamaican-born English woman Michelle Freeman.

Michelle Freeman, affectionately known as Shell or Shellie, was born in Jamaica but migrated to England with her parents at the age of three. At age thirteen her life is thrown into turmoil when she accidentally discovers that her father’s wife, whom she had always taken for granted as being her mother, is in fact, not. This shocking discovery leads her to begin a search for her biological mother. The search eventually takes her to Jamaica where she finds a large extended maternal family and develops a deep and abiding love for the island of her birth.

After leaving school and university in London, where she studied journalism, Shellie decides to leave the UK and practise her profession in Jamaica.

However, all is not plain sailing, as she encounters culture shock, prejudice and jealousy and comes to the realisation that her beloved island is not the idyllic paradise she had supposed it to be.

Set in South London and on the beautiful island of Jamaica, the story spans seventeen years, following the fiery and feisty young woman through her teenage years, young love and tragedy, and into adulthood and more conflicts and clashes. This book is available as a single volume or as a two volume set.

CHAPTER ONE: A Shocking Discovery

I was thirteen, going on fourteen, when I discovered that my mother was not my mother. That is to say, my father’s wife, Mavis, whom I had taken for granted to be my mother, was in fact, not. It came as a great shock since up till then I’d had no reason to suppose otherwise.

I was the second of five children, one older brother and three younger sisters, two of whom were twins.

I had always been the odd one out for several reasons. First of all I was considered extremely bright at school while my siblings were, if not exactly dunce, at least of much lesser ability. Instead of being praised and encouraged, however, I was often made to feel as if I were doing something wrong.

Secondly, I was noticeably several shades darker of complexion than my brother and sisters which, up to the point of my discovery, had been a source of puzzlement to me, but which was now logically explained. Funnily enough it had just never occurred to me that I might be of different stock; why would it?

Thirdly, every child in the house was a favourite except me. My father’s wife, Mavis, favoured her firstborn and only son, as well as her ‘wash-belly,’ which is a term used to describe a last and often un-expected child. As for my father, he made no attempt to hide the fact that he idolized his twin daughters who had been born on his birthday. He called them his birthday girls. Iwas nobody’s favourite. I held some resentment at what I considered such gross unfairness. After all, I was very intelligent and achieved great marks at school, invariably coming top of my class. I should have received some recognition for that, if for nothing else, but this was never forthcoming.

Whenever I reflected on the matter, I generally came to the conclusion that I was less loved because I was blacker than my siblings.

Far from having an inferiority complex though, I was strong minded and determined. My teachers described me as being wilful, headstrong and argumentative. I questioned everything and I was extremely vocal whenever my opinion differed from anyone else’s. My teachers, in the main, thought this was good, but in my parents’ opinion I was just simply “facety,” or in plain English, rude or impertinent.

Well, the discovery came about as a result of my being “facety” to Mavis. The school had organized an outing to Stratford-upon-Avon for the English Literature class, to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It was to be an afternoon performance which meant that we would not arrive back in London from Stratford till after dark.

My first mistake was in telling Mavis that I was going, instead of asking her if I could.

“Mum, I’m going to Stratford with my class to watch a Shakespeare play. Could you sign the consent form please?” I held out the letter from school with the tear-off consent slip to be signed by a parent. She ignored it.

“Ahoa! Yu turn big woman inside here? What yu mean yu going to Stratford wid yu class; who give yu permission, Mam?” Mavis was scathing in her sarcasm.

“That’s why I’m giving you the consent slip, Mum,” I said patiently, “so you can give your consent.” My voice was reasonable, but I knew from past experience it could be read as insolent.

Mavis still ignored my outstretched hand. “But yu nuh need my consent. Yu tell mi seh yu-a guh a’ready!” She turned her back and started taking dishes out of the sideboard to set the table for dinner. I should have left it at that for the moment and approach her again when she was in a more amenable frame of mind; or perhaps I should have asked Daddy to sign the form. But I didn’t.

“Look, Mum, there’s no reason for me not to go,” I persisted. “It won’t cost you and Daddy anything; I have money to pay my fare.”

Second mistake. I should have humbled my tone, apologised, and asked her nicely if I could go.

“I see! Yu is not only a big ooman who mek har own decision; yu have yu own-a money to’. Well, mek mi tell yu somet’ing, Michelle. As long as yu are a chile in dis house yu will ask permission when yu want anyt’ing, and don’t inform mi of yu intention afta yu done mek di decision a’ready. Yu not goin’!”

“But Mummy, I have to go. This play is important for my English Lit. Exam.” Third mistake; don’t be argumentative. Accept defeat for the moment and then when she has had time to calm down, approach her and ask her nicely. I would never learn!

I could see her starting to swell up like a bullfrog. I had never seen a bullfrog swelling up, mind you, but I knew the saying well; she always used it on me when I dared to show my temper. “Yes, gwaan swell up like bullfrog, I wi’ know how to burst yu bubble!”

Well now she was the one swelling up with temper and I don’t mind admitting that I myself was beginning to get a trifle vexed. She responded to my last statement. “Ahoa! Yu have to guh. I see! Well gwaan den nuh, if yu bad. Wi gwine to si which bull rule inside dis pen!”

Now I was getting reckless. My voice rose a decibel. “Why yu don’t want me to do well in school? You and Daddy never give me any encouragement, nor any praise when I do well. Why oonu even bother to let me go to school at all?” And with that I flounced out of the room.

“Who yu t’ink yu talking to in dat tone of voice! Come back here to mi!” But I ignored her and ran upstairs into my room, slamming the door behind me.

Big, big mistake! The door flew open and I was grabbed by the front of my school blouse while slaps rained on my face. “Dyam wrenk and facety! Nevah yu talk to mi like dat again, or walk out when A talking to yu! And don’t yu evah, evah, slam any door in dis house again! After all!”

I had definitely gone too far. She was in a roaring temper, such as I had not seen for many a day. She paused to catch a quick breath and then she was off again. “A don’t know why yu faada bring yu come gi’ mi. None-a mi own-a children dem evah dare to back-answer mi, but yu, smaddy else pickney, come-a wrenk wid mi; after mi raise yu from baby like one-a mi own. Yu is a ungrateful wretch, yu same pickney-gyal, yu!”

I had been trying to ward off her blows by raising my hands in front of my face, but at this astounding statement I went deadly still. I don’t know if it was the fact that I had suddenly stopped moving, or whether she realized what she had just said, but she let me go rather abruptly and left the room.

Published in Entertainment

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