Shopping for hurricanes

Hurricane season is fast approaching and the signs do not augur well. Everyone has become a seasoned climatologist, foreseeing upcoming catastrophe in each new hot, dry day. This is how it was before Ivan, they tell me, even before Gilbert. And after the predictions come the heroic battle stories of surviving previous hurricanes – days, weeks, months without electricity or water, hours spent each day trogging up the hills to fetch water. It would quickly deterioriate into a shaggy dog story of onedownmanship, à la Four Yorkshiremen, except that the storytellers usually drift into vacant smiles as if fondly reminiscing the good old days.

So, what is to be done?

We arrived in Jamaica at the end of the hurricane season last year, although we immediately got a good taste of what it could be like (Read more …).

Prada portable generatorNow, though, we’re on our own and will have to fend for ourselves when the lights go out for longer than the “normal” outages. On trips to Mega Mart, I’ve been drawn to getting our own generator. I think it’s the rugged independence that appeals to me. They’re also surprisingly sexy, with funky colours and moulded contours. But still, they’re not cheap. Wadaya reckon?

And apart from a generator, what else should we stock up on?

Future Walmart

Who said Jamaicans lacked entrepreneurial spirit?

Future WalmartFuture Walmart customers (Runaway Bay, 21 April 2006)

Dem demographic an’ focus group dem hit de nail to rass!

King Merc meets higglers uptown

Uptown shopping
Shopping from the comfort of your car in uptown Kingston.

Although the resolution is too low to read here, I’ve changed the licence plate to [BUSHA 2].

For an explanation of the title Busha, read the following extract from Anthony C. Winkler’s hilarious novel, The Lunatic.

The Busha was the richest man in the parish. His land splashed over fields, licked at the belly of the mountain, and rolled down to the coastline. It was a luxuriant land, fed by wild streams and springs, rich with fruit trees and guinea grass pastures. It supported goats, cattle, fruit trees, rats, and praedial thieves.

Busha had inherited this land from his father, his father from his father, and so on down through a succession of twelve fathers stretching back to the earliest days of Jamaica. The very title of “Busha” – a slave corruption of “overseer” – spoke of ancestry, wealth, land, striking the local ear with the same galvanic ring that initials such as ITT, IBM, GM have on Americans.

Virtual yard sale

Extract from an ever-growing list of binnable items.

# 2 buggies (prams/strollers/whatever), one very soiled stained (ice cream, Giolitti’s)
# 2 single mattresses, one slightly stained (coffee?)
# 3 giant inflatables (orca, turtle and mutant dragonfly), suspected slow punctures
# Comprehensive software collection (statistics, Web design and games) for Win95
# 1 truckload of Kinder egg toys, with instructions

… to be continued


Having cleared out my wardrobe of winter clothes, there were gaping spaces just crying out to be filled, so we went shopping. Here’s what I picked up.

In Benetton, I had to wait for 90 minutes to pay for a summer dress for my daughter. There was no queue, but there was no one to take my money either. All five staff were grouped round a table, refolding T-shirts angrily and giving smouldering scowls at anyone who came within range. I caught a glimpse of a woman waiting outside the changing rooms.Witch Hazel shops at Benetton She had a classic look, that of a homely witch, with a huge barrel-shaped body, hairy wart on her chin and electro-shocked black hair. She looked like Hazel Witch without the hat. Moments later, her daughter (about ten years old) came out wearing a cute white cotton blouse. She looked EXACTLY like her mother! She spun round in front of the full-length mirror admiring herself. Her mother laughed happily and shouted over to one of the sales women, “Are you sure that’s an XL??”

In Coin department store, there was a queue for the swimsuit changing rooms. I’m absolutely not fattist but I sometimes think there should be a professional mother-type outside the changing rooms vetting what goes in with whom. She could just roll her eyes or purse her lips. In the absence of such a mute arbiter, I watched a well-built girl come out and give a twirl in a skin-tight top – it looked like a sausage liner round her waist and showed a suspension bridge bra strap across her back. Her boyfriend’s eyes also bulged when she said, “You know what? I think I need the XS.”

As more girlfriends squeezed into the changing rooms and the queue got no shorter, I snuck across to the children’s section changing rooms. As part of our cunning plan, Mr B grabbed a couple of kid’s dungarees and stood guard nonchalantly outside.

On leaving Coin, I noticed their department guide* on the wall:

  • Uomo
  • Donna
  • Accessori
  • Coinbambini
  • Futility
  • Futility Office

Futility Office. I LIKE it – honest and direct.

* I was going to call it a drop-down menu.
And sometimes when I’m scanning a text on paper, I mentally think of doing CTRL-F.