The midnight breeze is rustling the leaves, and the fruit, heavy with ripeness, swoops the branches low and jostles them skywards in a frenzy of Summertime glory.
The sun enters the stage early at 5am with the first rays dancing on eyelids and eyelashes that are full of sleepiness still.
You see that lady there, sitting by the table with a knife and a mango in her hand, well that’s Edith.
In Western countries we don’t set up shop on the roadside selling the produce from the tree in our garden that fruits once a year. In Antigua it is commonplace.
“How many mangoes do you eat in a day?” I ask of Edith, who doesn’t break from munching even for a moment. She has no teeth as far as I can see. “I eat plenty” she says. I give her 5 EC$ for 4 mangoes. I only wanted 3, but she insisted …
In the microcosm of the world that is Antigua the seasons don’t go unnoticed. For the next two months there is a flood of mangoes in the market. The people can’t sell them quick enough. Probably because, down every laneway where there is a mango tree, despite various signs indicating ‘No trespassing’, there will be a stealthy truck or car stopped for a spot of pilfering. The mangoes are eaten skin and all, straight from the tree. The rest are sold on the street by wives, grandmothers and men alike. Antiguans LOVE them. Soon, in July there will be a Mango Festival celebrating their bounty.
Yet many Antiguans survive without plentiful food. They live day to day from what they can get. Antigua is a dry and arid rock and life without water is hard.
I meet Patricia who I see walking for miles every day, with her bucket. “Where are you headed?” I ask. “Me gonna get some food, because I ha’ no money,” she replies simply as she heads off into the bushland. She doesn’t ask for help. She stands straight, tall and proud and living from the land.
Brimming with light and ocean views, surrounded by idyllic and dazzling beaches and resorts boasting a world of bohemian chic and glamour, Antigua survives from the very nations that they fought against for their freedom. Once slaves to the sugar cane and those that claimed the land, this new generation of proprietors now live dependant upon the tourists.
Surrounded by long beaches of white sand that lend themselves to contemplation and relaxation and a seductive, turquoise sea luring you in for a splash, why would a nation not cash in on their inherited land? The climate is hot and humid all year round, just what tourists dream about on a dull, rainy, northern day.
Despite the hardships of the past and of the present, Antiguans retain a resilience and a sense of self. They are a proud nation and when I ask visitors what they think of the island, they all say that it is quite mad.
‘Live in the moment and let that moment be a party’, would be the motto that I personally would choose for Antigua!
So after some moments lost in thought, I take my mangos home and mix them with some papaya and lime over lots of ice, to make a decadent potion filled with Summertime.
And now too, the flamboyant blossoms, matching the colours of the mango flesh, are emerging in a burst of flame and madness, singing out to be noticed! Aha, a subtle change of season that began last week as the longest day of the year coincided with the full moon and the midnight breeze swept through the leaves whispering ‘Summer is here!’.
Enjoy and love x