Category Archives: Caribbean

… better than winning a contest!!

While contest judges may not have considered my novel worthy enough to make their shortlist, I’ve just received far-better validation from a friend who offered to read and write an advance review I can now use in pre-publication promotion.

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And what validation and praise it is, coming from an author who also intimately knows Bequia!

Thanks to Felicity Harley who I promoted previously on Reading Recommendations, and who sent me congratulations on Reading Recommendations‘ anniversary, and wrote a guest post about her two book clubs, and wrote a fabulous review on Amazon of Island in the Clouds … which is how we first “met” online, and since then in person this year while we were both on Bequia.

Here’s what Felicity has to say about One Woman’s Island:

Among its other virtues, One Woman’s Island beautifully captures the spirit of being on the island of Bequia. I also enjoyed the fact that the author’s ear for the local dialogue is faultless.

Besides its lush and exotic setting however, throughout its pages, the book accurately and with pathos reflects the end of an unsatisfactory marriage for narrator Mariana, who is constantly searching for something meaningful to take its place.

There are a slew of interesting characters in the book as well, including a talking parrot and the visitor from hell.

As Mariana tries to sort out her own life, she takes a young girl, Verity, and her two children under her wing, and is criticized about her “plan” in no uncertain terms by Al, one of the die-hard ex-pats who live there:

“I’m so sick and tired of you do-goodnik, butt-in-ski foreigners who come here with your socialist attitudes thinking life should be a bed of roses for everyone in the world. It’s not. What you don’t understand about Bequia is while it doesn’t have an organized social safety net like what you’re used to in pinko Canada, the people here do generally look after their own—maybe not to the level of your satisfaction, but there haven’t been any cases of people starving to death from neglect on this island lately, so far as I know. Am I right, Doc?”

Besides having interesting and believable characters, there is also a fast-moving plot that keeps the reader engaged, including several murders taking place over the course of the winter months Mariana is staying on Bequia.

Perhaps the heart and soul of the book is summed up at the end by Mariana and Tex, a fast-talking, larger-than-life guy with a heart of gold, and one of my favorite characters:

“When I came here last October, I thought Bequia was going to be paradise, Tex,” I said quietly.

“Here’s how I see it: any place you are can be paradise. It’s all in your mind; it’s whatever you want it to be.”

With its complex characters, fast-moving plot, authentic setting and underlying seriousness of questions so skillfully raised, One Woman’s Island is a book that should garner a wide readership, one far larger than those who are already familiar with Bequia.

But for those of us like myself who are familiar with the setting, we’ll enjoy the island the author presents in her book as one we’ve come to know and love, despite its all-too-human complexities.

I’d better get cracking and prepare that MS for ePublication! And I now have my “quotable quote” with that second-last paragraph. It’s perfect for advertising copy!!

Thanks, Felicity! I just can’t thank you enough!

Guest Post: Rick Bergh on How Our Children’s Books Ended Up in Haiti

Rick Bergh has been featured previously on Reading Recommendations, first in March 2016 and again in April. He’s back now to tell us how it is that his children’s books are now being read by Haitian children!

Rick and Erica Bergh

Rick and Erica Bergh

How Our Children’s Books Ended Up in Haiti

I love how life surprises us when we least expect it.

My wife, Erica, and I had completed two of our children’s books and brought them to our annual Boxing Day gathering – a wonderful family tradition on my mother’s side, which I have not missed in 56 years.

My cousin, Mark, purchased a few copies of these books (after all, you expect your family to buy your books, right?).

Little did I know those children’s books would find their way to an orphanage in Haiti! All the way from Calgary, Alberta!

Maybe you’re thinking, “That’s no big deal …” But it was for me. Let me explain.

Over ten years ago, my daughter, Keeara, went to volunteer at the very same orphanage – she was an 18-year-old girl trying to figure out her next step in life. Her time in Haiti coincided with her mom’s struggle with cancer. So the whole family was in transition and wondering what the future would hold.

Pam, her mom, said “Keeara, go and volunteer at this orphanage.” She did and it changed her life forever. She became an elementary school teacher as a result.

Fast forward 11 years and my cousin’s daughter, Emily, is now volunteering at the same orphanage. We did not make the connection until I asked Emily what orphanage she was going to and it was the exact same one where Keeara had worked.

IMG_6067WOW! So, now Emily is reading these stories to the children – the same stories that I made up and told to my children, including Keeara. Our next book due to be published soon is actually about Keeara (Stretchy Cheese Pizza) and her son, Connor.

And now Emily was reading these same stories I told our children when they lay in bed asking me to tell them a story. Fascinating that it was not long ago when an 18-year-old-Keeara was reading books to these special children in Haiti. And now, they will soon be reading stories about her and her son, Connor.

We are sending copies over for the children in Haiti to read as soon as the new book is published in June. The stories come full circle!

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Zika, we hardly knew you …

And thank goodness for that, I say!

I’ll be leaving Bequia in less than two weeks, after having been here for nearly 6 months. When I arrived last October, everyone was extremely concerned about a new mosquito-borne virus making its way through South America and that was expected to pose a threat shortly within the Caribbean region.

We all did what we could (well, most people on the island did) to clean up our properties, to make sure there was no standing water in which mosquitoes could breed. There were island-wide cleanups organized, and people really did seem to be consciously trying to combat the threat of a new virus (too many of us had suffered from Chikungunya two years ago and we didn’t want a repeat!), so it looked as though we might have it beat.

Unfortunately, the government’s way of dealing with mosquitoes is to fog with chemicals … which they have done far too many times this past year. It’s an unnecessary expense and the mosquitoes are still here. Everything else, though is effectively affected, including the honey bees. I spoke with a Bequia apiarist last week who told me he had lost more than a third of his bee population and honey production has been way down. He hasn’t been able to supply local stores at all lately. He also said he noticed the Bequia Sweet birds (grackles) had disappeared from his part of Bequia, but there was one in a tree by our verandah just now, so I know they have not been decimated.

There have been attempts made to breed out the particular type of mosquito carrying all these viruses, but that’s more of a long-term proposition. The one way to ensure the immediate eradication is to clean up the island. We did go through a period earlier in the winter, when the Christmas winds blew strong, that we saw fewer mosquitoes around our house … but recently the numbers have been increasing again. A neighbour did discover a large source of standing water filled with mosquito larvae at a property that has been sitting empty for a number of years. Once that was dealt with we noticed the numbers of mosquitoes are dwindling again.

Anyway, that’s my report – and it’s why I’ve written so little about Zika over the past few months. It’s been a non-issue in SVG, with only one case reported, on Union Island, about a month or so ago. This “new” virus certainly did not ravage the population as Chikungunya did.

And speaking of which … I’ve been experiencing Chikungunya-related pain again recently in my shoulder, and I’ve spoken with and heard from others who still have not shaken the symptoms of that nasty virus. No wonder we were all so worried about another virus threat! I for one don’t think I could ever go through that agony again. That was totally debilitating!

So it was with great joy and relief I discovered the following article about a possible means of combatting these pesky mosquitoes. Ironically, it’s a method developed at Laurentian University, in Sudbury where Dennis and I both lived for a time. It’s cheap, it uses recyclable materials, and it’s proving to be more effective than other methods. I’ve passed on the article to people on Bequia who are committed to finding a way of permanently dealing with this mosquito problem.

Here’s hoping it will work on Bequia!

Canadian team set to turn tires against Zika virus

The ovillanta design. Photo courtesy Daniel Pinelo.

The ovillanta design. Photo courtesy Daniel Pinelo.

Not quite a coffee farmer … yet

Almost two-and-a-half years ago, Dennis became interested in growing coffee and wrote this blog post, Roasting coffee beans in a pizza oven on Bequia, for me. That proved to be a very popular post, as a matter of fact! Then last Sept., we wrote another post on the coffee bean production here at The View: An update on roasting coffee beans in a pizza oven on Bequia.

So here we are, another 7 months later, and we have good news! No, don’t run away to plug in your grinder and boil water just yet! But there have been significant developments in the two surviving bushes in our garden, as shown in the following photos …

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Although perhaps this development is not fast-enough for Dennis’s liking.

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A farmer out standing in his field …

He did manage to harvest a few beans from the first growth last fall, though … about 3 or 4 “cherries”, to be precise. And once they were dried and ready, they were planted in Jan., and have been slowly growing into 8 more coffee bushes that will eventually be planted out sometime later in the year – or possibly next spring. A coffee drinker needs the patience of Job to be able to withstand the waiting time it takes to grow enough beans just for one pot of coffee!!

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Food, glorious food … prepared on Bequia!

We haven’t been cooking anything unusual lately here on Bequia, other than regular meals to sustain us. But we have used freshly grown local pumpkins recently picked from our own vines:

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And we made this:

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A Caribbean Pumpkin Soup recipe I developed a number of years ago …
And this:

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Beef Curry (recipe from CaribbeanPot.com) cooked inside a whole Pumpkin.

Then I got back into baking bread again …

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Two loaves each of Rye with Caraway Seeds and 100% Whole Wheat.

Finally, here’s one of my most favourite desserts to prepare for company – Bequia Lime Pie! Not only is it always delicious and a surprise to those who haven’t eaten it before, but the recipe is super-easy to prepare, calling for few ingredients. (And I have this recipe memorized since I’ve made it so many times.)

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So, there you have it – gastronomic delights from Bequia!

And the good news for those of you looking for any of these recipes … “some” will be included in my next novel, One Woman’s Island!

Want to become an Islander?

In Oct. 2012 I had this cool idea to start up a kind of Fan Club for my novel, Island in the Clouds. I received “somewhat” of a reaction to that blog post … okay, so it wasn’t even close to being underwhelming, but I did have fun with the idea. Recently, my good pal and fellow author, Tim Baker, set up the beginning of his own Ike Fan Club when he published this blog post, Can I Put Your Name in My Books? – and that got me rooting around in the vaults again to look for my original post. (Which I wrote more than half a year before I ever “met” Tim online, by the way!) So here’s that original idea of mine, with a bit of rewriting to bring it up to date. Anyone want to join my club?


If you have read – and enjoyed! – my novel, Island in the Clouds either as an eBook or in print, you are already an official Islander, the new club I am creating. No need to register but do please consider taking part in these two promotions I set up. Send me a picture of my novel on your eReader or of you reading the print book in a particular place (either where you live, while you’re on holiday, or next to an identifiable landmark – for instance, I still don’t have a picture of my novel taken at the Leuty Lifeguard Station or the Water Works in Toronto’s Beach neighbourhood yet, hint, hint) and write a brief review or some comments about the book. I’ve been posting these photos to my blog on the dedicated page, Where/Who in the World is Reading Island in the Clouds??? and have plastered that link all over social media, and will continue to do so. If you’re camera shy, there’s no need for your face to be in the picture. See instructions on the links above and consider playing along! I thank you for taking part in this promotion.

But wait, there’s more! If you would like to promote Island in the Clouds on your own blog and perhaps give away copies in a contest, let’s talk! Or, if you wish to write a review but don’t have a venue to post it to, or you don’t like posting online on Amazon or Goodreads (and I understand your hesitation!), please send the review to me and I will post it, either on this blog or on reading recommendations reviewed. I will also promote any of your promotion efforts throughout my own network and on this blog. I’ll even consider “rewarding” those truly imaginative – and far-reaching and effective – promotions any of you create and execute.

Plus you will receive my undying love and affection for having supported my book!

The Islanders is intended to be a fun group! Think Mouseketeers with flowered shirts and fruity alcoholic beverages rather than mouse ears. I can’t guarantee free trips to Bequia for every club member, but there may be contests down the line that are open only to Islanders, and involving future publications. As I build an email contact list (I’ll be organizing an email newsletter sign-up shortly) of Islanders, I will notify you of these exclusive opportunities, as well as further information about my writing progress of the other novels, future publications from IslandCatEditions and IslandShorts, news and pictures from Bequia and other general stuff – although I promise never to overload your inbox! Membership does have its privileges though …

I do have one final request of all Islanders: The best way forward for any author to get the word out about their books is by word-of-mouth. We count on readers who have enjoyed our books to tell their friends and recommend they also read these books. I appreciate that you have taken the time to read my novel, and that many of you have already sent your comments, and compliments, about it, but I still need help with spreading the word to even more readers. So if you know anyone who would also enjoy this read, please consider telling them about it! Here are some other ways you might be able to help me with promotion: The Care and Feeding (and Promotion!) of Authors … and Part II.

Thanks, Everyone! Now, let’s have some fun!

(If you think I may not know that you’ve read the eBook or print edition, please send me an email susanmtoy (at) gmail so your name is included on the list.)

Tropical Fiction – a genre whose time has come!

This is actually a “From the vaults” post, because I’m reblogging most of the original post, Announcing Tropical Fiction – a new genre, from Aug., 2013, with a few changes and an update, after discussing with Tim Baker again about how to best market novels like ours that are set in tropical climes. So, here goes …

I’ve had more than my fair share of ideas in my time – some great, some good, some worth forgetting (although we won’t tell my readers about those ideas, will we, Betty Jane?). No matter what the idea, though, I’ve always tended to think outside the box and come up with a new way of considering every matter at hand.

I was listening to Surf 97.3, Flagler Beach Radio on the Internet recently and the DJ kept talking about all the Trop Rock this station plays. It took me a moment, but then I realized he meant Tropical Rock, beach music – you know, The Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, Jimmy Buffet. And if this can be a category for music then why not …?

Take categorizing fiction, for instance. I have written and published one novel, Island in the Clouds, in a projected series set on the Caribbean island of Bequia, where Dennis and I own a home.

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The setting itself is central to the novel. The story would never have been the same had I set it back in Calgary or Toronto or any other place I’ve lived. I know there are many other books like mine that are set in tropical climes and in which that setting becomes very important to the actual telling of the story.

The real property manager reads about a fictional property manager while in the exact same setting as shown on the book's cover! Life imitating art imitating life?

The real property manager reads about a fictional property manager while in the exact same setting as shown on the book’s cover! Life imitating art imitating life?

So, I thought, what if we were to coin a new name for this genre? I came up with Tropical Fiction and, since it was my idea, after all, I’m going to stretch the parameters to include any writing set in-on-or-near, or written by an author who lives within proximity to, a beach. That way, I can include the books of my good buddy Tim Baker who, coincidentally, writes about Flagler Beach, FL, Home of Surf 97.3 for which he also now works as a DJ! (There’s even a beach on the cover of one of his novels, Unfinished Business, so he gets bonus points!) And W.K. Blais who lives near a beach in California. After all, what’s the point of having a great idea if you can’t spread around the benefits among your friends? (Since first writing this, I have created the promotion blog, Reading Recommendations, and have featured both Tim Baker and W.K. Blais there. And Betty Jane Hegerat for that matter, too!)

Here’s the complete description of my new genre:

Tropical Fiction – Set in the Tropics or Written by a Tropics-based Author – The Ultimate “Beach” Read

I particularly like the Ultimate Beach Read part, because what better reading material is there for enjoying a beach visit (or virtual visit) than a book about or set on a beach? I ask you!

A show of hands now … How many of you remember the novel The Beach by Alex Garland, set in Thailand? (I’m not talking about the movie, but the book.) This book fits very well into my new genre, this new category I’m developing. And how about Ernest Hemingway’s To Have and Have Not and The Old Man and the Sea. Or Agatha Christie’s A Caribbean Mystery, Shani Mootoo’s Cereus Blooms at Night and the writing of Dominican-born Jean Rhys. Can you think of any others? Please add the titles below in the comments section.

And let’s start bandying about this new genre classification, okay? I’d appreciate your help with getting the word out so this becomes an accepted name for the style of books that I write , and that many others have written – in the past, currently are writing, and will publish in the future.

Or … if you’ve written a book that fits into this category, please tell us about it, and you! Are you living in a tropical place and writing books? Tell us!! Please post a link below. I would eventually like to collect authors’ names and their titles, and will think of a way to list these links, possibly on a permanent page on this blog. That way, we can promote ALL of these books and this new genre of Tropical Fiction to the world!

And here’s the likely cover we’re going with for my next novel … that’s a photo taken by Dennis at least 20 years ago of Industry Beach on Bequia looking out towards the islands of Balliceaux and Battawia. This view still looks pretty much the same today. (Cover designed by Jenny Ryan!)

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(I’d better get that second novel finished and published!!)

From the vaults – Home and a sense of belonging, April 19, 2013

I was reminded of this blog post I wrote back in 2013 while completing an interview with another blogger. Her first question was: If you had to choose just one, would you prefer to live in Toronto’s Beach, in Calgary where you have also lived for many years, or in Bequia in the Caribbean where you have a house? Where I “belong” has long been a question I’ve asked myself. And since writing the following post, we’ve bought a trailer that’s permanently situated in an Ontario campground, and I plan to spend summers there from now on, and winters in Bequia.

My writing pal, Lisa McGonigle, published an article, In It For the Long Haul, in the Feb. 2012 issue of The Fernie Fix about her long-distance lifestyle. I met Lisa several years ago at the Fernie Writers’ Conference, before she published Snowdrift, and I’ve followed her travels since that time.

This particular article resonated with me because, although my travels have not been as far-flung as Lisa’s, I have maintained two residences, one in Calgary and the other in Bequia, and spent these past five years flying back and forth between the two. Most of my worldly possessions have remained at the house in the Caribbean, along with the cats and Dennis, while I’ve moved around between Calgary apartments to house-sitting situations, accumulating more stuff in an attempt to make a home for myself in the city where I actually worked. Because of the nature of my business, I was able to manage three trips to Bequia every year, usually during their off-season. I told myself I didn’t mind the Calgary winters – really – and I was able to build a good business as well as an extensive network of friends and colleagues that always made me feel “at home” again every time I returned to Canada.

Unfortunately, my circumstances changed in the fall of 2012 and I decided to return to Bequia – at least for the winter months – and reassess my business and my life. I gave away most of what I’d accumulated over those five years, stored the rest in a locker as well as with several friends, and flew off at the end of November. (I have Vincentian citizenship, so I am allowed to stay indefinitely. And the immigration and customs agents usually say, “Welcome home!” upon my arrival. I never hear that from Canadian officials.)

The plan was always to come back to Canada in April, because I had committed to giving a presentation at a Calgary library on the 12th. I’m also planning on attending my high school reunion in Toronto’s Beach in May – the neighbourhood where I grew up. I figured 7 weeks was lots of time to see everyone I needed, and wanted, to see, and to visit with family.

The reality is, though, that Thomas Wolfe was right: You Can’t Go Home Again. Or once gone, easily forgotten? I feel as though I no longer belong in Calgary. People are too busy; appointments and dates are being cancelled; all plans I made previous to the trip have suddenly dissolved. It’s left me wondering why I’ve come back.

But then I never felt as though I belonged on Bequia either while I was there over this past winter.

So now I really wonder where home is for me. Sometimes I think it’s in the air, on a plane, somewhere between Calgary and Bequia. If I were once again Lisa’s age (which is about half of mine), I would consider a new start in a brand new place, creating a new life for myself. New horizons, new possibilities.

But I find I’m too old for that now, so I’ll have to be content to live vicariously through Lisa as she continues on with the adventures of her own life. And create and invent reality in my own mind by writing stories.

… when you remember that You are the author of Your own Life story, You enter into the beautiful process of becoming, as You should be, the author of Your own life, the creator of Your own possibilities …
Mandy Aftel

Since this original post was written my good friend Patricia, who we first met in Calgary in 1980 and who has also managed to “relocate” herself a number of times during her life, ending up part of the year on Bequia, wrote this comment concerning her own experience and thoughts about Home and a sense of belonging.

On Bequia – More satisfied readers of “Island in the Clouds”!!!

I love it when things like this happen!!

I wrote the novel, Island in the Clouds, and released it in 2012, first as an eBook then in print. I was on Bequia shortly after the eBook version was released and was trying to drum up some interest by posting announcements about it around the island, including at a friend’s restaurant and bar.

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Then this happened(And here’s the reader’s subsequent review.)

The novel has continued to be “discovered” by tourists visiting the island and I’ve received some pretty terrific compliments and reviews of the book from people all over the world as a result – people I had not previously met.

Sales and discovery of the book have slowed down considerably over the past year or two. I get it! The people who read and enjoyed the first novel set on Bequia are waiting for me to finish writing the second one – and I’m writing as fast as I can right now!!

So, it’s especially gratifying when something like this happens …

Dennis, as most of you know, is a property manager, and he looks after a number of foreigners’ homes on the island. He was working on a Saturday morning at one of the houses that had been rented over the Christmas holidays to a Canadian couple. He told me the woman was READING A PRINT COPY OF MY BOOK (the “house” copy, as it happened) while he was there, and she commented to Dennis that the book could be about him, because the main character is a Canadian who runs a property management business.

Dennis laughed and said, “No, it’s all fiction in that book.” Then she asked what it was that I did on Bequia.

“She’s an author.”

“Oh, what’s she written?” the woman asked.

“Well, that book you’re reading, for starters.”

He told me all this when he returned home later that morning, and also said the woman was enjoying the book immensely. Since then, her husband has read it as well and they told him they were going to buy a copy to take back home with them at the end of their holiday. So I signed a copy and sent that over with Dennis to give to them. (They insisted on purchasing it!)

It just all reminds me that we never know who will read what we write or how they will come to our writing. In this case, I heartily thank the homeowner for being such a big support of me and my writing, and for providing a reading copy of my book for her guests to “discover”.

Unlike the reader in the first instance (in the link I included at the beginning of this story) who was actively seeking out books set on Bequia, many tourists and visitors will never see the ads I place in Bequia This Week

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or set foot in the Bequia Book Shop or the Bequia Tourism Association office

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to find out what “local” books may be available. I have to depend upon word-of-mouth promotion from my readers and friends who will share what I write in whatever way they can. And then I have to hope that readers, like this Canadian couple, who do “discover” my book will now take it home with them and tell this same story I’ve just told you about how they first met and spoke with the property manager whose partner is the author of a book they enjoyed reading.

Because it’s personal stories like this that help sell the stories we all write!!

Bequia Christmas

I’m posting this Christmas story to meet a challenge from Tim Baker, who already posted his Ike Christmas story this morning (see my reblog of it previous to this post). So here you go, Tim! This is your surprise – that I actually pulled out my manuscript of One Woman’s Island and began rewriting again! I know, I know. Possibly a small Christmas miracle in itself, but still … better than cookies?

This is an excerpt from Chapter 10 of my novel-in-progress. Happy Holidays, everyone!

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Bequia Christmas

… in memory of Mariann Palmborg

A day or so after Joan’s departure, I was in the Harbour to replenish food supplies and met Solfrid there again. She was on the run, as usual, but said in passing, “Be sure you are on the main ferry wharf at 2 p.m. on December the sixth, and bring your neighbour’s children along.”

When I asked her why, she gave me that broad smile of hers. “Just be there. You will all like it.” Then, with a quick wave, she was off again.

Another Bequia surprise, I thought, happy to look forward to discovering the answer to Solfrid’s mystery.

Ayayla, Philbain and I were ready, waiting in anticipation on the appointed day for Dudley to come to the house, pick us up, and drive to the Harbour. He, too, said he had no idea what was going on, although I believe he was feigning ignorance so he wouldn’t ruin the surprise. Felicity had decided to not join us. She said she wanted to spend some time by herself, but knew we would all enjoy ourselves.

The children’s excitement increased. Mine did, too, I had to admit, when we saw a large crowd, consisting mostly of children, that had gathered at the end of the wharf to wait for the same surprise. We arrived just in the nick of time; as we joined the crowd, someone at the end of the wharf shouted, “Dere! Dere!” and pointed out into the Harbour. Then others joined him, chanting, “Father Christmas!” and “St. Nicholas!”

So that was the surprise! It was the traditional European visit by St. Nicholas to all children of the island.

But I was in for an even more enjoyable surprise when the water taxi pulled up to the wharf and I discovered St. Nicholas was none other than Solfrid herself. She had the perfect costume of a European Santa, too, dressed as she was in a floor-length cloak rather than the North American-style pants and jacket. She must have been sweltering, was my first thought, until I noticed Solfrid had been very practical indeed in designing the cloak in a light-weight cotton much more suitable for Bequia’s tropical climate. While her disguise was complete and she definitely looked the part of St. Nicholas, there was no mistaking it was Solfrid behind that beard. Her big smile, kind heart and warm soul were never easily disguised at all.

The best part was yet to come though as Solfrid called out a command towards the boat and six of her dogs jumped out as well, each with a pair of those fake reindeer antlers made for dogs strapped to their heads. Perfect! Good for Solfrid!

Solfrid herself leaned down and hefted a large sack from the boat from which she began dispensing small packages to the children who had quickly formed a line in front of her.

I helped Philbain and Ayayla get into the line then stayed with them while they waited their turn. Both children were in awe of Solfrid, or actually St. Nicholas, when they finally reached her and Ayayla was barely able to get out an audible, “T’anks,” as she received her gift of candies. Philbain said nothing at all, simply stared at Solfrid.

“Here you are,” Solfrid said, handing him a bag. She patted his head. “I hope you enjoy your sweeties.” She looked up at me and asked, “Your neighbours?”

When I nodded in reply, she threw me a wide grin and said, “Good, good!” her head nodding in an approving manner.

“I’m impressed with what you’ve taken on here, Solfrid, giving the children of Bequia a little bit of Christmas excitement.”

“Oh, well, I like to do this. The children enjoy it so much and for me it is good to see their faces happy.” She gestured around us to all the other children. This was just another display of Solfrid’s generous nature, I realized.

She had already focused her attention on the next children in the line, so I coaxed Philbain and Ayayla away. Neither child wanted to take their eyes off of Solfrid, but soon discovered what she had given them was candy and they were happily munching as we walked away from the fringe of the crowd to look for Dudley to take us back home.

As we passed a group of men, Tex called out my name. He sounded quite jovial for a change and even asked to be introduced to the children.

“Ayayla, Philbain, this is Mr. uhhh …” I couldn’t remember his last name.

“Tex,” he said, first touching his fingers to the brim of his cowboy hat then shaking their hands. “You can just call me Tex.” I noticed him discreetly wiping the hand on his jeans afterwards, trying to remove the saliva-sugar residue, no doubt. “Did you enjoy meeting Father Christmas?”

Unfortunately for Tex, Philbain couldn’t understand a word and Ayayla began acting shy, hiding behind my legs, laughing inanely.

“Philbain is partially deaf,” I said. So Tex began all over with Philbain, speaking directly to him in a loud and clear voice, waiting for the child to nod that he understood before continuing. Then he shook both their hands again, this time in a more hearty manner, and turned to me.

“It was good of you to bring the children down here to see Solfrid today, Mariana. I doubt anyone has ever done that for them before. I’m sure they enjoyed it. See you soon.” With that, Tex was loping off down the road.

It was the most pleasant and cordial I’d seen Tex act in a long time and I wasn’t sure whether this could be considered a Christmas miracle that had brought about the change. Whatever the case, I was grateful he did actually have it in him to be nice, at least on this occasion.