Thursday, September 7, 2017


For those of you who like to follow this kind of thing, Dominica is 15.41 degrees north (of the equator) and 61.37 degrees west (of Greenwich). The Commonwealth of Dominica is one of the Windward Islands in the Eastern Caribbean, lying between Guadeloupe to the north and Martinique to the south. It is the Leeward Islands, to the north of us, that Irma battered.
At 5 PM today, Thursday, Jose was at 15.5 N and 52.4 W. It is predicted that Jose will veer north and west of us and head for the already ruined islands of Nevis, Barbuda, St. Martin.  Saturday probably
It is remarkably quiet here in Portsmouth. The sea is surging, but not roiling. It is hot and humid and rainy with occasional gusts of wind. People are going about their daily business. School has started, everything is open, and we ready for whatever.
Nothing much happened to my tropical garden as Irma passed except that the sour sop tree got a sea blast, lost all its leaves on one side. But the fruit hung on! amazing
The good news is after losing all their wickets on the first day of a five day cricket match, the West Indies are still in a strong position by taking 4 English wickets by the end of the day.
By the way, Dominica is pronounced Dom-NEEK-a
The Ocean gives back all the sh*t we gave it
All boats are on shore

The Sour Sop Tree got a sea blast, but the fruit hung on

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Irma's Apartment and Irma the Hurricane

Today started HOT, sunny and steamy.  McD and I had our usual Saturday planned, plus a hurricane watch.  'Irma' is headed this way and picking up speed.  I really don't think we will get a direct hit, but we will get buckets of unending rain and high, angry seas for a good 36 hours.  But you never know with these things. 

By the time we were ready to leave Portsmouth and go to Picard it had become overcast.  We decided to go to Jack's Chinese Restaurant for lunch.  Jack's is a little hole in the wall, mostly out of doors, great food and  family run.  I play with the 4 year old while mom cooks, dad (Jack) delivers orders on his scooter, Grandma feeds the baby and grandpa is around to do whatever needs doing.  It started to pour rain, people, locals, students came and went and got their fried rice and Coke and left.  We had spicy beef and broccoli and kung pao chicken and lots of rice.

 A couple came by on their rented scooter.  It was still raining hard.  They hesitated.  I called them in and they came.  Actually I had passed them on the Indian River Bridge on my way into Portsmouth in the morning and exchanged a greeting them then. They are a very friendly, youngish, couple from France visiting Dominica via Martinique and Marie Gallant (Island). They had come over with a fisherman in his boat and landed in Anse Soldat, in the dark, last night.   They gave their order, vegetable fried rice, fried Tofu and something else.  Since there is only one table they sat with us and of course we talked. 

They wanted a place to stay.  I called Irma, my landlady, as the apartment right next to me that Anthony and Imelda had stayed in, was now empty.  Irma said, sure, she would meet them in half an hour at the apartment. It was still raining hard so Jack, the young restaurant owner, offered to drive us all home and to take McDowell back to work in Portsmouth.  They will stay there for a few days and wait to see what the weather does by Monday.  Daniel, the 4 year old cried when we left so I told him to go tell his mother he was going with dad and to hop in the car.

When we got to the apartment the rain suddenly stopped and the sun came out full force.  I called Martin at the Yellow Cab to pick the couple and their luggage up in Anse Soldat, (they were going on their scooter), and bring them back. OK. No problem.

About hurricane Irma - the people don't seem in the least worried in spite of the disaster in Houston, bygone hurricanes and dire warnings.  The Americans are going to evacuate the 15 Peace Corps workers on the Island.  It seems like it is headed toward Antigua.  If it gets into the Guadeloupe Channel though it will cause damage to the banana and plantain trees in Destiny (McD's farm) take the beach away and wash away my meager garden.  We expect the roof to badly leak in the Little Old House so we will do our best to secure that.  McD will fill Anthony's big blue plastic barrel with water.  We will know everything by Monday - maybe! The weather shifts radically and suddenly here in the tropics.  The sun is so hot and the Ocean is so warm and the air so still and humid.  Perfect conditions for a fierce storm - but what do I know?

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Picking up The Barrel

SO, big day.  left Portsmouth at 8:30 am and everything went so well that we were home by 2.  Our agenda was to pick up 15 pink grapefruit trees at the Botanical Garden, Department of Agriculture to plant at McDowell's farm in Destiny, go to shipping agent in  Roseau, go to McD's lawyer to pick up some papers  and deliver some papers, go to 4D, the agriculture superstore (I love it there),  then to the Port to pick up the barrel which had set sail 4 weeks ago. 

We  were in a rickety pick up truck driven by a man called Stalin. I asked McD about the name and  told him that Stalin was a tyrant, McD said he guessed his mother didn't know that! But Stalin, a quiet, gentle man and was only  going to charge $150 ec for the day, and he is a friend of McD's, so why not!.  He drove slowly and well.  McD jammed himself in the back of the cab.  He slept the whole way there (and back). I, as usual, white knuckled it the whole way.

Our first Stop was at the Botanical Garden, Department of Ag. Of course we couldn't get the trees because the quarantine  officer wasn't there to release them.  That's OK, we ordered 5 tangerine and 5 lime along with the 15 pink grapefruit,  and they will call us when they are ready. 

Next stop - the shipping agent -  on a very busy one way street.  We found a good parking spot.  We were quickly in and out and it only cost $35ec.  Next stop was 4D, the Agriculture Superstore.  They had everything except a hanging scale McD wanted to weigh his bunches of plantain and  bananas. We bought fertilizer for the trees we didn't have, and ant poison for the invasion in my apartment.

Finally, the Port to pick up the barrel . No problem. All went smoothly.  But here's the story of the day. 

Anthony had packed the barrel in Ottawa, and he did a smart job.  It is a big deep barrel.  Art supplies and pots and pans were immediately visible as soon as the customs officer opened the barrel and peered inside.  What he saw next was a box that said ROLAND GUITAR AMPLIFIER and he dove for it, probably thinking he hit the jack pot. He  opened it and found more art paint, little canvasses, brushes and crocheting.  He snorted in disgust, closed the barrel without going any further and only charged me $85ec for the lot.  

Yes, indeed the lovely little Roland amplifier was in there, hidden in a doudy, brown cardboard box at the bottom of the barrel.

MCD thinks Anthony is a genius and laughed out loud when I brought the amplifier out.  He is bragging to all about how Anthony fooled the customs  and cheated them out of who knows what they would have charged! He plugged the amplifier in right away and it burst into song!  Wonderful.

Monday, April 10, 2017

The Little Old House on Bay Street

During these last months I have been preoccupied with McDowell, the Bar Patio and mostly getting the old house ready to open as an art gallery, gift shop.  Loni Costello, Lene Larsen and Mait Kangasmaa and I have collaborated on this cooperative project.  Loni does beautiful, detailed bags and beach fashion, Lene has her photographs, place mats and cards, and I have my water colour paintings.  Mait is our stand by/stand in and encourager and enabler.  The shop is not quite open yet, although we have had a good deal of interest. Most of us will  be away off  and on throughout April and May, so we will have our official opening in June when we are all together.

It is the old house that moved me.  It has been empty for years and was falling apart.  The ginger bread trimmings and the wooden louvers were disintegrating. It is the oldest standing house in Portsmouth and is a well known landmark.  Here is its story.

1115 Bay Street, Portsmouth, Dominica
The origin of this house is lost in history, but what is known is that Miss Marion Peter's father (John) bequeathed the house and property to his five lawful children.  All were raised in this house. To support his gambling debts, William Harrison (the eldest son) mortgaged the house and subsequently lost it. In 1958, Miss Marion, the eldest daughter and William's sister, bought the house and property at public auction in Roseau and she continued to live here, with her sister, Miss Henrietta Kitzia, and her niece Gwendolyn.

Miss Marion, who was born in 1893, was a pillar of the Portsmouth community.  She was postmistress and town clerk and a formidable woman.

Not much is known about Miss Kitzie.  She is said to have been "a little off" and rarely went out.

In 1914, Gwendolyn Christophine Peter, Miss Marion's niece, was brought into the house hold after her mother, Sarah Peter, died. She was five years old.  Miss Marion's brother, William Harrison was Miss Gwendolyn's father (yes, the same William Harrison who lost the property). Miss Gwendolyn was fond of saying that she "was a rock Peter" since both her mother and her father were Peter! She too, like her Aunt, became a prominent Portsmouth figure, and is still remembered.  She supported herself as a seamstress, and as a crafts woman making baskets, painting postcards, and selling small souvenirs in her shop. Miss Marion came to rely on her and she became her Aunt's sole care taker.

All three ladies were spinsters and died at an advanced age and are buried in the Catholic cemetery, side by side.

McDowell Magloire is now the owner of this house and property.  He grew up just down the street, next to what is now Joe Duvergny's grocery store (that wooden house is gone and a new 5 story building has just gone up in its place). When he was very young, McDowell's first paying job was to deliver newspapers in Zikac for Miss Marion.  As he grew he became the 'man in the yard' for the Misses Peter. Eventually, he went away to sea, as many Dominican young men do, but kept in constant contact with them and always saw them in his comings and goings to Dominica. After Miss Marion and Miss Kitzie died, Miss Gwenny began to lose her eye sight.  Eventually, as she became blind, McDowell became Miss Gwenny's sole caretaker. He looked after her until her death in 2012.   Miss Gwenny bequeathed the house, the property and the building that is the shop and Sagittarius Bar to him.
          Miss Marion Nethalia Peter born September 28, 1893, died 1988
                Miss Kitzie died soon after
                Miss Gwendolyn Christophine Peter born October 8, 1909, Died March 6, 2012 at 102    

And continues as a gift shop and art gallery

Tuesday, January 31, 2017



I went to the local grocery store to pick up something they usually have.   It wasn't there.  I asked when they expected to get some in and was told that they are not going to get it again because it sells too fast and they can't keep enough on the shelf.

So last week my friend's purse was stolen.  She knew who the thief was and went to the police immediately to report the theft and the thief.  She was told that they couldn't go and get the man right now because they knew that he wasn't feeling well.

Yesterday I saw some nasty huge black and yellow caterpillars on a pretty tree with white flowers.  I put on my gloves and filled a bucket with water and detergent and went out to pick them off.  The cleaning lady from next door came out and told me to cut the tree down to deal with them.  No. The tree stands today, wormless and pretty.

Overheard at the Bar, "She's a hard worker and has her ear to the grindstone".

Friday, December 23, 2016


I'm trying to review the past year, but it flew by so quickly I just don't think I am going to get it all. Let's start with my trip back to Perth in June.

So I was back in my second home, in Perth, in June for 6 weeks after 10 months away.  What changes I did I see there over the past year, and what changes occurred here in Glanvillia/Portsmouth while I was away?  Basically nothing on both counts! Kind of reassuring in a way. I guess things just slog along as they are meant to.  I did enjoy my friends and family, and shopping.  I packed my usual 6 boxes of things and shipped them off to Dominica from Montreal.  Thanks Harold for taking the time to schlep me to the shipper in LaSalle. 

Anthony came back with me for a couple of weeks.  You can see his videos on YouTube.  We didn't see much of him as he was either in the jungle or under the sea.

The prominent event over the next months was a complete makeover of the Bar/Restaurant and then putting in the patio in the back.  We knocked out the back wall of the Bar, put in a door, cemented a portion of the back yard to the sea wall and planted a garden.  It is lovely to sit out there, in the sea breeze under the coconut tree with a cold Kubuli (beer) and a bowl of McDowell's fish soup. Thanks to Ron for his guidance and work.

Then there was the Art and Craft Expo sponsored by Ross University School of Medicine in late November.  A big 2 day event.  We make a lot of money  for the community.  This year the recipients were the Northern Home for the Aged and the Roving Care Givers.  I have the best job on the committee - organizing and looking after the 45+ artists and crafters.

The current project is to bring the front room in the little old house, next to the Bar, into useable condition.  We (Loni, Lene, Mait and I, known locally as "the white ladies" or sometimes "McDowell's Ladies") plan to open an art gallery/gift shop there. Renovations are moving ahead at Dominican rate of progress i.e. slow.  Here's a little story: 'Gouti, the carpenter, had to leave the job early yesterday because he is the bell ringer at the Catholic Church.  There was a funeral, so he put his tools away at noon and went to ring the bell and didn't come back.  Is he there this morning? Not sure! Probably, in his own time.The real barrier is the outrageous expense of materials and paint.  We hope for a January opening, but I don't think we will make it.  It may be ready for Carnival.

I will tell more about the house itself, a century building and the last of its kind in Portsmouth,  in another Blog.

So here we are at Christmas 2016.  Given that Christmas in Dominica is a non-event and the tropical weather, it is very difficult to raise any sort of Christmas Spirit as it is known in n the North.  On Christmas day the expats and their partners and some Ross faculty will gather at Sister's Sea Lodge on the beach for a pot luck meal and Christmas cheer! Thanks to Whitney for organizing this. 

I wish for peace and health and a reasonable 2017 for  us all.  Love, Marian

Thursday, June 9, 2016



Gossip is the single most popular activity in Dominica.  Religion and politics run a close second, but nothing tops the who does what and with/to whom.

Each morning when I stop by McDowell's Bar I get a bulletin on what has happened overnight.  Who has been arrested, who was evicted, who dropped dead, who ran away, who was lost at sea, who spent the night in the police cell, who was robbed, cheated or cut with a cutlass for some perceived insult. 

Then in the afternoon, on my way home when I stop in at the Bar I get the daily news:  who has been diagnosed with diabetes, who didn't get paid, which shop has empty shelves, who lost something, who said what, told what or did what.

Along with this often comes the amazing litany of family ties and relationships going back for generations.  What is amazing is that everyone can recite the genealogy of everyone else's family, not just their own, including the land they own, sold, lost or are farming.  It is convoluted because people have multiple partners and babies with all of them.  So I will hear about the sister of a grand aunt who 'made' seven children, 3 went to America, one went to England, two went to Guadeloupe and the other went to jail.  Then there is Granny's cousin (same mother, different father) who stole land belonging to the family, or Uncle's mother (same father, different mother) etc. Quite dizzying.  I used to scoff whenever a Dominican would say, "Oh, yes, he is my cousin", but no longer.  It is true. Eventually they are all related however remotely, and if you question it you will get the whole, long story in detail.  Dominicans certainly know who they are.

Dominicans are talented story tellers and often accompany their tales with actions, so listening to the news of the day is usually quite entertaining.