Interspersed along the coast and found on roads great and small throughout Barbados are small wooden houses called chattel houses. Perhaps because I make my living in real estate I find the concept of a house as personal property rather than real property to be fascinating. The word “chattel” is a derivation of “cattle,” an early form of property. A chattel house is a mobile home of yore.
What first piqued my interest in chattel houses was the view of Barbados’s West Coast from a catamaran. Known as the Platinum Coast, because of the luxurious homes there that sell there for $50 million or more, the view from my catamaran included these mansions as well as more modest ramshackle structures on incredibly valuable pieces of land.
Digging deeper I found that the reason that some of the land lots upon which the chattel houses sit have not been purchased for mansions is because no chain of title can be proven. There are many stories on Barbados of five different individuals claiming ownership based on squatters rights or a claim that his or her family lived on the land for decades some time back between England’s colonization of Barbados and today. I heard of a man who collected rent on a property for five years that he never owned but spun a convincing tale to reel in an unsuspecting tenant!
All of this confusion dates back to the plantation days of Barbados beginning in 1625 when the first English ship arrived and claimed the island for King James I. In a twist of fate, the wealthy colonizers built their sugar cane plantations on the hill to capture the breeze and avoid the mosquitoes that bred along the coast. The enslaved workers were banished to the then less desirable oceanfront property, owned by their “employers.” Never sure how the landlord/tenant situation would work out, these slaves built their houses so they could be taken apart and moved quickly. Traditional chattel houses are built entirely without nails and set on cinderblocks (formerly rocks) for easy disassembly.
While some form of movable house exists throughout the Caribbean, the chattel house is truly a Bajan invention. Today they are often painted in gorgeous colors from the turquoise of the sea to the orangey-red of a ripe tomato. As homeowners tend to improve their dwellings over time, the chattel houses have been added to over the years and boast lovely fretwork, jalousies, and white picket fences. Some have been moved into a Chattel Village and turned into trendy boutiques. To me, at least, they are picturesque and are one of those uniquely Bajan traits that make me love Barbados as I do.
I’ve been living on Barbados since early January 2012 working on a super-luxury project called One Sandy Lane (www.onesandylane.com). Lucky me.
Thanks for reading!
[ If you enjoyed reading this please check out my novels Sugar Tower, The Secret Life of Sandrina M., and Make Me an Offer at www.amazon.com. Can also be downloaded on any eReader)]
As if it isn’t confusing enough for this American to be driving on the left side of the road rather than the right, Barbados adds the “roundabout” to the mix. Of the several definitions of “roundabout” in the dictionary I suspect “devious” is the most apt. On the ABC Highway alone that runs between the airport and One Sandy Lane I counted 13 of these confusing circumlocutions, mostly named after the founding fathers (and sisters) of Barbadian independence. I cannot tell you how many times my car keeps orbiting the grassy knolls dedicated to Everton Weeks, Clyde Wolcott, et al before choosing one direction to pursue in an “eeny, meeny, mighty, mo” fashion. My advice to travelers to Barbados: stay on the beach and off the roads!
Barbados, Hummingbirds, Sauvignon Blanc, Frank Sinatra and a good book!
For awhile I stopped blogging because I thought…what’s the point…until I saw that I had 8,885 comments! Thank you for reading and commenting on my posts.
I have been in Barbados for two months working on one of my real estate projects: www.onesandylane.com. I love Barbados. It is a real country…not just a vacation rock. I will dedicate several posts to this beautiful island over the next weeks. But today I want to thank my son, Lucas Rohm (whose 24th birthday it is today!), for getting me back into writing and to share with you all one thought….
I have lived virtually alone these two months, away from my family, friends, dog and routine. I looked forward to this experience…in paradise, perfect weather, sand, sun. I had many “self-improvements” planned….exercise, reading, writing, studying. But just the opposite happened….I feel rather sad and non-productive. I don’t know if the isolation causes this sadness or just the quantity of time I have had to reflect and introspect. We are so busy that the noise outside doesn’t allow up to hear the inner whispers. Not sure which state I prefer… Big changes coming up for this author…changes I think I am looking forward to for all the right reasons but questioning my motivations. Am I curious or restless? Running to or running from? Share with me your experiences…
Newtown, MA Book Club, January 27th, 2011
Barnes & Noble New Writer’s Day, Spring 2011 TBA
Westchester Book Club, Sunday March 13th at NOON
This is a truly magnificent book, one that stays with you and disturbs your sense of stability as I imagine an earthquake would as it trembles and shifts the ground beneath your feet. It was written in 1994, and takes place in a small fictitious town outside Dusseldorf between WWI and WWII. However, it struck me as a warning that the events of today – a global financial crisis, hatred between ethnic and religious groups, North Korean and Iranian ceaseless quests for nuclear weapons, and a general unease about the future – could lead us into the same type of chaos as Adolf Hitler brought to Germany during the second World War.
As many other reviewers have mentioned, the first chapters drag. The events in the life of the protagonist, a dwarf named Trudi, prior to the war seem somehow gratuitous – a mother who suffers from mental illness and dies before Trudi’s fourth birthday and a semi-rape in a barn by the local boys. In another book, these events may have formed the character but in this one they become insignificant when compared to how the unfolding of the Nazi regime and subsequent atrocities and hardships of the war brought to light the daily inner battles that are synonymous with the human condition: love vs. hate, good vs. evil, guilt vs. instinct, religious hypocrisy vs. healing…you will find it all in this extraordinary novel.
Once the true historical events that lead up to the war enter the story, this book is impossible to put down. I stayed up nearly all night reading it and slept fitfully after. I woke up with the story and the characters gripping my heart and mind. Hegi’s characters are masterfully drawn. Her characters are well-rounded with both admirable and despicable traits. Even the protagonist is, at times, hard to like.
This microcosm of humanity, the town of Burgdorf, is every community in the world, interwoven with mutually dependent people, woven together as a tightly knit sweater, one that unravels when caught on a nail of circumstances impossible to anticipate. This book is a heartbreaking testimony to both a terrible time in history and the human condition.
This novel, described as a historical mystery, was first published in 1998. It was recommended to me by a friend, perhaps because she knows I write mysteries and love historical fiction. Although many people shy away from long books – this one is 725 pages – I usually enjoy them. I’m a fast reader and love to lose myself in a good book.
An Instance of the Fingerpost is the tale of a mysterious servant girl named Sarah Blundy who is accused of murdering a priest for whom she works. The author places the story in mid-17th century England, using real historical figures as his characters, such as the philosopher John Locke and the early chemist Robert Boyle. The book is in four parts, each told from the perspective of one of the main characters and does a good job of demonstrating how events can be interpreting completely differently when observed through different sets of eyes.
While the story held my interest, primarily because of the highly intellectual and erudite voice of the author, I found the outcome predictable and the plot convoluted. This is a book that is too long. But its length is problematic because the frequent digressions mid-scene remove us from the action and, more importantly, the story. The author uses the characters to demonstrate how much research he has done and, while impressive, this technique ruins the narrative flow.
The subplot of the beginning of medical experimentation and practice was fascinating and, I believe, accurate. The historical interconnections between the characters could have been better explained. The author throws in so many subplots, such as the character Sarah Blundy becoming a prophetess in the end, that detract from and confuse the main sub-plot, namely the secret adherence to Catholicism (even the king, George II, is a secret Papist) in a fundamentalist Protestant England.
I was most interested and involved in the few parts that dealt with the social structure, lifestyles, relationships and actions in the book. Least interested in the author’s showing off of his education and confused by the flashbacks to unexplained historical events that supposedly were the catalysts for what happened in the story. Of particular note, the only sympathetic and likeable character was the only purely fictitious one – Sarah Blundy. The true historical figures were depicted as pompous and pretentious.