Elnita and I have been friends, and occasionally sparring partners, for about thirty years.
We first met in London, if memory serves me right, at a little place off Tottenham Court Road not far from Heal’s – remember that? The first of the ‘cool’ and ‘hip’ furniture stores, way before Ikea, Habitat and the like. It was just before Christmas – of this I am sure, as I had taken the opportunity of ordering a turkey and ham from my mother-in-law’s butcher, having had the foresight to obtain import licences from our then island home of Trinidad and Tobago.
Why you ask take a turkey and ham on a ten-hour flight to a country surely able to produce both? Well back then I was a young wife and mother, not I have to say in my first developing country, but still gullible to the words of so-called advice of older expatriates. Notice I don’t say wiser! I had been assured the island turkeys were too tough for gobbling, and the pigs too skinny for crackling. And so I had been shuffled from desk to desk at the Department of Agriculture until I had the precious pieces of paper, which would ultimately ensure our first Caribbean Christmas was a culinary success.
But I digress. Though actually, one more thing about my hard-come-by import licence. There was an ulterior motive. Everything from cereal to clothing to electrical goods were horrendously expensive in Trinidad in the early eighties – now don’t be cheeky – the 1980s, not the 1880s, and so I decided to take the opportunity whilst on a trip to England to stock up on appliances. A drill, a hair dryer – not something I’ve ever used very much but handy to have all the same, a Kenwood mixer are the things I recall. If, I figured, I had a legitimate import licence for meats, customs would be so impressed they would not bother to examine the rest of my luggage. It helped also, that my daughter, about fifteen months old and a wonderful traveller, had reached the end of the patience and let out a wail that helped hustle us through the line. I didn’t even have to resort to the pin I had thought to prick her with if things were looking sticky.
But back to Elnita. Elnita. How to describe her? She’s honest as the day is long, as my mother-in-law used to say. Nothing frilly about her. Compact, and like us all getting a bit grey, and Swiss I think. Not surprising really she’s an awesome, to borrow a word from the young, slalom skier. She’s also very quick on the straight run. And over a long friendship she has saved me many, many pennies – or cents, if you prefer.
When I started my business as an interior designer, by this time living in the dull and dank north east of Scotland, Elnita was also in the country and helped me with my early jobs. It was then, it has to be said, that we had our various falling-outs. And in retrospect I probably did ask too much of her. But you know what’s it like when you’re working to a deadline? Tempers get frayed.
Anyway, I haven’t seen much of Elnita for a number of years. Until in fact she joined me here on St Croix. Funny old life – you know, us both ending up back in the Caribbean after traversing the world. So when we met again, I held a fervent hope she would be the same resilient companion she was all those years ago.
I am happy to report Elnita is just as dependable, and still a huge help. I must remember to contact the manufacturers and praise their sewing machines!