Villa Tosca in Tobago, with its splash pool, close to the Grafton bird sanctuary, provides luxurious accommodation for your vacation or holiday, overlooking the Caribbean Sea

Tosca - Tobago luxury villa accommodation

The Coconut Season

A sequel to A Cottage In The Country and The Emerald Lighter

by Malcolm Taylor

As the result of spending my first Christmas in Tobago, and for reasons that will become apparent, I shall, in future, always think of the festive time as ‘The Coconut Season’. But first things first …

When my wife and I were moving into our new home at Sanctuary last summer, Peter Blincow, of Diamond Cars, promised he’d look out for a reliable, second-hand vehicle for us. When we hadn’t heard from him by the beginning of December I began to get a little anxious. I didn’t want to appear to be fussing, so I sent him a jokey email:

The time has come, the fat man said
To talk of many things;
Of Terios' and four wheel drives.
Insurances and things
And whether there is one in stock -
That might still have some springs!

Imagine my surprise when I received the following reply:

A Terios, white, the salesman said
Is what the Taylors need
Good condition and short on miles
And very good indeed
Now that you're ready Taylors dear
We are eager to proceed

Delighted, I responded immediately:

'Well, well' the fat man said,'I say,
It seems an offer's made -
Shall we accept it Annie dear
Before we start our feed?
'Why not'?, she said, utensils poised,
'Please tell him to proceed'.

Rumour has it that Nigel Wilson, Diamond’s sales manager, was so impressed by this novel way of doing business in verse that the next day he was spotted, capped and shawled at Pigeon Point, distributing leaflets from a fisherman’s basket, and singing - to the tune of the Street seller’s song from ‘Oliver’:

‘Who will buy a won-der-ful motor..
Who will buy a brand new Rolls Royce?’

Sadly there’s no verification of the rumour but I shall long treasure the image!

Flying to Tobago for Christmas is an expensive business, but we were determined to spend at least our first one in our new house, even if it meant squeezing in to those tight, uncomfortable, Economy class seats offered by Excel the charter (and cheapest) operator. As we stepped off the plane we welcomed the sudden heat, for neither we, nor Ellen or Katie, our two daughters, had ever been out of chilly England in December before. We weren’t, however, prepared for all the razzmatazz we associate with Christmas at home; blow-up Santas, complete with winter woolies hanging outside buildings; reindeer grazing on fake snow; Bing Crosby crooning about a white Christmas! ‘Surreal’ is the word that sprung to mind.

The second-hand Terios proved to be a good buy. It whizzed about without complaining, and all in all seemed a very cheerful little car. I noticed that quite a lot of its brothers and sisters had the same number plate prefix - PBH - and deduced that this stood for ‘Poor But Happy’ - though some mean folk said it stood for ‘Pretty But Hopeless!’ Incidentally the first letter of the prefix indicates a vehicle’s registered use: ‘R’ is for rental, ‘P’ for private, ‘T’ for commercial transport and ‘H’ for hire – so if you need a local taxi you can flag an ‘H’ car down.

On Christmas Eve, as I joined a long queue to fill up with petrol, it suddenly occurred to me that I didn’t know which side of the car the fuel cap was on, and as I didn’t want to drive up to the wrong side of the pumps and look stupid, I got out to take a look. Imagine my surprise when the driver of an old banger behind me stuck his head out of the window and shouted ‘MT! How’re you?’ ‘Hi!’ I yelled back; clearly he was a friend, as he’d addressed me by my nickname - though, for the life of me I didn’t recognise him. ‘Just checking where the fuel cap is’, I continued, in a friendly fashion, racking my brains to place him. ‘It’s round the other side’, he said, ‘You know how to open it, man?’ ‘No‘, I confessed. ’There’s a li’l lever on the floor, right down there by your seat’, he told me. I thanked him, gratefully, and climbed back in the car. ‘Have a good Christmas’, I said as I climbed aboard. ‘You too, man. - and a coconut season. ‘Yeah .. right.. thanks’ , I mumbled, not knowing what he meant. ‘Must be the time of year the nuts ripen‘, I thought as I drove off. Arriving home I recounted my conversation with my ‘friend’ but they knew as little about the vagaries of coconuts as I did. Ah, well!

We decided to join some of our new friends on Christmas Eve at the Indigo – one of our favourite local restaurants, and it proved to be quite a party. Nigel Ryan - Tobago’s answer to Will Young - was one of the main entertainers, but was upstaged somewhat when Father Christmas himself decided to drop in! He turned out to be a tourist from Swansea who flew out every year to stay with friends and play the role, and when he told me he was appearing in all his gear for a couple of hours in the heat of Pigeon Point the next day, I nearly fainted on his behalf. (now there’s an idea for the tourist board – a picture of Father Christmas on the beach with the caption ‘Even Santa Claus takes a Christmas break!’

During the course of the evening I asked a good many locals to explain the ’coconut season’ to me, and although no-one could I mentally resolved to get to the bottom of it before we left.

A massage on the beachMeeting Father Christmas at the Indigo on Christmas Eve had been quite a surprise, but not quite as breathtaking as bumping into a real, live witch on Grafton beach a couple of days later. Let me explain: Ellen, our eldest, decided she’d like to have a massage to help her relax, and a neighbour recommended that she visit Claudia, who gave - her sign proclaimed - a ‘Professional Aloe Vera Massage’, on Grafton beach. Annie and I accompanied her, and having found the lady in question, who was also selling tie-dye beach wraps, left her to her ministrations, and strolled further up the beach. There were several other traders touting all the usual trinkets, and we chit-chatted to them as we passed by. It was late in the day and hardly anyone gave us a hard sell. At one stall we were just explaining to a persuasive young lady that we weren’t in the buying mood when one of two men whittling in the background sidled up and, looking sideways in the direction of Claudia and Ellen, nervously enquired if that was our daughter undergoing massage treatment. ‘Yes’, I said. ‘How did you know that was my daughter?’ ‘She looks like you’, he replied. ‘Ah’, was my adequate response. Clearly, from his demeanour, he wanted to say more, but wasn’t sure how to proceed. He took the devious route. ‘You like Tobago?’ he asked. ‘Very much, Yes’. ‘You like the people?’ ‘Yes’. I replied, ’Everyone is very friendly; very nice people’. He looked at me with a rather pained expression. ‘Most people.. Yes …most people…but not people like ….’ He let his sentence hang, begging encouragement. I gave it ‘But not people like…who?’ He looked shiftily from one to the other of his companions, and, given the nod, plunged in. ‘Like her’, he said, indicating Claudia, who was at the time busily kneading my daughter’s back. ‘Why, what’s the matter with her?’, I asked.’ ‘She seems perfectly friendly to me.’ ‘Ah, yes’, the conspirator continued, ’she looks friendly, but that’s all part of the act. She has to look friendly or you wouldn’t trust her, you see…. but once she has got you in her clutches (he made a fist of one hand and smashed it into the palm of the other) …pow!‘ This obtuse conversation was getting quite beyond me. ‘Are you trying to tell me that Claudia is no good at massage?’ ‘That too’, chipped in his female companion, who had thus far remained silent. ‘She says she’s qualified, but no way man, she just a liar.’ At this point, as if given a cue, the second man decided it was his turn to add some flak. ‘And those tie-dye wraps she got for sale - they our designs she got man, not her own, no-way. She just trouble for everybody man. You watch out for your daughter.’ ’Why, what danger is my daughter in?’ I asked. ‘That woman is …’, began their elected spokesman, pausing to make sure he had my complete attention, ’that woman is A Witch.’ He spat out the two words with as much venom as he could muster. Instinctively my wife turned to look towards Ellen fully expecting her to be turned into a lizard at least. But no! There she lay, some hundred yards off, relaxed and motionless, apparently oblivious to the dangerous powers of her masseuse, who looked up briefly and waved. ‘She looks perfectly alright to me’; said Annie, ‘not much witchcraft going on there, I’d say’. ‘Ah, that’s the cleverness you see’, continued our informant, ‘she puts a spell on the oil she rubs in. When it’s massaged into the skin it’ll take over her body and make her keep coming back for more - so you see, my friends, even though your daughter has a terrible massage she’ll think it’s good and keep coming back - that’s how the witch makes all her money‘. We mumbled our appreciation for this info and moved on. Clearly this band of traders had worked out a satisfactory explanation of why they weren’t doing as much business as the Witch of Grafton Beach. I must add that though Ellen thoroughly enjoyed her bewitching experience she never found the time to return, so presumably Claudia’s spells were in need of a little beefing up!

Once Christmas was over we decided to throw a house-cooling party (the house was warm enough already!). It was a very jolly affair and mirrored the words of the actress Jenny Agutter who said recently that her best holiday was spent in Tobago. ‘It’s a real Caribbean island, not a resort, and you get the sense that you are part of the community. Usually you get an idyllic set-up but with the locals totally excluded. Tobago is a real mix’. I’ll second that.

By this time I’d given up all hope of ever solving the riddle of the elusive ‘coconut season’, but I did so quite accidentally. When all our guests had gone Annie and I were discussing the many fascinating differences in the way our two countries use the English language and the many polite (but in England old-fashioned) phrases that still abound in Tobago. The current one, of course was to wish people - even quite close friends - ’the compliments of the season’ In the middle of our discussion Annie suddenly paused, smiled, and asked me to repeat the conversation I’d had with my friend outside the garage. ‘Well, the first thing he shouted when I got out of the car was ’Hi, MT How’re you?’ She started to laugh. ‘Then what did you say when you got back in the car?’ ‘I said ‘Have a good Christmas’, and he said ‘You too, man. - and a coconut season’. ’Well there’s nothing wrong with your memory MT, but I think your hearing might be failing’, replied Annie. ‘I don’t think you knew that chap from Adam. He was just a bloke in a car queuing for petrol like you. He was simply being friendly. When you got out of the car he yelled ‘Hi! - Empty are you?’, and when you wished him a happy Christmas he said ‘You too man, and the compliments of the season. Nothing to do with coconuts – you should get your ears syringed!’ Well push me over with a palm leaf; why couldn’t I have worked that one out?
If, in future years, you pass a short fat Englishman around Christmastime and he wishes you ‘A Happy Coconut Season’ please be indulgent - because you’ll know the reason why!

© Malcolm Taylor 2004

I hope you enjoy my other articles - Cottage In The Country and The Coconut Season

Tosca In Tobago - Luxury Villa Accommodation

Villa Tosca in Tobago, with its splash pool, close to the Grafton bird sanctuary, provides luxurious accommodation for your vacation or holiday, overlooking the Caribbean Sea