4 JULY 1952, Page 13

Pleasure Islands?


IT seems that a Middle-aged couple who received a lot of publicity in a recent court case have just sailed for Jamaica ' to start a new life." When I read this I felt sorry for them, because I had a sudden vision of that splendid tear- jerker, The Last of England, by Ford Madox Brown, and I continued to feel sorry for them after the picture had faded from my mind. I thought of the other seekers after a new life that have crossed my path, and particularly of those I have met in Jamaica, where I built a small house after the war and where I spend all my holidays.

Each year there are new arrivals and new departures. Three years ago, an extra bathroom was installed in ' Bonaventure," and Major Jones and his nice wife (But will she stand the heat? What's he going to do all day?) gave a house-warming. Loving dusky fingers had moulded the sausage-meat canapes and decorated each with a little squirt of Heinz mayonnaise (My dear, she only costs me sixteen shillings a week !), and everyone was given a paper doily for the warmish rum cocktails so as not to spoil the new furniture. Two years later the MacNaughts were installed, and " Dunlookin ' was inscribed on the gate. The Joneses had gone back to an aunt at Chelten- ham £5,000 the poorer. The trouble is that after forty it is difficult to start a new life without a new psyche, and perhaps a new envelope for it. If one can't settle down at home, one is unlikely to settle down abroad. The only true geographical misfits are people with asthma or tuberculosis who have to seek a new climate in order to exist. For the rest of us, however difficult life may be " at home," the roots are too many and too deep. Emigration is for the under-thirties, and for them there are wonderful and promising futures in the young continents and islands of the Commonwealth. Even in the West Indies, which I know fairly well, you have only to study the merchant adventuring of the Dominions Colonial and Overseas branch of Barclays Bank to see how much exciting development is going on in all the various islands of this young ' dominion "—Citrus, bananas, coconut-products, essential oils, fisheries, minerals (Jamaica has the largest bauxite deposits in the world; being exploited by Americans, of course), diamonds, hardwoods, tourism, oil, tobacco and so forth, all with openings for men who are patient and sober.

They must be patient, because without patience you cannot live and work with coloured people, and they must be sober because alcohol ruins your health in the tropics. It goes straight to your liver and stays there. The Scots are naturally patient and sober, and that is why they make such wonderful colonisers. And they have another virtue which is important ' in the tropics; they have a hardy and absorbing inner life which they take with them wherever they go and which makes them very undemanding of their surroundings. The provincialism and intellectual apathy of the tropics do not irk them. They get all the mental exercise they need from the constant battle to maintain sanity and symmetry in their immediate neighbour- Mod and to keep tropical chaos at bay. Other peoples also have these virtues, but in the case of the Germans, for instance, they are part of a disciplined' way of life, a self-imposed carapace, which is all too apt in the hot sun to become nothing but a pressure-cooker for the neuroses it conceals. Melancholia, bile and accidie, or noonday sloth, are man's deadly enemies in the tropics, and they can only be cured by the obvious remedies, creative work, physical exercise, mental stimulation, and by such spiritual resources as may be present in the afflicted. But, above all, if the settler or visitor is to be happy, he must really embrace the tropics. It is easy to enjoy the orchids and the humming birds. They are exotic extensions of things we know; but there is much that is very strange in the tropical flora and fauna, and to many people " strange " means inimical." The sixth sense of the vultures and their hideous heads, the blood-thirst of shark and barra- cuda, the huge hawk moths, the praying mantis (Nature's " mobile "), the fruits which are sometimes deadly poison until ripe and thereafter delicious, the obscene banana flower, the zany riot of the cannon-ball tree, the ants' nests like brown goitres on the trees, the sharp and poisonous coral, the forest of black needles on the sea-eggs—all these can become bogeys if they are not seen with something of the naturalist's marvelling eye. One must, of course, also like the sun and take pleasure in the sudden thrashing rain. One's senses must not be offended by a world of very strong primary colours, blues, reds, yellows and greens, nor by the deep texture of the night with its piercing zing of crickets and plaintive tinkle of tree-frogs. One must get used to the deep hush which underlines these insect noises, and to the knowledge that there will be few people abroad after dark for fear, in Jamaica, of the rolling calf, that terrible phantom, its legs bound with chains and its nostrils flaming, which comes rolling towards you in the glare of the moon. Because of him and of other fearful " duppies " you need also not pay too much heed to the tales of naked black men, their bodies glisten- ing with coconut oil, who roam abroad at night to thieve and rape. In fadt, I believe that most black races have more fears than the whites. They are timid experimenters and inept or nwilling rationalisers of their fears and superstitions. For stance, in Jamaica they insist on believing that the common and will bite, and a popular maxim of the country is : " When ou see old lady run, no axe wha' de matter, run too." They have other characteristics which are strange to us, but again not necessarily inimical, and they and their peculiarities must also be " embraced " if you decide to live among them. find that their organs of sight and hearing are keener than urs, and that their extra-sensory perception, their sixth sense, more highly developed. On the other hand, I think their hysical strength is often undermined by weak nerves, and this makes them an easy prey to sickness or fear. Their tempo is their own and cannot be altered, but they are full of goodwill and cheerfulness and humour. They are loyal to good employers and sober and honest unless sorely tempted, but when they fall they fall heavily and far.