I was on the Jamaican roads today, for my now almost weekly trips to Mandeville. If you like Jamaica, then a drive to ‘country’ is always a joy. My trips have taken on a new twist, because I have been using the old road between Kingston and May Pen, one which my parents and I drove many times in the years well before Highway 2000.

Of course, lots of things have changed, but the great pleasure is to see what Jamaica is life rather than the sterile views one gets from the highway. The drive is a little longer, but that’s no bother when you get held up by traffic as people go to work and children go to school. Lots of colour and activity catch the eye, including the various school uniforms.

I also get to see the many modes of transport which dads, in particular, use to take children to school. One father whom I’ve seen the past few weeks takes his son on a bike, with the boy standing on the front handlebars, holding on to his parent. Another father carries his daughter in his arms and holds the handlebars at the same time. This is so far from text book transport as to be in the realm of Jamaican inventiveness.

Through a chance encounter with a fruit vendor, I took his daugher to school in Porus on a recent trip. He’s injured his leg in a motor bike accident, and we noticed that his stall was closed up last week. It was a little later than usual, and it seemed that his daughter had already headed to school. Today, his daughter and another girl were standing by the stall. They waved down the car. The daughter jumped in and so did the other girl, who was her older sister. I asked about their father. He was still at home and had no one to sell for him. I didn’t ask what that meant for the family’s income, but it couldn’t be good. I dropped the older girl off by the school back gate, while her sister stayed on till the front gate.

We got to Mandeville just after 8.30am, and by about 9 some breakfast was in front of us. I had a yearning for a good Jamaican breakfast, though was ready for some tea and crackers. Instead, I got fried dumplings and callaloo and salt fish. Really! Blessed day.

We each said grace over each of our four plates. My dad had had cornmeal porridge and eaten well, after a bout of pneumonia and a week in hospital to treat that.

My day in Mandeville was typical, with a mix of trips to the pharmacy and supermarket. The first visit was fun as we were recognized from last week and the staff interacted with us like old friends. But, we needed some items they did not stock so had to visit another pharmacy. We waited while a doctor was called for some advice, and waited, and waited. I suggested that we get the groceries, as I had a deadline for return to Kingston. We headed to Mega Mart, or ‘leggo mart’, as I termed it. My dad’s helper went off to fill a cart to overflowing, while I picked up some items I needed for friends abroad.

When it came time to pay, a lady was at the counter in discussion about discounts: she was not eligible as she was not a club member. I suggested that her purchases go on our account, and she agreed. It turned out, though, that the benefit she sought, a J$1000 coupon, she couldn’t use because it was only valid for members. But, another kind gesture was made.

We’d spent about 3 hours running around 2pm approached–my drop dead time. We raced to my dad’s house, and unloaded the car. That done, we were soon on the road again.

Just before heading out, I noticed a mango tree in blossom and a few fruit set. It was planted for my first daughter some 25 years ago. Mango trees struggle in Manchester, but this one shows promise this year.

A quick stop at Melrose Hill Yam Park, to pick up roast sweet potato and salt fish for my passenger. He wheedled out of the vendor an extra piece of potato, which I tasted and had a little saltfish added to it. Brawta!

Actually, it was a day of good fortune. Another vendor had given us 6 extra limes to add to the two dozen we bought. My friend’s soon-to-be-ex-wife gave us some potato pudding that she had baked, and we got it from the son. Their son had eaten the first batch, which we should have gotten in the morning.

I did my drop off at Caymanas, and raced across town to do school pickup near Mona.

The drive is not overly taxing but the fatigue builds up from dealing with all sorts of behaviour on the road. I wont go into those now, but I’m grateful to be home in one piece.