Just so! An unexpected visit to Bellevue Hospital

I have to accept that what was will always be. That’s awfully profound, it seems. Simply, life is a continuum, and it occasionally returns to points that have been passed before.

Yesterday, my daughter’s football team was due to play a match at Camperdown. I’m pretty sure that few, if any, of them had any idea where Camperdown High School is. That’s normal: they’re mainly uptown kids and some have families from abroad, and don’t get around the not-so-pretty parts of Jamaica, Kingston especially. Truth is, I had never been there, but know enough about Jamaica to know it to be a major Kingston high school and one of the downtown area’s well-famed. (It so happens that they have their classic track meet this weekend at the National Stadium; one of the not-to-be-missed events.)

The match wasn’t at the school, though, but at the field just by Vauxhall High School, another that is likely to be lesser-known. So, after finding Camperdown, in the warren of east Kingston streets, I had to get to the other field. When I asked the people at the Camperdown gate how to get there, I got one of those gems of Jamaican directions: “Go straight, like you a go downtown an’ is jus’ by Bellevue Hospital.” All of which is absolutely right, if you have any idea where or what downtown is, and if you know the same about Bellevue. I replied, “I know where that is…well, I did over 50 years ago.” I headed off and found the field.

You see, my father used to work at Bellevue when we left Jamaica in the early 1960s. I had not been there since I came back to Jamaica. I had no reason to: I have no friends or relatives there and have not been committed. I went to find the team and my daughter. I told her the significance of the building by the field. She looked interested, if not stunned.

Bellevue in the background and belle vue of Jamaican rain gear in foreground, as Camperdown play AISK


For those who don’t know, the hospital is on Windward Road. For those who don’t know that is the main road that runs almost parallel to the highway that takes you to and from the road to the airport and out towards St. Thomas, via Harbour View. For those who still don’t know, get out and find it. 🙂

We used to live near the main prison in Kingston, which is closer to the waterfront near the now redeveloped Harbour area. I always recalled Bellevue as having high walls, so I was stunned that they seemed so low. I’ve been past a few mental hospitals, and they all had high walls. Maybe, I confused the hospital with the prison. I should check if the old walls had been taken down. But, I like my childhood memory, because it makes the place seem more sinister, as such institutions were in people’s minds, and maybe still are.

I have other connections to Bellevue, but let them stay there, for the moment.

I called my father’s home just after I got home. His caregiver listened to my telling her about the afternoon and where the game had been. “Just so!” she said.

That can be life a lot of the time.

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