Today, following a telephone conversation, I drove down to the south coast where a guy said he had some white cedar boards that would meet my requirements for a kitchen counter. They were long enough, wide enough and had been drying for over six months. The price was the same as the original one I had been quoted for red cedar (see previous post). I found his place without too much difficulty and pulled into his yard.
“No, I haven’t got anything that size,” he said after a hand-shake. “None of it is much more than a few feet long and probably not wide enough either. But come, see for yourself.”
I politely went through the motions and once again left empty-handed, still starring in my own episode of The Twilight Zone.
I’m building kitchen cupboards from scratch, mostly using recycled pitch pine floor boards. So far it looks okay. We thought a local wood as a counter top would be nice so we asked around and found a guy in town who was willing to sell me eight boards of seasoned and dried red cedar. We agreed a price and yesterday we went to collect and pay for them.
His place is a derelict building in the heart of the capital where he’s been squatting for years. He had the boards drying in a dark and tumble-down loft and, rather laboriously, we pulled them out and carried them down a narrow unlit staircase, trying not to step into a cat litter at the bottom (the cat was toying with a dead mouse in the front room). Outside the heavens had opened – this month has seen a series of tropical waves pass over the island and we’re all starting to forget what the sun looks like. One by one I carried the boards out into the deluge to my car where I tied them to the roof-rack and covered them with plastic sheeting. By the time I had finished I was completely soaking wet. People standing in doorways and beneath shop awnings, taking shelter from the storm, had been watching me with interest as I struggled with the heavy boards and the constant battering of the rain.
Time to pay.
It was at this moment the guy decided to increase the price by fifty percent per board.
By way of explanation he mumbled something about board thickness and width (each one varied of course) and I stood there, dripping, trying to understand what was going on. Despite the fact we had agreed a price it seemed he now wanted more and insisted he could get more money by selling the wood elsewhere. He dismissed our pleas to stick to the original agreement and so we had to decide how much we wanted the wood and whether we were prepared to pay the revised price. Whether this last minute price change had any legitimacy to it or not we didn’t know, but it felt like we were being duped. Before we could make up our minds about it, the guy decided he wasn’t going to sell it to us any more. Not even if we paid his new asking price.
Fearing he may be as unstable as his squat, off I went, out into the pouring rain to remove the plastic cover, untie the boards and carry them all back in again in front of the same people who had been watching me load them not so long before. My glasses were so wet and steamy I could no longer see, my tee shirt and jeans completely sodden and mud-splashed from the road. I got the giggles.
If you’d like to read a short article I wrote for Active Caribbean about canyoning in Dominica, click on the image below.
View from my porch: rain storm over the Caribbean Sea
I needed a few things for the morning so went to a late night shop in Goodwill. Inside it was heaving, despite the hour. I took my place in line and was grateful a wall-mounted TV was showing football from the opening day of the English Premier League. After a little while my view was obscured by a giant of a young man who stared down at me. He spoke in an American accent; a genuine rather than put-on one:
“Do you like Arsenal ? Are you an Arsenal fan ?”
“No, I’m not,” I replied.
“Do you hate Arsenal ?”
“I don’t hate anyone,” I smiled. “I just like football.”
“Are you a Man United fan ?”
“Yes, I am. I’m a Man United fan.”
“Good. That’s good,” he nodded. “I like you. You’re a good man.”
I smiled awkwardly, not really knowing what to say to that. His huge frame continued to fill my field of vision. On his T shirt were the words “I love chicksticks”.
Effective 1 July 2013 the following user fees have been introduced by the Government of Dominica:
Day Pass (therefore one or more segments of the trail): US$12 pp
Fifteen Day Pass (therefore potentially all of the trail): US$40 pp
The National trail office telephone numbers, if you’d like to contact them, are: (+1 767) 266-3581, 266-3593 and 440-6125
It’s a shame. I’d like to have seen a ‘hike anywhere’ pass that would operate rather like a visitor driving permit, costing around US$25-30 and lasting a month, which you could buy from the tourist information booth at Melville Hall Airport, or from your hotelier, car hire firm etc. Never mind.
Hats off to Dupigny and Burtons in Roseau. They either have staff training or a sales incentive scheme, perhaps both, and the standard of service tops anywhere in the capital. It’s been like this for a few weeks now and shopping in both stores is something I’ve begun to enjoy.
Today in Burtons, I walked in and a young guy behind the counter greeted me with a smile, a ‘good morning and how are you today sir ?’ He even shook my hand. He helped me with my purchases and then when I was done he asked:
“Do you have enough batteries and torches for the hurricane season, sir ?’
“I do actually, but thanks for checking.”
“No problem. By the way, sir, do you shave yourself ?”
“I’m sorry ?” I said, rubbing my chin, concerned that I may have missed a clump and was walking around town looking like a bearded tit.
“Shave. I’m asking if you shave yourself, sir ?”
“Well, yes,” I answered, thinking ‘well who else would do it for me ?’
“I was just wondering if you’d be interested in this. It’s a new line of battery shavers and they’re on special offer,” he said, bringing up a box from under the counter.
For a little while I was rendered speechless. In all my years in Dominica, no-one had ever tried to sell me anything in a shop like this before. I’m so accustomed to grunts and complete indifference that I forget how different the whole shopping experience could be. In another hardware store earlier in the day, the cashier had had her thumb right up her nose as she took my payment for Christ sake.
But when I recovered my composure I managed to say:
“I see. it looks very interesting. But to be honest I prefer to wet shave. I find these things tend to give me bit of a rash.”
“Understood, sir,” he smiled.
“But thank you so much for taking the time to show me,” I said, desperate to offer him encouragement.
“No problem at all, sir. You have a nice day.”
I left the shop in rather a dizzy spin and had to have a good look around to make sure I was actually in Roseau and not some parallel universe. The sight of a raggedy-arsed drunk swearing and peeing against a wall brought me back to earth with a thump.