Saturday Afternoon in the CityOctober 10 2011
Bridgetown is a low-lying city, originally built on a swamp. In its early trading days, schooners would sail inland via a narrow waterway which meandered for about half a mile to Roebuck Street and what is now referred to as the Globe roundabout.
This waterway had its origin in the heart of the St Thomas and St Joseph parishes, through our gully system. The Barbados gully system comprises some 300 miles of natural coral-lined ravines, hosting dense tropical growth. These gullies channel our rain-water into the aquifers and often, ultimately out to sea. Over time, the River road/Halls road waterway shrunk to a mere canal. Changes upstream lessened the volume of water finding it's way to the city, often causing stagnation.
In an effort to create a healthier and more aesthetically pleasing environment, the Barbados Government embarked on a city re-development pogramme. This programme extended to the canal area and included upgrading the riverside retaining walls and improving the water flow. Today there is a constant flow of water, particularly as it reaches the inner basin of the careenage, a safe harbour where schooners used to be moored for service and repair.
It was in this area that a group from the PhotoAdventure workshop and I strolled, looking at life in the city on a Saturday afternoon.
In the central square, now referred to as Parliament Square, sits the Dolphin Fountain, installed around 1861 to commemorate the bringing of piped water to the city. Behind it is the Parliament bulding west wing.
To the square's South begins the Wickham Lewis boardwalk, one of the elements of urban renewal. Besides being a pedestrian thoroughfare, the boardwalk and ajacent civic area has become a place of refuge for those who prefer to be alone in a crowd.
Here, people sit and comtemplate life and their circumstances.
One young lady carried on a tearful telephone conversation as she sat on a bench overlooking boats riding at anchor.
Nearby, a middle-aged lady, dressed in black, with a rusk coloured bag on her back, engaged in a monologue that set her on a stage of her own, playing to an audience invisible to the rest of us.
It was on this boardwalk a few months earlier I encountered Lester Obrien Wellington, a retired seafarer who visits the area daily for his communion with the water.
Bridgetown, unlike many efficient cities, is not laid out in blocks. It is a bit of a hodgepodge, both in layout and architecture, which is perhaps what helps to give it a unique character.
The neo-Gothic Parliament buildings at the Eastern end of Broad Street, the main thoroughfare and the Mutual Building at the Western end, are two early architectural landmarks, most of the others having been destroyed by the fierce fires and hurricanes that visited the city over it's more than 350 year existence. In contrast, a few hundred metres away to the East stands the 10 storied Central Bank of 1980's vintage, towering over the 225-year-old st Michael's Cathedral, nestled in it's shadow to the South.