One afternoon after our session, Andrew and I were looking out over the harbour from the Central Administration complex. When people started going home from their office and shop work in town, the Kingstown fishermen come in with their daily catch in their small open boats. Officially, they are meant to sell it through the concrete fish market, but at the time, they were bringing the goods onto the small jetty out front. Andrew and I looked down on three men who were struggling to haul a gigantic manta ray out of their boat. I was intrigued by the activity and we decided to go and have a closer look. Margaret came along too.
An enormous crowd had gathered in front of the Fisheries Complex, and many were peering over the jetty’s edge into the boats to get a better view of the catch. The boats were often rafted two or three abreast and the men were passing whole kingfish across to a colleague on the hard. He would gut and clean the fish right there with a massive machete, and chop it into steaks. A few EC Dollars would be passed over and the fish would be brought home in clear plastic bags, still dripping with blood. The entrails would be flung back in the water there and then, and greedy fish would come leaping to the surface to grab whatever they could find.
Some people needed whole fish, and we watched several carrying away dolphinfish, wahoo and kingfish, their fingers tucked under the gills and the huge fish hanging straight down. A small boy, no more than eight, held a huge dolphinfish aloft in this way, as he was about the same height. Its blue sheen was a tell tale sign that it was freshly caught. Much of the working population of Kingstown must have come down to the front that afternoon to purchase their dinners.
Despite the chaos in the fish and street markets, Kingstown is a fabulous little city. Built on three main streets, each with a series of cobblestone buildings and arched colonnades, it is a melee of colonial history and modern vibrancy. At the back of town, two contrasting cathedrals are the height of civility.
The Anglican cathedral is a sparsely decorated, perfectly proportioned Georgian building, even though the exterior white plaster is flaking badly. The catholic cathedral is gothic and ornate, with little fancy spires asymmetrically placed. The front street seems to be all converted warehouses, and you can imagine how this would have faced onto the banana wharf that was across the street before recent reclamation. The central street was the most interesting, winding like an overgrown alley between the others, it was always alive with activity; shops begging for business, market stalls with every object on them, and people. People buying, people selling, people talking, shouting, singing, threatening each other, loving each other. The market area itself, a set of streets near the waterfront bus station, was equally alive. The rich produces of kitchen gardens all over the island end up here. Fruits and vegetables looking fat and delicious, spices everywhere. I bought a bag of nutmeg from a lady for about 1 EC dollar, less than 30p. It lasted me, my family and several friends for a year.