Manifold views of Antigua

February 5, 2013

I was sipping a rum punch, looking down on billionaires’ yachts from the terrace of a house in Antigua.

I can’t pinpoint the exact moment the conversation at lunch moved from yachts to 9/11 but I suddenly found myself saying heatedly to the other guests: “You’re wrong! It wasn’t because of Israel that Al-Qaeda attacked New York!”

“No,” they insisted. “It was because of Israel.”

“Even Bin Laden didn’t say that!”

“Yes he did!” they said. “No he didn’t!” I said.

Do you remember the scene in Annie Hall when Woody Allen got in a row in a queue over what “Marshall McLuhan had or hadn’t said, then went and got the man himself? If only I could just go behind the palm tree, and reappear with a tall, bearded guy: “OK… Osama, tell them why you did it.”

“Bin Laden said he did it firstly to get rid of US troops in Saudi Arabia,” I said. “And he wanted Sharia law throughout the Middle East. It took him over a year before he even mentioned Israel as his third reason!” I decided it was time to move on before someone suggested that it was Mossad who’d done it.

The next day, I checked in to the inn on English Harbour, on the beach. It was very quiet: I could have been in a Trappist monastery on a silent retreat.

Then I met Mike and Doreen from Yorkshire. A 64-year-old Rod Stewart lookalike, with spikey blonde hair, he popped his head round the verandah one evening, brandy in hand: Doreen, with a glass of white wine and a cigarette, jumped over the wall – this wasn’t easy as she was on crutches. “I’m down for a double hip transplant,” she said cheerfully.

“I’m in radiators,” Mike said, sitting in the spare chair, as Doreen perched on the wall. “Look at this,” he said, pulling out a photo. It was of a car engine. “Just look at that manifold!” I agreed it was a lovely manifold.

We went down to the hotel restaurant and sat at a table on the sand. Doreen caught up five minutes later and, as she hobbled over, I jumped up, knocking over one of the flaming, seven-foot, kerosene-fuelled bamboo torches that illuminated the tables, sending it crashing down – with Doreen following.

I caught her before the torch hit her, but not before Mike had emptied a jug of water over us. We were just hoisting Doreen up, when Kaleisha, our waitress, walked by with a tray of drinks. Somehow, I knocked the other torch over, missing her by an inch.

“What did you do that for, Mr,” she asked.

“It was an accident,” I said. “Maybe you should consider digging deeper holes for these torches.”

Later we went dancing at Salty Dogs. We had a great time but unfortunately, my pocket was picked by a pickpocket who took $300. “Do you know who did it?” Mike asked the next day.

“He didn’t leave a business card, Mike”

“It was a good night, though, wasn’t it? But if you don’t mind me saying… I’d stay off those tequilas. How you managed to hold Doreen over your head while dancing to No woman, No cry, I’ll never know… and that bloke she hit with her crutches as you spun her round – he took it really well, considering.”