Saturday, 19 September 2009

Twenty years ago this Monday, 21st September 1989 I experienced living through a hurricane. Hurricane Hugo to give it it's name.

I was nanny for two little boys aged five and three and I was just as excited & scared as them. We had time to " baton down the hatches " and prepare as much as possible. My employer had just finished masterminding the building of a primary school and she was desperately worried it would be damaged. We had all lived and breathed the project and just finished painting the building. But we had to get to safety so made ourselves a temporary home in the stone fortress that was a hotel her husband managed.

I thought the idea to camp out in the bar was excellent & helped myself to a stiff drink. We told stories in the dark and giggled hysterically. There were teachers from the school and marooned guests whose romantic Caribbean holiday had just turned into a nightmare. One of the teachers played the clarinet softly in the background while we chattered nervously and tried to reassure the boys.

The wind turned into a roar ...wild and angry but there was nothing to do but sit it out. We made a makeshift meal in the hotel kitchen with pots & pans flying around. It was surreal and very eerie. Needless to say, no one got much sleep that night !

The morning brought a devastated picture... palm trees unearthed, buildings splintered into a million pieces, boats in the boat yard fallen like dominoes... debris everywhere. We drove with baited breath to the little wooden school but there she stood magnificently in tact and looking splendid. The little pre-school stood beside with her rainbow colours all happy & bright against the grey sky.

Our house was a different matter...the roof had gone and everything floated in a foot of water. It was bizarre - I saw the book I'd read the boys a few nights earlier floating face down & plastic toys were swimming around.

People rallied, washed mouldy clothes, cleared, dried, restored. The whole Island came alive with re-building. It took months to get the roof fixed so we kind of " camped out " here & there. Things gradually returned to normal and Hurricane Hugo became added to the list - a statistic in the records.

I found the lovely coral encrusted bottle washed up on the same beach I found my Calabash. It's my treasure the sea threw up that violent night.


  1. What a fantastic if not very scary experience to have been through. You have lived such a full life with lots of amazing stories. I can not wait for the next installment!

  2. oh bless you - I did travel quite a bit in my twenties ( I was escaping chronic shyness ! I was ! It's true ! ) while friends at home were getting qualified & on the housing ladder. But I still got to have my lovely home & family so I am a very lucky girl ! xx

  3. What a wonderful story. We have friends with links in Haiti (it's French-speaking, so the links are strong here), and they had similar stories after the hurricane last year. I think the effect there was so terrible because of the poverty. Small businesses which were just being built up through the local church had their premises and machinery demolished. A year on, though, it seems that the support of their church community has got most of these people back on their feet and the businesses are up and running again.

    So, what an experience - not one I would even like to share!

  4. Brilliantly written, it felt as though I was there! What an experience....XXX

  5. thanks for all your comments - much appreciated. Antigua has a lot of poverty too - it's heart wrenching to see shacks with a cruise liner as backdrop.

  6. What a well written post, Penny. You have a nice way with words. So pleased to read the school was still standing! Great bottle too, what a memory it evokes for you! Xx