AS TOLD TO BC PIRES
My name is Rosemary Parkinson and I love life so much I plan on not ever dying.
I’ve already told the Universe, God, Jesus, ALL of the different gurus around, Muslim, Indian, whatever. Understand this: I am
I’m 75 now and death is creeping up. But I want it to go away!
My parents, Gwendoline Ivy Trestrail and Gordon Parkinson, were from Trinidad and went to live in Venezuela and we children were all born in Venezuela.
My father’s family was Catholic, my mother’s very Anglican. They got married Anglican under very dreadful circumstances in San Fernando. There was a big fight (with a Catholic priest) and my father was sent to burn in Hellfire.
We were four, three girls and a boy.
I was the eldest and we were pretty confused as children. We were Trinidadian but lived in Venezuela.
In Venezuela, they call people who don’t speak Spanish “a monsieur. I told my parents I would never be a monsieur.
They would speak to me in English and I would reply in Spanish. I announced to them that my name was now Rosa Maria Perez. I would never be called Parkinson.
I knew when I was in trouble with my father as a child because he would always shout for Rosa Maria Perez.
To force me to speak English – very broken English, with a Venezuelan accent – my parents sent me to boarding school in Barbados when I was 12. In ’63 or ’64, (the whole family moved to) Barbados.
We were not happy bunnies. But in those days, we had to obey our parents.
Codrington was a veddy British boarding-school but all my Trinidadian cousins were there and they accepted me.
I have three daughters and three grands and I had three husbands.
I don’t mind the marriage part – dress up, drink some champagne and have some fun –. but I much prefer the divorce. I’m really a divorcer. I’ve had far better times at those parties. The one at the Pelican Inn in Cascade was fabulous.
I’m very proud of my accomplished daughters, Marie-France, Sian and Sara, but I won’t mention my husbands’ names. Because I can’t remember them.
The first two, I’ve actually been in the same room or same beach and have not even recognised them.
My life started off confused, religious-wise. Now, my religion is to love this world, take people for their kindness and love, have no time for BS.
My religion is,
I love lofe. How then can I discriminate amongst religions?
I’m interested in who you are and that you’re not hurting people or going out of your way to make trouble.
I believe that whenever I die, I will meet whoever I’m supposed to meet and will be happy to meet him. And he will love me and I will love him. ‘Cause I ent kill nobody.
So I go to any church I feel to go into. If you push me out, well, I don’t think you’re very churchy.
As I finished school at 16, I was on the first British Airways flight I could get to England. I wasn’t staying on a little island.
Taking me to the airport, my father was saying, “You’ll be back soon!” And from the back seat, I was going,
And look where I am now! Back in Barbados.
I wanted to be a doctor, but in those days, girls weren’t supposed to do things like that and my mother wanted me to go to a secretarial college in London.
I got married to Marie-France and Sian’s father there. When I was 22 or 23, we went to live in Penal, of all places, where his parents lived.
I went all the way to England to marry a Trinidadian! I could have married a prince! I could shoot myself!
As children, we had always gone to Trinidad at least twice a year. And always spent the long school vacation there.
In 2019, I spent two years in Trinidad.
I’m covered in tattoos. Which I love.
We agreed we would separate and I went to Canada. I loved Toronto and lived there for three years.
As an executive bilingual secretary, I was paid well but hated every aspect of it.
Although it might have been great to be a mistress. No obligation but sex on demand (if they could find me while basking in the south of France).
Being a poor-a--ed, old-as-the hills creative really beats that.
I met and married a German man 18 years younger than me in Barbados and went to live in Germany.
A German publisher was doing these big books about places and I asked why they didn’t have one on the Caribbean.
He said, “Because the Caribbean has nothing!”
I said, “F--k you! The Caribbean has everything!”
I left my husband one-time, packed the car and moved to England.
I did a mockup, exact size, real photographs and stuck things and wrote on every page. I had £5 pounds left and the publisher gave me 80,000 German marks to start the writing project.
I put my daughter into school in Germany as a boarder and I went to all the islands between North & South America.
My first book, Culinaria: The Caribbean, won several awards.
But it was not my book. The publishers paid for all my travel but never paid me (agreed royalties on sale).
My book on Jamaica, Nyam Jamaica, I wrote when I went to Jamaica for three days and stayed ten years, writing for the Gleaner.
I was flying back to Barbados to see my parents and who should I meet on the plane but (current Barbados Prime Minister) Mia Mottley, who said, “I want you to do one of these for Barbados, you hear!”
So I moved back to Barbados.
My book, Barbados Bu’n-Bu’n, a thing of beauty, won the Best Self-Published Book in the World Award at the 2015 Gourmand World Cookbooks Awards.
I was supposed to do one on Trinidad but covid happened.
It’s not so much about not wanting to die as it is about wanting to live forever.
A good friend said, “Rosemary, you will live on through your books.”
F--k that! I want to live on through me, not through pages.
With a little more money, perhaps.
Why should I want to leave this beautiful earth? With all the problems we have, it’s still a wonderful diversity of our humans. You cross a border in Europe and you have a whole new culture, a whole new set of food.
I freak out at nature. I look out my window and see monkeys jumping in the trees. And it sometimes brings tears to my eyes.
Since I started speaking English, I’ve always kept my Trinidadian accent. Because of my cousins in boarding school in Barbados.
I know VS Naipaul was very unpopular in Trinidad at one stage but I love him. I’ve always devoured his books (especially the ones) looking at Trinidad society.
Naipaul was right! Everything he said, although the population was horrified, was true.
I met him and he wouldn’t sign my book. But he’s entitled to do that.
I think to me, a Trini is “happiness.” I don’t think any other country in the world has so much happiness. Crazy as it is.
I wasn’t born in Trinidad but I feel more Trini than anywhere else.
Through my own life, I’ve discovered that Trinidad and Tobago means “roots” to me.
I wish I could get on a plane to Piarco right now!
Read the full version of this feature on Friday evening at www.BCPires.com