The recent reports of two dolphins beached on Store Bay in Tobago might be a metaphor for the state of Tobago’s tourism industry, and the efforts of bathers to steer the beautiful but confused creatures back out to sea could be an extended metaphor.
I spent a sun-kissed pre-Carnival week with my son and his young family in Tobago, just missing the rescue mission. People complain about the ferry service and the airbridge between Trinidad and Tobago, but that all worked as it should, coming and going, even though the odds seemed stacked against us.
When our overworked car battery decided to take a rest just as the call came at 6 am to drive onto the ferry in Port of Spain, the very helpful port aides got us jumpstarted and oversaw our F1-style circuits of the then-empty car park as we tried to recharge the battery cells. They ensured at the Scarborough end that we got to the car early and started up so as not to cause any delay once real disembarkation began. The system for boarding the cars was impressive. The port hands, though, could not prevent or help our violent seasickness.
We arrived at our hotel at about 10 am. The gold-coloured 1970s Rolls Royce parked, it turned out to be permanently, outside the entrance lobby was a standard-setter. The hotel was voted the top Caribbean hotel twice in the last few years, yet it felt like a three-star venue. Nothing wrong with that, but not at the prices we paid. The exquisite view straight down to the aquamarine water of the small private bay was the stuff of dreams, but one soon realised that it was not a perfect paradise. The floors were in need of care and the water cooler caused constant water-soaked tiles just adjacent to the reception.
The hotel could not let us check in early despite the adults still feeling queasy and a seven-month-old being grizzly. We had to wait till 3 pm. We packed nearly a carload of baby gear and suitcases into an office, not an official storage area, and headed for the enticing beach bar/restaurant. We settled into a corner, under a very slow fan, with the vast rest of necessary baby gear, overlooking the calm water, perfect for keeping young holiday-makers safe and parents free from worry. Carib and Stag on the go and just as we were about to order food a waitress increased the volume of the nearby speaker and all conversation had to cease. We had been enjoying the low-volume Kitchener strains emanating, putting us into the mood.
I asked the waitress to turn down the volume so we could converse. She replied that they regularly get complaints from guests on the beach who cannot hear the music, and if we did not like it we should move.
We did, with no offer of help or apologies.
I checked the beach and noted three over-middle-age, foreign couples lounging under the long line of balmy coconut trees, all quietly reading books. We carted all the stuff down to the other end of the bar, where we had a tasteless lunch. I am happy to say that over the next four days the cuisine improved noticeably.
An elderly couple who had joined us in the restaurant also complained about the noise that destroyed the serenity of the bay. They were not Trinis, though, so they prevailed. It was the explanation given to me by a fellow hotel guest one morning at breakfast. The US-based Trini had spent US$4,000 on a special holiday for her husband’s big birthday and they were deeply unhappy with their leaky room and their treatment by staff.
Everywhere, the hotel showed signs of not having recovered from pandemic closure mode – collapsing woodwork, worn-out floors, over 50 per cent of ceiling fans inoperable, rationed towels, no car-park lighting, and a garden view that was a mini-forest view. My request for the lawn to be mowed and the hedges cut was quickly met. Happily, overall, the service was equally obliging and cheerful.
I kept thinking what dearly departed BC would have made of it all. I guessed he might have referenced Fawlty Towers, the hilarious 1970s BBC-TV sitcom, starring John Cleese as an inept, guest-hating hotelier, and made a few pithy observations about the “firetrucking” hotel being only half full until the Carnival Saturday and the significance of Tobago having a whopping 500 per cent increase in business over just one weekend.
Nobody could do what BC did in the pages of this newspaper, and his untimely departure leaves TT the poorer. Sincere condolences to his family and the nation. Wherever you are, BC, I hope the jokes are good and that your good-tempered cynicism never deserts you. We miss you and it. RIP.