In March 2003 My wife and I went to live on a small island in the Indian Ocean. We stayed there for a year of tropical delights and frustrations.
As a break from fiction – and to help maintain my sanity in the midst of a strange culture – I wrote a series of emails to folks at home…
—– Original Message —–
To: Undisclosed Recipients
Sent: Monday, April 28, 2003 5:03 PM
I used to think a banana was a banana. A curved yellow fruit that you sliced
onto your cornflakes as a midnight snack, used in a paper bag when you’re
robbing the post office or peeled and ate swiftly before placing the skin in
the path of your enemies.
How wrong I was.
Here in the Seychelles there around fifty different types
of banana and we haven’t had a chance to try them all yet. How could we?
We’ve only been here thirty five days and some of the bunches are very
large; some of the individual bananas enormous. (In that time, by the way, I’ve
been able to grow a Robinson Crusoe hairstyle and develop holes in my
clothes at the knees and elbows. Unlike Mr. Crusoe, I have made several
friends but they’re all imaginary.)
So, there’s the mini banana which is very sweet. To be honest, it tastes just
like the ones in Tesco but it’s a lot cuter. Then there’s the rapid-ripener
which is yellow and too hard to eat in the market but by the time you get
home is brown, slushy and inedible.
The green banana is quite a tricky one. When it’s not ripe, it’s green but
then, when it ripens it’s green and by the time it’s too rotten too eat it’s
green. In order not be fooled, you have to develop a keen sense of squeeze
to ascertain a banana’s condition.
Ones we haven’t tried yet include the red banana, which is a lot fatter than
your average banana, and also the giant banana. Giant bananas grow
(obviously) on giant banana trees and have to be picked using hydraulic
platforms similar to those on fire engines. (Regarding fire engines, there
aren’t any – if there’s a fire, you get all your imaginary friends together
and pray for the monsoon rains to come early.)
Anyway, it takes three men to
pick each giant banana. Two of them hold it and the other one uses a machete
to separate it from the rest of the bunch. It’s slow work but well worth it
because each banana can fetch as much as four hundred rupees in the market.
I couldn’t believe it the first time I saw them. The wooden stall they were
displayed on was practically buckling under the weight and, at first glance, I
thought someone was selling short range missiles. No, just giant bananas.
The strangest thing we discovered was that before electricity was introduced
on the islands about fifty years ago, the traffic policemen used to use
bananas as a kind of manual traffic light. If they held up a red banana, it
meant stop; a yellow one meant get ready and a green one meant go. This
place is totally mental, I’m telling you.
Anyway, I’ve made it a personal mission to try at least a bite of every
species of banana.
I must apologise to you all for not writing sooner but I’ve become addicted
to the Zoetrope Virtual Studio where writers can review
other people’s unpublished material and post their own stories for feedback.
It’s a poor excuse, I know, but I think I’ve had all the criticism I can
take for a while, so I may return once more to normal life.
Well, normal for
Shiver me timbers,