Remember Crooked Tree, which we liked so much? A couple of w/es ago? Well, I am sitting on a verandah of a little dolls house on stilts, on a Saturday morning, in our own little place in Crooked Tree! The Rose-throated Becard has its nest on the pole in front of us, and the Great Kiskadees are very fond of this particular electric wire as a perch.
When we were walking around that first w/e, Conor spotted one or two houses that he thought looked like holiday homes. One in particular caught his eye, newly painted, spick and span, shutters evenly shut and watertight, large grounds with fabulous, vast mango trees in it. He began musing about us moving out here and commuting into BC. We starting asking some questions back at Birds Isle Lodge, and discovered that a lot of folk do that, and that 3 buses leave at 5.30am, 6.30am and 7.30am each morning right from the village, one of which returns with the women from the market at 11am. Then a couple of buses come back again across the causeway into the village in the evening. The journey is about an hour and fifteen minutes, and it costs an extra 50 cents to be taken the three miles off the Northern Highway and into the village. Christina (the cook and cleaner) the gardener and the owner of the Lodge all indicated that there were some properties that may be available to rent, and that they would ask around.
We hummed and hawed about it over the w/e, and in the end decided that it would be too long a day, starting at 6.30am and getting back at 6.30pm. We had virtually abandoned the idea, when suddenly on the bus home Conor said But what if we took a place and just used it at the w/es? It would still be cheaper for us than being a tourist every w/e And much easier on the body. We decided to wait and see if the opportunity arose, and see how much the rent would be.
A few days later, Christina from the Lodge rang, giving us a name and number of a woman who had a house in Crooked Tree. Conor talked with a lady, and arranged for us to meet her by her house the following Saturday (last w/e). He asked for directions, and was told between the hurricane shelter and the Lodge. We knew it was in the vicinity of the house that had caught Conors eye, and we wondered
Saturday came and we found ourselves on the bus we still couldnt find the proper 11am bus directly into the village. It seemed to have a mercurial starting place in town, everyone saying somewhere else. (We later discovered that it has different starting places at different times of day, and that if you get to the Belcan Bridge, all of them have to pass there onto the Northern Highway. It took Conor 3 days of rooting to find that out!) We got off at the shelter where we had met the young woman with the premature baby the week before, alone this time and rain threatening again, and decided to start the 3 mile walk into the village. We hoped someone might pick us up along the way! Even having that thought was symptomatic of the different world the area was compared to BC. There have been 3 murders just this last week, but they are nearly always gang and drug related, and not much of a threat to anyone not directly involved unless of course you happen to be in the way, but that is true of any place, any time. A couple did stop, after about a mile, themselves weekenders from BC, their car full of provisions. We were glad of the lift, and got out at the hurricane shelter. To our rising excitement we noticed that the house that had caught Conors eye was right next door! We were half an hour early for our rendezvous, and sauntered past, wondering if it was it. A few children were banging in a fence post and we asked them whether the house opposite was a holiday home? They called their granny out of a breeze brick house, who said a name that Conor recognised as the same as the woman he had spoken to on the phone! We could hardly believe it was happening. Corletta we later learned her name had a key to the garden, and as it was threatening to rain again, kindly let us in so we could shelter on the verandah if necessary.
The rain held off so we walked around the garden, noticing the 8 mango trees, the cashew nut trees, the lemon tree, and the barbecue area everyone cooks outside here, even in BC most do in the poorer areas. There was a large burnt patch, and later Mr. S. told us that there is no rubbish collection, and each household burns their own. (We have since found that there is now a collection. Large blue plastic tubs with rubbish disposal painted on them are sited in a couple of places along the lanes.) As we explored, a car drew up and a tall man got out, introducing himself and saying we were early!
Mr. S was charming: from Ladyville just north of BC, aged 72, a retired epidemiologist working with the WHO. Mr. S. has lived in many places, including parts of Africa, the UK (he couldnt understand anyone in Newcastle-upon-Tyne) and India. He and his wife have retired back here in Belize. He told us that they had just done up the house, which is his wifes ancestral home. The door was opened into a Belizean version of the little wooden bungalow that I lived in in rural Scotland with my first husband for a year and a half, where the children were born! In immaculate order, everything is simple and functional. The windows have sound insect screens and wooden slatted shutters which you push open or shut, fixing the two halves firmly shut by twisting a wooden knob on the upper half over the lower. A few of them have curtains. The verandah has 2 doors, the main one into a living and kitchen area running the length of the house, and the second side door opening into a small single bedroom. A double bedroom opens off the living area, and the bathroom off the kitchen. When the back door and front doors are open, screens firmly shut, and all the window shutters open, a cool breeze runs through the house. Mr. S told us that the houses were also built on stilts to allow the wind to circulate underneath too. Simple, well built wooden varnished furniture is everywhere: beds, chests of drawers, a trunk for bedding, a double backed bench, and some single chairs. A couple of side tables too. What is now a garden store used to be the kitchen (we have seen that in other rural houses the house is for sleeping, and the electricity station is in the front for the cooker, the fridge, washing machine etc); Mr. and Mrs. S. built the kitchen on a few years ago. There is a small fridge, a wooden dresser, a double hob much as we use in our practice in Edinburgh, and a microwave. The rent was very reasonable, and we immediately knew this was just what we needed!
Having made our agreement, Mr.S told us that after putting the phone down, his wife said that she thought we may be just what they were looking for! They did not want hippies, as he called them, because his wife was very fussy and did not want the place to be spoiled. He had been uncertain about spending money on renovating the place recently, but she had persuaded him that they may be able to let it, and that it would be a legacy for their children. Lucky us! He also told us that it has no name, but that his wifes name was Beisle. (B. Isle Birds Isle, I wondered later?)
So, welcome to Beisle Cottage!