A brief story taken from my Life Happens collection.
You can’t knit in the Tropics. You sweat too much, making the grip on the needles and the tension on the wool impossible to control. It’s too uncomfortable to sit with a growing blanket of wool spreading across your lap. The sweat from your hands mark and stain the wool so all your efforts are in vain.
You can’t make pastry or intricately involved dessert recipes either. Room temperature as recipe writers know it simply doesn’t exist. I tried to make some exotic meringue sandwich with cream and fresh berries once in the early days of entertaining tropical style. It was a disaster from woe to go. Chocolate dipped frozen ice cream balls went the same way.
Vegetables also present challenges in the heat. In the Tropics there is no choice: vegetables of all persuasions have to live in the fridge. Fruit can’t be left in an attractive bowl of glass or ceramic on the table. It bruises and spoils within a day – less if it’s the Build Up. Fruit lives in the fridge, with the veggies, jams, butter, flour and sugar. There are too many temptations for mould, damp, weevils and cockroaches out there in the cupboards and on the bench-tops. A large fridge or two is the only way to cope with the daily battle for freshness and balanced meals.
Don’t expect water from the tap to be anything but warm, at the best tepid. Okay for showers and washing clothes, but no use when you just want something convenient and cool to drink.
But come outside to the gardens. The same environment that makes food rot and gourmet cooking impossible allows the garden to explode. Things grow quickly. Palms sprout and head towards the heavens within months. Mango and Papaya trees heave and moan with heady smells and succulent fruit. Bananas flourish, frangipanis invade the senses and the footpaths. Bromeliads and cycads, flowering ginger and helyconias grow like mushrooms and festoon the garden with colour bursts like a rainbow on a dull day.
Rain-trees dominate the skyline and African Mahoganies grow too big, too fast. You can smell the perfume of exotic gardens on the evening air: floral notes mix with ripening fruit. Bats, smelling what you do, swarm in for their nightly feast, making their cacophonous sounds of feeding pleasure on a rising moon.
The light is brighter here. The colours sharper, the moon is more luminous. You reckon if you just tried hard enough that you could reach out and touch the sun as she sets in a steamy sky. The thunder is louder and closer. Electrical storms are bigger and flashier. You do less – wear less. Toddlers wander naked and shoeless, their feet broadening and browning as they grown like the exotic gardens they wander through.
You are closer to the elements here, more aware of the weather than ever, able to tell the temperature to within a degree or two. Your senses are heightened: you can smell the changes coming in the weather, feel the electricity in the air before the storm breaks. You know how long you’ve got to get the washing in from the line. As it rains children run and squeal, houses sigh and shift: exhale as their owners do. Tensions swirl down the gutters as the rains sweep in and wash the town.
Back in the kitchen meat defrosts in an hour and it’s almost cheating to BBQ every night, eating mangoes from your own garden, as your children splash in the pool while you watch a fat sun fall beneath an unending horizon.
Who needs to knit?