Baby was sleeping, and by now a robust 4 and a half weeks. H (my husband) was all set to look after him, bottles of milk were lined up in the fridge, so this hot expat mummy made a break for freedom! It was the Heineken ‘Inspire’ Party on Downtown and a big gang of expats I knew were going..
So we started at ‘The Mahogany Tree Bar’ at Devon House. This lovely outdoor bar has tables clustered round the base of huge Mahogany Tree, and a great cocktail menu. Warm Caribbean wind, rustling palm trees, pretty lights, not to mention a potent, ice-cold Planters Punch, this bar makes you feel like you are indeed in the exotic paradise that is Jamaica – not just in a hotter version of Peckham, which is how Kingston city living can make you feel sometimes! I was delightedly happy just to be out. After 9 months pregnancy and a month since under house-arrest with the little terrorist, every drop of Red Stripe Light consumed tasted brilliant, every joke seemed hilarious, every conversation scintillating – even if only for a break in the gooing and gaaing of being at home!
We had a taxi booked for half ten. Our friendly, toothless taxi man picked us and started off the normal route Downtown (which is alarming enough) but on coming across a police roadblock where it looked like there had been a shooting, he suddenly dived off the beaten track and next thing we knew we were going right through the heart of Tivoli Gardens. Being new and naive enough still, I was fascinated to see this derelict, infamous part of town, but my friend in the taxi wasn’t so keen.. Anyway, it just looked like another run down area of Kingston to me, but it was amazing how many people were out on the streets at 11pm, people everywhere, sitting on crates, standing about, drinking, barefoot kids running around…
We arrived at the huge old railway station and were dropped off at the first set of security gates about 500 m from the venue. Nervously we walked past policemen in flak jackets with machine guns to the next security gates. After that we were searched by a big sign saying ‘No Weapons’. We’d already been told there were two snipers on the roof! Pretty serious security and yet, when there must have been over a thousand people inside the old warehouse buildings, you have to wonder how sure security could really be as to who they were letting in!
But inside the huge tatty old warehouse structure (a bit like Coronation Market without the vegetables!), it was a friendly smart crowd, the women dressed to kill as is the Jamaican way – mini dresses, ‘batty riders’ (hotpants), sparkling with sequins and glitter, tottering about on the unmade floor in killer heels. With free Heineken available, it’s just amazing to me how well behaved the Jamaicans were – apart from the odd splif of course – but the drunkest people by far were the Irish / British contingent – Jamaicans just don’t seem to go all out the way we do! If this had been Ireland, you wouldn’t have been able to fight your way to the bar, plus they would have had to have some kind of limit on the drinks.. here in Downtown Kingston , a ‘no go’ area to most of us expats, getting a drink couldn’t have been more civilised! In fact there was hardly anybody even in the refrigerated beer tents, except for expats loving the temperature! It’s the coolest I’ve been since coming to The Rock, and drinking Extra Cold Heineken certainly helped. It was in fact so cold that it would give you brain freeze if you drank it fast enough, but the ambient temperature here quickly takes off the chill!
We’d arrived after the main event of the evening; the Finals of the Heineken Inspire Competition. Each winner from the four categories — art, film, music, and fashion — had apparently received a cash prize of 1 million Jamaican dollars for Heineken-inspired performances. But, we did see a cool band play from around 12.30am – not sure who they were but it was live dancehall / soca music and very loud! Having been able to hear massive bass lines all night every night since arriving in Jamaica, I’ve been feeling like I’ve been missing out on all the action what with being preggers and my little newborn, so even though I can’t dance to those rhythms to save my life, I was throwing myself around happily by the end of the night, just delighted to be out in the thick of it! Just can’t believe the way Jamaicans can dance either, very sexy winding and grinding going on all over the place.
But the really cool feature of the party was the renovated steam train, with a DJ and bar aboard, that you could embark upon for a 500m journey to nowhere! (We found ourselves standing pretty much right next to the armed police, which isn’t the most relaxing..) Apparently that train hasn’t run in 50 years, so it was pretty special to be aboard.
We left around 2 am – or tried too! Unfortunately, our regular taxi man who had promised to come back and get me, totally stood me up! After ringing him 3 times and him saying he was nearly there, we gave up and rang for another cab. I would have been furious and pretty frightened if I had been waiting for a ride for 40 minutes on my own, but luckily by that stage I had 3 girls with me, all keen to go to a nightclub, and we ended up having quite a laugh with the security guards at the gate. Our taxi on the way home, treated us to a ride right through the centre of Trenchtown – also a fairly colourful area, certainly not somewhere you’d want to break down at 2am. Our taxi driver was called ‘Blacka’. Can’t believe I asked him why…
So we finished off the night at a club called Fiction at Marketplace, a smart uptown club, worlds away from poverty of Downtown. The one brilliant thing about being white here and sticking out a mile, is that at least you can find your mates pretty quickly in a crowded club! Yup, they are the ones dancing or up at the bar drinking shots…
Finally, I got home at half four in the morning. Less said about Sunday the better, but luckily the baby was fairly exhausted from keeping his daddy up all night.. but still! First hangover in 10 months? Nasty… And baby showed me no mercy. But I gave the poor critter a good 18 hours after my last tequila before breast-feeding him again!