Invited by returning residents Heather and Renixton Reid to visit them at the Clarendon Association of Returning Residents (The Club) in Four Paths, the SO team ventured there on Monday. We were greeted with open arms, by some who were willing to share with us what the 60-odd members have created. The other members were slightly sceptical, at first, that a newspaper had come to ‘interview’ them. However, upon realising that we were not there to disrupt their “family”, as Vettie Walker called their group, it was all jokes and laughter after that!
Wesley and Himla Elliott, who have been members of The Club for 11 years (Hilma has been the secretary for eight years), moved back to Denbigh, Clarendon, in 1995, after being away in London, England for 40 years. The Club is a big part of their lives, and the pair are clearly a big part of The Club. Hilma seems to be the main organiser of the activities, including the monthly trips they make together. “We often go to the beach in Font Hill, and this Thursday we are heading to Somerset Falls,” she tells SO. “We all go together in a coach,” she continues, using the ‘English’ word for what Jamaicans simply call a bus.
Inez Coleman, who worked in Bristol in the health service during her 34-year stint in England, interjects, “I love the trips. We go to places we’ve never been to before. Places we never saw when we were young, because we couldn’t afford it.”
And Wesley Elliott’s role? Well, he is the watchdog.
The Elliotts told SO about the charity work in which The Club is involved. Once a month, the members prepare parcels of food (rice, flour, cornmeal, and so on) for 11 elderly people in need. Of course they wish that they could donate more, but these returning residents are living off savings, so the only way to do that would be to have more people contribute. Their hearts are big and generous, but these retirees aren’t rolling in ‘dosh’ as is often the perception. They moved home because the cost of living is lower than it is in the United Kingdom, and also to enjoy this beautiful island of theirs and its people.
While many of the members moved back to Jamaica as married couples, this was not the case for Cleoni and Amos Howell, who met and got married when they returned in 1999. The two come to The Club on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Friday evenings, when there’s a bit of a party atmosphere, created by DJ Sharpie. Fellow affiliate of the association, Owen Sharpe, who is originally from Trout Hall, loves to play Bob Marley’s music for his friends. The members love rock steady reggae; dancehall is not exactly appealing to them. “I like music that is palatable. Things like soul, jazz, blues, classical, reggae, of course, and even old-time calypso,” confirms Sharpie.
Fay Howell, a cousin of Amos Howell and the niece of Leonard Percival Howell, tells SO that she wished Sharpie played something a bit more upbeat, like soca! The dancing queen of the crowd, Fay makes it clear to SO that she no longer plays mas in those tiny costumes, because it is important that “I must fit in!” Fay, one of the youngest members, still travels between New York and Jamaica, even though she grew up in London. Unlike everyone else in The Club, she does not like dominoes. The others, men and women alike, are hooked on beating dominoes, however.
Indeed, the educator and researcher Fay Howell is most enchanting and enigmatic. She may not approve of dominoes, but she loves didactic entertainment. “My main aim is to get persons to play more educational games and less of dominoes,” Fay insists.
“But we are retired,” retorts Wesley, who feels he’s had enough education for a lifetime. On that note, Fay pulls out her fancy Scrabble case and a homemade Ludo board from her bag, bringing back childhood memories of when I played these very games just up the road, near Mocho, where I was raised with my three brothers.
Monday is a popular day at The Club, whose focal room is named the ‘Heather Reid Hall’, in honour of Heather Reid’s altruistic offering. Having received the land from her father, Reid decided to put it to the best use she could think of. Founding members like Gervis Gayle and Reginald Williams, who also helped to build The Club, have witnessed her unending kindness throughout the years. Speaking of kindness, this jolly Jamaican extends her compassion to the world beyond returning residents, most notably to The Club’s 31-year-old chef Shawn Ebanks, whom she calls “my son”.
Having trained at Heart Academy from 1999 to 2000, Shawn Ebanks then worked in Cuba for six months, Versalles Hotel in May Pen for four years, and Juici Patties for another 18 months, before charming Reid with the utmost attention and detail to his job, while working at a wedding. This was seven years ago, and he’s been cooking at The Club on Mondays ever since. The biggest compliment to Chef Ebanks was a statement from the eldest member, 95-year-old Huntley Geddes, who lived in Yorkshire, England, for 44 years. “I come here because I like the girls, and I LOVE to sit and eat,” he says in all seriousness. And as the clock struck one, the entire crew of the Clarendon Association of Returning Residents lined up in earnest for a lunch of stew peas with pigtail, and fried fish with gravy and vegetables. I don’t know how the fish tasted, as I was too busy enjoying the delicious stew peas I was mixing in with my rice! Sweet Jamaican food at its best!
Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at https://bit.ly/epaper-login