Monday, 10 December 2007

The nun, the bananas and the property boundary.

Some weeks back, Steve called out from the other end of the house, because there was a nun in our backyard trying to pick mangoes. Of course being the delegated Pijin spokesperson, I was sent out the back to ask her politely what she thought she was doing. Well, as it turned out, she had planted the mango tree, so it belonged to her. Who was I to argue with a seventy-something-year-old nun? Even though the mango tree is huge, given her elderly appearance, she could very well have planted it. She proceeded to inform me that the pawpaw trees next to it were hers, as were the banana trees, including the one with about six or so hands of bananas that I had been checking daily for signs of ripening. I must have looked suitably downcast, because she said I could have some pawpaw (and indeed she knocked on the door a little later with a large and a small fruit for us). Later, I asked David, our security guard about the fruit. He confirmed that the mango tree did indeed belong to Sister Bernadina, but that the banana trees behind the tank belonged to us, as they fell inside the property boundary that went from that coconut tree to that betel nut palm to that….. I was lost. Anyhow, I was looking forward to having our very own bananas, so preferred David’s take on the situation.

A couple of weeks later, I was working on a report at home, but noticed in the afternoon that the banana tree, along with its fruit, had fallen over. Big red ants, however, were quick-marching in formation up and down the bananas. I popped back inside to fetch our recently-acquired bush knife, and brandished it at the banana tree. The ants were unperturbed, and continued marching, some of them onto the bush knife as I began to hack, and some of them onto my jandals. After much sweaty chopping, I managed to free the bananas from the tree, and lug them (incredibly heavy!) from the slippery clay bank onto the concrete slab next to the outside laundry sink. I had already slipped in that spot this morning, and I did so again, but at least didn't sustain any further shin wounds on the second accident, but did kick the concrete particularly hard with my right big toe. (The slipperiness of the concrete prevented a theatrical hopping around in a circle-type affair, but I did emit a couple of wordless groans but not loud enough for the neighbours to hear.)

The wretched ants, however, continued their circuits of the bananas. I thought I could put them in one of the laundry sinks and run water over them, but I couldn’t physically heft the bananas off the ground. I tried sloshing buckets of water over the bananas, but I should have realised that ants are used to tropical downpours. That did nothing. Next up was the coconut broom (made from a bundle of the “spines” from coconut palm leaves), which was reasonably successful although I did manage to send quite a few of the ants onto my feet and legs. Eventually I decided to leave the bananas there on the concrete until Steve came home. I was wracked with guilt and worry that Sister Bernadina might come knocking on the door demanding her bananas (especially seeing as she had arrived spontaneously on the doorstep only a week or so ago with a bag of bananas for us. I wondered if it was a hint of some sort).

Steve arrived home, swept a few extra ants off the bananas, then carried them through to the front balcony, where he gave them a dose of his favourite fly spray. Even he found them a little difficult to lift, I might add. Then, being the wonderfully inventive orthotist that he is, Steve rigged up some Velcro straps and we hung the bananas from a rafter over the balcony. After about a week and a half, some were ripe enough to cut down. They are, I am sad to say after all that effort, not the most awesome bananas I have tasted. They are almost like a hybrid with cooking bananas, being a little on the starchy side. But hey, they’re ours (I think), and I am eating them on my cornflakes each morning. I took some over to the nuns’ place, but no-one was home, so did an anonymous drop-off of two and a half hands of the bananas. I also took some to a couple of the other neighbours, as several of the hands began to ripen simultaneously, and there are only so many starchy bananas a small household needs. I haven’t seen Sister Bernadina since, and am not sure whether to broach the subject of fruit next time I do…

The four of us returning from Alite Reef (see for a few more reef pics)

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