1946 - 1947
Silvia sailed from Marseille around December 1946 to (French) Tahiti – the journey took seven weeks. She was the only English person on board and, for the first few days, was very lonely. But she recognised that travel as a drug for loneliness is more respectable than drink. By implication, she was travelling first class as she refers to second class passengers on the well-deck below. It made her feel as if I was sadly looking over the gold bar of Heaven at a gorgeous party going on in Hell.
Come Christmas-tide, they were still at sea, not far from Madeira. Midnight Mass was celebrated, followed by a cold supper on deck, from where the stars were skating in the sky and the boat rolling but it seemed as if we were stationary and the stars were slipping about, slithering, fluttering like fire-flies, yet keeping their formation.
Their next stop was Fort de France in Martinique. Silvia visited the public gardens several times in order to see the statue (since vandalised) of the Empress Josephine who was born on the island. Rumour had it that every other person in Martinique claimed a link to Josephine.
They sailed next to Guadeloupe for a stop-over and then on to Panama before heading across the Pacific to Tahiti.
1947 - 1948
A year later, on the return journey, Silvia’s ship docked in Martinique. She stayed in a hotel but wasn’t very well. After ten days she, and her fellow passengers, boarded a ship for Trinidad but it was dangerously overloaded with displaced Europeans who were planning to settle in nearby Venezuela. To avoid some disruption in the cabin, Silvia and a few friends slept up on deck; after a while, they heard the sound of people singing carols and there were moonlit white clouds sailing across a deep-blue sky – it was Christmas Eve. One felt absurdly light-hearted and free in these magical surroundings. This must have been in December 1947.
She enjoyed staying in Trinidad where there were wonderful butterflies and birds and trees and flowers. It is a gay, lively place perhaps because the inhabitants are of many different races. She spent her time in a ‘genteel’ hotel and met a variety of weird and wacky characters.
From Trinidad, she travelled to Barbados and stayed for ‘some weeks’ in Bathsheba on the wild (eastern) side of the island. The Atlantic current is too strong for bathing but fishermen could be seen bobbing up and down in the great waves of the peacock-blue sea, collecting seaweed for making gelatine. I imagine Bathsheba was just a hamlet in 1948 and, when I visited in 2019, the area was still sparsely populated. I loved the wildness of this coastline and the exotic flowers in the nearby Botanical Garden.
Silvia then went to stay ‘for a time’ in her cousin’s house, which she describes as a flowery Paradise by the sea on the west coast – with a butler. Putting bits of jigsaw together, I presume this was on Glitter Bay. As far as I know, there were no Baker or Amys cousins living in Barbados at that time but two of Athole’s cousins had properties on the island. One of them, who was a diplomat, built a mansion overlooking Glitter Bay (now luxury apartments!).
Silvia stayed in Jamaica on her way to California in 1938. We know from a letter that, ten years later in April 1948, she was back in Jamaica. It was here that she learnt that her brother, who had been suffering from cancer, had sadly died.