On the Caribbean island of Bequia – a ravishing seven-mile hump in the green-blue Grenadines – you summon the dollar bus by sticking out your hand as it charges down the potholed road towards the harbour. I can hear it coming from a distance – snatches of bawled song and brakes hard-grinding along steep tarmac. They’re playing Praise FM at full pelt, a popular evangelical station. Everybody inside knows the words to the hymns, raising their hands and pre-empting the lyrics, a merry roar: “Flashing sea and flowing fountain call us to rejoice in thee.”
There’s never been a radio station on Bequia itself; they’re over the water on the island of St Vincent. This week, everybody’s tuning in to the morning talk show with DJ 2 Kool Kris on Hot 97.1 FM, to follow arguments about the political fiasco involving the finance minister Camillo Gonsalves (son of the prime minister) and young model Yugge Farrell. When news of their long affair (and possible pregnancy) broke she was in effect sectioned (but not before calling Gonsalves’s wife a “dirty bitch”).
The scandal is inestimable. Through a rain storm, on-air conversations come through to Bequia patchily. Outraged voices blur. “There’s a political side of the story and a human side to the story and which side are you talking about?” “Will she be freed from the court system? We need to ask how she ended up there. This is a test of our political system and our mental health system.”
On Sunday, the Venerable J Everton Weekes stepped into the pulpit of the church of St Mary The Virgin and told us that he had, last night, watched The Exorcist. He looked grave. Through the open windows I could see the bay where the pirate Blackbeard relaunched his frigate the Queen Anne’s Revenge in 1717. Dr Godwin Friday, MP for Northern Grenadines (tipped to be the next PM of the islands) crossed his arms on his pew near me and nodded reassuringly. The pastor raged for half an hour against the wider issue of confusing mental illness with some kind of demonic possession. Might Yugge be declared officially “unstable”? Could the conversation happening in the streets and on the radio even bring down the government? “The eyes of the world are on these islands!”
This article appears in the 31 Jan 2018 issue of the New Statesman, The Great Migration