Monday, 10 October 2016

Yard Culture: A Lost Way of Life. A Guest Post by Bish Denham + Giveaway

Thanks for letting me come and play in your yard, Barbara! Today I’m going to share a little something about yard culture, which plays a part in my novel, The Bowl and the Stone: A Haunting Tale from the Virgin Islands.

Yard culture has nothing to do with flora or fauna. It’s about people. In the Virgin Islands, and probably throughout the Caribbean, yard culture was a way of life. Until its rapid decline in the mid-1960s, it was a way for the village to take care of the children.

After school or on week-ends children congregated in the yards of different homes. Groups of friends who hung out at school usually hung out together after school.

The yards were large, an acre or two, or more. Often times there was more than one home on the property housing extended family members: grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. There might be kitchen garden or fruit trees on the property. For most there was no electricity and no running water. The homes were small and made of wood. By today’s standard they would be considered shacks.


Two typical wooden homes.

Overseeing the yard and the children was a matron, who would be the mother, aunt, or grandmother of one or more of the children. She kept an eye on the kids as they ran around and played in the yard. It was a kind of baby-sitting or after school day-care. A snack might even be provided, a johnny cake or a paté (a pastry fill with beef, salt fish, or pork, then deep fried) fruit, or a simple sandwich. It was also a place for kids to play if they lived in a home without a large yard. Everybody knew everybody and the kids knew which yard they “belonged” to. If they weren’t in school or at home they were expected to at a particular yard. It was difficult for children to get into trouble, but if they did, it was certain word of their misbehaviour would mysteriously reach their parents before they got home.

Each yard had its own culture, its own feel, smell, and energy dependent upon the children who played there and the matron who oversaw them.



This lignum vitae tree, over 100 years old, is in the corner of what used to be a large yard in Cruz Bay, a yard where I spent many hours playing with my sister and a number of other children.

In my book, The Bowl and the Stone: A Haunting Tale from the Virgin Islands, Sam and her best friend Nick, often pass through or explore a yard very like it. In this brief excerpt Sam gives a description of Miss LuAnne’s yard.

Excerpt
We have a picnic under the lignum vitae tree, sitting on the smooth, swept dirt. The air is alive with different smells: Miss LuAnne’s cooking, damp chicken feathers, rotting leaves, the perfume of oleander flowers, the ocean, the mangrove swamp. It’s a mysterious soupy mix particular to this yard and nowhere else. I love the smell of Miss LuAnne’s yard; it’s comfortable, familiar, and safe. It’s the smell of home, of friendship.



Book Blurb
Pirates. Explorers. And spooky ghost hunters.

It’s 1962. Sam and her best friend, Nick, have the whole island of St. John, in the U. S. Virgin Islands, as their playground. They’ve got 240 year-old sugar plantation ruins to explore, beaches to swim, and trails to hike.

But when a man disappears like a vapor right in front of them, they must confront a scary new reality. They’re being haunted. By whom? And why? He’s even creeping into Nick’s dreams.

They need help, but the one who might be able to give it is Trumps, a reclusive hunchback who doesn’t like people, especially kids. Are Sam and Nick brave enough to face him? And if they do, will he listen to them? 

As carefree summer games turn into eerie hauntings, Sam and Nick learn more about themselves and life than they could ever have imagined.

Available now at:

About the Author
Bish Denham, whose mother’s side of the family has been in the Caribbean for over one hundred years, was raised in the U. S. Virgin Islands. She still has lots of family living there whom she visits regularly.

She says, “Growing up in the islands was like living inside a history book. Columbus named the islands, Sir Francis Drake sailed through the area, and Alexander Hamilton was raised on St. Croix. The ruins of hundreds of sugar plantations, built with the sweat and blood of slave labor, litter the islands. Then there were the pirates who plied the waters. It is within this atmosphere of wonder and mystery, that I grew up. Life for me was magical, and through my writing I hope to pass on some of that magic.”

The Bowl and the Stone: A Haunting Tale from the Virgin Islands, is her third book and second novel. You can find Anansi and Company: Retold Jamaican Tales and A Lizard’s Tail, at Amazon.com.

To learn more about Bish
you can visit her blog, at Random Thoughts
She can also be found on Facebook
on Twitter @BishDenham 
and Goodreads

To be in with a chance of winning an autographed copy of the bowl and the stone (ship within U.S.A only) click here, and don’t forget you still have time to enter my moment in time giveaway here.

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39 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing Bish. You are welcome to play in my yard whenever you like! Barbara

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    1. Thanks for having me Barbara! Sorry I was away yesterday and didn't get to visit.

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    2. No problem Bish, I know how busy you are with your blog tour. Thanks for coming over today.

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  2. So exciting to hear from Bish! I enjoyed learning about yard culture and what it means (or meant). Sounds like it was a lot of fun for kids and everyone got to do a lot of playing. Loved hearing how her experiences play into her latest book. Best wishes, Bish! :)

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    1. Thanks for coming over Stephanie

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    2. Stephanie, it was a special time.

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  3. What a fascinating blog post from Bish, Barbara. I grew up in New Orleans and in many neighborhoods there were backyards that had much in common with the yard culture that Bish describes. I was lucky to be invited to play in some of them. Thank you for a taste of Caribbean culture from the Virgin Islands.

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    1. I agree with you Colleen. I had not heard the term ‘yard culture’ and was fascinated to read about. I grew up on a farm in England with very few other children to play with. My backyard consisted of fields and woods and my playmates were mostly imaginary ones.

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    2. Colleen, It doesn't surprise me that yard culture existed in other places and I'm glad you got to be a part of it.

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    3. Lucky you, Barbara! I read the books that would give me a childhood like yours and vowed I would grow up to play in the fields and woods with imaginary as well as real playmates.
      Bish, I wonder if yard culture is a Caribbean thing? New Orleans has a very strong Caribbean culture (food, music, architecture-even the colours of the houses...etc.) Love your post!

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    4. Hello Colleen, looking back on it now I realise just how lucky I was but I probably didn’t think like that when I was a teenager. I loved it until I was about 14 and then I began to feel as if I was missing out especially when I knew my friends were at the youth club or cinema. I used to cycle into the local town but always had to be home before dark so it wasn’t ideal. As soon as I could drive my brother lent me the money to buy a second hand car – that sounds very grand but I think the car cost twenty three pounds which I paid back at the rate of £1 a month. I wish I could go back and do it all again with the benefit of hindsight!

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  4. The colors are always so amazing in your pictures. They work in the Caribbean perfectly. Congrats on your book, Bish, and thanks for the great post.

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    1. I agree Lee, they are wonderful pictures.

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    2. Lee, Although in the "old" days the shacks were painted, the trim around the shutters might have sported bright colors. Houses are still painted brightly even now.

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  5. I remember those days when everyone hung out at a friend's house until dark playing outside.
    Bish, Your book sounds great. Wishing you much success.

    Hello to Barbara.

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    1. Hello Sandra! Thanks for visiting.

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    2. Thanks, Sandra. I wonder how many kids have the opportunity to play like that these days...

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  6. I love how we can make stories from ANYTHING. Now you have me thinking about the culture in which I played. Very interesting.

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    1. Thanks for calling in Anita :)

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    2. So true, Castles! Stories are everywhere.

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  7. Oh, Barbara, I wish I had been able to play in a yard like that! What a perfect childhood! Thanks, Bish. :)

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    1. Me too Marilyn, it certainly sounds like fun.

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    2. Guernsey Girl, it was near to perfect as can be. Very safe and loving. I'll always be grateful for the experience.

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  8. Sounds like a wonderful childhood, to be part of a group yard. Those houses may be small, but they certainly are bright and cheerful, and what a gorgeous tree. Best of luck with your book, Bish, sounds interesting! (Glad I happened to recheck this post, never quite sure if my comments 'stick' on blogspot and my first one hadn't..).

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  9. What a great place to grow up, Bish. I am sure you have tons of material for many stories. The Bowl and the Stone sounds great! I wish you much success with it and all your books. Thanks Barbara for featuring Bish and her books.

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    1. Darlene, there's so much material for stories I never be able to write them all down!

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  10. I'd never heard of this before. What an enlightening post! Congrats to Bish!

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    1. Always happy to share a bit of new information. Thanks for stopping by Stephanie.

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  11. What a fascinating post. Bish' book sounds wonderful.

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    1. I agree Tracy, Bish writes so beautifully.

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  12. What a wonderful story and love hearing about other cultures. Truly fascinating!

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  13. Yard culture sounds like a very safe and fun after school daycare idea. It'd be great if we could set these up in the neighbourhood (yard or no yard). Congratulations on the latest release, Bish. To have someone vanish in front of you is terrifying!

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    1. It was very safe, Claudine. To have it work in today's *culture* neighbors would have to really know each other, which I'm not sure is so common these days.

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  14. I can relate to the yard culture. I grew up in a little town in the hills in India and as kids we often used to end up in friends houses or friends ended up in our house. We did no have big yards but there was plenty of space outside for us to play. It was automatically understood that whosever house we were in their parents or the elder brother or sister would keep an eye on us. Everyone seemed to know what we were up to and like yourself if we did any mischief it reached our parents ears mysteriously 😀 Great post thanks for sharing

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    1. Thanks so much for sharing that Shashi, its fascinating reading about each others childhoods. My parents always knew what I had been up to but as there were so few children in the village it was fairly easy for them to assume I was at the heart of any mischief!

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I really appreciate your comment. Thank you!
Barbara xx

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