17 Building

y new property was in a lovely setting, right at the end of a cul-de-sac and
therefore quite private. It was also so covered in thick tropical growth that
we hadn’t been able to venture more than ten feet from the road into the lot. So the
first step was to “bush” the land. A small army of men with machetes was hired, and
they hacked away for several days. And that’s when I discovered I’d bought a cliff.
There might have been one hundred feet or so of relatively flat land on the
property. After that came a sheer drop to the creek very far below.
The good news was that the view
down to the sea was stunning. I suppose
it was at that moment I subconsciously
named the place Greatview. The more
pressing issue at the time was whether
we could build on this land at all.
One option was to build the house
on several levels down the cliff, with
lots of stairs connecting separate units.
That would mean abandoning the floor
plan I’d been designing in my head for
years — not something I do easily.
More importantly, I had hopes that my
mother would spend part of the year
with me at Greatview. I pictured her
dealing with all those stairs — and, to
be honest, me dealing with them in the
future (after all, I was investing in
Greatview for the long term, and I’d
already “retired” once) — and I grew
determined to find a better solution.
G R E AT V I E W J A M A I C A — Following A Dream and Arriving Somewhere Else
Probably the biggest retaining wall in Montego Bay — maybe Jamaica —
the Greatview wall was an epic project that took six months to build.
The Wall
The answer came in the form of the Wall. I capitalize the word because the
Greatview Wall became something of a local celebrity. It’s probably the biggest
retaining wall ever built in Montego Bay — maybe even in Jamaica, although I have
no data to back that up. It was certainly a project of epic proportions.
The Wall took six months to build and more money than I care to remember,
the dot-com boom having turned to bust in the interim. It was ugly. One of my more
depressing memories is of the moment the person standing next to me on the driving range at the Half Moon Golf Course (learning golf was one of my projects in this
new Jamaican life) looked up at the Wall with disgust. He turned to me and said,
“Isn’t it awful how some people can deface the landscape?” All the Wall needed was
an old cannon and gun ports on top, and you’d be forgiven for assuming it was the
ruins of an ancient fort.
But the Wall was finally complete, and tons of marl — loose, stony material —
brought in as backfill. We now had a large, flat area of land ready for a house with
a spectacular view in three directions.
Things grow quickly in Jamaica, amazingly so for someone accustomed to
Canada’s short growing season. In far less time than I’d expected, the foliage and
bougainvillea I’d planted at the base of the Wall took over, creating a colourful camouflage of tropical vegetation. Today, not one speck of ugly concrete is visible. And
I can once more hold my head high at the golf course.
From below it resembled the ruins of an ancient fort.