Blue Eggs, Cakes, Chicken & Flowers
[How I Found Happiness & Pain, Where I Least Expected]
By: *Karlton A. Armistad
[Dedicated to My Recovery]
1. Begin from the Beginning
I never really gave much thought to baking, cooking, photography or even floral arrangement. I always believed that property rentals, holiday lets and or anything to do with those pursuits were where my talents lie. I was wrong, and it took having what can only be described as a full mental breakdown, and moving countries from England to Scotland to save myself and discover a completely new, confident and talented person was always inside me waiting to showcase what I could do, and what my Mom spent so much time teaching me back in the Caribbean.
I arrived in Lochcarron, a little village in the Scottish Highlands in January of 2019. I left Yorkshire, a successful job and what everyone thought was a reasonably happy life on a spur of the moment reaction to the fact that I was seriously mentally unwell and pretty much wanted to end my life, as it felt no one could see how much I was hurting, or how lost and in pain I was. I would ask myself over and over, what is my purpose in life, why does it seem like I am never getting anywhere; yet everyone thinks I have it together. I knew if I did not leave for Scotland to where I had some kind of support and a chance to heal, my next best option was to end it all. I couldn’t do it, taking my life would be solving the problem for me, but it would hurt my daughter, sisters and brothers and those I know genuinely cared for me. Starting again at least would let me experience a new chapter in my life, and maybe, just maybe find where I belong.
My best friend Cyrus and his family were settled here, which included his Mother Sheila, who I called ‘Momma Bear’, his younger brother Lance, his son Thomas, who was my Godson, his girlfriend Lisa and their dogs Loki, Luna & Shadow of both House-holds. Cyrus managed to create a space for Me, in what was his study, and after 4 days of rest, I went hunting for a job, stating that if I can find one in 5 days, that would be the sign that going back to City was not an option, as this means this is where I am meant to be.
And so it came to pass, that while interviewing at the Village’s main Hotel, known affectionately as the ‘LC’; I was headhunted by the new Owners of its competing Hotel; the ‘Hotel Berriot’, which was 4 miles away and who had had its Chef walk out due to not being able to work with the Owners. I was collected from the bus-stop at the bottom of hill near my home and taken for an interview and to see the premises by the husband of the couple who were the owners, Lucifer Balding. Lucifer was about 5ft 6inches tall, very portly and had the most nervous shift in his eyes I had ever seen. He was pleasant enough in his tour of the kitchen, premises and questions regarding my experience so this eased my initial concerns regarding him as a potential boss. I explained that I had completed my ‘chef/kitchen’ training some 10 years ago, and had not worked in the Hospitality environment since then, so would rather take on a junior role at first. He said he was happy to hire me as the Chef, and would give me as much support as I needed to get me to where I needed to be. I was so happy with this, as it meant not only had I found a full-time job but that I could stay here and heal, recover from the terrible mental and physical state I was in and go back to doing something I was trained to do, and was pretty good at.
2. Let the Creative Juices Flow
I began work the 20th January, 2019; and my first challenges saw me figuring out how the kitchen works, learning again to prepare meals to order, putting the kitchen into a functioning state and ensuring that as a Team, the staff and myself were working within statutory required guidelines. It didn’t take me long to highlight some of the obvious things that needed to be changed straight away like a set outfit for staff working in the kitchen, adding items to the Menu, developing a Menu and dividing responsibilities, so we agreed that the Owners would handle all things breakfast, and leave the kitchen clean and tidy, ready for Me to run from 12pm – 8pm, with a 1 hour break, giving me a 12pm – 9pm shift Wednesday – Sunday, with Monday & Tuesday off as my Days-off.
Things went amazingly well for the 1st couple of weeks, and in that time I made my Kitchen my project, which was to have it put out authentic, delicious farm-to-table meals and deserts utilizing a lot of locally sourced poultry, meats, seafood and produce. I became good friends with our local Seafood supplier called J.T., so I had Fresh Cod, Shrimp, Scallops & Scampi on supply. I used local butchers to provide fresh poultry, ground beef, pork chops, Haggis, Black and White Pudding, sausages and bacon, along with local Green grocers for our flour, rice, risotto rice, spring onions, cheese, milk and tomatoes. I procured my aromatic and wholesome world spices like cumin, turmeric, ginger and mixed spice, cinnamon and pimento as every creation was to leave the customer wanting more and telling others so they could come to enjoy the flavours.
For my cakes I made each one with love, and served with either locally sourced vanilla ice-cream, custard, double cream, strawberry or chocolate sauce and dusted to make the present looks mouth-wateringly tasty. I would get in early and pre-heat my oven to a nice 180 degrees centigrade, grease and line my tins then using a kitchen pair of scissors, to create a perfect barrier between the tin and my smooth creamy cake batter with greaseproof paper. My eyes and heart would jump and blink in sheer satisfaction every time a customer asked to speak with the Chef as their meal was magnificent. As I cooked and baked during these early settling months my suffering soul found a lost inner peace, that went while I working myself into the ground in Yorkshire. Every dish was a piece of Me that I had left unused for so long but now gave gastronomic pleasure to so many.
Mother Sheila would lend me her Pinking Shears in the morning and I would go walking through the neighbourhood asking neighbours politely if I could cut stems of lush foliage and exotic flowers, to use to make the most fragrant floral arrangements both for home & work. They would brighten our home and the tables at Hotel Berriott allowing customers to comment on both their originality and exquisite presentation. It amazed me, as well as soothed my manic mind what could be achieved with a pair of scissors and the desire to beautify one’s surroundings.
The Owners were very pleased at this point as their business started to take off and a kitchen that was never opened started doing all they had hoped for.
Freshly made soups, sandwiches, toasties and a home-made coleslaw that made your mouth water from its simple yet diverse ingredients. I remember choosing to make a Chocolate and Walnut Cake and wanting to use the best of everything so that each dripping mouthful would see the person eating it let out a mental moan of satisfaction for the way the piece of cake would melt in their mouth, so I asked for some eggs from one of the villagers and they brought me a stunning set of six freshly laid light-blue coloured eggs. I got excited by the change of colour from your standard light or dark brown.
I gently cracked them and whisked them into my mixture noticing the distinct extra richness they added to the finished product and thought back to my unhappy days sat behind a glossed black desk, negotiating deals to make the corporate greed machine wealthier, and me feeling unfulfilled. That was no more now, I was doing something I loved and in an environment that allowed me a freedom and enjoyment so much so I could sing as many Whitney Houston tracks as I liked while creating my culinary & floral masterpieces. Everything looked promising and hopeful, and as I sat overlooking the overjoyed waters of the Loch, stealing stones and pebbles from the shore, I prayed things would only get better and not change, but this was to be short-lived. So too, did my happiness and comfort with that environment and its occupants and the project I had so given my all to, started to surprise me, terrify me and for ever change my life for the worse.
3. A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing Ends An Unfinished Journey
My metal hand-whisk moved rhythmically around my large porcelain mixing bowl with precision, and I sprinkled the zests of limes, lemons & oranges and oranges into my swerving smooth lemon cake batter while looking out my kitchen window. The view was of a small court yard surrounded by beautiful little 1 & 2 bedroomed Bungalows, with views from each back garden overlooking the fresh rushing river, waltzing with the salty yet groovy Loch. This was my new Sanctuary.
It was early June now, 6 months since I started at the Hotel Berriott and if anyone would have told me that the environment I had treasured so closely and loved to work in each day with a smile, would become a toxic negative vipers den of rumours, lies, bullying, favouritism and nepotism, I would have laughed in their face. Yet here we were and getting up to leave to go to work felt like I was serving a jail-sentence with hard labour, it was sheer soul-killing torture.
His name was Trump Fondelsyn, a 24 year-old young ‘local’ man; who felt the world owed him something and he was going treat it and those around however it suited him as they were part of his orbit, and as such he could what he wanted when he wanted. He had got the job of General Assistant at the Hotel because other locals from the Village had recommended him to the Owners, Lucifer & Magdalin Balding. They met him, and Lucifer and Trump became instant best friends, as Lucifer needed a constant boost to his self-destructive self-esteem and under any Oxford dictionary featuring a meaning of a complete-kiss-ass; there was a picture of young Trump, telling you who to not attach yourself to in life.
I became an acquaintance of Trump as he had his own car and knew my best friend Cyrus and his Family well. He offered to take me into work every day and I accepted, as I was pre-warned he had a very unfiltered racist and homophobic mouth on him which he used out of context and offensively more times than a ‘working girl’ saw clients. Once Trump believed and confirmed he had his mouth firmly wedged in Lucifer’s a*s, what was my living hell began, and led to me having to make a decision that broke my heart for always.
It would start with Trump asking to use the ‘N’ word, and me having to tell him outright, that has to stop as its not only extremely insensitive but vile, still he carried as he would say ‘I am not racist, I have a black nephew’; and I would reply ‘your family relations do not justify racist actions or behaviours; it just makes you look more ignorant, that even with a black relative, respect and tolerance are not skills you possess’. He would find this funny and then state he would still do and say what he pleased, as that was his right. Then came the part where I start crying to every time I think of it;
He would make the most inappropriate advances, and remarks that would make the very hair on my skin cringe with stomach-turning disgust, comments like ‘Elijah, [Me] I think you want some of my d**k f***ot’, to which I would be forced to reply ‘over my dead body, I’d have to be blind, and with no sense of smell to find you attractive Trump. Everything about you are all the qualities and features `I don’t want a man to possess, so please stop’.
Yet Trump persisted, and when I asked him to not touch me as I didn’t like it; it seemed to make him want to even more. It went from light inappropriate touches, to full-on assault gropes and as much as I fought back and made Lucifer and Magdalin aware; they did nothing. They didn’t sit Trump down and explain that this kind of behaviour was not work-place appropriate and could lead to him losing his job; even if they came in and caught him touching me in-appropriately; they would just laugh ignoring the clear and horrified looks on my face from nothing being done to stop him. Left to his own devices, Trump thought that this was his right to do what he was doing to me, that because I was black, ‘ I was use to submitting to the white man’s advances, and especially that me being bi-sexual, I was open to anything any man/woman proposed’. This being his mind-set, and after a few failed attempts, he decided to use a late Friday evening to carry out an act that has left me never wanting to be alone with anyone again, and my reason for leaving my once place of work and project of happiness for good.
4. From Survivor To Creator; Acknowledge Your Gift & Let It Heal You!
Every evening at 9:15pm I would be found sweeping and mopping the Kitchen Floors after making sure the entire work area was ready for the next day’s trade. I hated a dirty kitchen to start work in and also Lucifer and Magdalin needed it ready to serve Breakfast to our Guests before they went on their many routes to explore all that the breath-taking Scottish lands around us.
I wanted to get home early that Friday night, as I needed to plan my trip away with the Family, and ensure I had time to get everything I needed, so my mind was very much occupied by trying to get done swiftly and efficiently so that Trump would not complain for having to wait on me in order to give me a lift home. My head phones were in and this helped with my speed & accuracy to complete the tasks I had to do.
I was so lost in the magical music of Miss Janet Jackson singing ‘On and on you seem to go and you don’t what you got till its gone’ that Trump’s foot-steps missed me along with his signature unwashed pungent smell that made the nostrils hold its entrances shut to stop you from feeling like you wanted to throw-up.
Startled, he startled me as at the same time I felt his rough un-washed hands grab for my groin and the hard thrust of his forceful erect crotch simulating an unwanted attempt at the penetration of my ass. My headphones fell out my air, and I remember shouting ‘Trump…what the f**k are you doing, let go of me dude, are you crazy?’. He let out a disgusting kind of moan and quiet response, saying ‘shhhh, don’t worry about it’ while still thrusting and rubbing himself against me as if seeking to violate me and climax against my kitchen whites. He seemed to feel that even though I was fighting him off, this my way of making it more pleasurable for him, even though my look of dread was visible and I was resisting with an angrier and angrier voice; ‘I said get the f**k off me you bastard’, to which he grunted and started laughing as if he was not far from being released.
In that moment I saw a silver long dinner fork on the side of the Kitchen counter near to me & in my hands reach. I grabbed it, and like the Greed God Zeus ceasing his lightning bolt and wielding it to release the puffed and full clouds of their tears; I stabbed at Trump’s leg. I wasn’t thinking to hurt him, but I needed him to let me go, of me, give me back to me as I wanted no part of this; this mentally damaging encounter.
He hollered as the fork’s prongs, scratched against his right leg; piercing through his jeans and pulling back skin from flesh; ‘what the bloody hell did you do that for ass-hole?’, giving me a look that I was the One in the wrong for defending myself. ‘You better hurry up or else you’ll be walking home bitch, I was only joking with you for Christ’s sake’ and he stormed off towards the bar area of the Hotel, as if he had not just tried to rape me. I was shaking from inside and felt like crying but couldn’t as the shock was making my heart beat through my mouth; what had actually just happened to Me?
I took the rubbish out to the bins at the back of the hotel, came in and finished locking up the kitchen and walked through to the Bar, as I got there I could hear Magdalin say to Lucifer ‘Elijah always takes his time to get that kitchen done, but it seems he’s done nothing at all when I check’ followed by Lucifer & Trump laughing and agreeing. When she saw me her face fell, and she couldn’t look me in the eyes, as she knew her comment was a lie and unjustified. I was so shaken by what Trump had just done, I barely managed to mutter that I was going and would see them tomorrow, after which Trump walked out following Me to his Car.
As we drove from the Hotel to my House, he started meaningless conversations with me, and tried stroking my leg while saying ‘you know I was only joking right, why do you always have to over-react to everything, is it a gay thing, so sensitive’. I push his hand away and said harshly ‘I’ve f**kin told you time and again I don’t like you doing anything like that to me as I’m not attracted to you, and give you no signals to indicate that, yet just because we are friends you think have the right to cross the line.’ He nervously laughed and said nothing more until I got out the car to walk into my House. ‘Night sexy’ he shouted as he drove away; ‘f**k off Trump’ I replied, and as I got through my I swiftly closed 7 locked it, ran to my bedroom and burst out crying. As I cried I vowed that Trump would not make me live in fear or do that to Me again, and I would survive this somehow, but for sure I would not return to Hotel Berriott, as it was not safe for Me.
I never returned as stated to the Hotel, not for a minute as even being in the kitchen was wiped clean of any happy memories because of what Trump did to me. I still cook amazing meals, bake delicious cakes and cut and arrange exquisite floral arrangements, but I do it from home. I am in survivor therapy once a week and lock myself away from most of the world and write to feed any need for interaction with anyone not in a very tight and small trust circle I was forced to create, so as to not harm myself.
My new project and passion lies within still doing the things I love, and teaching myself how to heal and move on from the tragedy at the hotel. I avoid Trump and those he hangs out with, as I am not sure what to expect from anyone like him. As I take out my scissors and slice through another piece of grease-proof paper, I know that I am free to say I chose to say ‘no, I don’t want this’ so why wasn’t that enough for him to stop.
Your happiness, your talents are yours to use to seek some kind of happiness in this world. Never let anyone cut you away from using them and if you find yourself in a situation of trauma caused by someone else, don’t just fight and stay quiet like I did, you need to fight, speak out and seek justice for yourself every time. I hope my story helps anyone suffering with anything similar and encourages You to be braver than I was.
About the Creator
Carlton A. Armistad is the pseudonym for Andrew R. Little. I prefer writing under this as it allows me to look at any body of work I complete separate to my personal day-to-existence, and safeguards my relationships and family.