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Elspeth Duncan leads a student through a kundalini yoga session in a picturesque
outdoor setting in Goodwood, Tobago.
Duncan prepares for an evening at her mini-restaurant, Table For Two.
plays a big part
in Duncan's life
Continued from Page A10
a unique person.
Now 47, she's done and seen a lot.
Raised in St Augustine in a scholarly
family---her father was a professor of
botany at UWI and her mother a librar-
ian in the Extra-Mural department---
the young Duncan and her two younger
sisters travelled a lot with her family.
They even spent a whole year abroad
in Germany and England. Later, Duncan
majored in literature and minored in
linguistics, general psychology and soci-
ology at UWI.
After university she taught English
literature at a high school in south
Trinidad for a year before going to
Cambridge to do a master's in crim-
inology. She never went on to use the
master's professionally, and if you ask
her why she chose criminology, she
tells you she's a creative person, and
what interested her at the time was
"For me that merged the ability to
be creative, to appeal to another side
of the person rather than just..." She
tails off at the end of the sentence, but
what she means, in short, is that helping
people is something she does.
A lot of her life, or lifestyle decisions,
amount to finding ways in which she
can use her creative energy, what some
might call her spiritual healing side,
to help others. She used it when writing
her book Daisy Chain, a collection of
short stories about interconnected
characters and lives. She uses it as a
kundalini yoga teacher and when cre-
ating perfect evenings at her mini-
restaurant, Table For Two, which she
hosts on the garden patio in Goodwood
overlooking the sea.
Each meal she cooks is not just a
meal, it's an occasion. Before you
come to dine you fill out a ques-
tionnaire about yourself, your
needs, your likes. Duncan takes
the information and produces food,
ambience and activities that the
couple, or just two friends, will
always remember fondly. Except,
perhaps the couple who turned up
to consume her vegan cooking who
had never eaten a meal that didn't
"They barely touched the food,"
she says. "They must have gone
On other occasions it becomes
a magical experience.
"Every night is memorable in
its own way, but one of the most
memorable was an English couple
who came. On the form one of the
last questions is: if you had a wish
for the two of you, what would it
be? And the woman put: That
we could've seen leatherback tur-
tles,' because it was their last night
"So the whole dinner was tur-
tle-themed and I created this expe-
rience with things in a box, some
meditational music and turtle visu-
alisations and each course was a
clue leading up to the final thing---
which was that I took them turtle
watching, down at Turtle Beach."
The couple had tried five times
to see the turtles and never seen
"As we reached the beach, BAM!
This big massive leatherback
mother covering up her eggs, and
the husband was just silent. We
were there for about an hour. He
didn't say a word, he was just in
"The woman was just like: Oh
my god, oh my God.'"
Duncan moved to Tobago a year
ago. Her friends ask her how she
can live there but, for now, she
prefers the quieter pace of life.
"Everywhere has its pros and
cons but I like it, I feel better here
than in Trinidad. Trinidad is a rush.
The traffic, the heat...
"Here the focus has shifted.
More yoga. New things came up
while I was here. The restaurant---
in inverted commas---for example.
I don't think I would have even
thought of it if I was in Trinidad."
Before the yoga, the restaurant
and the column Duncan spent nine
years as an advertising copywriter
with McCann Erickson and later
Lonsdale, planning, designing and
executing whole campaigns for
corporate clients. For such a cease-
lessly restless, ever-moving person
it's perhaps surprising she stayed
in the same job for nine years.
"At first it was fantastic. Getting
to be creative all day. Getting paid.
The weekend would come and I'd
be like, Shoot, it's the weekend.'
So I enjoyed it at first. "
So why did she leave the adver-
tising industry if she loved it so
"It's almost like telling lies every
day. You're advertising stuff you
might not necessarily use.
"Also I began to feel that clients'
ways of thinking were very limited.
A lot of the time they're saying,
Add on this,' when it's really not
necessary. Advertising can be very
minimalistic and powerful, but a
lot of them don't get that.
"So it got frustrating creatively.
And I felt I wanted to use my cre-
ative talents to help people and
She also felt the range of things
she does---music and writing---
were not getting a chance to
breathe. Nowadays she creates
soundtracks---she learned piano as
a child, up to grade 7.
She also makes films---some-
thing she loves as it brings together
many of her passions, writing,
music and the visual arts. She
shows me several paintings she is
working on that are currently scat-
tered about her living room in var-
ious states of finishedness. She has
written several plays.
It's almost as though there's
nothing this woman can't do. Did
she find that process of writing a
Dialogue came naturally?
So that's theatre covered then...
But why does everything she's
involved with come back to heal-
ing? Why is that so important to
"Because you have creation and
destruction, and there's a lot of
destruction. We all have a creative
energy that can either manifest in
a creative form or a destructive
To demonstrate how far one can
go to help to overcome destruction:
Duncan last year went to India and
put together a dance production
with girls who were the victims
of sex trafficking.
They performed it at Sadler's
Wells in London.
"It was so amazing. They got a
standing ovation. Such tiny girls
and yet when they got to that stage
they were larger than life, they just
It's hard to describe her as any
"I'm not any one thing. I don't
think I could be. I would feel
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