Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Life on the pebble

Angry African and Coffeedude would probably be appalled but I've not had a cup of coffee since Saturday, my last was at the airport while waiting for my flight. Honestly, it is the one thing that I miss here on the pebble. You can't exactly run down to the corner Rituals or whatever to pick up a cup of joe. You can get coffee at the ice cream shop but since everything on this island is geared towards the moneyed, the price for a tiny cup is more than good sense dictates you pay.

Once you're not part of the 'set', there is not much to do on this island, especially since I am without transport, other than my two feet, the dreaded bike and rides from various people. I don't mind, it means that I don't feel the need to rush around doing things or seeing things or whatever it is that 'they' say you must do on a vacation. Mostly I'm content to putter around, stroll down to the beach or ride past Tommy's house to the curve of the hill, then decide whether I want an undignified huff and puff to get past it and down the other side to the slightly less hilly stretch. I don't go far on the bike, I'm a little afraid of it with all the gears and the fact that my feet barely touch the ground when I get on.

Having all this time on my hands for a change also means lots of time to think. About the choices I've made, the things I don't do or want to do. Yesterday, contorting myself into various yoga poses on the grassy verge on Macaroni Beach, the cool sea breeze ruffling my hair, the evening soft to the touch, it's been five years since I did any serious yoga. My body groaned through the once familiar asanas. It's disheartening, I've done yoga off and on since I was fifteen, every time you stop you have to start all over, from the beginning. The older you get, the harder it gets because your body loses tone and flexibility.

I'm reminded about how much of myself I've given up and the resolution to make changes every time I snatch one of these breaks. This time it's closer to reality than ever, if I do not make some changes my body is going to pay dearly but so is my mind. You see, like not doing yoga if you don't work at relationships you stop having them. It's easy to lock yourself away under the guise of liking to be alone or not wanting the bother and hassle of dealing with people. I deal with people every day, I don't have a problem with my own company or being alone in my house. But that's not living, because you see,if all you are doing is self preservation then where is the room for all the other things? I look at my life and think that it's become rather empty. Where are all the things that I was so passionate about, the ideas, the passion, the interests that made me interesting to me and conversely, to other people.These are not material things, I'm not into that, they are the essence of what makes us real. Here I've found a semblance of that, I want to hang on to it lest it be subsumed into the grind of existing.

In the last few days I've once again reveled in being outdoors, feeling the sun on my face, burning the back of my neck, tanning my legs so dark. The relentless lap of the sea against my skin. No, I don't want watersports, I want to float on the waves in Yemanja's womb. My fellow blogger Angry African often writes about his family, the times he cooks with his girls, or other things, there are days when I envy him that. To have someone to share things with, sure there are good friends but sometimes, you need someone and that's the other thing that's missing. While it's always great to be around my brother, he has a life, one I only drop in on briefly while I'm here. We're still very close but he's busy and I hardly see him. Ah well, maybe a trek down to the beach now....


Saturday, December 27, 2008

Wind in my hair...

So today started early, it was a hop, skip and jump to get to the airport at the crack of dawn. I hate having to rush through so I tend to get in early and organise my check in luggage etc and then sit and have a blessed cup of coffee.Travelling alone means that you have no one to watch your luggage but you get used to it.

I didn't realise how trapped I'd been feeling until we were nearing St. Vincent, looking out of the grotty window past the propeller at the blue sea underneath, that's when I started to unwind. The puddle hop to the pebble is just that so before you knew it, was on the ground waiting for Bopsingh to show up. Between saying quick hello's to my brother's friends and co-workers I've spent most of the afternoon passed out on the couch asleep. I truly did not understand how tired and run down I'd been feeling.

The past few weeks have been a roller coaster ride of trying to finish projects, work with consultants to bring things in line, support my boss and in the current economic state, make things work best as can. The floods, earthquake, various local disasters have all been loud cries to wake up but I think the thing that really shook me was the cops and robbers scenario that played out on Christmas Eve. Like most Trinis I've become accustomed to the overhead drone of helicopter hovering, spotlight on at all hours of the night and sometimes during the day. The wail of police sirens and the distant pop of gunfire across the quiet valley. Yes, it sounds like a war zone but it's not as bad as all that, we're not living in a true hellhole but some days you just don't know what you'll come home to find.

Christmas Eve found me at Charms house on the other side of my Valley, from her house you can see the whole of Diego Martin spread out before you, lights clustered together against the overcast sky. It was pretty, the sort of thing that the tourist board puts on postcards. We were hoping Judy and Ashton, new friends, would make it over for a small pre-Christmas lime. The drama started just after 7:00pm with the rapid retort of semi automatic gun fire. In the quiet of the evening it echoed loudly, you couldn't really tell where it was coming from and then, a short while after, the insistent wail of sirens and blue flashing lights over on the Diego Martin Main Road side. More shots, we watched it with a sense of unreality from our vantage point way up the opposite hill. For the next hour we were cowed, speculating on what could be going on and with an undertone of unease. I just wanted to go home and check on the hound and lock myself away, even though my house was much closer to the action.

The demise of our evening has become another sign that time away is vital. What made it even worse is that all of this played out on Judy and Ashton's front door, literally. They spent their night cowering in the shadows of their apartment, terrified. We found this out the next day. My heart really goes out to them, who would want to have to deal with that? That night, I know that I spent a lot of time checking my windows and doors, Zeus and I huddled in front of the TV until bedtime when we curled up in the middle of the bed, trying to feel safe. When the X-man called in the wee hours of the morning on his way home, why he felt the need to wake me up I'm not sure but it seemed, even he needed to touch something secure.

Christmas Day was spent quietly, the usual pilgrimage to the X-man's family, though we are no longer and item, they still include me. It was lovely, as was dinner at Tasha's mom later that night. And yet, it was with an ever present undertone. That feeling of unease, we all had it despite the enjoyment we felt in each other's company. Tasha's mom is an excellent cook and a wonderful hostess, at her house you're made to feel like family, it really sucked that we couldn't truly let go.

And so, I'm here on the pebble, where we all take security for granted, it's a private island, they take things like that very seriously here. It's Friday night and I can have a real shower, not out of a bucket like at home where we have no water on a Friday, or Monday or Wednesday. This afternoon I borrowed my brother's bike, I've not seriously ridden in more than ten years, like swimming, at one time if I wasn't in the water I was on a bike. This is why I hate spin class, you ride to nowhere, what's the bloody point!Riding down the pothole free roads, the sun on my face, wind blowing through my hair, legs pumping furiously up the hilly spots, breathing in deep lungfulls of air, I started to feel like me again.

As fabulous as it is to see my brother, I cannot being to express my gratitude to him for giving me the space to breathe again. My little brother who spoils me rotten when I'm here, who bought me the most beautiful present even though we agreed not to do the present thing. His generosity has underlined for me what is lacking in my own life, not the willingness, but the space to be generous in. I am lucky to have good friends who love and support me, I'd like to think that they feel the same about me. But honestly, until today when I rode awkwardly along the road while getting to know the bike, was the first time in a long while that I felt free. I know tomorrow will be even better when I hit the beach, water is like coming home and no one bothers you here.

My friend Blue on her blog a couple days ago lamented that she'd put too much on her blog so it wasn't the space she wanted it to be anymore. I wanted to say to her, I understand but it's putting all that stuff out there that made all of us come to know her, appreciate her for the great person that she is and to share a little of what makes us all so real. Myth always asks after I write these types of blogs whether I feel that I'm giving too much about myself away....but you know what, this is what writers do. We write so that you can feel, share, understand, we write to evoke emotion, plundering our own experiences. This is what makes life bearable some days, even through the hard bits and the shadows. Oh, Angry African, you don't know how much you've influenced my life and I can't wait for the day we sit down to have coffee! I still think you ROCK.

And yes J9, providing I don't get into more trouble biking,I will take pictures!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

To you all...

A very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Like Jumbie, I'm heading off to a smaller rock. You know it's always easy to spot the bad things, goodness knows we have plenty of stupidity around here, but you know what, so what. In this space I've commented on a lot of things, in the end, what does it matter, I still think despite the shit that goes on in my country, I'm one of the lucky ones, so to steal some lines from Sir Bob Geldof and Midge Ure:

It's Christmastime
There's no need to be afraid
At Christmastime, we let in light and we banish shade
And in our world of plenty we can spread a smile of joy
Throw your arms around the world at Christmastime

But say a prayer

Pray for the other ones
At Christmastime it's hard, but when you're having fun
There's a world outside your window
And it's a world of dread and fear
Where the only water flowing is the bitter sting of tears
And the Christmas bells that ring there are the clanging
chimes of doom
Well tonight thank God it's them instead of you

And there won't be snow in Africa this Christmastime
The greatest gift they'll get this year is life
(Oooh) Where nothing ever grows
No rain nor rivers flow
Do they know it's Christmastime at all?

(Here's to you) raise a glass for everyone
(Here's to them) underneath that burning sun
Do they know it's Christmastime at all?

Feed the world
Feed the world

Feed the world

Let them know it's Christmastime again

Feed the world
Let them know it's Christmastime again

Sunday, December 21, 2008

What's the name of that song

You know how sometimes you hear a bit of music and it sticks in your head, then you walk around all day trying to shake it. Usually it's something annoying, like my colleague who starts singing Jose Feliciano, something about laughing children. it's particularly stupid but you can wipe it from your mind with enough applications of Aerosmith. There's this piece of music that is currently driving me nuts. I keep hearing snatches of it, it sounds like Brazilian Samba music or maybe African dance music. Whatever, I've heard it before, probably on one of those Putamayo collections.

Funny enough the trend started on the morning coffee trek, while waiting for my cup of joe, it came on and the girls in the store started dancing behind the counter. I couldn't blame them, I too was tapping away. It was right there on the edge of my memory if only I could grab hold of it, it was something I'm sure Angry African would have loved, the smell of coffee brewing and laughing dark eyed girls having a moment of levity in their day.

A couple of days later it was playing in the downtown Rituals as I ducked in for a pick me up. Again, dancing girls behind the counter and on the other side, the waiting patrons also doing a little shimmy. I was the stand out, in my sober suit and high heels among a bunch of women obviously out for a day's shopping. For a moment we were all sisters, bopping away, kind of like what happens at Carnival.

Tonight, while flaked out in front of the TV watching Cold Case, a passing car, volume cranked up high in the quiet, sound blaring, and there is was again and I really wish I knew what it is was. I'm going to have to ask our office music specialist to figure it out for me. It's such a happy piece of music.

At our version of the office party, while the parang group played, as usual the denizens were surprised to see me dance. Yes Virginia, the Wallah does dance (apologies to Earl Lovelace). Though I am usually loath to make an exhibition of myself, given the opportunities to do just that in my profession, I do love to dance and like Angry African, I'll do it with the least bit of provocation. My excuse is that I'm a Trini and that's what we do, it's about the only time I subscribe to Trinism. I guess it really does not go with the black suit and four inch stilts but say what, live with it.

Maybe tomorrow morning I'll ask the nice girls in Rituals if they know what it is as we exchange our usual chat. Don't ask me to sing it, now that's one thing I cannot do at all, carry a tune to save my life. God save me, my boss has decided as one of those office bonding things, we're going to attempt karoke, over my limp twitching body. Sure, I sing in the car, when nobody else is in there and the windows are up; in my office behind closed doors; around my house while my dog looks on incredulously, probably wincing in shame, but never, ever in public, not even when drunk. I'll do the back up singers dance, but I'm lip synching like Milli Vanilli, no sound is coming out from between my lips. The only thing I ever publicly sing is the national anthem, usually in the wrong key. So now you know.

Anyway, she, the boss and the assistant boss both think it's "fun' and I'm a killjoy because i don't feel the need to submit to the "spirit". You know what ladies, carry on, I'll just lurk in the corner and watch you all make asses of yourselves thanks. Heck I used to be in theatre, notice, not any more, ditto TV. Behind the scenes is just fine for me, not because I couldn't act, because that I can, not everybody wants to stand under the spotlights.

Good night.

PS I finally figured it out with some help from Wuzdescene's blog, it's Sergio Mendes Magalenha which is enjoying a second life, both from Mr. Mendes who has a 2008 version, the one I remember is on a VINYL album belonging to the X-man's mother and on a Putamayo CD, and the remixed version by some or other DJ.

I feel the earth move, under my feet....

Whoa, did you all feel the earth move this morning? For a moment, it felt as though we were trapped in a movie, the hound, behaving like all good movie dogs, woofing to alert dumb master that something was about to happen; master blithely tucking into toast ignoring warning. And then, the plate jolted, vibrations whizzing up the metal chair legs, coffee cup tapping on the glass topped table, doors and windows rattling and the newly arrived poinsettia shaking like a a pair of maracas in a parang band. It was really something that jolt, makes you wonder if the universe is trying to tell us something, floods, earthquake, what next, a plague of grasshoppers?

Ah well, if you were in the neighbourhood last night, the smell of cookies baking would have wafted out, warm and homey against the rainy night. This has become part of my tradition, home baked cookies for my office and a few friends. I learnt to bake from watching my mother and grandmother, we all lived in the same house up until I was eight. Granny and mum would be in the downstairs kitchen with the tiled floors, we had a white Westinghouse stove, one this a top grill. They don't make them like that anymore. The mixer would be going, cakes to be baked, maybe a batch of cookies. Those golden sponges, heavy with butter and orange zest, dark rum soaked fruit cakes(before my grandparents got really serious about religion), sweet bread, maybe a cassava pone (my Grandad's favourite), cupcakes and bread. The smells to drive you nuts, sneaking in licks of the bowl when they weren't looking. My great granddad lying on his bed knowing that his afternoon tea would have a sweet treat attached, how he loved his sponge cake! Sometimes while we waited I'd lie next to to him looking up at the canopy stretched above the brass bed, or reading one of my books. He used to love to hear me read to him because he couldn't read in English. In the next room my great Grandma would be stitching up one of her endless patchwork quilts, made from scraps of fabric that she would recycle from everything. It was from her that I first learnt to sew endless dolls dresses.

I don't bake Christmas cakes anymore, even as wonderful as the smell wafting through the house is, the work has become something more than I can handle. Which is why the cake made by Auntie Enid is so special. Enid is eighty-four and losing her sight. Her Christmas present from the doctor this year was that she would never see again, the previous eye doctor having botched her eye surgery. It was a hard blow coming on the heels of her growing inability to straighten up and walk. I admire that she still has the gumption to keep going. As per usual, she made me a fruit cake, dark and rich with the fruits that she soaked in rum earlier this year. It smells divine, made and given with a whole lot of love, Christmas has finally arrived at Casa Wallah. One of my office colleagues made the cake that will go to my brother, it too smells wonderful. I know it's going to taste good too because like me, she shares her baked goods with the office.

Yesterday, as Charms and I made the last minute rounds, we marveled at the people cramming into the malls as we headed home. It was a good day to be inside. I tided up the house for my housesitter who'll be moving in as I go off to visit my brother for New Year's, in a peaceful moment I painted my toenails my favourite nail colour of all time, "I'm not really a waitress". It was my late uncle's wife, known to all as "Shanti" or "Doy" though her real name is Rookmin, who taught me the joys of nail polish. My mother rarely wore the stuff and generally stuck to Revlon Red lipstick. Doy was younger than my mum and every week she gave herself a mani/pedi and changed her nail polish colour. She was adventurous in her choice of colours and though I was tomboy of note, when hit with the teenage years I admit to trying to be a girl sometimes. Bless her heart she let me play in her make-up and borrow her clothes from time to time. She was also the repository of my boy woes and she was the one who told me about birth control, not my mother who avoided the subject at all cost. Sadly, she and my uncle grew apart and were on the verge of divorce when he died a year after my mother. I haven't seen or spoken to her in over fourteen years but I think of her sometimes when the bottle of nail polish comes out.

So many bad things happening in the world, so many people suffering some loss or sad circumstance this Christmas. And yet we fail to appreciate what we do have. Since I've been writing this blog I've connected with some really interesting people, you make me realise that what I do is important, if only for the questions that I ask. So though you may wonder at what nail polish or cookies baking has to do with anything, take it as a reminder of the things that are good in your life. That earthquake this morning could have been a lot worse, but it wasn't, as could the floods that happened last week. This Sunday morning, the sun is trying to push its way out, my dog is happily dropping his ball at my feet for the endless game of fetch that he will play until my arm falls off, as I admire my newly painted toes, I thank the universe that I can do this and for you.

Oh, and to Sean, my long suffering, hard working graphics guy who took his own time to make me the card that you see below, thanks bud, you're the best!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Twas the week before Christmas

And all through the town, streets were sometimes flooded and nary a shopper around. With all due apologies to Clement Clarke Moore for appropriating his Christmas classic, this is not a tale of reindeers prancing or stockings by the fireplace.If you're looking for a tale of Christmas wonder and happiness, skip this part and scroll down to the lighter side. It can safely be said, that I now share more in common with the Christmas grinch than I do otherwise. And this is why....

On the dark side....

People who do not say thank you. Even as we were entreated to tighten our belts my workplace decided to distribute polo shirts this year to all staff. You can guess who was part of that debacle. To man, all the originating department has gotten is mostly complaints, hardly a word of thanks to the hard working staff who took the time to make sure that everyone was accounted for, that shirts were individually labelled according to people's requests and delivered. This is not their job but they did it anyway. The sad thing is, we did not expect anyone to thank us because it never happens as is routinely proven every time, all we ever get is a litany of how awful/stupid/useless we are, never mind this is something you had no expectation of receiving and you got it without having to contribute. Fortunately, there are a few whose parents obviously taught them some manners, we can count them on our fingers, they were the few that did say thanks and it was hugely appreciated.

I constantly hear people talking about their "Christian" beliefs or nature. It never ceases to amaze me that a lot of these so-called Christian folk are the same ones who bitch the loudest when asked to contribute to a can drive or anything. The same people who will come around and ask you again and again for their children's raffle or whatever, when asked, their response usually is, I gave to something two months ago. I must remember that one for future use. Grinch behaviour coming alive here.

Two vagrants have taken up residence on the pavement outside the bakery that I sometimes buy my bread from, lately they've been joined by a bitch, heavily pregnant with pup who spends time laying on her side watching the world go by. Anyone who reads this space can tell you, there is a dog shaped hole in my life occupied by my furry sidekick. If you're involved with me, you must love dogs because if it came down to you or the dog, you'd get the boot if you couldn't live with him. Back to the two homeless men, one of whom spends an enormous amount of time scraping at the skin on his leg and watching it bleed.

I pity the poor girl in the bakery shop trying to stay afloat, they tend to put customers off even with the heavy application of raw disinfectant that she douses the place with every morning. The two hit up customers to, "put up ah dolla so we culd buy a lil someting". Here's the thing, I pass them as I walk to and from my workplace, where I go to earn money. I am not opposed to feeding the hungry or giving charity, but on average, every day if I go out, I'm accosted by between five to a dozen denizens for money. I'm not kidding. Anyway, it hit me, I'd rather go in and buy the DOG something than give those two any of my money. They're both stronger than me, get up and go do something. Hell, I have problems too. Of course, if we had functioning Social services in this country, maybe we wouldn't have so many people domiciled on the streets. So my Christmas wish, is that someone, please, look after the homeless.

On the light side....

twas the week before Christmas, and the pointsettias were abloom, their spiky red leaves cheerily brightening the usually sombre space. Though the skies were rainy, inside we were snug, with our ponche de creme to warm us, some christmas music to sing along with, someone brought the butter cookies and another some chocolate bombs and all was good.

We ate together, we told stories, for a brief moment we forgot all the running and complaints, tomorrow was another day. In the end, it's all good.

So, from me to you, happy holidays.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Happy birthday to you

WTF! I can't believe I didn't post this, I really meant to last thing last night but fell asleep watching the rain fall.

To my brother:

Another year gone by, we're both getting a little longer in the tooth.
You, aging not at all, me starting to look more and more like the family.
I remember when you were born, going to visit mum in the nursing home up in St. Ann's. You were this bright eyed, pale not so little bundle. Sometimes a squalling mass but mostly of sunny disposition, something you still are today. As much as I threatened to trade you in for the dog that was lost, you were and still are, one of the most important things in my life.

Every time I look at you I see the best of what our family is, and I'm so very glad to be your big sister, even though you still drive me nuts. It constantly amazes me that you still think I can fix anything, one of these days you're going to figure out I'm a big fraud but until then, I will try to fix everything for you.

So bro, as you walk through life on your own journey, you, who let nothing stop you from going places, know that you are loved and your big sister is still here looking out for you.

Happy Birthday little bro, may you always walk in sunshine and the path before you be relatively pot hole free.

Love always,


Of Hollywood starlets and good sense

She looked so beautiful under the lights last night, the patina of grime washed away by the driving rain. The lights twinkled in that way that they do under low clouds and precipitation. Despite all our faults, my country was a good place to be last night. It was cool, the blankie came in handy to huddle under, sleepy hound curled around feet and wishing for a hot cocoa preferably with marshmallows melting in it, I settled in to watch some late night TV. As an escape from reality and to leave behind the "idiotsyncrasies" of the day.

The English actress Kate Winslet is someone I've admired, largely for her refusal to kowtow to the general industry standard of anemic women. In a world where young and even older women are beleaguered and badgered into thinking that the standard of beauty is scrawny women, sans lines and other signs of age, Ms Winslet has always bucked the norm. Good for her, it can't that easy to get parts in LaLa Land. I generally like the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, he does not irritate me and he can be funny, KW was on last night. All was going well until Jay asked about her Christmas plans, this is why I probably won't be going to see her movie anytime soon. Because as a "black" Trinidadian, I might have trouble understanding the dialogue.

What am I on about? In describing her last Christmas experience she mentioned cooking lunch for in-laws. She then attempted to do an imitation of father-in-law's accent. Did we mention he is a Trinidad Mendes. His brother Stephen is a prominent architect who lives here with his children and other family members. Apparently Papa Mendes took exception that the Christmas lunch turkey was not in the oven at 9:30 am. Whatever. Holidays can be a stressful time so we'll make allowances for her irritation. Nope, it was her stressing that Sam is a WHITE trinidadian and then mocking the accents of Papa Mendes and the other family members who "invite her to Blanchessieuse", her take a sort of pseudo- Jamaican meets Ali G Indian. Pathetic really. Even that I didn't mind until she emphasised,"imagine, WHITE PEOPLE sounding like that". Huh, oh so the rest of us black folks are SUPPOSED to sound like that? Dumb. Guess she didn't realise we have cable here too. Poor thing, maybe she was really nervous or whatever. All I can guess is that Christmas around the House of Mendes might be a trifle terse this year.

Normally the antics of the Hollywood lot don't interest me. However, by accident I found myself watching E News or whatever it's called. One of the doctors of the Dr. 90210 series was asked to pick Hollywood's best body parts. Trite I know, but the man got real props from me for picking Beyonce's legs over Heidi Klum's. We all know B has thick legs and the goodly doctor pointed out that she looked strong, powerful and beautiful! Yes, it's about time.

By now you might have guessed this is my anti-blog. I figured that if I concentrated on some fluff this morning I could ignore all the negative crap going on. I'll let you know how successful this was at the end of today. Meanwhile, "you better watch out, you better not pout, you better not cry I'm telling you why, SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN.....

Sunday, December 14, 2008


And I'm not referring to that sappy Billy Joel song even though it might well be applicable. You might have guessed from this month's previous blogs that I'm somewhat annoyed. Forget that, unequivocally, I damn vex. Now those who are near and dear might say this is a default setting but not true, most of the time it's just impatience with the lackadaisical attitudes we have in Trinidad and Tobago. The 'God is a Trini" attitude is really getting on my nerves; most of the time I tune out and get on with business but really, the clamour is getting louder. I had to stop reading the weekend newspapers because all the murder/crime/government incompetence stories used to sour my day and since there is nothing I can personally do about it, I refuse to react any more.

Christmas is supposed to be a time for love, forgiveness, family, all that warm fuzzy stuff. Admittedly I've not been a practicing Christian type for a long time, my outlook is decidedly more "new age" whatever that means but Christmas is one of those times, that I at least try to make nice. The Christmas parties are on, I'm not generally a social butterfly, had enough of that and prefer the company of a few friends, my dog and book. There are a few people who take the trouble to invite me to their homes or out for a bite and with whom I like spending time, those are the events I attend. This is why I'm channeling my blog "pardner" Angry African; it seems we are all vexed, we're all unsettled and we are all looking for some missing element. At a barbecue last night the constant subject was how the government could cut spending on health care and then have the PM LEAVE THE COUNTRY FOR MEDICAL CARE. You know, I was angry with myself because you see, I self censored my last blog on this subject and that left quite a bitter taste.

We've all grown used to hearing, practice economy, "band your belly", austerity, yadda, yadda, yadda but it seems that only applies to us folks. And at a time of year when we should be finding peace, loving our neighbour and enjoying our fellowship, we're all, as they say, "bite up". Now I wouldn't wish the PM's condition on my worst enemy, I wish him well and a speedy recovery. Cancer is an evil, opportunistic disease that not only takes a toll on the victim but also on the whole family. First hand experience, my mother DIED from a lack of health care and medics putzing around with lab results, lack of chemotherapy on time, all kinds of things. And in the sixteen years since she died, nothing has bloody changed! I've been going through boxes last few weeks trying to clear out my spare room, finding all kinds of things from various people who are no longer around. I can't believe how many old colleagues, friends and acquaintances have died of cancer, most of them had to leave here to get medical treatment by which time it was too late. At that barbecue last night, the story of the young boy whose parents took him to a medical facility with a high fever, the fever went on for a week and despite "treatment" wouldn't come down. The diagnosis was dengue. The father, growing tired of his child's suffering, stormed into the room and removed his child, put him on a plane and took him to Florida. The diagnosis, acute leukemia. Dengue my ass! This is not unusual.

Guess this is why the PM went to Cuba, because he knows. The sad thing is that though our health care gets a bad rap there are actually professionals who are caring, competent and committed but they are consistently hamstrung by inefficiency, indifference and incompetence by administrators and officials. It's hugely frustrating. And this is not limited to the health care system. Sure we have things happening, roads being paved, water taxis, ICT's giving us on-line applications but for a country with our resources we're ten years behind. I'm not anti-government, despite what you might believe, there are hard working people who are trying to make a difference. We keep comparing ourselves to little backwater Singapore who is way ahead with no natural resources but we are our worst enemies with that God is a Trini attitude and it's somebody else's problem . We resist change because what would we have to complain about and how could we feel superior to our fellow man who might not know someone to make something happen.

Really, Im asking everyone to forgive me today. These are the irritations:

Bad driving on the roads and lack of law enforcement- CARS don't have accidents, PEOPLE do.
Government officials leaving the country for medical care, an option the general public does not have.
Water some of the time, not all
PET bottles et al in the river and the flooding when it rains
Waste- money, resources, time
General stupidity

Look, everything can't be wonderful all the time, you have to take the good with the bad, it's called balance. But we all have a responsibility, to ourselves, our fellow man and our environment, step up and stop complaining. Today I wrote this blog to release the anger inside of me over these things. I'm not putting them out there to gain power, but in the hope that they make someone think about their own actions the way I'm thinking about mine. In the meantime, do something good for yourself.

PS...i f this one is too much for you, I left you something positive on www.coffeewallah.wordpress.com

Friday, December 12, 2008

Humming with my fingers in my ears

I will not discuss the forbidden subject lest I piss someone off.
I will not discuss the forbidden subject lest I piss someone off.
I will not discuss the forbidden subject lest I piss someone off.
Change that to,
I will not have an opinion
I will not have an opinion
I will not have an opinion

It's not working. At all. Jimmy Sommerville's high falsetto shrieking,

"You leave in the morning
With everything you own
In a little black case
Alone on a platform
The wind and the rain
On a sad and lonely face"

Cannot distract from the growing irritation, neither can pounding along on the elliptical walker. I've just come from visiting my friend in the nursing home. I'm hugely thankful that she's going to be okay, she paid for a private hospital, not trusting herself to the vicissitudes of the public health care system. Fortunately her work insurance will cover her and her employer is concerned enough about her well being to ensure that she is receiving good health care. No speculation on what might have happened if she did not have this facility.

"Mother will never understand
Why you had to leave
But the answers you seek
Will never be found at home
The love that you need
Will never be found at home

Run away, turn away, run away, turn away, run away.
Run away, turn away, run away, turn away, run away."

This is flooding the headphones as I try to drown out the noise in my head. The last blog was about growing up and taking responsibility for my own health care, because despite having a "health surcharge" deducted monthly from my pay cheque, I know that if anything happens, I too, having had the evidence of my family's experiences of public health care, will resort to the private service. Clearly, I am not the only one.

Since I have to revert to my default setting, not entitled to an opinion - if you want to know who else is not confident of the local health care system go to: www.guardian.co.tt. But there will be no pointing fingers here, just concern over my aging body. As we age, we're more prone to suffering from some kind of health issue. It really does not matter how well you eat or how much you exercise, your body parts do have a shelf life and there is always the possibility, due to heredity or outside forces, that we will experience some kind of health issue as our bodies age. Good health care is not an option, it is a requirement of being able to calling yourself a "developed nation". I guess that would mean how you define good health care. But I'm not going to, you know why so be kind to me.


Meanwhile, excuse me as I continue to pound away on my walker, have to watch my health, when I'm done off to find a low-calorie, healthy, balanced, vitamin rich etc meal which I will chew many times to aid digestion. Yeah, right.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Here today...

My insurance agent found his way to my desk this week; for weeks we'd been trying to orchestrate the handover of my health policy and other sundry details. As surprising as it may seem to some, my job does not come with health insurance and even though I've had insurance at various times, for the most part I fly without. That means I pay, every time something happens and live in hope that nothing serious hits me again.

I'd spent a lot of time grumbling over this new expense but in the end, bowed under the pressure of seeing friends get ill and got myself some. My brother will probably be very happy, he won't have to take care of me in case of emergency. Mine can be a stress filled life but I'm gradually coming to terms with it and managing better than I did, perhaps it is old age. Whatever the cause I'm grateful. it's all small stuff right.

Anyway, this Sunday I was moved to do some cleaning. No, not that dreaded "Christmas cleaning" that we do, it was more along the lines of, " I can't take this anymore and if I don't do something I will go nuts". Having had to work on Saturday, everything was piled into the one day off left. It started from early. The hound was pretty surprised when after his constitutional we didn't climb back into the warmth of the bed and snuggle under the covers, that would be me snuggling, him sulking at the foot of the bed, the X-man grumbling at being disturbed.

The kitchen was tackled first, cupboards cleaned, old stuff thrown out, countertops scrubbed, appliances too, every surface spick and span. I was whirling dervish of action. It actually looks pretty good and now I know what's there and what's not. Gradually, as the day wore on, despite the urge to flee the scene, I kept going. It looks presentable now, I still have another weekend's worth of going, hey I live in a biggish space with a large dog and drop in man.

Cleaning, my mind ranged free on many subjects. The things I wanted to do, the things I was going to do, going to see my brother, all kinds of stuff. I was not so concerned with how the flat looked as that I wanted to re-claim my space. This was my way of giving myself security. Even though I hate housework, it was kind of nice, that feeling of accomplishment that I could take control of something.

And then today, in the midst of a crazy week filled with meetings, functions and all those things that we MUST WIND UP BEFORE CHRISTMAS, while checking my email there was a message from one friend about another close friend. Turns out that friend Number#2 was in the hospital recovering from major surgery the night before. What! She had a stomach bug was my immediate response, how could she need surgery!!! A flurry of phone calls later the news was relayed by a third friend. It was staggering, one of those things that could have gone so wrong that fortunately did not. The relief was palpable. Though I have yet to visit my friend in the hospital, I'll be doing that later, it made me stop. My ill friend and I had gone through many hard times together. We'd both struggled with issues and she was really good to me at a time when things were really bad. Recently, her life had taken a turn, she'd changed everything. Her son was living abroad, happily married getting on with his own life. She'd gotten a good job that allowed her to do things, life was looking good.

And then this, random. Fortunately she's in good shape and has the resources to take care of the problem. With any luck she'll recover quickly, I certainly hope so.

Of course, now that insurance policy does not seem so far fetched. I am once again hugely grateful that I have good friends. It reminds me of what Charms always says, you have no control over anything but the universe will always give you the tools once you open yourself to the possibilities.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Dumb and dumber

What's with the dumbing down of the English language by people who should know better? I make no apology for being a snob when it comes to the use of language, after many years of Undine Guiseppi I'm too petrified that her ghost would haunt me if I was otherwise. That's why I had so much trouble with the Red Cross launching a campaign using U instead of You as in this morning's paper. The people on that committee know better, I know a lot of them, believe me, none of them speak that way in "real life".

I find it rather condescending when those in authority or who know better attempt to be "ghetto" under the excuse of "getting the message out", fit in or some other stupidity. It's easy to make grammatical mistakes or the occasional poor construction, but the adoption of texting terms or bad grammar is just plain obnoxious. Colloquialisms have their place, no one is saying never use them but there should be a limit. It drives me crazy when people send me messages that read "can you pls tlk to ppl abt whatever". That's lazy, include the vowels, they're there for a reason. I

I think poor language is really a way to keep people oppressed. You can look down on them or treat them differently because they "don't know any better". It's a form of control. Think about it, who are the really successful people and I'm not talking about rappers who have more money than they know what with to do. Barack Obama is of mixed race heritage, he is extremely articulate with an extensive vocabulary and has not felt the need to resort to "down home" language. For that matter you don't hear Warren Buffet, Colin Powell, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Anil Ambani, Gordon Brown or any world leader using poor language. What do all of these men have in common? They're at the top of their game.

The dumbing down of the english language has been one of the greater crimes of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. As we continue to bastardise our language we create divisions within our society, not to mention cheapen ourselves. My friend 'Scene exclusively uses colloquial language in her blog; yes, I enjoy reading her. She's commenting on life Trinidadian, and using "local language" to underline her point, it's a clever use of satire.

Think of Sidney Poitier's character Mr. Thackeray in the 1967 movie 'To Sir with Love".

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Lady sings the blues

Recession. Remember that word? You used to hear it a lot back in the eighties. You'd have to be living in the deepest depths of ignorance not to have seen or heard something about the state of the world economy. We are now hearing that the US economy has been in recession since at least December 2007. Our local papers are now touting the latest figures showing a slump in economic growth in China. That's out there, here we're seeing the signs slowly but surely. Stores are saying that sales are slow, contractors and others are laying off staff even while the huge buildings keep going up around us. Strangely enough, the Governor of the Central Bank of TnT is silent, he who has been so vocal about the subject for the past two years. For a while, Mr. Williams was the lone voice crying out in the wilderness of spend, counseling prudence, savings etc. His bold stance has at least been vindicated.

The distinctive voice of Steve Perry filled the car and for a brief moment I was teenager again, back in that time machine prompted by memory. I well remember the eighties and the recession where people dropped their house keys off at banks and fled the country to escape loans. As Journey belted out "Don't Stop Believin", that arena rock feel good standard, I thought fondly of the vinyl version of the album that I once owned. It took me working a month of Saturday's to buy it but I about wore out the grooves on our old record player. Makes you think. Two days ago I had a conversation about some recently returned graduates who were grousing about working in the OJT programme because they thought it was "beneath" their standing as university graduates, the figured they were entitled to bigger salaries and interesting jobs. It was laughable, because in recession, any job is better than no job, especially without job experience. Sadly, they too will learn the hard way what recession means.

Last week the X-Man was in the States on family business, while there he hit the shops and came back with stories of the Black Friday excess that obtains in the US. It was horrifying to hear some of them. I hadn't planned on writing about the Walmart tragedy, or even the Kmart shooting. All I can say is that I don't want anything that bad. I don't care how large the savings are, is that big screen TV or some more cheap clothes worth someone's life. I think not. Makes me wonder about people's values, life is getting harder and you still want all the trappings of conspicuous consumption. What's that all about? It's hard to understand that on one hand we're all be exhorted to save etc and banks are still offering "suckeye" or "leeeway" loans. You NEED those new curtains why? Thanks, mine will be staying up until they fall apart. I need new furniture why? So that Zeus can lie around on it all day while I slave away to pay for it for the next two years. He's happy with the daybed we have now, okay, maybe a new throw cover but that's easy enough to stitch up.

Recession. Here we are again.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Pleasant morning to you too

Many a morning, a pleasant security guard greets me as I teeter into the building, coffee cup balanced in one hand and load in the other. She is a short, chubby, dark woman, with a huge smile that lights up her whole face. She always calls me Miss Wallah, even though she knows my first name and asks after my health. She's not always on duty because they rotate the guards here, but she's one of my favourites because she lights up my morning with her cheeriness. It's hard to maintain the facade of a grinch with someone grinning back at you and telling you to have a lovely day. If she's around when I'm leaving she always enquires about how my day was, and commiserates over the long hours, even though we are both still here and chances are her morning started long before mine. Her lot cannot be easy, the work is tedious and the hours long but she maintains that cheerfulness throughout and I have the greatest admiration for her.

The rain came down this morning, bucket a drop, the pounding on the roof made me want to turn over and curl with a warm arm draped over my side and feet cocooned by dog. Ah well, if wishes were horses I'd have a herd and though the temptation to linger between the sheets with the hound draped across my feet was strong, work was waiting and reluctantly, I did the morning routine. There was a slight deviation from the norm, but the rain was coming down so hard when I left home, you could barely see the cars in front of you. It was miserable, but if we stayed home every time it rained, we'd be home six months out of the year! But at least I could huddle inside before making the dash to the car, getting slightly soaked down one arm while struggling to close the umbrella through the gap in the open car door.

This morning the pack of stray doggies that congregate under the building eaves were gone, probably driven off by the cleaning staff. They were most present yesterday when I was leaving, five mutts of indeterminate breed, varying in size with the common pointed nose, curled tail and bristly fur typical of the Caribbean hound. When I see them I'm always a little troubled and my thoughts go to my own pampered hound, waiting patiently at home, safe, comfortable and secure until my return. The resignation in their eyes always makes me sad, any sign of attention from a passing human causing them to wag their tails and look hopefully at you. Almost too much to bear, at least they have each other, abandoned by their humans to populate the roads, breeding randomly, bereft of home and love.

The contrast between these two experiences, the dogs and my guard made me pause again this morning. Something to think about, even if only for a moment.