Sunday, September 28, 2008

And then there was that

Has anyone noticed the amount of depressed people around lately? Is it because we've all come out of the closet so to speak or is that there's just a lot more of us? I don't know, before drug companies realised that there was money to be made off of the disease, it was swept under the carpet so that many people just lived with it, or not. It wasn't something you discussed and it surely wasn't anything to admitted to having!

This blog is not about that. There are many blogs out there written by people who have mild to severe depression, if you want to understand what it might be like, go read. After days of wallowing in negative feelings and situations I thought I'd better pause and take stock. Because you see, the elephant in the room was just not going away. There were so many things pissing me off that I wasn't able to find pleasure in the simplest things. A random comment from a consultant brought me to a screeching halt. It's not so important for you to know what it was, let's just say it got me to thinking about a number of choices I was going to have to make, sooner than later.

And then I read a blog from Angry African, it so mirrored the way I was feeling that it was as though he'd read my mind. He was taking a step back from his blog, for similar reasons though he might not have realised. It's become very real to me that I don't want to comment on the stupidity of politicians, either here or abroad. I don't want to have to constantly harp about all the stupid or just plain wrong things. I don't want to be anybody's social conscience. But that's what I've been doing lately.

And I ask myself why. If this stuff bothers other people, and it does judging from the responses that come in, why in heck aren't things different. And I am left with the conclusion, maybe this is the way it's supposed to be. For whatever reason, this is really it. I don't know other people's motivation for doing things, but my blog is not about changing the world. It's my caffeine persona talking about the things that I find worrying or bothersome, getting it out of MY system so that I don't end up poisoned. But maybe, by putting all that negativity out there, it's coming back.

If you face life always being negative, that's what you get back. It made me realise that on too many days. I'm standing too close, feeling too much and not giving myself enough room to breathe. If I'm doing that what about you? Truthfully, I'd love to be sitting on a beach somewhere, toes dug deep into the sand, coffee in hand watching the waves. The ebb and flow of water, currents swirling. It would be nice if AA were drinking coffee with me, because he understands the power of coffee and waves. Because he will not speak, but enjoy the moment and then go home to his family, maybe better for it. People like us just feel too much.

The movement of waves, an action that began almost when the earth did. Something bigger than me, that I cannot control. It is hypnotic to watch, it frees your mind and your conscious from the fetters of living. The smell of salt, clean air, the sun on your face, you feel alive without having to labour. When on vacation in Mustique I swim, every day. In the ocean, usually in deeper water. The sea is calm enough for you to do that, even on Macaroni with its bigger waves. You can still swim, revel in being buoyant, let go knowing that really, you have no control but take the chance anyway. It is freedom, at least for me.

That's what's missing, balance. Oh sometimes, for a few moments it comes; sitting up in the cocoa at Myth's house. The new leaves on the cocoa trees, shiny, mysterious, the pods struck at crazy angles as though someone had flung a handful at the tree and this is where they stuck. The girls lolling at our feet, tongues hanging out, all Rottie slobber and love. Standing in an art gallery looking at paintings, not because I'm going to buy any, just because. Talking about art, for art's sake. Feeling at home again. Trying to ignore the intrusion of the phone that will bring me back too close again. I need to breathe, let me breathe!

That's what comes from giving people and situations too much power. You feel that you can never escape, that it is always hopeless, that life plain sucks. So it does, but not all the time. But if you let it take over then you become a part of it. So yes, the church electric fence is an awful indictment, yes we have no water four times a week, yes public transport sucks and we're surrounded by things that are not good or right. But we choose to live this way.

So AA, like you I'm stepping back. Oh, I'm still going to comment on life from my caffeine hyped point of view. But I'm not going to let it take over me. I choose to be.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Coffee note

An old friend sent me a picture of her new baby today. He's really cute. With his heritage he's going to be a heartbreaker when he's older.

Before you, mistakenly, believe that I'm one of those people who go around cooing at people's babies and making gaga noises, perish the thought. And yet, for some odd reason, the little blighters are usually quite drawn to me. I've known babies who upon first clapping eyes on me, launch themselves into my arms, with their parents making bleating, proud noises about how they never go to just anyone. Ri-ight. Whatever you say dude. It was just kinda cool to see the little one and feel that affirmation of life after weeks of, well, not so much.

But I digress. You see, lately it's been happening again. That feeling that comes over, the one where you want to abandon everything, throw on some flip flops and head to the beach. Turn off the phone, throw the blackberry into the water, forget the laptop; in short, all those things that firmly tether you to the yoke. Because that's what it feels like. Being chained to a yoke, like some not so smart oxen, endlessly going in circles to nowhere, turning the wheel that, in turn, turns the grindstone. It's not a good feeling. But there it is, the elephant in the room. The one that catches your eye every time something ticks you off; while you wonder what posses you to still be at your desk long after everyone is gone, finishing the work that should have been done by one of them.

The "queer restless feeling". That's what I used to call it. Churchill called it the "big dog blues". The one that requires copious applications of coffee to make bearable. And sitting around and reading PG Wodehouse or other well written but entertaining type. And petting the hound who really wants to play fetch. And really doing any blamed thing to not fall into the trap of entertaining the queer restless feeling lest it take up residence. Coffee anyone?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

This is it

Okay, I 'fess up. This wasn't the blog I set out to write, that one was very different. Questioning, a little angry, yes. But maybe not the best thing for all of us. I might have been getting those calls again. You know, the ones from all those people who think that maybe I should be less free with my opinions lest someone read it and then trouble.

For some reason I'm not supposed to have opinions, because of my job or something or other. You think they didn't notice that I used to be a placard waving greenie when they hired me? Oh, are most people fooled by the dreaded suit and heels? Hmm, maybe you're not allowed to have opinions in my profession; but wait this is Trinidad, everybody has one of those. That's our national pastime, HAVING OPINIONS. We're good at that. What, you've never noticed that everybody in this country has an opinion: on what you wear, your recent weight gain, your new hair colour or what you have in your lunch box, your husband, baby, new car, why the government sucks, why business sucks, why service is so bad etc? And they have no difficulty telling you, never mind they don't know you, are not related to you or whatever. Of course, we don't actually DO anything constructive with these opinions, but we can sure TALK about it right. That is, except if you're me, not allowed to have them remember. Might upset "someone".

So since I can't talk about the stuff that's bugging me, say about the price of gas going up while last year the self-same gas was considered the bees knees and we all were supposed to switch. Eco-friendly and all of that. Oops, not supposed to talk about that, that's an OPINION.

Let's see....what can I talk about? Oh God, this is harder than it should be, surely there must be something that won't make people get upset. I know, did a lot of catching up today, with various friends that I hadn't spoken to in a while. It was good, made me resent having to work a little less. Today is a public holiday, yes, another one. And guess what, we get to do it again next week. See, we live in paradise right! Paradise where the public transport runs so efficiently that we can all leave our cars at home and wait for several hours for the bus or taxi to pass by. This is a question, not an opinion okay. How come we never see politicians taking public transport if it's soooo efficient? I'm sure some Trini will be happy to share their OPINION with me.

Oh, since this is a question, how come the bag of hound food that I bought in HiLo three weeks ago cost $160 some dollars and when I went in on Saturday the same 17 pound bag now costs $196.oo? I had to get Richard to look at the price, thought my bi-focals had wigged out on me. Guess the hound will have to eat supermarket brand and learn to like it, poor thing. I suspect it's made out of sawdust, scrapings and shredded paper because it sure as hell does not look or smell remotely like anything resembling meat or vegetables.

But on a more positive note, I'd like to thank Angry African for helping me through this week. HIS opinions have been extremely funny and I've been laughing out loud every time I visit over there. I think he's a really cool dude, I want to be him when I grow up but until then, you know, I'll just putter along not having opinions. They might upset someone, wouldn't want to do that right.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Celebrating life

Pass the chocolate, today I'm celebrating life. You might remember, today is the day, I don't dwell on it, or spend too much time agonising, it's over and she would've wanted me to go on living happy. Today I choose to celebrate my mother and Helen's life as well. Gone too soon, she's left behind a loving husband and three kids who will have to go on without her.

This could be a piece where I rail against cancer or unfeeling authorities who keep us in this state but I won't. Sixteen years later, I'd rather celebrate my mother who was a really great lady; who loved her family, who worked many hours a day to keep us fed, clothed and educated. My mother who stayed up late to sew clothes, bake cakes for school bake sales, finish work that she brought home . Sally, who put up with my father's rages, his cheating and his lies. I don't know why she did, but she did and died unhappily in a hospital after suffering for years. But she would have done anything to make sure my brother was okay and taken care of, she was kind and considerate to her parents, at work she was considered the best. For twenty years she worked for the same company, through their good times and bad; in return when she got ill they kept her job open for her, until almost the very end when we all knew she wasn't going back. And then, as a mark of their respect for her, they made sure that her affairs were looked after so that we didn't have to. I still remember her work friends crying at the funeral and the huge arrangement of flowers with her beloved orchids, the kind note from the boss's wife.

Ironically, it was through death that I got to know Helen; she was the lawyer who helped wind up my father's affairs after he died. My friend Carrie worked with her and asked her to help, she was a dream. I'd seen her around, we used to play mas in the same band and she and her husband visited the bookstore that I hung out in. We all got to know each other pretty well and over the years we dipped in and out of each other's lives. They were obviously in love, they had kids, Helen pregnant had a large stomach otherwise maintaining her rake thin figure. We all envied her like crazy. Always pleasant we shared some good laughs; I found her to be an intensely private person, devoted to her family and her job. Like my mom she was extremely well respected at work, highly spoken of by colleagues and clients alike.

It's easy to get bogged down in all the negativity in life instead of celebrating what we have. There's an exercise we do as part our team building exercises. Everybody is encouraged to think of three good or new things and share them with the rest of the team. It's amazing how hard people find it come up with three things. Everybody looks for grandiose stuff but really, it's a great way not to discount the good things that happen in our lives. Try and see what you come up with. For all my "angry" blogs, I'm really not wedded to the idea of being angry all the time. I'd rather have a good laugh with my friends, sit and look at the ocean, pet my dog and poke fun at the X-man; it's much better and a heck of a lot more fun.

Look at yourself today, are you hanging on to baggage; are you living on what ifs and maybes? Are you waiting for tomorrow to do all that stuff that you want to do? Are you dwelling in the past, rehashing every failed moment without learning from the experience? Do you beat yourself over your head with all the negative things that people say and do to you? Why accept this as how it should be. Live your life for yourself, don't allow other people to define you. Seize the moment and live in the now. After all, yesterday is a memory, tomorrow an unfulfilled promise, today is all you have.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The taste of love

She loves me, I know she does, might even be back in her good books haha! The she referred to here is in my Granny, the one who these days only gets visited intermittently by me. She's getting on in years, and growing more tired and less able to get around by the day. It's harder to have conversations with her, her hearing is not so good and she has trouble following what we're saying sometimes. But still, she's Granny and a little granny love goes a long way.

We grandkids all acknowledge that my little brother is her favourite. Oh, all parents deny that they have favourites but they do, you appreciate people differently, that's all. It doesn't mean you're loved less, really. For her, I'm the dragon, the person who can be relied upon to bully her doctors into telling her what is really wrong, why she might require surgery at her age; the person who will basically deal with any problems that crop up. I'm her "fix it" girl. Sometimes even she remarks that maybe, the problem is that I'm too capable, I probably scare off any prospectives, but that's for another day.

My brother showed up this week, to spend a little time with her before leaving for the continent and his month of vacation, lucky devil. No, I don't begrudge him, he works really hard and deserves it! So the rest of us grinned, nudged each other, we knew what that meant. Every conversation she had would start with what he said or did; her tiredness would be temporarily cast aside, his favourite meals cooked, he'd be fussed over. We've all come to expect it because she does not see him at all often, oh yes, he is her favourite. To be fair to him, he indulges her more than any of us, so what to expect.

Having not seen him all week, and being so tired that my desk was feeling more like prison than usual, I didn't go to work one day. My staff are probably still stunned, I'm a stupid martyr type dontcha' know. Work sick, on-call, can always be depended on to do my duty. Yadda, yadda, yadda. Dumb ass me. But I wasn't about to miss a chance to hang with the bro, he'd been too busy working the last time I visited him. That's how I ended up in her house on a weekday. He told her I was coming.

Fully expecting to have to cook for everyone or go find a meal, when I got there she was in the kitchen. Huh? That's how I know how much she loves me, really, she does. Because instead of stewed chicken, his favourite, she made mine, dhal, rice and tomato choka with salted cod. My eighty-four year old Granny, who can barely totter around on good days; who has to sit down between stirring pots; who used to be a lady who could cook for either a thousand or twelve; who now spends most of her time marking time; she'd cooked for me because she knows I like it. Nobody, including my mom could make this like her. It would infuriate my mother that she would slave away to make us stuff that she knew we liked and then we'd go, okay, nice but not Granny's. Because really, while it was good, it just wasn't Granny's so that made it different. That's what home is, a Granny cooked meal with love added.

You know how I know that I'm special? Because my uncle, who used to comb my hair and tease me unmercifully when I was a kid; will still go find me pommecythere's, plums or mangos and make me a good chow, though I'm long past ten years old. He will go find me a certain type of sweet if I ask without pointing out that I can probably make them better than the person he's buying them from. You know, everybody needs to feel like a star from time to time, most of the time my family takes the piss out of me. There I'm not the overworked, hard pressed Director of whatever it is that I do. They give me a hard time about pretty much everything; not married, no kids, getting fatter, hair too short; what another tattoo!!! But under it all, I know. The taste of love that will be waiting for me just because. So no matter how awful my week/month/year has been, my brother and I will still laugh at Granny's soap operas, we'll bitch about having to go up and down the stairs twenty or thirty times to do something or other, but we'll bask in the glow because she loves us.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Is what?

Myth called me yesterday to inquire about my health and/or state of mind. Was I too disgusted to write, too busy, or just plain ill. Well none and all of the above but writing about negative stuff really breeds negative feelings, a lot. Sometimes you have to step back, write chocolate chip recipes and play feel good music at full volume.

Okay, so it isn't really working. Still having some of those philosophical difficulties but you know, maybe if I close my eyes it will go away. Staring at the ceiling at 3:00 am proves that doesn't work. You know I'm not really angry, more like resigned, but as Slacker reminded me, if people like me do and say nothing, or ignore the reality of our lives by living in la-la land, then we only have ourselves to blame for our condition.

In the last two weeks I noticed something that was so absolutely, beyond words, mind-blowing that I've been treating with it as a hallucination but, really can no longer pretend. I live near a Catholic Church, a large, "society" church where the faithful all drive very expensive cars and don't generally speak to the people who live in the immediate surround. Every blamed morning, church bells at quarter to six, the bells are electronic by the way, programmed to go, fun when you've had only a couple hours sleep but that's okay. We're all neighbours, we all respect each other right. It's even more fun when the faithful park, blocking our access to the front gates, creating one lane of traffic down our street which just happens to be a main artery. But who's complaining, grin and bear it, we're all neighbours. And then we all shook our heads and shrugged when they proceeded to build a large building in what used to be the car park fo the Church. It took about a year, hmm, more displaced parking but, we're all tolerant. Never mind the run off every time it rained was causing the road to flood a little more often, but it's the CHURCH, come on.

So the building is finally complete. It is ginormous. There's also a spiffy new fence complete with wrought iron crosses and other decorative work. Okay. BUT, what I cannot fathom, why in God's name is there an electrified fence on top of the wrought iron bit? You heard me right. They have a very forbidding looking electric fence on top of their spiffy bits. Clearly Christian charity is alive and well, clearly we do not trust in God to protect the premises, we must resort to barbaric methods as well. Well, you know God does help those who help themselves but I really wonder about this. Who are they trying to keep out? There's a guard at the gate, twenty four seven. This is a residential neighbourhood, not exactly a war zone. Sure we have not so nice things happen from time to time, but an electric fence? This is a whole new level of, well, I don't even know what. Wow. Is this what we've come to?

But then, why am I surprised. This morning on the radio news; yes, I know, give up listening to the news it will only be bad, there was a story about Prison Officers working the night shift at the Royal Gaol. They're threatening to withdraw their services or work to rule unless they received protection going to and from their cars after work. What? The car park is a stone's throw from the jail, it seems that these Prison Officers have been receiving threats against their persons from family members of incarcerated felons. The Officers claim that they and their families are under threat and they have no means of protecting themselves since they must relinquish their firearms when leaving the jail. They too are afraid. Soon we're going to have to lock everyone up at this rate.

And you wonder why I seem so cynical and jaded. Heck, I'm surprised that many of us get up in the morning, get dressed and come to work. But we do, so we must do, so we must ALL do. Sorry Myth, I tried but the glass just is right now.

Monday, September 15, 2008


John Lennon wrote one of my favorite songs of all time, Imagine. This evening as I sit in my office, the sun's dying rays behind me, another long day stretching into evening, waiting for an approval to come back, it came to mind.

A lot of the time my day is spent chasing things, or answering questions that are sometimes annoying, mentoring staff, solving problems. Some days are so hectic that there is barely time to wolf down lunch before manically trying to fix everything, do everything. Crazy, crazy, crazy, and then it's all gone. Because really, does some of this at all make a difference, do we improve people's lives, do we help anybody? Is there some greater purpose than just the cosmetic, because you see, we all signed on for more than just this. Ours is not to sit here dumbly, it is to do. Even though, there is only so much you can do.

When John Lennon wrote this song I was just a kid, but it's stayed with me all these years, because I'm a dreamer and I'm not the only one....

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today...

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Dancing with myself

For the past few days I've been avoiding my blog. You see, I almost can't bear to read it or even write it, it's so angry. My friend Angry African has been writing a series of pieces about love, without them I would have been lost. It's not easy being angry all the time, nor is it healthy, for your body or your soul. AA, thanks, I was singing "Love is in the air" for a couple of days. Released in '76, it was a cheesy, cheeky nod to the swinging sixites and the burgeoning disco era when everybody was sleeping with everybody and recreational drugs were becoming a fast fixture. But AA and his daughter have also turned into a feel good moment and that's a good thing.

So i've been trying to find myself that middle ground, to accept the things I cannot change and not have regrets that I stay involved when maybe, out of sheer self preservation, should get out. But these are things I cannot talk about and seeing that we all need to find some peace, thought I'd share some of my own happier memories too.

When we were kids, Saturdays around our house meant either cow heel soup with spilt peas(sancoche) or pelau, those were my mother's standbys. I only reluctantly eat sancoche today, but pelau sometime features. My mum had a sweet tooth, so you can bet that there was usually a cake, cookies, some kind of indian sweets or really, anything being made. We never had a lot of money so we learnt to make do as much as possible but all these years later, I still have all these skills. Many a rainy Saturday afternoon, my brothers and I were pressed into service, stirring, cutting, measuring, mixing, the most delicious smells coming from the oven or on the stove. Deep fried doughnuts with powdered sugar, biting into them still warm, the chewy dough making every mouthful a sweet little delight. Oh how we loved those doughnuts never mind how labour intensive they were!

Devils Food cake, the first made alone by me, aged 13, with white marshmallow frosting. Mom used to make chocolate cakes but her and Granny's favourite was lemon flavoured sponge so that usually took preference, mine was always the chocolate cake. The mixmaster going we'd concoct all kinds of things, hundreds of cheese puffs because my grandad liked them. The aforementioned sponge cake because my great grandad LOVED them and with his lack of teeth in later years, it could be had without too much trouble. Most occasions in our family revolved around food, usually huge amounts requiring a lot of time and effort. Honestly, cooking for five hundred people, no big deal, we can do that! We must have been nuts but say what, they were always happy complaining about all the work. Fortunately us younger folk have better sense so gone are the huge occasions, exchanged for quieter passages.

My love of food comes from this place though both granny and my mum despaired that I would ever cook, the kitchen was one place that got a wide berth from me unless I was baking something. Ironic that for three years after leaving school I cooked for a living eh. Cooking has become a discourse with my inner self, I cook to find peace sometimes. Try the chocolate chip cookies here, little nuggets of happiness and maybe, not so angry. Tomorrow is another day.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Important : Always use real butter, the cookies will taste better, store better and no trans fats. Good chocolate is important, use semi-sweet or unsweetened, milk chocolate chips are usually too sweet, try Ghirardelli or broken up chunks of Lindt or any other good chocolate. You don’t have to have a lot of these cookies but you should enjoy every bite of them!

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (8ozs) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups (12-oz. pkg)
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Sift together flour, baking soda and salt, set aside
Put butter into microwave safe dish, add sugars, melt in microwave on low temperature, stirring occasionally to break up butter.
Once butter is melted (you have to watch it carefully to make sure it doesn’t burn!)
Beat until sugar is dissolved, add vanilla extract and eggs one at a time, enough so that the eggs are incorporated.
Add dry ingredients a little at a time to the creamed mixture. Stir well between additions. Mixture should be fluffy not runny.
Stir in chocolate chips or chunks of chocolate that have been broken into bite size pieces.
Drop rounded teaspoons full onto ungreased cookie sheet, about two inches apart. Cookies will spread during baking.
Bake for approx 9-11 minutes. For a crisper cookie, drop three to four inches apart on sheet, for high round softer cookies , drop them closer together and cook until just done.
Remove trays from oven and let sit for two minutes before removing cookies to cooling racks. This will ensure that the cookies come off the tray easily without breaking.
Cool completely on wire racks, uneaten cookies can be stored for up to a week in an airtight container. They can also be frozen for two months.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Bear with me, still working it out of my system: the following WTF moments are brought to you courtesy of the smart people of Trinidad and Tobago.

Man dies in firebombed car;

If the account shown on the news was anything to go by, apparently a man was pursued by his killers, who shot him and when he attempted to flee in his motor car, proceeded to firebomb it. He then climbed out of the car, fell to the side still moving until the flames from the car engulfed him. Horrific right. Well, all of this was CAUGHT ON CAMERA, including the man still moving as the flames crept towards him. NO ONE went to his assistance and it was all on tape, featured on the news. WTF.

Okay, I had at least another dozen but you know what, writing this I just got plain disgusted. Too many things that could oh so easily be resolved but yet, we seem so content to let them go, they aren't our concern until it hits our wallets and then we'll only complain. Oh yes, there's the other "reason". Early on Saturday morning a concerned friend called at the crack of dawn having read the blog. Why was he concerned? Because according to him, I was treading into dangerous territory by commenting on the things that were making me angry.

As a citizen of this country, and one who works for the country, have I not got a right to be concerned and talk about it? Apparently not, there could be victimisation etc. That's when I started to wonder if I'd gone to sleep and woken up in, oh, Zimbabwe, China or some other country that represses free speech. But then that might be me being naive. Or whatever.

So, to wit, this morning I'm not going to talk about a certain Minister who shall remain nameless commenting that it was the public's job to police developers to ensure that they are not contravening building regulations, as opposed to the Town and Country Division and the Environmental Management Authority. Nor am I going to talk about a three day retreat by heads of a certain protective service to decide that "they can make a dent in crime". Or the budding brouhaha about which member of the Silver medal winning relay team got money and which didn't. Or the poor kid hit by a broken Utility pole who is still stuck in hospital and everyone pointing fingers at someone else.

Nope, nope, this morning I'm going to concentrate on something much more positive. From the Dalai Lama, " approach love and cooking with reckless abandon, remember silence is sometimes the best answer".,

Om, shanti, shanti, shanti, om.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Scenes from a rainy Sunday afternoon

All afternoon my phone buzzed, another message, another call. From friends all over the island, bystanders were we after an afternoon of heavy rain, thunder and lightening. For a while, it stormed, the road outside my house a brown stream, flowing rapidly, stones, bits of things pushed into every available crevice. The house dark without the lights on, but at least we had power, several people did not, a wide swathe. We all texted each other for reassurance, that we were not alone, that someone was concerned, help was there if necessary, even if only a friend to metaphorically hold our hand.

The windows had been shut against the driving rain, snug inside except for the leak in the front room which annoyed the hound more than me. It dripped on his head you see. The curtains still blew straight out, the wind forcing itself between the cracks and the hurricane window above. Too wet and windy in the front, we, the dog and me, repaired to the back bedroom, the big bed cosy and inviting, layering blankets and curling up, answering texts as they came in and thinking about the things I wanted to write.

Though I waited until the rain was a steady, slower pour and the lightening gone, there were so many things I'd planned on writing for days and when I started, it flooded my page, so here they are.

Two nights ago, while watching the Stand Up to Cancer event on TV, I found myself crying at the most unexpected things. I'm not a particularly sentimental person, nor do I usually buy into the celeb for a cause thing, other than Live Aid of course; but this was close to home. Very close to home as those who read this space know. As I've said a time or two, my mother died of cancer, as did her younger brother, two aunts and a cousin. Several other cousins have been diagnosed with the disease and have fought. In addition, several friends have either died or have battled this disease. It is really close and every time someone gets ill, we all wonder. The premise for stand up to cancer is for doctors to form "dream teams" with other researchers to combat the disease. It is felt, that if there were cross functional teams greater progress would be made. No surprise there. But as a friend in medicine told me a long time ago, the greatest deterrent to finding a cure is big business. Business makes more money off of sick people than well so why find a cure. Awful as it is to contemplate, this is not a new concept, but it's really heartening to know that doctors and other people are fighting back and finding ways to get around these issues. I wish them well and my support. Even though it may not benefit us out here in the Third World at first, there is still hope that someday it might. So folks, STAND UP TO CANCER.

A work colleague was reduced to tears on Friday, her week had been particularly hard, in addition to having her home flooded last weekend, losing everything, she still had to organise her kids and come to work every day. Friday she could contain herself no more and sobbed. After a week of anger about various things, we could only stand helplessly and try to make her feel better. You really know that we have some big hearted people, this weekend many of us are raiding our own homes to try to find things that will help, not only her, but several other people. But we ask ourselves why. Not because we do not wish to help, but that it should come to this when a lot of that flooding could have been avoided with proper planning, drainage, maintenance. What vision 2020, hindsight? We wonder too what waits us on the news tonight, how many more people affected, how many more crops lost, how many more livestock killed. How long is it going to take someone to wake up and do something?

People in this country complain about the Government's customer service but you know, we're not the only guilty ones. Just so you know: this weekend, my friend went to a popular mas camp to try and pick up a cheque for some work her daughter had done for them. Well, talk about attitude, the young man behind the counter copped such an attitude, he didn't have change, it wasn't his problem it was another department, yadda, yadda, yadda. If I were a different person I would have embarrassed the life out of him in front of his camp full of people and awful costumes. As it was, I looked at my friend aghast but not surprised because this is not unusual. LIke the woman in the upscale gourmet shop who snatched away a tray of sandwiches just as we tried to purchase one. When asked whether there were going to be any more on sale, we were met with a deafening silence and a steups. Guess who left the store. Why do we treat people badly when we would not wish to be so treated?

Not that all service people suck mind you. My barrista commented after not seeing me for several weeks; we thought you must have been very ill, the last time you came in you were coughing so bad and when we didn't see you we wondered if it had gotten worse. No, not that sick, just had to get to work earlier is all. She nodded and then said, "nice to see you". No matter how badly her day is going, she still manages a smile. The other day, as I indulged in the guilty pleasure of a doughnut, instead of belabouring me about my fat, she picked out a "happy sprinkles" doughnut, laughed impishly and said," everybody needs to be a little kid sometimes". She made my day.

There are many things in the world that will get you angry and things that will make you happy. But you have to find that middle ground where you let is slide. It's hard to do sometimes and sometimes we get so caught up in always trying to be everything, we forget to be ourselves. This rainy Sunday evening as I write this, my dog at my feet patiently waiting for me to get up and romp with him some more, knowing that I must sort out my clothes for tomorrow. Admiring the stance of friend's, business people, who are standing up for what they believe, closing down their businesses for the day in support of the call to shut down the country to highlight the problems. Will a shutdown work, or will it get swallowed in a sea of spin, I don't know. But it's the first time in a very long time where I've seen and heard so many people moved to do something about their situation. As someone who used to be involved in many movements and protests, I salute all of you for the stand that you take. You know why......

The rain is still falling outside, a cup of cocoa, a book and my pet, my afternoon is set. To res, recuperate and yes, to psyche myself up for having my hip and leg manipulated in the morning so that I can walk without limping. It is these moments that remind us of our humanity and our fragility and yet, make us whole.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Random acts of stupidity a.k.a. Hoof in mouth

Heard on the news two days ago" Police Chief re-thinks gun policy for police officers". This refers to a decision made by the former Police Chief about allowing officers to take their firearms home with them. At the time there had been various incidents of police officers being shot at while off duty, not necessarily because they were police officers mind you, and a request was made for them to be allowed to leave with their firearm. A long debate ensued and the result was that the answer was no. The current Commissioner then says on Tuesday morning, the decision is being re-visited and steps were being taken to ensure that the firearms did not go home with "unstable" officers. Whoa Donkey! Wha?

No, I'm really not making this up. What I found more startling, instead of the newsbody's headline being maybe, CoP admits to instability in the Police Force, they faithfully read the press release as written. I'm now afraid. Because you mean it's okay that Police OFficers are unstable while on the job, possibly carrying a firearm, but the problem is solved by not allowing them to take the firearm home. Surely there must be something wrong here. Prime example being the "unstable" Police Inspector who dragged a young woman out of a car and then shot the PASTOR who was with her multiple times, in front of three children! Clearly he was deemed "stable".

Then this morning, the Minister of Consumer Affairs was exhorting the public to spend their money wisely. He admitted that there were fluctuations in pricing and that his Ministry was monitoring them but really, implying that it wasn't his problem. Okay, nobody is saying that you have to go strong arm merchants into price regulation but maybe a little understanding would be in order. Hasn't any one of you realised that the issue is not so much WHAT people are buying, but their ability to purchase at all, because of inflation, their buying power is reduced. Look, we're all planting back yard gardens, we're all cutting and adjusting our meal plans, we're all finding inventive ways to stretch that dollar, but according to the Governor of the Central Bank, our dollar isn't worth what it used to be. In any case; when your monthly salary is $6000 before tax (25%), you have kids to feed and clothe, taxi fare to and from work and the average trip to the supermarket might run you $500 if you buy only staples, you might have some issues. The middle class is groaning under the weight of supporting the economy, we're taxed the same as those guys making millions and we pay VAT too while having to feed and clothe our kids, pay our mortgages with spiraling interest rates, or pay increasing rents while our depleting savings gain little interest. Think about it on your $40+ thousand dollars a month with tax free allowances dude.

My favourite person, the Minister of Health was also featured in the paper, once again promising to "upgrade" the San Fernando General Hospital. A place built in the fifties, where up until recently, women were sharing beds on the maternity ward because of a shortage. We've had TWO oil and gas booms, money has flowed, mostly out, of this country; hundreds of consultants have been employed, thousands of man hours spent preparing reports and recommendations, and yet, apparently it is beyond our capabilities to read, understand and implement.

Am I being hard? You bet, because it's that chunk of tax that gets deducted every month, the VAT added, Health Surcharge (what exactly is that for by the way?). I don't resent paying tax you know, I resent the money being badly spent and then hearing that it's my fault.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Gimme room

Move over Angry African, here comes angry trini. That's right, in case it had entirely escaped everyone's notice, I am an angry person. Or so I am reliably informed by the queue jumping young man in the beat up old car that nosed up to my front bumper in the gas/petrol station this morning. Though how he could have reached that conclusion on first meeting is unclear, given that I'd been waiting for fifteen minutes for my turn at the pump, the pump attendant, yes we still have those in the Third World, proceeded to whip out his papers and do his homework while the line built up. Could it have been because I gave up in disgust because said young man then proceeded to block access to the pump while honking his horn, proceeded to reverse, go round the empty bay and put air into my tyres? In his expert opinion, there was no call to be angry. Well, whatever.

After the events of the last few days, too depressing for me to want to go into, I decided that today was going to be different. And then I missed my morning coffee. Because of the gas station fiasco. You see, the traffic this morning was even fiercer than yesterday, some more schools opened today. Bumper to bumper easing out of the west, realised that petrol and air in the tyres was necessary so stopped in the nearest station. A place that I visit a couple of times a week mind you. And then the long wait and no bloody gas at the end of it. I had back to back meetings, was late, so I left, enough petrol to make it to the parking lot and home again anyway. No coffee. Do you realise how dire this is for me? Is it any wonder that I might be a little angry, all I ask is that morning cup.

You know, the bad floods and fallout from didn't make me angry; sad, resigned, fed-up yes, but angry, not really. Nor did the umpteen calls complaining about bad service at the (insert appropriate ministry here). I get those every day even though it's not my job to deal with any of that. Heck, I wasn't even that mad when my boss managed to dump a whole lot of extra work on in a very tight time frame, under spurious circumstances. Nope, this is for the good of the country so let's try to make it all happen. Why do I think I'm angry you might wonder? This just sounds like a case of the blues right?

Not on your life. Because I'm am freaking, out of my mind, angry. This is why. September 23rd marks sixteen years since my mother died of cancer after suffering, barely able to breathe, largely untreated, in a hospital for almost a year. My mother's cancer was neither exotic or untreatable, in fact, had she been correctly diagnosed and treatment administered when the tests first began, she may well have been alive today; the success rate for treating her type of cancer is quite high when administered early. My mum was 48, she didn't deserve what the health care system visited upon her. In sixteen years I've lost aunts, cousins, uncles and friends to cancer. All because of the poor treatment that they received here. So you bet I am f****** angry when I read that the Minister of Health is touting that the oncology centre is two years away. Two f****** years, meanwhile, if you have money you can be treated at a private institution or wait in a public one. Sorry what crap is this?

There are large buildings going up all over the capital city, every government ministry has a fleet of expensive SUV's, the PM is jetting all over the Caribbean. We are the acknowledged leader in the Caribbean when it comes to money etc, but our hospital sucks eggs. I know, I've been, recently. Oh, the nurses are kind and try to be helpful. The doctors are not all bad, but let's face it, health care for our citizens is not a priority, notwithstanding the free C-DAP medicines. Maybe because government officials don't go to the hospital here, but that would be cynical of me.

And this is only one of the things that is preying on my mind of late. Actually, those floods have also made me angry, because I know people who have been adversely affected, they are going to have to stand the bounce as we say, insurance will not cover their losses. And I'm angry because the bloody water goes three to four times a week, every week. There is no regulatory body for my landlord, so he can raise his rents, pretty much do whatever he likes and I have to live with it. Sure did smart when the back door fell on my head last week. Lucky Boutros is handy with a hammer! I'm pissed that to do even simple transactions it is a bloody production, no one cares. I'm mad that a member of my staff is still waiting two years to get her contract gratuity, why? Whose desk is it bloody sitting on! How many more damn letters do I have to write.

Okay, there are things I have no control over, but I can write. So AA, move over on that soapbox because your friend the Wallah will be joining you up there. To mom, I miss you but I will keep up the fight!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Back to school

Driving to work this morning there was a plethora of school bags, new uniforms and squeaky clean shoes. Yes, it's that time again, the start of the new school year. Those of us who work in town dread this time. The traffic gridlocks, the fake jams as parents stop to drop their darlings right outside the gates, the competition for taxis and public transport. Oh, we saw it coming. All those parents in the last week frantically buying up school supplies, the lingering text books, hair ribbons and the aforementioned shoes. At the High School across the road from my office a flurry of driveway paving, workmen nailing down whatever was flapping. Ah, progress, now we do these things the week before as opposed to the weekend before.

In my school days I dreaded the end of the vacation, my school books would have been bought by the first or second week in the vacation. I would have read all the literature ones by the end of the first month and avoided all the others like the plague. I still have nightmares about school and it's been a lot of years since. But this is not about me. I pity the poor children, woken up at the crack of dawn this morning. Parents trying to get them ready, lunches packed, hair combed and be-ribboned, school bags packed and then the long trek. Because you see, we don't zone school kids. They go to school all over the place, miles and miles away from where they live. There is no school bus service for the school district, parents must find ways to schlep their kiddies to and from school each day. But really, I've little sympathy, because it is these same parents who will not support zoning, but insist that their kids go to schools often far from where they live.

No, I don't have kids but having had to get up at 5:30a.m. to beat it down to the bus stop at 6:00a.m. for the seven High School years sure as heck taught me that I never want to put anyone through that. School started at 8:00 by the way, but in order to get a bus and get there on time you had to leave early or face rush hour which could mean either a half or two hour wait in those days. But that's me, I don't have kids. So I guess I have no right to demand that every child in this country receive the same standard of education, never mind the huge amount of tax extracted from my pay cheque every month. Education in this country is "free' paid for by the "government" including the tertiary level, but what price we have to pay. Sure during vacation time the traffic gets cut back by as much as forty percent depending on where you live, but who cares right. We need to break them in so that when they join the wonderful world of work, they'll be used to traffic, stress and headaches.

There are many repercussions, but I'm depressed enough today to not want to explore them. Because you see, it's been a long day, on top of a lot of long days. And I'm tired. And cranky. And overworked. I feel like I too have gone back to school. Oh well, tomorrow is another day.