Sunday, December 20, 2009

It must be Christmas

Like a proud mommy who whips out pictures of her kids all the time, my dog has featured in many of the posts here. Let's face it, only parents get the kiddie stories and even dog people get tired of hearing dog stories, but you know, I love my hound. The feeling of well being engendered from running my fingers through his thick fur cannot be measured and having him waiting, tail wagging at the front door lifts my spirits after a tough day.

Today, instead of cleaning, or organising for the rest of the week I lit up the oven and put in some stuff to bake. It's been a while and if you don't practice, you lose the skill. I made a bunch of stuff that will distributed around the office tomorrow but really, it's nowhere as good as it used to be and for that I'm sorry.

And that's when you know you're an old geezer. When you start wistfully remembering all those Christmas' past and how much better they were. In this morning's paper there were all these stories from Trini ex-patriots living in a variety of countries and to a woman, because ALL the stories were from women, they were banging on and on about how much they missed "home" etc. Forgive me, if you miss it so much why in heck did you leave? I've never understood this phenomenon, you leave your country of origin by choice and then you cling relentlessly to the "old ways". Okay, familiarity is one thing, missing your family, wanting to preserve your traditions etc but to slavishly cling to this stuff? Like fruit cake, what's up with that? If you like it so much learn to bloody make it already, why am I lugging it up from here?

But then I suppose since I don't particularly LIKE Trini christmas food it matters not to me. You heard me right, no to the pastelles, ham and turkey (which is always way overcooked so it's dry and tough), no to the macaroni pie, callaloo and beans, definitely no to the table groaning under the weight of all that food. And there is always too much of it and everywhere you go, it's the same bloody menu with little variation. By the time Christmas day rolls around you are sooooo sick of seeing this stuff at every function you got invited to the six weeks prior. And then we repeat it on Christmas day without fail. So you can guess there will be none of that going on here. One year a friend did a huge prime rib and a goose and we who were lucky enough to be invited to dinner were so pathetically grateful that we showed up on Boxing Day to polish off the leftovers.

The one Christmas food I do like happens to be garlic pork which the X-man's sister used to make so we had it for breakfast. Garlic pork is just one of those things, either you like it or you don't. It's basically pork loin that has been trimmed and preserved in a mix of vinegar, garlic and french thyme. My former landlord with the Portuguese heritage makes some of the best I've ever had, it's one of those fond Christmas memories. This year for Christmas I decided that I didn't really want to do anything, that the day would be mine and the hound's. We're going to do some bonding before I go off to dinner at a friend's house in the evening...probably for the ubiquitous menu but her mother is a great cook so it will be lovely.

I'm going to go pet my dog now. Goodnight.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Goodbye Mr. Polar Bear

Science fiction writers have done many stories based on extinction of species, one particular story was about experiencing animals via hologram because the last living member of the species had died in a zoo. I never thought that I'd see the mass extinction that many species are experiencing in my own lifetime. It is an extremely disheartening revelation that the only place that polar bears may soon exist is in controlled zoo conditions. I have been a part of several save the whales/manatees/snowy owl etc campaigns and as much as we try, we know we are like the boy with his finger in the dike. Holding back an endless deluge over which we have no control.

In Copenhagen world leaders debate over what they will and will not sign, but truthfully, it is all about commerce and making money. Humans are about want, we talk about reducing carbon emissions, about conservation, but we fail to realise that it is about responsibility. Sadly, we will not change until it is too late and like the dinosaur, we too will become too big for our world and then we die.

We are given the gift of life and the loan of the earth but we have yet to mature enough to appreciate it.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Large Woolly Hounds and other perils

Beware of sleeping with large woolly dogs, they shed, they take up a lot of room and they snore. Kind of like men except they don't have expectations of either sex or conversation. This is how I know that I'm getting older, the fact that I'd rather sleep with the dog draped across my feet than put up with a man. Sorry guys, just one of those things.

Tomorrow is my kid bro's birthday, except that he's hardly a kid but he wouldn't thank me for selling him out so I won't. It didn't help that my "step child" had a twenty first birthday as well. How did that happen? Truthfully, it's not a big deal, geezerhood is hard to take only when dealing with young, know-it-all whippersnappers. LOL Of course, to quote Cathy Bates in Fried Green Tomatoes, " youth is always trumped by experience and more insurance". Ain't that the truth!

And for the record, the naughty girl in me is still in there. Just ask......

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Flat ironing your hair and other dangers

There's a brisk north wind that has the curtains billowing out like sails on a ship tonight; that nip in the air making the fan redundant but for the mosquitos that will not go away. The large hound is curled up at my side on the bed, though he knows he's not supposed to be lying where he is, we both know that tonight there might be some bending of the rules. It's raining, alternating between a slight drizzle and a more serious downpour. The plants in the backyard have perked up, but so have the weeds and the Gardener, whenever he appears, will have a merry time subduing the burgeoning jungle.

Tonight has been a night for contemplating my toes, both literally and figuratively. End of year, time to reflect, weed out the things that are no longer relevant and set new goals or maybe, just to dream a little. It is the literal contemplation of my toes that reminds me of how much I've given up. My toes, once a source of pride (go figure) are now a mess, ill cared for, subjected to killer heels that cause deformation. Once long, straight and unblemished, now calluses and other icky things are a fixture. I long for the days when open toed sandals did not cause grief but understand that this is my life now.

A friend whom I have not seen in two years is in from Toronto, we had a lovely time catching up though all too brief. Once again reminded that my life was on hold but knowing that it will not be forever....or even perhaps for very long. The winds are blowing and even as my hair ruffles at the edges, I know the flat iron must come out to tame it into submission. Tomorrow there is work and no time in the morning to do it. This habit is ruinous to your hair, the constant pressing between two hot plates but necessary for all the wrong reasons.

My hound is silent tonight, even he is resigned it would seem. Even as I enjoy the quiet, watching through my bedroom window as the lights twinkle up the hill where once, there was only darkness. A good night for hot cocoa with little bobbing marshmallows but laziness holds me back from lighting up the stove to heat the milk..microwaved is just not the same!

So what about you? What does this Sunday bring for you? Tonight with my books, computer and dog for company, I am happy. Tomorrow is another day.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

It's December

Yup, that's right. it's December, again. Same as this time last year, and the year before that, before you know it, it's rolled around again. The signs that it was on it's way started earlier this year. The first shock came walking through Excellent Stores on the way to snag a salad at Linda's bakery. Now isn't that oxymoronic? Going to a bakery to buy a salad. The very word bakery conjures up the smell of freshly baked bread, little cakes, crunchy cookies, certainly not something so prosaic and ordinary as lettuce leaves, A tomato cut into wedges and the chicken du jour.

But I digress; whilst wandering through the hallways between the kitchen supplies on one side and strange souvenir type things on the other was the first inkling that year end was in the offing. And this was October! Silvery fronds, a green fake fir, clusters of bright bulbs, they'd all been dusted off along with the Santa effigies and had replaced the rows of chocolates and preserved fruit on the shelves near the cashiers. It was far too early to take in or even accept and it was weeks before I dared venture that way again. Salads were procured via the front entrance of the building to guard against random christmas ornament sightings.

And now it's December. My brother's birthday, and my cousin, my uncle, my former mother-in-law, ex-husband and late father. Used to be a brisk time for gift giving but now, thankfully, it's been reduced to a card to the ex-mother-in-law and a present mailed to the brother which he got this week. Before the happy day but I was taking no chances. Lately I've been writing blogs, saving them and not posting them. Because really, what is there to say? Another rant about the state of life, who gives a toss? Certainly not the hordes encountered while shopping for the right Christmas pressie for someone or other. Not that this has anything to do with anything but thought I'd slip it in to let you know that I wasn't in the throes of some dread malaise.

Yesterday a friend and I ventured forth to a rather chi chi open market sale in a yoga studio. Lots of goodies and a whole bunch of ernest people telling me how good and eco friendly their product is...whatever you say bud. My friend and I eventually fled from the utter pretentiousness of it all. There was far too much posturing for the likes of us poor peasants. The wine counter next to the guy making fruit smoothies was just a trifle weird.

Anyway, since I'm stuck here over Christmas and New Year's, the passport office having prevented my fervent desire to get off this island, I thought I'd better acquire some Christmas presents for my nearest and dearest. Well, actually, did most of my shopping weeks ago, now they're all wrapped up and under the reluctant Christmas tree that looks like a demented person decorated it. Well, that would be right too, these days I make no claims to anything. I'm sure at some stage I'll fire up the old, sorry, that would be new, oven and do some baking. Just to stress myself out further. Must have something to eat while watching tons of DVD's and reading the books I'll have to buy myself. Yes, I do wish I were going to the island but alas it is not to be.

And how's this for sucky. My brother got to meet Bono! Who is U2's biggest fan? Me of course, you know what I mean. My bro is not, he was weeing himself at the irony of it. Little bastard, why did I send him a birthday present again? Oh right, because I want to go crash his pad when I do get the bloody passport.

As you can see, the grinch is alive and well over here. Yes, it's December.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Has everybody in this country lost their cotton picking minds? I was looking at the tobacco legislation which is supposed to protect you poor, clean lunged people from us dastardly smokers. It's pretty draconian, and like prohibition, will serve to make it more attractive to some. If you think it through you'll realise it's really a nuisance act, designed to frustrate you into becoming a reformed smoker. As a reformed smoker myself I applaud anything that gets people to stop smoking. It's a vile habit that adds nothing to your life except to make you dependent on a nasty tasting thing which stinks up your hair, clothing and everything else. KInd of like those food fairs where the evacuator hoods don't work and you smell like stale chinese food for hours after.

So while the politicos bask in the glow of goodness from having saved us poor schumucks from our unthinking selves we must be grateful. I hear their next task is to cut down sugar consumption...that's going to be interesting.

And isn't it somewhat hilarious that sixty percent of the world's leaders are FLYING here to talk about climate change. How cool and eco-friendly is that! Wonder what the carbon footprint is going to be like after this shindig.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

And now, for something completely worthless

Perhaps not, but I figured if I was ripping off Monty Python then at least some modesty should prevail, after all, am nowhere in the same category as John Cleese et al. The cable was disconnected during the week, I forgot to pay the bill, repeatedly. It's turning out to be the best thing in a weird sort of way. Not sitting there rotting the old brain on countless episodes of Law and Order, in all its incarnations, Criminal Minds and, wait, what the hell do I watch? Ah yes, E! News and the Food Network, now you can see why this is scary; it's junk at best.

The lack of cable is not really much of an issue, I'm not around enough to watch large amounts of television, most days I just fall asleep in front of the idiot box anyway. The dog probably misses it more than me because at least he could corral me into one spot and irritate the life out of me to throw his dumb ball at him. Yes, we sometimes play ball in the house when mommy can't be bothered to get up, make sure the neighbours are inside, gates locked to prevent dog from getting out and intruders from getting in. Needless to say, it is a recipe for disaster if only for the spitty state of the ball, the prospect of a large animal bounding heedless all over the place in direct proportion to the number of breakable things in the living room and the newly painted state of the walls. Did I mention that having spent several days slaving with a roller brush, various cleaning implements and on a shoestring budget the living room is now a zen oasis, welcoming, yet calm. Ah, it was worth the three day pain in the arm and knees that needed to be wrapped after balancing on the ladder.

But I digress, it was the lack of cable tv that started this. Really, it was sort of inevitable, freudian even, for reasons not to be shared here but let's just say they feature the Xman and a remote. However, lately I've been buying books the way some women, okay I, buy shoes. At lunch time, even though I rarely eat lunch at the designated time most days, I find myself in the bookstore around the corner. In the last couple months there has been a real danger of being overrun by cream coloured plastic bags with the logo on the front. Novels, magazines, other kinds of books, there is no real pattern, just words printed on pages. In the last month I think I bought about thirty books, well there was a sale so it made sense. But, I also had book exchange with two friends, got another FOUR boxes of books from a friend who is migrating and passed through both Readers Bookshop and the second hand bookstore and snapped up some more. Does this not signal that something might be up?

It only occurred to me that this is not normal when a friend nicely pointed out that since: I almost never have vacation, work twelve hour days and then spend another two hours a day getting to and from work that there was precious little time left to read all these books. Now I do read fast, and yes, with comprehension and retention thank you very much, but still, this was a little excessive. After all, as my mother would remind me if she were around, you cannot spend your life with your nose in a book, get up and exercise, so something! But you know, I'm starting to suspect that this is the real thing because you see...I LIKE to read. It takes me away to that special place...okay that's Christopher Cross' Sailing, sue me.

Here's the thing though, the Christmas tree went up today. Now this is a FIRST. The Christmas tree, when it does go up, goes up, grudgingly (except for that one year I completely lost my mind and bought the damn tree and $600(!) worth of decorations), the week before Christmas. The living room now looks charming with an artful collection of paintings, plants and other stuff and of course, the tree. Trimmed with brown and green bulbs and some red berries it is restrained, relatively tasteful and unobtrusive. Totally unnatural given that Christmas is an opportunity to decorate mostly in an excessive, unrestrained, somewhat gaudy, definitely tacky way as possible. All that gold and sparkly dust stuff! But the living room has prevailed so none of that, but it's up. This lack of cable thing might be dangerous.

Next thing you know I'll be shampooing the carpet, stripping and sealing the tiles and whatever other rituals women subjugate themselves to in the name of house proud Christmas. And here's the kicker...I don't give a crap, I never understand what the fuss is about and truthfully, would happily read away the two days we get off. Now you see the confusion.

Anyday now, the men in the white shirts come to cart me away, or perhaps sanity will prevail and a return to shoes will obtain....

Sunday, November 8, 2009

So what?

As per usual, it's Sunday evening and I'm dreading having to go to work tomorrow. Actually, that's a mild understatement, I'm hopping around the living room trying to pretend that it isn't so close to the end. Having to face the morning drive to work is enough to set me off. I hate sitting in traffic and even worse, I can't stand what passes for driving around here....

And so what?

Is it going to change anything? I doubt it.

Am I going to wake up tomorrow morning and find out that we all suddenly got efficient, grew a brain/conscience/spine? Again, probably not.

And so what.

Imagine, we put a flag that cost two million dollars. Unbelievable right? Perhaps not, because it's up there and having gone up, we break all manner of protocol which says that it should fly between 6:00 am to 6:00 pm and then come down. This is the practice all over the first world, but not HERE. Because you see, it takes all manner of things to put it up and take it down, so up it stays.

And so what?

In the scheme of things don't you think we should be more worried about the $10 million spent on ANOTHER performance area at the Diplomatic Centre? Nah, that's just peachy. Because we all know that the hospitals are all equipped and adequately staffed. You tell me okay.

And so what?

You see, one of the first lessons you learn in monitoring and evaluation is that "so what" question. Have we fulfilled our objectives, have we added value, have we promoted sustainable change?

Several years ago a worthy citizen mobilised hundreds to protest something or other. One Saturday people turned out to march around the place and then congregated in Woodford Square to make their voices heard about....something! I can't remember what now even though I was around when it was happening. Can't take the old journalist out of me I'm afraid. And what changed? Nothing. Because once all the folks had dispersed so did all the fervour and passion. Because you see, for most people, the march was the end, not the beginning. They could say, look, I marched against someone else go do something about it. And that's the truth about most things. We complain, we write a few letters to the editor but mostly, we're content to be armchair commentators and wait for someone else to do the do.

Look in the mirror. See the person staring back at you. Get to know them well, because that's the person who is going to initiate change.

And so what?

Well, you be the judge of that.

And by the way, if you haven't been to see it yet, Michael Jackson's "This Is It" is worth the trip. Go see it for yourself.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Going global

Luckily for me someone decided not to go to a work related function and I snagged their ticket otherwise my evening would have been spent watching Cold Case with the hound. It was an $800.00 dinner and the speaker, Peter Kageyama. Well it was an evening well spent if only for the twenty minute talk, because ladies and gentlemen, pardon my language, the brain f*** was amazing. He talked about creativity being a catalyst for transformation, for accepting failure because of of the opportunity to grow and learn. In an evening of somewhat pedestrian delivery, he was witty, interesting and most of all, he spoke a language I'd not heard in a long time.

Creativity, innovation, two concepts that people talk about but which it would seem, we have but passing acquaintance. That's because most people don't think of themselves as being creative; creativity is something that is ascribed to, well, creative people. You know, artists, writers, performers, people of that ilk, but we all have it in us to be creative and innovative, it's just more latent in some personality types. That however, should not be a a deterrent, until you get out there and try, you'll never know what you could accomplish and being creative is not limited to only artistic type pursuits. You can apply it to many situations that are a part of your life.

Mostly these days there is little room in my professional life for creativity, which is more than passing strange given my profession and my employer. We are actually responsible for promoting transformation, innovation and finding solutions but alas, all we seem to do is turn over.

Tonight's little outing was get another slap upside the head, a sign of things really. Thanks Peter.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

In the news today....

Pick a day, any day, scan the newspaper. What do you see? Most days; someone shot someone, someone died in an accident on the road, some government minister did something, some commission of inquiry has inquires into it, or some residents are protesting something somewhere. Yup, that's pretty much it, I don't why we bother to buy the newspapers or watch the television news, it's like that Bill Murray/Geena Davis movie that you geriatrics who read this blog should remember, Groundhog Day.

Anyway, due to occupational hazard, I cannot avoid the news so mostly, it's suck it up and wade through it with the, increasingly, dim hope that somewhere in there....well, whatever. Recently I took down a blog because it upset someone. That's not something that happened lightly, suffice to say, it was necessary. But it left a residual burn. You see, every day that I go through the news I become more convinced that I want to quit the "I am a Trini" club and head off to somewhere else.

Sure there is crime etc everywhere but you know what, I'd like to live in a place where people respect the law, or at least a place where the law is enforced. Where people do not think it's okay to go through the red traffic light. Where businesses do not take their customers for granted doling out shitty service because they can. Where grocery prices are not arbitrary. Where there are rules for landlords too. Where good sense it applied, not whatever vaps catch some politician on a given day.

Take for instance the whole property tax brouhaha that's been occupying us lately. We've always had to pay land and building taxes but now we're upset because, god help us, they're actually being updated! Sure it's going to cost some folks more, but it's going to cost some folks less, and if you're a pensioner, you have the right to appeal. In other words, if you can't pay, you can't pay. Or so the Ministry of Finance people say. The irony is that we will whinge about it, but in the end, it will be something else we accept. How do I know? Does anybody remember the furore over Value Added Tax. I sure do. When introduced about twenty years ago, VAT was supposed to be a temporary measure. Given that there are temporary buildings that have been around since World War II, I don't hold out much hope that it's going away in my lifetime. The bright side is you don't have to pay property tax every time you take out your wallet.

And then there's that thing about swine flu being the reason the Caribbean Games were cancelled. Yeah, sure, right, whatever you say dude. It had nothing to do with the lack of big names participating or dwindling enthusiasm or even post Summit burn-out. Swine flu, which by the way is rearing it's swinish head again with lethal consequences. As a rule I never agree with Sat Maharaj, the Maha Sahba man, but you know, when he advocated closing schools to slow the spread he was on to something. Clearly Felipe Calderon was a man with brass balls, in Mexico they shut everything down. Sure it didn't completely eradicate it but it did cut down on the number of cases. Of course, how would Trinis be able to lime if we did that? Twenty lashes with a wet noodle for stupidity for me. In five weeks our little island is going to be flooded with people from some fifty countries around the globe. This is "where the world meets" right. So all these people, carrying all their germs are going to descend upon us and our wonderful, efficient health care system. I don't know about you, but I rest easy knowing that the MInistry of Health has got it all under control if their news releases are anything to go by.

And then there is Keith Rowley. Well wouldn't you know, time in the cold, away from the comfort of Cabinet and colleagues suddenly makes one grow a conscience. It would appear that all his concerns materialised overnight because surely they could not have been cumulative if it bothers him so much? He would have spoken up before now, right? And the Uff Inquiry...well, does anybody know what the outcome of Piarco 1, 2 and 3 was? Remember those, what happened?

Look, as things go our lives could be worse, think about it. We're blessed, we're not freezing our collective asses off, we have free education, free pharmaceuticals, access to training, grants etc and when all else fails, we fete. We're really good at blame, not so good at solutions but everything in time. And yet, considering the shrinking globe, the information age and all that, with all those "best practices" lying around you'd think we would bloody learn......and this is why I'm contemplating turning in my membership.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Fix You

Sunday, day of rest. Or something like that.

Chris Martin at the BBC crooning, "in my place, in my long must I wait for it...come back and sing to me"

I'm singing along, badly. We all know I can't sing but my dog does not mind, in fact, to him it's music because his mummy is home and he can bug her to throw a ball to his little furry heart's content. Not that his mistress is amused but you take the lovies where you can get it.

A week ago, a post full of resignation. Not a commentary on anything, just some introspection. Lot of that going on lately. Asking, what if, why not, maybe...a word filled with infinite promise. Crap, my download speed has just stopped speeding and slowed to a trickle and Coldplay is reduced to stops and starts. Yes, I confess, it was You Tube that I was "watching". Technology not always working for us in the third world.

So I took the post down. Because I couldn't stand to have it up anymore. Not because the person was close, or because the subject matter was distasteful. Because it simply did not matter anymore. Recently an artist friend did a body of work on crime in Trinidad. She put a lot of thought, effort and time into it. She is my friend, she is someone I care about, I went to see her work. I admired her passion, wished that many more people could have seen it. But truthfully, realised that while I supported her, it was her show, her opinion, her passion. Not mine. Sure there is bad stuff happening here, bad things happen everywhere, it is how we cope, how we acknowledge and the things we do to change or not as the case might be. She's doing what she can, as am I.

I write about things. Another friend takes pictures and yet another gets out and crusades. We are what we are. This morning with Chris crooning there is a part of me that wants to re-affirm that I'm living.....

Monday, September 21, 2009

Doubles as an economic indicator:

The Trini street food doubles, when googled will get you a lot of hits. There are pictures, stories, blogs and recipes that the search will run many pages. Doubles have been around for a long time and though there is much discussion to their origin, they, like Carnival, are a great leveler. Essentially, doubles are two rounds of soft dough that are fried so that they are crisp but pliable. They’re filled with curried chickpeas that have a thickish sauce to prevent drippage. When done well, they are delectable and are known as the things you must have when coming home from a late night party, the grease perfect for sopping up alcohol. They are filling and once, they were considered to be the “poor man’s food”. Like so many other things over the years they have morphed into one of those foods that have snob appeal. We now have our favourite doubles vendor, the condiments have grown more and more elaborate (and silly) and on many a morning you will find people of all shades, hues and economic backgrounds lining up for “two with slight (pepper sauce).

Recently however, there has been much grumbling in this place called Paradise because the price of an average doubles has gone from $1.50 to $4.00 and even $5.00 in the last two years. The outrage! Much has been written, including in this blog, as to the grasping, opportunism of doubles vendors who raised their prices when the price of flour went up and never dropped them when it fell. Well truthfully a lot of companies did that but no one has yet commented on HiLo’s predatory pricing practices.

In the recent budget it was once again apparent that the middle class would be made to bear the brunt of the shrinking economy. If you are an unmarried person with no assets there is a good probability that you are going to remain with no assets because of the difficulty in saving. In the last three years the cost of everything has increased exponentially but not my salary and things look pretty bleak there. Rents have increased, the cost of electricity, basic services, food, you name it, I don’t sell a product that I can raise the price on to cover my shortfall in revenue. Unlike the business community, I cannot charge the VAT back to my business and recover it. I pay the same rate of tax that the people who make real money do, but I have no tax breaks at all. At the same time, I am responsible for my pension and health plan because my employer does not cover me. I must also shell out for clothing and hair etc as consistent with my job. I don’t entertain clients, if I do; it comes out of my pocket. I don’t party; eat out (other than the occasional Burger King). I maybe get together with friends a couple of times a month and we all split the tab. My bank manager used to laugh and say that I could work a hundred dollars better than anybody he knew. I get that from my grandmother who never spent a bad penny. Sure I scrape by and hope for the best but I know, the day something really happens, I’m quite frankly in shit street.

As per usual there was grumbling after the budget but I am reminded by something a colleague always points out. In Jamaica what do people do when they are dissatisfied? They revolted against the slavemaster, they take action in some form; they generally do not sit around whining but do something. If the price is ridiculous they just don’t buy it. In Trinidad what do we do? Previously we would mock our “masters” in the street, sing calypsos and drink rum. What do we do today? We complain, dress up in expensive costumes that are not worth the half what they cost, drink rum/vodka/Baileys, brag about how much we spent on something and complain about the Government. In short, we have remained sheep who prefer to do nothing but to baaa at our situation. We don’t even sing about it anymore, now we have performers who tell us how to dance and how to behave and generally add very little to our lives. It’s really appalling because it seems to imply that we are unable to think or act for ourselves. It’s always someone else’s fault or responsibility.

And what does this have to do with the doubles vendor you might wonder. Look at it this way. The cost of living has increased for everyone, even your doubles vendor. They are really a barometer for society: though they may not have the overheads of a shop in the mall, they still have mortgages, kids in school, insurance payments, health care etc that they must front themselves. And yes the price of flour may have gone done but by golly, the price of few other things have, they may be making slightly more that they were a couple of months ago but really, how much more. They can’t claim the VAT back like most businesses, the day they are ill or unable to work they make no income. Street vendors know that theirs is a balancing act, their price must be affordable to the masses because they rely on volume to make their profit. Their margin of profit comes down to less than a dollar per item for the one item they sell. While we bitch, whine and moan about everything, I notice that Carnival costumes are still selling, bars are still full, new cars are still hitting the road and people are planning their Carnival fetes and jetting off for weekends in Miami. Well some people anyway, the rest of us are just trying to get by best we can.

Why are we so angry about the rise in the price of doubles? You could always stop buying them except what we are angry about is not the price, it is that we feel more comfortable complaining about doubles vendors because they seem to have no voice of their own than go up against the bigger issues that assail us every day. Do you know what the mark up on that blouse you bought in the mall is, I kid you not, roughly two to three HUNDRED percent. I was going to make one of those unequivocal Coffeewallah statements that are supposed to make people think about circumstances but I find these days I really don’t care anymore. If people wish to remain sheep then that’s their choice, carry on smartly. When I was going through my new age period I would have said, you are where you’re supposed to be, there is a reason for everything. Now I’m pretty sure the reason is, we like it so, why fuss. We continue to accept the status quo because it suits our purpose to not accept responsibility for ourselves. And for those of us who do try to make a change, keep up the fight good people, be the change you want to see in the world even if that means lugging the sheep along behind you.

Monday, August 31, 2009

What gives?

You might have noticed of late the posts here have been somewhat middle of the road forays into the day to day activities of Coffeewallah-land. There's been an absence of commentary about the state of the country, the news, in fact anything that could raise the level of one's blood pressure or cause offence. In fact, this has not been about apathy, it has been a deliberate experiment in 'positive living".

What in heck is that you might wonder? Or more to the point, have I finally lost my mind? Well, I've never claimed to be normal so there might be some small insanity going on but after the crazed intensity of the early part of this year, I thought that I'd give what a friend of mind calls "being positive" a try. That is, always looking to find the good in everything, taking every situation as it is and not getting caught up in the emotion etc. It's been an interesting experiment, one that in a way has been good and in others, has made me understand that medication is not the only way you can duck responsibility for yourself.

Now other than a long standing addiction to caffeine, a newer hang-up on Reese's peanut butter cups and a habit of talking to my dog I would say that geezer-dom has been wholly embraced. I've gone from having a circle of friends and plans most evenings to coming straight home from work and settling down to a quiet evening with my book, the dog and the tv. It's not a bad existence and I'm not a hermit by any stretch of the imagination, I've still got friends, I still go out from time to time but truthfully, only when I really want to instead of feeling like I have to. So far so good. Now, just to conquer the personality quirks.

Anyway, the theory of positive living was to always approach life looking at the good things, seeing only the good in people, being upbeat all the time, in short being one of those people who sometimes make you want to beat your head against the wall in the hope that they go away because they are so constantly upbeat. One of the things you very quickly learn while on anti-depression medication is that you feel nothing or you feel everything. It is artificially induced well being where there are no highs nor lows, life tumbles along in somewhat oblivion. It is unnatural and after a while, despite how "good" things are, you long for something else. Some people might call it self destructive but as my counselor pointed out, it might also be a part of being human. What can I say, all that goodness was quite frankly, tiresome. Now there is nothing wrong with being positive and always looking at the bright side or whatever but in truth it is another way to not take responsibility for yourself, in long, there must be some middle road. What do I mean? Well, if you constantly dress things up all the time you only see the things you want to see and sometimes, fail to see the situation for what it is. Or worse, in your well meaningness, you belittle or play down someone else's right to express themselves authentically. If you constantly tip toe around always going with the flow, you never take a stand, you never acknowledge that something is not right or that it could be better. You never innovate because you're too busy pointing out that "everything happens for a reason" or that "you are where you're supposed to be", instead of maybe asking, "what the hell was the reason for this" or "screw it, this pisses me off". You're right, everything happens for a reason, maybe that reason is to question, to exercise free will or just to make you appreciate what you have or to make you want to do better.

I don't know, the answers are somewhere out there in between. But if it means that I've got to give up seeing the things that are not working and commenting on them, well, maybe this is not for me. Because sometimes, all it takes is one person saying might just be you.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Why would you want to read this...

Sweat is trickling along my shoulder blades and between my breasts, prickly heat raised along my arms. It is sticky, humid, outside a breeze stirs but all that is blowing is hot air. The brief interlude of rain earlier in the afternoon has only raised the heat. This situation is not helped by an intensive session of elliptical walker and resistance bands, cooling down will take a while.

The bout of exercise was really to counteract the after effects of a late lunch of stewed chicken and red beans, admittedly not cooked at home. The heat of the day negated any desire to spend time in the kitchen, which incidentally gets heat reflected from the roof next door. At first there’d been some guilt, of late the kitchen has seen little cooking and a combination of take out boxes or quickie meals cobbled together. Cereal can fill many roles and sadly, I’ve let it. Crap that; the chicken quietly thawing on the sink was unceremoniously bunged back into the fridge, much to the disgust of the hound, living in hope that it would have been forgotten upon hearing the jingle of house keys knocking against the car key. Sadly for him, mummy remembered and returned to safely tuck it away, maybe tomorrow.

The heat in the car almost derailed the process, even with the air con cranked up, the steering wheel was not pleasant and the sun beating mercilessly down through the windscreen caused a vampire like hissing and thoughts of shriveling up and blowing away as dust. This is when you know you’ve become an old geezer; the temperature gauge read 34.5 degrees outside. I know it wasn’t that hot on a regular basis when I was a kid, 34 degrees was usually a high, of late, it’s the standard. Of course this, the last weekend before school re-opens would either have been spent outside running around or on the beach, burning to a crispy brown one last time. Now, my thoughts turned to swiftly acquiring the goods and returning home and maybe eating in the shower, the only cool room in the house!

The roads were strangely empty for a long weekend, the only place with lots of cars, the supermarket car park, stocking up for school? Maybe everyone was still in Tobago, Great Race weekend they’d all be trying to get back today. Lot’s of people in Creole Cuisine, seems none of wanted to cook in the heat, at 2:00 however, the choices limited having been raided by the smart people who’d decided earlier to err on the side of no stress Sunday lunch. Goods in hand, back into the car hoping that it had not had time to heat up again. No digressions, it was straight home out of the sun again. The stewed chicken was tender, nicely browned, the beans floury, with lashings of Allana Stuart’s pimento sauce it made a lovely meal. If you’ve never had it, pimento sauce is a piquant sauce with body, made from flavour not hot peppers. It adds a little kick that enhances the flavour of the food without being overpowering like pepper sauce.

It is still hot, even as night falls and the day’s heat slowly relieved by a cooling breeze. It is amazing that the hound, covered in thick fur still hopes that we will play ball, I cannot believe that he wants to run around. He is panting in the heat, his water bucket supplemented by the occasional ice cube as a treat. All I want to do is veg, not moving with my book for company. He’ll have to settle for lying in front of the fan. Tomorrow is Independence Day, happy 47th Trinidad and Tobago!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Dog Catcher

There is a little black, furry cur that hangs out on the pavement near to my office; I pass him on the way to work, most mornings he’s lying on his side in the shade of the tree. He is a scrofulous, scabby sort, but something about him, makes me pause for a second look. On the occasions when his eyes are not tightly shut against the intrusion of morning, the look he gives me makes me want to sweep him up and hide him from the danger that lurks. He was a member of a larger pack of abandoned dogs that congregated on the front of the library building but now, he is all alone, the others are gone.

It happened a couple of weeks ago. Late one evening, after the streets had grown quiet, after the hectic rush of traffic had gone and all that was left were the few stragglers, making their way in the twilight. That evening I was without my parking lot comrade, the pair of us usually left behind after most of the rest of the office has gone for the day would make the trek to the silent, forbidding car park together. He had stayed behind to finish something and I was too hungry to wait for him. In the half light, the streets were eerie, like something in a movie or reminiscent of something you read.

A clanking, grinding noise heralded the arrival of the pickup dragging behind it, a cart, covered in BRC wire. There coming slowly up the street, the City Dog Catcher on the prowl; it was a Dickensian moment, the poor benighted souls trapped within the confines of the cage being carted off to the workhouse. Except, in this case, it was the furry denizens abandoned by their humans who were encaged. Strangely, they suffered their fate in silence, nary a bark nor even whimper from any of them as though all resigned to their sinister fate. We know there is no animal rehabilitation in Trinidad. It froze my soul, as many pairs of eyes stared at me, not accusingly but with a wary look that said, could you have been my master. The pack that for weeks had greeted my passing them by with varying degrees of tail wagging or hopeful looks that said, “do you have any food”. Who banded together and would be seen grooming each other, sleeping in a heap, or just hanging out, like men in a rum shop.

Their grubby countenances, these orphans, several with matted fur, maybe never knowing the reassuring touch or affection of a human, and their eyes, sadness, resignation, incomprehension. In those moments as the vessel of doom drove past, I thought of my pampered pooch, who at that moment was probably lying happily on the bed, waiting patiently for me to come home, to go walkies, maybe toss around his ball. His body, a transport of joy at the sound of the key in the lock; for these poor characters it was the end of the road. In my guilt that I could not offer any consolation, I scurried across the road, but there was no escape, there it came clanking past again. Sitting calmly on the floor, a little fluffy character, his fur stained grey from lack of care, the kind of dog you see in the homes of the wealthy and yet, he had become a street dog, A victim of circumstance. I confess, things were different, they would have been a different result, but I've learnt the hard way, I cannot save everybody.

In the long traffic ridden drive home, there was much time for introspection. The image of those dogs stayed with me a long time, yet another example of the randomness of life. How easily we could slip from one position to another.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Rain, rain

The smell permeates my sleep, tickling at the edge of memory; one that goes back so far that it seems that is has always been there. In the half sleep, half wake state of early morning, struggling to get my eyes open as an impatient dog does the dance of “ I have to go out, I have to go out”, the aroma is a reminder of good things, of days long past.

For the past two or three days there have been whiffs of it, the sweet, banana-ey smell of ripe plantains being fried against a richer backdrop, the aroma of dirt soaked and wet trees. It is the smell of rainy days, of coming home to a warm kitchen, counters covered in flour, the hiss and spit of hot oil in a battered black frying pan, the vibrant yellow turning golden brown with blackened edges, a quick drain before being stuffed into the fluffy white saada roti and handed over to waiting hands.

If like me, you are life-long sufferer of “sinus” attacks, your sense of smell is always compromised by the lingering nasal drip and blockages that remove most of your olfactory responses. Since eating is a sensory pleasure that involves all the senses, the loss of one can make things sometimes, less so. And yet, almost thirty years later, there are some smells that remain, that are so evocative that the merest twitch of a nose and fleeting whiff, are enough to transport, to visualize, and to remember. These smells are so inextricably intertwined that they are not a logical progression, they just are.

August was the month that we were all at home, “summer camp” meant weeks at my Granny’s house, endlessly riding bicycles up and down the yard or the back street, climbing trees, getting dirty, causing mayhem and generally getting into trouble. My mother used to apply for her vacation, my granddad too. Granny, who’d already had a month of us driving her nuts would breathe a sigh of relief and resign herself to whatever entertainment Pappy planned.

August is the month of rain in Trinidad, huge, droplets falling from the sky, sometimes a warm gentle shower but mostly pounding torrential downpour, cold rain that comes from high up. Being locking indoors with everybody was frustrating. As a child, I never met a rain puddle that didn’t say, “ jump in me!” The odd thing was that if you parked me with a stack of books, I would happily read away the day, living in my own little dream world, a state that persists today. It’s my brothers who would instigate the trouble. Playing in the rain, freedom from the fetters of adults, clothes sticking to your body, dancing in the droplets or being pelted by them, eventually being so cold that you went indoors to receive your scolding secure in the knowledge that you’d do it again.

The smell of rain, before, a heavy lingering smell, full of promise, rainy-ness, of mysterious green things, after a downpour, newness, wet earth and trees, fecundity. After the rain the place would look as though it had been washed, shininess, the plants acid green, the sky bright, even when covered still in grey clouds. The evening smells after a day of rain, of cocoa or Horlicks, fried plantains and bakes, tomato choka, stewed chicken leftover from lunch, hops and cheese and always, the promise in the nose of rain waiting to come while we, tucked up in our houses, snug against it, ate and laughed, got scolded and slept, twitching in our dreams, of playing in the rain.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Cooking for life

Spending Sunday morning cleaning the stove is one way to get into a meditative state, largely because looking at what one is scrubbing can be kind of gross. Especially when you consider that what is coating the stove might in fact also be coating your insides. Not pleasant unlike the steak devoured happily, stewed chicken as indicated by the brownish crusty stain on the otherwise white enamel and other sundry remains of meals cooked and eaten since the last time the stove was cleaned.

Generally West Indian kitchens are often covered in a sticky residue near to the stove and on the ceiling as is discovered when you try to re-paint the walls et al. West Indian and East Indian cookery often involves a lot of browning things in hot oil, searing in hot oil on high heat, long cooking with sputtering sauce everywhere. That residue is left by fat granules adhering to every surface requiring constant scrubbing with abrasive grease cutting detergents which take the skin off of one's fingers. Ah, the joys of cooking. Once upon a time, my kitchen was the scene of much cooking for Sunday lunches with friends or dishes to be frozen for other friends who were unfamiliar with a stove. That all went the way of when I realised that my entire weekend revolved around the kitchen, preparing for the meal, cooking the meal, cleaning up after the meal. Oh yes, what fun, for everybody else but the cook!

Needless to say, I love reading about food, experimenting in the kitchen and generally trying new gastronomic delights. My shelves are littered with books by cooks, chefs, food editors and restauranteurs. Currently I'm reading "My Life in France" by Julia Child. Mrs. Child a french method cook famous for introducing the technique to the average American housewife in her cooking shows and books, was an unlikely hero. These days when everyone on the Food Network is coiffed, made up and reality TV friendly to death, Mrs Child, 6'2', a halo of red hair and a rather high pitched voice was different, but the woman could cook and she was actually fun to watch! FYI, read the book, it's more entertaining than Meryl and Amy trying to be Julie and Julia.

Last evening, while watching TV there was a programme on two people, one a raw food proponent and the other a calorie counter on a reduced calorie diet. The aim of both parties, to live longer. Now I have nothing against vegans and other people who watch what they eat. I watch what I eat too, I just like it to taste, look and smell good. Truthfully, watching the raw food guy who happens to be a long distance runner did not encourage conversion to the green sludge which he loudly proclaimed, YUMMY! That fresh chard and broccoli might have benefitted from a quick saute in some good olive oil to be paired with a delicately prepared fillet of fish all washed down with a crisp Pinot Grigio. Frankly, the sludge looked gross, like something you might have scraped up from the bottom of an old water tank and his appearance did not help, pale, fleshless, with sunken eyes, he vaguely resembled a refugee as did the reduced calorie couple. They went on and on about living longer to the point of nausea. I just wanted them to shut up because they were boring as hell and for all their protestations they did not appear to be enjoying themselves. Guy Fieri on an hour later was much more entertaining and that dude looks like he really, really enjoys food.

It is instructive to note than many gastronomes, on a steady diet of butter, wine and other forbidden things lived to a ripe old age, Mrs. Child was in her eighties. Seeing my Auntie Enid, an octogenarian trying to get around has not inspired me to want to live to "ripen" into that kind of old age. Sure, I like being healthy and want to be around for quite a while; I exercise, I avoid margarine, fake sugar and all those other genetically engineered foods for the real thing which I then eat in moderation. Okay, there is the coffee and chocolate thing but that's my business.

What's my point? Nothing really, this was just my distraction from cleaning the kitchen so that I could put it back together to get Sunday lunch going. A nice roast chicken, yes with the skin on, oven roasted potatoes and carrots (strategically placed under the chicken to be self basting) and a tomato/basil/crumbled feta cheese salad with balsamic dressing, all washed down with some Chardonnay. Mmmm, good.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Walking in the park and reminiscing

Well maybe not. If you read this blog you'd have realised that I've been on a personal journey for the last year and what a ride it's been. The question came up whether or not this blog should go on...there are so many things I want to write about but, in the course of changing my life, it's getting more and more difficult to carve out the space to write here too. Most days the last thing I want to do is boot up the computer and write after a long day at the office.

Until yesterday when the Bookman and Adele reminded me once again why we blog. Thanks guys. In the coming weeks I hope to share some of the work that I'm doing towards a larger piece, Notes from Paradise, that I'm working on. You've already seen some of it, the bits on the market, Woodford Square, thumbnail studies really. Here's one:

"Do you know that the Beatles came to Trinidad? No, really, they did, somewhere in the early sixties and there are pictures to prove it. It’s one of those really well-kept open secrets of this little island. Noel Norton took the pictures of the Fab Four on some or other beach with then Prime Minister, Dr. Eric Williams and his young daughter, Erica. It is impossible to imagine that they, the most successful, recognized group of the time managed to slip in and out of the country with nary a person noticing. But it did happen, yes, I’ve seen the pictures and they are real.

The pictures were commissioned by the Tourism Development Authority of the day and the prints are probably now moldering away somewhere if they haven’t already been thrown out. They were part of a repository of hundreds of images relating to this country’s heritage. Sadly many of the photographers are now either deceased or so old that they’ve been relegated to the retirement pile but these people managed to document some of the most wonderful things about Trinidad and Tobago. It is mind boggling that they are all hidden away somewhere and not on display.

It was almost an accident, that they came across my desk in a stack of material that I was cataloguing. At first there was some mild skepticism and then another look. Sure enough it was them, Mr. Norton confirmed it a year or so later when interviewed for a piece that I was writing. "

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Let's see now...

(Good) Reasons to get up early on a Sunday morning:

Somebody you'd like to wake you up does...

Somebody brought you breakfast in bed

You've got to meet the boat for your trip down the islands to go dolphin watching (damn you j!)

Your 80-some year old Granny made you

Your kids stood on you and prised your eyelids apart (this one's for you Coffeedude)

You got up to watch the sunrise while sitting on the backsteps with the hills surrounding you and a cup of Arabica blend warming your hands

I'm sure you enterprising people could think up lots of reasons to get up early the one morning of the week you might not have to, most of them having nothing to do with taking time out. Sadly, I'm up for none of the above and yes, this is going to be another one of those "quality of life" rants but say what, repetition is what makes things stick right.

From the informal Coffeewallah survey conducted in bars, boutiques and coffee shops over the last eight months, it has become very apparent that people in the twenty - fifty year old demographic are so wrapped up in what if, we all forget what is now.

Think about it, you women especially. We're all so busy doing that sometimes we forget to do for ourselves. And then we wonder why we're not appreciated, or we feel so beleaguered. Listen girls, nobody is going to do it for you, so stop waiting for that to happen, if you make yourself a martyr, you will be one; start remembering you - get off the phone, after you've made that manicure/pedicure appointment, go find yourself a book or whatever floats your boat and relax. I promise it will not kill you.

What am I banging on about? The "coven" was talking about how are days are filled with activities/stuff we HAD to do, (we have multiple personality types so it's not as though we're all driven, type A, workaholics), that we were all too busy. In fact our days and nights are so crammed with activities, usually dictated by someone else, that it's amazing that we breathe. As a result we'd all become bloody boring! Who the hell wants to hear a constant litany of my job is so stressful, I spent my day running from one place to another, I can't balance the cheque book, blah, blah, blah, blah. Can you remember when we used to talk about what we were painting/writing/reading? Actually, can you remember the last book that you read that wasn't some kind of ghastly self-help exhortation to be better/stronger/richer etc.

I vaguely remember a time when I used to get up at 6:30 on a Sunday morning and go to the beach! Yes, most Sundays, my feet would be firmly planted in the sand, bits of me exposed to the sun, book on my face enjoying the splish splash of waves on the shore. What's stopping me? Not a bloody thing but ME. House needs to be cleaned, piles of laundry done, meals to be cooked and frozen so that I don't starve during the week. My employer gets more of my time than my family or my dog. Sound familiar eh. But what to do, this is the way it is...NOT. Lesson to self: get over yourself, the self importance of being a vital wheel in the cog is self-inflicted most of the time.

Screw it, I'm going to paint this morning, or better yet, climb back into bed with my book and listen to the crazy people drive past my window outside. Happy Sunday loafing to you too.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Coffee anyone?

Grandma Wallah was a remarkable women if only for her ability to put up with Grandpa Wallah who, by all accounts, was quite the petty tyrant in his home. Considering that he was not the tallest of men, slight of build generally, it would appear his might came from the ferocity of his character. But I wouldn't know, as a child I had little contact with them and they both passed on by the time I was barely a teenager. The stories about my paternal Grandfather are legend in the family though we learnt them as adults.

Granny Wallah though, remained an enigma until one day,my uncle while visiting looked at me and said, "goodness, you're the spitting image of mama". Well aside from the fact that I'm about half a foot taller, have red hair and am somewhat outgoing. My memory of her is of a quiet, dark skinned woman, with head always covered by a tightly wrapped head tie. She never seemed to be particularly interested in us, the children of her oldest son and the Muslim woman he'd married. By the time I was old enough to remember her she was already a shadow of herself. From the time she married GPW he'd put her out to work in the cane fields which she did until she retired after a lifetime of backbreaking work and then taking care of a family with very little money. I know nothing of who she was or where she came from, I suspect though that her quiet facade hid a lot.

My father's few stories involve how his mother would forage the waysides for bhagi (spinach) to eke out the daily meal and her ability to make do with whatever. My mother always claimed that my father's family could not cook but I suspect that had more to do with her discomfort with them than anything else. The aunts were a homely but strangely attractive bunch of women struggling to make ends meet while raising families. Grandfather Tartar well known for throwing people out into the street for the slightest perceived infraction of his authority. You then could not cross the bridge over the drain to come back to visit, Granny Wallah was relegated to meeting her errant daughters on the sly. After Father died, Uncle parted with a few more stories, it would seem according to him, GW was a woman of great charm, a "beauty" who my grandfather punished for being likable.

These are the things I do know: she loved coffee. She would brew up her pot on the fireside and then sit under the house with her enameled cup and drink it thoughout the day. The doctor made her give it up shortly after she retired, it seemed she was hypertensive and he felt it was bad for her. Actually, it might have made more sense for her to quit Grandpa Wallah because we all suspect he was the cause. She had a hard life and died when she was sixty having suffered the consequences of her life of want. My mother bought her a "dress length" each Christmas and Mother's Day and she would get my Aunt Iris to sew it up for her though I can't recall ever seeing her wear any of them. But then, we never saw her "going out" so why dress up? GW was Anglican, GPW Catholic but it is interesting that he could never get her to convert.

Not a lot to know about the woman who appears, was the precursor to the Coffeewallah.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Ghost of marriage past

This has absolutely no bearing on today’s blog; I just liked it.

“It is customary in the higher echelons of the British Diplomatic Service never to knock on the door before entering a room, lest by doing so one implies one suspects a colleague is doing something improper within.”


It was raining that afternoon, it had been a muggy sort of day and the curtains were drawn. My former husband was making a sign for the tea stall at some or other fund raising do for one of our “causes”. By no means a small sign, it was a large piece of ply board that had a white undercoat and on to which he layered images using acrylic paints and varied pieces of material. He was/is after all, an artist and this was not an ordinary sign, it was directional yes, but it told its own story. I gave no advice but watched as it all unfolded before my eyes, how did he think up of these things? Had he wished, he could probably have sold it but in all the time we were together he never through choice sold any of his work.

To many we were the ideal couple, he, an artist and intellectual and I, a writer and producer of documentaries. We seemed to connect on so many levels; we both liked good food, the movies, going to the beach every weekend. The house was covered in books, pieces of art, an endless array of photographic equipment gathering dust and of course, the ever present hiss of the expresso machine. We seemed free spirits without the leaden weight of conventional living; even our house at the time a testament to our creative spirits. True it was no fun to balance on catwalks with large baskets of laundry knowing that you had a twelve foot plunge to the terrazzo floor beneath, but still, it gave one a feeling of adventure, especially when returning from a night out on the town, many Carib’s later.

And yet, it didn’t work in the end. Whether it is is that you cannot have two creative people in the same space lest they explode or that we just grew apart after thirteen years of togetherness, or all those things and more, we could not stay together. We wanted different things and started to find living together cloying, almost claustrophobic, well at least one party. The other was happy to go along changing nothing as long as they were in control. I’ll leave you to guess which was which. The cracks appeared under the surface until we could no longer hold it together. Though we seemed not to have any acrimony I think for a while there we might have hated each other a bit. My former husband, the stoic, “I don’t let emotions rule me, you are a flake etc” showed his human-ness for the first time, but by then it was too late. There was no finding our way back. Our friends took it pretty hard too, all of a sudden we were outside of our box and they didn’t like it.

The years have mellowed us both, he’s got a whole new life with someone else and I have the hound and incursions by the ex-man. And yet, there is still that queer restlessness that fills my soul, the burning urge to create something, a piece of art, a new essay, something and then tell him about it. And in all these years I still recall how magical it was when he did work. On the rare occasions that he let me be a spectator it was a real pleasure to watch his mind at work. He challenged me to think, to do, to be. And though he may have wished in the end that maybe he hadn’t in a way, we both lived and learnt. He used to complain that I worked all the time, that got in the way a lot. But how could I not, the creative part of the work is what has kept me going, always. The same way when he needed to create he locked everybody out and refused to talk about it.

My former husband gave me an appreciation for many things, he taught me to understand how be true to myself without apologizing for being different. He’s about as different as you get! I miss the early Sunday morning breakfasts, mounds of eggs, black pudding or sausages, he was a marvelous cook. The San Fernando runs for Mrs Attong’s roast pork, just because, the round of art exhibitions or liming with artist friends talking for hours about the work. He also at times drove me crazy, rebelling against the controlling. Now I understand that despite all his talk and seeming confidence, his artistic work was always his bête noire. His coldness a defense against being hurt; his almost Spock-like denial of emotion a sign of his own insecurities and me, always his wild card, his admiration of my determination to be whatever I carved out for myself, a secret wish for himself. There is a part of me that will always love and admire him, he was my first great passion, but certainly not my last.

And finally, the ghosts are expunged and the creative life, trickling back, that part of me exorcised to make bearable giving up everything that was familiar slowly growing again. Understanding that regardless of how I try, I will never be free and must find my freedom within this.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Clean living

Read today on BBC news:

Gustav III, King of Sweden (1771-92), believed coffee was poisonous. To prove his theory, he took two murderers, sentencing one to drink coffee every day and the other to drink tea. Two doctors were appointed to oversee the experiment and see who died first. The first to die were the doctors. In 1792, the King was assassinated at a masked ball in the Stockholm Opera House. The tea-drinker eventually died at the age of 83, and the coffee drinker survived them all.

It's so nice to be vindicated....

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Memorial day

Years ago my friend Rudy related the story of hearing of the death of President Kennedy. At the time she was a schoolgirl in Trinidad but even here, time stopped for a moment and people cried in the streets, it was a momentous occasion. This was an event that occurred before I was born, but had great resonance due to television. President Kennedy, in the early 70’s was still a household name, a shining beacon of hope who took man to the stars. That he was glamorous was undeniable, with his fashionable wife and relatively young age, Kennedy embodied the hope of a generation. Struck down in his prime by an assassin’s bullet, one wonders what the world would have been like if he’d lived.

The advances in global communications have pretty much made us a large village. The World Wide Web, once a tool used by some uber nerds at CERN in Switzerland is now ever present. We have immediate access to information and are constantly bombarded with even the most trivial of images and “news” twenty-four hours a day. So it is not surprising that today will probably become one of “those” days. You know, what were you doing when you heard Michael Jackson died? Did you watch the memorial service?

It brings to mind twelve years ago when Princess Diana, that other pop culture icon was killed in a car crash. Young and not so young women all over the planet wept for her. Her funeral was the most watched television event of the last century with 25 MILLION people around the world tuning in. Not even the Olympics come close to that. It is a testament to her appeal and the relentless press machine that operates today. Who can forget the sight of her coffin carried by soldiers, two wreaths balanced on top, the envelope tucked between the blooms with a heartrending “mummy” on one of them? Those glorious boys walking with their father and grandfather behind the hearse as it made its way to St. Peter’s indelibly etched in our memories. Elton John singing Candle in the Wind….

It comes as no surprise to see the public outflow of emotions following the death of pop icon Michael Jackson. In his words he went from,” where is he to there he is again”. For several generations, Michael was the defining voice, the original Brand, the ultimate in PR/Marketing, his life was played out across the media, but always, his music. Though at times he has been both vilified and revered he managed to continue to transcend boundaries. At any time, somewhere on this planet, someone is playing a Michael Jackson song. He touched our imaginations and our spirits in numerous ways and as the world gathers to say good-bye to the “King of Pop” it is with sadness but celebration that he lived and left such a rich legacy.

My ex-husband had a theory about shooting stars. When he woke me at 3:00 or 4:00 am to tell me that Princess Diana had died, I remember getting up in disbelief; it was almost like losing a family member. Or maybe it was that my sand unresolved issues so it was close to home. In those wee hours of the morning we talked about those people who lived so brightly and burned out in the prime of their life. We compared Diana to Marilyn, the other blond who’d also died at 36, what could have been, we will never know. And that’s the thing; I don’t think these people are meant to live forever and get old, fading away. They blow through our lives, make their mark and then are gone. They live in perpetuity in our minds, forever young.

In the aftermath of the memorial, Kenny Ortega did a great job, those of us who’d managed to keep it together through the musical tributes lost it when the back up singers et al sang “We are the world”, the tear filled family tributes and the moment that we’ll all remember, Paris Katherine talking about her daddy being the best in the world and the love he had for them.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Market days

Have you ever had a ripe mango? Peeled it with your teeth, tugging at the leathery skin to reveal the soft, glistening yellow flesh beneath. Digging in, the sticky juice running lazily across your chin, fingers and down towards your elbow as arms held away from your body to let it drip to the ground. The mango is soft and sweet against your tongue, better if it warm from sitting in the sun, the sugars developing, not cloying, just a piece of goodness. Sucking on the seed to get every bit of it off.

Now you might be offended by this description but there is a huge amount of sensory pleasure to be gained from food eaten with your hands. In my family, as children we were fortunate enough to have had access to fruit trees which we plundered with impunity, sometimes eating the unwashed fruit while still up the tree. It was magical, fruit eaten at its peak, not shrink wrapped, under-ripened science specimens from the grocery or quailed from long periods sitting in the blazing sun by the side of the road.

They say that you never miss what you never had, one trip to the market in Tunapuna was enough to awaken all those old memories, before the suit and heels, before eating with your hands was a no-no. Well sometimes depending. Tunapuna market is an interesting place, sorry, no pictures, forgot the camera. It’s now all housed indoors but it used to spill out on to the road and pavements, taking on a life of it's own apart from the chaos that was the Eastern Main Road. For years it existed as a loose amalgamation of stalls knocked out of spare pieces of wood and old corrugated galvanized iron for cover or bags spread out as buffer between the produce and the surface below. A place where farmers from the surrounding districts would come to sell their produce plucked from their gardens in time for market day. It was also inhabited by a host of characters who harked their wares in loud voices “tomatoes, fifty cents a pound. Come here!” The doubles men used to stand outside the gates so that you could get your morning breakfast as you left to go home bag bulging with goodies.

It’s been a really long time since tomatoes were that price and the market is all in the concrete building but the stalls have not changed all that much. You could always buy whatever you wanted in the weekend market, even clothing. The piles of fresh vegetables are all still there but these days it’s also bootleg DVD’s and CD’s and other sundry items. Don't be fooled by the technology, it’s still all cash transactions and surprisingly many of the same familiar faces albeit older.

Threading your way through throngs of people all looking for a bargain, bags slapping their sides, eyes eager. Squeezing an eggplant for firmness, picking up handfuls of peppers, green beans or plantains to be weighed. Rows and rows of canary yellow bananas or the succulent red flesh against pale green of a just cut ripe watermelon. Mouth watering, planning Sunday lunch as you go. Maybe some knobby sweet potatoes with their purple skin lightly coated with dirt as though just pulled up that morning or fresh dark leaved spinach. Mounds of fluorescent green lettuce or crisp watercress continuously sprinkled with water to keep it fresh begging to be taken home.

The meat and fish section removed so that the smells don’t overpower you. Mostly it’s pretty clean and “orderly”, sure, it’s no HiLo, but at every turn there is an adventure in cooking waiting to happen. What’s that odd looking vegetable? Don’t know, ask the vendor and you’ll get a lecture on what it is, how it’s grown and how to cook it. See, you don’t need google all the time.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Don"t stop till you get enough

You didn't think you were going to get away so easy did you. Of course there was going to be a blog on Michael, how could there not be. Michael Jackson was the defining voice of my generation. Like Elvis in the fifties, the Beatles in the sixties, MJ was the eighties. Watching the media hysteria unfold in the wake of his passing has been close to that when Princess Diana died in 1997. Everybody is clamouring for the inside story, every piece of his life is being picked over, again and again. His weirdness, his popularity, all the allegations, his spending, his life still under the microscope as it had been for his whole life. If you were in any doubt as to his popularity, his death caused the internet to overload, Google to freeze and YouTube to crash.

It is apparent looking at the mounds of footage being aired, that Michael Jackson, for all his money and fame, was a profoundly sad, lonely individual. As with the J.M. Barrie character Peter Pan, here is a man who never grew up. Put on stage at five by his ambitious father, it was the beginning of a life where he was constantly exploited by the people around him. If you look at his behaviour he wavers between boy and man, as though knowing he was supposed to act like a "grown up" but not quite knowing what it meant. And how could he, he's been "handled" all his life by various minders. If you look past the weirdness though, you will come to appreciate the consummate performer and know that the like will never pass this way again.

It was 1979, Off the Wall was released, we all knew who MJ was, he and his brothers were famous as the Jackson Five but this was something else. Off the Wall rapidly became the most played album at parties, school bazaars and the like. Long before YouTube, iPods and even MTV which did not make it's debut until three years later; CD's were still in their infancy and you bought vinyl which was by no means cheap. One of the guys in the class above mine had it and made his friends really happy ripping copies onto cassettes. We were pirates even then. It was my first year in high school, there are still a lot of good memories of that album and in case you hadn't guessed, Don't Stop till You Get Enough is one of my favourite songs of all time.

In those days Michael Jackson was still a black guy with an afro, but you know, it didn't matter everyone loved his music regardless of colour, class or geographic location. Much has been written by people infinitely more qualified than me about his talent, dynamism as a performer etc. , for my generation, he was a good time. As time wore on, his fame grew with the release of Thriller and then Bad. He was the face of the MTV generation, he pioneered the artform of music videos and his quickly became legends, short films using real directors, elaborate sets and story lines. Sure he was somewhat weird. In hindsight it can be seen that he was mentally ill but who wouldn't be under all that scrutiny. The pressure to top yourself over and over again. Think about it. Living in a glass bowl cannot be fun. His eccentricities became more and more pronounced, the chimp, his skin colour, he rapidly degenerated into a caricature, parodied mercilessly even as people wanted to be seen with him. The allegations of sexual abuse were the final straw and his popularity waned. Ironically, the very people who pilloried him were the people who did not question why an adult would blithely leave their children for unsupervised sleepovers with a grown man. MJ was bewildered by his treatment, he couldn't tell what he had done wrong but really had he? The doubt exists today, was it all a scam to get his money?

Admittedly I was a Prince fan, that weirdness more compatible with my own sensibilities, but the magic of MJ was undeniable and I confess you will find the music is in my iTunes library; a couple of nights ago while reminiscing several of us found out that we could do the Thriller dance. It amazing how many people talking about him, everywhere you went this weekend people had an MJ story irrespective of age, my friends kids who weren't even born in his heyday were crying having discovered him all over again twenty something years later. Grannies were talking about seeing him perform as a child at the Queen's Park Savannah and I have a memory of my mother singing along to Billie Jean before she died. He touched many lives with his work and gave many people a lot of happiness. And for that alone, Michael Jackson will be remembered fondly for a long, long time. Go listen to Man in the Mirror and ask yourself how you want to make a change.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Return of the Dragon Lady

For the last two years that this blog has been going, it’s written on a Mac laptop. If you’ve ever seen the Mac ads with Justin Long personifying a Mac computer and some uptight dude a PC and you read this space, you might have a picture of the author. Ironically, the Coffee blog was started to fill the void left when my favourite bookshop closed after eleven years.

A Different View was where I came into my own. It was the shop that gave me the freedom to process and grow; the books, conversations and most of all, friendships were a huge part of my life. When the owner decided that her life needed to take another path, many of us, though happy for her, were left wondering, what next? The happy, loud Saturday limes with Stuart, Richard, Adele and the other transients who came and went were the mainstay of our week; it was here that ideas got tossed around, we talked about everything under the sun and explored our creativity. It was our home away from home. Two years later we still have not found a place to call our own and have resorted to e-mails, phone calls, gallery crawling and the occasional lime at someone’s house, but it is not the same. The shop was a special time and place and we’ve all had to acknowledge that we were lucky to have had it.

Living a creative life is not easy. Like any other profession, there are the days when you don’t want to get up and go to work. When you work as an artist, writer etc, you can’t exactly call in sick and not go to work, most times, the work does not wait for you and you aren’t paid if you’re not working. Most people think if you’re doing creative things that you float around, being all arty farty and it’s all wonderful, it is not. There is nothing worse than sitting staring at a blank page, blinking cursor, deadline looming and knowing, that you don’t have an idea in your head but you need to come up with one, fast. There are the days when the words flow, faster than your fingers can hit the keys but they’re all crap…of course, there are the times it’s almost as bad as giving birth, each word painfully yanked by its roots, painfully strung together to form coherent sentences. Forget paragraphs, you’d settle for sentences but nothing doing. Needless to say, now that this is not my life, I miss it like hell, the urge to create is still there simmering under the surface.

Lately, it’s been a challenge to write. Not that there is nothing to say, there is always something to say but there must be a balance so that the blog does not turn into a space that exists only to complain. Because in the end, this is not the reason for being, it is about living at least part of my life in a creative way. That was what drove my pardner Slacker and I to challenge each other to write, the almost urgent need to one up each other morphing into some really good stuff. Sadly, something we haven’t done that much of late. Life intrudes. Coffeedude asked weeks ago about the return of the Dragon Lady, well now you know. It is a titanium MacBook Pro with a blank page and blinking cursor.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Mystic Island Diaries:

“I see a red door and I want to paint it black….” These lyrics are in my ears, pulling me along the charcoal grey asphalt strip, my feet finding their way without me. Run it says, be free! In deference to the gippy knee, I walk briskly but still with enough to look around me, the impudent wind ruffling my hair and the sun shining brightly down on my shoulders and upturned face.
It’s Tuesday – beautiful day outside, slightly overcast, a little muggy but beautiful. It’s the typical Caribbean scene painted in travel magazines and destination television. With Mick in my head for company, I contemplate the road.

This island is the Caribbean but not really – it’s all orderly here. The trees pruned back neatly from the road, not arbitrarily hacked off and the surrounding vegetation stripped; the usual practice is to remove everything in the name of “environmentalism”. It is so clean….devoid of anything out of place, some may sterile but it speaks to organization that is well run. This order is calming; it removes that constant breathless feeling that has been ever present. Here, you never feel like to have to constantly be doing SOMETHING, always.

The acid reflux has taken a back seat to the lure of open air eating and wine, yes, wine with meals. Hey, the purple pill can cure a multitude of sins and my body, though tired, wants to go with the flow and enjoy. Going into the ocean every day has proved healing, the warm embrace of the clear blue water a clarion call to just let it all go. Even the strays here are treated well, fed by strangers or homeowners, these people will even pay vet bills and Rescue, who sleeps on our porch knows that she is loved.

The eclectic selection of music on the iPod hanging loosely around my neck is a representation of events from different parts of my life. It plays in a random shuffle reminding me of a first kiss, the transcending of a long term relationship, absolute abandonment, children playing, school friends, in long, a life. This place gives you the space to just be and in though ten minutes away from the bigger island, it is a whole different world.

In the year that I’ve been retreating here to recharge and visit my energy source aka my brother, I have grown to appreciate the space. New music has joined the sound track, with the waves constantly in the background.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Grumpy guts

A chance comment from a far away friend some weeks ago was the wake up call. This was someone who'd known me WHEN. When we were young and supposedly carefree. When we shared most things, from an order of fries and a coke in KFC to clothes and confidences. So you could say, even though more than twenty years have gone by, she knows me. In our brief time together on a fleeting visit to home, she'd called me hoping to get together finally, something we have been trying to do for more than a year now. As usual, I was working. When am I not? Eventually we did get together, but we've not managed to do since.

And that's what did it really. Looking back at this blog there's been a definite trend, the joy has gone, to be replaced by a heaviness, a distinct lack of joy. That's when I knew for sure, no balance, I'd become subsumed by the rigours of job and given up the very things that made me interesting, that gave me pleasure and most of all, balance. A self confessed workaholic, my tendency to hold myself responsible for all things was now taking a toll.

That, and the residual effects of too much responsibility and overwork after the Summit caused me to re-visit my cognitive therapist. It has been a long journey back but worth the effort. In pouring out my thoughts, feelings and emotions to her, in our ritual of cleansing, I am reminded that I must be an active part of my own recovery.

When did food stop being a pleasure and become reduced to fuel? When taste become unimportant, when did the act of sitting down to a meal and being aware of everything going into my mouth become a chore? The act of cooking, or cooking for and with friends. Slowly I started to understand how much of me had been given up, most of all shocked by how bored I was by me.

It took a lot of little earthquakes to wake me up. Relating to another friend how tired my body felt, when did I become old? I remembered too, the all too brief sensations that took hold, salsa dancing one night recently, E. counting the steps for me, telling me to slow down and let him lead. The sound of his voice in my ear, soothing and reassuring, knowing that he would not let me fall. In those moments letting myself go, singing along to Elvis Crespo and really feeling my body move. I love to dance, it was one of the things that was so great about the X-man, is a great dancer and when we were on the floor it was magic. For a couple of nights it came back to me, as held tight against this man who smelled so good and moved like a dream, my body ignored the uptight me and really let go. We moved around the floor in step, it was an outpouring that opened a door I don't wish to close.

Yoga, an activity that I've practiced for most of my life and yet have only attempted sporadically over the last five years, how could I have let it go? The limber strength that was such a part of everyday living, put aside. My body knows the difference, the excuses are getting tired, how did I get from instructor training to barely being able to get into basic positions? This cannot continue.

Mother's Day today, barreling up the highway to see my Granny. Knowing that there would be at least fifteen minutes of her diatribe about my lack of visits and phone calls. The time I spend working and not looking after myself. In the end, we hung out together, she oohing over the plants that I bought her and then disappearing inside to bequeath a new dress sent to her by my aunt but too racy for her. No sleeves and short, you might see her knees! We giggled together like two girls. I truly love her and she loves me, warts and all. Yes Gaby, I took your advice, no grumpy guts today.

And so, the changes, slow in coming, some a deal between my therapist and me, are taking hold. My dog and I play ball again, he drives me nuts and I put up with him. Spanish class starts in two weeks, meanwhile, yoga on Tuesday. Work is that thing you do to live, you do not live to work. When people speak of finding balance it should not be an abstract concept. Today, really tasting the savoury bite of fresh watercress. The vivid green leaves crinkling as I put them into my mouth, enjoying the peppery bite against my tongue. Later this week my brother, John and I will split a bottle of good wine, maybe some cheese, and talk.

Taking pleasure from reading a good book or going to the movies. There are art exhibitions to go to, play clothes to try on, meals to be cooked, lots of coffee to be drunk and new classes to try. Maybe even a coffee shop...who knows what waits.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. For those of us who are neither mothers nor have a mother, it is an interesting experience. Whether we chose not to have children, are yet to do the deed or for whatever reason, cannot, it is our business. It can get a trifle irksome when every store clerk, or male person you happen to run into wishes you “happy mother’s day”. I want to say, it’s okay, having ovaries is not necessarily a pre-requisite, you don’t have to say anything.

What exactly is Mother’s day anyway? Not that I begrudge anyone the opportunity to score some presents and some down time, judging from my temporary part time mommy stint, it’s not easy. Ladies, feel free if you can, to put your feet up, kick back and wallow as much as you can. This does not change my view that Mother’s Day, like Valentine’s Day and all the other “made up” occasions are really a good excuse for some conspicuous consumerism. If you love someone, do you really need to have a designated day to show them ? I didn’t think so…..

My mother has been gone for sixteen years, yes I still think about her, but the years have blurred. I appreciate the women who have come in and out of my life to fill the void when I needed the assist. Thanks ladies. If you’ve still got yours, take the time to appreciate her, you just never know how much time you get to have.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Waiting for Barack

Hugh Jackman is one fine piece of manhood. What this has to do with Barack Obama you’ll have to bear with me a moment and you shall see. If you have not yet been to see the movie Wolverine, Jackman’s fourth outing as that character, wait no longer, get thee hence to your nearest Cineplex, spring for some popcorn and sit back and enjoy. That man is one of the hottest things on two legs walking around right now. He has that old world charm, the winning smile, he can act, he can dance, he can sing, he seems very secure in himself, loves his wife etc. In short, he is what Victorians used to describe as a “fine figure of a man”. Yes, I would definitely stand around waiting for Hugh.

The most asked (inane) question before/during/after the recent Summit: are you going to see/see/have seen Barack Obama? It would appear that the Summit began and end with the Golden One for most people. You may remember that the leader who got my pulse up was/is Brazil’s Lula, Barack, oh yeah, nice but whatever. I don’t really rave about anybody, other than Hugh of course, the rich and famous are just richer and more, well known versions of us ordinary folk, what’s the big deal? If anybody told me that I and eight of my colleagues would be thundering down fourteen flights of stairs to position ourselves so that we could catch a glimpse of Barack Obama as he pulled up in the “Beast” at the hotel, I would have fallen over laughing.

We are all sensible women and men, we were all pretty jaded by the time Summit arrival day rolled around, and we’d been seeing leaders pretty much most of the day. So when I got the text from Johanna, the White House press lady about “wheels down” I wasn’t too hot and bothered. Watching the arrivals on TV while we worked, suddenly the pressure started to build and all of a sudden we realized that we were where half the country wanted to be. And that’s when the insanity took hold; like the idiots we are, we flung open the doors to the stairs because the elevators took too long, and thundered like a herd of renegade elephants down first one, then two and finally all fourteen flights to make it to the ground floor. As though the man was a rock star and we a bunch of demented groupies, in hindsight, it’s kind of embarrassing. We, so formerly blasé about the waiting for Barack thing, caught in the act as it where.

So the answer to the above question is yes, I did see the man, a few dozen times, I stood right next to him, no, no pictures, that would be crass - I was working. I got to know the Secret Service dudes and the White House press office and am now back to being all blasé. Yes, he is tall, he’s slimmer than he appears on TV, he’s very polite and has that aura of quiet authority. Like Hugh, he is a fine figure of a man, but truthfully; I’d probably trample you to get to Hugh, Barack, not so much.

It was interesting being around all that power, thirty-three leaders in small space certainly gets crowded very quickly. I still think Lula is the bomb and have an even bigger respect for him now, he smiled at me in greeting one day and I blushed. Oh yes I did. For the record, I’m all Baracked out, sure he’s quite something, and his wife is too, I think he’s doing okay as President but I’m really, really tired of hearing about them so stop asking me. One of these days maybe but until then, there are other interesting people out there you know.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Must love dogs

On Saturday morning Charms took me on a drive down to Macqueripe, the sort of beach that lies nestled between two cliffs on the north coast of Trinidad. It's an easy drive from the house and for me, having been cooped up extensively in an office with little fear of escaping the last three odd months, it was liberating to get out into the morning sunshine, though it quickly turned hot and sticky. Admittedly I was in no shape to really appreciate anything more from all the hacking and wheezing that was coming out but I surely appreciated the effort she was making and persevered. This bay has had an interesting history, once part of the American base, this is where the officers lived in the little houses still dotted around and this is where the submarines came up to moor. Up until a few years ago you could still see the concrete bays, eerie and silent but those and the hotel up the hill have disappeared and now the only submarine is the Cable of Americas which comes ashore here. It is a place that tries to be beautiful despite all the crap that is done to it to make it more "touristy". I hardly ever go any more, it's just too dangerous on your own.

While driving out, there by the side of the road was the hound. Well, he looked like the hound if the hound was a half starved, sort of wild looking dog. I panicked, I wanted to rescue Rover, abandoned by the side of the road. He was a beautiful German shepherd, classic black and tan, great lines, this was no stray. The sticking out ribs made me want to cry and getting home to my own pampered pooch made me feel even more guilty. That happens a lot these days.

In the last year I've discovered that I prefer the company of dogs more than I do people. They have much better qualities, they're loyal, they pay attention, they know when to shut up and generally will love you. And though I often complain about my dog, in that week that he was at the vet while I laboured on a boat, I sure missed his furry self twining around whatever body part he could find. Right now as I write this he is resignedly resting against my ankles waiting for brekkies and walkies. Ghandi said that you could judge the greatness of a nation by how they treat their animals. Judging on what goes on here, well, less said better. Am I surprised, no. We truly never seem that evolved and lately the cracks have been showing more and more. Meanwhile I've been thinking about that dog and wondering if he's okay, understanding that sometime soon, I will have to find a place where they do love dogs.