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 bĂȘte 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.