Wednesday, November 3, 2010


That’s dangerous, Madam PM
Published: 3 Nov 2010

There are dangers to this country’s economy, to its image and to the regional integration movement associated with Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar being so hard-nosed about giving assistance to our Caricom partners on the basis of this country getting something in return from lending a hand in a time of need. As with her comment of T&T not being an ABM for Caricom, this statement requiring a pound of flesh for assistance can seem to be offensive and demeaning to our Caricom neighbours. Assistance to countries which are victims of natural disasters is a well-established practice in international relations, even between and amongst countries geographically, culturally and politically far apart as Argentina and the New Hebrides in the South Pacific. More so for Caribbean countries with deep historical ties, cultural, familial and economic trading links; frankly, countries which are tied together in their economic and social future.”

This was the start of an editorial in today’s newspapers, the Express had a similar tone, Newsday of course chose to say nothing. My two cents for what it's worth, I was hugely incredulous that she had made the comment. Several months ago when the Honourable PM made the comment in Jamaica that TnT was not the Caribbean ATM I was similarly aghast, especially since the goodly lady later pounced on a microphone and conducted Karaoke night complete with dancing careless of the insult she offered to our trading partners.

As Marge would say, this is simply Not Done. When people need your help you help. The comments on Facebook, on-line versions of the newspapers, blogs etc were instructive. They underlined the divide in our maturity levels. For example, random comment, the person posted their name but I won’t use it here;

Hang on a minute, has anyone ever been to these countries to see the second rate status many of our products manufactured or made in T&T is given? While you're at it, try walking the streets of Jamaica with a Red, White and Black flag on your chest and you will understand. You see more Jamaican flags on Frederick and High Street in a day than you would ever see in Jamaica in a month. The blanking has been going on for a long time now, it's nothing new, only she has the guts to speak up about it. “
What does this have to do with anything? If your neighbour’s house was burning, would you only agree to run your hose if they were your friends? This is not the time for hard feelings. Fortunately this type of comment was in the minority. Mostly Trinidadians near and far were appalled by the statements and were trying to reassure their Caribbean counterparts that we weren’t all thinking in such small-minded terms.

For the record, in my travels through the Caribbean, by far and large the products mostly found in supermarkets etc, Trinidadian. And so what if they are not as prominently displayed abroad, we don’t promote other people’s products over ours either. I’m sure that the manufacturers are even now quietly getting together shipments to affected countries all the while holding their heads and praying that the fall out will not be a total washout. If they haven’t already they should consider it. What if Caricom really decided to take their business elsewhere? Are we prepared for that exigency?

What this latest brouhaha speaks to is that all politicians have to learn that they cannot use every situation as a political tool to batter their opponents There are times you have to rise above the urge and be a bigger person. In the end you will win, you’ll appear compassionate and a statesman. Diplomacy and tact are not bad words, no matter what personal opinions you have, you must watch your words, they represent more than you.

The fall out has been swift and amazing, BBM, Facebook, Twitter, it’s everywhere and people are weighing in from all over the world. Many of us have family and friends living “up the islands” who have been communicating the varying degrees of shame and distaste; it's a sad day for Trinidadians.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Effective police, a hopeless dream?

The Commissioner of Police was quoted in today’s newspapers as saying at a town meeting in Arima on Wednesday night; “ Whether it’s drinking and driving, whether it’s disobeying all rules of the road and is driving and if you see them taking bribes…..There is no room in our service for that….Lodge a formal complaint by writing it down and presenting it to the (Police) Complaints Unit. They will investigate any of your complaints…..”.

When the statement was made it caused a flurry of comment. Not as you might suppose, laudatory statements about the Commissioner’s commitment to ending alleged corruption in the Police Service. Quite the contrary, a random sample of comments ranged from, “poor fella, he tink he still in Canada”, “he expect the Police to investigate themselves? Wha?”, “he ent know that if you report a Police they does vicitimise yuh”. And these are just a few of the comments, I’m pretty sure there were lots more on the blogsphere, on message boards and in rumshops.

As much as we can empathise with our new Commish, the sad reality is it will take more than telling people to report complaints to the Complaints Unit to change the perception that you can actually go to the police for assistance. For far too long the Police Service in Trinidad and Tobago have enjoyed a less than savory reputation, fueled as it were by stories of bribes, lethargy, incompetence, the very real rising serious crime figures and the poor rate of convictions.

It is evident that the reform of the Police Service cannot be by PR alone and the Commish is going to have his work cut out for him. There are many factors that contribute to the issues and problems and there is no quick fix. However, there are many short and long term strategies that must be employed to ensure that the TnT Police Service be brought up to date in modern policing practices. The reality remains however that all parties must be committed to reform, that includes, politicians, the executive of the police service, the business community and the general public because it will take a change in regulations, laws and most of all, time to achieve.

It is disingenuous to say that ALL police persons are corrupt, that ALL police do not respond or are sour/bullies/truculent/inept and whatever other adjectives the population chooses to apply. There are in fact officers who are conscientious, hard working and actively dedicated to their jobs. They face the same frustrations that the public do; poor record keeping, outdated processes, systems, policies and equipment, lack of accountability, pay and promotions issues and the inability to discipline poor performance from the aforementioned problems. It is a perennial problem, what are the long-term objectives? How are we going to achieve them? What about recruitment practices, training, promotion by merit as opposed to seniority, proper equipment management etc.?

In the past twenty years there have been at least four Police Reform plans that were a result of extensive consultations and consultant man-hours. And yet every time there has been a piecemeal approach because it would appear that no one really wants to change anything.

The Police Union does not want the status quo to change; they speak about performance appraisals but what standards are to be employed? Policemen don’t want the system change, how else can you be promoted for just sitting in one spot for a long time without actually having to do anything? So what is the recourse? WE need to support the reform, whether it is to speak with one voice, to refuse to pay bribes, to report all crimes, to adhere to the road traffic laws, to support police officers who do speak out about the system, in fact become responsible. It’s not going to be easy but these things never are, progress will be incremental, perhaps we can be less critical of initiatives and more vocal about the real issues. We as taxpayers need to hold people accountable and ask, if we have paid for this, why hasn’t it been implemented?

The situation HAS to change or like the dinosaur, the decision will be taken away from us. The worse the worldwide perception of us is, the less likely investors will want to come here or tourists. Citizens will choose to live elsewhere if they can, businessmen will take their money elsewhere leading to cash and brain drains. In the end we will all suffer.

The days where we can continue to bumble along are gone, swept away by the increasing ability of people to make news instantaneous. You Tube, blogs, on-line news forums, blackberry messenger, Facebook, Twitter, text messaging and cheap mobile phones have ensured that the global village shrinks more and more every day. It is harder to keep the seedy side of life hidden. Each of us has a responsibility, ask yourself Trinidad, how you are going to support our Police Service?

Monday, October 25, 2010


If you've been following this space you may have noticed that the posts have been few and far between this year. It's not because I didn't have anything to say, quite the contrary, there was too much to say, too many things to comment on against the backdrop of my "day job" and the boundaries of what could and could not be expressed. Mysterious enough for you? Some of you know my alter ego, the one that works for a living so you know what I'm referring to.

A lot of things have happened in the past ten months, things that turned the way I thought of myself and my circumstances on the side. All these questions about my beliefs, who I am and what is right. Philosophical questions but striking at the heart of a life long conviction that with life, there comes responsibility for the circumstances in which you live. A few years ago, a blogger called Angry African got me thinking again, and another blogger, aka Slacker fueled my muse and so I wrote. And then my ability to write without fear was swallowed by the every present concern that it what was said would adversely affect my other life.

Well, enough of that. This blog was going to be about the things that were of concern. A little rusty but here goes.

Crime - here in Trinidad we go on and on about how crime is so bad, we have Crime Watch, plans for crime etc. What it seems to me is that there is little attempt at solving the issues that create a situation where the criminals can flourish. You see, Crime is treated as though it is a nebulous entity, sort of like the forces that Agent 86 battled in Get Smart. It is not people who commit crimes, nope, it is CRIME who is on the loose. What utter stupidity. The criminal element is alive and well here, flourishing nicely thank you. They don't need any help getting their stuff done. No, it's us poor citizens at their mercy who have to be worried.

So why the constant burying our heads in the sand and the lack of acknowledgement that quite frankly, our policing sucks, the factors that allow the situation to prosper are well supported and of course, it takes forever to prosecute someone even if it does go to court. And this does not even start to address the social issues that create a platform for criminals to operate in. Newsflash, the Commissioner of Police cannot do it alone, he's not Batman and this is not Gotham City. Without a concerted effort by the whole machinery associated with active policing the prevention/detection/conviction rate will certainly not decrease. The whole system has to be overhauled but instead we will consult, write plans, flounder around making statements and promises but in the end, do we really want anything to change? Are we committed to reporting criminal activity? Are we serious about anything that means we have to be active participants instead of joining Facebook groups, signing the occasional petition or putting on our sneakers for the march in the sun before going off to whatever activity. Do we really understand that it is going to take a fundamental behaviour shift for us as a country? Are we ready for that?

And then there is the fact that we changed the political party in Government. But did we change the government? And why do we always feel that putting someone into power is the only thing we have to do? Sure it's a start but what about holding them accountable for our expectations? What about having realistic expectations? What about saying enough of the talking and more about the doing? More about the issues as less about the "picong". Remembering that no one is perfect but no one is all bad either. Every political party has its pros and cons, do not expect that they will not fail at some things, they will, they're human not Gods. But also remember that you have a duty as a citizen to hold them accountable; whether for perceived squandermania or lack of cohesive, implementable plans. Unless you have a dictator or tyrant you have a voice, use it. Don't just sit by going, is for the Government to do, they are not your parents so you will have to provide things for yourself too. The Government's job is to provide effective strategies, systems and policies to move a country forward. There is an expectation that they will provide adequate social services, access to health care, potable running water, electricity, roads, education, housing etc. However, there is a difference between a service and a hand-out. Know the difference, understand what is political talk and what is a sustainable development.

Lots of things to think about, so many subjects to choose from. Think, question, speak up, it's your responsibility.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Village living

Despite the prevailing conditions I found myself vacationing off the island for a few days. Wow, what a difference a little time away in a different place can make. You really appreciate what you have so much more!

For example, who needs running water everyday? That nice hot water gushing from the shower or tap, is so wasteful. No, no, I am so thankful to WASA for providing me with the opportunity to work my biceps and triceps, hamstrings etc while getting in a water saving bucket bath. Our lack of running water has ensured that multiple trips are made up and down the back stairs carrying buckets of water to flush the toilet, have a bath and wash some dishes thereby strengthening my muscles and saving on gym fees. But have no fear, I have been contributing to the economy other than the 25% tax deducted at source from my paycheck. Yessir, all those a take out meals that I've had to procure so that I don't have piles of dirty dishes to wash etc having certainly added up. Yep, thanks WASA, no water all the time sure has improved my life. Though I am wondering what the traffic for months was in aid of when you were upgrading the water lines to Diego Martin. We have even less water now than we did on the old system. Oh right, efficiency of course.

Then there's HiLo, everybody's favourite food store. Having trawled the aisles at Krogers I was amazed that anyone could sell such vegetables, fruit and other produce of such quality and at such a price! Oh yes Mr. HiLo, you have saved me so much money because I simply cannot bring myself to try the expensive spotty, underripe fruit, manky veg shrink wrapped into submission. It's working wonders for my diet and with the exercise, soon I'll be able to fit into all those clothes I bought twenty years ago. Conservation at its best.

Going shopping I found all those foreign service staff trying. All that Good morning/afternoon, are you finding everything you need, may I help you and how can we serve you today, oh so tiresome. Who needs all those questions and questions? What business of yours is it that I have a good day? What is wrong with you people? Don't they know when asked if you can vary the order the correct response is, "dat is how it does come, yuh want it or not", accompanied of course by a loud, "steupps".

Ah, finally back home, driving down the highway where the speed limit is a suggestion, none of this having to watch the speedometer all the time, or for that matter observe the traffic lights. Now that was getting so tiresome! And the newspapers. So damn boring! Not one murder, crime or scandal on the front page. Why would anyone want to read about policies and plans to alleviate poverty or smart policing? That crap is bor-ring.

I don't know why I leave Paradise at all, but you know, sometimes you just have to.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Lazy time

It's Sunday morning, day of rest and all that. You're supposed to be lazing, preferably while someone else labours in the kitchen to make a decent meal, while hopefully someone else is washing the car, cutting the grass and all those other chores that need to get done, somehow. Houses need staff to run them, they don't get clean by themselves, neither does the laundry get done or any of those other must do things. Sadly, my dog does not have opposable thumbs so that leaves him out of the housework detail, actually, out of anything that is of use. Managing the housekeeper who used to come became a job in itself, when she was available I wasn't and so on. Fortunately the man who cuts the grass needs no supervision, we just have to find him.

It's an incredibly beautiful day outside, blues skies, hot sunshine, the kind of tropical day that entices you to come out and play. And yet, after many days of storming rain, wind, thunder and lightening there is no enthusiasm for the beach. Come to think of it, I've not been to the beach in Trinidad for going on four years! The smell of the ozone, clean, briny and sharp, the crash of waves on a sandy beach, wind swishing through the coconut trees, all just a half hour drive from the house and much as the sea is my refuge, there is no reason to go. The small sliver that shimmers through the trees from my front windows while not enough to assuage the longing is all that I have the energy to muster up. Truly sad state of affairs for one who at every chance would spend it massaging sand between my toes.

There is also no desire to cook a Sunday meal or any of those Sunday things my mother made us do. Her attitude was that if we managed to cram all our chores into Saturday's we'd have a whole day free, conveniently forgetting that she would find us things to do if we had free time. There was always stuff to do and in all these years, it has not changed. Always, something to do. This morning there is no water, again. A regular weekend feature but maddening none the less simply because there are things to do. Perhaps it is the Universe's way of saying go out and play, but I DON'T WANT TO.

Not that I know what I do want. It's that queer restless feeling that takes hold sometimes. The one that makes me want to throw caution to the wind and say f*** all those things that aren't interesting. To be a gypsy, to not care enough because others don't. To soldier on, past the point of pain, to keep working at it when at the end it will all be for naught. Because it is hard to break the habits of a lifetime and throw off always having to do.

It is a beautiful Sunday morning. Enjoy it, whatever you do.

Lazy time

It's Sunday morning, day of rest and all that. You're supposed to be lazing, preferably while someone else labours in the kitchen to make a decent meal, while hopefully someone else is washing the car, cutting the grass and all those other chores that need to get done, somehow. Houses need staff to run them, they don't get clean by themselves, neither does the laundry get done or any of those other must do things. Sadly, my dog does not have opposable thumbs so that leaves him out of the housework detail, actually, out of anything that is of use. Managing the housekeeper who used to come became a job in itself, when she was available I wasn't and so on. Fortunately the man who cuts the grass needs no supervision, we just have to find him.

It's an incredibly beautiful day outside, blues skies, hot sunshine, the kind of tropical day that entices you to come out and play. And yet, after many days of storming rain, wind, thunder and lightening there is no enthusiasm for the beach. Come to think of it, I've not been to the beach in Trinidad for going on four years! The smell of the ozone, clean, briny and sharp, the crash of waves on a sandy beach, wind swishing through the coconut trees, all just a half hour drive from the house and much as the sea is my refuge, there is no reason to go. The small sliver that shimmers through the trees from my front windows while not enough to assuage the longing is all that I have the energy to muster up. Truly sad state of affairs for one who at every chance would spend it massaging sand between my toes.

There is also no desire to cook a Sunday meal or any of those Sunday things my mother made us do. Her attitude was that if we managed to cram all our chores into Saturday's we'd have a whole day free, conveniently forgetting that she would find us things to do if we had free time. There was always stuff to do and in all these years, it has not changed. Always, something to do. This morning there is no water, again. A regular weekend feature but maddening none the less simply because there are things to do. Perhaps it is the Universe's way of saying go out and play, but I DON'T WANT TO.

Not that I know what I do want. It's that queer restless feeling that takes hold sometimes. The one that makes me want to throw caution to the wind and say f*** all those things that aren't interesting. To be a gypsy, to not care enough because others don't. To soldier on, past the point of pain, to keep working at it when at the end it will all be for naught. Because it is hard to break the habits of a lifetime and throw off always having to do.

It is a beautiful Sunday morning. Enjoy it, whatever you do.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


Extended vacation ? nope
Depressed as hell? nope
Too lazy to write? nope
Nothing to write about? nope

Incredibly, the only reason for not logging on for months has been an absence of an internet connection at home. In upgrading my method of connecting it would appear that the "blinking" company cannot cope with my computer, in short, their device does not speak to mine and when contacted, their response is, our technicians are not familiar with the system. As a life-long, dedicated Mac user, I have no intention of parting with my MacBook so the company better figure it out quickly. However, thanks to the generosity of my neighbours I have utilised their wireless connection and am seriously considering either going with the "flow" or "connecting the dots". Trinidadians will understand these references but far be it from me to give anybody free advertising.

So we know that generally customer service sucks in this country. Mind you there are some real gems, for example, the young woman behind the counter at BURGER KING in MARAVAL. Has anyone explained the concept of fast food to these people? Anyway, having reached the top of the line requested a Number 1, that is, Whopper (with cheese thanks), fries and drink. I don't often indulge mind you but sometimes you just gotta have it your way. In very surly tones she related, "it ent have none". What? This is your NUMBER 1 seller and you don't have it? No, you could have the burger, just no fries....this despite rows of packaged fries staring back across the counter. Trying again, in measured tones my friend inquired, but what are those while gesturing to the rows in back of her. At which point she exploded, "ent I tell yuh it ent have no fries!" We left, sans burger of course.

But wait, this was not our only run in, I wonder why we keep going back. It must be because we love punishment.

Anyway, not to complain or anything. Didn't want my first outing back to be about the yucky things. Therefore things that will not be mentioned:
Crime(!!) except to say, GOOD LUCK MR. GIBBS!
The price of anything

Perhaps I should have made a list of things that I could write about, hmm
The really creamy breakfast scrambled eggs
My granny being really happy to be surrounded by all of us talking at the same time on Friday.
My brother channeling his inner beach bum.
Coffee with my friends yesterday.
An orange butterfly landing on my air before flitting merrily on it's way.
Singing loudly in the car....hey, you can't hear me outside

By the way, VH1 has been endlessly counting down the Top 100 artists of ALL TIME. Subjective list because it speaks to people's perceptions of what is popular at any time, though it this was a poll of 200 musicians. Funny thing though, even as an old geezer, I knew the music of all the bands/singers in the Top 20 (well, I knew most of the Top 100). I couldn't figure out how someone like Madonna, a marketing machine could score higher than say U2 or even AC/DC but then I figured it our. The marketing machine worked. The amazing thing was this, the Beatles were the Number 1 act! Michael Jackson was #2, he's probably spinning in his grave since his life long objective was to top their popularity. I suspect half of the people surveyed weren't even born when the Beatles were around. Now that says something......for the record, they were before my time too but I still play them because their themes and music are timeless.

Good to be back, gotta go play with the dog now.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Exit, stage left....

These past few weeks have been enlivened by the World Cup going on in South Africa. Comparing it to World Cup's past however, there seems to be something missing. Is the star players, the stylish games of my youth? There are Dunga and Diego Maradona on the sidelines, coaching! The football pundits have all put in their two cents and they surely know more than me. Aside from the irritating vuvuzuelas which have removed the "human" element of matches, there is the football; the style and panache lost against the new FIFA yellow and red card strictures. I miss the cheering crowds, the banging drums, the samba beats that told you when Brazil was playing. Instead, the relentless drone of those damned horns which drown out every other sound and make the game soulless. It is the crowd reaction that spurs players on, cheers of encouragement, collective gasps when a goal is missed; holding your breath and the silence on a field when a game is lost. This is what adds character. That drone, not at all.

There is a lesson in all of this too. Many of the "big name" teams have succumbed and exited. The mighty Brazil faded in the face of the Dutch challenge. Everybody has an off day, today was theirs. Ironically, they lost to a team that up till now, was not playing a particularly good game, a team that is described by its coach as dysfunctional. In a World Cup plagued by poor refereeing decisions, refusal to utilise current technology and just indifferent performances it is hard to take for supporters that a team that was playing well could go but there you have it. This could happen to anybody. As in life, today you are CEO of a big company, tomorrow you might be job hunting. Encourages you to not take things for granted, enjoy the moments. Try not to spend your time dwelling on what might have been but relish was is.

Tomorrow, the Argentines play Germany, it is like the World Cup final came early again. We will see if Diego Maradona can prevail even though it is from the sidelines. For now, ciao Brazil!

Oh, Gabriela, I found some translated work from Luis Alberto Urrea!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Spring in my step

The untimely loss of a friend can elicit many emotions, anger, hurt, sorrow, melancholy. All those things left unsaid and undone, the things you wish you could take back or celebrating the time you did have. People come and go in your life, some remain "lifers" those friends that stay with you for the duration and then there's the set that come in, serve their purpose and move on. When public figures die, even though they are not our close associations, we feel a sense of loss to the talent gone or whatever. It's been a year since Michael Jackson died, his presence was so iconic that his death became one of those "where were you when you heard" moments.

I was driving home, alone in the car with the radio, the news came on at the same time that a friend called. Due to hands-free communication and the news reader, there was a simultaneous announcement that the King of Pop was no more. Michael Jackson was like an old friend, he'd featured in many happy and not so rosy periods in my life. Off the Wall and Thriller the soundtrack of much of my early high school years. Before heavy metal and then the new romantics, before a foray into punk. And though he'd been out of the spotlight for a long time, his music was always there in the background. Ironically, that particular friend is also no longer a part of my life. A loss more to do with differences of opinion, values and even bloody mindedness. It was a friendship that while it lasted, meant a great deal and though there are no regrets that we were friends, it perhaps is a relationship that could not survive. My friend and I have drifted far, perhaps some other time.

Lately my muse has also wandered far, the urge to write is always tempered by the thought that if the floodgates opened I would be like the little Dutch boy, trying to hold back the endless tides. More sobering, the loss of desire to comment but to just watch it all unfold while hoping for the best. It feels almost like looking through old pictures of yourself, seeing the progression of years, acknowledging fondly the person you were but knowing that the time is past, looking forward to what's next.

It's like doing home renovations, you ever notice that when you re-do one area everywhere that you've left alone looks tired, dated, grungy or just doesn't fit? You go through room by room to find that ideal mix of old and new, paint and accessories or more sweeping changes of broken walls and ceilings, lighting fixtures and furniture. That's like your own life, the things that don't work show up more sharply against the newly reformed areas! If you are never open to change, then you can never experience anything new, if you don't take out the things that are old, tired and non working, if you your hands are full, you cannot pick up anything else. This weekend I decided to re-paint the corridor and area outside the bathroom. The colour is unlike the rest of the house, a neutral, Sand Dollar it is called. My house is filled with blues, greens and yellows so this is really outside the box. The newness of fresh paint made me look again, more so than late last year when I re-did the living room(which I still like!). Now the bathroom needs doing, the kitchen cupboards, they all look tired and grotty in comparison. Ironically though, instead of the solid black or grey that has made up the bulk of my wardrobe for the last four or five years, bright colours have made a re-appearance. And though not as ebullient as Maradona kissing all his players during this World Cup, I'm smiling more.

So like a plant that has had some pruning, new leaves are forming and branches taking shape. The structure remains, tested by fire, love, joy and adversity, new things opening up. Perhaps even a bloom or two.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

What means goodbye

For those who knew and loved him, the Bookman was one of those characters, you overlooked the strange bits and understood what what was really important. The Bookman was part of a lime that encompassed a bunch of, dare I say it, misfits, people who really didn't quite fit in anywhere else. So much that we formed our own little group and then to our collective surprise, found that other people wanted in. We know who we are, Richard, despite our differences, your friends still love you and wish you Godspeed.

Seems that in the last ten years, but perhaps it's been longer, the funerals of my contemporaries have outweighed what could be considered the normal course of things. Weddings, christenings, anniversaries have come in far behind hospital visits and the Grim Reaper. I wonder what it is about my generation; though we have better access to information, medical treatment and our work consists more of keyboards than rakes and hoes; that our longevity is far eclipsed by our great grandparents and grand parents. And realised, it has come down to HOW we live.

This morning brought a touch of melancholy.....but why? Death is inevitable for all of us. Preferable to suffering to be sure. We can question why, but really, does it change anything? The secret is to live, to live your life with quality. To know what are the things you can put up with, the things you can do without, the people you love and who love you. It is about pleasure, even pain, balance, not living with regret but with appreciation.

So to my friend the Bookman, thank you for the spirited conversations, the weird little asides, the books you made, the art you shared, thank you for you. Thank you for appreciating me just for me. For making me smile, driving me nuts on occasion. For always believing that I had talent, pushing me to write, without you and Adele, there would be no Reflections.

Richard Bolai 1962-2010

Monday, May 24, 2010

Vote TnT

If you haven't already, remember, the single most important thing you will do today is vote. So no excuses, go do it.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Something, something, something, vote for we...

I had no burning desire to comment on anything to do with the elections taking place here in TnT. Why bother, other than to exhort people to go out and vote there wasn't anything to say. Every candidate will tell you whatever it is they think you want to hear and you're all old enough to make up your own minds. Aside from the obvious fact that ad agencies, t-shirt and banner purveyors, the media (advertising is at an all time high!) music trucks and Kernal Roberts are coining money, the rest of us soldier on and wait for the 25th with bated breath. If nothing else we will be able to surf the net without being accosted by flashing yellow or red banners pressing us to vote for some or other political party.

But yesterday the candidate put forward by the opposition toured the area, it was interesting. I've not a lot of time for politicians generally, my innate cynicism always wins but Mr. Garcia has cojones. This is his THIRD attempt to best the "Rottweiler" aka Keith Rowley. That Mr. Garcia has been trounced on two separate occasions by the gentleman is one thing, to put yourself forward yet again despite that Mr. Rowley is currently enjoying a popularity brought on by the simple fact that he is NOT the leader of his party and is seen as also having large cojones is quite a feat of optimism. What I found most fascinating though, was the PEOPLE that were a part of Mr. Garcia's motorcade and those canvassing the neighbours. Do not think I'm racist but it is not often you see certain sectors of our population actually walking around the streets far less for being a part of any political parade. And yet, there they were, those self same people who attend the church at the end of the street and yet speak to no one living within twenty five feet of the place. Many of the folks waving their little white flags and singing along to the 'Rocky" jingle were of a certain ilk. Things to make you go hmm. Does this mean that the middle and "upper" class folk might actually climb off their collective asses and do something for a change. Wow! Now that takes talent and more power to the Rock that he could move and motivate them so...for whatever reason. A word of advice to the candidate, he might actually want to speak to the people he's canvassing. I expect that as per usual we shall see Mr. Rowley over the next week making his trip through the constituency as he does at least once every five years.

Lest anyone accuse me of campaigning for any party, put the thought out of your head. I'm just commenting on current affairs. Truthfully, I would not wish to be a politician. Your whole life and that of your family open to scrutiny, every little action put out for public consumption. The prevailing feeling that our leaders should be Gods without faults and human frailty, come on people really. What makes them any better than any of the rest of us. Okay, it would be very nice if they did not lie, steal or cheat and that they would run the country without raping the state. Big plus for us but how many people actually get into politics to serve? One can only hope for the best and trust that the institutions will safeguard the interests of the state. And that's where we are responsible, for holding our elected officials to high standards, to put country before self and all that.

And pigs may yet fly......

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Thanks for the laughs

Have to hand it to Wuzdescene, girl, I love those earrings! Yesterday, a bunch of us gathered in Chic Shak up in Belmont in support of our fellow blogger and ace earring/anklet/belt maker 'Scene. Other than the small issue of almost having to wrestle the designer for MY earrings, it was an afternoon well spent. 'Scene, we have to have a small talk about letting go...and commerce...and that you have to actually LET people buy your product, you can't keep them all for yourself. Other than that, talk about welcome relief from all the election noise that is happening in TnT at the moment. On an aside, I hope all of you citizens who complain are registered to vote and intend to do so, otherwise, keep quiet.

It's always a loaded moment when you decide to put yourself out there and meet other bloggers. You just never know whether it will all work out. As I've said many, many times before, blogging is a nice narcissistic activity you could do by yourself and nobody has to know who you are. If you are a responsible blogger you will not slide into "mauvais langue" or libel. So when you meet a bunch of bloggers whom you only know from whatever it is they put it out on the net, it's an experience! And yesterday was an excellent time....I can't tell you the last time I laughed so much. I found out that 'Scene and I are so alike in some ways is if only I could find a man like that! Too bad for those who missed the lime, the rest of us had a ball, not to mention some truly good jewellery.

It's kind of funny in a way. Lately I've been working on me again, you have to do that every so often in order to move forward in life. It struck me again how schizophrenic my life is, during the week I am one person, and on weekends, someone else. Sort of like a Barbie doll, weekday Barbie wears suits, towering high heels and makeup. Weekend Barbie is a casual dress or shorts type of girl, flip flops or sandals and you're lucky if hair gets combed, far less for lipstick. This is not to say that they aren't the same person or that I'm seriously disturbed. I'm only partially disturbed. It's really about the compromises we make and the concessions we make to fit in to make a living. When I grow up I want to be Scene and her friend Roger, they walked away from corporate life and are doing what they want. Sure, it's not easy, they make sacrifices but they sure as hell look happy. They are intelligent, articulate, insanely funny, nice people, they just dance to the beat of their own drum. When I look back at my own life, the times when I've done that have been the most fulfilled...even with all the uncertainty.

So yes Scene, in answer to your question, it's getting to that time when the choice to dance again it growing close. The trick as always is mitigating and adjusting, shedding all those unnecessary things so you can concentrate on what's really important. Now all I have to figure out is what next.......the adventure continues.


.....on a different more serious note. I wasn't going to give this any more 'airtime' but having spoken to a couple of friends I couldn't not comment. Last week the newspapers carried a story about two boys from a 'prestige school', their YouTube video. It was a three column, six, maybe seven inch story, small by newspaper standards, buried among the election stories. Is it that we are so bereft of news or bored that that is the story that led like wildfire. Speculation was rife as to who the boys were, one paper actually published the name of the school. While I question the wisdom of the boys as to carrying on their activities where they did, the stupidity of filming it and even worse, having it posted to the Web, I have to wonder at us, the constant interest in the salacious. Everybody had an opinion whether condemnatory or otherwise.

But I notice, not one person, expert or otherwise has pointed out that it is normal for adolescents to experiment with sex, whatever their orientation.
I haven't heard one person say, oh goodness, what they and their families must be going through.
Not one official has made an intelligent statement on the situation. The Ministry of Education, Catholic School Board, NPTA have all buried their heads in the sand.

All that's been said so far is that the boys are being separated and sent to different schools, as though this addresses the issues.

And then there's the fallout that no one has considered. For the last week, Peter has indeed been paying for the sins of Paul. Boys from that school have been harassed, nasty comments are thrown their way, it's so bad that parents are considering moving their children to another school. The sports programme, one with many successes, is suffering. Everyone is being tarred with the same narrow minded brush. I hear it's so bad boys are walking with a change of clothing so that they don't have to face the heckling. We've managed to make the lives of over three hundred people unbearable, all because of something that routinely happens, don't fool yourselves, it does and will continue to, whether among the heterosexual or homosexual population

I know this is not going to make me popular but I don't much care. If it were your kid, how would you like it? What are we so afraid of that we can't just accept people for who they are? Who in their life has not done something stupid, something we're ashamed of? You're either deluded or a saint, good for you if you can say no, but I somehow doubt you're being honest.
Check yourself first.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

4G and more

The first mobile phones were unleashed on the world in 1973 by the Motorola Corporation. That first baby was a 2 kilo monster and a far cry from the cute little devices we slip into our pockets today. They were utilitarian, grey, shaped like a brick and there were certainly no cutesy skins or jewels with which to "bling them up". Japan was the first country to launch the first commercially automated cellular network in 1979. Several countries in Europe followed suit two years later, with Canada, Mexico and the bringing up the rear in 1982. The US got their first network in 1983. These were analog systems, kind of clunky with not so great voice reproduction and the sound of white noise ever present in the background; the digital system or 2G networks didn't happen until the early '90's.

So, it's been 37 years since Martin Cooper and his team brought the world that one thing that we seem unable to do without. There are several generations of young adults who don't know what it's like not to have a mobile phone, or who even know what a "land line" is, far less for a telex or telegram! They know nothing about having to "place" an overseas call by calling the overseas operator and booking a time etc. And yet, we somehow survived in the pre-mobile days. Man didn't expire and the species did not die out just because we couldn't speak to someone from the car, movies etc.

What did we do before we had mobile phones? Well we didn't feel we had to relate the sordid details of our night out to all and sundry on the public bus/train etc. We had face to face conversations with people and then we went our way. Has all this immediate ability to connect really improved our ability to communicate? Like everything there are pros and cons. I don't knock mobile phones being the possessor of not one, but two of the darned things. One belongs to my office and the other is mine. I am well trained to respond to the blinking red light signaling a text message, email or BBM. It's been the best and worst of times and we, the phones and I, have a love/hate relationship.

"You didn't answer your phone" has become a more frequent complaint. Well, because I don't think you should have access to me all the time. Leave a message and I'll call you back. Okay, mobile phones are great in an emergency but we seem to spend more quality time with the damn phone than we do people. Maybe because it's easier to communicate when we have an impersonal third party to channel our discussions through. But getting back to the point, I'm driving, hands on the wheel and attention to the road please. I'm not immune, I use the hands-free but really, did I HAVE to tell you about the dress I just bought? Couldn't it wait until I got home? I'm doing something, that's why I didn't answer the phone, that okay with you?

One Saturday I went out to do my errands and forgot the phone home charging. I didn't realise it until it dawned on me that the car had been pretty quiet for a long time; no phone ringing. Determined to stick it out, I went about my business but all the while feeling, naked, as though I were somehow incomplete because I was not tethered by the leash known as Blackberry. In an age where everything is now, things take on equal importance, there is no sense of balance, of understanding the difference between real priorities and things that can wait. That chat with your child as opposed to the twenty things that come up because it's all important.

As we move into the era of better, faster communications I have to wonder, if we had one of those apocalyptic calamities often portrayed in doomsday movies, how the current generation would survive without their steady diet of X-box, Wii, Netflix and the ability to text. Horror of horrors, they might actually be expected to WRITE something down...learn to spell and even worse, wait until they saw someone to actually speak to them.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Yellow or pink?

The hills that surround my home have been burnt brown by a combination of bush fires and drought. They are arid, unattractive sentinels, far removed from their usual verdant's been sad to watch them. Every year we go through a version of this, but this year while not the worst that I've seen in the time I've been living in this house, is a telling reminder of the global climate and other changes that we are experiencing. The days are so hot that all you want to do is lie in a cool spot and not move, pity the poor dog with his thick coat. He spends much of his time panting in front of the fan or slipping into the bathroom to lie on the cooler tiles.

And yet, the poui trees, though burnt and battered are once again blooming. Ironically, poui only blooms in the dry weather. They are glorious, pink or yellow, masses of blossoms cover the trees and they stand out against the harsh landscape, beacons of brightness against the parched brown. It is a testament to the resilience of nature that something so beautiful could come of such inhospitable conditions.

I have always prided myself on being resourceful and resilient. No matter how dread my life gets I always find a way. I'm very handy, can fix most things around the house, don't really need anyone to do stuff for me that kind of thing. It does not mean that it wouldn't be nice to have that but there is no expectation that it will be so and so, I do what I have to. Kind of like those poui trees, I expect that no matter how much happens, I'll still bloom. It always comes as a surprise to find that I can't always. That sometimes, you have to wait a season or two to recover or that no one is infallible, even me.

It's understanding that......

Monday, April 5, 2010

Easter again

This blog was supposed to be filled with pictures. The little point and shoot was gotten out and plunked into handbag in preparation for a pictorial on the things that caught my eye. Sorry, I missed all those pictures of the sea early in the morning, kites flying in Queen's Park Savannah, the burnt, rain starved hills around my house, I give you instead, my constant companion and my books. All I have done this weekend between lie unmoving before the fan with sweat dripping off extremities and sheets sticking to skin and throwing the ball at the hound in a desultory manner, is work. You heard me right, there are those of us who've had to forget we live in the public holiday capital of the world, roll up our sleeves and "get the job done".

But it is not to whine. In preparation for the long Easter weekend there were multiple visits to the various bookshops who had sales and even those who didn't to pick up a stack. Next to sinking into clear sea water and not coming out until I'm all wrinkled, my other favourite pursuit is to lounge in bed or on the couch with a stack of books at close hand, losing myself in the author's prose. Not everyone's idea of an exciting time to be sure but it is my pleasure. Sure, being out exploring the world is a wonderful thing to do but when you can't, or it is all too much, exploring the pages of a good novel can transport you to places you can only dream about. After all, you could spend a couple of hundred dollars to sit around a bar or otherwise for a few hours, that has its place. On the other hand, you could do without that once or twice and pick up some books in which you can lose yourself over several days or weeks. That you can re-read at leisure or share with like minded friends.

Too often it is easy to get bogged down in all the things that you cannot do instead of enjoying the small pleasures that you can carve out. Like I wish that I'd gotten some more of those oh so delectable intense chocolate cupcakes made by Emma Herrera that were being sold at Reader's Bookshop. The dark chocolate ganache frosting shining against the silver sleeve, red, red cherry on top. The one that I ate with my fingers was so rich, moist, chocolatey and yummy I wanted to lick the foil. Good manners prevailed but I took two to friends who demanded more. As you can see, I managed to sneak in a little down time, enjoyment is where you find it.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Real women

Take a good look at the picture, don't you think you might know some of those women? Okay, maybe not those women but women who look like them. This picture came from a Dove soap campaign featuring 'Real Women", as defined by their marketing department. Depending on whom you speak to, this is either a good thing or a bad thing....Dove says their sales went up because women saw themselves; a study by some university, who incidentally surveyed their female students (in other words a particular demographic vs Dove's sales tracking) said it hurt because it lowered women's self esteem. It would appear, among American College students who attend the particular university, curvy women are equated with things like being unfit, unhealthy, plus sized etc.

Eh? Look Dove marketing can call them whatever they want but I would say Real Women come in all shapes and sizes; big, little, tall, short, angular, bony, lush curves, top/bottom heavy....that's what makes us oh so special. We're different! But to refer to women who are a size 8 and over as "Plus Sized" and therefore "Real" is just plain condescending in my book. Clearly society is saying it does not matter if you are tall, short, big or fine boned. It's whether you can squeeze yourself into a size six or less that makes you not a "real woman', because real women are all over a certain size, but desirable. If I were a smaller woman I'd be pretty pissed because how does my dress size or lack thereof decide whether I am real or not. WTF.

How come no one types men that way? I've never, ever heard a man referred to as "Plus Sized"...big and tall yes, the other, no. The irony is that women have fought long and hard to overcome all kinds of gender bias and yet, we still subscribe to this nonsense about body types. Am I less smart, accomplished etc because I am a size 12? It would seem yes because according to the "pundits" I am too dumb to lose weight and conform to the norm. Size is also equated with healthy or fit. Guess what, you can be a skinny size 4 and still have high cholesterol. Does that make either of us less real?

Look, we honestly have enough other crap to deal with than to subscribe to some magazines idea of what our bodies should look like. I for one have no real desire to be so exercised that my arms look like twigs (like many Hollywood starlets). Exercise is good for making you feel good, endorphins and all that, but do you really want to look like an gym bunny. If the answer is yes, then go for it but if you're happy to be you, wobbly bits and all do not let anyone make you feel badly about yourself. I say be whomever you want to be, you are not the sum total of your dress size.

As for the Dove campaign, I really wish they had used more diverse women in all shapes and sizes, then maybe they would have been real. But hats off to them for trying something different and also, recognising that not only one demographic spends money on their product.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Alice, you're back!

You know sometimes you hear a song on the radio and it immediately transports you back in time to a particular moment? You remember what you were doing, how you were feeling...first kisses, dances, breaking up, breaking out, breaking down as the case might be. While driving to work, windows firmly up against the early morning heat of a country in the throes of drought, an eighties flashback, AC/DC's Back in Black on the radio. The opening guitar riff familiar to headbangers everywhere, my fourteen year old self immediately turned up the radio and even though I know it's stupid, there I was singing along and modified headbanging ensued. I am and have always been an equal opportunity music lover so no conclusions please. Fortunately it was early enough that there was no traffic so the red mobile whizzed along without the disapproving stares of fellow road users. It was a great little walk down memory lane as is Level 42's "Something About You".

Two weeks spent luxuriating in the unfamiliar experience of having two whole undiluted weeks of flip flops, my brother's company and the ever present sea in the background and no ever present Crackberry left me unprepared for the intrusion of real life. But surely, I know what Lewis Carroll was experiencing with Alice in Wonderland. Carroll wrote his novels under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs and surely, there are days when I pick up the newspaper and swear that the Mad Hatter, who happens to look oddly like Johnny Depp, has made an appearance. Or is it wishful thinking. I'll leave it to you to decide.

Now while it may seem that I'm being all mysterious and oblique that's not the case. I'm practising my new outlook, no obsessing about the things I cannot change or more to the point, focus on those things that make me happy like Klondike (ice cream) Bars, the Hound, a perfect Dirty Martini, the stack of books next to the bed.....

And what was the point of this post you might wonder. Like many other things Trinidadian, does it matter and does it really need to make sense? Perhaps not.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Once upon a time

Isn't that how all good stories begin? The one's that made you want to curl up with the book and lose yourself in the magical words on the page. After what feels like a lifetime of one path, it's time for a new journey. I don't know where this is going to take me, only that I must. It's not mysterious, or sinister, or even that exciting, simply new. Different; a shedding of one skin, renewal, or maybe even rediscovery at what is at the heart. And finally, after a long period of indecision, knowing feels good, right.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The perils of red nail polish

However screwed up my life can get, I still believe I'm pretty lucky. Things can always get worse, the evidence is all around. As f****** up as it gets, if I choose, the hardest thing I'd have to do in the next three months is sit around and figure out what colour to paint my toenails. After that, reality would again intrude but there is a certain freedom in knowing that you have a small window. Of course it's not as easy as that. There is the ever present reality of rent and bills to pay, dog food to purchase, car to gas, and most of all, paying work to secure to ensure once the free period is over. But when you stop worrying about the immediate future, your life suddenly becomes less complicated.

And I have to tell you, the lure of sitting around with nothing harder to do than paint my nails and play fetch with my dog is very attractive. As I get older the reality is a preference for simplicity. Organising my closet this afternoon I was overwhelmed by the amount of STUFF it takes to keep my current life covered. There is a sensation of time slipping by, ill used, governed by other people's imperatives , not my own.

Recently another friend mentioned that he was having a mid-life crisis and wanted to simplify his life and take off with a backpack to explore the wilds of New York. Go figure. Long time couples are breaking up, people are changing their preferences, forty year olds having first time babies. We're all re-starting our lives. It's exciting and scary at the same time, but sometimes you have to leap and know that the net will appear. Or that it won't kill you when you go splat as the case might be.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Haiti, we're sorry.

The year got off to a dubious start for us in the Caribbean. In Trinidad, the New Year’s eve parties gave way to Carnival fetes while citizens alternated between looking forward to various activities and the Beyonce “I am” Tour and slunk off to banks and credit unions to apply for loans to fund it all. Those that hadn’t used up all their credit at Christmas time to “nicen up” their houses and splash out on outfits, parties etc; never mind that the word recession has become commonplace.

And then, a massive earthquake struck Haiti wiping out most of that country’s capital city and it’s occupants. It was sobering moment and in between the gaiety, we all looked north and if we were at all honest, while commiserating with our neighbours, gave thanks that it was not us. The US as a first world nation sprang into action. They have well developed plans and execution mechanisms with regard to natural disasters. It wasn’t long before search and rescue teams, army engineers and supplies were on their way. While it would be days before any real aid would be able to get into the country, they put their money where their mouths were and did something.

While CARICOM leaders did what they do best, TALKED about doing something. It’s the usual story; the fiddle hoping someone else will take responsibility for the ills of that country. Instead of providing solid assistance for true development, money is shoveled at them in intervals and we can all forget about Haiti’s problems until the next time.

At least local companies and individuals have mobilized to collect food and supplies while the Government babbles on about assessments and reports. Sure AID agencies like the Red Cross initially was asking for money, the need for supplies would soon grow urgent and those boxes collected would come in handy. At least it makes us feel less helpless and as though we are actually providing help in some small meaningful way.

But it did give rise to a train of thought that was disturbing in light of the global events of the last decade. It has become increasingly commonplace for Mother Nature to get even with us humans. Drought, flooding, earthquake, Tsunamis, we’ve seen a lot of activity. North America and Europe are experiencing one of the worst winters in many years. One of my old teachers used to talk about the balance of life and that nature had a way of equalizing things when populations spiraled. In fact, wars, famine, drought, natural disasters are all considered to be forms of population control.

This conundrum was brought to mind when one of the office greenies was whining about not being able to buy a salad for lunch because it was packaged in a clear plastic container. She was told to consider the lesser of two evils or to bring her own bloody salad the next day. We’ve all been told about the need to be more aware of the damage we’re doing to our planet. However, with the advances in medicine and technology humans have been able to eat up more space and resources. We tell our kids that they can be anything they want to be, but is this really true?

There is a finite amount of space, resources etc on earth. In our quest of lengthen our lives, retain our youthfulness and all those other things we’ve created industries to employ our people which in turn fuels our consumption rates. When you look at our lives, we are greatly influenced by a culture of want thereby increasing our “needs”.

I’m not in any way advocating a return to those days when you died from the common cold and we all grubbed around for our daily meal, I would be first to applaud that life has gotten easier. I love the fact that I can get on a plane and go somewhere or that the chicken I had for lunch did not have to first be chased around the yard and then slaughtered. But it has come at a price. Humans have grown to expect that we are at the top of the food chain and think we will always have it our way, perhaps Nature has other ideas for us or at least we must acknowledge that it comes with a price. And the question we must ask is, can we afford to pay it?

If you can, please give generously to the Haiti relief effort.