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A Joint for Mr Biswas
IF YOU REALLY want to depress yourself, walk over to your bookshelf and pull out your tattered old Penguin paperback of Old Sir Video’s first travel book, The Middle Passage, and read the chapter on Trinidad – assuming people in Trinidad have bookshelves at all, far less a copy of a 50-year-old book by an eighty-year-old firetruck we’d all rather hate for all time than contemplate for even a few minutes.
It can depress you almightily but, if you substitute, “the soca” for “the bands” in the text below, Sir Video’s 55-year-old paragraph could have been written this morning: “Port of Spain is the noisiest city in the world. Yet it is forbidden to talk… In restaurants, the bands are there to free people of the need to talk. Stunned, temples throbbing, you champ and chew.. In a private home as soon as anyone starts to talk the radio is turned on. It must be loud, loud, loud… There was no guiding taste because there was no taste. In Trinidad, education was not one of the things money could buy; it was something money freed you from. Education was strictly for the poor…
What the Twilight Didn’t Say
EVEN THE NUNS who ran my primary school, who knew they could whip anyone into any shape, knew better than to try to teach small children during the last period of the school week, that Friday afternoon time slot in which even well-behaved kids went stir crazy. Instead, wisely, they constructed the ruse of “library” class: reading story books.Read more
Letters of Comfort
ANYTIME Trinidad begins to out-Trinidad itself – like when a murdered policewoman’s cadaver is tossed in the mangrove and the environmentalists seem more distressed than the police – I cheer myself up by printing a few letters from the editor. For most of the last 30 years, I might have had to lighten my mood with one of these “letters” columns every two years or so; this is the second one I’m doing for 2017 and we’re still in the first quarter!
Not so long ago – specifically, in January – I felt compelled to admit I stole this idea from the National Lampoon, the American satirical magazine that no longer has a place in a world that elected a Russian joke for an American president; with each passing week in Trinidad, though, dishonesty and fraudulence gains legitimacy; and an admission of plagiarism now feels less of a confession and more of a boast.Read more
Battered & Broken
WEST INDIES playing England at Kensington Oval as I type and, at 248 for 3 in the 41st over and Joe Root following Alex Hales in scoring a century, it’s more like England toying with West Indies.
You’d think we might win a dead rubber, having lost all the other tour games, but we’ve had more sixes than wickets; and we won the toss! And the agony won’t be over when the bowling stops, because we can’t just toss them the trophy in the interval; no, those sadists at the ICC require us to pad up and chase a score or more than 300, probably, at which point it will be difficult to say which will collapse first, the West Indian batting or the Bajan economy.Read more
THE BEST– and most succinct – film review I ever heard came from a Rastaman leaving the National Cinema II pit after a 12.30 midday movie when I was at St Mary’s College in 1973.
Back then, West Indies Test cricket was good enough for secondary schools to give half-days off for boys to watch theoretically interesting games at the Oval. My dead-end friends and I, though, didn’t waste half-days on New Zealand padding away 500 deliveries to force a draw; we went, far more eagerly – and left far more satisfied – to “sex doubles”; if you want to make a Trini man over-50 smile, mention a movie title like The Naked Wind, The Libertines, She-Devils of the SS or The Hot Box, the womens’ prison movie that made me a lesbian.
This movie wasn’t in that class. My subconscious has actually blacked the movie out totally, to spare me the pain of remembering it. It was that bad.Read more