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​Mother Firetrucker

SOMETIMES, YOU CAN ruin something by starting it off the wrong way. What would life in the English-speaking Caribbean be like today, e.g., if, 55 years ago, Trinidad & Tobago’s first prime minister had chosen to stay in the West Indian Federation after Jamaica’s exit? Those eight other, supposedly lesser, territories would have exercised far greater sense over the spending of the massive energy tax windfalls Trinidad & Tobago squandered (twice!). As the very clear-thinking (at least outside of the Integrity Commission) Eric St Cyr once told me, Trinidadian oil & gas money would have allowed all of us in the West Indies to escape Babylon forever.

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Mother’s Day Musings

ALL THROUGH HISTORY world cultures have been filled with stories about the unimaginable pain of childbirth, the suffering that mothers endure to keep us all going on. Humanity stands in awe of the people who achieve this extraordinary feat.

Unlike any other human experience, the pain of childbirth is the reserve of only those who have experienced it: white guitarists can play the blues, black filmmakers can produce masterpieces about plantation slavery, Japanese women can play pan – but only a woman who gives natural birth to a baby can know the real pain of motherhood; men, lacking uteruses, can’t even comment on it legitimately. Expectant fathers can only marvel over the mechanics from afar, like King Solomon looking down into his mines: “Dude! It’d be like peeing a marble!”

The whole world has always known that no greater pain can be endured than that of the mother who pays the price of the baby leaving the womb and entering the world by actually passing through her.

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The Wide ‘Sir Say So’ SEA

LAST FRIDAY, 18,000-plus children of Trinidad & Tobago sat the new and dreaded Secondary Entrance Assessment exam that replaced the old and dreaded 11-Plus exam and, for probably 17,000-plus of them, it was really an entry into a secondary or second-tier adulthood. Apart from the few hundred who got into ‘prestige schools’ – which, in Trinidad, means a school where the teachers who bother to turn up try to teach the children who don’t carry guns or knives a little bit – the chance of a fulfilling life evaporated. Five years from now, their great hope will be to find a job that does not involve frying chicken parts or selling body parts.

In sympathy, I began my own 51-Plus exam last Friday, with the maths section. Today, I’ll take a stab – already I sound like I’m headed for a junior secondary school – at what used to be “English” but is now “Language Arts”. These questions come from the last Guardian SEA practice test.

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SEA-Saw of Fate

YESTERDAY, 18,000-plus children of Trinidad & Tobago sat the biggest exam of their little lives, the Secondary Entrance Assessment, the new name for the old 11-Plus exam that itself had the same old effect as the “exhibition” exams of the 1950s: for the vast majority who will not enter a “prestige school” – which, in Trinidad, means one where the teachers turn up more often than not and students are only robbed at knifepoint near the weekend, when their classmates need money for clubbing – yesterday was the last chance they had of ever having a “life of the mind”; sad, as the Jackass-in-Chief might tweet.

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