NO COUNTRY FOR SATYAGRAHA?

The Husband is off island, somewhere much colder, where the ice is under his boots rather than in his glass. Well somebody has to earn a living around here. I tried wearing a suit and tie and telling people to buy low, sell high and not to be such Nancies just because their hedge funds were down thirty percent. Would they listen? So, I put The Husband in a suit and tie, told him to tell clients to buy low, sell high and not to be such Nancies just because their hedge funds were down thirty percent, and, crik crack, a guru is born. It helps that he looks handsome in the suit and tie combo and is a professor of economics.

His absence from the rock is also a signal that standards can change just a little. We shift from his, the early bird catches the worm, to my, start slow, then ease off. The weekend finds First Born, Second Born, Jack and I snoring until hunger finally beckons and we head to Brighton Farmers Market. For urbanites, this is a farmer’s market with a twist. It is a market, on a working farm, rather than a pavement in Chelsea, selling the produce of their land. Yeah, it took us some getting used to as well. Apart from the opportunity to buy fresh vegetables like sweet peppers, carrots and beans, this is the place to find a chunk of the off-shore banking fraternity consuming fish cutters with their cappuccinos. Perhaps it is not so different from Chelsea after all.

Once we had breakfasted and caught up on who merged and who acquired, the kids voted we hit the beach. This is not as straightforward as you might think. All beaches are legally public spaces for our common enjoyment. But if you build an ugly, huge, hotel next to another ugly, huge, hotel, next to a set of “stunning” high rise villas, the public access points get obscured. It takes determination, stamina and decent hand-eye coordination to actually make it to the water’s edge.

First you must find a place to park. Then you must walk from car to beach, often crossing main roads with buses and vans hurtling down playing “oops, just missed the pedestrian”. Having reached the access point, it is often a smelly, little, dirt tract. At the end of the tract you will see the sea. Do not stop concentrating. This is where many a man has come undone. If you let down your guard you will trip over hotel chairs and sun loungers that have been strategically placed to provide an obstacle course. Make it past that and you have found your well-deserved place in the sand.

One man, whose hedge fund was doing very well thank you, wrote to the Financial Times of his attempt to bypass this boot camp by buying easy beach access on the platinum coast of the rock. He approached the owner of a chattel house, (vernacular architecture for the poor man), fronting the sea, and offered the elderly owner a cool $2million USD. He reported that my man shook the big-up’s hand and explained: boss man, what I go do wid two million dollars? I already living pon ah west coast beach.

I knew there had to be a cheaper, easier way to access the beach and indeed there was. Five months on a waiting list, endorsement by a few members and we can enjoy a club on the beach. We can park in a car park. We can enjoy a tranquil beach, use chairs, take showers and buy food and drink. What I failed to fully appreciate was that this club was a little ghetto. Actually it was two little ghettos, co-existing as only Bajans know how. At one end of the beach the pale, blue rinse brigade can be found taking full afternoon tea at 4pm. The rest of the beach is usually occupied by the Second Estate, distractedly eating Yvonne’s cakes.

We arrived to find friends, parents from the kids’ school, various captains of industry, drinking buddies, and my yoga teacher, all enjoying the beach. I finally settled under a tree with rum, coke and two fabulous women to contemplate sex, art and the extent to which the hairstyles of a senator and a few students of Samuel Jackson Prescod Polytechnic have contributed to the moral disintegration of civil society.

A couple hours later as we stirred to join the kids for a sea bath, something happened to jolt us out of our stupor. A breakaway tactical unit of the Third Estate, having decided that the velvet revolution was not delivering public beaches, had taken matters into their own hands. Some in Bim have cake - maybe even a few Purity Bakery jam puffs. And what does the sans culottes have? Is bare salt bread pon ah morning – eff yuh lucky.

The moment had arrived for the masses to engage in satyagraha - Ghandi’s non-violent protest that inspired Martin Luther King Jr.

From our vantage point under the tree we saw ten adults and thirty under-tens heading down the beach. They were marching, single file, and with determined stride, towards our end of an otherwise empty beach. They asserted their right to enjoy this public beach by noisily occupying sand and surf in front of the club as opposed to the swathes of deserted beach next to it. Their tactics were well rehearsed and included a game where all thirty boys and girls ran into the water, in two separate lines, splashing about as much as possible and shouting at the top of their lungs. The element of surprise, the running, the splashing, and the shouting, worked. Those who were previously having a peaceful paddle beat a hasty retreat out of the sea.

But this was no one-sided battle. Admittedly, the First Estate simply went into the dining room for lunch. But the Second Estate fought back the way the Second Estate does best. They stared at the insurgents. Really deep, piercing stares. But the sans culottes had seen this method of social exclusion before and just turned up the decibel level of their play. After about 45 minutes, with the suddenness of it all slipping away, what was left was a sense of a busy, noisy part of an otherwise empty few miles of beach. Those who had previously left the water when Operation Reclaim commenced began to edge back in. Discomfort gave way to peaceful coexistence. The ghetto was now everyone’s hood. Then just as suddenly as they arrived, they disappeared. All was quiet on the southern front again. The First Estate peeped out. Peaceful but separate existences: that’s how they like it in Bim.

2 comments:

Gio said...

I have very fond memories of that beach club, of course this was when I was younger and didn't really appreciate the significance of the wall on the north end of the beach, which now has been shortened by a few feet to allow unimpeded access at low or high tide.

I never noticed how monochrome the beach was at that age, and after all when my pigmented friends from the neighbour hood came with me to the beach there was never any problem.

The beach and club have been a source of vexation for the 3rd estate, as you call it, and now the opportunity has risen to remind the beach goers "massa day done!", which could not be done on the half a mile of unoccupied beach to the north.

Its a small price to pay for improving race relations.

CG said...

I find your posts most entertaining, especially when I am in class and should be paying attention.

How different is it anywhere else? Maybe the coexistence isn't as peaceful? Maybe there isn't a chance for the mingling to happen?

In any case, when people are studying quietly in the library and I go and sit near them and discuss my work with someone, they too "go to the dining room for lunch".