Having one Mr. Persaud in my life is a challenge. Two Mr. P.’s is downright exhausting. And I blame the Manny, Andre. He was dissatisfied with the level of cricket coaching the kids were receiving at a prestigious cricket club I had fought with charm and chequebook to get them into.
“Man, it have a foreign in charge. I eh sure he ever see a cricket match in he life. My boys too good fuh dat. Yuh want dem gine dere yuh go have to take dem yuhself.”
I told him to find me an alternative.
So he brought me Mr. Persaud, cricket coach extraordinaire affiliated with the equally prestigious Progressive Cricket Club. Operating with supreme confidence, Coach Persaud initially insisted on a “no-win no fee” arrangement. He believes in the twins and will claim his reward when they open for the West Indies under-16 team. The Husband is inclined to agree. Both men point out that Second Born (by three minutes) at age seven, already bats straight and with assured elegance. First Born is clearly going to be a world-class fast bowler. Such is the distorting filter of paternal love or blind ambition.
Frankly, this twin dream ticket has as much chance as Clinton and Huckerbee being running mates. The twins’ ambitions do not coincide with that of the two Mr. Persauds. First Born has already determined that his destiny lies in a mixture of football, car racing as well as writing and art (bless). Second Born wants to be a surfer. He also has great memories of a short stint living in Venice and wants to drive a similar boat-taxi taking kids to school from the west coast to Bridgetown. And let’s face it; Mr. P. is just a coach, not a miracle man. In the end I have persuaded him to take his reward in the present and qué sera, sera.
The quid pro quo he has exacted is that we must all sit down after each session for an analysis of the boys’ performance and progress. He is so enthusiastic that this postmortem can last as long as, or even longer than, the actual two hour coaching session. I now simply invite him to stay for lunch so we do not starve while he makes First Born identify Silly Mid On and Silly Mid Off, or have Second Born explain the Duckworth-Lewis Method. We usually have some home cooking - my mom’s home cooked roti, curried chicken and vegetables. And speaking of home cooking, we have taken to having a wonderful Bajan Sunday lunch, every chance we get, at the Atlantis Hotel on the East Coast. It is tucked away in a space where time moves slowly - a lost, crumbling, magical site overlooking the sea. It is no wonder the writer George Lamming has made Atlantis his home. Last Sunday I engineered seating two tables away from the great man himself and tried really hard not to spend the whole time staring with groupie eyes at him. Sigh.
My revenge for living with three cricket-mad men – actually four males, as puppy Jack likes to field in the slips - is to make the whole family tag along to a polo match. I have no particular interest in polo but it is a major part of “the season” in Bim and I thought we should attend one match. And this being a small rock we soon find we know a goodly portion of these good folks seated in front the clubhouse at the beautiful Lion Castle polo grounds. Unlike cricket where games can be impromptu events, staged with anything that can work as a bat and any ball handy, polo requires real preparation and capital outlay.
The Husband made up his mind to hate polo and within minutes of arriving looked bored beyond belief. I tried to cheer him up with champagne. No, he had a headache. (I thought that was my line?) “But darling” I said. “It is a beautiful afternoon. We are in these magnificent grounds with our babies and lots of friends around. Surely you can manage a little smile?” Nada. Then I remembered. He’s English. When an Englishman is grumpy there is only one thing that will make the world right again. I dashed off and returned with tea and cucumber sandwiches. Two sips of Earl Gray later he flashed me a look of pure love and was delightful company for the rest of the afternoon. And they call us the weaker sex.
Kind Jeff was on hand to explain the intricacies of polo - from choosing the type of pony (small, fast, intelligent) to the players (rich, highly skilled, and often following a family tradition). The rules of the game are simple and the commentary was lively and full of interjections like,
“And there goes Lucy Taylor, large and in charge. Yes, large and in charge.”
Soon the kids were cheering the (losing) visitors from Cheshire, because mummy, they have come all the way from England and are wearing Man United colours. And they had a girl in the saddle. That to me is the most interesting fact: men and women compete together in a way they do not in any other sport.
But polo is not about the ponies. Whatever else they say, both chukkaholics and chukka wannabees are here for one thing. They want to be part of the heady mixture of the corporate, media and fashion worlds that collide on the steps of the clubhouse. Polo is one big catwalk with everyone vying to see and be seen. I met only two people who were there because of an interest in the sport – apart from the PM who looked a little too engrossed in every swing of every mallet. The true logic of polo is that if someone is prepared to spend a fortune on a stable of Argentinean-bred, highly trained ponies, then they are loaded enough to want to spend it buying more diamonds, or Breitling watches or invest in that land you want to develop into luxury townhouses. And if all you have to sell is your carefully acquired tan, then this is the market place to strut your stuff. “We met at the polo club” still trumps “we met in a chat room”.
I left polo thinking this was the end of my touch with equestrian sports for 2008 but by Wednesday I was back with the horsey crowd. The lovely Shawn was patiently listening to my plans for an artwork that involved research on the plantation house at Congo Road, St. Phillip. I hit small rock luck again. Shawn rides at this very place several times a week and was competing in an international dressage competition being held at Congo Road. She invited me to watch her compete and be introduced to the present incumbents of the plantation. In one swoop I had the access I needed to make my art and a chance to see her in action.
But it is sheer loyalty to Shawn that made me watch three, long hours of dressage from 8:30am on a Wednesday morning. She was terrific, coming second in her category, although I think she would have preferred a polite clap rather than my chants of “Go girlfriend! Go girlfriend!” at this most genteel of events. But even her performance was not enough to keep me from rapidly losing the will to live. At polo you can at least have enough alcohol to numb the effects of boredom. Here they have a few soft drinks and water on sale. And unlike polo there are probably less than twenty people who compete so I was hanging with hard-core riders. So, no glamour, no alcohol, no rich uncles, no blonde babes, no politicians or clergy, no one arriving by helicopter and no exchange of business cards or bodily fluids. It’s just these people dressed very formally in clothes of another era, making the horses do some weird little circuit, trotting and turning in the middle of the countryside on this exquisite plantation.
When we first moved here The Husband would say that it was like moving from London to a village in Sussex. I called him in Zurich to say I finally understood. We are living in Sussex. Circa 1930.