I had not seen anything like it before. The roads that are my normal route into Holetown on the west coast of this small rock, had, within the space of a few, short hours, turned into a fast flowing river with water covering the car tyres. I tuned into talk radio to keep my panic from rising as rapidly as the water. The always entertaining, aptly titled, Talk Yuh Talk, our version of Radio Four’s The Today Show, was in full swing discussing the very problems I was steeped in. Even better, the host was doing a live interview with a lady from an official sounding institution mandated to deal with disaster relief. Our host noted she was speaking from her mobile rather than a land line.
“Well, I in de car near Holetown and tings not looking good at all.”
‘So, if you not in de office, who in charge?” the host inquired, his panic rising.
“Well, Mr. G. dere. And Miss A. does usually get in early. Although, now she have a lil chile so I not sure she get in early today. But she does usually get in early. Excuse me ah minute. Mister, if yuh move up a little den we could pass. Yes, move up a little. Okay, I here again.”
“So, are you managing to get through with this rain?
“Well, my son here wid me and he say I cahn pass… No, I cahn pass. It look like I go jus have to wait dis one out.”
“Well stay on the air while we take some calls and perhaps you can provide insight into how we can best cope with the really terrible rains we are experiencing today.”
A slew of calls followed with drivers phoning in to alert listeners of impassable roads or other dangers. Then there were calls to say which schools were closed or closing. This was followed by announcements of funeral cancellations. Funerals are major events on this rock. My mother, when she was CEO of a regional organisation, was always off to a work-related funeral. If she was not available then my dad would be required to don a decent shirt and represent her. She explained it was not because her staff were dying off at an alarming rate. The entire staff, from managers to messengers, would attend each last farewell of any member of staff, or the relative of any member of staff, who had died. I understand closing up shop for the death of a colleague. But doing it for your colleague’s relative that neither you nor the organisation had a relationship with seems a tad excessive. You work with us and your Aunty Philomena has snuffed it? Never fear – we will provide at least two coach loads of mourners. Maybe your cousin Undeane has passed over? Expect at least 60 people from the office. Of course if Uncle Elijah has died, and you don’t have the sort of office back up I have described, you can always, for the price of a bottle of Old Oak rum, enlist the services of some “professional” mourners. They will come, resplendent in black, and cry their hearts out at the appropriate time - even though the dearly departed was completely unknown to them. The loneliness of life and death in big cities is well documented. On this small rock you are never alone in your hour of grief.
With these village fundamentals of school and funeral announcements taken care of, the direction of Talk Yuh Talk shifted from the effects of the floods to its root causes. Several explanations were offered with most typically citing government’s neglect of drains and roads. But not everyone was convinced by these earthly explanations. One gentleman called in to remind us of the spiritual dimension of climate change.
“I calling in because dere is someting we doh like to talk bout but is behind all de hurricanes and rains and ting dat we getting.”
He paused for dramatic effect.
“Yes caller. We ready.”
“Yuh sure yuh ready? I opening ah can ah worms here today yuh know.”
“Please go ahead. We’re listening.” said our very patient host.
“Is Obeah.” he declared.
“Obeah?” asked our host, his surprise barely contained.
“Yes, Obeah. Witchcraft. Voodoo. Worshipping of animals and eating of human flesh. Why yuh tink Haiti does get hit so bad, eh? Is de Lord striking at dem fuh dere bare wickedness.”
“So how do you explain the devastation in Galveston?”
“De Lord does see wickedness where ever it is. He does see transgressions dat we doh see and he does wipe out de heathens.”
Try as he might there was no convincing this caller that there were other, perhaps more rational explanations, for these natural disasters. So heathens you have been warned. Chaos theory is passé. Hurricanes are nature’s auto-da-fé when him on high does his annual balance sheet of who’s been naughty and who’s been nice. And given the strength of some of these hurricanes there is no debt forgiveness or bail out possible. Last year I followed the progress of the weather system Ingrid but she could only exact punishment consistent with a mundane tropical storm.