Bajan Boys Sail To Victory



(Curacao)


The general election on Thursday saw the ruling Democratic Labour Party surprisingly returned to power by the slimmest of margins. It was a lacklustre campaign where voters had the choice of either a rather lame candidate or one who does not understand when to give up power. Big up my pal since university days, Mia Mottley, who retained her seat in style with a landslide victory. It would be Barbados’s loss if she were never given the opportunity of its highest political office.

But far more uplifting things have been consuming our household. We actually decamped for a week from this small rock to an even smaller pebble in the sea – Curacao. It was our first outing to one of the Dutch-speaking Caribbean islands prompted by First and Second Born’s constant nagging to participate in a sailing clinic followed by a regatta. Bim does not have a single qualified sailing coach so if the boys are to improve we must travel to places like St. Thomas, Martinique and Curacao where they can get training and test their skills in international races. Barbados had an Olympic competitor in the 2012 games but you wouldn’t know it. To get sail coaching he had adopted the Canadian flag.

My Trini senses find Curacao reassuringly familiar. To the west of the capital, Willemstad, is a huge oil refinery - a plateau of oil and gas storage tanks and tall chimneys flaring gas. You can smell and taste the pungent chemical soup. I could be driving through Pointe-a-Pierre refinery – just north of San Fernando where I grew up. And Caribbean people are at some fundamental level the same whether we speak Dutch, French or English. We visited during Carnival and the streets were jamming with music and revellers forgetting everyday cares for a few hours. It could have been Port-of-Spain.

What is unfamiliar is the beautiful Dutch architecture on the north side of the deepwater harbour that bisects Willemstad. Tall, slim, brightly coloured buildings line the waterfront. The beaches have nothing on Barbados’s white sands. And I will have to curb my tongue about Bimshire's poor service. If you think we have it bad here wait till you visit Curacao. Them have pretty, pretty hotels but forgot to train the bodies that work there.

Most of our time was spent sipping Coke at Pop’s Place in Caracasbaai as we watched the kids battle currents and winds of up to 28 knots. Pop’s Place (as basic as it sounds), at the water’s edge, served as eatery and HQ for the Curacao Youth Sailing Clinic and Regatta. Although they have only been going for a couple years it was well organised, friendly and the coaching was excellent – led by Nicolas from Ecuador and Zander and Anneke from the Netherlands – all highly respected internationally. The atmosphere was warm and the kids made friends with sailors from Aruba, St. Maarten, Bequia and Germany as well as the local mob.

But it seems we can’t even manage a quiet sailing outing. Does trouble sneak on board American Airlines and fly with us? Second Born came ashore on Day 2 of the regatta to be accosted by the loud, hyper-ambitious daddy of a competitor who claimed he saw (from Pop’s Place) Second Born hit his son’s boat during a race. The son never suggested anything like that to Second Born during or after the race and for his part Second Born denied any such offence. The good gentleman then proceeded to rant and rave up and down Pop’s Place asking for witnesses to this foul play. He found none but still spent the rest of the afternoon loudly proclaiming that he was going to make an official protest – which he is entitled to. The only problem was that Crazy Daddy was so busy telling everybody how them Bajan boys can't sail that he never actually got around to filing the protest within the allotted time.

To complicate matters, then all the races were over for that day, Second Born claimed he was fouled at the finishing mark by the same kid. We did not intervene. Second Born quietly filled in a protest form and gave it to the Race Committee. He got his witness and asked his brother and another sailor to go in with him as moral support. We continued drinking Coke through it all ready to support him whichever way it went. He won his protest and as a consequence the kid went from second place in that race to being disqualified. As the performance poet Paul Keens-Douglas would have said - who tell them do that.

Crazy Daddy was livid. Next thing I know he all up in my face telling me how I get he son disqualify and how my son don’t know how to sail and what how he son go beat my son etc etc. It was not pretty. Then apparently he threatened to withdraw that country’s team and to leave their national flag at half-mast to show everybody how they get thief. The next and final day of the races he spent the entire time telling the assembled gathering at Pop’s Place how them Bajan boys playing nasty on the sea and he have witnesses who going help him re-open the (final) decision made against his son the previous day.

First and Second Born were a little distressed by it all but we tried to suggest ways of coping. Crazy Daddy was only the first of many such gentlemen they will encounter in life on and off the sea. We had to catch our flight back and did not wait for the prize giving ceremony. That was a disguised blessing. Crazy might have burst a blood vessel when First Born got a podium place and his precious did not.


(Optimist sailors in Caracasbaai)

The Pillars of Love and Marriage

Carnival done and gone and the shops are focused on red and white displays of hearts - my excuse to treat chocolate as its own food group. For many it is a moment to reflect on the status of romantic love in one’s life. My friend Ricardo is fresh from a wedding in St. Lucy where the Reverend did some straight talking on these matters. I’ll try to tell the story as it was received – no lie - although the names of the happy couple have naturally been changed.
It started in the usual way. The radiant bride Alicia and her anxious groom Keshorn bowed their heads as the first hymn came to an end and Dr. Reverend Jonathan H. Joseph stepped forward. He looked at the forty-strong congregation sweltering as they sat squashed into the tiny church.
‘Marriage is a great institution and it rests on four pillars. Is like a temple and the temple going fall down with an almighty crash if any of them pillars was to crumble to the ground. So I ask you, Keshorn and I ask you, Alicia, to listen. I going give you the key to a long and happy marriage.’
Turning to Alicia he glared down.
‘The first pillar is money. Yes money. You need money. I need money. Alicia, you must accept that Keshorn is in charge of the way the money going be handled. You must trust in he wisdom. A loyal wife never questions the authority of she husband in this matter. Yes I know you have a little food business pon a weekend down by Six Mens Bay but Keshorn is the man. Accept that or mark my words, this marriage go be over before you could say macaroni pie.’
The Reverend’s words had managed to silence even the bawling baby in the last pew. Everyone waited wide-eyed to see what would come next.
‘As we think about this important pillar of marriage, the money, join me in singing the hymn, Jesus Paid It All.’
There was a collective exhalation and the gathering threw themselves into the singing. As the hymn died down the Reverend stepped closer to the couple. His piercing dark eyes looked keenly into those of the petrified groom.
‘We have learnt that the first pillar of marriage is money. Now the great temple of marriage has a second pillar and that is communication. I does meet a set of young people getting married and they don’t know how to talk to one another. They busy emailing and could spend the whole day on Facebook or texting. And it does be the man them who does forget to communicate. Keshorn, you must talk to Alicia every day. Many wives come by me and they say, Dr. Reverend Jonathan H. Joseph, my husband doesn’t communicate with me. When he reach home from work and he does put up he foot in front the TV watching Dancing With The Stars and then he does start snoring hard hard. So I am warning you Keshorn. Take heed of my advice. If you do not she will shut up the shop. When the shop shut down and you will get nothing.’
Keshorn looked suitably chastised and slightly embarrassed. Most of the congregation were glancing at each other or twittering to those close by. No preacher of any denomination had ever spoken like this from a pulpit in Barbados. But they were too hasty. There was much more to come.
‘The third pillar holding up the roof of the temple of marriage is sex. The adult male and adult female must have a good and regular sex life. Even I, the Dr. Reverend Jonathan H. Joseph, could not carry out the ministry of Our Maker if my wife, Gloria, did not attend to my sexual needs. I sure she will agree with me that she is also well looked after in that department.’
He paused and turned again to face Keshorn directly.
‘Keshorn, by now you should have located her G spot. If you ain’t done your homework I promise you my friend: someone going do it for you.’
No one knew where to look. People were staring open-mouthed while others were stifling the giggles. The older folks looked outraged. Most were staring in disbelief while the good Dr. Reverend Jonathan H. Joseph continued, refusing to acknowledge the restlessness he had created.
‘The fourth pillar that you Alicia, and you Keshorn, must pay attention to is the one and only Lord God All Mighty.’
The congregation exhaled. At last the big guy was getting a look in.
‘I feel sure the Lord will reward you with riches and bless you with many children,’ continued the good Reverend. ‘In fact when I was praying earlier today the number five came to me. I think the Lord was trying to say you going bear five children.’
The ceremony concluded in a more traditional manner but Ricardo said the gathering remained agitated, exchanging glances and covert smiles as they digested the four pillars approach to marriage.
Happy Valentine’s.

BAJAN KING

Trinidadians are brimming over with expectation as carnival approaches. Every night you can hear Soca, pan or take in another fete. By next weekend the whole country will be a little bit tipsy as they move into two full days of playing mas. Big up my girlfriend Allison Demas who is head of all things carnival and doing a fantastic job.

But Trinis don’t have nothing pon the good people of Barbados. The excitement on our small rock is at fever pitch. And it’s not because the long awaited general elections have finally been called for 21 February. Few have high expectations of transformative political change whoever wins. No, something far more momentous has occurred in Bimshire. Our lives have been revolutionised in ways we have yet to fully comprehend because, drum roll please, BURGER KING has opened its first branch on the rock.

Naturally when such a phenomenon occurs you can expect the population to be mobilised and they have not disappointed. When First Born, Second Born and I went on Tuesday evening at 7pm we had a cool 20 minute wait in a line that stretched half way down the length of the food court. No one it seemed even noticed the Chinese food or the baked goods offered by the two other food outlets.

Those from foreign may not appreciate our restricted world. Bajns have been previously shackled to a lifetime of Chefette or KFC chicken. Now the common people finally have real choice. In the newly rebranded Sky Mall at Haggatt Hall we, the people, can partake of a Whopper or even a Double Whopper - as sandwich or meal - and all easily upsized for a few dollars more.

But them Burger King people not stupid. They know Bajans may be nervous about embracing change so chicken burgers are offered for those who can’t break free from wings and thighs. The bookies are also giving decent odds that macaroni pie will creep in as a listed side order before 2014. Speaking of odds, Burger King’s products in the UK have allegedly been found to be contaminated with horse meat.

Call me conservative but I ate the fish burger. It actually looked and tasted of real fish and was sandwiched between a tasty bun with bits of fresh salad poking out. The fries were okay. I prefer them long and stringy but that is a personal quirk. The growing lads both had Double Whopper meals which they declared to be the bomb. There also raved about the crisp fries. In seven minutes flat not even a shred of ice-berg lettuce was left between them.

But my posse can never have a simple, uncontroversial outing to a small mall anchored by a fast food joint. We spread our meal on the small, fixed table and put all the rubbish on our tray which I neatly tucked next to my feet. We had not been seated more than a couple minutes when a supervisor approached our table.
‘Dat tray belongs to you?’ asked the young, uniformed woman with hair pinned back off her face.
I looked up.
‘Yes.’
She lowered her chin and widened her eyes the more to scare me.
‘You know it on de floor,’ she continued.
‘Yes. I’ll move it when we’re done eating.’
She twisted and pulled her mouth but no sound came out. I took the opportunity to stuff myself with fries ever mindful of her continued presence and the piercing glint of her eyes.
‘It can’t stay there,’ she said loudly.
I swallowed the last bit of potato.
‘I’ll move it when I’m done,’ I said. ‘If you like you can move yourself.’
That was a step too far. My girl went straight to the security personnel propped up on the far side wall. Heated words were exchanged and the supervisor marched back to our table unaccompanied by the law. She wordlessly swooped up the tray and neither she nor tray were seen again. So if you go to Burger King and my mug shot with a big red X is at the entrance you will understand how I came to such a sorry-ass end.