Not the best of Sundays. The prevailing mood in our household is bitter, after Tottenham Hotspurs Football Club defeated Arsenal Football Club in the North London derby. So, our pathetic season is basically over. I am sorry to inflict my football passions on you, dear readers. But it hurts as much as being stabbed in the arm. Well, probably not quite as much. Over in London, our son is probably drowning his sorrows in a pint of …bitter. I am drinking coffee, and wishing it was something stronger.
Putting that aside. More bitterness, this time a bitter smell. On Thursday morning downtown Kingston was once again afflicted by what the media calls “noxious odors” - this time at the Central Sorting Office of Jamaica Post. Hundreds of students poured onto the streets after several large nearby schools suspended classes and sent them home. Over 600 workers were evacuated. Approximately sixty people sought medical treatment. Roads were cordoned off. In other words, chaos. Representatives of various government agencies bustled about the place. But so far as I know, no one has yet discovered the source of the fumes. This is not the first time we have had mystery fumes in Kingston. And probably it will not be the last.
The head of the National Solid Waste Management Agency Jennifer Edwards spoke with journalist Dionne Jackson Miller on the TV program “All Angles” - and it seems there is really no plan for solid waste or appropriate legislation. But Ms. Edwards seems to be trying to do bits and pieces here and there. But will noxious fumes from the Riverton City dump (est. 1964) waft over the city once more? Has anything changed since the huge fire there a year ago? What is the quality of the air that we city-dwellers are breathing in? See the link to the program below.
Talking of bitterness, the Simpson Miller administration’s new taxation package remains a bad taste in the mouth. A fellow-tweeter commented that Skype, FaceTime and other free methods will be widely in use, replacing highly-taxed phone calls. A noted cleric wrote to the Gleaner pointing out that there is a tax on the tax on phone calls, now. Is that even legal? I believe there is a growing “working poor” in Jamaica, who have to juggle competing bills and cut back on non-essentials (if they can). I know a few of them personally.
But how much further can we cut back? How much more can we tighten our belts or “band our belly,” as Jamaicans would say? “Sacrifice” has been a word on many lips recently. I think our politicians had better be very circumspect when using that word in the future. What are they sacrificing, many are asking? Certainly not those nice shiny new Toyota Prados. As columnist Lawrence Powell notes today, symbolic sacrifice is good. Former Prime Minister Bruce Golding, to his credit, saw that this was a good thing to do when he and his Cabinet colleagues took a pay cut, a few years back. If we are to all pull together for the sake of the country, let’s make it all of us!
There is a Jamaican expression I love: “Hol’ dung tek weh” - basically meaning holding someone down and robbing them by force. Now our political leaders are again digging around in our pockets. But they are only finding pieces of fluff, sweetie papers and the occasional Jamaican cent (which is practically worthless). Nothing left; empty pockets, bare cupboards. As Mr. Gordon Robinson said acerbically in his Sunday Gleaner column, many of us have nothing - nothing - left to give up!
The issue of the NHTHol’DungTekWeh (I should put a hashtag in front of that!) took some twists and turns last week, too (NHT = National Housing Trust). The lawsuit filed by the pressure group Citizens Action for Principle and Integrity (CAPI) has hit a snag, due to some problems with documents – and was postponed in court. Meanwhile, the government will be pushing through some legislation to amend the NHT Act and make it perfectly OK for them to withdraw the funds – to plug what commentator Claude Clarke calls the “hole in the bucket” that urgently needs to be filled. It is possible that the lawsuit will fizzle out; we shall see. In a thoughtful piece, former Prime Minister Bruce Golding (who has been very quiet for a long time until recently) suggests that the J$44 billion could have taken the form of a loan, or in exchange for land. See the link to his Gleaner article below.
The issue of corruption has raised its ugly head (of course, it has never gone anywhere). We have seen a series of reports on incidents involving the Jamaica Constabulary Force that seem to be corruption, or sheer criminality. A policewoman was found to have been sheltering a man who had escaped from a police lock-up – in her home. Two policemen (one from the Anti-Corruption Branch, no less) were allegedly involved in an armed robbery in Negril and have been arrested. Another policemen, who has just been convicted and sentenced to life for the horrendous murder of a schoolgirl, is now suspected of fathering a child while awaiting trial in a police lock-up (and one local lawyer has said it’s a waste of time investigating. Sorry??)
Meanwhile, our Prime Minister happily cut some ribbons and broke some ground last week, which is very nice… But less happily she faced some TV reporters. TVJ’s excellent Kirk Wright and others waylaid her one day last week. They pointed out to her that while in Opposition she herself had (on January 8, 2010 to be precise) vehemently protested at the possibility of the Golding administration obtaining funds from the NHT. Ms. Simpson Miller backed away from the microphones. “I don’t know if I objected then,” she said. How could she forget, I wonder? I remember, and TVJ played the clip. When the reporters pressed her further, our Prime Minister became really flustered. “I’m not going to answer any more of your questions!” she cried, arms flapping, moving rapidly away from the cameras. Oh dear.
Can’t be bothered section: I know the flogging legislation is an awful colonial vestige and an abuse of human rights, so can we just get rid of it, please. No need to waste parliamentary time on debating it is there, when there are so many other pressing issues? Those who want to retain it are, presumably, seeking to heighten the already unbearably high level of violence in society, and to perpetuate it. The debate seems a big distraction from the elephants in the room (remember those elephants?)
A few of my favorite things last week, though…
UNICEF’s Deputy Executive Director, Ms. Geeta Rao Gupta, visited the offices of Eve for Life last week with UNICEF Representative for Jamaica Robert Fuderich and representatives of the Ministry of Health. Ms. Gupta sat down and spoke quietly with a group of our young women and girls. It was such a pleasure to meet her. Eve for Life, which supports and empowers young mothers with HIV/AIDS, recently moved into new offices. You can find them on Facebook (Eve Jamaica) and on Twitter at @EveforLife.
The Jamaica Civil Society Coalition (JCSC, which includes the sharp-witted and articulate Carol Narcisse) has been busy recently. A series of public meetings on the budget process has been very fruitful. The JCSC is also angry with the operators of the fore-mentioned Riverton City dump and has withdrawn from the oversight committee, complaining that the authorities have not complied with their own standards and regulations (the dump still does not have a permit from the National Environment and Planning Agency! But “it is now being reviewed,” says the agency head). And what happened to funding offered by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to fix the dump? Well, guess what – Jamaica was not able to provide matching funds. In fact, the JCSC contends, billions of dollars’ worth of aid from multi-laterals has not been taken up by successive administrations every year, due to delays, red tape and sheer incompetence it seems…
Congratulations to the 51% Coalition on the highly successful launch of their media campaign to raise awareness of the need for greater gender balance and equity on public sector boards – and of the need for greater integrity and accountability in governance. Listen out for the public service announcements on Power 106 FM, KOOL FM and RJR (and huge thanks to them and all media and other supporters). Politician-turned-talk-show-host Sharon Hay Webster conducted an excellent interview with Judith Wedderburn of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung on Newstalk 93 FM.
CVM Television’s Live at Seven did a great job again last week with thought-provoking reports and interviews on challenging topics. Host Simon Crosskill’s interviewing style is direct and unflinching. One discussion I enjoyed was on whether prostitution should be legalized; it was good to see Ian McKnight of Caribbean Vulnerable Communities making some important points.
And on the arts and culture scene… Special, special congratulations to young Jamaican Ann Margaret Lim, who has received a Special Mention in the poetry section longlist of the 2013 OCM Bocas Prize. I wrote about the launch of her delicious collection “The Festival of Wild Orchid” last year. Overseas-based Jamaican novelist Anthony Winkler is also on the list; as well as Jamaican historian Dave St Aubyn Gosse for his book “Abolition and Plantation Management in Jamaica, 1807–1838″ – another Special Mention. Congratulations and good luck to all!
The Kingston Book Festival organized by the Book Industry Association of Jamaica kicked off today and we look forward to the next week’s vibrant events. Do support! You can find details on their Facebook page and from @kgnbookfest on Twitter.
Awesome to see our recent Grammy Award winner Jimmy Cliff at the U.S. Embassy’s “Blues on the Green” concert, an always wondrous musical event rounding off Black History Month, in Kingston’s Emancipation Park. Although I wasn’t able to attend myself, it was good to see Mr. Cliff enjoying the music of the young American jazz singing group Traces of Blue alongside U.S. Ambassador to Jamaica Pamela Bridgewater. Check out the U.S. Embassy Jamaica Facebook page for great photographs…
And finally, congratulations to Margaret and Michael Stanley on their brilliant (and literally brilliant) exhibition “Red…and other Colors” which continues at the Grosvenor Gallery in Manor Park, Kingston, until March 9. And if you haven’t caught it yet, the National Biennial continues at the National Gallery of Jamaica until the same date! Do not miss these!
On women’s leadership, I will end with a quote from one of my “tweeps”: “Oh God! All these disastrous women in Jamaican politics. Where are the women who actually reflect our innate strength and wisdom?”
It has been another tragic week. A young woman severely injured by her ex-husband died one week after the man had killed her mother. And there was the appalling murder/suicide by a man who killed his two young children and then himself. The mother was reportedly trying to end the relationship. These occurrences are more than “crimes of passion.” I am grieving with the families of all those who died. And I wish the men would understand that women, too, have freedom of choice in whom they love or choose not to love. Men, you need to let go. Just let go.
“Grung Gad,” 26, Standpipe, Kingston 6
Maxine Fearon, 45, Ballard’s River, Clarendon
Tamara Fearon, 27, Ballard’s River, Clarendon
Kenrick Tyndale, 26, Palmetto Pen, Clarendon
Tashina Lewin, 17, Woodside, Clarendon
K-Lee Mullings, two, Wait-a-Bit, Trelawny
Kimocoya Mullings, four,Wait-a-Bit, Trelawny
Courtney Ellis, 34, Retreat, St. Mary
Howard Hull, 40, Old Harbour Bay, St. Catherine
By the police:
“Dennis,” 20, Sevens Road, Clarendon
Kemar Witter, 26, Cambridge, St. James
Related articles: Local blog posts in purple
http://www.caribjournal.com/2013/03/01/dennis-chung-jamaicas-survival-under-the-international-monetary-fund/ Dennis Chung: Jamaica’s survival under the International Monetary Fund: Caribbean Journal
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/ratings-agency-fitch-upgrades-jamaica Ratings agency Fitch upgrades Jamaica: RJR News
http://digjamaica.com/blog/2013/02/28/and-the-dollar-slide-hastens-j-loses-3-2-of-value-in-february/ And the dollar hastens! J$ loses 3.2% of value in February: digjamaica.com
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/More-debt-_13763419 More debt! Jamaica owes international bodies $794 million: Sunday Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130302/letters/letters2.html Time to revolt against taxes: Rev. Clinton Chisholm letter to Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130303/cleisure/cleisure2.html There’s a hole in the bucket: Claude Clarke column/Sunday Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/Avoid-the-triumph-of-expediency-over-pragmatism_13748478 Avoid the triumph of expediency over pragmatism: Jamaica Observer editorial
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Trust–governance–and-the-national-good_13752498 Trust, governance and the national good: Howard Gregory column/Sunday Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Expect-no-shared-sacrifice-from-the-PNP-Administration_13757557 Expect no shared sacrifice from the PNP administration: Mark Wignall column/Sunday Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130303/focus/focus6.html Singapore, symbolism and “shared sacrifice”: Martin Henry column/Sunday Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/A-more-vigilant-population-_13752407 A more vigilant population? David Mullings column/Sunday Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130228/news/news1.html That $44 billion NHT “contribution”: Bruce Golding op-ed/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Court-action-to-block-NHT-withdrawal-postponed_13757980 Court action to block NHT withdrawal postponed: Jamaica Observer
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/hartford-police-launches-probe-into-fire-truck-donated-to-jamaica Hartford police launches probe into fire truck donated to Jamaica: RJR News
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/policeman-accused-of-killing-colleague-freed Policeman accused of killing colleague freed: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130303/lead/lead11.html Murder, jail and a baffling birth: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130303/lead/lead5.html The wild west: Haven for corrupt cops: Sunday Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130303/focus/focus4.html Putting brakes on corruption: Martin Henry column/Sunday Gleaner
http://www.og.nr/rbt/12388-corporal-surrenders-to-police-following-negril-robbery.html Corporal surrenders to police following Negril robbery: On the Ground News Reports
http://www.cvmtv.com/story.php?id=3036&type=newswatch No motive yet for murder of politician’s husband: CVM Television
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130302/cleisure/cleisure4.html Why are Jamaicans so bloody violent? Ethon Lowe op-ed/Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130302/letters/letters6.html In loving memory and honor of Sheriefa Saddler: Letter to the editor/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Death-of-a-bold–young-visionary_13761551 Death of a bold young visionary: Sunday Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Show-us-the-plan-and-we-ll-help_13734237 Show us the plan and we’ll help: Sunday Observer
http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/attorney-outlines-significance-of-ccj-sitting-in-jamaica Attorney outlines significance of sitting of CCJ in Jamaica: RJR News
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20130228/cleisure/cleisure3.html Expelling adolescent mothers unjust: Jaevion Nelson column/Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/A-war-against-women-and-children_13757571 A war against women and children: Letter to Sunday Observer
http://jamaicajournal.wordpress.com/2013/03/01/51-coalition-calls-for-more-women-in-leadership-roles-in-jamaica/ 51% Coalition calls for more women in leadership roles in Jamaica: jamaicajournal.wordpress.com
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads/33120 KSAC to place more focus on the homeless: Jamaica Information Service
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Divine-Intervention_13758266 Restaurateur has a mission to uplift the homeless: Sunday Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Street-side-chef-gets-a-boost_13701855?fb_ref=storypage Street side chef gets a boost: Sunday Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/NEPA-continues-probe-into-sickening-fumes_13756780 NEPA continues probe into sickening fumes: Jamaica Observer
http://www.kimroybailey.com/2013/03/offshoreeconomics.html Invest the IMF loan in an offshore windfarm: kimroybailey.com
http://www.televisionjamaica.com/Programmes/AllAngles.aspx/Videos/24586 Riverton City landfill fire, one year later: All Angles/TV Jamaica
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Make-rainwater-harvesting-compulsory_13761729 Make rainwater harvesting compulsory: Sunday Observer
http://www.bocaslitfest.com/2013/2013-ocm-bocas-prize-longlist-announced/ 2013 Bocas Prize longlist announced: http://www.bocaslitfest.com
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/03/02/seeing-red-with-the-stanleys/ Seeing Red with the Stanleys: petchary.wordpress.com
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/02/20/a-burst-of-biennial-magic/ A burst of Biennial magic: petchary.wordpress.com
http://petchary.wordpress.com/2012/10/16/the-festival-of-wild-orchid-a-poem-for-national-heroes-day/ The Festival of Wild Orchid: A Poem for National Heroes Day: petchary.wordpress.com
http://repeatingislands.com/2013/02/27/haiti-jamaicas-embarrassment/ Haiti: Jamaica’s embarrassment: repeatingislands.com
Yes, we are striding into the next fifty years full of confidence and braggadocio (what a great word that is!) after our command performance at the London Olympics. (I am planning a couple more posts on that topic, so will not get side-tracked here). Many Jamaicans believe that this euphoric wave (which might last for another week or two) will somehow carry the island forward in a spirit of love and unity. Others believe that our twelve medals will somehow boost Jamaica’s economic recovery. Our Prime Minister is still on a high, and milking both the Jamaica 50 celebrations and the Olympic achievements for all they are worth.
Well, that’s what politicians do. Cynics like me have strong doubts about it all.
So let us look at other matters. Among those issues pushed on one side for discussion later, there is that little matter of education. The results of the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examinations were released by the Caribbean Examinations Council on Friday. Our eloquent Education Minister Ronald Thwaites declared himself “very disappointed.” I think “horrified,” or perhaps to use an awful English expression “gobsmacked” might have been a better word. But then Minister Thwaites, having reflected further, described the results later as “a very disastrous lurch downwards.” That’s more like it.
Of the so-called “cohort” of students who are actually allowed to sit the exams (which is only a fraction of the school population) only 31.7 per cent passed the Mathematics paper. Fewer passed than in 2011 (a mere 33.2 per cent), which was lower than 201o (a less than impressive 39.5 per cent). Passes in English Language showed a dramatic drop from 64.9 per cent (2010) and 63.9 per cent (2012) to 46.2 per cent. Again, this was only the results for those entered for the exam; many others – I will have to check the percentage – will have left secondary school with neither English nor Mathematics passes, one presumes. Plus, of course, well over half the students who did prepare for the exams – a two-year syllabus. What is to happen to these thousands of young people?
How can we talk about striding into the next fifty years, when our young people are so poorly educated/uneducated/hardly literate/innumerate/untrained? Is this our work force of the future? One hopes for proper analysis, discussion – and solutions – to this crisis in the next few weeks. Yes, I do believe this is a crisis. If this isn’t a crisis, then what is? Will we finally panic when we get down to 20 per cent passes?
Meanwhile, Minister Thwaites has suggested cutting teachers’ vacation leave in order to deal with the issue of teachers’ unemployment. Yes, hundreds of teachers qualify every year and many cannot find work. Even those who have been urged to go into early childhood education – supposedly the government’s priority – are finding no jobs after they have graduated from teachers’ college. And what is being taught at those colleges? Are our teachers really equipped to go into a class of forty or so students and teach properly?
OK. SMH as they say in social media. Meanwhile Minister Thwaites has other issues to deal with. For a start, around 200 Jamaican schools still use pit latrines – in other words, the children use a dark, evil-smelling hole in the ground as a toilet. One such rural school made the front page of the Gleaner this week. The Minister took pity on the school and has issued an edict for real toilets to be installed by the beginning of the school year. When will the other 199 or so schools get their toilets, I wonder? (Having personally seen the condition of some school toilets that are not pit latrines, I can say that sanitary conditions in many schools are pretty disgusting).
Another burning issue for Minister Thwaites: the bookmarks. Bookmarks, you may ask, what bookmarks? Well, a great deal of hot air is being blown about over the printing of 100,000 bookmarks as gifts to the students of secondary schools. Minister Thwaites had asked for as many schools as possible to recognize Independence Day (August 6). The bookmarks were to be distributed as souvenirs. Anyway, these bookmarks bore the smiling face of the Minister superimposed on the Jamaican flag. Opposition Leader (and former Education Minister) Andrew Holness was furious. (There seem to be so many “flag issues” don’t there?) He has called in the intrepid Contractor General, Greg Christie, to investigate procurement and other concerns. I understand that the offending bookmarks, which are now useless, cost J$1.7 million. This would be enough to fund a non-governmental organization serving Jamaican children for at least six months.
We will no doubt never get to the “truth” on this matter, but meanwhile – I wonder who authorized this? Did they really think this was OK, protocol-wise?
While we were all celebrating, Western Union shut down the operations of fourteen overseas branches in and around Montego Bay. We didn’t really see this one coming, and anyway we were in the clutches of full-fledged “Olympicitis” by then. The only conversations were about finals and semi-finals on the track.
The closure was, of course, connected to the heinous lottery scam. This remittance service has become a conduit for the activities of our Jamaican-based criminals, and I am, like the Gleaner, somewhat surprised that this did not happen sooner. The closure is expected to last for two weeks – possibly more – and it will not be business as usual when they reopen (or at any other branch in Jamaica either, one hopes).
Meanwhile those poor and needy people who depend on remittances from Jamaican family members living overseas were thrown into panic at the closure. I was amazed – and depressed – to see the crowds of Jamaicans, young and old, thronging the Western Union offices. Some did not even have the money to travel down the road to Hanover to collect their money. Women said they depended on the money to send their children to school. Little old ladies and frail old gentlemen were thrown into despair. Somehow, it frightened me to see such dependency. Although I should not have been surprised.
The Gleaner served up a number of punchy editorials this week, as if determined not to be distracted by the dancing in Half Way Tree, joyful as it may be. One suggested, “There is a sense that ministers are off on independent programs, seeking to outdo each other, rather than being part of a coherent whole.“ Is this fair, one wonders? And if so, what is Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke doing about the growing food crisis? Ah – that might be a topic for another blog post; because this issue is not going to go away any time soon. Even the Observer got tetchy on the subject this week, with an editorial that pointed out rising grain prices in the United States, our huge food import bill, and the lack of a clear strategy to deal with food security. With another quick left hook, the Gleaner - while congratulating Minister Clarke on his national honor, a Commander of the Order of Distinction – reprimanded him for his lack of vision on the matter.
Vision. There’s a big word. It’s something we seem to be searching for, sadly and with increasing weariness. Like Growth. And Leadership! And Investment. And, oh yes, Unity!
And here are a couple of things I was less than excited about last week:
Winston Hubert McIntosh (better known as Peter Tosh) received a posthumous Order of Merit (O.M.) in the Independence National Honors. The weed-smoking, profane, rebellious, unicycling Tosh, a former member of the Wailers, was murdered in 1987. He still has a website, liberally sprinkled with ganja leaves. I remember he was well-known for his obscene language on stage (but of course, that is quite accepted these days) – part of his rebelliousness, one supposes – and he played a guitar shaped like an M-16 on stage, too. Yes, a great role model.
Having said all that, I love Mr. McIntosh’s music and always have done. And yes, he spoke out against apartheid (so did almost every other singer at that time) and “Equal Rights and Justice” is a brilliant song. But I don’t think that is enough to get the third highest honor in Jamaica. Plus, I don’t really believe in the posthumous thing. If they didn’t deserve one when they were alive then why give people an award when they are six feet under, many years later? I’m sure Tosh wouldn’t care and might well refuse it, as John Lennon refused a National Honor. I also know that, although our current Transport Minister reveres the reggae musician, if the anti-establishment Tosh were alive today he would not be so popular with politicians. Didn’t he invent the word “politricks” ? He would be giving them hell.
An article, headlined “500 new houses for Coral Springs,” puzzled me this week. The article declared that the said homes would be built “in the dry limestone forests surrounding an already existing housing estate in Coral Springs.“ This is in Trelawny, western Jamaica. Presumably that existing housing estate was also built on previously existing dry limestone forest. Forgive me for enquiring, but isn’t dry limestone forest a special ecosystem, an environment that is becoming very scarce indeed in Jamaica and that is home to the endangered iguana and other creatures? Am I missing something here? Someone explain please?
Finally, is this the only way that Red Stripe beer can think of to advertise its product? How sad. And how unoriginal. Like those endless dancehall videos. Bottoms…protruding everywhere.
And much more inspiring…
Congrats to the Braco Village Hotel, which won a TripAdvisor Award after only being open for a couple of months. I swear by TripAdvisor and am one of its “senior reviewers.” I make hotel and other choices based on its reviews. So this means something to me.
As a passionate Arsenal Football Club fan, what’s not to love about the Observer Lifestyle Team’s great feature on the club’s haute cuisine a few days ago. Yes, chef Collin Brown can whip up a wicked jerk chicken roulade. Go Gunners! The new season awaits!
And kudos to the Observer reader, who gave Independence Day gifts to students from the difficult Mountain View Avenue area of Kingston. There was a touching article about this by the Observer’s Kimmo Matthews, which unfortunately I am unable to locate – but it really was quite moving. I will try to find the link. Such gestures of human kindness are what the “spirit of Independence” is about, no? P.S. For more reflections on Jamaica 5o and Independence, I would like to refer you to fellow blogger Annie Paul’s blog and 2009 article, “Do you remember the days of slav’ry?” The link is below.
As always, I extend my deepest sympathies to the families and friends, brothers and sisters, girlfriends, husbands and wives of the following persons who died violently this week:
Ms. Natasha Dixon, 29, Mandeville, Manchester
Oneil Livingston, 26, Mark Lane, Kingston
Unidentified man, Grier Park, St. Ann
Unidentified man, Lawrence Tavern, St. Andrew
Paul Cooper, 44, Savanna-la-Mar, Westmoreland
Unidentified man, King Street, Kingston
Unidentified man, Charles Street, Kingston 13
Cecil Elson, 45, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Related websites and articles:
http://www.cxc.org (Caribbean Examinations Council website)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120811/news/news6.html (Shocking CSEC results)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120810/lead/lead92.html (Cut vacation leave, employ more teachers)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120808/lead/lead8.html (Mt. Rosser Primary pleads for proper sanitary facilities)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Thwaites-says-he-s-ready-for-probe-on-bookmarks (Thwaites says he’s ready for probe on bookmarks)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Spanish-Town-hospital-patients-transferred-to-Linstead (Spanish Town Hospital patients transferred to Linstead)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120809/cleisure/cleisure1.html (Warning from Western Union – Gleaner editorial)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120808/lead/lead2.html (Western Union operators pushing to implement new security measures)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120812/cleisure/cleisure1.html (Food crisis and a disjointed Government – Sunday Gleaner editorial)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120810/cleisure/cleisure1.html (Incoherent Government – Gleaner editorial)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120808/cleisure/cleisure1.html (Beyond Roger Clarke’s C.D. – Gleaner editorial)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/editorial/Seizing-the-moment-in-a-time-of-crisis_12216161 (Seizing the moment in a time of crisis – Observer editorial)
http://petertosh.com (Peter Tosh website)
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120808/cleisure/cleisure3.html (O.M. for Peter Tosh? No way!)
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/Five-hundred-new-houses-for-Coral-Springs_12224190 (500 new houses for Coral Springs)
http://www.bracobeachresort.com (Braco Village Hotel & Spa website)
http://anniepaul.net/2012/08/01/do-you-remember-the-days-of-slavry/ and http://anniepaulose.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/the-days-of-slavry1.pdf (Do you remember the days of slav’ry? Annie Paul blog and 2009 article)
The summer of 2011 wears on, with all its attendant troubles. Hurricane Irene steered well clear of Jamaica, but has been pounding the small and scattered islands of the Bahamas and is now turning its vengeful eye slowly northwards to the east coast of the United States. She’s a mean one. Meanwhile, elsewhere in the hemisphere, three hand grenades were thrown into a casino (Mexico); demonstrators have acquired a taste for rioting and looting (Chile); two European tourists died of heat exhaustion in Joshua Tree Desert (California); there were a couple of major earthquakes this week (Virginia, Peru); and an online journalist was murdered (Mexico again, and this is sadly not an unusual occurrence).
Everything is over-heated and miserable. But hey! The League is back!
Not the League of Gentlemen. In fact, there aren’t many gentlemen in it these days, but who cares? It’s not about good manners. Sports never really was, although it has such pretenses. (Is cricket a gentlemanly game? Perhaps it still has some vestige of decorum…)
But the Petchary digresses. It’s the English Premier League, of course. The season just began, with all its promise and hopes (and fears, for some) and its reinvigorated players throwing tons of testosterone all around the pitch. The fans (including myself) have been waiting for weeks through the tedious football-less summer weekends. The Copa America was enjoyable enough, and my personal admiration for Uruguay’s flaxen-haired star Diego Forlan increased a thousandfold.
But listen, there’s nothing like the Premier League. Week after week it ebbs and flows. The newly promoted teams flounder and try to keep their balance, now they are hanging with the big boys. The big boys themselves flex their muscles and act as if they have already won the League (but they know the race is not for the swift). The middling teams vow that they will do far better this season, because they’ve just signed Joe Bloggs, the latest hot striker (Mr. Bloggs then goes on to score three goals for the season). The managers chew gum rapidly (the ageing Sir Alex Ferguson is the worst gum-chewer of them all); the players curse (lip-reading is easy – their vocabulary isn’t very extensive); the referees make infuriating mistakes and you wonder if they are completely blind; the linesmen hold themselves erect and look very satisfied, even when they have made yet another terrible offside call; and the fans boo, whistle, and sing their team songs (have you heard the Manchester City fans’ rendition of “Blue Moon”? Richard Rodgers would turn in his grave. It was such a lovely melody…) And my son agonizes over his fantasy football team every weekend.
I will comment on the prospects for my beloved team Arsenal Football Club in another blog, when I have composed my thoughts. Suffice it to say that Arsenal qualified emphatically for the Champions League this week, defeating the diving players of Udinese on their home turf. This was due in large part to the stunning save of a penalty (and other great saves) by our wonderful young goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny (try saying that when you’ve had a few drinks).
Yes, it’s been a stinking summer so far. But thank God for the League! Welcome back, all you saints and sinners! We’ve missed you.
- “Spring tide” could boost Irene’s storm surge (cbsnews.com)
- VIDEO: Hurricane Irene batters Bahamas (bbc.co.uk)
- 8 dead in grenade attack on northern Mexico casino (sfgate.com)
- Hurricane Irene in pictures (telegraph.co.uk)
- My Copa runneth over (petchary.wordpress.com)
- English Premier League Power Rankings: Week 1 (bleacherreport.com)
- English Premier League: Predicting the Results in Week 3 (bleacherreport.com)
- Fantasy Premier League Tips: Gameweek 3 (epltalk.com)
- Udinese 1-2 Arsenal: Champions League Football Awaits Arsenal. (oleole.com)
- Wojciech Szczesny savours Arsenal’s mental toughness against Udinese (guardian.co.uk)
- Arsenal win £25m Champions League shootout against Udinese to earn Arsene Wenger a reprieve (telegraph.co.uk)
There is a page on Facebook on which one can express one’s thankfulness for perceived blessings and the receipt of such. Often, the posts express very broad “and first of all, I would like to thank God” type sentiments – spiritual and heartfelt. But the Petchary usually feels thankful for the simple, basic things – a good cup of coffee, for example, or an emphatic win by Arsenal Football Club. Today, she is grateful for the rain – the dripping trees, the sharper green of the garden, the birds preening themselves on the wire, the cool air drifting through the house.
So, thank you rain, and the bringer of rain. To the ancient Romans, that was Jupiter.
“The thirsty earth soaks up the rain,
And drinks, and gapes for drink again.
The plants suck in the earth, and are
With constant drinking, fresh and fair.”
(Abraham Cowley, 1618-1667)
- Seven things to be grateful for when it takes you an hour to remember where you parked your car (seventhingsinaday.wordpress.com)
- A Grateful Writer Says “Thank You” (risingdano.wordpress.com)
- A Watery Tale (petchary.wordpress.com)
From time to time, the Petchary will feel compelled to write about one of her passions… Football. Yes, the World Cup is over, but the English Premier League is alive and well and, as usual, becoming more engrossing as Christmas comes onto the horizon. The Petchary has already declared her allegiance to a certain North London team, but has to take pause to celebrate the marvelous skill and engaging endeavor of Mr. Carlos Tevez, currently wearing that pale sky blue of Manchester City (like the Cambridge University colors – and as an Oxford graduate the Petchary takes exception to that particular shade). He was sold by the irascible Sir Alex Ferguson of Manchester United but is still living in the same brash Midlands city. And working wonders.
Now the Petchary also has to declare a great fondness for Argentine football – gritty, attacking, never say die. She was saddened by their sudden and unexpected loss to the squeaky clean Germans in the World Cup. But let us move on. There is something endearing about Mr. Tevez, who is now atop the list of Premier League strikers, having scored in almost every game he has played in so far. What a treasure he is.
Why is he so appealing? Apart from his obvious skills on the field, Mr. Tevez is no pretty boy. He doesn’t spend hours in front of a mirror, tweaking his hair with hair gel, like one of his former colleagues at Manchester United. In fact, until he was shorn recently (the Petchary disapproves of his very dull new haircut) his hair was extremely wayward, held in place with difficulty by an assortment of hair bands. Sometimes it hung down in greasy strands, as if he hadn’t washed it for weeks. Along with his thick black eyebrows, and most remarkably his mouth, full of teeth just a bit too large and crooked, he is not – nor ever could be – Mr. Glamorous. And the Petchary loves him just the way he is!
Did you know Tevez isn’t his real name? He was born Carlos Alberto Martinez in 1984 and grew up on a public housing complex – four tall high-rise buildings – in Buenos Aires nicknamed Fuerte Apache, after the gangster movie “Fort Apache the Bronx.” Much like some of Kingston’s neighborhoods named after battlegrounds, this tells you something about the neighborhood. Young Carlos’ nickname became El Apache.
You may also have noticed a really bad scar on Mr. Tevez’ neck. I learnt that it was actually from a childhood injury – he was scalded by boiling water in the kitchen. He could certainly afford to get cosmetic surgery done on it, but apparently he does not wish to, so that he does not forget his tough urban roots. We should never forget our roots, wherever we come from, should we?
What brings Tevez joy is his goals. It’s that look of sheer delight, his enormous crazy smile, and his uninhibited, almost childlike celebration that is infectious. Here he is, celebrating his second goal over newcomers Blackpool on October 18. Once again, those big teeth come in useful…
And a rather belated congratulations to the bustling, eager striker from Fuerte Apache: on the birth of your little daughter Katia, earlier this year. Life is good for Mr. Tevez.
Footnote: The only regret the Petchary has is that he was not snapped up by the (currently third place) team Arsenal, where her allegiance lies…When they had the chance. Sigh.
The Petchary does like Spike. Always did. Even more what he has been doing the past few years. Documentary film, if done in a clear-eyed way (not the remorseless agenda of Michael Moore, although I am sure he means well?) can be a powerful communicator.
Now the eagle-eyed, sharp-witted Mr. Lee, sporting his traditional New York Knicks baseball cap, has gone back down south to the battered, storm-stricken, oil-besmirched Gulf. It is the dirty, sad old continuation of his previous film, four years ago, on the surreal nightmare of Hurricane Katrina. His latest HBO film is “If God Is Willing and da Creek Don’t Rise” (a folk saying that has more than a touch of ambivalence, doubt and cynicism – as if to say, it might just never happen). This sense of distrust has pervaded the last few years since Katrina took New Orleans into its dark and watery embrace.
People talk glibly about post-traumatic stress disorder. As the hurricane season begins to ruffle the seas and cloud our tropical skies, the five-year anniversary of Katrina looms on the horizon. For many residents of New Orleans and its surroundings, the trauma continues. It is an extended trauma, not a “one-off” event. The psychological scars are deeper still than the rutted roads and the floods of Lake Pontchartrain.
And battalions of engineers are discussing new flood control systems, new and better levees, “inundation zones,” and such. And actors bristle with well-intentioned indignation, like Sean Penn and (in the case of Spike’s latest film) Brad Pitt, and probably others. And sincere community groups are starting to fit the pieces back together – not completely as they were before, because some of the jigsaw puzzle pieces are broken and some missing altogether. And residents are trying to become human again.
The Petchary’s son went to New Orleans three years ago on a Spring Break mission. He was in two worlds, two minds: every day they were clearing out houses that had been filled to the brim with water and never touched since Katrina. They dressed in protective suits like people who work in nuclear power stations, barely recognizable. And then in the evenings, they strolled down Bourbon Street like ordinary tourists, stopping in the doorways of bars with the warm, living music pouring out onto the street. He returned overwhelmed by the experience.
Footnote: Spike’s very first movie had the wonderful title “Joe’s Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads,” made when he was a student with another powerful director, Ang Lee, as assistant director. They were still students, and they won a Student Academy Award, with Spike’s dad writing the score. What an impressive start.
And another thing to like about Mr. Spike Lee (at least in the Petchary’s book): He is a fan of Arsenal Football Club of North London. A man of good taste and class.