Relearning my alphabet

I've had a whale of a time trying to get people to understand me for the past few weeks. Since last Saturday, it has been a bit easier–I'm in Lonnon in eye. You what?

English is hard, especially spoken by the Brits.

I was in a posh bit of London yesterday, Highgate, when I passed a store selling a chart of the 'Cockney alphabet'. I glanced at it and had to take a snap, when I saw 'B for mutton', 'C for miles'.Brilliant! If you haven't figured out how that works, then I am sorry for you. 'X for breakfast'? Surely, you've gorrit now! 🙄

Sympathy in London only goes so far.

I just moved from watching some test cricket to get a cuppa cha, when I heard a presenter utter 'Well, it's your daughter…' I had heard hear talk about going out and getting plastered but how did her child get involved? She hadn't. The lass had said 'It's your door to…' but in'at way Lonnoners do, had dropped a few consonants. Well, Jamaican Patois should have my brain well wired fedat, but of course, it don't work lie vat. Y'knowhaamean?

French friends who were here for the weekend struggled to get the hang of Patois. They did well, even able to use 'Awoah!' well in a sentence. I'm not sure they would get far in Coronation Market, or in London because the basic understandings are always made murky by individual tones and illusions.

We were on The Tube and an announcement was made. I looked at my French friends for any sign of comprehension or concern: none.

The diction of the automatic announcement was crystal clear, but it used a few phrases that just throw people. 'Mind the gap!' and 'Alight here!' and 'southbound on the Northern Line' take a bit of nous to decipher.

Any road, we'll venture out again to get our ears tuned. It's more fun than before with so many speaking English who are not native speakers. Imagine, I say 'Uber' and you hear 'taxi'.🤔

I'll be in Boots, later, and look for something for me feet, after all the walking I've done. 😊

Don’t be fooled: Jamaicans have dreams!

I have not read the survey that led to the Gleaner writing 'No time to dream', but I can tell you that it's utter rubbish–or twaddle, which is my preferred word for things I think are rubbish. The conclusion comes because over 50% cannot articulate their dream?

Because I cannot tell you what I want for my teenage daughter, you will tell me that I have no dream for her future? Get out of here! I see her hard work and I hope it turns her into more than a child who had hard work and a wish to do better. If she manages to fulfill her potential as a swimmer, she may not become an Olympian or even represent her country, or even go on to the podium as a winner, but she would have done her very best with what she had. That, my dear friend, is still the stuff of dreams.

Because my parents had no idea what to expect when they boarded BOAC planes in 1961 and went to England, you want to tell me they had no dreams? One dream was to find work in a country where their qualifications not their connections could get them through the interviews for the jobs they knew they could do. Did that dream materialize? If it did, it was not just due to their wishing it; others had to believe in it.

If some want to say that Jamaicans have no dreams, then look beyond those who wish to dream and look at those who have the power to help dreams be fulfilled. If I need to point out to you to the dream dashers, who crush the hopes of those who wish to be dream makers, then you really have not been paying attention.

I dreamt I could make my parents proud. I dreamt that my grandmother would never stop making her delicious bread and butter pudding. I dreamt that I could eat mangoes and my belly never swell and hurt. I dreamt that when I fell from the tree and my knee was split that my father would believe that I just fell, and had never climbed the tree he told me not to. I dreamt that one day I could jump into the sea and swim without getting tired, and float on my back for hours. I dreamt that dumpling and salt is his on Sunday morning would never finish.

Stop tell lie! Jamaicans have plenty of dreams. They're just not stilted ideas. Because they may be simple, doesn't mean they should be ignored or diminished. That smacks of a certain arrogance in how people–dare I say, some intellectuals–want to shape the world.

Step out of the box and see on what it has been standing.

Ironically, I watched a programme last night on ITV ('Secret history of our streets') about people who live and lived near Caledonian Road, a place often better known for druggies, criminals, prostitutes and life's outcasts. It discussed how one landowner had a vision for developing a huge parcel of land and built tony homes around a square. Others had other ideas and tried to get their piece of the land speculation pie by piling in lower cost housing. Then, the government thought it would be great to build a prison in the neighbourhood–always good for property values and prospects. Then, the railways decided to heavy-handedly develop King's Cross. Waves of workers, followed by waves of cattle, followed by waves of immigrants, descended on the area, and it because the pits. It's the rich who get the pleasure, and the poor who get the blame…

Fast forward. In the 1950s and 1960s some residents had ideas of making the place better and reclaimed old car parks and turned them into green courtyards. Voila! A Jamaican immigrant bought a small house, and several more and rented them and raised his family with his Irish wife; he was later forced to sell as another rail scheme took shape. His daughter, who moved from their row house to a council flat, said her dream was to have a 2-bedroom flat in the estate and raise two children. She did it! She talked about working in Tesco's and 'handing on' goods to neighbours and friends, so that they could get by: that's how it was. Now, in her 50s, she's just bought a pub and got to know how to run it from old pub locals. It's now a place for reminiscing and trying to keep the old working class fabric in tact, as the area becomes gentrified. A Cypriot man, exiled from his war-torn island, but versed in insolvency accounting, bent rules and bought up property and rented box-sized rooms to anyone needing shelter. He's now filthy rich and people pay cheaply to have shelter that has little or no ventilation. One day, they may move out and see real sunlight and maybe get a nice place in Thornhill Square.

Those are all people with dreams; all different, but realizable. If they are just about survival, that doesn't make them worthless.

Peace! Out!

The streets of London

It's always fun and instructive to revisit old haunts with people who've never been to them before. So, visiting London, where I lived for over 30 years, has been lots of fun. This time, my teenager was again with me and her memories of places she had visited several times before are buried in the recesses of her memories, filed under 'less than 6 months old', 'less than teenager', and 'teenager but busy Snapchatting'. My wife's memories are better but sometimes co-mingled with those of other visits. My friends, both those from Jamaica, who know London a bit, and those from France where this is as well known to the French as how to make Yorkshire pudding are lapping up what they can, each day.

The French adults are great: just suggest something to them and next thing is they are trying to arrange to do it. So, after arriving via EasyJet on Saturday and smothering us in hugs and kisses (because we've known them for about 12 years, but my wife hadn't seen them for about 10 years, and 'the baby' whom they saw 3 years ago has now shot up in height and changed looks), they slept well and were off early on Sunday morning to find a tour bus to see all of the major sights. We'd not see them again till noon, when they were running back into the hotel breathlessly, after leaving the bus, walking through Hyde Park, negotiations the Tube, and getting back to the hotel on foot. Phoof! πŸ™‚ We'd planned to take them to have afternoon tea at the Wallace Collection, just off Oxford Street. If you don't know this gallery of fine art then shame and discover fast next time–it's free–as it's tea room, located in the back, is a gem. 'Ah, wow!' That's French for 'Oh, wow!'

We took in the latest display, which was ironically from the 'gilded age' of Louis XIV (14 for those who didn't do Latin). 'Ah, wow!' After a gobful of richness, I suggested a walk outside before our tea reservation. I decided to not follow my wife and daughter, whose shopping genes were kicking in as I saw them heading south towards Duke Street/Oxford Street. I took my French friends north to George Street and gave them a mini-tour of four blocks of potted social and economic history.

Row houses, that were chic; mews where former stables now gave people small apartments; public housing that has now become the habitation of the well-to-do. Massive structures that told you about the concentration of people and money that still exists today. Did we lose count of the number of Rolls Royces that passed? πŸ™‚

I showed them the Post Office Tower, a marvel still, with its revolving restaurant: "It moves!" my friend told me, after he'd stood staring for five minutes. I explained what I recalled of it's opening as a telecommunications marvel. My father worked for the Post Office at the time. I also mentioned the underground mail railway that few knew existed, that transported mail through the city. I now see that this month the Post Office has opened it to the public as an historic feature on which rides can be taken. My father worked for a time at the Western District Office, at Rathbone Place, and I remember his showing me this amazing sight of dark tunnels and mini-trains.

I also showed my friends pieces of urban architecture that are easily overlooked: footscrapers, from the days when streets were not paved and mud was not to be trailed into the house; coal shutes, looking like manhole covers on the sidewalk, to supply coal into the basements of houses, when coal fires were allowed (those chimneys used to serve a purpose, but bad smog in the 1960s killed that off before it killed off more people). We looked at the reality of 'upstairs, downstairs' as we inspected the many basements. I tried to explain the many squares that one sees in London, which give the city centre and some other areas unexpected greenness and charm. We looked at globalization at large with coffee house chains competing for our money. We looked at some pubs and I explained how they used to enshrine social divisions (no women or children, for a long time; restricted hours; etc.) We explored some public toilets, now beautified, and still functioning, though some have now moved to other uses, such as 'downstairs' clubs. Then, time for tea!

It's a charming part of English culture that holds many little traps. Scones and clotted cream are delicious in the afternoon, with a pot of tea. Now, I'm a bit traditional on this, and explained that the scone should be warm and split by hand, not cut (that way the surface can hold more 'filling'), and that the cream goes on the scone before the strawberry (no other) jam. It's not difficult, so why spoil the pleasure. The arrival of the tray of scones, etc, was followed by more 'Ah, wow!' and then a few more 'Ah, wow!'s Was there ever a time when the French wished they were English? This may be it.

After a long, lazy time working our way through our tea, served appropriately by a French-speaking Congolese man, we ventured out again into the English 'summer'. The ladies went into shops, and I took my friend on a tour of Bond Street and Brook Street, and pointed out how the city had been calmed with more pedestrianization, but also changed immensely with the arrival of Middle-eastern influences such as hookah bars. A quick tour of former places of high fashions, and a look at Claridges, the luxury hotel in Mayfair, with its doormen in their top hats and tails, and we were done. We sat outside the massive structure of Selfridges and talked, then walked through part of the ground floor, where my friend's eyes gazed in amazement. It's incredible to imagine this store in its original time in the early 20th century, once a chain of stores, but since largely sold off, and the flagship store in Oxford Street is the second largest store isn't he UK, after Harrod's.

We got back to mundane things and I gave a little economics lesson about what was going on in London on this calm Sunday, as money chased goods, and supply met demand. Race, colour, gender did not matter so long as the oil of economic logic flowed through the pockets of those carrying bags and goods.

I reminisced about Oxford Street at Christmas-time and gawping as a boy in the 1960s at the lights that stretched all along the street, from Marble Arch to Tottenham Court Road. 'Ah, wow!' πŸ™‚

To pee, or not to pee; that is the question

Countries like Norway are in stark contrast to countries like Jamaica. Nordic countries have long made it clear to citizens that social provisions are costly. For much of their modern history, they levied heavy taxes to pay for these, and people generally accepted the wide range of benefits they could obtain. Countries like Jamaica levied taxes but showed little real benefits in exchange.

But, Norway, like many others, also saw the need for user fees, not general taxes, and these made sense for public and private goods and services.

So, I was only half shocked to find I needed to pay 20 krone (US$2.50) to relieve my bladder. I was more surprised that no payment options were off-limits–a chip and PIN card reader sat on the table manned by the loo-keeper.

I was even more surprised by her unmoving attitude to my suggestion that I could pee without paying. In her words, "Yes, you can pee in your pants, instead!" I looked for nearby trees. 😊

When costs are explicit, we tend to start counting and valuing what we do. A beer at 80 krone is good value? A hamburger at 190 krone?

Of course, I was ready to stock pile on peeing when I found I could go for free, in a restaurant. Oh, dear! That doesn't work.
I saw hordes of tourists lining up at Lillehammer to go for 10 krone a pop. They know value when they see it. 🤔

One lady couldn't figure out the turnstiles to get out, and looked ready to pay again for that.

But, once we know that it costs to get rid of waste, we can think of the input-output analysis. Drink for 80 (or up to 150; it's called IPA for a reason 😂), shed for 20.
Value for money?

Some wonder what you get for your spending a pee for a pee. Upkeep and maintenance? Soft lights and music? Nice paper? Friendly smiles? Tea and cake?

Is it enough to offer relief?

How much of the cost is covered?

In rules-abiding societies, people don't break rules often, even in distress. Sure, some late night revellers may jump the gate and heave many sighs of relief, but such offices are often closed in the evenings. That avoids such behaviour and those who may find 20 krone for a quiet night with hot and cold running water to be good value. (This problem was raised by a bar/restaurant in Oslo.)

In all this, it's intriguing if one's self control can be a function of budgetary needs.

I was amazed that, having seen the need to pay my need to pee receded, and I was able to hold out for another hour. Maybe, like many things we think are free we tend to want to use more of them than we need.

A penny for your thoughts. 🤔🙄

A land where people spend money but don’t count it–#phonebillgate redux

It's extraordinary to think that the finance minister of a heavily indebted country could carry on his or her activities without understanding what they cost the treasury.

It's even more extraordinary that those who advise and support the minister could let him or her carry on this way.

It's SCANDALOUS!

Budget constraints should bind more tightly in such countries all the time for those who get their pay and salaries from the public purse.

It's hard to accept that a minister who acts in this way can reasonably expect to stay in office, especially when the cost involved is high.

It's SCANDALOUS that such activities have to be dragged into the public domain through a request for information.

It's SCANDALOUS that a finance minister doesn't immediately tender his or her resignation when such information becomes public.

Whatever the reasons given for not knowing what costs were being incurred, they all demonstrate a level of carelessness that isn't acceptable in anyone spending other people's money. It's a level of carelessness that shouldn't be tolerated in someone who controls and supposedly manages the nation's finances.

We are Odd. Who are you? A day trip to watch Norwegian football

Let’s get the essentials clear: I am a former footballer (pretty good one, I’d say πŸ™‚ ), I’m a registered coach and referee and I formed my own football team while I was working in the USA. So, I think I know a lot about football. However, these characteristics are also mixed with being a fan of a professional team for nearly 60 years, and one that is not a big club, but one that I grew to love because I lived five minutes from their home ground, and watched as a boy. They have done much better than their resources could explain, rising from the lowest ranks to nearly winning the top league; defeating big clubs when they looked set for defeat; producing international players, who also went on to be great mangers. They never moved home. So, I have spent a lot of time trying to understand how my emotions get pulled and pushed by the actions of other men, some of whom I rate highly and others whom I think ought to be doing other work. I’m also a traditionalist in thinking that you support your local team and that you do not waver in your support if and when your team fails–that’s when they need most support.

So, yesterday, my Norwegian friend drove us 170km south-west from Oslo to his home town of Skien to watch the local team, Odd (The Arrow), play against a team, Viking, from the west coast city of Stavenger. Viking were sitting at the bottom of the league table, while Odd were in the lower half of the table. That didn’t change after the match, which Viking won 2-0. Now, I don’t know the history of the rivalry between the two teams, but know that Odd has won the national cup more than any other team, and one of its players holds the record for the longest headed goal. Viking had been a dominant club in the top division, especially in the 1970s, but have now fallen on harder times. Both clubs were formed in the 19th century, so have deep roots in their communities and in national life. 

Anyway, we were not in Skien for an history lesson, although we started our day there with a visit to the home of playwright and author, Henrik Ibsen, and saw that he lived with his family in comfortable surroundings, before he headed off to Oslo. Skien used to be a logging town in an area also good for skiing. 

After the cultural visit, we went to the central part of the city and found a nice spot for lunch, and enjoyed the never-ending daylight eating by the canals. We then went to the home of some friends, which was just 200 metres from the Skagerrak stadium. The ground sits squarely in a residential community, and holds about 12-13,000 fans. It’s been redeveloped and now also has apartments as part of the complex.

Ibsen’s home

We walked to the stadium and were quickly in the game-day atmosphere.​

​

Skagarak Arena
Fans happily waiting for the match
Friends and fanatics in the crowd πŸ™‚

The atmosphere was interesting to me: the visiting fans had taken over the stadium from the start, with their strong singing and clapping and jumping. Admitted, we were close to them, but the Odd fans, with their drum and flag were at the other end and high up. They seemed to have less voice and not be ready for a constant chanting contest. But, the local fans around us were urging and arguing with their players to do better. I couldn’t understand most of the comments, but they often seemed given with a touch of hostility. But, Viking scored first and early as a through pass caught the goalkeeper hesitating and a little prod under his jumping legs led to 1-0 in favour of Viking. The second goal was also from poor defending when the forward was inside the penalty area without much challenge and the shot was good into the bottom corner. Odd were trying to attack slowly and with deliberation, but not much penetration. Viking were happy to counter-attack. So, at half-time, it didn’t look good for Odd. 

In the second half, they brought on two forwards (one Canadian, the other Senegalese) who were good for a more direct style of attacking and looked good for most of the rest of the game, but in the end the score didn’t change, and it was 2-0 at the end. Some Odd fans had left early sensing that the match was over early in the first half. Viking fans were obviously happy to the end and beyond, and I could imagine them singing and drinking all the way home on their 5 hour drive. ‘We are Viking and we are king!’ would have been a good chant.

My friend took the defeat well. I think he was better behaved because we were visiting. πŸ™‚ We talked a lot about the match and about the team on the drive home. Norwegian football has changed a lot, from the days of being predominately part-time, and Odd’s strengths in finding and developing local talent was not enough to succeed in an era of professionals who could be bought for high fees, especially from overseas. Oddly, one of Odd’s young players is about to be sold to a top Italian side; he did not have a great game and was perhaps protecting himself for his new employers, or just having an off day. 

On our way back to Oslo we stopped for gas and a drink. The air was crisp and windy but sunny. We saw some ball boys with their families and asked how they been chosen. Odd uses youth players from teams in the area, to help forge links. The man with them was a farmer, who explained that cows were no longer good business and he now raised pigs. I suggested he learn how to cook them Jamaican jerk-style and create even better business. Maybe, next time I visit I’ll see a sign saying ‘We sell Odd Jamaican jerk food’ πŸ™„πŸ˜ŠπŸ‘πŸΎπŸ‡―πŸ‡²

Jerk pork

Order, Norwegian disorder

I often say ‘You are what you tolerate’. 

My friend drove through the relatively quiet streets of the outer areas of Oslo this morning, with no rush on his mind. Speed limits are more observed than broken, so movement on the roads is generally calmer. If you want to drive at speed, within higher limits, you can do that on freeways. You do not tend to see much reckless driving going on in areas where there are people or non-motorized vehicles. People tend to take fewer risks with their own and others’ lives. Taxi drivers do not appear to be on kamikaze missions. 

“Stupid!” he said, as a group of young men stood at a road junction, talking, but blocking his view of the traffic coming along the road we needed to cross. “Inconsiderate,” I said. I checked for him and told him when it was clear. The youths were clearly focused on their chatter and not on other things. 

Oslo has sidewalks that are almost as wide as one traffic lane in Jamaica, where we have sidewalks designed for people the size of Norwegian trolls. :(​ The sharing of space between vehicles and pedestrians is more even, and walkers are not expected to give way to vehicles most of the time; the contrary is usually the rule. However, like many people in Jamaica, Norwegians often walk in the road, because the road surface is even and unbroken, so a person pushing a child stroller, for instance, has an easier time in the road. But, that then brings pedestrians into possible conflict with cars, when they were supposed to be separated. Even the best-laid plans often go awry…

“Idiots!” said my friend, as a group of adults and children crossed the road, while the man in the group was checking messages on his mobile phone. Even though people cross roads should get right of way, they have a duty of care. Because of the risk of being hit by trams, I’m not sure if the average pedestrian in Oslo is less focused on checking his/her mobile phone than in other cities, where that risk doesn’t exist.

He parked his car at the golf club, but before we left, he got out and checked that he had parked properly, within the lines painted to mark the parking spaces. “We have lots of rules.” I don’t know if his car would have been towed for ‘inconsiderate’ parking, but it’s something worth thinking about.

We headed to the golf course, where I hoped we could walk, but pointed out to him that some clubs or courses in other places do not allow people who are not playing to go onto the course. That’s partly for the security of golfers who would like to encounter only other golfers unannounced than a possible assailant or someone looking to be a nuisance in some other way. Of course, carrying a set of clubs doesn’t stop you being a psychopath. ​

​This course manager was happy for us to go walking, and some people were even out with children in strollers, and as it was also a cross-country ski area in the winter, had paths and tracks set out ready to use by those who were not just playing with their balls. πŸ™‚ It was lovely, with some nice scenic features, by a lake. However, my friend was concerned that we would disturb the golfers or be in the line of danger. I told him that golfers have the duty to warn those who may be in danger, even though some would not understand the warns. So, “Fore!” might be met with a bewildered gaze as someone waited to hear ‘Five’ and wonder who was counting and why πŸ™‚ Anyway, I tried to keep us out of the line of flight of balls. When I sometimes see tourists walking or running on golf courses on Jamaica’s north coast, I often think they are so smitten by ‘Jamaica, no problem’ that they would be unmoved by a ball hitting them square on teh noggin. 

The course was in very good shape and noticeably free from litter other than fallen leaves and pieces of trees. Funnily, I did not notice any recepticles for trash, so they were either well-hidden, or people were being very carful not to throw away anything, even the remains of fruit they had eaten. I saw no bottles anywhere on the course.  But, this is a society where even if you do not put your trash into separate containers to be recycled, you can take beer cans and bottles back to the store and get back a deposit, so who wants to throw away money? (Truth is, in Jamaica, even with our poorly organized waste management practices, many people make a living out of ‘recycling’, especially things like glass beer bottles and plastic soda bottles. If you look carefully you’ll see people carrying bagful of them around to be ‘traded-in’.)

The rough was nicely maintained and not really a wild mess of bush, as is often the case in Jamaica. I saw no signs warning of alligators, as we now have in Montego Bay, at Cinnamon Hill. Norway does have poisonous snakes–vipers (huggorm, in Norwegian), but I saw no warnings at the Oslo Golf Club. I was not playing, today, but if I do, I’ll be wary of any snakes hiding in holes, which is one of their sneaky tricks. 

Norway has seen its society change dramatically in recent years, as refugees from many places, such as Somalia and Bosnia, have arrived, as well as ‘travellers’ from Romania. Norway also has its share of other Europeans, some of whom came as their economies floundered, or politicians messed up, such as Swedes, Icelanders, Poles, or Ukrainians, who also were ready to work for lower wages than Norwegians. There are also those who who came ‘for a short time’ and never left, and now have children who are Norwegian, with parents from, say the UK. I noticed the manager’s Yorkshire accent, and he explained that he got it from his English parents, who came ‘for a year’ decades ago and never left πŸ™‚

All that is ordered is not that way because it was planned. 

Vacation calories don’t count!

Why would my eldest daughter say this after I showed her this plate of temptations? Could it be that everything is better with bacon?

Bacon rolls

If you raise children a certain way, you shouldn’t be surprised how they turn out. “Eat up!” and a diet of nice meals builds an appreciation of food. Duh!

So, two weeks with an argumentative foodie daughter is my reward. What a joy! πŸ‘πŸ½πŸ˜Š

When we went out, eating and drinking were never far from our minds. 

Pie Gourmet, Fairfax VA
Willard’s BBQ platter
RiRa lamb burger with goat cheese and onions, Georgetown, Washington DC

But, life has consequences and calories do count, just not yet. 

I’ve traded Jamaican warmth and sunshine for European attempts at constant sunshine with intermittent rain. ​

​

But, life goes on and bodies need sustenance. 

I like to try local things, so fish and chips will wait, while I try some Texas BBQ. A pint of Fuller’s will wait, while I taste some craft brews.

Ale sampler, Delirium restaurant, Leesburg VA
  

Was I joking when I said “Try a whale burger!”? Oh, my youngest didn’t believe me but believed her mother on this? Gweh! πŸ˜‚Will we have to reach Lapland to try one? Well, there’s a road we can take. 

Who will pay and when will the price be paid for a ‘calories don’t count’ vacation? Not me and not today, I hope. 

I hear seagulls cawing, so no food is out at sea; inland they come. They’re not on vacation and calories do count. πŸ‘πŸ½

History is our story. Why wont we tell it?

I’ll be brief, as I’ve been on this road before. I don’t like what our tourism ‘product’ is. Why? It gives visitors little that is unique, even though what we offer is often very good. One of the areas where we have missed out on raising the value and difference of what we offer is sharing our history. Now, I’ll not be naive and suggest that our history is all about wonderful and joyous experiences–far from it. But, that’s not what concerns visitors; they want to know and understand a little of what makes the place and people what they are. Take a few examples, from around the world where tourism is really successful.

Britain: It’s steeped in history and makes it important by taking care of the physical structures that are part of that story. You know the sights: Westminster Abbey, Hadrian’s Wall, Charing Cross, castles abound, even Roman roads that are now parts of modern highways.

France, Germany, most of Europe: Go to almost any town, not major city, and you will find something noteworthy about its history as a place of interest–homes, bridges, waterways, forests, etc. You live and breathe the history, that’s been blended in life through the centuries.

USA: An historical infant, yet ready to boast that it has stories to tell, even though when people think hard they have to admire the upstart. But, Gettysburg, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Ellis Island, Charleston, New Orleans, and many more have stories to share, with blood, sweat and even continuing pain.

Asia: Temples, museums, names, and more, evoke centuries past and the threads of tradition that are so important. 

Africa: Not a single country, but in many of them the artifacts and stories are there to see and find, from Casablanca, through Accra, to Timbuktu, to Robin Island, lives past are there to share.

Jamaica? Well, we are not really sure what we want to share so in the meantime much has fallen into waste and disrepair. Kingston has some of the Caribbean region’s most attractive buildings, whether remnants of plantation days or more modern sites. Yet, they’re more notable for neglect than upkeep.

Don’t give me the ‘We don’t have the money’ story! That canard won’t fly. What we don’t have is a vision. Because of that, most of our citizens have been left clueless what to value, even if it’s evocative of the most painful times in our history. 

When we visited Dakar in Senegal, to see a point where slaves were thrown into ships, do you think we laughed and posed by the opening to celebrate the events? No! We might have taken pictures to remind ourselves that our ancestors survived. Did we laugh? No! We shed many tears. But, the images evoked are seared into our minds. 

How many Jamaicans have an inkling about our varied past? Whether we agree on why Ochi Rios has that name, or how Wait-A-Bit managed to be called that, or the historical relevance of Sligoville, we are more or less clueless. Public authorities keep us that way by the simple act of not seeking to highlight anything that could inform. It takes little to put up a sign, and even if it were scratched in charcoal on plywood it would be more than nothing. But, doing nothing is easy! Let’s sit back and claim we need money. We’ve had for decades a pool of unemployed people able to do simple tasks. I’d agree that to give them all decent wage would not be simple, but something in return for work isn’t hard to do, but it takes doing and organizing. 

I walked along a street in Washington DC last night and saw people peering at a stone house, marked ‘Old Stone House’. It’s history was not well known, but it stood there, and had been ‘captured’ to sustain interest. It was closed, but people still wandered up tomit and tried to peer into its windows. To see it derelict would be a travesty. 

That’s part of our problem. Not enough of us feel that dereliction is a travesty. We see it as a state of our condition that can’t be changed. 

I always shed a few tears when I go into downtown Kingston. My memories are few but I remember my father telling me about Back-A-Wall and how the ‘Rasta people’ started to come to capture land and change the city. Tivoli Gardens, now, is both ugly and without its historic soul. A simple plaque would be like a honey pot to many who are curious. But, Kingston has been gutted by allowing it to be ceded to many elements of selfishness, whose dynamics have taken on a force now hard to resist. It’s new mayor seems to be walking against that tide, and he needs much support. Yes, through some spontaneous processes, Tivoli and other places have begun to attract tourists, but it was allowed to feed on itself as a bad place that drove out good. London’s Soho was for long a bad place but it always kept a way in for anyone who could take the bad and pass through. When I was a teenager in London and walking there, I saw prostitution and drug-taking, but knew it was part of a world that wasn’t mine. Those who thrived on that couldn’t make the place so hostile that no one entered. Our criminal classes never seemed to have grasped some simple economic truths about how to do illegal and illicit things and grow the pie for all. (Maybe, it’s because we’re not that smart. But, Atlantic City and Las Vegas are examples of how this understanding can work.)

Where our lack of vision leads us is to not see how one of our many proverbs give much of what we need; how small grains can be collected and made into a bountiful pile. My radical thought would be that every Jamaican feels and is empowered to effect change. But, let’s get there slowly. Each municipality should have an ‘historic charge’ to highlight, say 20 prominent places of interest and erect signs for them. That should be done in consultation with the Jamaican National Heritage Trust, which is poorly funded, but has a better basis in this arena, and has the skeleton on such ideas in place. Now, we can see the committees forming and the bickering starting and little happening. But, we can cut that cord with a few creative strokes of a financial pen. We link action to future funding. I wont spell out the details, but by doing and verifying what’s been done in the past year, say, the treasury would unlock a portion on the next year’s budget. We can figure out the details of who and how verification would be done, but an idea like that can work. 

I don’t want to ignore any historical societies that exist, but they need to play a game that involves a bigger section of society and be much more open and informative about what they do. I harbour no suspicions, but often say that when few people know what an organization does, then it’s as good as it not existing. 

So, as I wander off to places that enjoy sharing that they can trace their history back even 10s of thousands of years, let’s see if our rock can make a fist of going back a few hundred years. Our Taino history would take us even further back, of course, so let’s not settle for the easy stuff πŸ˜ŠπŸ‘πŸΎπŸ‡―πŸ‡²

Linguistic whimsy: doing voylence to the language

Without doubt, those of us who have mastered the standard version of a tongue (in this case, English), can and do get annoyed when we hear it being ‘massacred’. But, usually, we’re making too much fuss, because we know what people are trying to say, even when they are chewing the words like tough leather.

Jamaicans have done a real number on English, to the extent that I, for one, think that what most of us speak is NOT English, but another language. If you want to say, it’s a dialect, then I’m not going to argue the toss about it today. But, if you want to make up your mind, you can base your views on this nice article in The Atlantic, or another good piece in The Economist. You can take your pick of the social-political or more linguistic arguments of why some are ‘languages’ and others ‘dialects. If you really know Jamaica and Jamaicans, you can figure out which way the arguments fall.

Anyway, some Jamaicans, this week were getting a bit excerised by hearing what is our common pronunciation of the word ‘violence’ as ‘voylence’. It’s not just in Jamaica, as I’ve heard it too, in The Bahamas and Barbados, so we can wonder if it’s another of those forms of expression that fitted how words were used centuries ago, which we still hold on to. You can do the research, if you like. I’m hoping to have a beer and eat a nice pie (or an ice pie?) with my daughter. 

So, the thing is, we Jamaicans should drop some of the squirming. We say ‘cerfitikit’ and everyone knows we mean ‘certificate’. We say ‘lang’ and mean ‘long’. We say ‘wa’ when we mean ‘what’. We also have words that no one else has such as ‘bumbo’, which is defined as an alcoholic drink, but we know has much to do with the backside–which is funny, because it’s the proprietary name of a potty-training seat. (Did Jamaica once again miss out on a piece of intellectual property?)

So, I’m not going to strain my brain about those who fight with how to say ‘violence’. I’m having enough trouble with Americans who say ‘wicked’ when they mean ‘wicket’, or ‘gudder’ when they mean ‘gutter’–and I hear little screeching about how Americans dont speak English. By the way, there’s a good explanation for why the former colonists have this trait. There’s a linguistic explanation for that, too, but I will let you do some leg work. It’s the weekend, so get up and run!

My youngest and I used to listen to the radio while driving and count these ‘dd’ instead of ‘tt’ words and see how many of them we really misunderstood, in the context they were being used; it was often a lot. But, Americans are powerful and they will get the bedder of us, if while beading us into the gudder. Their way of speaking is truly a thing of bewdy.

So, let’s put our energy more into finding solutions to crime, than finding how to stop people saying ‘voylence’ πŸ™‚

I’m hoping to take in a flim later with my oldest daughter and we may find somewhere nice for brunch, where they serve schwims. Maybe, we’ll find a nice chawklit cake for dessert, somewhere, and have that with some carfee. Tomorrow, her sister arrives with my wife and we will be a one happy fambly, again. πŸ™‚