Lenten reflections 2020-27: Home-work time

I should have seen the space to write this sooner, but no time like the present. I’ve worked from home for the better part of a dozen years, first falling into it, when I was taking a leave of absence and my wife was director of a regional organization in Barbados and our youngest was just getting ready to start school. I did not have a ‘job’ and fell into the routine of ‘stay-home parent’. Fast forward, and I still don’t have a ‘job’ and I’m not quite a stay-home parent because our youngest has gone away to school. But, I am very much a stay-home person, full-time, and loving it. Perfect for the world of limiting viral infections by ‘working from home’ (#WFH).

From that unplanned start, things have taken several shapes and the most evident is that I spend time at home thinking and writing. I’m not going to repeat my points about how standard measures of work and national income/output (GDP) puts most of what I do as zero, whereas, if I were doing the same for an organization or perhaps incorporating myself and reporting, I’d be adding to GDP.

Along the way, I’ve actually done a few ‘jobs’ including some being an adjunct professor for the Univesity of the West Indies (UWI), football coaching, interviews with various media, including some current affairs and economics on local TV and a radio interview with the BBC, written articles for newspapers and magazines, editorial work, reviewing books, been on commissions, board director, and more. Some of that has been for financial remuneration, but most has been pro bono, and I like it that way. (I’ve good pensions and I really don’t like money that much 🙂 ) I’ve also been my wife’s travelling companion (for which the pleasure is more than money can buy 🙂 ) and oft-time social secretary/personal assistant (for which, no amount of money may be enough—please call her at her office about her laundry).

I imagine that in the rapidly-changing world brought on by the Novel Coronavirus (COVID 19), I could pass myself off as a homeworking guru and rake in serious wonga as a consultant. Hmmm 🙂 That said, one of my young entreneurial friends has gotten the ball rolling for his company, well-positioned in the digital world:

Funnily, I got into the virtual side of working from home as a matter of necessity and also ease. I was asked if I’d teach at UWI Cave Hill, and said yes. The course was strategic planning for an executive MBA course; it involved standard class room methods for my first, local cohort. But, I then had two follow-on cohorts in Tortola (again, mainly standard class room teaching evenings for two weeks) and Belize (where my course was taught online and was not synchronized, ie I taught while my students were at work during the day, posting my material; they reacted bilaterally and we’d interact in the evenings, then repeat periodically). I set exams for these courses, which were taken at their respective locations.

For all of that, I needed a laptop and, increasingly, good access to the Internet; I had both. I had a nice space at home that became an office and I was good to go; better so, as the office led almost straight out to the garage., so as I was always on afternoon school pick-up, I was just a step away from ‘job 2’.

It was a good gig and the contract with UWI was well-structured (that’s code for a good payer :))

I’d started blogging and that was where I saw a lot of my mental energies going, as I tried to make sense of what I was seeing and experiencing in Barbados (see http://LivingInBarbados.blogspot.com). I’d no expectations from this new venture, other than a better understanding, and it was a natural ‘fit’ writing from my economist’s perspective. It got me noticed, though some of the attention was less than welcoming (a lot of Bajans couldn’t handle a Jamaican, albeit one with a lot of likeable British traits pointing out that their economy was on the skids before 2010 and thought he should go and ‘sort out’ his own country first. Well, we know where that thinking got them.) But, the blog led to articles and interviews and a regular commentary stint on a daily call-in programme called Brass Tacks.

Again, funnily, it was while I was doing the Tortola course that I had an idea that set the home-working thing well on its way. I’d heard of Olint and was fascinated by what I thought were extraordinary returns (10%/month, 120%/year) from foreign exchange (FX) trading, and while sitting down during the days awaiting teaching stints with my students in the evenings, I thought I’d run a little economics experiment to see if I could come near to those gains. So, I learned a bit about the FX market, beyond what economics textbooks tell you, got myself registered with a trading platform, set up my work station, and set off on the journey.

I discovered that high returns were possible…sometimes, but the kinds of returns Olint and others were offering were not sustainable. I knew people who’d invested in these schemes and cashed out well ahead and they were really lucky. However, I was hooked on trading as it put a lot of my economics training on its head: fundamentals don’t matter that much in the essentially short-term world of trading–in fact, such considerations can be downright counterproductive. Markets tend to ‘buy the news, and sell the fact’, which means that any announcement tends to get treated the same way and the art of trading on news, if you must, was to get in and out fast; often, better to stand aside.

Trading can be intense, and when your own money is on the line and leveraged, it can get stressful: successes are great, but losses hurt. But, losing is part of the nature of the beast with trading. But, nothing beats your first big win on a trade…except your first big loss. Swallow and get up on that horse again, buddy.

I took my trading from Barbados into our return to Washington in 2010 and on a little further, and I think I was burning out. I had my monitors set up and was getting my news fastish, including from the new social media platform, Twitter, where traders made a good, collaborative community. Some excellent non-institutional traders offered online advice and guidance and live trade suggestions; it’s a great world where freedom on action means something–your money to lose, baby. I preferred being a nimble trader and honed my interest down from many hours to just a couple each morning, and was saved by the golf bug, which offered similar anxieties but with little real cash loss likely. I’ve learned that saving and having money invested in a few funds pays really well, and I do not try to second-guess my broker or pick winners.

Along the way, however, I also realized that my work-at-home space was ideal for putting my thoughts into writing, and I kept on blogging, changing my ‘voice’ to fit new situations. My Barbados blog was often well-received and many sought it out for its independent views and useful information: one current good American friend came to the blog to dispel ideas about Muslim terrorism in Barbados before setting up a family holiday; after getting my take she booked and we met and had breakfast one day in Barbados with her whole family and they were having a ball.

Obviously, I’m still trucking on the blogging trail. Independence is really my watchword and I fiercely guard that. I felt honoured to get an award for Best news, sports or current affairs blog by the Press Association of Jamaica in 2017 (and I honestly haven’t submitted an entry since out of a sense that I dare not win it again).

As it says on this blog ‘about the author’, it’s my thinking space. It’s developed into a place where I get most clarity of thought on many topics, not just those that are clearly economic, and I have sometimes then tossed my thoughts out to the media to see if they like them and they resonate.

I’ve long passed ‘working’ in a basement office and much prefer being up in the light (usually, the kitchen but more often in the ‘TV room’, where I can write and consume sport with equal ease). I’ve tried a few adjustments and done some live commentary on Facebook and am thinking about podcasting or a YouTube channel. I know there’s space for my thoughts, even if it’s tiny: followers grumble when I go ‘silent’ for any time. 🙂

I’ve honed my craft so that I can ‘write’ on any of several devices and also know how to use voice-to-text software–now a standard in many applications–so that ideas don’t get lost because I’m doing something else. I write in a stream of consciousness way and don’t really do redrafts–it is what it is. I’ve a great love of things visual and my work also includes my many pictures of what I see passing as normal life, especially in the parallel universe called Jamaica.

My daughter looked at my blog the other day and was blown away by the number of followers it has; me, too.

I’ve carved out a good routine for my writing–mainly early mornings, as the darkness fades away into dawn. It’s the time of minimum interruptions and so long as I’m done by 7am, I’m normally clear. It also means that I have few frustrations as the day develops because my ‘work’ is done.

It fitted nicely into parenting, as I was rarely caught in conflict with whatever my child needed after school, whether my presence as driver, supporter, advisor or ice cream buyer 🙂

I’d still like to see what I do clearly placed in national output, and if nothing else comes from the current turmoil with COVID19 it may be a wholesale reassessment comes of how and what we measures as economic ‘wellbeing’.

Sharing nature’s beauty-week 15/1: Enjoying the Blue Mountains

My family decided that they would trade ‘cabin fever’ in Jack’s Hill for a cabin in the Blue Mountains, and headed up on Friday afternoon. I stayed in town. However, I joined them at breakfast time (about 9am) this morning. I brought sunshine with me, but rain had beaten us overnight. The air north of Newcastle is fresh and the views, near and far, are SPECTACULAR. Whatever may be our concerns for COVID19, this allows some respite in mood. We watched church services from The Bahamas on line and are now practising #SocialDistancing, with each person in their own chair, a good 1 metre apart. It’s nice to have this just one hour from home and for that we are totally grateful.

View of Kingston from Blue Mountains

Princess flower

Madonna lily

Peach tree

Crimson bottlebrush

Coffee plant

Fuschia magellanica

Cuban zephyr lily

Lenten reflections 2020-26: Mothering Sunday

It’s a truism to say that without my mother I’d be nothing. But, my mother directed my life so much, indirectly, as it was her decision to leave Jamaica and go to England that shaped our family life.

My mother was one of thousands from the Caribbean who responded to the UK government’s request for workers starting in the 1950s, especially to support the National Health Service. I don’t know if my mother was placed before or after her arrival in England, but she first went to work at Hammersmith Hospital (located near White City/Shepherd’s Bush, adjacent to Wormwood Scrubs Prison). Either way, Shepherd’s Bush became our first home town.

Hammersmith Hospital, 1977

She began normally enough, working day shifts; later in her career, she worked nights, so that she and my father could provide a longer day of parental presence for me. She enjoyed nursing.

Proud pose in traditional nurse’s uniform, circa 1970s

I wont chart her career but she went from general nursing to maternity and midwifery sometime in the late-1960s and moved to Perivale Hospital (again, I don’t know if that prompted our moving to Southall, or it was the other way around). That hospital closed in 1988. By then, my mother was driving herself to work and I recall her journey being one of those that I used for driving practice, which meant my father and I would drop her off and pick her up (or she’d get a ride with a colleague). Perivale was the antithesis of where most immigrants lived and worked, being a decidedly white suburban town in the Borough of Ealing; the kind of place people aspired to living in. It was more famous for the iconic art-deco Hoover Building (which was bought by Tesco’s in the late-1980s for offices, and recently was redevelopment into apartments).

I saw more pictures of my mother with babies than I’ve seen politicians do the same. One of the great memories was the stream of thank you notes and pictures she received from grateful mothers over the years.

Ironically, my mother was only able to have one child, and I remember her having her hysterectomy, because of uterine fibroids, if my memory is good. So, being an only child is what it is. 🙂

Lots of things about my mother I carry with me unobtrusively, including how to cook certain things. Time was when I wrote down recipes of hers and my grandmother’s and tried to replicate them; the best was her fried chicken. (I think my first-born has the note bookmark, now). My parents, and my mother moreso, were the bridge to Jamaica from England on a daily basis, and the travel was almost daily through the food we ate at home.

I laugh a lot, but I’ll give both parents credit for that.

People ask me now how I know so much about Jamaica and I say simply that my parents kept Jamaica alive in our lives all the time in England, especially through talk and food. Whoever said ‘You are what you eat’ was no fool.

It’s a blessing that my mother was able to enjoy her two granddaughters, even though she died exactly six months after the second was born. The first was able to share good moments with her from an early age and has pictures to remind her of her ‘Grannie’.

Lenten reflections 2020-25: Another Saturday sports day

”Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it’s much more serious than that.”-Bill Shankly

Most countries have now been in some sort of national lock down because of COVID19 for well over a week, and one of the major casualties has been popular sport, especially performed for the public at the professional level. It’s also affected a lot of people who play sports as pastimes, or at the semi-professional level. So, we have a range of people missing something they cherish dearly, probably for the first time in their lives, not voluntarily and during what would be the regular season. Oddly, I’ve been there before.

Retiring from a sport can be difficult because so much of life has been devoted to it, as player, spectator, trainer, manager, or whatever. It leaves a huge vacuum.

As I reflect, I was ready to stop being a sprinter; I had competing interests and I could sense that I was near a plateau for my age in a period of intense competition with incredibly talented rivals.

When I first retired as a football player, I was also ready in that I was unhappy and frustrated–things that do not help with performing well. I wanted nothing to do with the sport. So, I thought. But, for a year, I had the absence gnawing at me, and became an absolute bear at home. One of the saving graces was that I could throw myself into renovating a house and work.

Retirement from sport is hard because it’s facing up to an inability to sustain an activity, and for many high performers that’s a tough thing to acknowledge. It’s a sign of frailty and good sporting careers are not built on that, so we get into the area of self-denial.

At the amateur or semi-professional level, retirement isn’t something that happens with much fanfare; you can just pack up and leave. Your teammates and coaches, etc. may want to show you some love with a leaving present, which could also be a memory to forget 🙂

I look at sports figures whom I admire greatly and accept that I saw them waning and wished they would retire gracefully and not tarnish their legacies. But, in a few cases, I have been proven so wrong. Tiger Woods remarkable come back from back injuries and surgeries ranks as the most amazing thing I know in the world of sport. Roger Federer’s comeback from less serious injuries, but in a dramatic manner–when just winning another match would seem apt for a comeback–winning the Australian Open from a losing position in the fifth set against one of his arch rivals was nothing short of unbelievable.

What amazed me as I watched that match on TV was sensing a shift in momentum in the final set and seeing it play out.

Watching Tiger’s comebacks were different, given the nature of golf, where one has to see what the field is doing, not just one player. Of his most recent wins, the 2019 Masters is to me the most incredible because he had to play well and others had to falter and they did, with his starting the final round two shots behind the leader, Francesco Molinari.

But he was able to tie the lead for the first time on the par-3 12th hole, hitting his tee shot to 50 feet and two-putting for par while Molinari found the water off the tee and made a double-bogey 5. Those also in contention also found trouble at #12. Molinari sealed his own fate with another double bogey.

So, as a fan of sport, I ate large slices of humble pie watching these legends prove why they are. How glad I am they found it in themselves to give it another try and how. Can I hear a ‘Wow!’?

But, I am happily retired from football, and on my terms, not injured or disgraced, not even playing badly, if I were honest. 🙂

But, as athletes often do, we find new challenges, and my has been what some call the most difficult game–golf.

Saturdays used to be for playing and/or watching football. Nowadays, it’s often golf around dawn (6.30am). My crew have a foursome (I’m usually the 5th and roll in often to make the 4th). It’s fun and camaraderie and sometimes nice homemade bun and cheese. So, while the spirit and body are will, play on.

Sharing nature’s beauty-week 14/7: A rainy morning in the metropolitan area

Rain fell steadily much of the night and more heavily during the early morning. My garden was grateful. Mangoes, mainly green, but mostly well swollen, will appreciate the water to help them ripen. My vegetables will be really pleased. Keep it coming. 🙂

Lenten reflections 2020-24: Being an independent critical thinker

One of my managers at the Bank of England suggested during my annual performance appraisal that I needed to ask questions because I might be the only person who really understands the problem. That resonated with the point that was made to me when I first joined the Bank: “We didn’t employ you for what you know, but for your ability to ask the right questions.”

I was fortunate to go to a school that encouraged critical thinking. I was fortunate to have parents who never said “Don’t ask so many questions”.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve realized that many people are afraid to buck trends and think along their own lines; many things explain that. That fear is much greater in the Caribbean than in many other places, and group-think is more common in this region.

Non-confirmist behaviour isn’t easy and in the Caribbean it’s more absent than present.

I discovered Bertrand Russell when I was about 13 and read and accepted much of his philosophy during my teenage years.

Bertrand Russell’s 10 Commandments of Critical Thinking

  1. Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.
  2. Do not think it worthwhile to proceed by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.
  3. Never try to discourage thinking, for you are sure to succeed.
  4. When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your children, endeavour to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.
  5. Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.
  6. Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you.
  7. Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.
  8. Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent than in passive agreement, for if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter.
  9. Be scrupulously truthful even if the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.
  10. Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool’s paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness.

Bertrand Russell

I commend those to you, and #7 is my personal favourite. I’ve tried to impart these ideas to my children, not laid out this way, but in how they’ve been brought up and taught to deal with themselves and others. I hope they’ve accepted some of this.

Blessings.

Sharing nature’s beauty-week 14/6: Signs of normality

A cool afternoon on the golf course and plenty of interesting sights.
Poui blossoms carpet (near path to putting green)
Limestone rock (by #7 tee box)
Catsclaw (past #17 green)
Grackle (by #18 tee box)
Termites nest (near #9 fairway)

Sharing nature’s beauty-week 14/5: On the day of 1st #COVID19 death, new life

I was pottering around as usual around dawn. I have a patch for Irish potatoes, where I added some green manure the other day. Lo and behold! I saw some pumpkin seeds sprouting. So, up they came with a mini trowel and I have a little wall garden that’s ideal for them–about 5–and placed another couple adjacent to the potatoes. So, we’ll keep our eyes on them.

Looking around more, I couldn’t ignore the hibiscus which are always there.

Then a stink bug came to dinner.

Lenten reflections 2020-23: The only constant is change-#COVID19 turns the world on its head, but it’s still on its axis

The world is adjusting to a completely new reality with the spread of the pandemic #COVID19 (once termed Novel Coronavirus), and many people are not comfortable with that.

In rethinking my way to where I am now, it’s obvious that nothing stayed the same; my life has involved a lot more change than for many others. I have migrated several times. I’ve married twice. I’ve been a father twice. My parents have lived and died. I’ve lived in many different places; rented homes for short and long periods; owned my own homes; been a landlord. I’ve had no money; I’ve had lots of money; I made big financial gains; I’ve suffered big financial losses. I’ve had a major operation for a chronic illness. I’ve seen my children fight for their lives at a very young age, including at birth. Plenty more can go into the pot called ‘change’.

Standard thinking about causes of life stress is that they commonly include the following:

  • The death of a loved one.
  • Divorce.
  • Loss of a job.
  • Increase in financial obligations.
  • Getting married.
  • Moving to a new home.
  • Chronic illness or injury.
  • Emotional problems (depression, anxiety, anger, grief, guilt, low self-esteem)
The view is that each is a major stressor and any combination is extremely stressful. I’ve had many of these combined.
I don’t relish stress, but have tried for many years to be aware of its approach and tried to fend it off. Some physical things help, like yoga; otherwise, it’s about mental preparation and a certain toughness.

Few things make people fearful like the sense of vulnerability; being exposed to danger is what many want to avoid. Danger isn’t like a scene in a film when someone comes crashing through a door brandishing a weapon and you’re there trapped against a wall. Danger is seeing the car flash through the red light as you enter the junction and realize its heading for you. Danger is walking along a cliff edge and stepping on a piece of mud and slipping close to that edge. Danger is dropping a carving knife in the kitchen and seeing it fall, point downward, toward your foot and almost in slow motion seeing it hit or miss. Your heart races. You sweat. You gasp. You give a sigh of relief that you’ve survived.

The current situation has many elements that people don’t like, not least not being able to see the source of the danger; not knowing whether it’s present or not.

Jamaica was declared a disaster area last Friday (March 13–propitious), since when the government has put in place a range of restrictions on individuals and organizations regarding congregating, hoping that more people staying at home will minimize the spread of the virus. One area has been locked down/community quarantine, after it was found to be where ‘patient 1’ who tested positive lived for a while. For most, this is a totally new situation where they have to accept that they are not at liberty to use their liberty. I am not going to say I know this situation, but I have been in similar ones before for some varying periods of time. It’s very discomforting to think you may be the target of a sniper (Washington area 2001), or the target for a bombing (London; IRA bomb threats 1969-97), or a new international terrorism attack (USA, UK, France, and others in years since September 11, 2001). But, for some that is better than facing an unseen natural enemy that attacks the body.

Jamaica has done what many other countries have done, and our restrictions are not the most strict, by any means. Yes, people can be fined or jailed for breaking certain restrictions. Many countries have closed borders, partially or totally; Jamaica has a partial closure (but so far has left the gate open to the USA, even though it’s showing less action than many others of containing the virus). People arriving from overseas may face 14-day quarantine if coming from place that have ‘community (local) spread’

Image courtesy of Al Jazeera

But, in Italy, Spain, France and Luxembourg, for instance, national lockdowns are in place, and in some cases people have been forbidden to leave their homes or go outside without special permission.

Moist people seem to understand the gravity of the situation and try to comply, maybe with a lot of complaints. Some, as usual, don’t appear to care or exercise selfish exceptionalism (eg by not declaring honestly from where they have come to avoid quarantine–which is simply being prepared to put everyone else at risk for personal convenience). We’ve seen videos of young people ignoring the urge not to congregate and partying like it’s 1999: spring breaks, for ever, dude.

In Jamaica, we’re relatively lucky because some of the panic seen elsewhere in shops, for example, doesn’t seem to have reached here. Many people have heeded the suggestion to work at home, if possible. Schools were closed from last week, and parents and families are adjusting to that and online classes. Practicing ‘social distancing’ has been common and self-directed; even at our dining table, we are about 1 metre apart. I’ve been out on the golf course a couple of times with friends and keeping your distance is not that difficult.

People are practising better hygiene: our house has sanitizer and tissues by our front door; I have that and rubbing alcohol in my car; I wiped down the golf cart thoroughly before using it, etc. Greetings are now modified–no hand shakes or hugging.

I like to put my hand on my heart, a local greeting that I often used before.

We’ve seen the creation of new business paradigms, and it’s going to continue. Home deliveries or kerb-side pickups instead of buying ‘in place’, for example. The sudden realization that meeting remotely can be done, though it needs many adjustments; no one is really ready to just hop on a plane to meet other people. Some, of course, don’t get it and insist on forcing employees to make unnecessary choices about being ‘in the workplace’ or being at home. Hopefully, that will soon change.

Other social settings are changing, and some are rediscovering ‘family’ and ‘community’, and realizing that the bonding is about intent and not necessarily how and where. We have a neighbourhood Whatsapp group and I’ve noting how it seems to have morphed into a sort of area-wide ‘talking over the fence’ group, even though many don’t know each other personally, we’re getting closer.

But, change is to be embraced, and though we cannot do that to each other freely now, we should look forward to doing it again, and soon. Positives are always there, though not always easy to find. I had a long argument with my mother-in-law some days ago because she thought the world would spiral down into mental depression; I countered that people’s resilience and ability to fight that is strong. Economies may go into tail spin and supplies may start to get stretched, but ingenuity is something to start to remember is there to help solve many problems. Times like these test people’s patience more nowadays, having forged a world of fast if not immediate gratifications. Waiting isn’t what people like, but get used to it.

One thing I cherish about gardening is knowing that things take time to give you results and often nature cannot be rushed. So, I look to my plants and see them grow a little more each day, or start to wither and need help of replacement. So, I try to look at those around me and nurture them a little each day. People readily run to ‘cabin fever’ concerns and I smile; I’ve been a stay-at-home father for a long time so it’s not a big deal to be home all day (I love it!). I love my home and I’m rarely happier than when I am where that place is. Fortunately, we have a houseful of people and we have what we need to eat and drink. We have entertainment, even if if that is each other, and we have our love for each other. We have our faith and its different dimensions.

Our glasses are not half-empty, but at least half-full and in some cases, overflowing. Enjoy the blessings you have.

Lenten reflections 2020-22: Me, a golfer? Are you kidding?

That I now play golf is like a personal antithesis. I grew up knowing little about it and thought it elitist, which it often is, but not necessarily so in the UK. Golf can be expensive but doesn’t have to be. Equipment and cost of playing are costs that can be kept low and new and ‘best’ equipment or playing at exclusive or expensive courses aren’t essential.

Golf found me at a good time. I’d been retired a couple of years and was trading foreign exchange from home; it was a fulfilling activity but came with a high degree of stress: having your own money on the line is not always comfortable, even though you might have accepted that it was money you could lose. But, the opportunity to have golf lessons came when the IMF wanted to boost membership of its Recreation Center and offered 8-weekends of free golf clinics. I took the bait, and the rest is history. I found I could hit the ball well and enjoyed the challenge of totally new sport. As I developed and found a partner who was also a retired economist and a stay-home father, I had a good support ‘system’, though he was returning to the sport. My ability developed and I was able to make use of the deal offered, which was reduced annual membership with a sweetener of some ‘free’ lunches every month. That works! I enjoed practice and the didactic part of me, from having coached, meant that I was the sort of self-analytical type that many golfers are. I enjoyed practice and honestly the facilities on offer made that easier, with the club often empty on Mondays, when it was possible to do some range work and walk the course undisturbed but for the maintenance crew. So, it began.

As Ben Hogan said, “There are no shortcuts in the quest for perfection.” A typical practice session in my early golf ‘career’.

However, several odd things mark my short history as a golfer.

First, during my mid-teens, my parents lived in a suburban area where a golf course was 15 minutes walk away; the course (West Middlesex) was surrounded by a high fence and shrubs and I never got a look inside, even from the upper deck of a bus. Maybe, it goes on a ‘bucket’ list.

West Middlesex Golf Course

Second, I played football in the USA on fields adjacent to a golf course and always thought it was a silly game for old, lardy (and ladidah) people; not my types, at all. I had my introduction to golf on that same course, Bretton Woods. I wan’t that wrong about the types, but like a golf swing, all kinds can co-exist.

View of #9 green from clubhouse, Bretton Woods

I lived in Barbados for just over three years (2008-2010) and only went to a golf course to take a cousin to play one afternoon at Sandy Lane. I have to admit the view was spectacular, but I never had any urge to go out and play.

Sandy Lane, looking towards the ocean

So, my golfing life began in 2012, and in the early days, it was the best form of exercise I could find. As I mentioned earlier, I was trading, and part of my routine was to drop my daughter at school and get back in time for the New York open at 8am. I would have a day at my monitor and taking positions. I’d usually take a break at about 10am, when London closed (3pm UK time), and then take a walk in the woods and paths by the Capital Crescent Trail, adjacent to our house. But, I found that the morning trading ‘hustle’ was wearing on me. So, I started opting for a run to the golf course after the school drop and practice on the range. Not long after getting that started, I ditched trading, completely. Golf isn’t realizing, but you need to be relaxed to play golf well. So, the tension of trading was not a good base for golf, though lots of traders are golfers. Golf also has its own set of tensions but comes without the major concern of money going west. It seemed a good exchange to opt for that, and its being a chance to be outdoors more.

All of the golf I played in the USA was recreational, but for one team event on July 4 after I’d been playing a short while. When I came to Jamaica in 2013, however, my neighbour was an avid woman golfer and she took me under her wing quickly, once she realized my interest. Ironically, my wife had opted to rent a house in a complex adjacent to Constant Spring Golf Course, and my neighbour had a key that gave access to the course. So, getting out to practice was a cinch, and walking part of the course became one of my (almost) daily routines; it still is.

I was soon blooded into competitive golf in Jamaica, when I was selected to play in a local team match play event–Lime Cup–which pitted teams loosely based around golf clubs against each other over a series of events. It was nerve wracking to be on the first tee and have a TV camera focused on me while my name was being announced” “On the tee, from…” 🙂 This was the real deal. I’d never played match play (hole-by-hole contest, with the winner being who won the most holes, not based on total strokes), but soon got the hang. I liked it because a bad hole could just be ejected from the memory; but so too the elation of a good hole, or better winning a hole you should have lost. Our team came close to winning, but the rivalries were intense and as unlike golf as anything I’d seen.

Lime Cup winners get trophies, prizes and serious bragging rights 🙂

It’s now much easier to understand the players’ and fans’ fervour around the Ryder Cup.

But, most golf is based around stroke play (cumulative strokes taken to finish a round; lower is better). Cutting to the chase, I’ve done alright in competitions, and amateurs cannot get cash prizes, but you get the kudos of winning (trophy or not) plus whatever else the sponsors may offer. I’ve had my share of trophies, mobile phones, 2-3 night hotel stays, quarts of engine oil, and a 42 inch TV. I’ve not added the costs of entry against the winnings. Honestly, I often enjoy the event itself and the prizes are a bonus, especially when the event is for a good cause and the organizers put on a good affair with food and drinks that show a real appreciation of the participants. I love ‘tee gift’ bags with golf shirts, caps, and other accessories and I often give the accessories away, but have kept some items I like; my daughter has a good stock of golf shirts and caps.

But, golf is awfully frustrating and humbling. That’s what I’ve enjoyed most about it–being constantly on the verge of major disappointment even after the maximum best effort has been applied. To quote Hogan again: “A good round of golf is if you can hit about three shots that turn out exactly as you planned them.”

That said, few things are as sweet as an unexpected win in golf, and that comes about because you don’t know during the event how others are doing. I was shocked when my partner and I took a first place from a pair who got second and against whom we had finished strongly to be one stroke ahead. That was most pleasing as it was a junior-adult event and I’d merely put myself forward so that a junior had a playing partner.

I’ve also enjoyed working for golf, as a volunteer, and my appreciation for the skills of the pro golfer is now immense. Out of that involvement, I got to see Tiger Woods up close and personal several times, including at the event he hosts at Albany in The Bahamas, where the last year I worked as a driver in the pro-am event. Previously, I worked the Quicken Loans National, which was held in Maryland, and was a good fit for a long stay with my first-born over the July 4 weekend.

But, watching has been full of good insights, including how to watch golf best, which is from the inside of a nice hospitality ‘chalet’ 🙂 I’ve hit some ‘bucket’ list items I didn’t know I had, including going to Carnoustie in 2018 for The (British) Open, and a few nice days in Edinburgh. Last year, I went to Pebble Beach, CA, and it was bleaker than Scotland had been 😦 I’ve seen Tiger (The Big Cat) not play and walking with his kids and seen him on his road to recovery looking very good and also looking quite spectacular.

But, just being out there is best. I’m spoilt in Jamaica, having landed on my feet in a place with only eight, but great, golf courses–all of which I have played. I love a day trip on the bus to Montego Bay, and I love a visit to Maryland to play it’s municipal courses. I always have an eye open to playing when we travel, though if I don’t get to a course, it’s no biggie. But, when your wife books a condo at Bear Mountain, Victoria, Canada, well… :).

Few things match the vistas of White Witch Golf Course, Montego Bay

Constant Spring Golf Club, with Jamaican hills soaring in the background