#COVID19Chronicles-37: May 21, 2020: The language of the people; it’s English, innit.

Anyone who has learned to speak English should understand the phrase ‘English is difficult’. Compared to many other languages, it’s well known that English has rules that are not consistent, and that the phonetic clarity that many languages have is a mystery in English. That’s why we have people struggling with writing their/there/they’re, or heir/here/hair/hire, all of which sound the same or similar but have completely different meanings. It’s why words like Cholmondeley (pronounced ‘chumly’) and Featherstonehaugh (‘Fanshaw’), are famed for defying most foreigners and many English speakers. The basic structure of the language is one thing, but we also have to deal with accent. Within the spectrum of English they are as broad as in many other tongues. They’re broad in the ‘motherland’ and they’re broad within each English-speaking region. One problem is that not everyone has been exposed to anything beyond a small bit of that spectrum.

My teenage daughter has enjoyed being at home for the extended isolation for many reasons, but one she relishes is the opportunity to ‘improve’ her English. Now, she spent a good amount of her formative years watching British children’s shows on PBS so she thinks she’s go it off pat, literaly.

Postman Pat


Wallace and Gromit (“Steady on!”)


She’s also watched a lot of British TV shows as she’s grown up. So, she thinks she has a good English-English accent, but I point out to her that she speaks mainly what’s called ‘Received Pronunciation’: “This is the BBC”.

We had a good time the other evening as I pointed out to her the basic differences between a typical southern England/Received Pronunciation accent, the typical London accent, and one from Lancashire. But, let someone more talented run through the maze of British accents:


We had a good ‘laff’ as my daughter then tried to be someone from ‘Lonnon‘, then Yorkshire and decide if they were going to take a ‘barf’ or a ‘bath’ with a short ‘a’. She still sounded like a character from Downton Abbey, but she got the point. We’d had a good time watching a BBC comedy series last week, called Enterprice, based in London with two young black Britons as the main characters, one of Nigerian stock the other from a Jamaican household. The new Mulitcultural London Accent was well evident, innit.


But, my daughter’s mastery of the mystery of English is only part of the story, the other is how her grands have a hard time understanding anything other than a Bahamian accent, while standing by “We speak the Queen’s English…though not like the Queen.”


They’ve spent many an evening watching some British dramas with “I can’t understand what they’re saying.” I pointed out that how Jamaicans speak derives a lot from English spoken by Scottish and Irish people, who formed many of the overseers during slavery times. If you listen carefully, you can catch the Gallic intonations. Other accents in the regions carry some of the sing-songiness often found in say Welsh. I’m not going the beat the drum about Jamaican Patois being a language, but…


Good parts of each day are punctuated with “What are they saying?” as our yard is now filled will construction workers. But, it ain’t a problem, mate. 

#COVID19Chronicles-36: May 20, 2020: Which way to the information superhighway?

It’s ironic that I’m writing this at 3am while my internet provider is struggling to reconnect me to that service after well over 15 hours without any access.

I have data on my phone, from another provider, so…

It’s not an essential in life, but it’s has nearly become that way, moreso in the period where many are forced to spend almost all day and night at home doing the work and study and other things they would normally do elsewhere.

So, Flow isn’t flowing and many people’s days’ activities ground to a halt and may still be stuck when they wake today. I’ve asked often what are the economic costs of an unstable and unreliable internet service.

We know that some of the problems are not of the company’s making, with vandals wreaking havoc recently:

How unpatriotic that is! But, we know that there’s an element in the society hell-bent on bringing it to its knees, one way or another.

The idea for this post came before I was cut off in my browsing prime as my internet connection dropped for the n-th time and I wondered how often that occurs and how it affects our personal and national output and productivity.

Living through the pandemic has thrown up many of socioeconomic ills and inequities, as well as many inefficiencies and incompleteness. In Jamaica, one area where this has been stark involves telecommunications, especially in terms of basic internet access as well as facilitating financial transactions.

My problem, believe it or not, is at the good end of the spectrum: I normally have good access and am not subject to hours or days without the service for which I pay. We know many do not have anything like a reliable service at home, or even any service at all. How that has affected life has been shown most in the unequal access many children now have to online schooling. About 100 rural and remote schools have no internet access.

The need to create a more robust and widespread access to internet services has long been recognised and was stressed again late last year, with inaugural CONNECTECOMM E-commerce Conference at Jamaica Pegasus hotel. Minister Fayval Williams’s presentation was titled, ‘Jamaica’s Digital Journey – Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow’. The minister hit all the right notes:

“Digital technologies are transforming the skills people need to get employed and remain in employment; digital technologies are transforming what people do in their jobs, and digital technologies are transforming how and where people work,”

“You and I know that digital technologies are improving lives, and are accelerating progress and prosperity. So of course, as a Government, we embrace digital technologies with all that it’s capable of allowing us to do today and all of its glorious promises never before imagined,”

She also pointed out that a country risks getting left behind if its Government does not have a clear vison of how the country’s digital future will evolve. “This Government has a clear vision,” she declared.

We’re living through what that really means.

Jamaican schools have been back ‘in class’ for about a month, and the need for online schooling has shown the yawning gap in access in a crippling way, with the disparity of online educational opportunities. The Gleaner editorial addressed this late last month:

‘Large numbers of schools are not equipped to seriously deliver online/digital teaching, and even when they can, large swathes of children will struggle to be part of the process. Many homes lack computers and Internet service. While smartphones are seemingly ubiquitous, Internet connectivity using these devices is sporadic for poorer Jamaicans. They can’t afford continuous service.’

We can put Jamaica’s situation into context by referring to a study of US children’s access to computers during 1984 through 2015.

In the US context, racial differences were also notable, but so too were those related to household income:

How less income worsened access to computers. Admittedly, the computer is no longer an essential tool for internet access, with tablets and smart phones increasingly the internet access on-ramp for many, especially children.

Whatever Jamaica did (including measures that put free WiFi in public spaces like the Half Way Tree Transportation Centre and most recently Sam Sharpe Square in Montego Bay, as well as on JUTC buses, helped with causal and short-term internet access for many. But, sustained work and study cannot be based on such provisions. Whether fiber optics or satellite or more cell towers or a range of other hardware investments are needed, they need to be rolled out fast. A dedicated 24-hour education cable channel and satellite Internet are the key elements in a plan to reach more than 31,000 students islandwide currently cut off from COVID-19-triggered online lessons due to lack of Internet access, is being provided by ReadyTV and its CEO Chris Dehring.

So, the Internet superhighway on-ramp is being built and the road looks better now than it did several months ago. But, let’s hope that, with hurricane season coming, we dont find that after a few months the road is full of potholes and journeys are as hard as when the road was bad before.

Jamaica’s nimble informal economy may help beat COVID-19–Column in Jamaica Observer Business, May 20, 2020

For a large part of its post-independence life, Jamaica has been an economic conundrum: The official data showed for years a country that was hardly growing. However, on the ground there were always signs that Jamaica was not an economic wasteland.

That, in part, reflected huge economic inequalities, which left some with a great quality of life while some Jamaicans lived in poor and very difficult situations.

Those in greatest difficulty were in the rural areas and in the urban inner-city areas, especially near downtown Kingston. There, large inflows of people from the late 1950s/early 1960s squeezed themselves into a geographic space not ready for them in terms of available housing, and squatting and crowded living became the norm.

But, we ended up with too many people vying for too few jobs and with too few skills to command anything but the most basic of employment. So, make a job for yourself: vendor, cart pusher, go-for, yard work, domestic worker, whatever.

CONUNDRUM

The conundrum also represented a somewhat complicated story about how public finance was misused and left the country less productive than it should have been, with an infrastructure that reflected massive misallocation of resources. Private resources were much better used and that is evident in such material areas as housing stock and purchase of ‘luxury’ and ‘high-quality’ imported goods.

The apparent discrepancy between official data and what one could often see was also reflective of a large informal economy, not all involving legal activities, that was largely bypassed in official statistics. One of its greatest missing pieces was how money from illegal drugs trading supported many households.

Policymakers had to accept, therefore, that the levers they had at their disposal could not steer the economy and society well because it was not driving the greater part of it. But, following conventional wisdom, the lever had to be pulled.

The bottom line, though, was that in a very real sense Jamaica’s economic growth performance was badly underestimated. In a simplistic sense, it means that policy was always tending to overcorrect, and in the most recent period when the ‘good’ performance was being recorded under an International Monetary Fund programme, the primary deficit target was far too stringent.

In other words, too much austerity was being pushed onto the economy (with primary surpluses that would severely hamper even the strongest of economies) and the worst of that is that the effect was probably disproportionately felt by the formal sector.

My personal view is that Jamaica’s large informal economy may hold an ace that saves Jamaica having a very difficult economic time during the pandemic and coming out of it. Here’s why, in my mind.

ATOMISTIC

So many parts of the informal economy are atomistic, by that I mean operations involving either one person or very few people and doing things that do not require a large amount of capital.

That means starting up again could be relatively easy, so long as supply chains have not been too badly disrupted. That atomistic characteristic is also important in an economic sense because it represents many of the supposed good things about a competitive economic environment:

Many small firms

The absence of economies of scale

Firms do not have the ability to set prices (they are price takers)

Low profits and low prices for consumers

Jamaicans have benefited greatly from this in many relatable ways, including what many take for granted with the availability of fresh produce, household help, and lots of other features of life that depend on the ‘little man/woman’ ready to ‘do a t’ing’ and earn money by providing goods and services.

It’s also given the country a certain flexibility when it comes to dealing with varied economic conditions. The resilience and durability of the informal sector in Jamaica, and the opportunities it provided for income and therefore survival and advancement has been one of the pillars that has stopped the country from a serious social explosion.

The anecdotes about domestic workers and higglers and taximen who have supported their families and given their children better educational opportunities are not trivial.

Although many of these small operators have had a hard time, they could bounce back fast because their capital losses will be small and their need for survival is personal. The thing that will hamper them most is what has happened to their supply chains.

Those who will have suffered least are likely to be those directly offering agricultural produce, because they control their supplies. At the other end of the spectrum will be those who are dependent on large units of goods that are broken down and sold all over Jamaica by vendors.

NIMBLE

Anecdotes already show that nimbleness is at work. One story is of a hairdresser whose clientele at her business location has dropped to a trickle, but has seen that her business space can become a place for the buying, selling, and collection of agricultural produce. Even if that were just satisfying demand from her previous clients, that’s not a bad trade-off, temporarily, and who knows where it may lead.

While Jamaica badly needs the major employers and foreign exchange (FX) generators in tourism and the business processing sector, plus the FX from bauxite and remittances, it needs its small entrepreneurs, too, for all the employment and money transmission that they have provided.

Where the informal sector may have problems going forward is that the world will demand (at least in the foreseeable short-term) more stringent health assurances. To do that will require more regulation of all aspects of life – almost the antithesis of informal activities – so that checks for compliance with those assurances are as good as possible.

That would mean many in the informal sector having to be fully recognised for what they do; let’s call it being licensed as a catch-all. That may, in principle, put at risk what attracts many to the informal sector – the relative anonymity, especially with regard to fiscal/tax obligations.

That economic anonymity has been part of the unequal burden that the Jamaican society has had to bear for decades.The fiscal burden on the formal sector has not been fair, but the trade-off has been that the overall cost of living has been considerably lower because of informal activities. So, we should watch how that tension gets resolved.

Dennis G Jones is a JP and economist.

#COVID19Chronicles-35: May 19, 2020: Food therapy

No doubt, we’re amongst the lucky ones: we have food and don’t have to think about where our next meal will come from. We know many households don’t have the same fortune. We can eat fresh fruit and vegetables and a healthFul diet is not hard for us to achieve. We often share what we have and, through various ways, we channel food to those in need, in Jamaica and abroad. But, food is part of what makes us happier people. During the 70+ plus days of COVID19 restrictions, we’ve used food as more than just sustenance; it’s been a bonding agent.

The meeting place

Let’s start with how we now have dinner as a family ritual. I think we’ve eaten dinner together at a dining table every night for the past 2+ months; that’s a record, even when our youngest was a baby because during those days, at least one of us was either travelling or absent for some activity some evenings. Now, dinner time rolls over into whist drive, then into the sitting room area to catch a movie or TV series. The dining table is where the ‘work’ day comes to a close and becomes a place for sharing, usually with my daughter being asked about her day.

It’s become more than the eating and drinking; my daughter has her role as ‘chief table setter’—it’s an easy chore but one that is also important as a service that’s about giving back and being grateful that others can provide for you. She stole my phrase “What did your last slave die from?” when she’s asked to make another trip inside to get ice, or a drink or something else for the meal. Dinner comes at the end of challenging days for her, with online schooling, and the chore is a blessed change of routine. For Mothers’ Day, she took it to another level, designing the layout with breadfruit leaves and making it a special treat to be seated around a lovely-looking table.

The eating place, for special occasions

Food preparation is another form of glue, including the process of deciding what to prepare. I can cook but have been designated as someone who cannot cook and I’ve embraced that, in its humourous intent and become a ‘food consultant’: I can advise on how things could be prepared differently but I must not do anything myself. Well, stuff that! I just go into the kitchen and throw up what I want. The past couple of weekends, I’ve treated everyone to the delicacy of fried pumpkin blossoms, as the stretching vine has now started to put on male flowers.

Male pumpkin blossoms

Fried pumpkin blossoms

Our housekeeper does most of the regular cooking. But, with my mother-in-law as one of our ‘refugees’, we’re getting the benefit of her years of experience in the kitchen. She even became the ‘star of stage and screen’ last week when she was featured on a webinar, showing how to make her famous cornbread.

But, my wife’s the one most likely to be whipping up a storm in her dervish-like manner, especially if it can involve a mixing bowl; this weekend, she was determined to make an apple and olive cake. What’s wrong with olive bread or apple pie? Er, nothing, but it was/is mighty fine. 🙂

Apple and olive cake

Matriarch doing her thing

Can’t beat beets

Curry flavoured to savour

Sometimes, cooking at home just isn’t what we want or need, and we’ve friends whose business it is to feed others, so thinking of them we decide to enjoy their offerings, and we’ve yet to be disappointed with whatever we order from Island Grill—even for Sunday lunch—now delivered, but soon to be tried in their new outlet downtown.

Island Grill can do it for us any day

It looks good enough to be art

Food is keeping us going in many ways, and it’s keeping us going always. At the end of each day, we are grateful for what we are about to receive and truly give thanks.

#COVID19Chronicles-34: May 18, 2020: Road trip!

“Who wants to go for a drive?” my wife yelled around the house. Before anyone could answer, she added “We wont be leaving the car.” Our Bahamian visitors were up for a little escape as they are not able to leave the house and walk anywhere, with their frailer bodies. But, before they could go out, they had to ‘put on their faces’ and apply some lipstick. I had to wonder if the few passers-by would give a fig, but such are the ways of women that I have no way of understanding. I opted to stay home, as did our teenager, who’d just surfaced near midday and was in need of some food. She and I had plans for another scary movie—this time, ‘Ma’.

They were out for about 90 minutes and came back happy with tales about how few people and cars were out and the interesting sight of the new port at Port Royal.

Photo credit: Therese Turner-Jones

Photo credit: Therese Turner-Jones

Photo credit: Therese Turner-Jones

Sunday’s are always good days for touring Kingston and this was just a bit different, but as enjoyable.

The visitors were in lighter mood, having tasted ‘freedom’ for the first time in a while. Such is life in relative (no pun) isolation. They were set up for a light lunch and their regular Zoom session with the rest of the Bahamian family in the late afternoon.

#COVID19Chronicles-33: May 17, 2020: A good night’s sleep? Yes, please!

During the many weeks of COVID19 restrictions, many people are suffering from spates of unsettled sleep and fewer hours of sleep than they want and need. I can’t say how many people feel stressed and are feeling that dealing with the pandemic is why they are not sleeping well and getting more stressed about that—a vicious circle. Doctors advise to tackle the issues early on, before they have become a pattern after a few months.

Well, I go to bed around 9pm, anyway and my family know I go to bed ‘early’. I’m also usually first to rise and am happy to be triggered by sunlight. That broad picture hasn’t changed with the new routines of life under lock downs, or restricted access of social distancing. 

Generally, I’ve no problem getting to sleep, but I don’t sleep much over 4 hours at first, but it’s usually a good, deep sleep; if I wake, say, at 1am, I may decide to write and then go back to sleep, say at 2, till about 5, when day light appears. I may also just go to the bathroom and try to get some more sleep; it depends if I feel some tiredness, still.

I usually take a hot drink, like Milo, a little before I go to sleep. I don’t eat late. I often put on some soothing music as I go to bed, and then doze.

I spend a lot of time thinking about some complicated issues. Personally, I sleep worse when my mind has lots of unresolved issues, so I often wake early to dislodge ideas. I’m happy writing in the wee hours of the morning because it’s free of distractions and full of calm, as the dawn approaches. So, I don’t freak out if I wake to go to the bathroom but find I am wide awake; I’ll write. I will also head for a few more hours if I’m done by say 2.30am. However, what I have tried the past week is to try to think about fewer issues—just deciding not to bother with things I know to be worthy of thinking about, and also not to dispute too many things with people who are stuck in a way of thinking that I believe is wrong or misguided. It’s not giving up on ideas, but accepting that the meeting of minds is not likely to happen. I can spend more time with things I enjoy. I have also tried writing during the daytime and convincing myself that I have fulfilled my personal commitment—currently, ‘journaling’ about COVID19 issues daily. If I’m content, I schedule the blog post to be published the next day, early. Otherwise, I will take a last look when I wake and then  publish. So far, it seems to have given me a couple more hours of sleep, so I’ve been waking at about 3.30 instead of 1/1.30. That way, I go to bed with a settled mind.

I’m less concerned about short duration sleep at nights as I know that in Jamaica we benefit from days with almost identical lengths, with the sun rising between 5.15 and 6.30 most of the year, and setting about 12 hours later. Not for us those longer summer days and shorter winter ones, with long evenings in the dark.

If I feel that my sleep has been shorter than wanted or needed, I have no problem taking naps, and power naps of say 15-30 minutes are really sweet.

Most people in the household seem to be sleeping well. They finish their days off now with a movie/TV session and head to bed at around 10pm, after dinner at around 6pm, after a little sitting out in the cool of the setting sun, after a day of reading, relaxing, working, studying, or whatever. No one surfaces before 7am, so they all seem to be getting in some good hours or rest. My teenager is the only one who seems to be able to sleep to nearly noon on the weekends, though I suspect she may not be going to sleep until say 2am.

My day always starts with a bowl of fruit and a drink of water. I then try to get in exercise every day, starting from when I get up with some yoga and stretches. I have breakfast with protein after about an hour, then I do some golf practice and gardening (looking around the yard) and trying to move about all day. My wife takes some walks outside in the yard. My daughter works out a bit after most of her school days; yesterday, though, she did a 2-hour work out. The grands take little tours around the deck. We know that a body that feels good usually sleeps well.

None of us allows ourselves to get exhausted, so even if sleep is shortened, it’s not adding to an overall feeling of tiredness.

Many friends are commenting about much shorter sleep at nights and unable to recover the lost hours. I’m not sure if they can find some easy solutions through changing diet or routines. Some resort to sleeping aids—medicine or alcohol (which I think isn’t bad, in the form of something like a little brandy in a large glass of water), or some ‘calming’ tea. Those who say they feel stressed at least recognize that and try to work against it. With more people working or having to stay at home much more than usual and not commuting as much, I think they would do well to exploit the fact that resting places are right at hand. I’m aggressive in shaping boundaries and think that these are times when people should try to redefine their boundaries: working (or other activity) 6-8 hours straight is not ideal, so try to break it into smaller chunks, and put rest or change into the regular mix.

 

Gazette of Disaster Risk Management Order No. 6 – Dated May 7, 2020

It’s a complicated situation now to understand what is or isn’t allowed, so take a read, if only regarding things that may affect you. These orders need a quick summary guide. Thanks, so much, Susan, for diligently chasing down these Orders.

Right Steps & Poui Trees

This is a copy of the most recent Gazetted Covid-19-related order issued by the Government of Jamaica. It is Order No. 6, dated May 7, 2020 and was made available today (May 16, 2020). There is more to be said on all of this, but for the moment, here is the newly released Gazette. (Much thanks to the person who sent it to me!)

Disaster Risk Management Order No 6 - May 7 2020 - blog picThe Disaster Risk Management (Enforcement Measures) (No. 6) Order, 2020 – May 7 2020

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#COVID19Chronicles-32: May 16, 2020: Jamaica gets a kerb-side delivery from the IMF

The IMF Executive Board yesterday provided Jamaica with access (100 percent of its IMF quota, the maximum) to US$520 million in financial assistance through the new Rapid Financing Instrument (RFI) (which is subject to the same financing terms as the Flexible Credit Line (FCL), the Precautionary and Liquidity Line (PLL) and Stand-By Arrangements (SBA), and should be repaid within 3¼ to 5 years).

Being somewhat of a poster child still, the IMF’s MD was quick to lavish a bit more praise on Jamaica’s head.

The IMF’s press release noted:

‘The authorities’ policy response to the COVID-19 crisis is appropriate, including the timely adoption of targeted measures to support jobs and provide resources to vulnerable segments of the population. The COVID-19 emergency warrants a temporary reduction of the primary surplus and a modest delay in achieving the Fiscal Responsibility Law’s goal of bringing debt down to 60 percent of GDP.

It’s not much different in intent to what the Jamaican government has done for various groups of citizens with its various financial support packages, recently introduced, in providing emergency financial support. The map shows the growing number of countries (over 50) taking advantage of the IMF’s emergency support, which so far totals about US$21,000 million.

Right now, there’s not much to say about the IMF’s support, other than, in keeping with its mandate to provide emergency balance of payments support to member countries, it will go a long way towards easing some of the financing gap that Jamaica will be experiencing because of the significant reduction in foreign exchange inflows from tourism and remittances.

If you are interested in a range of somewhat zany and ill-informed commentary, you can click on the Twitter link for a good laugh. Amongst the crazed notions are some well-informed comments, but they’re far fewer.

#COVID19Chronicles-31: May 15, 2020: Jamaica, we’re still open for business-“ISLAND GRILL! Awha yuh sey!!”

When Jamaicans say they love you like cooked food, it’s because they love the feeling of joy that a happy belly (not a prissy term like tummy) has. I love Island Grill like cooked food, and I love Thalia Lyn (founder), her husband, Mike (a demon in the kitchen), and their son Michael and his wife Denise, who are now the business development drivers of this all-Jamaican (quick service) food enterprise. There, I’ve exposed my bias. Judge me, den! 🙂

‘Success nuh final, failure nuh fatal, is di courage dat count’ is a motivational phrase you’ll see if you go to Island Grill’s HQ reception area:

It’s not an empty ‘mission statement’ but goes to why we should hope that Jamaica can unearth more committed entrepreneurs like those running Island Grill.

Amidst all the craziness, economic uncertainty and closure of businesses created by COVID19 during recent months, Island Grill announced this week they will open soon a new King Street location. As Denise Lyn wrote on Facebook: “It’s a brave move in these crazy times, but since our 3 airport locations are closed for awhile – we figured we should push to get this open. Our team is amazing, and the store looks great.”

As a bystander said while looking on: “ISLAND GRILL! Awha yuh sey!!”

Their press release on May 10, 2020 said they were ‘making a BIG, BOLD, move’ to ‘bring their Eat Good, Live Good to the heart of Downtown Kingston.’ But, what was their rationale? Denise Dubuque-Lyn, Chief Operating Officer, explained: “Opening was a tough decision for us. With the landscape of the QSR (quick service restaurant) industry over the past two months, we found ourselves at a crossroad, do we press pause or do we push forward. And we decided to push forward. What we realized is that we were already invested. With the project almost at completion amidst the pandemic, it just made sense. Let’s continue our plan, open our doors, and do what we do best, offer the down town community a home cooked meal with authentic Jamaican tastes, quick and friendly service from a family of amazing people. And that is exactly what we intend do at this time.” [My emphasis.]

The ‘grand’ opening will include ‘giveaways, free drinks, donated meals to the local hospital and much more. Instead of one big grand opening, with only one day of excitement, customers will be able to experience little joys all throughout the summer at the King Street Island Grill restaurant.’ 

For me, this announcement, coming ahead of the PM’s indication that restrictions on some important elements of local life would be eased from midweek (especially community bars and places of worship) indicated the courage in the motivational motto. We know that other QSRs have had to shutter, even if temporarily; that’s a reflection of many economic and social realities bearing down on local enterprises.

It’s an important continued commitment to offer “home cooked Jamaican meal for people on the go. The smart choice. Real food served with a smile,” with excellent food and service, with ease, grace and joy; making it possible for all to ‘Eat Good and Live Good’. At at time when many have found household budgets strained to breaking, Island Grill has been a great value-for-money offering. I’m proud to say we had a great ‘Sunday lunch’ delivered to our door a couple of weeks ago. Believe me when I say that not a bone was left or a grain of rice wasted as we waxed off our ‘Hol’ a donna’ meal. 🙂

My teen daughter and I have happily driven to find an Island Grill to grab a Yabba or a Yard-style fish sandwich. Pop on top of that some of the fruit and vegetable juices and ‘yu gaan clear’ (you’re well set) as we say in Jamaica.

Sherine Green, Asst. Ops. Mgr; Maxine Shae, Restaurant Mgr; Jem Morrison, District Mgr

But, the courage is also apparent in where the new outlet will be. I’m one of those who believes firmly that downtown Kingston has long been a metaphor for Jamaica as a whole and the fact that it’s dilapidated infrastructure and many signs of a glorious history through the first half of the 20th century are symptomatic of a broader national decline.

It’s taken all the years since Independence in 1962 for downtown Kingston to look like the much-talked-about revival to actually materialize. Several key roots were set in the ground but once they settled in and started to bloom little else flourished with them. The Stock Exchange, Digicel’s HQ, Bank of Jamaica, Air Jamaica, Grace Kennedy HQ, near the waterfront, and the underpinning given by several government ministries around Heroes Circle and more, did not stop the residential urban decay that had occurred as a mixture of overcrowding from new entrants to the city binded with a rush by many of Jamaica’s middle- and upper-classes to leave downtown for uptown residences and business locations. The industrial activities tended to be a range of formal and informal small enterprises sometimes just using vacated properties. The fact that many important parts of Jamaican life did not move—Coronation Market, The Gleaner, several traditional schools—reflected a reality that downtown Kingston was still a strong beating heart in the nation’s social life. If you go to Parade, it’s hard to believe that all of Jamaica is not there on any given day.

It looks like a revival has better traction now than ever and the advent of cultural pushing by organizations like ‘Kingston Creative’ and its regular ‘art walk’ has made downtown almost a chic word by exposing many to the cultural and historical richness still in abundance.BD407330-FE23-4902-91BD-FB4AE6211E7C

It’s not quite a full blown regeneration or gentrification (a dirty word for some) but it has legs. My firm belief is that the legs will walk a little better with a new face of a solidly successful brand like Island Grill.

Coming out of the restricted life of the past two months of COVID19 is filled with uncertainty but one of the possible outcomes—less commuting and reduced congestion in many areas—may be one of the unexpected fillips that the regeneration of downtown needs. There’s a lot of economic and social repositioning that has to take place in coming months, but watch the development of downtown spaces carefully.

#COVID19Chronicles-30: May 14, 2020: Boundary issues; they shall not pass

If you’re letting any and everyone come past your gate (if you have one) or into your home without sanitization checks you’ve misunderstood the current pandemic. They must wear a mask to get onto the property or interact with anyone on it. They must use hand sanitizer if they’re coming past the front door; no exceptions. A construction crew came to start a project on Tuesday and they got the instructions and are following them all day.

Friends came by yesterday to drop off baked goods that are part of a new business and my daughter in her excited state jump to greet them at the front door without her mask; they had on theirs and were trying to stay 2 metres/6 feet away from the front door. I shooed her away to ‘get dressed properly’. We got into a long chat as we’d not seen each other for several weeks. The exchange included my innovative back-to-back hug with interlocking arms.

By contrast, I was disappointed with what I saw publicized as interaction between Jamaica Constabulary and nurses, where distancing and masking were notably absent, in part:

Our public agencies are not always strong on consistent messaging. If the political focus is to be on personal responsibility, it’d be good to see it displayed by those who represent the messengers.

So, as we make more adjustments to how life is lived, we shouldn’t be surprised if we are met with similar health screening as we go about our activities. We’ve not been met a home with a temperature check, but I’m sure it will come soon.

As people begin to take advantage of being able to do a wider range of activities, then personal checks on the health measures of others should and will increase.