When ‘policing’ is State oppression: freedom to speak?-July 28, 2021

It’s worth keeping an eye on where an interesting incident goes, as the Jamaica Constabulary Force did a hasty reverse step, after apprehending a man who uttered public criticism of the PM. The charges have now been dropped, but matters of civil rights are still to be resolved:

Does the PM have rights higher than others in terms of public respect? If so, why?

People in countries like Jamaica are often deferential and think that ‘position’ alone demands a certain level of subservience. Given freedom of speech provisions in our Charter of Rights, it’s not clear that the framers saw any as being privileged in this regard, as far as public utterances go.

Andy Murray, in a hurry-July 1, 2021

I’m not apologetic for being passionate about sports; it’s often the heartbeat of people. So, as summer sets in and heat rises, so does excitement in lots of tournaments. Now, it’s time for tennis at Wimbledon: the romance of grassy courts is visually evident during every match. This year, after a year when the annual major event was cancelled due to COVID-19, things have been a bit tricky with court conditions and several players have already had their time cut short after slipping and falling on the damp grass. But, it’s an unpredictable surface at the best of times.

But, in recent years, Wimbledon has had a different feel because a British player has been well in the mix, Andy Murray, a proud Scot, not an Englishman, though. He’s gone through a few years battling injuries and having surgeries and seems to be trying to make a spirited comeback. Well, the spirit was there yesterday when he pulled off a 5 set win in 2nd round against a tall German qualifier. He also did it with some exquisite shots in the 5th set, after dip in form and poor decisions in the 3rd set saw him needing to pull out his finger.

That he managed to rally himself was in no short part due to the immense support he got from the ‘home’ crowd.

It was a stunning spectacle to see Wimbledon’s Centre Court full, after more than a year when sporting venues have had either no fans or very few in attendance. Of course, their instant reactions make for better atmosphere.

As a proud Scot, Murray would have been disappointed to see Scotland ousted from EURO 2020 at the group stage, but as a keen footballer, I’m sure he’s channelling as much of the energy that’s coming from that tournament into his play.

55 long years! England beat Germany-June 30, 2021

Fans of the English national football team can be excused if they bunked off work yesterday to go to the EURO 2020 match against Germany at Wembley or watch it on the telly. They’d also be excused if they had a skinful of beers last night after the 2-0 win on the hallowed ground. After all, it’s been 55 years since a win against Germany in a major tournament; the last time was winning the World Cup final in 1966.

After that time, there are many fans who’d never seen such a victory in their lifetime. But, now they can saviour a little of the pleasure in beating an old foe, of many battles.

Pundits and journalists can yack on about how the win came about.

It was a tight match for about 60 minutes, with England’s team selection set up to deny rather than create. That changed when Grealish came off the bench in the 69th minute and a master playmaker was now in play. He had a hand in both goals but more importantly the team mindset had changed from containment to can win.

After Sterling scored in the 75th minute, he nearly went from hero to zero when he gave a short back pass that was latched onto by Müller. He ran through to face Pickford and shot…agonisingly wide. The image of Sterling holding his head in relief should be framed on a wall.

Kane, limping along, sealed the deal in the 86th minute.

It was delirious joy around the country:

At the match, no better sight for that was a cheering Prince William-an avid Aston Villa fan, obviously glad for his man, Jack Grealish.

What I would have done to be closer to all of that. I’d planned lunch with my eldest for after the match and we were both full of adrenaline. It’s been a while and losses to Germany along the way have been PAINFUL, especially after penalty shootouts. But, that’s the past. Now, can England bring it home?

Football on steroids?-June 29, 2021

In any major tournament, big scores can often occur while the field is at its largest and the potential gap between teams is largest, in group play. But, once teams have been whittled down for the knockout stages, we expect tighter games and narrow scores. Well, I don’t know what happened in EURO2020 yesterday, in the round of 16, as Spain and Croatia played to a 5-3 win for Spain, after extra time, with Croatia equalizing in the dying minutes of regular time.

After a little breather, we were off again with France versus Switzerland; the World Cup holders, France, were strong favourites. Well, we know that ‘big’ fish had already fallen at this stage, already, notably The Netherlands toi Czech Republic.

Swiss intentions were clear from the off, and they were not there to show off how well the could make cheese fondue, and they took an early lead. France struggled, and the Swiss could have gone up 2-0 with a penalty, but it was saved. Minutes later, Karma struck as France scored twice within two minutes to lead 2-1, then a super bender from Pogba for 3-1 after 75 minutes made it seem the game was over. Well, back came the Swiss in the 81st minute for 3-2 and it was game on, and they enabled an equalized on 90 minutes. France hit the bar with almost the last kick of regular time. Extra time brought no more goals, thought hot action.

On to penalties and it was tight all the way, with perfection (naturally) from the Swiss, for a 5-4 lead. Up stepped France’s golden boy, Mbappé and he struck the ball well to the top left and Sommer arched himself and slapped it away. He paused, looking to see if there was a refereeing matter, then raced off to the fans in the corner.

So, 14 goals in 2 matches; we often don’t get that in all matches combined.

If it stays like this the quarter finals could be even hotter matches. Is this a COVID effect? Tired minds and bodies? Who knows, just bring on more of it.

Brexit still bubbling and boiling out of the pot 5 years on-June 26, 2021

How’s Brexit dealing with Britain, which is not so great, at the moment?

Five years on from the referendum, things looks messy:

Puffins and overfishing issues:

Pigeon fanciers’ feathers ruffled:

Computer glitch and jobs for EU women:

British TV not good for EU folks to watch?

Tinned tomatoes and inflation:

Sausages, anyone?

Northern Ireland snaggled:

Steel being stolen:

Touring artistes’ woes:

Holness points to light at end of #COVID19Life tunnel by major easing of curfews-June 23, 2021

PM Holness announced yesterday some major relaxation of Jamaica’s COVID restrictions, notably easing curfew hours to 11pm to 5am for Mondays to Saturdays and 6pm to 5am on Sundays.

The measure will run from July 1 to August 11.

The Opposition were quick to point out that our situation is still highly vulnerable despite improving trends but with a woefully low level of vaccination.

In summary, the other changes from July 1 are:

Churches and Cinemas

* Places of worship – current limit of 50 to move to a capacity-based system. This is where churches can use a measurement of one person for every 40 square feet or 70% of their capacity to conduct services.

* Indoor theatres and Cinemas – These places of amusements are to be allowed to open. They can use the measurement of one person for every 40 square feet or 70% of seated capacity, whichever is lower.

* For drive-in – vehicles should carry no more than the number it is registered to carry.

Controlled Re-entry

* COVID-19 testing – Persons must continue to present a negative test three days before arriving in Jamaica.

* 14-day quarantine remains in place.

* Fully vaccinated persons – eight-day quarantine remains in place.

* Effective July 1, 2021, persons who are fully vaccinated and return a negative PCR test after arriving in Jamaica will be released from quarantine.

Travel restriction

* Travel ban on South American countries as well as the restriction on Trinidad and Tobago and India extended to August 10.

Stay-at-home

* Persons 60 and over must remain at home until August 10. Individuals who are fully vaccinated are exempted.

Funerals and burials

* Services will now be allowed with a maximum of 30 mourners.

* Burials will now be permitted with a maximum of 30 people up from 15.

* Burials may now take place from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Mondays to Fridays only.

Markets

* To operate from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Monday to Saturday. Closed on Sundays.

Beaches, Rivers, Zoos and Water attractions

* To operate from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Monday to Saturday.

* 6:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Sundays.

Parks, Gyms and Bars

* Must close one hour before the start of the curfew.

Amusement arcades

* These entities are allowed to reopen effective July 1.

Events and entertainment

* Organisers of small outdoor events such as parties, concerts, round robins, festivals, corporate mixers will be allowed to apply for permits to host no more than 100 people (50 for public sector)

* For indoor events, no more than 60 per cent of the capacity of the venue.

* Organisers of large events like stage shows, church conventions, festivals, general and special meetings will need to satisfy an approval process through the Ministry of Culture and the Office of the Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management.

* Gov’t will waive rental fees for its venues for large events. Other charges will apply.

I’ve been everywhere, man, but did I like being there? Barbados-June 22, 2021

My wife and I are both from islands within Caricom, but never lived on another one besides our homeland. I nearly went to live in Barbados when I was ready to leave the Bank of England in the late-1980s, but the offer to join the Caribbean Development Bank as an economist didn’t make financial sense. The interview visit had been an eye opener because I had assumed all islands were like Jamaica, not least with significant high points. Barbados is relatively flat, and you can see almost all of the island from its high points. But, some good things hit me on that brief weekend visit. Barbados has monkeys: I saw them on the beach. It’s visually appealling, especially seeing pretty sandy coastlines from almost every high point. I was also struck by the Bajan accent. 🙂 It was ironic that my wife’s job took us there, nearly two decades later. What did living there show me better?

Likes

Bus service island-wise: You never really had an excuse for taking a bus in the wrong direction because bus signs were marked ‘Into city’ and ‘Out of city’. Good thing, too, that the island is small enough to make a round trip by mistake no bad thing 🙂

Pudding and souse: I’d never give Bim’s food high marks compared to the rest of Caricom, but pudding and souse is worth the try and has its important place in social activities at weekends, when one could lime happily around eating this cold pickled pork dish, drinking and chatting aimlessly or fulsomely.

History matters: Barbados has a complicated slave history, like all of the Caricom countries, but for me have tried to manage the realities of that by not discarding historic relics. It has many preserved features of slave and plantation life, such as mills and some great houses and enough trappings to let people see how the country once was. You need that to tell the story, properly, in my mind.

Well-run, on the surface: Most things in Barbados appear to work well, and the country’s PR is great at pushing that message. But, it’s got some issues that would make you pull out your hair, in part because despite its progress, it’s still a small island in the Caribbean. It took months to get our new car, which we were told “Is on the water”! Opening a bank account and dealing with public sector agencies is still mired by that Caribbean brand of bureaucracy and redundancy.

Brighton Market: If we were caught in an odd place, it was enjoying going to the farmers’ market at dawn most Saturday mornings. This could have been a trip to an English village field, but it was set in the grounds of a working sugar cane farm. It offered ambience hard to beat and was a safe space for children to roam freely. The best fresh coffee on the island and nice food to go with it, whether fish cutters or occasional yummies of other kinds, and fresh fruit and vegetable to buy, plus some crafts, occasionally. Yes, it was mainly frequented by white Bajans and expats, but it was a great start to any weekend, and we often headed to Lemon Arbor for pudding and souse, after.

Dislikes

‘Little Englanders’: Bajans have a reputation amongst other Caribbean countries for being either ‘Little Englanders’ because of their close historical association with the UK and the constant flow of Brits who decide to take holidays there, bolstered by daily flights provided by British Airways. But, it shows up also in a clear distaste for other black Caricom citizens. We were dissed too many times in favour of British tourists for it not to be noticeable and a chilling ‘welcome’ at the airport was not what we liked.

Bajans love sticking it to Jamaicans how well they’ve done: I think I would have minded less if I had arrived in Barbados at a time when economic signs were pointing in a clearly good direction, in 2007, but I didn’t. Sadly, I pointed out what seemed like a glaring fiscal problem. That came to buck a decade later with (for Bajans, a dreaded IMF program in 2018). But, don’t mention that I told you so. I was not offering popular opinions on the radio call-in programme, ‘Down to brass tacks’. 🙂

Travel: It’s harder to get there than it should from anywhere in the Caribbean. I think that reality might have been worse on another island, but it’s still a major chore to have to duck in and out of a few islands on an air ‘milk bus’.

Polarized politics: I didn’t know it at the time, but living in Barbados was a good primer for life in Jamaica, where many issues are reduced to the colour of the party you’re assumed to support. My points about the economy labelled me as part of the ‘opposition’. What was ridiculous was that my point was valid when Barbados Labour Party (red) were in power and equally valid when they ceded power to the Democratic Labour Party (yellow). So, I was always one of the opposition!

Racial polarization: Black and white people don’t mix that much in Barbados. At a macro level, whites own the economy and blacks own the politics; that’s the ‘devil’s bargain’ that’s been struck. They races sort of co-exists, but the separation is pretty clear, no more so for things like Kadooment, during Crop Over, where there’s a (near) all-white troupe, named ‘Blue Box Cart’, who go out first each year. Nuff said!

Jamaica’s vaccination blitz catches cold and needs to correct a fiasco-June 21

However, you want to look at it, Jamaica’s vaccination programme hit a road block this past week. Depsite recent reassurances that enough doses were in available to give those needing their 2nd doses, we’ve had a week of people being told that was not so, and having scheduled appointments cancelled, pending supply arrivals.

We had chaotic scenes at the National Arena last Saturday, when people crowed outside the venue and it had to be closed early, with further doses only going to those over 50.

Part of the problem was total supply, but some problems were to do with vaccines being not distributed well across the island, with some rural sites nearly empty, according to eyewitness reports. Some wondered if JDF helicopters couldn’t have been used to help redistribute supplies over the weekend.

Unfortunately, much confusion happened as confirmed appointments were cancelled and people were struggling to rearrange their movements and policy decisions were being reversed quickly.

Ir’a not realistic for people to be online all the time and be ready to switch around at a moment’s notice. So, something will have to be done to honour commitments, within a day, at least.

I was called a week ago by RJR to talk about ‘vaccine hesitancy’ amongst Jamaica’s senior citizens. I was adamant that my view was that access was the major problem, not relucance to take vaccines (real hesitancy). I thought this was especially true in rural areas. Minister Tufton reiterated that access point, but now we will have to see the fall out from the weekend’s debacle and if it makes people less trustful of the vaccination processes and generate real hesitancy.

I’ve been everywhere, man, but did I like being there? Guinea-June 20, 2021

Likes

Simply, back to Africa: The cultural and sociological significance of making the reverse journey across the Atlantic from the Americas should be clear. Much flows naturally from the Gulf of Guinea westward. Lucky for us to visit slave transhipment points like Ile de Goré in Sénégal to see the horrific departure point for many slaves.

Kind and gentle people: Both Guineans and expatriates living there create a rich network of caring and wonderful friends whom I’m glad to still count on today. A country that’s 90% Muslim but celebrates Easter and Christmas? Says it all, for me. People with little who’d provide you with food for days simply because that’s how visitors should be treated.

Beautiful landscape: Few places beat the simple beauty of the Fouta Djallon and its mountains, or the Nimba Mountain range, of which I can say gladly I got to the top of the mound of iron ore. Wonderful waterfalls and rivers and people who live by them.

Best work set-up: It was nice to have my own office in a separate building within the central bank complex, with my own staff, and being able to choose how it looked and worked. It was the first time to set my stamp on how it should all be, from our work ethos, to how it was decorated and who could come and go-my close contacts at any level always found my door open. Having a sofa was a dream, and as a long-time believer in naps, it got good use. But, working with a new born on the scene was better for being able to start and stop when I wanted, so going home for lunch was more norm than rarity, so was working from home most afternoons The time difference between Conakry and Washington DC really helped.

House by the sea: As accidental outcomes go, we landed on our feet finding a house destined for the proprietor of the housing complex. A lovely villa in the middle of three, with the ocean inlet being at the back fench. A new house with new garden that we could enjoy seeing grow, groomed by a gardener who cared so much. We lived and ate outside a lot and our youngest had the best days being able to run around freely, inside and out.

Dislikes

The curse of riches in plain view: Guinea should not be a poor country, based on its natural resources, water, mineral riches (gold, diamond, bauxite), fertile land, geographical location. But, politics and bad management got it there, added to its neighbours’ willingness to keep fighting within their national borders and seeing citizens flee to Guinea. Guinea should have been a leader in hydroelectric power. Instead, it was plagued by inefficient power generation for most; life couldn’t go on without a diesel generator for back-up.

Hardest country from which to fly: It was often easier to fly to Europe then on to get to a neighbouring country because Guinea has few direct flights, except to Paris and Brussels. I had to do it enough times to reach Sierra Leone to Guinea’s south. Otherwise, it was tough road drives or getting a flight on a UN helicopter.

Corruption in plain view: Wont say too much beyond suggesting some reading about major acts of malfeasance that were untaken in the name of President Conté and his supporters.

Harmattan/Sahara dust: The Harmattan is a season in West Africa, which occurs between the end of November and the middle of March. It is characterized by the dry and dusty northeasterly trade wind, of the same name, which blows from the Sahara Desert over West Africa into the Gulf of Guinea. Its residue finds its way across the Atlantic, so we still get to ‘enjoy’ it in Jamaica, with the hot air that it also brings.

The rainy season: Guinea is one of the wettest countries in West Africa. The monsoon season with a southwesterly wind lasts from June to November. It’s notable for the dampness that is everywhere, lingering for months, so that mould growing on clothes is more norm than exception. Don’t leave you home unoccipied for a couple of weeks during this time but have someone who can keep it aired. Driving rain, like hurricanes is also part of the season. That moisture, too, finds its way across the Atlantic to form the Caribbean’s annual hurricane season.

I’ve been everywhere, man, but did I like being there? USA-1-June 19, 2021

Likes

The customer is always right: A revelation to the average person coming from the UK is that questions are hardly ever asked when customers have complaints. I got it on my interview visit to the IMF when I ordered a pizza and when it arrived the delivery man apolgized for its being late–I never realised–and had brought a 2nd pizza as compensation! Then, after an early shopping trip during a sale, a friend told me that prices had fallen further and I could go back to the store and get the difference as an extra bonus! What was this sorcery?

The South isn’t all dread for black people: You could have knocked me down with a feather if you thought I’d take a driving tour through the USA’s southern states and end up feeling that I ought to move to South Carolina. But, that’s how it looked after ending up en route from Florida to DC and stopping in Savannah and Charleston.

Football aka soccer: Were my finest hours really being involved with football (soccer) in the USA? Playing, coaching and refereeing, with mainly good memories is what it should be about. Getting licensed to coach and refereeing were never on my radar in England. That I ended up coaching girls was astonishing. That the team won its first ever tournament was dream-like, and those 9-year olds will forever have that trophy-winning moment in 1996.

The West Coast and Pacific North West: Fewer coastal areas are stranger than these, with rugged edges and massive falling trees on beaches.

Buying a car: In the UK, it could easily take weeks to complete a purchase and take away the vehicle. In the USA, it takes hours and you will leave the lot in your car. It’s not a great process, with the faux haggling, but it’s really a sign of totally different outlooks to consumerism.

Dislikes

Urban freeways: It took some getting used to how US roads and urban areas are constructed. I remember looking for a store and being able to see it from the freeway but not being able to figure out how to get to it. I went past and looped back and saw it passing below me, for several tries. Eventually, I discovered the exit and located the store. The other big difference was being told my destination was up the road and 2nd left. When I told the man I was walking, he was stunned. “Up the road” was about 10 miles along the freeway, and “2nd left” was the 2nd exit. Different strokes…

Disenfrachisement: It was fine being a foreigner with a special status, but not having the opportunity to vote isn’t fine, irrespective of what you want to do with your vote.

Absence of extensive public transport: Like many major US cities, the greater Washington area doesn’t have an extensive public transport network. DC and near suburbs are not badly covered by underground trains and buses or and overground lines cover some areas, but it’s really motorized transport that rules. Belatedly, plans to extend the Metro lines into Northern Virginia have gotten underway, but has still not reached a natural major end point at Dulles International Airport. The nearer airport, Reagan National, is easily reached by Metrorail.

Tipping: European attitudes to paying for service are completely at variance with those in the USA. It’s simplest in European countries where a bill is rounded and that’s it, and change that remains goes to the server. None of this decision making over a percentage and better still not attitude about the tip not being big enough. Pay the people the right wages!

Easter and Christmas are not one-day affairs: I’ve never worked during either Lent/Easter or Christmas, both of which are long holiday periods in the Caribbean and UK. So, these not being more than a day’s holiday, at most, was and is shock; we took the full time as holidays every year, including the 12 days of Christmas.