#COVID19Chronicles-214: November 9, 2020-Sunday with Tropical Cyclone Eta

If you wanted torrential rain, some high winds, and lots of flood damage, yesterday had it. We’d been warned midweek:

The weather system was clear:

The weather watchers told us we had enough rain during the day in the Corporate area to have a shallow bath (60mm is about 2 1/2 inches). 😳😩

Nearby roads became rivers:

Roads into the Blue Mountains had landslides:

Several roads across the island were blocked:

The damage repair bill will be huge, adding to the already estimated $2 billion.

We also had a minor earthquake during the afternoon. Very 2020 😳😩🙏🏾

JPS warned of power outages:

We went the day without an outage.

Flash flood warnings are in effect till Wednesday.

#COVID19Chronicles-133: August 25, 2020-What do the main parties stand for?

Election Day is September 3, and the first of three debates will be tonight.

You can keep track on a scorecard provided by the Jamaica Debates Commission:

I’d hoped to read at least part of both manifestos by now, but the JLP hasn’t got theirs ready, yet—due out this morning. (I could make the obvious point about how daft it seems that the party that had the election timing in its control couldn’t have its manifesto out first.)

Instead, we have the LalaLand Manifesto of the Jamaica Progressive Party. I’m being uncharacteristically harsh on that, because it was the tail of a damp squib of an election appearance, because the party pulled out days after issuing the manifesto. It was manifestly a non-flyer. It would not get on the manifest of an plane except to see Barnum and Bailey. They will be the butt of jokes for days, and deservedly for the many dreams of untold riches that were snatched from our grasps.

PNP has come out with a nifty ‘personal’ manifesto. It’s cool in that you don’t have to provide a real profile, so you can see how you’d fare, for instance, if you were a rich, transvestite with a family of four, and a herd of pangolin living in St. Elizabeth. There’s hope for all, in that sort of offering.

But, as we’re really talking about the political heavyweights, I’d like to have both JLP and PNP story books at the same time. I’d also have preferred if a bit more technological flair had been shown and I could have had the documents in audio file form, so that during the likely many days of being locked in, I have lots of material to listen to and dream the days away. So, let me hold off.

The thought that’s going through my mind is just a simple one: What does each party stand for? Once upon a time in my life, I had a clearer idea of different philosophies driving the parties and their policies. That was clearer to me from I could really think about these things in the 1970s through 1990s, and I had the clear social democratic dreams of Michael Manley to look at and a more capitalistic and business-oriented and US-focused stance of Edward Seaga.

Now, it’s a bit harder to describe in a substantive way. I asked my wife and she said ‘Prosperity; focus on growth’ versus ‘Cater to the people’s needs’. I’ll not hold her feet to the fire on this, but it tells me that the ideas are a bit squishy. Maybe, that allows for more chewing away at the middle ground of people’s desire for better lives shaping it is slightly different images.

More assuredly, after the current administration, the JLP can put itself forward as a party that is set on ‘getting things done’ and appearing to get them done quickly. One of the problems with the PNP’s cries that much of this is building, literally, on their plans, is that people wonder why the plans were languishing. Ideas that don’t materialize aren’t worth much.

The real meaning of support for each party is maybe quite basic for lots of people and it’s not about grand images that show a Jamaica in totality, but the state of a community, say, that looks different then than it does now. Hence, politicians’ focus on basic services, like water and roads. It’s embarrassing to the nation that water supply is still such a thorny issue across the country. The state of roads is, sadly, going to be an unwanted thorn to the administration, after Tropical Storm Laura lashed us this weekend and many roads—including the crispy ‘cyaapet’ are now in a flooded or washed away shambles.

The damage to the rural roads cement (no pun) a tale that is as old as most people, of roads that are just not fit for purpose.

The damage to newly constructed stretches tells us that little has changed: US$20 million spent and what? Many will smell a familiar rat when learning that new roads were built without drainage systems. ‘Tom drunk, but Tom is no fool.’ 😦

The most that any party can do in coming days is make more promises about the provision and the maintenance, but memories will be fresh of what those realities are.

I don’t want to keep harping on about the things that can turn a near ‘slam dunk’ election win into a ‘squeaky bum’ nail biter, but you’re seeing some of them with the impact of nature on the national ability to move. That’s one of the problems with any idea of delaying elections, as far as the government is concerned: more stuff can go wrong.

In this narrow, optic, then, it’s not going to do the government too much harm that the pandemic has forced its hand to tighten restrictions again, with effect from tomorrow.

While, it’s easy to see a cynical take to that, it’s also what people have been clamouring for as the infection numbers rise sharply. But, as cards get handed out to play in coming days, it’s going to be a nervous time seeing whether some of them are hard to play with a positive air or if they are just to be turned over with hope of drawing a better one. Nature is not a controllable beast and, during hurricane season… 🙂

Christmas is here…well, nearly

“Rip van Winkle, wake up!”

The last few days of Tessannetasia have been like a 20-year sleep, allowing me to forget about the other Jamaica that was there before I looked the other way and tuned into The Voice for two straight nights. Now, I have to get back to what some would prefer us to focus on all the time–“serious news”, they call it. So, what did I let myself lost sight in Jamaica?

  • Crime, especially murders (some 1,100 and counting).
  • Road accidents (300 deaths for the year is quickly approaching).
  • Minimum wage increase (from $5,000 to $5,600 per 40-hour work week, as of Monday, January 6, 2014. Also, effective January 6, the minimum wage for industrial security guards, will be increased from $7,320.40 to $8,198.80 per 40-hour week–a 12 per cent increase, during a period when inflation has risen about 18 percent). IMF programme (US$30.8 million disbursed to Jamaica).
  • The PM’s travel schedule (with or without fatuous justifications from PNP politicians). I heard that she gave an interview to a local TV channel, so her relative silence with regard to the local media is no longer an issue: Jamaicans love nine-day wonders.
  • Vybz Kartel’s trial goes on. What’s new?
  • The Cuban light bulb scandal goes on. What’s newer?
  • Bad roads (Thank you Tessanne for making their “worst” condition an international issue :-)). Thank you Ministry of Works for taking the point.
  • Trinidad (Who’s still boycotting?). Their central bank just downgraded its growth forecast from 2.5 percent to 1.5 percent for 2013. Surely not because of you know what?
  • West Indies cricket (Can they win a match?).
  • Who is Clovis ridiculing?
  • The Jamaican dollar’s continuing decline.

And beyond our shores?

  • Santa “is white” (I heard it on FoxNews, so it must be true). I guess that means Megyn Kelly believes he’s real (he is a man?).
  • Screen Shot 2013-12-20 at 5.39.51 AMThe Chinese are on the Moon. What does that mean for its environment and possible development options. Intergalactic logistic hub up there?
  • The UK has been battered by “severe weather”, with wind gusting at over 70 miles per hour. So severe that football matches have had to be abandoned or suspended mid-kick for weird things like hailstorms. What’s the world coming to?

Some people have taken the whole Tessanne-winning thing and seen it as a glimmer of hope in an otherwise dark time. How could they be so crass? Of course, what we all need is more despair and signs of insensitivity towards each other. We all need a good dose of more grief. Who has time to smile at someone’s wonderful achievements when they could be poring over the obituaries of persons’ lives snubbed out callously?

Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat/Please do put a penny in the old man’s hat/If you haven’t got a penny, a ha’penny will do/If you haven’t got a ha’penny, then God bless you!

Down came the rain!

When people think of Jamaica, what image do they see? Sand? Yes, on the coast. Blue seas? Yes, on the coast. Lush green hills? Yes, most places. Sunny weather? Yes, most times. What, not all the time, except night? Yes! Now, it’s the peak of hurricane season.

“Every Tuesday, we get rain!” cried the lady. “Did you see the water in that gully?” yelled my child. “It looked like chocolate soup.” We had just come over the hills, again. We’d seen the dark clouds looming as we headed to the car. “Looks like the storm’s coming on time,” I said, glibly. On time, being about 2:45 each afternoon. Dark, thick clouds covered the top of Jacks Hill. A flash of lightning. Then, a huge clap of thunder. We rolled. Within five minutes, I had to ask myself if I was in Jamaican territory or the US Midwest. The wind was picking up as I saw plastic bottles and bags flying past the car. The wipers swayed.

We reached the start of the hill and I could see the first signs of light debris rushing towards us in little rivulets. Onward, James!

20131012-062831.jpgA minute later, I wondered if I had made the right decision. The rain was lashing the car and the din was deafening. The wipers rsced across the glass like frenzied fingers, but unable to deal with the liquid. I squinted. “Daddy, can you see? I can’t.” I grunted a yes. My nose pressed forward and my eyes squinted to try to pick out the curves. The overgrown grass, now many feet tall, had bowed and was making our track like Bamboo Alley. A truck was coming towards us, and it looked too wide for us to pass. I slowed, then stopped. It passed and slashed the side of the car with a small wave. I waved back with a smile. “That was close!” came a not chirpy voice.

My foot pushed on the pedal again and we had another try to get to the hill top. It was now black outside. Pea soup? More like molasses. We reached the top and looked down over Kingston, trying to see the coastline as usual. Not a thing to see. “What time is it?” ‘Miss Daisy’ asked. “It’s so dark!” A fork of lightning give us a beam of light. It seemed that we were right in the midst of the storm. “Exciting!”

We had reached the arch-shaped house on the crest of the hill and started the trek down the other side.

20131012-063832.jpg“Look out for the potholes,” came a helpful reminder. I twisted the wheel and rode the bank on the inside of the hill to avoid one deep hole I remembered but could not see. “Nice!” came my lady’s approving voice. I could see the water ahead of me was now a torrent and pebbles and small rocks were passing alongside. Another curve. Another. Another. We reached the flatter part of the hill and stopped. The clinking sound on the windscreen was worrying. It sounded like nails. I cracked my window and peeped out. “Shine on, child! That’s hail! In Jamaica!” I yelled. We both started laughing.

My daughter grabbed my phone and started to make a video. “This is my Dad, driving home, in Kingston, Jamaica. The land of wood and WATA!” We reached the gulley. The water was rushing across furiously. Deep enough to have to stop and check if anything was being carried along in it. Don’t laugh. Have you ever been sideswiped by an on-rushing shopping trolley? Well, let me tell you… We crossed and were soon in our driveway. “Daddy? Do you have the umbrella? And do you have a helmet?” Ever resourceful, I pulled out an umbrella, and today’s paper. “There!” The little body jumped out of the car and was promptly pelleted by hail stones. “Ouuuch!” One doused rat delivered safely.

We looked out at our backyard as the pool of water rose and a little lake formed, with hail pellets splashing in it. “Still like Jamaica?” I asked. I got a broad grin back in reply.

Every day that we get heavy rains and thunderstorms like this I’m thankful. It’s not a full-blown hurricane.