Friday, 14 December 2012

On Break Until 6th January

In the meantime I'm wishing everybody a joyous Holiday Season!  May the spirit of the season be with you throughout the New Year!

Wednesday, 28 November 2012



JESSAMINE - an excerpt

Malinda shrugged and looked me over. “These things happen,” she repeated, watching my stomach.
Self-conscious, I smoothed my skirt. Despite my diet, I had gained some weight in the last few weeks. I would either have to lose it or devote some of my hard-earned money to buying cloth for new dresses.
“She in the drawing room.” Malinda led the way downstairs.
I pushed open the doors and went in. Mrs. Threlfall sat by one of the windows, Jocelyn in her lap, and Victoria and Theodore at her feet. She said nothing as I walked toward her, just stared at me with what looked like sharp surprise. The children regarded me silently.
“Malinda said you wanted to see me?” I prompted.
“Yes.” She seemed to shake herself. “I did. Children, please leave.”
“Mother, we won’t listen,” Victoria argued.
“You can come back in a little while.”
“Do you promise?”
Mrs. Threlfall permitted the ghost of a smile. “I do.”
The children filed out.
“Come,” she said, waving me forward after they had closed the door. “Come closer.”
I closed the gap between us, wondering what was the matter. I had thought she was going to berate me for allowing Theodore to be stung, and I was prepared with my response. Instead, she stared at me without speaking for what seemed like hours.
“Is something the matter, Mrs. Threlfall?” I shifted restlessly.
“Are you with child, Miss Adams?”
With child. It had never occurred to me but suddenly I realized it was true. Sally Ann, Aunt Bell’s youngest daughter, was the apple of her eye and Aunt Bell had once explained to me that this was because of how difficult her pregnancy with her had been. She’d said that for the first few months she’d hardly been able to do anything but lie abed as every task wearied her and every smell, particularly those of meats and soap, threatened to upset her stomach.
“Who…. Who?” She watched me with big, frightened eyes, unable to finish her sentence.
I understood immediately. “I do not believe you know him, Ma’am,” I answered, feeling sorry for her.
Relief eased her features. “Are you certain? You do not spare my feelings?” she asked, wanting to be sure.
“No, Ma’am. I mean, I am quite certain you do not know him. He is a businessman.”
She stared at me, wide-eyed. “But how did you meet him? Does he come to church?”
“No, Ma’am. I…I met him on the street that day I was in Wolverton by myself.” I was going to mention that he was a friend of Father Watson’s but thought better of it.
“On the street.” Her hand was at her throat. She watched me with equal parts horror and fascination. “Do you plan to get married? You know you cannot continue here.”
“Of course. I will leave.” I wanted one of those storm winds that they say sweeps across the island every few years to suddenly come and spirit me away. My legs felt weak. Seeing I was about to fall, Mrs. Threlfall jumped up and guided me to the sofa.
“How could you do this, child? How could you? Alone in a strange land. Have you no sense at all?” There was pity in her voice.
“It flies from me when he is around. I love him, Ma’am.”
“And does he love you?”
“Yes, he does.”
“You’ll get married, then?” She nodded as though answering her own question. My queasiness began to pass.
“You say he’s a businessman?”
“He owns buildings in Wolverton and has them rented out.” Leando had also told me of his plans to buy a trading ship but I didn’t tell her this. He wanted to own a fleet of them because he said he foresaw the day when St. Crescens would no longer be able to feed itself; it was scarcely doing so now. Many of the trading ships putting in at the island belonged to companies in England which charged high prices. He thought there was an opportunity in it for him. His ambition was one of the things I loved about him.
“Will you not tell me who he is? Is it Charles Skerrit? That would be a wonderful match for you, dear.” She peered questioningly at me but I shook my head.
She frowned, puzzled. “I can’t think…oh, don’t tell me it’s that Osgood boy. What’s his name? Henry. Is it him?” I shook my head again wishing she would give up this game.
“That’s a blessing, at least. The men of that family are wastrels. As long as you’re satisfied, he must be of good quality. You have never struck me as overly flighty.”
“He’s a good man, Ma’am.”
“Perhaps…but a bit impetuous, certainly.” She glanced at my stomach, and I colored, spreading my hands over the small mound. A new life, a life we had made together. I wondered if Leando would be happy. I thought, I hoped, he would.
 “My dear, the sooner you are married the better. Mary Byde had quite the big belly when she married Francois. You will find that we, here, do not frown on such happenings quite as people do in England. In time, you will be invited to tea and people will make calls on you. I will certainly call to see the latest addition to St. Crescens society.”
I choked on my laughter but, when she looked at me, puzzled, I could not bring myself to tell her who the father of my child was. I had neither the strength nor the courage to be plain about my lover.
“Where can you go until your wedding day?” She said this more to herself than to me. “Oh, I know.” She snapped her fingers. “I will ask Aunt Bridget if she would allow you to stay with her until the arrangements for your wedding are complete. She’s a spinster and fairly free in her thinking. She travels to London all the time and is the greatest friends with artists and writers and people of that stripe. That’s the perfect solution. I’ll have Dodger take you. She lives in Wolverton. You’ll be close to your friend, and he can visit you there without reproach.”
I didn’t know what to say, she was being so kind. For the first time since our conversation began I felt my eyes tear. Perhaps if the circumstances had been different we could have been friends, this Creole woman and I. Then I thought of Leando. I was behaving as though I were ashamed of him and of the love we shared.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Snapshot Saturday - Forever in our hearts

Our cat, Romulus, died about a month ago.  We don't know why.  He was less than two years old and full of personality.  He went missing on Sunday and on Wednesday we found his body.  It is possible that he might have been hit by a car and crawled away to die.  It's also possible that he may have eaten poison in some form or another.  He wasn't sick, though we did have to take him in to the vet some weeks before for a cut in his paw - we thought maybe he'd stepped on a nail but after his antibiotics, he was his old self again.

Romulus was a great hunter and used to catch the local wildlife - lizards, the odd snake and once, most memorably, a chicken, and bring them into the house to have his way with them.  He loved to chase things, he loved to sleep and he loved his food.  He also loved belly-rubs and blanket wrestling.   He is buried among the ginger lillies, his old hunting ground.  We miss him very much.

Romulus as a young 'un.
A pensive Romulus

Romulus looks up at me from my lap.

Gone, but never forgotten!

Today, I'm once again participating in Snapshot Saturday which is sponsored by Alyce of At Home With Books! Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don't post random photos that you find online.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Colonization in Reverse

"Wat a joyful news, Miss Mattie,
I feel like my heart gwine burs'
Jamaica people colonizin
England  in reverse.

By de hundred, by de t'ousan
From country and from town,
By de ship-load, by de plane-load
Jamaica is Englan boun.

Dem a pour out of Jamaica,
Everybody future plan
Is fe get a big-time job
An settle in de mother lan.

What a islan!  What a people!
Man an woman, old and young,
Jusa pack dem bag an baggage
An tun history upside dung!

Some people don't like travel,
But fe show dem loyalty
Dem all a-open up cheap-fare-
To-Englan agency.

An week by week dem shippin off
Dem countryman like fire,
Fe immigrate an populate
De seat o de Empire."  from Colonization in Reverse by Louise Bennett

Louise Simone Bennett-Coverley or Miss Lou,  (7 September 1919 – 26 July 2006), was a Jamaican poet, folklorist, writer, and educator. Writing and performing her poems in what was known as Jamaican Patois or Creole, she was instrumental in having this "dialect" of the people given literary recognition in its own right ("nation language"), located at the heart of the Jamaican poetic tradition, and influencing many other poets, including Mutabaruka and Linton Kwesi Johnson. (from Wikipedia)

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Snapshot Saturday - Those who went before...

Today, I'm once again participating in Snapshot Saturday which is sponsored by Alyce of At Home With Books! Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don't post random photos that you find online.

These are some of the pictures I took of gravestones at St. Thomas's main cemetery, in Charlotte Amalie.  The cemetery is quite overcrowded and some of the older graves are in disrepair but it was interesting seeing the old names and seeing what people had written about their loved ones.

"Nene" is an affectionate term for a grandmother.

This was the tomb of a 14 year-old boy who'd died of a fever.  Vandals have broken off his hand.

This is from one of the older tombs - other parts have been broken off but her face was probably too stern for vandals to mess with.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Ira Aldridge, 1807-1867

Ira Frederick Aldridge (July 24, 1807 – 7 August 1867) was an American actor who made his career largely on the London stage and in Europe, especially in Shakespearean roles. He is the only actor of African-American descent among the 33 actors of the English stage honored with bronze plaques at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre at Stratford-upon-Avon. He was especially popular in Prussia and Russia, where he received top honors from heads of state.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Snapshot Saturday - Main Street, Road Town

Today, I'm once again participating in Snapshot Saturday which is sponsored by Alyce of At Home With Books! Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don't post random photos that you find online.

Because I live at one end of Main Street, most of the pictures I take are of that area so a couple weekends ago I walked up to the other end.  Main Street still has a quaint, Caribbean flavour but, in the absence of historical preservation legislation, that mightn't last.  These were taken on a Sunday - during the week there are so many cars that you can't really get good pictures.

The bottom of the two-storey blue and white building houses Serendipity, a bookstore.

The palms in the pix below are a mix of Coconut and Royal Palms.

When I was young, two elderly ladies lived in the orange building and they used to feed me cake and tamarind juice whenever I stopped by.

 People still live in a lot of these old houses, some of which go back to the early 1900s and before.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

This is The Dark Time, My Love

"This is the dark time, my love.
All around the land brown beetles crawl about.
The shining sun is hidden in the sky.
Red flowers bend their heads in awful sorrow.

This is the dark time, my love.
It is the season of oppression, dark metal, and tears.
It is the festival of guns, the carnival of misery.
Everywhere the faces of men are strained and anxious.

Who comes walking in the dark night time?
Whose boot of steel tramps down the slender grass?
It is the man of death, my love, the stranger invader
watching you sleep and aiming at your dream." - by Martin Carter

Martin Wylde Carter (7 June 1927 - 13 December 1997) was a Guyanese poet and political activist. Widely regarded as the greatest Guyanese poet, and one of the most important poets of the Caribbean region, Carter is best known for his poems of protest, resistance and revolution. Carter played an active role in Guyanese politics, particularly in the years leading up Independence in 1966 and those following immediately after. He was famously imprisoned by the British government in Guyana (then British Guiana) in October 1953 under allegations of "spreading dissension", and again in June 1954 for taking part in a PPP procession. Shortly after being released from prison the first time, Carter published his most well-known poetry collection, Poems of Resistance from British Guiana (1954).

Martin Carter

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Caribbean Writers - A Series

Today, I'm continuing with my occasional series on Caribbean writers, past and present.  A lot of Caribbean people don't know the rich diversity of Caribbean literature so this is my meager effort to highlight fabulous writers from the region. 
Lawrence Scott (born in Trinidad, 1943) is an award-winning novelist and short-story writer from Trinidad & Tobago, currently living in London and Trinidad. His novels have been awarded (1998) and short-listed (1992, 2004) for the Commonwealth Writers' Prize and twice nominated for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award (for Aelred's Sin in 2000 and Night Calypso in 2006). His stories have been much anthologized and he won the Tom-Gallon Short-Story Award in 1986. He divides his time between London and Port of Spain.

Witchbroom (Cws (Series)) by Scott, Lawrence published by Heinemann Paperback                                                                    

Witchbroom - "A curious narrator called Lavren, both male and female, tells carnival tales of crime and passion. These tales evoke a visionary history of the Monagas family and their island.
Witchbroom is a brilliant first novel which reveals the history of a Caribbean island with an intensity and originality that is unrivalled." - from the author's website.  I loved this book!  It was fantastic - an epic look at the history of Trinidad from the early days of its settlement to the days of Eric Williams.

The White Witch of Rosehall

Herbert George de Lisser (9 December 1878 – 19 May 1944) was a Jamaican journalist and author. He has been called "one of the most conspicuous figures in the history of West Indian literature".
De Lisser was born in Falmouth, Jamaica, and attended William Morrison's Collegiate School in Kingston. He started work at the Institute of Jamaica at the age of 14. Three years later he joined the Jamaica Daily Gleaner, of which his father was editor, as a proofreader, and two years later became a reporter on the Jamaica Times.

The White Witch of Rosehall is a great example of Caribbean Gothic - beating drums, sinister slave practices and a plantation owner who has given herself over to the dark side.  Very entertaining!
Banana Bottom (Harvest Book, Hb 273)

Claude McKay (born Festus Claudius McKay) (September 15, 1889 – May 22, 1948) was a Jamaican-American writer and poet. He was a seminal figure in the Harlem Renaissance and wrote four novels: Home to Harlem (1928), a best-seller which won the Harmon Gold Award for Literature, Banjo (1929), Banana Bottom (1933) and in 1941 the manuscript of a novel that has not yet been published called Amiable With Big Teeth: A Novel of the Love Affair Between the Communists and the Poor Black Sheep of Harlem.  McKay also authored a collection of short stories, Gingertown (1932), and two autobiographical books, A Long Way from Home (1937) and Harlem: Negro Metropolis (1940).

In Banana Bottom, a Jamaican girl, Bita Plant, who was adopted and sent to be educated in England by white missionary benefactors, returns to her native village of Banana Bottom and finds her black heritage at war with her newly acquired culture.  (I have to confess that while I've read his poetry, I haven't read his novels so Banana Bottom is on my TBR list.)

If you've read any of these, let me know what you thought!

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Snapshot Saturday - Miracle Fruit

Some years back, all the health magazines were full of stories about the health benefits of the Noni plant.  The Noni grows commonly around the British Virgin Islands and is used in folk medicine.  According to the US National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine of the National Institutes of Health -
Noni is an evergreen shrub or small tree that grows throughout the tropical regions of the Pacific Ocean, from Southeast Asia to Australia. Noni has a history of use as a topical preparation for joint pain and skin conditions. Today, noni fruit juice has folk uses as a general health tonic and for cancer and chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
The noni fruit is most commonly combined with other fruits (such as grape) to make juice. Preparations of the fruit and leaves are also available in capsules, tablets, and teas.

A close-up of the Noni fruit

I'm here to tell you that it tastes AWFUL!!!!  So if you're gonna drink it, you'll definitely need to mix it with something more palatable unless you're literally someone of great intestinal fortitude.

The fruit from another angle

 The tree is quite attractive with its big leaves.

 Today, I'm once again participating in Snapshot Saturday which is sponsored by Alyce of At Home With Books! Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don't post random photos that you find online.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Obeah and Rebellion - Nanny of Nanny Town

Nowadays, few Caribbean people know about the role Obeah played in slave rebellions throughout the region.  Those who may know about Nanny, one of the few female Maroon leaders, may not know about her reputation as an Obeah practitioner but a note made in Jamaica’s Assembly papers for 1733, records the citation of one William Cuffee for “having killed Nanny, the rebels’ old obeah woman.”

In his 1950 travel book, The Traveler’s Tree: A Journey Through the Caribbean Islands, Patrick Leigh Fermor relates his discovery of an old book containing this note on:  “‘The notorious Nanny…[who] was possessed of supernatural powers, and spirited away the best and finest of the slaves from the outlying estates.  She never went into battle armed like the rest, but received the bullets of the enemy that were aimed at her and returned them with fatal effect in a manner of which decency forbids a nearer description.’”
            In fact, the Maroons, themselves, continued to maintain the tradition of Nanny’s magical powers long after she, herself, had died.  Col. C. L. G. Harris of the Moore Town Maroons told folklorist, Laura Tanna, that “many people ascribe magical powers to Nanny.  I [do] so and I think every Maroon who has a right to call himself or herself so, believes so.”  According to him:  “Nanny at one time in her career decided to defeat a whole British battalion single-handedly and so she placed her pot in a particular spot, [on a narrow] pathway [where] the English could march only in single file and so when the British came, each man peeped into the pot because it was boiling, boiling, but no fire was underneath it.”  Each man who looked into the pot fell down and rolled off the cliff and the “army was completely decimated and then Nanny stopped the last one before he could look in” and showed him what had happened to the others and sent him back to tell his commander of their defeat.  Harris added that “it was this great Nanny, who after the signing of the Treaty caught the bullets.  Of course, so many people know the method that she used and she caught them and returned them whence they came.”  Tanna recorded that Harris gestured like a woman lifting her skirts when speaking about how Nanny caught the bullets.  (Legend has it that she caught them in her bottom.
            How much planters of the day knew about Nanny’s reputed supernatural skills is open to speculation.  It is quite probable that they attributed her success in battle to the guerilla tactics employed by the Maroons and to the difficulty they found in fighting over terrain as challenging as that of Jamaica’s Blue Mountains and, to the west, of the Cockpit Country, wooded and pitted as it was.  Her reputation in Obeah was something at which they would have scoffed and which they would have dismissed as laughable.  Europe’s own witches had led no uprisings and been involved in no wars.  Any participation in war by people with assumed supernatural powers had died out with the Celts so the planters had little understanding of the psychological power Obeah practitioners wielded over adherents.

Monday, 29 October 2012

The Wisdom of Whores, A Review

The book

In The Wisdom of Whores; Bureaucrats, Brothels and theBusiness of AIDS, Elizabeth Pisani, takes an incisive look at the sex trade, HIV/AIDS prevention strategies and the operations of national and international non-governmental organizations.  Ms. Pisani, an epidemiologist who has worked with UNAIDS, the World Bank and other organizations and governments takes a no-holds barred approach to the issue.  What works?  What doesn’t?  How can governments and multi-nationals spend their HIV/AIDS budgets more effectively?

As Ms. Pisani points out scare tactics don’t always work.  Neither does ignorance.  African governments were slow to respond to the crisis, slow to get the information about the disease to their populations and slow to put reduction strategies such as the distribution of condoms into effect with the result that the virus transmission rate went through the roof.  With the exception of Senegal and Uganda, African societies made like or no effort to talk frankly about sex, about the risks of multiple partnering, about the need to use condoms, about the benefits of circumcision.  Sexual relations in Africa happens in nets – for example, a man may have two or three wives in his compound but also has a visiting relationship with other women.  By contrast, in Europe, relationships happen in ‘strings’ where a man will only have one partner at a time. These are some of the factors which have led to sub-Saharan Africa having the highest rate of HIV/AIDS in the world, followed by the Caribbean where similar factors, multiple partnering and an unwillingness to talk about sex, also obtain.

Ms. Pisani’s focus is mostly on Asia, however, and she explores the facts and the myths behind the spread of the disease in such countries as Thailand and East Timor.  Abstinence only programmes, she points out, haven’t worked in the States and don’t work anywhere else.  What works are programmes for drug injectors, men who have sex with men, and sex workers.  Condom distribution programmes also work.  Yet millions of people continue to contract HIV every year because, as Ms. Pisani charges, governments and NGOs don’t like spending money or time on the “wicked.”  Thus, millions and millions of dollars go into prevention measures that actually do very little to prevent people from getting HIV.  Instead, a weird confluence of religious leaders – the Pope, various imams, preachers, etc. – and non-governmental organizations with one eye on the enormous sums being funneled into AIDS and the other eye on each other, deliberately undermine efforts to reach the marginalized.

This is a book that should be read by government leaders, particularly those of the Caribbean where HIV/AIDS prevention seems to have fallen off the radar but where the disease continues to spread through a potent mix of ignorance and complacency

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

The Water of Sunlight - available now!

THE WATER OF SUNLIGHT - "The Water of Sunlight by Eugenia O’Neal was not an easy book to get through.  It ... had some tough topics to get through. These topics include HIV and drug use among other things. With that being said, I really enjoyed this read. I normally don’t read books with such heavy topics, but I am glad that I read this one...the entire time I was reading this book I rooted for Onita." - Lady Blue Jay


Your day at Mercury begins at 5:00am with the siren.  You will collect your soap and towel and any other necessities and proceed to the shower room.  Your shower is not to last longer than seven minutes.  Remember, cleanliness is your best defense against infection.  Following your shower, you will return to your cell.  At 6:30am, you will proceed to the dining hall for your first meal of the day. 
            Onita flipped to another page.
            The following is a list of prohibited items: Cocaine, Crack, Marijuana, Alcohol, Heroin, Scissors, Knives, Forks, Pens, Guns, Money, Syringes, Stamps, Weapons of any kind.  All controlled substances are strictly prohibited.  Anything that is not sold in the commissary or issued by this institution is prohibited.
            If any prohibited item is found on or around the person of any inmate or in her cell that inmate will be subject, depending on the item, to a penalty ranging from the loss of television privileges for a predetermined time to isolation for a term not exceeding two weeks.
            Onita skipped to another section.
            Visitors are required to dress appropriately.  Visitors dressed in revealing clothing will be prohibited.
            Visitors under the influence of drugs will also be prohibited and visitors may be subject to strip search.
Onita threw the rulebook across the cell.  That shit was not straight.  Who the fuck was gon come visit if they had to wear church clothes?  It was bad enough she was in the middle of nowhere.  Trina and the others wouldn’t hardly know how to get here. 
Onita picked the book back up and put it in her locker.  Maybe throwing the damn book was against the rules too.  Maybe there was even a rule about where you were supposed to put the book, on top or inside the locker.  She took it back out and flipped through it.  On page two it said she could keep a cup and one other item on top her locker, nothing about the rulebook.  Sheeit.  Onita put it back inside.  Ain't no mistaking where she was now.  She flopped down on her bed and stared up at the ceiling.  She was on the second floor of cell-block Number Five.  The soap and towel she had been issued were on a shelf.  The rulebook had explained that, for the first month, commissary items would be credited to her.  Whatever she earned at her prison job would be put to her commissary account and when she had paid off what she owed, a quarter would be set aside in a savings account for when she left.  Jobs were not mandatory but there was a two for one policy in effect.  Every two days she was at a job counted for one day off her sentence.  In twelve months she would qualify for an extra ten days off if she had not violated any rules.
According to the rulebook, she could mop floors or she could work in the laundry, the garment factory, the kitchen, offices and other areas.  Prisoners could also earn favorable parole reviews by attending programs like Alcoholics Anonymous, parenting classes and vocational skills courses.  None of those options set her on fire but the thought of getting out early did.  Moon Dog would have less of a chance to get sent up or offed by anyone else the quicker she got back to him.  Only the thought of living long enough to kill the motherfucker kept her alive. If she had done what she set out to do on Horley Street, she would have turned the gun on herself.  That was her intention.  
Available NOW from Amazon, Smashwords, Apple, Kobo and all online booksellers.