Sunday 31st August, 2008

Simon Lee
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Stormy weather

Into every life a little rain must fall and it seems in this meeting that I’m caught up in the floods.

By the time this column hits the Sunday streets my three small kids will be back in my birthplace, the Big Fug. I waited for more than a year to see them and would love to report that we had a swimming time. But the rains came and swept away most of the good times.

With the ferocious Emancipation electric storm came the bandits, a well-known trio who are still at large, quite obviously with police collusion. I didn’t mind the material losses so much as the loss of a safe environment for my kids. So having anticipated this five-week visitation for months and looked forward to hearing the voices of the Mini Levites echoing through my batchie, we all had to settle for shuttling between St Ann’s and Princes Town; snatched days at beaches and mall-strolling.

My friends tell me I need a bush bath or six and that I really should have my car blessed. Will do. But, for now, the only blessings I want will be riding the Atlantic on a 5,000-mile flight that carries them out of sight and sound for I don’t know how many months.

This is a separation I’ve been pushing from my mind as it will feel like losing limbs. Despite the disasters of the trip, seeing these three small people drove home the realisation that there is nothing more precious in life than your family and kids, and in my case the kids are the only family I have.

Or so I thought until a new friend reminded me this morning that I have an extensive and extended non-blood family of friends throughout the kingdom of this world. So I should take last weekend’s abortive trip to Maracas Bay as a metaphor for what’s going down while the Mayan calendar grinds down to its finale.

Finding a bathing beach in Trinidad is a challenge. The north coast is wild and wonderful, mostly because of the way the rainforest drops directly into the sea. But the sea at Big Bay, San Souci, can turn vicious in an instant and swimming among dog turds in Chag was certainly no tropical treat.

We spent a perfect Saturday at Maracas two weeks back, in warm safe waters, and decided to head back there last weekend. With my usual perverse stubbornness I turned a deaf ear to the storm warnings, telling my car-full with totally misplaced confidence that by the time we came through the mountains and descended the dark clouds ahead would have gone.

Wrong again.

By the time we hit the bar above the bay for a food-stop, the skies were ripped and when it became apparent this was no passing shower we made the sensible decision to head back to town.

No joy, we ran into the first landslide and spent the rest of the stormy afternoon riding round the island (as my middle daughter put it), along the coast road through Las Cuevas, La Fillette, Blanchisseuse, down through the Arima Valley and eventually all the way to Princes Town. It wasn’t the trip I’d had in mind that morning, but then I realised it wasn’t so much a question of what you do rather than who you’re doing it with, and a long wet afternoon with the kids was worth more than a sunburnt beach to myself.

If I kick against the pricks and start feeling sorry for myself in moments of sadness, I can’t help recall the fabulous version of Never Ever Worry featuring Resistance along with the late great Pretender, which points out the salient truth that, of course, there’s always someone much worse off than you.

And if I really want to put everything in perspective, the Pulitzer-prize-winning novel I’ve just read, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Dominican writer Junot Diaz is the bomb. Poor, fat, sex-starved loser Oscar finds love and death in a Dominican Republic terrorised by possibly the worst dictator the region has produced—Rafael Trujillo.

Along with the rapes, repression and bloodshed of that era (the book is principally set in the 1950s and the years leading up to Trujillo’s assassination in 1960), there is wry compassion and bellydeep humour in Oscar Wao.

What I go tell yuh? If yuh aint laugh yuh dead, oui.

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