March 18, 2009
The picture above hangs in my friend Robin’s weekend house in Toco which is located in the remote North East of Trinidad. When I first saw it years ago I didn’t think much of it but I have now become inordinately fond of it and look forward to seeing it every now and then. It is painted by the artist Cromwell in a style that i suppose would be described as primitive but it is, in fact, that wonderfully naive style coupled with the decidedly local subject matter that makes me love it so much. It depicts some of the figures of Trinidad folklore that many, in areas such as Toco, still believe in.
The three figures in the foreground from left to right are LaDiablesse ( the she devil) , Soucouyant ( a sort of succubus who by day takes on the form of an old woman and then sheds her skin at night to do her evil deeds) and finally we have the Lagahoo ( a man who can change into animal form). Even though I said many rural people still believe in and fear these figures i am often surprised to learn that many urban types also believe in them. A perfectly normal educated adult might tell you with concern that he woke up with two small bite marks on his body and he is sure he is being attacked by a soucouyant. Though part of me shudders at the jarring reminder that I am living in the developing world ( which I am 100% certain will still be underdeveloped by 2020 thank you very much) another part of me finds the whole thing too cute for words.
To learn more about the fascinating pantheon of Trinidad folklore characters you can just use our old friend Google as the link option is not working for me right now.
In other news many of my interviews of late have been with people involved in or concerned about next month’s 5th Summit of the Americas to be held here. While I can still not think of a really good reason for us to be spending about $100 million US to prepare for it other than to feed the already inflated egos of politicians in charge who want to wine and dine 34 hemispheric leaders including President Obama it is still a fact of life here. One thing becoming increasingly clear is that virtually all of the capital will be under lockdown for the 4 days including my area of Cascade/St. Anns which contains both the Prime Ministers monstrosity newly built residence in all its taxpayer dollar lavishness and the Hilton Trinidad which will be host to the 1,000 strong US delegation.
My new plan is to get the hell outta here and head to Toronto for the week that the summit is on and return when I can actually go to the supermarket without being patted down by 6 security officers.
March 17, 2009
I am not a nationalistic person but being born in Ireland of an Irish mother ( who I love more than life itself) I am happy to say I have a right to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. A history of oppression on all sides gives a journalist perspective. I salute the nation that kept civilization alive in the dark ages and that stood up to the most powerful nation in the world at the time and won.
I live on a little island now but I am always aware that I am from another island nation that has changed the world through culture. It is easy to conquer the world by force but to conquer it by Wilde. Yeats, Joyce, Behan, Synge, and countless other artistic forces says a lot.
To the country of my birth and of my ancestry I say simply ” and I salute every beautiful hidden nook of your blessed being”. Happy St. Patrick’s Day to the world and to all who have been influenced by my island. We have created art, given the US at least two presidents I approve of and we have shown the world that a country really can care about how even the poorest can look at hope.
Recession or not I can say on behalf of my Irish family that we are proud and we wish the world a Happy St. Patrick’s Day.
and a PS. I wish my Celtic Studies Professor Dr. Anne Dooley a special Happy St. Paddy’s Day.
and to my brave Irish brother Vic who protects Toronto every day and listens to Irish rebel music in his car I say I am proud of you, I love you, and I salute your sacrifice.
March 17, 2009
Happy St. Patrick’s Day but remember that the Republic was not born without tears.
March 8, 2009
It has been quite a few days since my last entry but I have been pondering the state of the local and global economies of late and, being a natural pessimist/realist I have not really been in the mood to natter away online. Actually, more shockingly still I have not even been online that much lately as matters in my personal life have been also keeping me away from the computer.
I think it would be safe to say at this point that we are heading into a deep economic valley and we can only guess how far we still have to fall. Like an earthquake the frightening thing is that there is no way to hide from it as it is global in scope. As Europe and the US try and pour money into the sinkholes that used to be insurance companies and banks and as at least one US carmaker ( GM) faces the possibility of going out of business it seems that we may really be teetering on the verge of a depression and are just too afraid to admit it.
Here in Trinidad we have started to feel many of the same problems as the more developed world including the need for government intervention into the banking and insurance sector. The giant CL Financial empire has seen its insurance arm CLICO forced to approach the Central Bank for help when it realised it had a serious liquidity problem. Thus far the Central Bank is suggesting that the shortfall may exceed $10 billion and who knows what is going to hit the the economy next as oil and gas prices remain a long way off from their highs last year. There is probably good reason to expect a devaluation of the TT$ sometime after we host the Summit of the Americas. Other than the PM’s urge to show off that he can spend our money I have still not understood why we have spent at least half a billion dollars to host the wretched thing.
It seems that hardship is on the way and, like every other sensible person, I am thinking twice before making any big purchases that I can possibly defer. I know that poor consumer confidence is sure to exacerbate the decline but I am also equally sure that the fundamentals of how we did business are extremely flawed and caution would seem the wise choice.
There are , of course, several possible ways to survive the tough times ahead stocking up on vodka and hunkering down to waft through the crisis in an alcoholic haze springs to mind. Unfortunately, if they devalue the currency any decent vodka will be out of range and the thought of drinking the local plonk would be even more depressing. I guess I will have to fasten my seat-belt and hope the ride is not too bumpy just like everyone else.