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The happy and the embarrassing
• Part two
I cannot remember the occasion but it was an important annual affair attended by members of the British aristocracy and the 1973 version was filled with all sorts of ceremonial trappings in keeping with the occasion. We were special guests of the organisers and the ornate hall was properly well draped and otherwise outfitted in a manner reflecting the event. We, meaning a 20-something strong contingent of journalists drawn from throughout the Commonwealth, on a three-month fellowship in the United Kingdom (England, Scotland and Wales), sponsored by the Fleet Street, London-based Commonwealth Press Union.
I was the only Caribbean scribe on the team. The ladies and gentlemen—in the absolute true meaning of their descriptions—were appropriately dressed befitting this high-society affair. On our arrival we just didn’t walk into the venue. Oh no. We had to stop at the entrance and a gentleman, decked off in ceremonial garb as only the British can, had to announce our arrival and to do so we had to give him individually our name and country of origin, which he in a very officious tone loudly proclaimed to the audience, whose eyes were of course focused on the door.
My colleagues came and were ushered in after going through the formality and then it was my turn to undertake the routine. For those who don’t know, yours truly has a speech impediment—a politically correct terminology for stuttering.
Reaching the gentleman and nervous like nobody’s business I was able to get out rather fluently, “Trinidad and Tobago,” but try as I might, “Clevon Raphael” just would not come out properly.
After exercising polite patience for about 20 seconds and realising we were going nowhere, he simply blurted to the audience “Trinidad and Tobago” and I was ushered to my seat. I could have gone through the flooring that evening. I felt so embarrassed—even more than when some local reporters, including myself, were pelted at a PNM election rally in Arima by supporters of that party in 1986. That was the most embarrassing episode in my reporting career.
Fast-forward to 2012. The happiest moment as a member of the Fourth Estate was that evening of August 31, the 50th anniversary of our independence, when the President of Trinidad and Tobago, George Maxwell Richards, pinned the Humming Bird Medal (Gold) on my breast pocket.
As I said last week, this is by no means blowing my own trumpet, and as anybody who knows me would testify, I am not that type of person. But having come from where I came from, humble circumstances in San Juan, I accepted this official recognition in the context of a sense of accomplishment. I am sure most of us would like to be recognised for the good we have done, and when this is undertaken by one’s country, the feeling of pride is more pronounced.
So with the everlasting virtue of showing gratitude for whatever positives life serves us, I would like to say sincere thanks to: Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who has the final say in the awarding of the honours. Among those who I have interacted with over during the early years and who in a very indirect way had a pivotal role in building my career are the late Rev Cyril Paul, his wife Barbara; Dr Michael Alleyne; the late Editor-in-Chief of the Guardian Lenn Chongsing; editor of the Trinidad Guardian Carl Jacobs; and John Myers, editor of the Evening News.
On a personal note, my first wife Shirley (deceased) who tolerated me and my shortcomings (which one of us is perfect?). My present wife Donna, who encouraged me (and still does so) to achieve much of what I have done today when I stubbornly resisted her urgings because I displayed lack of confidence in myself.
To the Attorney General Senator Anand Ramlogan for giving me the opportunity to get a first-hand experience of the actual operations and the intricacies of the public service. As I said I cannot call the names of all who assisted me along the way and one thing that should be mentioned is the genuine outpourings of complimentary remarks from people even those who I haven’t spoken to or met in years and who took the trouble to call me since last Friday, all with one theme: “You deserve it.” To all of you I say many, many thanks.
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