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Sink or swim

Thursday, January 21, 2016

We’re not in a recession, we’re in denial—which might be the best mode for handling daily life in sweet T&T. So while some party poopers are adamant that the bottom has dropped out of the oil barrel, true patriots (that word always reminds me of Samuel Johnson’s definition of patriotism: “The last resort of a scoundrel” and Oscar Wildes’s equally apposite “The virtue of the vicious”) and supporters of we culture will point out that we doing so good that we can afford to leave skyscrapers and housing units empty and the all-inclusive fete business booming, so doh dig no horrors. 

What I do know is that over the course of these first weeks in January, my grocery bill has risen by ten per cent, but that’s small change in Trinichachacha where millions of dollars of public funds are entirely unaccounted for. Doh worry widat; de Original Doc heself say “Money no problem” and who is de current Doc tuh contradick de Fadder of de Nashun? Hmm wha kina disrespeck iz dat? An toobesides kanaval comin oui, an even jackass does know how we does mek millions from all dem Hawaians and Hong Kongolese flyin een, not tuh menshun de Syrian an Chinee winee who takin a lil ease up from starvation or barrel bomb or playin refugee or stand dong time from Isis beheading duty an ting, or messin wit too much of noodle. 

An whoever say de kanaval is a drain on we sauces damn well lie an iz nutten more dan a neemakaram neocolonialist an should stick wit de Oscars, or be sentenced tuh two nighta hard wine in gunshot fete, followed by compulsory attendance at Canboulay an hard labour an lash in de TTPS J’Ouvert band—All o we Teef Missin. Ah done talk. Me eh no illegal alien, iz jes some of me paperwuk slip troo hands dat doh hole onto nutten unless dem grease up wit a few gyro, Shanghai noodle, or ranging rover. 

Mih hadda be a troo troo patriot, which might mek mih a scoundrel, buh Ah tellin allyuh, dis boat eh sinkin. An eef pushin come tuh ramjam doh worry wit dat pardna, some smartman go buy some of dem selfsame life jacket de Turk an dem sellin dem chupid fugees tuh drown een–an someone go mek a truckload of solid liquid cash. An dat had was tuh be good for de economy, not so? 

Casin dem lookin tuh deport me, iz bess Ah hush mih mout oui. As the paranoid said to the schizophrenic—You can’t be too careful who looking. If I wasn’t a total scoundrel, I might declare this meeting ‘the Dark Hour’—like in that poem by that dead Guyanese poet Martin Carter. But then I’m a patriot, so things looking up, like when you’re lying in the gutter looking at the stars. 

Although much given to the absurd (which is definitely a criteria for being a Trini), occasionally I do appreciate a stiff dose of level-headedness, which hits you far harder than a double shot of puncheon. 

Impossible to proceed here without mentioning my long time horsey Shadow’s brilliant song about the effects of puncheon. I recently received 95,000 words full of level headedness from my esteemed colleague and fellow ol’talker Dr Roydon Salick, who unlike other scoundrels has the edification of the nation close to his bosom. 

His magnum popus, Getting It Right, a compendious guide to current usage of English-and all who sink, stink or drown in her- is both erudite and entertaining and should be compulsory reading in all institutions, media houses, PR departments, advertising agencies and let’s not forget Parliament, where they probably need to do a daily two-hour session, carefully studying the part on how to talk human rather than hog—a section I haven’t stumbled across yet, but I’m sure is included in this voluminous volume. 

Quite apart from putting you and me right on how to write the date—correctly, pronounce Thames—correctly and exactly when and where to place the colon and even the dreaded semi-colon, what endears me to this gargantuan effort, is the old Royster Doyster’s languid to stale Trini humour, which I have sat and admired during many deeply philological disquisitions and even disputes, at one of the most charming and authentic watering holes to grace our first capital, San Jose de Oruna. 

It’s difficult to combine weighty knowledge with a lightness of wit, making the learning experience entertainment rather than drudgery. Who said we have no work ethic in T&T? I propose Dr Salick as an exemplar par excellence. 

A man who can knock up thousands of words like Chris Gayle does balls (let’s leave the blushing babes out of this please, along with the unintended homophobic associations) gives every man jack and jack spaniard hope, or as the dustman sang in Eliza Dolittle or even less: “The Lord above made man to scrape and shovel, but with a little bit of luck someone else will do the blinkin lot.”