I couldn’t help during the long Easter weekend but to reflect about the price of progress and sort via the modern reality of google to seek out King Austin’s “Price of Progress” calypso and Richard “Nappy” Myers “Old Time Days” to frame the context of my deliberations and reflection.
And just so out of the blue, someone sent me via whats app a summary of life in T&T back in time. It was a timely reminder that I felt I should share in today’s column.
Here it is:
Growing up in T&T during a time when everyone treated each other like family. When you always had to speak properly when you were with your parents or adults but could “leh go” with your friends. If someone got you angry, you would tell them, “How yuh mudda make yuh”, expressing your flea of cuss words. If your mom found out, she made you wash your mouth with soap and not any soap but blue, sunlight or carbolic. If you can’t take “fatigue”, don’t start any.
Everyone had a nickname. The Chinese boy was “chin”; the African boy was “blacks”; the Indian boy was “Lal”, the fat kid was “fat boy”, the skinny boy was “bones” and the shortest boy was “tallest”.
We went outside to play from football to cricket, gun-shooting and catch, even dolly-house. We used to bathe in the rain, sometimes by the standpipe. A cup of creole chocolate or hot porridge on a rainy day. Fast food was corned beef and rice; sometimes, even hot rice and butter. We ate breadfruit, dasheen, yam, eddoes, cassava, boil corn, roast corn. From the bakery we ate belly full, currants roll, coconut drops, milk cake, pan bread, bun, butter bread and hops bread. We loved bread and condensed milk or hot bread and butter, sometimes red butter, the salty kind.
Sucked paradise plum, brittle, kazer ball, dinner mint. Ate bene balls, tollum, chataigne, sugar cake and we had a recipe for every fruit in season - from tamarind ball, tamarind stew, red mango, mango, plum, cherry and pommerac chow. We got dirty and ate cooked food. We got ice cream from the ice cream man or if mum was in a good mood and had the money, we had homemade ice cream on Sunday.
The best was when barbadine was in season we licked the bowl clean. Cassava pone or bread pudding was a treat. Snow cone on a hot day, preferably with guava syrup and condensed milk. We climbed trees, picked mangoes, chennette, pommerac, plum, pommecythere; whatever was in season. We suck and ate cane with our bare teeth.
We played Simon says, red rover, mother may I, 1-2-3 red light, hide and seek, jacks, marbles, tag, hopscotch, cars, checkers, cricket, moral, rounders, pan cup, football; we raced against each other in the street and jockey in the canal with a piece of stick. A tennis ball and a good piece of wood was enough to start a cricket game, and if somebody window break, game done.
The only time we stayed indoors was when we were sick or as a punishment. If you were sick, it was not uncommon to get a “bush bath” with some “buccano leaf” and whatever bush would make you better. Castor oil or sena pods during vacation was the worse. Flew kites, sometimes a mad bull and hope it wasn’t so big that it took you flying. We made zwill with flour and grounded glass; put razor blades in your kite tail and when you battle, who lost, saw their kites “hi-yo”. The first one to reach the kite is the new owner. We drove carts made from wood with old bearings for wheels. An old bike wheel with the spokes removed was a toy. “Laglee” from the breadfruit tree to try to catch a semp. There was no bottled water, we drank from the pipe. We walked to the corner store and rode our bikes (if we had one) for hours. The street lights were your curfew. School was mandatory.
Most people are inclined to characterise sport organisations as old-fashioned by definition, with a cluelessness around the challenges of modernity built into their DNA.
However, history is the foundation for moving forward. Knowing where you came from is a signpost to where you are going.