Yuh Know You Is A Trini Too

Trinidad and Tobago is famous for many things – the smallest country to qualify for FIFA World Cup Finals; home of the Pitch Lake, the largest natural asphalt deposit in the world – to name a few. Perhaps T&T’s greatest claim to fame is their people; a diverse mish-mash of cultures and ethnicities that blend together perfectly to make a unique population with equally unique idiosyncrasies. Last year I blogged about how to spot this peculiar species in Yuh Know You is a Trini. Here are a few more identifying characteristics!

For those of you not familiar with Trini parlance, please refer to the Trinbago Dictionary here.

Yuh know you is a Trini too if…

…You are half Indian, half African, half Syrian, half French Creole, half Spanish and a quarter Carib.

…KFC deliverymen hail you out in the street

…You have several margarine/butter containers in your fridge containing anything but butter or margarine

…You fear maljoe

…You know somebody who knows somebody who has been jarayed

…Your name is Akil or Keisha; spelt with 10 letters and 2 apostrophes

…You had 300 guests, 6 groomsmen, and 6 bridesmaids at your wedding – and you’re unemployed

…You can’t spell Blanchisseuse

…Your car bumper sticker is “Ah What Less”

…You have a drawer full of plastic HiLo shopping bags

…At least one member of your family is a pastor/priest/pundit/imam

…You know a pastor, a policeman, and a bandit – and they’re all the same person

…You use the noun “ting” liberally – “Well look ting!” “Ting start” “Da’s he outside ting”

…You keep a cutlass and a box of tissues in your car

…You never run out of Crix

…You have given and received a good cuss out

…You spent your rent money on weave

…You don’t know what a zebra crossing is

…You know where to find Red Man

…Your boss is your sister’s baby daddy’s uncle’s half-brother

…You put coconut oil or Brillocream in your hair

…You douse your neck and chest in baby powder to keep cool

…Your have your loctician/barber/hairstylist’s number on speed dial

…You don’t wash and iron clothes on the same day for fear of contracting cramp

…You have no money on your phone

…You go out to come back

…You keep a sweater at work for when it rains

…Any temperature below 20°C is considered freezing

…You spend at least $50 a week on Lotto, Play Whe and scratch cards

…You plant something in your garden every Corpus Christi

…Your main source of news is Twitter

…The only time you used a turn indicator on a car was during your driving test

…Driving PH is your side gig

…You musical idol is 2 Chainz

…You believe ketchup is a vegetable

…Your sister posted a video of you getting licks from your mother on Facebook

…Four generations of your family live in the same house

…You sub-let an HDC apartment from your aunt

…Your Facebook status is “horning”

…You keep piles of old newspapers for “in case”

…Your email address is sexydouglagyal13@hotmail.com

…You have no idea what the sign “Take One Only” means

…You’ve already made a downpayment on a Carnival 2015 costume but you haven’t thought about Christmas yet

 

I’m sure there are many more idiosyncrasies I did not mention. Add yours in the comments below!


The Tipping Point

Someone somewhere at some time wrote the rules of tipping. Someday something will drive me to study said rules. Until then, I blunder forward in ignorance.

A little person (I don’t know what is the politically correct term; I just know I can’t say dwarf or midget) packed my groceries last week. She was so short she could barely get the bags into the boot of my husband’s SUV. So I ended up helping her.  Short on change (no pun intended), I gave her all I had – the magnificent sum of TT$3 (US 50 cents). She gave me a look, which quite clearly registered her disdain, and I shrank to two foot six.  Sheepishly I got into the car and drove off feeling guilty. I had committed a tipping offence. I am a repeat offender.

A few years ago I shared a van from Toronto’s Pearson Airport to my hotel downtown with other travellers. At my destination I offloaded some Canadian coins my father had given me on the van driver. He studied them, looked up at me and remarked sarcastically “Haven’t seen one of those for a while!” Oh, the shame…

I have a vivid memory of exiting a London black cab aged 11 or so with my mother and hearing the cab driver shout at my mother ” Don’t you people give tips?!” That sharp rebuke stung me to the core and left me with a morbid fear of being considered cheap because I am black.  I’ve gone so far as to apologise to taxi drivers when I don’t have enough money for a tip. But is an apology enough? Is it ok to express your regret and move on, leaving the other party disgruntled? Or should I hand over my vex money and hitchhike home?

When it comes to dining I firmly believe it is unwise to piss off the wait staff, particularly if you intend to visit the establishment again. Bad tips leave bad memories.  I’m convinced an uncomfortably large number of disenchanted wait staff would cheerfully leave a DNA imprint in my entree should I be regarded as miserly.

My husband, who clings to a dollar tighter than Cersei Lannister holds onto a grudge, thinks differently. As far as he’s concerned, people are paid to do a job. What do they need tips for? I try to always leave something. Memories of that cab ride haunt me.

I live in a country where tipping is the exception rather than the norm, so I am always a bit flustered when persons demand a tip. On a recent trip to Panama, a taxi tout actually chased my husband and I to the car and opened the door to demand his reward for pointing us in the direction of the taxi stand.  Fearing cab cartel reprisal I hastily handed over five bucks.

Contrast the Panamanian tout’s attitude with my T&T experience last month in the car park of a doctor’s building. After helping me fold my mother’s walker and get her into the car in pouring rain, the security guard refused a tip, insisting I was making him feel guilty for doing his job.  I cannot win.

Why can’t Trip Advisor or Lonely Planet publish Country Tipping Tips? That would prevent idiots like me from annoying the natives. Who to tip? When to tip? And how much? I’m not ashamed to admit I need help distributing small change.

Until the Tip With Confidence bible is written, perhaps you guys could help me? Share your tipping advice and mishaps in the comments below. You have to be better at this than I am.


Going Pecans

This blog post is dedicated to Gina Henning, author of Going Pecans.

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Gina Henning is an American author of contemporary romance and commercial fiction. Click here to buy Going Pecans  on Amazon

Contact Gina:  Facebook    Website    Goodreads   Twitter

 

When Twitter pal Gina Henning invited me to join her Blog Hop “Going Pecans” to promote her book of the same name, I readily agreed. The premise is fun; write about a time when you were going nuts, i.e. pecans. But then I thought – what should I write about? Should I blog about the time I unwittingly signed up for HUET (Helicopter Underwater Evacuation Training) so that I could work on an oil rig? Or the time I was pursued by Mormons? Running out of money while backpacking solo across Europe certainly generated a few hairy moments. I eventually decided on the insane period following the birth of my second child.

Husband, two year old son and I were living in a rented house in Cambridge, England. Short story – we had just returned from eighteen months in Mozambique and tenants were living in our own home. We were happy to be back in Cambridge where we’d spent many previous years.

They say that having a baby changes your life. Well, DUH. “They” also say that when you’ve had one baby, the second one is easier. Bull crap. The arrival of my daughter catapulted me into a Twilight Zone of perpetually crying children, an endless laundry pile, and a permanently screwed sleep pattern. I couldn’t even seek solace in a decent Sauvignon Blanc. Nature is cruel.

I didn’t know if I was coming or going. Whole days were spent in a front-opening nightgown with a toddler clinging to my leg and a baby hanging off my breast. Brushing my teeth and showering regularly became dimly remembered luxuries I could no longer indulge in. Sitting on the toilet with the door open became the norm. I needed the door open so that I could yell “It’s OK darling! Mummy’s coming just now!” over the combined wailing of my offspring.

Watching Orange Is The New Black recently brought back vivid breastfeeding memories. It was the episode where Polly answers the door to Larry with a nipple poking out of her unbuttoned shirt  Pride goes out of the window when you have a screaming child to feed. I couldn’t give a toss who saw my tits as long as a nipple in her mouth shut my daughter up.

Mealtimes – what mealtimes? – were forgotten altogether. My husband and I wolfed hasty bites of whatever scraps we could find between nappy changes and shoving fish fingers and mash into our son.

I envied my husband’s daily escape to interact with The Real World. I was stuck in an endless cycle of Children’s BBC (I can recite every word of dialogue from every episode of Postman Pat ever made), breastfeeding, and strategic cleaning. (I can’t call it housework. Everything was a mess). I was truly “going pecans”.

Even the simplest of chores became a major undertaking. A trip to the supermarket was a mammoth task. The sheer effort involved in getting a baby and a toddler dressed to face the British winter and strapped into car seats could take the best part of a morning. At least all I had to do was throw on a coat. No-one needed to know I was wearing a grubby T-shirt and sweatpants over yesterday’s knickers. As for make-up, don’t be ridiculous. A good twenty minutes was usually spent tracking down where my son had hidden the car keys. Inside the video recorder and behind the settee were favourite places.

We’d arrive at the supermarket and after parking in one of the coveted “Mother and Children” spaces I would spend the next forty-five minutes hissing at my son through gritted teeth “Benn! Come here! Put that down! Leave it alone!” By the time we got home I would be stressed, my son would be over-excited, and the baby would be cranky.

If it hadn’t been for my local National Childbirth Trust Mother and Baby Group I would have lost it altogether. NCT Group was my salvation. I lived for the weekly encounters with other harassed new mothers, several of whom were also doing the second child shuffle. We spent our meetings exchanging tips to stop Child No 1 from killing Child No 2 and bitching about our irritatingly calm husbands who took the changed family dynamic in their stride instead of having screaming hormonal breakdowns.

For two blessed hours I was in the company of women who were in exactly the same situation and handling it equally badly. There was something strangely comforting, indeed satisfying, in sharing our tales of woe and maternal failure. We bonded over rumpled clothes (who the hell had time to iron?), sleep deprivation, and sore nipples. Misery does indeed love company.

Not for the first time I appreciated the ability of sisterhood to save my sanity while nourishing my soul. As crazy as the time was – days would pass before I remembered to comb my hair – I wouldn’t have swapped the new baby-toddler-circus for anything. I understood this was a learning curve. I was starting at the bottom but I would get better. Or at least better at faking being a Domestic Goddess, with the support of my fellow new mommies.

Did I mention Nature is cruel? So cruel that when you become proficient at faking Domestic Goddesshood, Nature makes you forget the newborn hell and knocks you up again. The arrival of Baby Number Three threw me into a fresh nightmare. But that, my friends, is the subject of a whole ‘nother story.

 

Going Pecans Blog Hop

Please follow along and enjoy these great blog posts below. Everyone who comments on every single post will receive a Going Pecans Recipe Card signed by Gina Henning. Please be sure to include your email!

August 14th

Gina Henning Blog

August 15th

Waiting On The Westcotts

Anya Breton’s Blog

Missy Devours Delish Reads

August 18th

Kasper’s Ramblings on the Hunters of Reloria Website

August 19th

Loss For Words

The Edible Bookshelf

In Search of Romance

August 21st

Helen Rena

August 22nd

Word Forward

Amber Daulton

Ana Blaze

August 25th

Keepin it Real

Feeling Beachie

August 26th

Krysten Lindsay Hager

Anais Morgan: Things are about to get hot

DM Brain Waves-dmarblog

August 28th

Wilson Writes

August 29th

Writing About Love

See Bethany Blog

Lover of all things crafty

Susanne Matthews

Stumbling Towards the Finish Line

 

Click here to enter the Going Pecans Raffle!

 

 


Seared Ahi Tuna and Avocado Tartare

 

20140806_202336It is avocado season in Trinidad and Tobago and I have been experimenting with ways to enjoy my garden’s bounty. Tuna and avocado make a particularly delightful pairing thanks to the variation in flavour and texture. This quick and easy recipe makes a delicious lunch or light supper for four people.

 

 

The avocado should be firm and just ripe. Refrigerate the avocado for at least 2 hours before starting.

The recipe is based on locally sourced ingredients. However international chefs can happily make the following substitutions without changing the nature of the dish.

Substitute:

1 small jalapeno (seeded and finely diced) for  Trinidad hot pepper

Cilantro for shadon beni

Fresh oregano for parsley

 

Yield – 4 servings

Ingredients

4  5-6 oz sushi grade tuna steaks ¾ inch thick

6 tablespoons sesame seeds

1 large avocado peeled, pitted and diced

2 teaspoons diced Trinidad hot pepper

1/3 cup chopped fresh shadon beni

1/3 cup diced red onion

2 teaspoons fresh chopped parsley

1 – 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice

2 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

 

Instructions

First, make the avocado tartare. Mix the avocado, hot pepper, shadon beni, onion, parsley, lime juice, and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a bowl. Add salt and black pepper to taste. Cover and place in the refrigerator. The tartare must be well chilled.

Next, prepare the tuna. Stir the sesame seeds in a large heavy skillet over high heat until the seeds are a pale golden colour, about 2 minutes. Transfer the seeds to a large plate.

Sprinkle the fish with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Dip the fish into the seeds, coating on all sides and pressing the fish so that seeds adhere. Return the same skillet to high heat. Brush the skillet with the remaining ½ tablespoon of olive oil. Add the fish to skillet and sear until the coating is deep brown on the outside and still opaque in the center, about 1½ minutes per side. If you prefer your tuna more well done, you can cook for up to 2 minutes each side. Transfer fish steaks to work surface and allow to cool for a few minutes.

Thinly slice each steak and arrange the fish, slices overlapping on plates. Add a quarter of the avocado tartare to each plate. Garnish with lettuce leaves if desired.

Enjoy!

 

 


Savour The Date

As Ramadan draws to a close, Trinidad and Tobago and Muslims around the world prepare to celebrate Eid ul-Fitr.  The overriding thought on many Trinis’ minds today? Which Muslim friend or family member am I eating by tomorrow?

Trinbagonians equate celebration with food. We love to eat. For every occasion, there is a dish to match. What trip to Maracas Beach would be complete without a bake and shark? Or a river lime without curry duck? Unimaginable. Going to Panorama Semis or cricket in the Oval? Pass the pot of pelau.

Trinbagonians take meal times and holiday food favourites seriously. Christmas is not Christmas without ham, turkey, pigeon peas, pastelles, ponche crema and all the local delicacies. I made the mistake of substituting a pork leg for roast turkey one Christmas Day lunch. My family revolted as one and were still complaining on New Year’s Day.

Every May 30th, dozens line up outside roti shops from early o’clock to get their curry fix. Luckily I don’t have to. I’m convinced the world would stop spinning on its axis if my mother didn’t cook curry duck and buss up shut on  Indian Arrival Day.

And can you really envision Eid without sawine? Divali – or Currylympics, as it known in my house – is an exercise in binge eating. How much curry can one consume in a day and still have room for left-overs?

I love that as a people Trinbagonians celebrate every holiday as one, irrespective of religion or ethnicity. This is the true beauty of our rainbow nation – the ability to come together and share each other’s heritage.

So stir the sawine, fry the samosas, and grill the lamb kebabs. Eid Mubarak – This hungry Anglican can’t wait to indulge.

 

What are your special occasion/holiday culinary traditions? Please share in the comments below – yum yum!


The Catalan Chronicles

I’ve always wanted to visit Spain. I have been to just about every other western European country but somehow never made it to Spain or Portugal. When the opportunity came to spend a few days in Barcelona with my daughter, I jumped at the chance.

The entertainment began at Gatwick Airport.  I am frequently amused by the sartorial choices of my fellow travellers. I remember the days when getting on a plane was A Big Deal; and people dressed up to travel. Men wore ties and children were trussed up in Sunday best outfits more suited for church. These days it is not uncommon to see people boarding a flight in pyjamas. The unofficial flight uniform for females under 30 is micro shorts and a hoodie.

Wearing dark jeans and a t-shirt, I looked like a burqa-clad granny compared to the other passengers. In between the conservatively dressed families our flight from London to Barcelona included a cross dresser in a pink tutu, a he-she in a floral get up Hyacinth Bouquet would cherish, and persons of all ages and sexes sporting more flesh than fabric. I felt sorry for the young woman forced to don half the contents of her suitcase to conform with EasyJet’s weight limitations – but I enjoyed the reactions from the male members of the check in queue when she bent over to put on pants.

A few short hours later we were in Barcelona and I was ready to explore my new surroundings. Mini Me however, was not. She flaked out as soon as we arrived at our hotel. After admiring the view of Barcelona Cathedral from our room, our first night in Catalonia was spent in peaceful slumber.

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Avenida Catedral 7 by night

Barcelona Cathedral

Barcelona Cathedral

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 1

What could be better than a trip to the legendary Camp Nou, home of FC Barcelona? As it turned out – nothing. Camp Nou was a sports lovers’ paradise; a state of the art stadium with a treasure trove of football paraphernalia. I marvelled at the impressive silverware collection; ogled Lionel Messi’s four Ballon D’or awards, and squealed with delight as I walked through the tunnel leading onto the pitch. Having lunch at the Camp Nou lounge overlooking the pitch was le pièce de résistance.

A Sliver of Silver - A few of FC Barcelona's many trophies

A Sliver of Silver – A few of FC Barcelona’s many trophies

Camp Nou

Camp Nou

Camp Nou Stadium

Camp Nou Stadium

 

Camp Nou Lounge

Camp Nou Lounge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I blissfully munched grilled octopus and sliders while sipping perfectly chilled Chardonnay. It was impossible not to be overwhelmed by the rich history and romance of Camp Nou. Even the Real Madrid fans defiantly strutting around in their away kits were impressed.

That evening, after a tactical time-out (i.e. a nap), Mini Me and I ate paella on Las Ramblas and shared a sangria bucket while watching the world stroll past. Continental European fashion style is fascinating. The men, for the most part, are impeccably groomed and buff, with carefully coiffured hair held in place by expensive product. The women strut around in impossibly high heels draped in outfits that are absolutely on point, with hairstyles and makeup to match – and plaitable underarm hair. I also observed several women rocking pelts. Clearly keeping it natural is still A Thing in Europe.

Heterosexual and gay couples walked arm in arm down the avenue, chattering animatedly in multiple languages. I revelled in the relaxed atmosphere and easy acceptance of all God’s children.

Las Ramblas

Las Ramblas

Las Ramblas

Las Ramblas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Barcelona Street Life

Barcelona Street Life

Day 2

Having been advised by Friends With Knowledge that no trip to Barcelona was complete without a visit to La Sagrada Familia, we joined a few hundred others and queued for tickets to explore the legendary cathedral. It did not disappoint. Even my jaded teenaged companion was struck by the breath-taking beauty of Gaudi’s unfinished masterpiece.

Irrespective of religious persuasion, one cannot help but be touched by the sheer majesty of the building. The intricate and unusual architecture of La Sagrada Familia is extraordinary.  I tried to visualize the finished building but honestly couldn’t imagine further gilding the lily.

La Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Familia - Internal

La Sagrada Familia – Internal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We left La Sagrada Familia with dozens of photographs and a sizable bag of commemorative souvenirs.

La Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Familia - Internal

La Sagrada Familia – Internal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For our third and final night in Barcelona, we ventured to Plaça d’Espanya to see Font Màgica. Hunger gripped us as soon as we exited the Metro. We made a beeline for the nearest tapas bar and were soon feasting on small plates of heaven.  Fortified by tasty morsels and yet more sangria, I resumed my favourite vacation activity – people watching.

Plaça d'Espanya

Plaça d’Espanya

There was plenty to see. We’d barely walked 50 yards before Mini Me was gaping open mouthed at the naked – yes completely naked – and hairless, except for her Lady Godiva style tresses – performance artiste strolling up and down in front of us. Public nudity didn’t appear to be a criminal offence. Two policemen stood idly by playing with their phones.  Fellow passers-by seemed similarly disinterested. While Mini Me and I gawped, people barely registered Godiva’s presence. Momentarily mesmerised, I forgot I had a camera. But before I had a chance to take a cheeky (pun intended) pic, Godiva slipped on a dress and the show was over. We walked on.

Plaça d’Espanya was packed with people taking advantage of the warm Catalan night and free entertainment. A large crowd gathered around Font Màgica and we jostled for position with the hundreds of others attempting to take selfies near the beautifully lit fountain. After taking in the synchronized light and water show, we wandered over to the stage where a concert was in progress.

La Font Màgica

La Font Màgica

La Font Màgica

La Font Màgica

To our delight, the concert was a drag queen talent show. It was fantastic! We were treated to Eurovision-style song and dance acts with costumes so elaborate they’d make a Trini Carnival designer jealous.

 

It was at this point that I began to notice the composition of the crowd around us. The spectators were a curious mix of tourists such as us, the odd family with young children, couplings of every sexual orientation possible, and a surprising number of bearded men in frocks.

Much as we were enjoying the show, the hour was getting late so we reluctantly made our way towards the Metro station. On our way out of Plaça d’Espanya we passed several stalls selling food, drink, and the kind of items usually stocked in the back rooms of stores you need to be 18 years and over to enter. I couldn’t resist a closer look. It’s not every day you see an 18 inch dildo for sale in a public square. (I guess it depends on where you live.)

2014-06-27 22.25.45

I’m very open-minded. Well at least I think I am. But I confess to being somewhat nonplussed by the sights and sounds. Until I saw this sign as we exited the square:

2014-06-27 22.37.43

The penny dropped. Suddenly everything made sense! The cross dressers and he-shes on our flight; the drag queens; the unusual stalls. Mini Me and I had unwittingly attended our first Gay Pride Festival! Definitely an experience to be repeated.

Day 3

From fake penises to Pablo – our Catalan adventure concluded with visits to the Picasso Museum and Barcelona Cathedral. To say that Picasso was a child prodigy is an understatement. His early work displayed a depth, maturity, and perception so uncommon in a young teen I couldn’t help but compare him to my own fifteen year old son. (I made a mental note to speak to his art teacher as soon as I got home.)

After the splendour of La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona Cathedral seemed somewhat bland in comparison. But it glowed with a quiet beauty and tranquility that refreshed my soul and energized me for the journey ahead.

Barcelona Cathedral

Barcelona Cathedral

Barcelona Cathedral

Barcelona Cathedral

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I inhaled the Cathedral’s peaceful atmosphere alone, Mini Me having been turned away at the door for unsuitable attire. (Backless mini dress at a Catholic Cathedral? Seriously? She looked for that.)

As we boarded the flight to London a few hours later, I bid Barcelona a sleepy adios. My final thoughts? What Schwarzenegger said.

 


Keep Calm and Play Mas

We’re in the home stretch – the week before Carnival. This is the time of year that thousands of Trinbagonians have been pining for since February 13th 2013. National productivity levels over the next two weeks will drop to record lows while alcohol consumption and partying scale dizzy heights. From now until Las Lap Carnival Tuesday it’s non-stop feting. If you can’t handle the winery, best to leave the country now.

This is the only time of year when traffic lights are needed on the footpath around the Queens Park Savannah as people jostle for position; desperately trying to fit in as many workouts as possible before Carnival Monday. Every public green space and gym is crammed with sudden fitness fanatics frantically trying to work miracles. Trinidad is the only place I know where people eat themselves into a food coma at Christmas then expect the Fitness Fairy to transform their bodies into a living work of art eight to ten weeks later.  (*raises hand* – guilty)

Carnival itself is a great workout. We do more bicep curls, squats, and good ole peltin’ waist in two days than we can manage all year. People who normally can’t make it around PriceSmart without an oxygen tank will blissfully jump the length and breadth of Port of Spain without complaint. Even our facial muscles get a thorough workout from eyes popping, ear to ear grinning, and lustily singing lyrically-challenged compositions.

Thanks to Mr. Killa’s Rolly Polly, sales in XXL spandex leggings and fishnets tights are at an all-time high. To misquote Sunny Bling – man toting more meat than rice these days and big girls are rejoicing. Trini men think they can handle anything but many a man has attempted to test a bam bam and found himself up against a penis destroyer. Free caution tape for dangerous bumpers should be standard issue during the Carnival season – “Wine on this at your own risk”. I agree with Machel – we need a Ministry of Road to handle Carnival affairs. The Ministry of the Arts and Multiculturalism just ain’t cutting it.

The Ministry of Road should have a department that specialises in Carnival Clothing Legislation. Carnival fashion is always a lottery and the odds of good taste are not stacked in our favour. Peacocking is not only allowed, it’s expected. And what ridiculous lengths we go to in our efforts to be noticed! A woman at Prestige Fete this year was proudly flaunting black pleather shorts, black knee high boots (presumably also pleather?), skin-tight gold spandex top, and a gold lamé cape. Who the hell wears a CAPE in everyday life?? It certainly shouldn’t be anyone who remembers the day Kennedy was shot.

There is a fine line between cosquelle and clown. Unfortunately, with the fashion police taking their annual vacation during the Carnival season, this line can be hard to see. (Blame Machel for fogging up de place.) The seemingly nationwide obsession with exposing as much flesh as possible – because we “tun up” – pushes common sense aside in favour of the ghetto fabulous and the garish. I remember asking a friend – where do people go to buy these clothes? I don’t know what is more ludicrous – that shops actually sell such eye watering couture, or that people buy it.  And judging by the number of women strutting around in boots you’d think Trinidad and Tobago had undergone a drastic climate change.

Competing for attention with the atmosphere of gaiety and abandon are the usual controversies and bacchanal without which no Trini Carnival would be complete. Annual favourites for the season:

  • Fete promoters being threatened with injunctions
  • Carnival artistes complaining about prize money
  • Woodbrook residents complaining about noise and traffic
  • Masqueraders and band leaders protesting changes to the parade route
  • Panmen claiming disrespect

And the list goes on and on…because this is the FIRST time we are hosting Carnival. To quote Sparrow – we like it so.

Musically the 2014 soca crop follows the tradition established in recent years – catchy, disposable wine and jam fodder we will have forgotten by this time next year. But I’m not complaining. The music pleasingly numbs the senses and consolidates the real purpose of Carnival – a temporary escape from the grim reality of everyday life in Trinidad and Tobago. Let’s face it – if we didn’t have Carnival (and 14 Public Holidays) life here would be really hard to deal with. Between now and Ash Wednesday I will be moving  like Iwer – going round country mashing up fete; fete after fete after fete. I’m claiming Carnival immunity for all my actions over the next week. It’s not me – blame it on the music.

What are your Carnival plans?

Who will take the Road March title this year?

Can you really lengthen a dhoti with cloth?

Tell me your thoughts in the comments below.


The Horrible Mother’s Mantra

I am a horrible mother.

I will go through your possessions and invade your personal space on a regular basis.

Your phone, computer, iPod etc. are subject to inspection at any time.

I will enter your room without knocking and rifle through your belongings.

I will smell your breath for alcohol and check for signs of illicit drug use.

I will talk to you every day and take a personal interest in all your activities.

I will listen to what you say and what you leave unsaid.

I will meet your friends and ask probing questions about their backgrounds, their parents and their home life. I will embarrass you.

I will follow you on social media and keep up to date on all the latest trends in music, fashion and deviant behaviour.

I demand that you stick to the agreed terms for curfews, use of my car, and spending of my money.

I demand that you respect me and my house.

Soon you will be an adult with your own home and the freedom to live your life as you see fit without my approval.

Until then you can make me a better mother by rendering the above personal incursions unnecessary through your responsible behaviour.

I love you unconditionally and will defend you with my dying breath.

This is the mantra of horrible mothers everywhere – parenting with love and discipline.

 

 

 


My Life as Bridget Jones

I am currently reading Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones – Mad about the Boy. It struck me that whereas I tittered smugly over Bridget’s trials in previous novels, middle-aged Bridget and I suddenly have a lot in common. I wondered what would my life look like if I documented it Bridget Jones style? Apologies to Helen Fielding.

Tuesday November 12 2013

Calories – 1200ish (excellent); Cardiovascular exercise completed – nil. Cardiovascular exercise contemplated – lots. Alcohol units consumed – 1 glass of wine (v. good)

8.50am Frantically searching my desk in vain for the scrap of paper on which I scribbled the name of the person I’m meeting this morning. Bugger. Oh well. At least I know where the office is.

10.00am Arrived at destination and attempted to bluff my way past Nigerian security guard.

“Who are you here to see ma’am?”

“Err…the HR Director”

“Who?”

“The HR Director…umm Manager…Ms….”

“I need the name of the person you are here to see. Please pull to the side.”

“Umm yes…I’ll just make a call…”

Hurriedly dialled a colleague who (thankfully!) took the call and provided me with the all-important name.

“I’m here to see Mrs. Coglan.” I declared authoritatively.

“This way, ma’am.” Success!

11.00am Skillfully negotiated first face to face meeting with potential client. Delighted to observe the poster of Idris Elba on Mrs Coglan’s office wall. I like this woman.

Now at second appointment; meeting with my charity ladies group. Channelling charitable thoughts…

2.00pm Home. EXHAUSTED. A Pretty Woman panini from MovieTowne, hurriedly wolfed down in the car, served as lunch today. Was accosted by the gardener as soon as I drove through the gate.

“Boss Lady – not sure you noticed, but we have a bee situation on the external wall.”

“Eh?” What is he talking about. What bee situation?

“Could be a hive. Maybe you could get someone to look at it?”

“OK…will do…” I replied vaguely. Odd. Where is George who cuts my lawn? He hasn’t shown up for two weeks.

Should go straight to the office but really need a sit down first. And maybe a cuppa.

5.05pm Bugger! Should have picked up youngest child (Son Nº 2) from orchestra practice 5 minutes ago! How did I fall asleep? To the batmobile.

5.30pm Fought my way through two miles of ridiculous traffic to be confronted by bemused offspring.

“Mum why are you here? I told you I was finishing at 7.30pm today.” What???? Mommy brain is real, y’all.

Irritated. Back to the car…

“Where are you?!” – Irate husband. Crap. Supposed to drop him to the airport.

“Almost home! Five minutes away!” Bugger, bugger, BUGGER.

8.50pm Collapsed on the bed; fingers loosely wrapped around a wine glass. Dropped husband at the airport to catch international flight, made tomorrow’s lunch for Son Nº1 (SN1), tidied kitchen, checked and responded to work emails. 

Picked up Son Nº 2 (SN2) at the correct time, albeit in my pajamas. I forgot I had to leave the house after 7pm. I would have gotten away with it if I didn’t have to get out of the car to speak to the music teacher and SN2 hadn’t said rather loudly “Mum why are you wearing pajamas?” (My youngest child was born without a volume control button. I think it broke off in delivery.) To the music teacher’s credit he only slightly raised his eyebrows at my flowered pants.

Speaking of SN1 – where is he? Don’t think I’ve seen him today….This is not unusual as he works an early shift and we often pass each other like ships in the night; but I’m struggling to think when last I did see him. I’ll wake up super early tomorrow and catch him before work.

God, I’m such a terrible mother. At least I messaged Daughter In University several times today. Or I think I did. What if someone stole her phone and was pretending to be her?  I must call her first thing in the morning.

But for now…The Originals and Daniel Gillies require my undivided attention.

 

Wednesday November 13 2013

Calories consumed – 2000 (homemade veggie pizza is low cal, right?). Alcohol units – nil (hurray). Cardiovascular exercise – nil (boo)

12.25 am WTF? Why are all the lights on? Is that broken glass? I should wash my hair.

5.45am Gaaaah! What is that noise? Bloody alarm! I feel like death…what day is it?

7.00am By some miracle got SN2 ready for school and out the door. This is my most difficult task of the day.  Unless I stand over SN2 he will not get out of bed. I have to wake him, get him in the shower, get him out again, stand over him while he dresses and instruct him to eat breakfast. All this while making his breakfast and lunch; and appeasing the increasingly insistent demands of the cat to be fed immediately. WHY ARE THERE MAGGOTS IN THE RUBBISH BAG?? 

3.15pm Spent morning and afternoon in the office; fielding inquiries from potential clients and steadily working through huge pile of paperwork – important stuff like invoices and that sort of thing. I am efficient, productive Chief Executive Officer. Mistress of My Domain. Even found time to make myself a tuna salad for lunch. Had tiny panic attack when I noticed today’s date and realised I had forgotten my housekeeper’s birthday. Hurried back to be house and enveloped her in a massive bear hug. First rule of survival – never piss off people who cook your food.  I’ll make it up to her with the Christmas bonus.

Made 8.00am appointment to go through house repairs list with my Mr Fix It tomorrow. I’ll mention the bee thing to him.  Seriously annoyed about the lawn – the grass is knee high in some places! Just wait until I get my hands on George. Why hasn’t he called?

Haven’t heard from hubby either. Slightly worrying, especially as he’s in the UK dealing with a family crisis. Do I have time to go to the bank?

4.10pm Spent annoying forty minutes in the bank paying bills and depositing pennies. Of course my phone rang the minute it was my turn to approach a cashier. Hubby. Family crisis worsening. Oh dear.

Now on my way to pick up SN2 from after school history class. Still haven’t seen SN1. Must call him if I don’t see him tonight.

6.30pm Why does this country have so much goddamn traffic? Ridiculous that it took me 65 minutes to drive 8 miles! Humph. Must finish off work in the office. Poo.

11.08pm Brain fried. Spent the evening doing Client reports. Ugh. Almost fell asleep on my laptop again. Confirmed SN1 was alive with brief conversation in the hallway.

Was joined in the office by my two office assistants – Lily (cat) and Van Persie (dog). Predictably the animals’ playful posturing soon descended into a brawl over control of the waste bin. I threw them both out.

 

Thursday November 14 2013

Calories consumed – stopped counting after 2500. Alcohol units – err…

Major problems encountered – several. Major problems solved – none

2.00pm Bloody HELL. Absolute tits up day. Barely managed to scramble into clothes before persistent knocking at the back door alerted me Mr. Fix It was here. Spent an unhappy hour trailing him as we went through a surprisingly long list of necessary house repairs. The coup de grace was the bee situation. I had no idea such danger lurked less than 100 yards from the house.  Mr. Fix It and I gaped horror-struck at the humming swarm, thousands strong, steadfastly protecting a massive hive, half-hidden in a tree next to the external wall. How had I never noticed it?? How long had it been there? Even Mr. Fix It and I know he can’t fix THAT.

Panicked, I sought help in social media. Found it on Facebook! Took the advice of friends and called the Ministry of Agriculture’s Apiary Unit. Just spoke to a very helpful lady who took my details and promised to call back for directions to the house.

3.00pm The Apiary Unit hasn’t called me back. Maybe I should call again?

3.15pm Called the Apiary Unit again. No answer.

4.30pm Still no response and I’m living next to Bee Armageddon. Thank God it’s Scandal Thursday! I’ll just pop a bottle of wine in the freezer before I drop SN2 to orchestra practice.

 

Friday November 15 2013

Calories consumed – who cares? Mostly alcohol based. Cardiovascular exercise – does heart pounding count? Crises – growing.

12.27am So sleepy. Ate my wine slushie while watching Scandal and finishing off a teambuilding proposal. Managed to clean most of the glass out of the freezer…perhaps I should set an alarm next time.

6.00pm I wish today had never happened. I feel trapped in a disaster vortex of growing proportions.

Three men arrived from the Apiary Unit shortly after 8.00am to prevent Bee Armageddon.  They took one look at the angry swarm, collectively exclaimed “Oh Gaad oye! Nah man!” and hurriedly retreated to the safety of their ministry truck.

After some discussion they called a beekeeper who happened to be in the area. He arrived within ten minutes and immediately took charge, much to the relief of the Apiary Unit “experts”, who sped off. Before I could say “honey” the beekeeper had donned semi-protective gear (I noticed he wasn’t wearing gloves. Very odd.) and was putting up caution tape and traffic cones.

There is nothing like caution tape to attract a crowd. People see the wispy neon yellow plastic and immediately gravitate towards the danger. Surely that’s the opposite of the intended purpose? Mr. Fix It, the gardener and the housekeeper materialised out of thin air and were soon joined by my mother’s handyman, whose macometer is exceptionally well tuned. Just as the beekeeper began smoking out the bees, the pool boy rocked up and launched into a lengthy discussion with the gardener about what hurts more – a bee sting or a jep sting.

The plumber, who was scheduled to fix the guest toilet and who usually works alone, arrived with a crew of four others (to fix a toilet???). Naturally they decided to take in the show, along with some of the neighbours, who by this time were observing nervously from their gates.  My normally quiet street was soon full of traffic as people driving by slowed down to watch, comment, and give the beekeeper unwanted advice.  By 10.00am we had a good sized crowd of spectators watching the bee removal from behind the safety (lol) of a few rolls of caution tape. I half expected a news crew to show up.

It occurred to me that whatever kept George from cutting my lawn the past two weeks probably saved his life. The beekeeper calmly explained that the hive was a mixture of Italian  and African bees, who will attack at the slightest provocation, especially noise. If George had turned on the lawnmower or weed wacker…the outcome could have been deadly.

At 11.00am a message from Daughter In University alerted me that all was not well with the family in England.

“Have you called Dad? You should call Dad.”

I retreated to my office and began frantically calling my husband, brother-in-law and mother-in-law without success. The inability to make contact only heightened my anxiety and fueled the nightmare scenarios already playing in my mind.  Eventually a call from husband confirmed my worst fears. My father-in-law – a good, decent man – had passed away.

I made it through the rest of the day on autopilot. This was not the time to fall apart and grieve. This was the time to remain in control and keep my ship steady.

The beekeeper completed his task and departed with a buzzing box. The crowd dispersed. The housekeeper cooked a meal. I bought groceries. I sent emails, made calls, and broke the sad news to friends and family members, including SN1 and SN2. I made plans. In reality I was keeping busy until I could collapse in bed with the remainder of my broken wine bottle. That time has finally come.

Could things get any worse? Sadly, I believe the answer is yes.

 

Sunday December 29 2013

Calories consumed – It’s Christmas time in Trinidad and Tobago – who and who counting calories?? Please, eh. Steups. Alcohol units – does it really matter? YOLO and all that. Cardiovascular exercise – will definitely do some in 2014.

3.00pm Six weeks have passed. During that time I’ve had a funeral (sad, but oh so wonderfully done), planned and executed a Christmas party (tremendous work but worth it), caught up with family and friends (lovely), and survived Christmas Day (a happy occasion despite raging migraine and crazy parents).

I cannot wait for 2013 to be over. Keeping everybody and everything going is draining. Frankly I am tired of looking after everyone at the expense of myself. I need someone to look after ME. My resolution for 2014 is to say NO more frequently.

Yeah, right. If I was capable of putting myself first I would have done that years ago. But somehow, somewhere at some time in 2014 I need to STOP and reassess my life. Maybe I just need some fun. A vacation would be nice. Alone. Well maybe a few girlfriends could come along for company. Or would a family trip be better? Gaah! There I go again! Perhaps it’s best not to think about it. At least for now. Right now the hubby and offspring are blissfully engaged  (elsewhere), the house is full of food, and most importantly  – there is cold champagne in the fridge.

8.00pm Had a teeny glass of champagne to toast the year’s end. OK, maybe two. The point is – God bless bubble therapy! Feeling much more positive and ready to face a new year! I am Mistress of My Domain! Or I’m drunk. Either way – I’m ready for 2014. BRING IT ON.


Wait Till Your Father Gets Home…

A departure from my usual light-hearted fare, but sometimes I just need to speak my mind. Non-Trinis may find my Trinbago Dictionary useful. Be sure to leave your comments after reading! Enjoy.

 

Much has been said about Miley Cyrus’s recent appearance on the MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs) and her new raunchy persona. While watching a clip of the controversial performance on YouTube I remember thinking – “If that were my daughter I would slap her so hard”.

My talented young cousin Battymamzelle wrote a thought-provoking post about the racial implications of Miley’s performance. A perspective which I do not fully share, but interesting nonetheless.

Forget about the twerking. Twerking is nothing new.  Here in the Caribbean we have been wukking up for generations. It irks me however that a sizeable portion of the US population think they invented the move because it’s new to THEM. (Those of you old enough to remember the oohing and ahhing over Bo Derek’s hairstyle in 10 know exactly what I’m talking about).

Questions swirl around my head about Miley’s very public embracement of her sexuality. What does Liam (Hemsworth) think? What does his family think? He and Miley are supposed to be engaged, after all. But more importantly – what do Miley’s parents think?

Publicly, Miley’s parents have expressed nothing but love and support for their daughter. Rightly so. But I want to believe that privately they are gritting their teeth and harsh words have been exchanged.

At twenty years old Miley has the right to do whatever she wants. She is legally an adult. I wonder though – did Miley consider the possible impact her performance would have on her parents, and if so – did it influence the actual presentation at all? Somehow I think not.

The issue here for me is – at what age do we stop being under parental control?

I want to argue that for many of us, particularly people of colour, the answer is never.  There are many things I would never ever consider doing because if my mother found out she would kill me.

Black parents live by the Bill Cosby motto – “I brought you into this world and I can take you out”. I dodged countless pot spoons and slippers as a child.  The scent of disapproval from my mother still strikes fear into my heart. As West Indians we have the added pressure from all the relatives constantly reminding us – “Don’t make the family shame!”

If at age twenty I had climbed onstage in  a worldwide broadcast and simulated masturbation with a giant foam hand – my parents, aunts, and uncles would have collectively jumped on me and beat the black out of me. Even now – despite her Zimmer frame – I’d risk serious injury from my mother. When you live in a society where the extended family is a norm; adult offspring live at home; and many generations often live under one roof; it is hard to escape that sense of family responsibility.

In Trinidad and Tobago we are identified by our familial alliances – Greta’s daughter. Indra’s sister. Nazir’s mother. My blogger cousin Battymamzelle recently pointed out that there is no such thing as six degrees of separation in T&T. The most you will get are two. Everybody knows you AND your family and they are quick to report on the slightest perceived infringement of the T&T Broughtupsy Code. Forget about the middle class – T&T only has two social strata – ghetto and stush. Guess which one so-called Nice Boys and Girls don’t want to be identified with? The result is that long after we stop pitching marbles we still feel obliged to do what our parents want.

I am not putting forth an argument for full parental control from womb to tomb. But that sense of responsibility to those who raised us – and fear of disappointing them – has stopped many people (myself included) from doing something which they might later regret. It didn’t stop me breaking into a public swimming pool in Cambridge at midnight to skinny dip with a group of friends but I figured there was NO chance of my parents ever finding out. Oops…

Billy Ray Cyrus admitted a few years ago that he spent too long trying to be Miley’s friend instead of her parent. “How many interviews did I give and say, ‘You know what’s important between me and Miley is I try to be a friend to my kids’? I said it a lot. And sometimes I would even read other parents might say, ‘You don’t need to be a friend, you need to be a parent.’  Well, I’m the first guy to say to them right now: You were right. I should have been a better parent. I should have said, ‘Enough is enough – it’s getting dangerous and somebody’s going to get hurt.’ I should have, but I didn’t.”

Here’s the thing – your children will make and break many friendships as they grow up. But building a healthy respect for the parental bond and influence? You’ve got one shot. No do-overs. Get the parenting right and the friendship will follow.

Talk to your kids. I’m willing to bet twenty years from now when Miley looks back at the video of her VMAs performance she will wish her mum and dad had said to her “I brought you into this world…”

At the end of the day, we are all the product of our parents and the degree of control and influence they have/had over us.

But that’s just my opinion. What do YOU think?


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