Wednesday, April 24, 2024

THE AL GILKES COLUMN – Catching up and catching bottoms


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Among the many things that I like about Crop-Over is the fact that I get to see so many people that I have not seen in a long time.Many are relatives and friends from back in the day who now live in various parts of the world and make it a ritual to be in Barbados at least once every two years to enjoy all the sweetness of Crop-Over as well as to meet with their own relatives and friends who no longer live in Barbados.The trek home also allows them the opportunity to introduce their overseas-born children to the mother country and bring to life all the stories about the people, places and things they would have been told about the rock.One friend of mine from school days who lives in England picked me out at a lime and, while reminiscing about the old days, he turned to a young lady standing silently at his side listening with wide-open ears and said, “Sorry, sweetheart, let me introduce you to a good friend of mine from way back when, Al Gilkes.” He then turned to me and continued, “Al, this is my daughter. She was born in Birmingham and this is her very first visit to Barbados.”The young lady shook my hand and I wished her a pleasant stay on the island, telling her she was lucky to be here at the best time of the year, for Crop-Over. I also told her I was sure that she would want to come back for more every year.I then jokingly suggested that when she returned home she should be able to teach her friends a thing or two about wukking up. I couldn’t believe my ears when in her full English accent she let me know, “Oh, we wuk up worse in England than you do in Barbados.” After a good laugh, her father and I resumed our back-in-time conversation and as we were rolling along pitching marbles outside the headmaster’s office before the bell rang for morning prayers, the daughter interrupted, apologised for doing so and asked me, “Did daddy say your name is Al Gilkes?”I confirmed that I was, to which she replied: “I know that name. I know you, but from where?”How could she know me? After all, we had never met before and the last time I had seen her father was several years before she had landed on earth.The answer came like a blow from an unexpected direction when her eyes opened wide and she blurted out: “I know where I know you from now. I used to hear my grandmamma talk about you all the time when I was growing up. It’s so nice to meet you.”At least she, like her father and grandmother, didn’t live in Barbados, quite unlike another friendly face from the past that I found on Spring Garden one Kadooment Day.He and I used to lime on Broad Street every day when I first started to work and this was the first time I was seeing him since 1970-something. Obviously, I assumed that like my English-based friend he too lived in some far off foreign land.So, after buying him a beer I asked, “So how long you been living overseas?”“Me, living overseas?” he asked, surprised?“You don’t live overseas?” I ask just as surprised.“No man, I been right here in Barbados all this time keeping my tail quiet except for Kadooment when I come out to check the bottoms.”
•Al Gilkes heads a public relations firm.

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