Wednesday, April 24, 2024

SATURDAY’S CHILD – Earl talk and windbags


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Guyanese are the most hospitable people in the world. Trinidadians of my generation are next. It is true that neither Guyanese nor Trinidadians extend themselves as much as the people of the Gilbert and Ellis islands in the South Pacific who, many years ago, selected a nubile young lady to provide solace to men whose wives were pregnant and so needed succour or other games that people play.
We are not like the Eskimos either who, in the good old days, offered their wives for warmth to those guests who spent the night in their igloos. However, I hear that they now have a freeze on that particular act of charity but there is still hope for ye of little faith.
My wife Indranie is from Guyana and I am a Trini. This puts us very high on the hospitality index. We have no problems with friends dropping in on us unannounced or sudden requests for room and airport transportation.
We always ensure that our visitors have something to eat and drink. Although we do not go to the lengths of the Eskimos, we still maintain the traditions that characterised the communities and countries from which we came.
Our children were born in Barbados and although Barbadians tend to require advance notice of visits and are not as casual or informal about hospitality as we are, our children have grown up in our milieu of welcome and well-being. They love visitors and are willing to give up their beds at short notice to visitors.
However, our most recent visitor did not meet with open arms or doors. In fact, we locked the doors and windows tightly and nailed plywood across the whole front of the house. We put away all our valuables, even our beloved chimes. As I told Indranie, “He might be royalty, but this Earl is trouble and we better make sure that when he drops in there is no welcome mat or anything that he could interpret as a sign that he could do what he likes with us.”
Earl, as most Caribbean people know by now, is a Class One hurricane. Although some people may think that at that primary stage it is still learning its craft, the fact is that Earl sank one craft in the Antigua harbour and left a significant amount of destruction in its wake. Had Carnival not already ended in Antigua, there would have been a significant amount of floats in the festival. Earl is now expected to do serious damage as it heads higher up the hemisphere. One thing you don’t give a hurricane is latitude. Or lassitude either – you need to prepare for the worst.
I knew several days ago that Earl had his eye on us. We bought and stored water, filled the car with gas, ensured we had enough lamp fuel and lots of food. But you still never feel that you’ve done enough and you can never feel secure. Compounding our problem was that our 12-year-old son Zubin was in St Kitts representing Antigua in a seven-country Under-13 cricket tournament. We kept praying that the Almighty would look after him and his team as they huddled together in the Community Centre in which they were housed. 
We have no garage and were not sure where to put the car since we had no idea from which direction the major winds would come. The best place we could find was on the north side of the house, normally the path of the trade winds. It was protected on the front and side by walls. However, our biggest problem was a huge Neem tree about 20 yards from the car and very close to the back bedroom of the house.
We decided to take our chances on the basis that, like all good survivors, it would sway with the wind and not get uprooted.
That would not stop it from opening a branch in our bedroom but we prayed and hoped for the best knowing that the major reason the hurricane season is like Christmas is that at some point you have a tree in your house.
Earl came early in the morning.
The wind picked up and the rain beat a merciless tattoo on the roof. Worse, it was suffocating as the wind and rain were coming from the same direction.
The extremely strong wind caused the roof light in the car to go on and I rushed out during a lull in the storm, lightning flashing in one continuous burst like Disneyworld, to switch it off because I could not let the battery run down.
The rain eventually eased up at dawn and then at about eight, my daughter Jasmine came in to tell us that the palm tree had blown down. It turned out to be a banana tree but, as I explained to Indranie, since it was not a BlackBerry it had to be a Palm.
In fact, fortunately the hurricane was an Earl and not a Duke, Prince or King. 
I am writing and sending in this column on Tuesday, August 31, 2010. I have a feeling that things will shortly revert to the turmoil of two nights ago. We are now tracking Fiona which also has its eye on us and is due to drop in or pass by tomorrow. I already flinch when I meet people named Janet, Ivan and Katrina and I figure that I won’t be too happy when I meet Fiona.
It is not just the thought of having to go through once more the unforgettable experience of last weekend but the fact that Fiona is female. I cannot help but think of the reason that hurricanes were named after women. As one wit quipped, “They arrive wet and wild and when they go they take your house and car and leave you devastated.”
• Tony Deyal was last seen remembering why a Grenadian taxi-driver said that Hurricane Ivan was a dog: “When it pass through all you hear is ‘Roof! Roof!’”     

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