Tuesday, April 16, 2024

THE LOWDOWN: We need a Saint


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They who say it can’t be done shouldn’t interrupt those who are doing it. – G.B. Shaw.
We who lived through World War II didn’t have it easy. Especially me, who for the first half of the War was divided into two separate entities. Theoretically, I didn’t stand a chance. 
Some 280 million of us were primed to launch ourselves in a mad swimming race. Only the winner would survive. We were huddled in an insanely vulnerable contraption and, to make matters worse, my father was an opening bat in the days of killer bowlers like Larwood and Voce.
Larwood and Voce were England’s heroes of the infamous bodyline series against Australia. Once, while facing them in England, a cable was brought out to my father.
Delighted, he rushed to show it to Larwood. “Say, Harold, I’ve got another baby boy. I’d like to live to see him, if you get my drift.” The next two balls were snorting bouncers. We breathed a sigh of relief. Our main worries were the ones rising sharply off a good length.
Meanwhile, back at home, prospects looked even more bleak. My father’s bedroom was at one end of a long house, my mother’s at the other. On the night of my intended conception, she wouldn’t let him in.
You couldn’t blame her. She already had seven children. Brother Bill was a mere ten months old. Finally, Daddy told her he only wanted to wind the clock. And having gained entrance, well . . . .
None of which would have saved me. I could barely swim. But as the others flexed and readied for action, inspiration hit me. “Hey, fellows,” I shouted, “not wanting to dampen your spirits or anything but I was just reading of dirty things some men do. I’m due to perish anyhow so why not let me go ahead to check and shout the all-clear.”
Luckily they fell for it and I was securely embedded in utero before they could catch me. A lowdown trick but all’s fair in love and war. Though dearly, dearly did I pay for, after I became a fait accompli, Daddy came to wind the clock nearly every night. Mostly at Mummy’s insistence. Things was rough, boy.  
That’s the trouble with old war stories. You get carried away. What I wanted to say is that Barbados had rough times then too. With German U-boats everywhere, there was a real possibility we could be cut off from external supplies and have to survive on our own. This hit home when, two and a half months before I was born, the merchant ship Cornwallis was torpedoed in Carlisle Bay.
Drastic action was called for and, unlike now, there was no gushing of useless long talk by politicians and university effendis. No, our fate was put in the hands of one man. And, boy, did he deliver!
Sidney John Saint joined the British Royal Air Force at age 18 and served during World War I. He came to Barbados as an agricultural chemist and rose to the rank of director of agriculture. With the war situation desperate, he was made controller of supplies.
Sir John was swift and decisive. He issued an order that 12 and a half per cent of all estate lands had to be planted in food crops. Livestock had to be kept. This was still in force when I worked at the ministry in the late 1960s and guaranteed us an adequate food supply.
He established the cassava factory at Lancaster to replace imported flour with a local product. Old-timers still talk of cassava hats and “Dr Saint’s pills”. By a series of such measures, Barbados survived the war with flying colours.
We need a Saint at this juncture, a one-man show with no holds barred. I would go for Owen Arthur. By the way, David Comissiong has some brilliant ideas – revitalise agriculture and manufacturing, wean Bajans off exchange-sapping lotteries and cellphones, promote self-reliance.
Operation Foreign Exchange should be pivotal. Idle lands in sugar cane are better than idle lands doing nothing. Would it not be better to let the Ivy unemployed reap canes and sell them for whatever they can get rather than abandon both canes and youths?
Farm land is a scarce national resource. If you do not use it, you should surely lose it. More anon.
Richard Hoad is a farmer and social commentator. Email porkhoad@gmail.com.


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