Sunday, April 14, 2024

THE LOWDOWN: Marshalling facts


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PERSPECTIVE is a powerful tool! Same situation, different perspective, worlds apart. Recently I’ve been freezing under a quilt on mornings with two shirts on. Doug Hoyte enjoys it. He probably has penguin somewhere in his ancestry. That would explain why Cassandra and Belle tower over him even when they’re sitting and he’s standing.

The pyramids of Egypt. Magnificent wonders of the world! Brilliant mathematical precision! Hail the black architect Imhotep! That’s from our perspective.

But what about the workers who had to drag and lift almost 70 million tons of stone? Their perspective: “Why the ramgoat Pharaoh couldn’t get bury in an 8 x 21/2 grave like anybody else? Fourteen acres for one kiss-me-neck grave? And we getting goadies with these big rocks? He don’t know Cow does move the earth to please?”

We credit management and technical expertise for the pyramids. Forget the workers. In Barbados, it’s the opposite. The workers did everything; management didn’t contribute. Husbands Wrought Iron and Solar Dynamics would’ve prospered just as well without the vision and acumen of their founders. They only had to tell their workers “Go forth and produce!” and they would’ve reaped success. Easy so!

That’s the problem with perspective. It often sees only one side. Professor Pedro Welch recalls “when the average working-class person was more vegetarian than anything else because the only time you got a little piece of meat was on Sunday and most likely it was salt fish”.

Far be it from me to question the Prof’s experience. But I ate labourers’ food nearly every day and noted: (1) it was the ultimate disgrace (in fact, I’ve never seen it) for them to eat white rice. They had protein-rich pigeon peas, bonavist, rouncevals, beans to put in the food.

(2) That diet with legumes and ground food was far more healthy than the greasy chicken and pork chops we now consume.

The secret was the salt meat. Put a scrap of salt meat for me to watch and I can eat half acre of rice or yam. Besides, we’re talking food far sweeter that any around today, partly due to the peppers which I can’t name.

Even perspectives on history have changed. In my day, the most a historian could do was manipulate facts to suit his agenda. Nowadays he’s bound by no such strictures. He can say whatever he likes. If challenged, he calls it hyperbole.

Historian Trevor Marshall mentions the following “undeniable facts”: “Many Bajan whites with names such as Hoad . . . left Barbados in a hurry in November 1966 through to November 1967 for Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Britain”. Simply not true. For the record: Len, Canada 1948, Australia 1955; Anne, Canada 1954; Joe, England 1958, Australia 1972; Buddy, England 1960. A little hyperbole there.

Marshall again: “Fewer than 50 Bajan whites were present at the flag-raising ceremony at the Garrison on November 29-30, 1966 . . .” Can you imagine little Trevor on a muddy, rainy night meandering between 15 000 Blacks on a packed savannah to count whites? I was there with a crowd from Ladymeade. Brother Joe too. My wife, her parents and sundry Burke relatives, probably past that 50 already. Suspect Trevor’s “fewer than 50” is a “lowperbole”!

More Marshall: “Bajan Whites . . . definitely had problems embracing Independence under Black rule”. Yet my sister-in-law Frances Chandler, a white Barbadian, raised the Barbados flag for the first time ever in November 1966 at a ceremony in Trinidad.

The white Merrymen’s God Bless Bim On Independence Day was the hit of the season.

My brother Ted was a close friend of Errol Barrow. The latter proposed they should open a fish-cutter business in Holetown. Barrow would fry the fish, Ted bake the salt breads. I sourced a second-hand oven. Unfortunately, Barrow went back to being PM and passed away.

How good to see Guyanese ladies planning to highlight their “five peoples” – African, Indian, European, Chinese and Amerindian – in their 50th celebrations!

Trev, you and I love this scrapping, so wheel and come again. But beware! Heather Connell the black-pudding woman sent down a breadfruit; the wife made a licking cou cou. Billy from the Village sent up a parcel marked “Ram sheep liver; with stones”. She made that in stew.

Right now Maggie Hoad’s last boy is pumped. And he won’t spare the pen to spoil the historian.

Richard Hoad is a farmer and social commentator. Email


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