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Being there

Posted: November 29th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Column | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

Friday last week saw me on the edge of my seat at The Lady’s school Spelling Bee finals. The school has just started this school-wide competition and they hope to make it an annual event. The inaugural event was short and decisive; The Lady took the Std 5 championship after stumbling over “magnanimous” in her second round (but all the competitors also missed their words so the round was discounted).

I was overwhelmingly proud of her, not just for winning, but for actually learning over 300 spelling words in preparation for the tournament. (The last round in the finals, however, included words not on the list.) She stuck to it and was rewarded with the win.

Most of the girls who took part in the finals did so under the gaze of at least one parent or guardian, except for one girl who had no parent there to cheer her on. I wonder if that made a difference to her?

In my childhood my parents rarely, if ever, attended my school events. I might come home and announce I had won something, or taken part in something else, and they would be happy in an abstracted kind of way. Coming to those things was not a priority for them.

I wonder if it made a difference to me? I can’t remember. But I know The Lady wanted me there at her Spelling Bee and I made sure to be there on time as she requested. I sat up in front and beamed loving attention to her all through the contest. I think it made a difference, my being there.


Looking at 40

Posted: November 22nd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Column | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

I”ll be 37 in a few days. Because I still feel as though I’m somewhere in my mid-twenties it always comes as a surprise when I realise that, yes, it’s 2010 and that means I’m definitely not in my twenties anymore. I mean, wasn’t it just yesterday I was ringing in my 26th birthday in the Queen’s Park Savannah with the Vox Crew, led by my brother Taye and Remy “Rembunction” Yearwood, as they sang happy birthday, drowning out Wyclef’s performance?

But it’s a decade later. No concerts in the Savannah this year, I think. No throngs of well-wishers. Instead, wrinkles on my neck, two or three unfinished projects (a couple more unstarted, even), a pitiful bank balance, a beat-up car, long-dead parents, a semi-abandoned career as a journalist, and worse hearing with every day (possibly from too many concerts, in the Savannah and elsewhere, when I was young). Counting my blessings: great friends I don’t see enough, great friends who have seen me through decades of years and gallons of tears; two daughters who delight and amaze me daily; a kitten who pees all over the house but whom I love like I’ve never loved an animal before; an NGO and a great team to help build it; one short novel and a book I’ve edited.

My wrinkly neck. By age 40 I'll look like I'm ready for a Thanksgiving pardon.

Peering down the road at 40, I can see more wrinkles, perhaps less cat pee, if I’m lucky and Fennec gets some behaviour. Maybe I’ll go back into journalism, and that would help the bank balance, even, possibly, the beat-up car. Maybe not; I’m too accustomed now to doing what I like, mostly when I like it, to go back to the rigor and inconvenience of being on someone else’s time clock. When the NGO grows up, as it must, maybe I will earn an actual salary and be able to support myself from it. Or maybe I’ll just hold out until the children are grown and they can support me for a change. (Ha. Miss Thing just announced she wants to be an anthropologist. Damn, must she get the “earn no money” gene from her father and me? On the upside, The Lady says she wants to be rich and famous. There is hope yet.)

At least reaching this age I can dismiss or refine some aspirations. I definitely won’t have the BMW I wished I’d had by age 30. I might have to push the Nobel Prize back to age 70. Bummer. My Great West Indian Novel is yet to be finished; maybe it will be “published to unanimous acclaim in over 22 countries” (to steal Miss Thing’s pet phrase) by the time I’m 45? That’s only eight years away. One thing about growing older: you definitely learn that time flies–the Concorde.


Fazeer, MATT and the government’s rights

Posted: November 10th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Column | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments »

I worked with Fazeer Mohammed and his wife at the Guardian when they both were there in the early to mid-nineties. I can’t say we were great friends but we had the casual, friendly interaction that characterises many office relationships; I knew they were orthodox Muslim but it never impaired their functioning, she in payroll and he in journalism. I’ve since been interviewed by him twice on CNMG’s talk show First Up, the most recent time being just a few weeks ago, with Roslyn Carrington, to publicise the Allen Prize and its inaugural seminar. He is a bright, on-point journalist with an aggressive but respectful interview style and to me it was a pleasure to be the subject of his questioning. But then again, I’m not a government minister.

Fazeer’s “downsizing” from that job at CNMG, described, he said, as a “cost cutting” measure, has left many media workers and observers keenly uncomfortable. MATT issued a press release in protest of the decision not only to fire Fazeer after a controversial interview with a government minister, but to replace him with Andy Johnson, erstwhile journalist and now the head of the Government Information Service.

GIS employees routinely go back and forth between privately owned media and the GIS, but I don’t know a single one who confuses the two. GIS is the GOVERNMENT INFORMATION SERVICE. The people who work there may be reporters, editors and cameramen, but their responsibilities are very different from those of other media workers; they are there to report the business of the government, from the angle the government dictates. (Does it need to be said that privately owned media don’t have the same goal?) Andy Johnson is an excellent talk show host, and was a brilliant journo when he wrote for the Guardian and the Express–but he’s now the head of the GIS and there’s no way he belongs on air in anything other than GIS programming. CNMG is state-owned but it has from time to time asserted its editorial independence; you can tell that Fazeer, at least, believed that spiel. In the transcript of the excerpt of the interview I read in the paper, he asks a hard question about Kamla’s unfortunate statement on disaster aid but never gets an answer; instead, he was accused in the interview of being anti-Kamla and (as an orthodox Muslim) opposed to women’s leadership.

If it is government policy to usurp the editorial autonomy of CNMG stations, and to make CNMG employees government mouthpieces like employees of the GIS, then there should be a clear statement iterating that. If not, CNMG staff should be left to do their jobs without fearing they will be downsized if they step on the wrong toes or imply anything but complete support for the government of the day.


A thought on book reviewing

Posted: November 3rd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Editorial | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »

I finally finished writing a book review that I had started cogitating on back in August. Sad, but true.

The main problem I had was how to write about the story without writing a spoiler. That’s usually one of the main concerns with writing reviews of any kind: how do you say what a great/awful story it was if you can’t actually say what the story was?

It took me this long to figure out how to write this one, possibly because the story affected me so much. The book is really moving and relevant to the Caribbean, but the conclusion is so harsh that you can’t help but give a *gulp* of terror when you read it. In sitting to write the review this morning, I decided to take a look at some statistics related to the plot and see if I couldn’t use them as a way into the analysis. Anyway, a few hours later… I finished. Three months to write 800 words. Sad, but true.