Looking For Mr Wrong

rockfort5Over the last four months, I’ve been going to the Rockfort mineral bath almost every week. I decided this was excellent therapy for my unconfirmed chik-V. I’d been advised not to lift weights because of the stress on the joints. So exercising in the mineral water was my way of compensating for missing the gym.

The $300 entry fee for senior citizens is a bargain. It gives you 45 minutes in the pool. When I asked about the time limit, I was told that the Ministry of Health had recommended the restriction because of the potency of the minerals. I have absolutely no confidence in the facts and figures coming out of that ministry. So I usually take some ‘brawta’ minutes. I have to drag myself out of the pool.

The mineral bath is an underused resource. It’s next door to the cement factory, so I know that’s an issue. The risk of industrial pollution puts people off. Sometimes, I’m the only person in the pool. But I think the benefits of the mineral water outweigh the risk of inhaling cement dust. And since it’s the Caribbean Cement Company that’s maintaining the bath, one does have to take the sour with the sweet.

One of the lifeguards encouraged me to write about the healing power of the mineral water so more patrons would come. I selfishly felt conflicted. I really wouldn’t want to be in the pool at its full capacity of 50 persons. One week, as I drove into the parking lot, I heard the screams of children on a school outing enjoying themselves. I didn’t even make it to 20 minutes that day. I just couldn’t take the noise.

There are private baths, but these have not been open for quite a while. I gather that they are to be refurbished soon. The last time I used the private baths, several years ago, I was disappointed to see how rundown they had become. So I’m not surprised they’ve been closed.


I certainly missed my soothing mineral bath while I was away. I had gone to King’s College, University of London, to have a public conversation with the Martinican zouk singer Jocelyne Beroard of the band Kassav. We spoke about Caribbean popular music and dance. And we expressed our love for the Creole languages that have been created in the region.

Kassav is the French Creole word for cassava. The band chose that name to signify nutritious local food which, like music, nurtures body and spirit. And they sing in Creole to affirm the value of the language. It’s a political issue – reclaiming the power of our shared African heritage.

Billed as a ‘Moving Conversation’, the event was part of the ‘Modern Moves’ research project directed by Prof Ananya Kabir of the Department of English. This energetic project tracks the movement of African rhythms across the cultures of the diaspora.


The very first morning I came home, I made a move to the mineral bath. I needed to thaw out from the London cold and the Paris tragedy. I was waiting at the intersection of Windward Road and Michael Manley Boulevard to merge with traffic on the highway when a youngish male driver hit my car in the rear.

We both got out of our cars and our conversation went something like this. He asked me, “So what we going to do?” And I said, “How you mean? We going to exchange information.” I suggested that he pull in behind me out of the traffic. He said there wasn’t enough room so he would park ahead of me. Well, you know what happened. Mr Wrong took off at such a speed I’m surprised he didn’t crash.

All I could do was laugh. It was completely ridiculous. And I did understand why Mr Wrong made a dash for it. He took one look at my relatively new car and decided he was not going to take any responsibility for fixing it. He probably didn’t even have a driver’s licence, much more insurance. It made no sense to run him down. Looking for Mr Wrong would be a complete waste of time.


There are so many of these incidents every single day. Hit-and-run driving is a common offence. We really have to do something extraordinary to bring order to the chaos on the roads. Taxi men are a special case. I have seen a taxi man in the right-turn lane move to the left, across two lanes of traffic, and turn left just as the light is changing! Driving is clearly a daredevil sport.

LiteracySignI’m convinced that a high percentage of drivers are not literate and so they haven’t read the road code. And even those who are literate do not seem to understand the language of the code. And if they do understand, they are certainly not obeying the rules. I think the minister of transport and works needs to commission the Jamaican Language Unit at the University of the West Indies, Mona to produce an oral version of the road code translated into the heart language of the Jamaican people.

Until we get drivers to ‘feel’ the meaning of the road code, we are not going to get compliance with the rules. But, I suppose, some of us would rather die on the road than acknowledge the power of the Jamaican language to influence behaviour. That’s a high price to pay for downright ignorance.

Wa A Joke To You A Death To Me

Two spelling systems are used for the Jamaican language below. The first, which I call ‘chaka-chaka’, is based on English spelling. The second, ‘prapa-prapa’, is the specialist system designed by the Jamaican linguist Frederic Cassidy. It has been updated by the Jamaican Language Unit at the University of the West Indies, Mona. After the two Jamaican versions, there’s an English translation.


Charlie Hebdo office

Charlie Hebdo office

Wen mi see weh di Kouachi bredder dem gwaan wid a Paris, mi seh to miself mi better seh sorry quick-quick to di whole heap a KC old boy weh bex wid mi all now chruu mi did run lickle joke wid dem inna mi column, ‘KC old boys desire male sex’. Dem never waan no woman go a dem big dinner. So mi seh a ongle man dem waan: di male sex.

Wa burn some a di man dem a di next meaning a di headline weh mi did a play wid inna di column. Mi mek it sound like seh dem waan fi sex man. God know, mi never know dem wuda tek it so hard. Mi did tink seh dem must see seh a romp mi a romp wid dem. How mi kuda tink seh every Jack man no waan Jill? No must joke mi a mek!

Nuff a di old boy dem never tink it funny at all at all. Dem seh mi a seh dem funny fi true. An dem threaten fi kill mi. See one a di deadly email weh mi get ya: “You are truly a disgusting piece of protoplasm. I hope you spend the rest of yuh life ah look behind you because kc roots run deep in the communities of downtown Kingston and rural Jamaica.”

Some a di confident KC old boy dis laugh it off. Dem never bawl out chruu no stone no lik dem. One young old boy weh go a UWI seh to mi, “Miss, I don’t know why dem going on like dat. Because is long time dem saying dat bout us. And me don’t mek it bodder me.” A no dat im seh word fi word. But a dat im mean.


It look like seh di old old boy dem tek it harder than di young old boy dem. Mi did hear seh some a dem did a threaten fi sue Gleaner. Dem no sex man an Gleaner a scandalise dem. Mi no waan no KC old boy, young or old, go a Gleaner office go shoot up poor Oliver Clarke an di editor dem sake a mi column.

images-3Put fun an joke aside. Wen mi tink bout it, sex come een like religion. Who yu sex a who yu be. A di said same way people feel seh di god dem worship a who dem be. Dem a Christian, dem a Jew, dem a Muslim, dem a Rasta. Dem religion a dem livity. It a dem nature. Same like how yu sex a yu nature. An eena fi wi Jamaica language, wi all use di word ‘nature’ fi mean sex life. Like how wi seh lime cut yu nature.

By di way, mi wonder if LIME a go change fi dem sour name when dem married to Flow. Dat deh name never mek no sense. It no sweet wi. A no like eena Trinidad an Tobago weh lime mean party. An wat mi no understand, di company no name LIME down deh. Dem a Cable and Wireless. Anyhow mi ongle hope LIME nah go cut Flow nature.

Di Charlie Hebdo cartoonist dem shuda did know seh dem no fi tek Prophet Muhammad mek poppyshow. Still for all, dat no mean dem shuda dead fi dat. An mi shuda did know seh mi no fi run joke wid Jamaica man seh dem waan fi sex man. Mi jook dem pon dem nature. An mi sorry. Old-time people seh, “Wa a joke to you a death to me.” An a true.


jack-n-jillWen mi si we di Kouachi breda dem gwaan wid a Paris, mi se tu miself mi beta se sari kwik-kwik tu di uol iip a KC uol bwai we beks wid mi aal nou chruu mi did ron likl juok wid dem ina mi kalam, ‘KC old boys desire male sex’. Dem neva waan no uman go a dem big dina. So mi se a ongl man dem waan: di miel seks.

Wa bon som a di man dem a di neks miinin a di edlain we mi did a plie wid ina di kalam. Mi mek it soun laik se dem waan fi seks man. Gad nuo, mi neva nuo dem wuda tek it so aad. Mi did tingk se dem mos si se a ramp mi a ramp wid dem. Ou mi kuda tingk se evri Jak man no waan Jil? No mos juok mi a mek!

Nof a di uol bwai dem neva tingk it foni at aal at aal. Dem se mi a se dem foni fi chruu. An dem chretn fi kil mi. Si wan a di dedli iimiel we mi get ya: “You are truly a disgusting piece of protoplasm. I hope you spend the rest of yuh life ah look behind you because kc roots run deep in the communities of downtown Kingston and rural Jamaica.”

Som a di kanfident KC uol bwai dis laaf it aaf. Dem neva baal out chruu no stuon no lik dem. Wan yong uol bwai we go a UWI se tu mi, “Miss, I don’t know why dem going on like dat. Because is long time dem saying dat bout us. And me don’t mek it bodder me.” A no dat im se wod fi wod. Bot a dat im miin.


It luk laik se di uol uol bwai dem tek it aada dan di yong uol bwai dem. Mi did ier se som a dem did a chretn fi suu Gleaner. Dem no seks man an Gleaner a skyandalaiz dem. Mi no waan no KC uol bwai, yong ar uol, go a Gleaner afis go shuut op puor Oliver Clarke an di edita dem siek a mi kalam.

Put fon an juok asaid. Wen mi tingk bout it, seks kom iin laik rilijan. Uu yu seks a uu yu bi. A di sed siem wie piipl fiil se di gad dem worship a uu dem bi. Dem a Krischan, dem a Juu, dem a Muslim, dem a Rasta. Dem rilijan a dem liviti. It a dem niecha. Siem laik ou yu seks a yu niecha. An iina fi wi Jamieka langwij, wi aal yuuz di wod niecha fi miin seks laif. Laik ou wi se laim kot yu niecha.

Bai di wie, mi wonda if LIME a go chienj fi dem sowa niem wen dem marid to Flow. Dat de niem neva mek nuo sens. It no swiit wi. A no laik iina Trinidad an Tobago we laim miin paati. An wat mi no andastan, di kompini no niem LIME dong de. Dem a Cable and Wireless. Eniou mi ongl uop LIME naa go kot Flow niecha.

Di Charlie Hebdo kyaatuunis dem shuda did nuo se dem no fi tek Prafit Muhammad mek papishuo. Stil far aal, dat no miin dem shuda ded fi dat. An mi shuda did nuo se mi no fi ron juok wid Jamieka man se dem waan fi seks man. Mi juk dem pan dem niecha. An mi sari. Uol taim piipl se, “Wa a juok tu yu a det tu mi.” An a chruu.


18BROTHERS_IDS-articleLarge-v2After seeing how the Kouachi brothers terrorised Paris, I said to myself I’d better apologise right away to all those KC old boys who are still angry with me because of my joking around with them in my column, ‘KC old boys desire male sex’. They didn’t want women to attend their grand dinner.  So I said they only wanted men:  the male sex.

What hurt some of the men was the other meaning of the headline that I was playing around with in the column. I made it seem as if they wanted to have sex with men.  God knows, I didn’t know they would take it so hard.  I thought they must see I was teasing them. How could I think that every Jack man doesn’t want Jill? I must have been joking!

Many of the old boys didn’t think it was funny at all.  They said I was saying that they are really ‘funny’.   And they threatened to kill me.  Here’s one of the deadly emails I got: “You are truly a disgusting piece of protoplasm. I hope you spend the rest of your life looking over your shoulder because kc roots run deep in the communities of downtown Kingston and rural Jamaica.”

Some of the confident KC old boys just had a good laugh.   They didn’t protest because they didn’t feel attacked.  One of the young old boys, who is a student at UWI, said to me, “Miss, I don’t know why they’re getting on like that. Because people have been  saying that about us for a long time now. And I don’t let it bother me.” That’s not what he said word fi word. But that’s what he meant.


It seems as if the old old boys took it harder than the young old boys.  I heard that some of them were threatening to sue the Gleaner. They don’t have sex with men and the newspaper is scandalising them.  I don’t want any KC old boy, young or old, to go to the Gleaner office and shoot poor Oliver Clarke and the editors because of my column.

images-2All joking aside. When I think about it, sex is like religion. Your sexuality is your identity. In the same way, some people think that their religion is their identity. They are Christian, Jew, Muslim, Rasta. Their religion is their way of life. It’s their nature. Just as one’s sex is seen as natural. An in our Jamaican language, we use the word ‘nature’ to mean sex drive. For example, we say that  lime slows down your sex drive.

By the way, I wonder if LIME is going to change their sour name when they get married to Flow. That name made no sense. It doesn’t appeal to us. It’s not like in Trinidad and Tobago where lime means partying. And what I don’t understand is that the company isn’t named LIME there. It’s Cable and Wireless. Anyhow, I only hope LIME isn’t going to slow down Flow.

The Charlie Hebdo cartoonists should have known not to make a mockery of the Prophet Muhammad.  All the same, that doesn’t mean they should be killed for it. And I should have known not to  joke around with Jamaican men about their being homosexual.  I hit them at the core of their identity. And I’m sorry. Proverbial wisdom warns, “What’s a joke to you is deadly serious to me.” And that’s the truth.

Death By Satire In Paris

I happened to be in Paris last Wednesday when freedom of the press was murderously assaulted at the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. For most of the day, I was playing tourist at the Louvre museum. I visited the Egyptian Antiquities galleries.  I also viewed some of the lavishly displayed paintings of Europe, including the Mona Lisa, which has become a fetish, cordoned off behind three layers of barriers and further protected by what I presume to be bullet-proof glass. Miss Mona seemed rather pleased with herself and all the attention.


Ancient Egyptian headrest


Headrest from Tanzania

I ended my tour with the Arts of Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas – all squashed into one collection. At the Louvre, Europe is clearly the centre of the world. This is understandable. What is less acceptable is the way the rest of the world is represented. In the Egyptian collection, I was struck by the following text which I’ve translated: “The Egyptian slept on a low bed, even on the floor, the head resting on a wooden support, as is still done in some countries of Africa.”

The peculiar phrase, “in some countries of Africa”, seems to imply that Egypt is not in Africa. If it were, ‘other’ would have been used instead of ‘some’. Ironically, even when a shared cultural practice across the African continent is highlighted, Egypt is sealed off. Indeed, in many museums of the Western world, Egypt is methodically cut off from the rest of Africa. Why?

The Louvre is relatively close to the offices of Charlie Hebdo. But it wasn’t until very late in the day that I heard of the attack. Insulated in the artfully constructed fictions of the museum, I had no access to ‘real’ life. At a restaurant that evening, I saw on TV the unsettling news of the carnage at Charlie Hebdo. From the safety of my hotel room, I continued to watch the drama on the BBC.


Colonisation is a france of a thing. The brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi, the perpetrators of the murderous attack, who were killed by police on Friday, were of Algerian heritage. Algeria was once a colony of France. There’s a famous Black British slogan that lucidly expresses the complex relationship between coloniser and colonised: “We are here because you were there”. The Algerian presence in France is a direct consequence of French colonisation of Algeria.

The Battle of Algiers trailer

One of the BBC reporters commented on the “flawless French” of the Kouachi brothers. In other words, they didn’t sound like foreigners. Language continues to be seen as a marker of identity. But it is sometimes quite unreliable. Despite the flawless French of the Kouachi brothers, they were unquestionably alienated from mainstream French culture. Though born in France, they had a fatal flaw. Their home culture was not French. Their religion was not Catholicism; it was Islam. And they were radical Islamists at that.

On Wednesday evening, militant mourners gathered across France to protest against the murders. The slogan that captured the national mood was this: ‘Je suis Charlie’ (I am Charlie). In this formula, the collective ‘I’ is the French nation united against an unstated, but clearly implied, “you”: those outsiders who do not share the normative values of French culture.

Furthermore, to assert that “I am Charlie” is to claim freedom of expression, particularly the cutting art of satire, as an essential constituent of French national identity. The capacity to laugh at one’s own weaknesses and that of others is at the heart of satire. Nothing – no one and no god – is sacred. In effect, failure to pass the satire test means failure to become French.


Devout Muslims who insist that Allah must not be mocked alienate themselves from their adopted homeland. They fight their god’s battles and they take no prisoners. One of the most insightful condemnations of the murders came from a representative of the Muslim community in London who was interviewed by the BBC. I’m so sorry I didn’t catch his name. He asserted that it is antiquated ideologies that need to be murdered, not journalists.

On Thursday at noon, a minute’s silence was observed in France in honour of the dead. As the bells tolled at Notre Dame cathedral, Parisiens gathered in the rain to demonstrate solidarity with the victims of the attack. The BBC interviewed some of the mourners. Chris, a perceptive young man, lamented: “The sky is falling on our heads”. This vivid image evokes the terrifying collapse of the natural order of things.

ahmadBut the fall of the sky can also be seen more positively as an opportunity to rethink what we consider to be natural and normative. Can France begin to conceive the nation as fundamentally multicultural, making space for marginalised communities?  By Friday, at least 19 persons in total lost their lives before the three-day terror in France came to an end.

In response to the “I am Charlie” slogan, a new perspective emerged: “I am Ahmed”. That’s the name of one of the policemen who was murdered outside the offices of Charlie Hebdo.Yes, Ahmed was Muslim. And he upheld the laws that protect freedom of speech. Even the licence of cartoonists to make a mockery of his religion! The French Enlightenment writer Voltaire famously declared, “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it”. That is exactly what Ahmed Merabet did. And his heroic act cannot possibly be satirised.

Lusting After Lisa’s Legs

57223lisa_hannaI really don’t know what all the fuss was about. The minister of youth and culture goes to the beach to cool off after the reggae marathon. She’s wearing a very youthful bikini and a very cultural tee shirt. A perfect photo op for the Jamaica Tourist Board! The minister’s son captures the image and it ends up on the Internet. And, far and wide, both old and new media dissect the meaning of this act.

Even Germany’s highly regarded political magazine, Der Spiegel, carried the story. Spiegel means mirror and Lisa Hanna’s image was held up to public scrutiny: “Debatte in Jamaika: Wie sexy darf sich eine Ministerin zeigen?” (Debate in Jamaica: How sexy may a Minister present herself?). Thanks to my friend Ellen Koehlings, co-editor of Germany’s reggae/dancehall magazine, Riddim, for that translation.

I decided to keep out of the non-debate. Then, out of the blue, a conspiracy theory came unto me like an urgent message from a gossiping angel. These were not glad tidings of great joy. The ratings of the Government are so low, Lisa’s lovely legs were let loose in cyberspace as a deliberate distraction. It was a lust for power, a plot to keep us talking about foolishness instead of important social and political issues.

Just think about it. Class prejudice has been vulgarly displayed at the West Kingston commission of enquiry. The downtown witnesses don’t always understand the uptown language of the commission. I also wonder if any soldiers and police are going to be put in the witness box to be interrogated by the public defender.

Then the prime minister has failed to discipline the minister of health and the chairman of the National Housing Trust. It’s just business as usual. Despite all the calls for the resignation of both men, the prime minister has turned a deaf ear. She must be taking a leaf out of Eric Williams’ book. As prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Williams would shut off his hearing aid when he couldn’t be bothered to listen to his critics.


I don’t suppose the legs of Ronnie Thwaites, Bobby Pickersgill, Peter Phillips, Raymond Pryce, Fenton Ferguson and Lloyd B. Smith, for example, would have excited lust. In general, Jamaican men don’t do well as sex objects. What is good for the goose is not always good for the gander. Men expect women to be buff. But they don’t usually consider it essential to keep themselves fit.

sexObject01Perhaps, Mikael Phillips, Peter Bunting, Julian Robinson and Wykeham McNeill might have stood a chance in the best-PNP-legs contest. But I don’t know if they’ve had much experience in the sex-object business. So female legs were the right choice. But whose?

I think we would all agree that it would have been far too immodest for the prime minister to parade her legs in public. And I haven’t seen the leggy attributes of Ms Denise Daley, the Hon. Natalie Neita-Headley or the Hon. Sharon Ffolkes-Abrahams. So I don’t know how well they would have stood up on the hot legs platform.

Of all the female PNP parliamentarians, Lisa Hanna obviously has the best legs. So she became the chosen vessel. That’s why the picture was posted via the ministry’s Twitter account. It was official business. As a former Miss World, Ms Hanna has had lots of experience showing off herself. Shes comfortable in the role of sex object. She knows she’s hot and she’s not afraid to blaze a fire. Lust comes with the territory.


There’s not a thing wrong with honest, old-fashioned lust. That word has a most unfortunate history. Originally, its meanings were perfectly respectable. Lust was simply desire, appetite, pleasure; sensuous appetite. A lust for life! Its the translators of the Bible who are to blame for making lust sinful.

In 17th century English, the biblical expression, lusts of the flesh, turned the pleasures of the body into something quite dirty. And it wasn’t just sexual passion. I John 2:16, King James Version, declares: “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world”.

In Fundamentalist Christian Jamaica, Lisa Hanna’s hot picture certainly excited lust of the eyes. But the passionate intensity of some of the self-righteous judges who called down damnation on her head makes me suspicious. Could it be that underneath all the apparent disgust there was actually quite a lot of pleasure in the view?

images-1Take for instance S. Hare, whose letter to the editor was published in The Gleaner on Friday, December 26: “The saga of Lisa Hanna’s bikini is thought-provoking, and one must ask, what’s next? A picture of her posing in her lingerie going to bed”? How did Hare get from bikini to lingerie? And did the provoking thoughts stop there? Once you get to bed, the next logical step is . . .

Desire is a very slippery slope. The real issue isn’t that innocent photo. It’s the fundamental hypocrisy of those conflicted souls who both disdain and crave the lusts of the flesh. And as for that damning conspiracy theory! The Government’s sinful plot is only a short-term fix. Not a lasting pleasure!