Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Jamaican Farm for the Future

When I was young my uncles use to call be both "infahma" (informer) and farmer:
  1.  I would tell my grandmother on my uncles every time I see them doing something they should not be doing, so "infahma" in Jamaican Patios was informer and
  2. At an early age I developed a love for farming, loved the soil.  
My grandmother did not let the small plot of land around her house go to waste. She could not afford to and so she utilized as much of the land as she could and I was there every step of the way to help her. At the center of our farming world was the chickens and it was my job to make sure the chicken coop was cleaned, chickens watered, fed, eggs collected and fighting birds kept apart. This was a job I did with pride, except on one occasion when one of the hens laid her eggs under the house. It was my job to go under the house and collect these eggs but on that day both the hen and the roaster did not want that to happen. She wanted to make baby chickens and I wanted to eat her eggs for breakfast, as a result I was tagged teamed by both the hen and the Roaster. I was about 9 years of age and I can still remember like it was yesterday. However I cannot remember how I made my escape and I still have the scars to show for it. Being beaten up by two birds in a confined space is no fun, not to mention I ended up cutting my wrist on a broken glass and almost needed stitches. But it was the teasing I got from my uncles that was the worse, my uncles had a field day with that, imagine farmer the person who feed and look after them, being beaten by his damn chickens. 

Having chickens really helped to reduce my grandmother’s grocery bills, this represented meat on the table and eggs for breakfast.  The selection process as to which chicken to kill for the Sunday dinner was sometimes very hard especially when you start naming these birds, this meant that I have gotten too close to my  food source but it was this birds turn to provide food for our family. At times I would not only help to select the bird for slaughter but would carry out the execution myself, a process my grandmother encouraged so I do not lose sight of why we farm and the importance of farming to the family finances. 

The other aspect of farming I really love was planting food crops, putting seeds in the ground and waiting for them to germinate, seeing young plants breaking through the soil was very exciting to me.  I first experienced this in primary school, the teacher showed us how to put seeds and cotton wool in a jar and then add water, day after day we would watch for signs of life and when that seed opened and the young plant emerged it was pure excitement in the classroom.

Our back yard garden would include Bananas, Callaloo, tomatoes, pepper, yam, sugar cane, gungo peas, cerasee, scallion, mint just to name a few.  The banana plant was the most amazing to me, it’s a very giving plant not only does it give you bananas but it also gives you several young suckers from which to start planting again and before you know it we had to give away young Banana suckers to our neighbors. 

These food crops went a long way to reduce the weekly grocery bills as well as to supplement the family income as excess food reaped or chickens would also be sold to the neighbors. On many occasions our neighbors would wake us by knocking at the gate asking for Callaloo or a chicken to buy.  I remember growing parsley in a bucket and my aunt who managed the hotel in Port Antonio would buy the entire lot for the hotel kitchen, that made me feel good knowing that people from far away countries was enjoying my parsley, I was about 11 then.

Over the years since then it was not farming that grabbed my interest but computers, software development is how I now make my living, it seemed somewhere along the way I fell prey to the notion that is so prevalent in Jamaica, that farming is a poor man’s way of existing. Ever since slavery ended Jamaicans have resented working the land, that was slave work and no one wanted their offspring to engage in it. After all the slave master never got his hands dirty and his kids were all lawyers, doctor, civil servants and Bankers, so what’s good enough for the masters was good enough for the ex-slaves. Even to this day if you tell some people you wanted to be a farmer they would laugh at you because to them farming is not something anyone should aspire to and if you insist on being a farmer then you are only respected if you do it on a grand scale like the estate slave owners of the past or a middle America capital intense farm while driving a Range Rover Sport with all the bling. We are a materialistic people where the perception of wealth is more important than actually having wealth or even defining what wealth means.  For me if you realize your hopes and dream and you are happy and content with your life then you are wealthy, there is nothing more you want or need in life.


So now I have come full circle, I am now obsessed with farming and the environment, in particular I am obsessed with the permaculture method of organic farming. I was first introduced to permaculture one day when I was researching organic farming, I came across a video on youtube called “A Farm for the Future” by Rebecca Hosking set in the Devon County of England, I have a love affair with Devon much like my love affair with Port Antonio, Portland but I will leave that for another time.  Rebecca Hosking is a camerawoman, who spearheaded a campaign to make the Devon town of Modbury the first in Britain to ban plastic bags and she was honoured by the queen with a MBE.

Farming without oil - Rebecca Hosking

Permaculture (permanent and culture/agriculture) is an approach to designing agricultural systems that are modeled on the relationships found in natural ecologies. Permaculture is returning your land back to nature, simply because nature knows best, to me it is a holistic way of food production.

The Father of Permaculture Bill Mollison writes:

"The aim is to create systems that are ecologically-sound and economically viable, which provide for their own needs, do not exploit or pollute, and are therefore sustainable in the long term."

"Permaculture uses the inherent qualities of plants and animals combined with the natural characteristics of landscapes and structures to produce a life-supporting system for city and country, using the smallest practical area."

 If you leave a piece of land to nature it will become green and lush, a balance, diverse  eco system would be created and maintained by nature. This piece of land may or may not contain foods we can eat but it is thriving with various plants and animal life.  If we could somehow replace the plants we cannot eat with food producing plants and find a way to attract beneficial insects, plants and animal life that will support our mini eco system then we would have created a self sustaining Food Forrest. 

In a natural forest there is no need to dig and sow, plant and weed, or spray bugs, still, all those chores are taken care of somehow, the forest grows and feeds its inhabitant. Nature is the ultimate recycler everything goes round and round there is no such thing as "waste" everything is a resource. Design is the keyword here It's all about how you place the design elements together, look at how things work together in nature, and then try and mimic that design in your garden and on your farm.

In “A Farm for the Future” Rebecca Hosking outlined why today’s method of farming is not sustainable, she showed how much oil is required to produce an acre of crop, she showed the effects that pesticide and plowing is having on the land and wild life and she interviewed various farmers who uses Permaculture design principles to produce food. She points how polyculture farming (multiple crops) is so much better food system than monoculture farming.

What I now realize is that my grandmother was a permaculture farmer, her methods was simple and natural from walking behind defecating donkeys and horses picking up their feces for fertilizer, to using her herbal concoction as pesticide or collecting and using urine to add nitrates to the soil she was an organic farmer.  She knew what plants the chickens liked to eat and when she had no money to buy feed that was what they got, plus left over rice, stale bread nothing went to waste. On the parts of the land not in use, the chickens were allowed to forage for food and in so doing they would fertilize the soil.

Reinventing Myself
Now I am hoping to re-invent myself as an Organic, Permaculture farmer, a Brew master of Real Ale and a pub owner so far I have secured a couple acres of land in St. Mary but that is as far as I gotten. I have not taken a lot of chances in my life, up till now it has gone according to the script, schools, pass exams, get a job in an office, try and crawl my way up the corporate ladder. This was done because others and myself thought that this was what I was place on this earth to do, being content and happy played a minor part in the decision process.  Taking that leap into the unknown is not an easy thing to do and Jamaican parents don’t really care about your dreams or hope, they care about their hope and dreams for you, good education and a bank work, this is a fault of the Jamaican school system, we are a reading, writing and arithmetic society educated to take very little chance, we have a saying in Jamaica “Never leave sure for unsure” that saying is a sure innovation killer.

Jamaica Farming Revolution
I think we are on the verge of a farming revolution in Jamaica, I really hope so, I think finally our politicians gets it, that it is their responsibility to push a pro Jamaican solution for our problems. Our food import bill is way too high and has been too high for decades now but we have never had a government that pushes local production since the 1970’s. At the start of the 1980’s successive governments have equated freedom and democracy with the freedom to import and as this freedom wins votes, give the people what they want and they will vote for you. Eat what you grow and grow what you eat is not a concept that was created this year, it is a concept that was created and was pushed by the government of the 70s but then it became bad words, socialist and communist talk, people use to curse the government saying that they wanted them to eat “nyaga” (Negro) food as imported food from America held more status. I remember passing a protest, a road block in 1980, one woman screamed that  she wanted to see Kellogs cornflakes and American apples on the supermarket shelf even if she cannot afford to buy them.

Jamaica’s farming revolution will require a new breed of farmers who are able to think and operate outside of the box, farmers who are in touch with the modern farming world and the science of farming. Jamaica need a new breed of farmers, highly educated farmers who are not afraid to do the research, to experiment, to be business owners, Managers, biologist one day and a chemist the next, farmers who can grow their business to become food processors and manufactures, from packaging to marketing. The concept of research, development and engineering are no longer limited to the pharmaceutical and manufacturing industry, they are now a vital part of the farming industry. Our farmers must be able to understand the properties and benefits of various food items, keep up with modern day scientific discoveries, follow and adapt farming techniques being used all over the globe.

The problem we have is that most of our farmers are poorly educated country farmers. They are good at what they know and do, but what they know and do have not kept up with modern times, they are out of touch with today’s farming world. Their techniques and knowledge have been passed down from generation to generation but have not adapted to modern times and as such we are not able to compete in the modern market place. It is not surprising then that our Agricultural Ministry is forced to pick up the slack, they are forced to do the things our farmers are unable to do for themselves. I watched a video where one farmer complained that he has thousands of mangoes falling off the trees but no market and he would like the ministry to find him a market, he can grow it but he cannot market it and he cannot convert it into a secondary product because he does not know how to process, package and market Mangoes and its byproducts.

If most of our farmers were educated business people then they would not need the ministry to do this work on their behalf, our farmers are analog farmers trying to make their way in a digital world. Praedial larceny is a big problem for the Jamaican farmers but most of our farmers have never heard of or seen modern farming security systems, to help deal with this plague, these are the type of innovation that is missing.

With the rising price of oil and the global economic recession our government is now forced to seek alternatives to food import. The United Nation have announced that global food prices are going to rise in the coming months and years, so not only is this an alternative to import but a chance for us to increase food export and earn foreign exchange. We are now seeing what we can accomplish when we take the politics out of the process and come together as Jamaicans to support local initiative which are in the national interest of our country. As a result people are slowly now beginning to think of farming, farmers and local produce in a different light, as an integral part of our development, our food processing companies are now using natural home grown produce to create value added products.  This is only the beginning, it is the governments duty and responsibility to sell, PUSH the brand Jamaica to Jamaicans.

Re-Branding Jamaica

Jamaica needs an ideology, the people need something to believe in, something to rally around, something everybody can get on board with, the ideology of nationalism, the ideology of patriotism, the ideology of self reliance and the ideology of Jamaica first are perfect rallying point. Before we can sell the brand Jamaica to anyone else we must first have a brand we the Jamaican people believe in.  We need to redefine what it means to be a Jamaican, what it means to be a Jamaican worker,  a Jamaican farmer , a Jamaican producer  and we need to redefine what it means to consume goods and services made in Jamaica.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Jamaica’s Political Parties and the People who Support them:

In the game of politics there are two types of players who disgust me, the first is the politician and the second is the die-hard party supporter.
The Politician and the Party
All politicians disgust me even the ones regarded as a good politicians, in fact they disgust me even more simply because good politicians should be an agent for good but they have mastered the art of playing and sipping champagne with the devils in their own party. They lack the power and will to turn to their own party members and point the finger of shame at the evil doers and as such they are just as guilty. Just the sight and sound of most politicians is enough to send shivers down my spine because Politian’s are liars’, they will say anything, do anything for power and they have all mastered the art of taking the people for fools. In fact the Jamaican politicians show nothing but contempt for the people and the constitution. It makes me really sick to watch these clowns perform their circus acts, prancing around making one empty promise after another, one lie after another with no intention of delivering on these promises, their worthless manifestos are just a book of lies.

2007 Pre-Election
 I cannot tell where the PNP ends and the JLP begins they are no longer a party separated by an ideology, they are both equally worthless and only seem to squabble about who can management the country better however they bring nothing new to the table and commit the same mismanaged and corrupt mistakes they accuse each other of making.  In most countries political parties are separated by an ideology, in the United States the Democrats and Republican are two parties separated by social and economic ideology. In Great Britain the Labour Party is defined as a Center-Left Democratic Socialist Party (New Labour was a different animal) and the Conservative Party as the Center-Right that adheres to the philosophies of conservatism, we however have no such luck, our parties are afraid to take any stand or to adhere to any Nation Building Ideology.
The real purpose of the Jamaican politician is to line his or her already overflowing pockets and the pockets of their friends and relatives with the assets of my country. Nepotism rules and it starts with the political leaders, who filled the Government Sectors and providing government contracts to their friends and relatives.  Patriotic, Nationalistic Jamaicans they are not they do not care about this country, only about their own personal well being. Our politicians are weak because we the Jamaican people are weak, our politicians fail because we fail to hold them accountable, we fail to stand up and demand that they do the job they were elected to do, the job they promised to do.  Our political process fails because we the people believe that voting every 5 years in the beginning and end of the process. We equate this little 5 year ritual we call an election with democracy and freedom, what a joke. Voting every 5 years is just the beginning, not the end, as a society we need to continuously engage the process and as a society we need to step in and perform regular appraisals and course correction of these people we employ to work on our behalf.

In fact, there is no difference between the JLP, PNP and the NDM. These political parties are made up of the same old, tired, recycled, thieving, lying, get rich quick, pre-colonial type individuals that have lied to us, turned Jamaicans against Jamaicans, stolen from us, deceived us and led us down the wrong path time and time again. Yet we continue to behave like zombies on election day, marching down to the Polling Station, risking life and limb to put our tired mark on a piece of paper that will give these culprits the mandate to keep doing what they have done to us since Independence Day 1962.

We will not get a different result using the same formula!

The Die-hard Firebrand Political Party Supporters:
The second type of people who disgust me in the world of politics is the Diehard Firebrand Political Party Supporters. I am talking about the type of people who supports a politician or a party for a simplistic one dimensional reason because they lack objectivity, commonsense and an open mind. For some, they support a political party because of family tradition, for others it’s due to peer pressure or just because they live in a certain community, a political party controlled zone. 

Guinea Pigs, The Grand Experiment, like hamsters on a wheel, Rats in a cage happy for some cheese
In all cases it’s due to laziness and pure ignorance, lacking the intelligence to analyze or even understand the information before them, unable to formulate a political, economical and sociological ideology of their own but they are willing to die for the party. They get no real benefits for their support except for the free chicken back, pig tail and the occasional dancehall events that happens every election period and normally after the election their Members of Parliament don’t even remember they exist, they are minions, voting fodder.

This type of supporter reaps no other benefit for supporting their political party, for the most part they still live and die in the same tired ghetto with little or no change, generation after generation , trapped in time, having to relive the same election-to-election events and promises, shouting “JLP”, “PNP”, “Socialist”, “Labourite”, reciting stupid party slogans, “Stand Firm”, “Money gwaan gingle”, “Deliverance!” and my favorite “More man have gal, cell phone and cars” (not jobs, education, health care and a way to properly support one’s family).

Then there are those diehard supporters who support a party because they have a personal stake and interest, their lives are better if a particular politician or party is in power and as a reward for their support they intern gets power and money, they now have contacts, these are normally the more educated and a leech like of the bunch who are worse than the uneducated bunch. Their support for the party however has nothing to do with the process of Nation Building. They are selfish to the core, greedy with no real interest in the development of the country, so long as they are able to live the high life at the country’s expense.

The Jamaican electorate reminds me of guinea pigs in a lab experiment, given the choice between two colors, orange and green, he touches one and gets an electric shock as a negative reinforcer and if he touches the other he is rewarded with small scraps of food. When this experiment is conducted over a period of several decades the subjects mind becomes putty and ready to do whatever the politicians wants them to do.

The Swing Voters
Out of all the voters it is the swing voter who bears the burden of the democratic process, they are the potential nation builders. It is the swing voter who is forced to re-evaluate life under the party who forms the government, it is the swing voters who compares promises made to actual promises delivered and it is the swing voters who must make the bold decisions for change, for the greater good of the nation, swing voters demand results and forces politicians to engage them on a higher level. However waiting every 5 years to perform these tasks is not enough, the swing voter must be proactive and become advocates for the greater good of the country, they must become social, political, economical and environment activist for the Greater Good.

To tell the truth I cannot relate to diehard supports, I do not engage them in conversion, it is a total waste of time to have a conversion about nation building and civic responsibility with people who have lost all political objectivity. I talk above, around, between and under diehards, they are too stupid to talk to and treated like an equal. I try to avoid them like the plague that they are because they are the problem.

My only hope is that there numbers will dwindle over time and that they will be a thing of the past, I blame diehard supporters for the state of Jamaica today. I am a firm supporter of the independent swing voters, people who are not afraid to make choices base on facts, evidence, hopes, dreams and aspirations, people who are open and objective, people who understand their role within society and the part they must play in the nation building process, people who are not afraid to ask the hard questions and hold everyone accountable. I only wish that their numbers will continue to grow and their influence strong over the state of affairs, so they may over shadow and drown out the negative influence of the pathetic, brain dead, dysfunctional diehard party supporters whom I have not one ounce of respect for.

When the JLP is in power their supporter’s perception is that all is right with the world and the PNP party supporter’s perception is that all is wrong with the world. When the PNP is in power their supporter’s perception is that all is right with the world and the JLP party supporters perception is that all is wrong with the world and in reality their world is falling apart not because of the party but because they are idiots.

I am not asking anyone to vote in or vote out any one political party because under current conditions nothing will change, in a sense we are executing the same equation with the same values and continue to expect a different result.

What I am asking, is for the people to change their attitude towards political parties, politics and politician, I am asking for us to put Jamaica first, to hold both the politician and ourselves accountable, to take a more pro-active role in the nation building process. We have had 12 General Elections (1962, 1967, 1972, 1976, 1980, 1983, 1989, 1993, 1997, 2002, 2007and 2011) since gaining independence and we are still singing the same tired song, still only blowing smoke. Take for example the issue of crime, many Jamaicans often express outrage at the levels of crime, we see that the Government and the Police Force are unable or unwilling for whatever reason to come to grips with it but what have we done to show our displeasure, what have we done to communicate to the Government that this is not an issue with which we are willing to compromise on, NOTHING! We have done nothing but pay lip service to crime.  If solving crime was so important then people from all walks of life would organize and take to the streets, rich, poor and middle class regardless of political party to send a clear message to our elected officials that we demand a solution.

Die-hard supporters have labeled the swing voters as sellouts, back stabbers of the party while all along it is the die-hard supporters who have sold out this country and the future of this country time and time again. We need more swing voters in Jamaica because it implies we have a section of the population who are able to think outside the box, who are objective, capable of putting their foot down, drawing a line in the sand and shouting enough is enough, do the job you were hired to do or else!

1989 ITN Jamaica Election Report 

I listened to the Prime Minister’s speech, like all other Prime Ministers before him, same lyrics different DJ, same sound system. He stated his intentions, made his promises and declared that things will be different under his leadership.  I listened to the leader of the opposition as she spouts the same lyrics, this from the same DJ and same sound system and in both cases I have seen the diehard trolls jump up and down like patrons at a dancehall event, as they shout praises and encouragement to the DJ, their lord and savior, the maximum leader and overlord. 

After you have elected one of these muppets what will you do? How will you ensure that they keep their promises? What part will the Jamaican people play after putting their tired, dead beat X beside the idiotic Head and equally stupid Bell and after you have jumped around singing praises to these people who live so well at your expense?  What organization/advocacy groups are you going to create/join that is not affiliated with any political party but with the single task of Nation Building? What timeline are you going to give them to deliver on their promises or are you going to continue to come up with useless excuses for their continued failures, its hurricane, its recession, its drought.  

As Jamaicans we bring nothing, not a damn thing to the table but blind religious like faith in people who have screwed us time and time again, but the only thing the Diehard care about is that their party is in power, nothing more and nothing less. The number one reason why we are in this mess is because of Diehard supporters, these one dimensional trolls who are unable to think or act outside of the box, selfish to the core, blind to reality, jumping around in there orange or green shirts screaming stupid slogan, making gang signs, raising their fist or holding up V fingers, these Diehards will never allow Jamaica to move forward.       

I have been listening to PNP supporters listing JLP corruptions and I have listened to JLP supporters list PNP corruption, I have listened to them trying to convince the general public that the other side’s corruption was worst than their corruption, like kids in a school yard, proven that they are both equally corrupt, If your defense to corruption by your party is to point out corruption by the other party then I think you have all lost the plot. 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Arsenal Till I die!

This is the year I thought the young gunners would have come of age, this is the year I thought Wenger would have prevailed and the great experiment paid off but instead we have been knocked out of all competitions and our chances of winning the Premiere League is slipping away before our very eyes.

The season has been very disappointing for me as I am forced to come to the conclusion that our current crop of players is just not good enough. We have a lot of skillful players who play beautiful football but something is missing in the guts and heart department, they are just not Arsenal enough, they are too easily intimidated by opponents and some mentally, don’t even show up on game day. Arsenal has not won any trophy in 6 years and the blame for that rest squarely on the back of the manager. As far as I am concern this should be Wenger’s last chance, I am now prepared for life at Arsenal without Mr. Wenger as the manager but who will they replace him with? I like Wenger but I love Arsenal more and would like to win more trophies with him as Manager but how long should we wait, I would hate it if we become one of those clubs who change managers every other month.

Arsenal is not a bank, it is a football club whose primary purpose is to win trophies and beat Tot-Scum, the club is always reporting how much profit it made but it never wants to spend any of it and invest in good solid players. We are not asking for the club to spend crazy money, we are just asking for the club to make value for money purchases to bring in the right experiences into the club and create the perfect mix of players capable of winning trophies and continue to beat Tot-Scum.  We have been watching this team collapse year in year out, throwing away big games, finals and even beaten by the Scums, this cannot continue.

The current squad is not efficient, yes they play beautiful football but the object of the game is to win and you win by scoring goals but they will not score goals if they do not pressure defenses and take shots at the goal. In our last match against Manu, it took Manu 2 to 4 passes after which they are attacking Arsenal’s goal, testing our defense while Arsenal will make 12 to 15 passes only to end up losing the ball to their opponents against Barcelona in the champions we took no shots at Barcelona’s goal.

These are the Players we need to get rid of:
Almunia (pass it)
Rosicky (should have been sold a long time ago)
Denilson (Complete waste of Space: Useless)
Arshavin  (?)
Bendtner (?)
Vela (unless he improves on loan)

Arsenal should have invested in an experience goalkeeper two seasons ago, Almunia is not good enough and the other keepers are ideal number twos and not yet ready to be numbers one slot. It is so bad that we are forced to resign the 41 year old Lehmann who I will never forgive for costing us the Champions League title.

  • Arshavin is capable of so much more and he is a good supplier but has grown lazy and spends a lot of time losing the ball or just walking around the field, if he is not prepared to pour out his heart and guts for this club then it is time for him to go.
  • I have spent the past 2 season wanting Bendtner to succeed, to become a prolific striker but the Dane have not produce the goods, in my view he lacks creativity in the box, however I am willing to keep him for now.
  • Arsenal need a proper back 4, our defense is horrible I have not seen it this bad in a long time however I like Djourou, Vermaelen and think we should rebuild the defense around them.
  • Denilson and Diaby are a complete waste of space and should be sold. Denilson should never ever wear an Arsenal jersey again unless he pays for it himself.
It is easier to list the players I like than the players I don’t like so:

These are the players we should rebuild the squad around.
  • Szczesny and Lukasz - are good number twos
  • Djourou and Vermaelen – Very good defenders
  • Kieran Gibbs – Improving
  • Fabregas – If is heart belongs to Arsenal then yes but if he is not into it then he serves us no real purpose, his pining for Barcelona is getting on my nerve.
  • Nasri – Pay him anything he wants, he must stay.
  • Alex Song - Pay him anything he wants, he must stay.
  • Wilshere – Inside this kids chest beats a heart shape like an Arsenal crest
  • Andrey Arshavin – Not very consistent but when he shows up great things happen.
  • Walcott, Van Persie – Walcott improved a lot and Van Persie’s creativity in the box is second to none
  • Chamakh – Have lots of potential but needs to be consistent
  • Aaron Ramsey – I hope he returns to form, he was very good
Finally I use to get annoyed at people who insist that Arsenal should invest in more English players but now I am totally for it, being an English club demands it for a number of reasons.  We are not the most liked club in English football, ever since Wenger fielded a squad a couple seasons ago, without any English players we have become the most hated club, xenophobia gone mad. I get the feeling they see Arsenal as a prim-donna-French-club that moan and groan every time a call goes against them or one of their players leg gets broken.
English Referees are also affected by this xenophobia bug, calls that have gone against us would never have gone against clubs with more English players and even thou we now have some English players in the squad the damage as already been done. The likes of Rooney, Terry and Gerrad can get away with murder on the field when Arsenal players are booked just for looking at them the wrong way. 

English players play with heart and a backbone they want to win and will do whatever it takes, they will leave either your guts or theirs on the field of play for glory of winning and they are not easily intimidated not to mention white English players can tell the ref to go fuck himself and nothing will come of it. As over price as they are I feel we need more English players with attitude, enforcers players like Ryan Shawcross, Kevin Davis, Karl Henry, Paul Scholes, Joey  “bad boy” Barton, Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher just to name a few can commit the most heinous crimes on or off the field and will still get the support of the English media, pundits and the public to the extent that they will become the victims (poor lads). Arsenal need more English players in order to level the playing field, the nature of English football demands it.


Arsenal vs Villa (2009)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Ineffable Place

*****I dreamt Jamie was at my house, but not my house.   I don’t know why I dreamt of her… .  She was at my house, but not my house.  A big, old, drafty clapboard house.  Painted green and cream.  There we sat with mugs of tea, talking about the incredible job of child rearing.  She telling me how she let her two (I thought she had three?) fall asleep in her bedroom in a bed jury-rigged to a ceiling track so she could easily slide them over to their bedroom when she finally went upstairs to bed.  Dreams are silly things sometimes...*****

But it was Jamie who lived in the clapboard house.  A beautiful, old, limestone and clapboard house in Maryland; the foothills of the misty, mystic Blue Mountains.   A house with a name: Lliana Lodge.  I never knew houses had names.  

Long ago…yesterday, in a grade seven summer with common entrance behind us and childhood a close second, our teachers rewarded us with two field trips: one to Castleton, the other to Jamie’s house.  I remember bringing the permission slip home to have it signed.  I remember the morning of the trip, my futiley imagining what our day was going to be like, as though going to someone’s house was an extraordinary thing. But this house had a name!  So it could not have been an ordinary thing.

The morning finally came and we were off!  Driving up familiar Hope Road, past Hope Gardens (and its intrepid maze), past the familiar zoo and its tired old lion (that recently died, poor thing), past familiar Coconut Park (now a ghost…ever notice how very creepy amusement parks are when empty?).  Past the river on the right, over the petite flat bridge, past the bougainvillea strangled walls of Blue Mountain Inn…round and round, eventually spilling out onto an unfamiliar, unassuming stretch of road.  If you could call it a road, for this ‘road’ was a green carpet.  Rolled out before us leading into the interior.

We were almost there!

Our green carpet led to a clearing.  Blue-green, with a dewy veil woven of a million tiny prisms scintillating the light of an ideal mountain sun.  A backdrop of pine trees (an unfamiliar sight) swayed welcome.  This clearing stretched out to forever, or so it seemed to me at 10; and at its vantage point sat a house.  Done in a style that I'd eventually come to know as Jamaican Georgian (a tag that 10 could care less about). Clapboard walls rose above its limestone base.  Broad, solid wood floors creaked "welcome" underfoot.  Huge, glorious iron mullioned casement windows cranked outwards.  A wide, covered verandah.   Cavernous pitched roof with exposed beams and shingles, punctuated by the ubiquitous white cap and comb (absurd name: “cap and comb”) running atop the ridge beams.  It was the most beautiful house I had ever seen; this house with a name.  

Her mother (now deceased) had the baby (now married…some years ago in Treasure Beach) in her lap, and was seated by the huge, round breakfast table in a carved oak ‘double press back’ American style chair.  There were six of these chairs around the table.  The chairs, her ‘white’ mother (from a ‘prominent’ Jamaican family) and the fact that they lived in this spectacular picture book house so unlike anything I had seen in my young life made me think, for a long time, that Jamie’s parents were American.

I remember narrow-paned French doors that opened onto two steps down, which marked the entrance to Jamie’s bedroom.  Her own room!   We stood in awe of her bed, her big-paned windows that opened outwards, seducing the morning breeze to dance with the curtains.  Her little bookcase, her toys, her vanity, which held a miniature donkey hamper with four packs of Bubble Yum…American candy…one of which went missing before the day’s end, causing a minor furore and an unjust accusation… .

I remember the pool in the back with its whitewashed sides and white painted patio surround anchored on all sides with whitewashed urns...geraniums and ferns spilling over their Greek keyed rims.   I remember a tree standing to the side of the house beside its fern-lined, half asphalt-half grass-half impatiens driveway.  It boasted a white cartwheel leaned up against it and tethered one end of a white woven hammock.  I fell in love with white cartwheels and hammocks that day.

I remember the property stretching all the way down to a river.  Tributary, actually.  We were allowed to climb under the barbed wire to swim and climb the massive boulders that were as hot as the river was cold.  Icy cold.   We ran back up to the house, shivering and dripping, after an hour or so, maybe less – time expands and contracts when you are that age.  We ran back, ecstatic yet reluctant, for it was time to go.

It was time to go…to leave this clapboard house, this old house, this named house.  House of Old Jamaica: a place of time past and present.  A cached place; a temporal place; a yesterday moving through time. 

It was time to go and we left.  I look back in space-time and see the mist from the peak descending.

- Torsdag

Monday, March 14, 2011

My Favourite Parish: Portland

Born and bred in Kingston and St. Andrew, that is the place I call home but it is the rural parish of Portland with its capital Port Antonio that I hope will be my final resting place. This is where I have instructed my family to spread my ashes. If Portland was a woman she would be my first and only love, it is the place where I am at peace as the stress of everyday life melts away. Nothing matters when I am in Portland, the world takes a back seat when I am in Portland.

My love for Portie started at a very young age back in the 70’s. At that time my aunt was the general manager for a couple of Portland’s finest hotels and I would spend almost every school holidays with her. Port Antonio was freedom to me as our aunt had no idea where we were or what we were doing. Well until she get the bills we ran up on our exploration, it seems we could go from property to property order things and tell them to put it on our dear aunts bill. Over the years we amassed a legion of friends both local and foreign as we conquer and colonized Portie. Once we set out, we had no idea what was going to happen or how the day will end.  From Goblin Hill to Dragons Bay climbing trees and picking apples, to the Blue Lagoon for lunch, a ride on the glass bottom boat then to San San and maybe hitch a ride to the town and back. Bedtime did not exist for us, we stayed up listening to duppy stories told to us by the night watchman, then raided the hotel kitchen, that was how we roll. I remember my aunt sending us to catch soldier crabs for the Hotel’s crab race, going into the dark bushes to find these crabs and off course someone would shout duppy a come and everyone would tek-off light a light. The smell of the property, or Portland and the night noises will always be with me.

There are certain experiences in life that you lock away for a rainy miserable day, experiences you will never forget and never want to forget because it warms your heart and take you to that happy place. Well my entire experience in Portland is filled with nothing but happy memories. 

I remember our laughter and screams as we played in the hotel pool, jumping in and out, diving from the diving board and pushing each other in. I remember we played Marco Polo and treasure hunt as we retrieved various items from the bottom of the pool placed there while we closed our eyes.  I remember seeing our parents relaxing near the tennis court with drinks in hand, having various conversations as they kept a watchful eye on us.

Fast forward 3 decades when I had the pleasure of being their with my entire family, to this very same Hotel, all the family and friends with another generation of kids doing exactly what we use to do. The laughter, the screams and playing of games as they jump in and out of the pool while we stand aside engaged in conversations with a rum in hand. The diving board is gone now, so is the hotel kitchen but very little had changed about the place, still full of charm, still my beloved Portie. It was then that my Aunt came over and said “does this remind you of anything?” and I had to laugh because the sound of laughter at the Goblin Hill pool will stay with me for the rest of my life.

Historically Portland has not been an easy place to get to, it is rumored that this was by design. It was said that Portland’s other lovers did not want to share her with the outside world and I fully understand why. Portland's natural beauty is second to none, stunningly inviting, green, lush and so very fertile, she warms by heart and calls out to me when I am away from her.

The economic state of Portland has been in decline for some time now caused mainly by her isolation and the transformation of tourism, from community base to the dreaded Negril style all-Inclusive, bland, generic tourism with tenement yard looking gated compounds that we see today. Over the past decade several prominent Jamaicans have set their sights on the Parish, buying up real estate as soon as it goes on the market and in most cases they have done nothing with the properties bought. First we heard they were waiting for a new Highway into the parish, when that was given, we then heard that nothing will happen until the new airport in St. Mary comes online, that airport is now online and so I am very afraid for the future of my beloved Parish, what will she become? Will they transform/Pimp out my Portland from a Beautiful, Reclusive, Innocent shy little girl, to a harden money making Negril like "Drunken Crack Whore" turning tricks nightly for vomiting, half naked spring breakers or will she evolve into something that is pure, natural, holistic and beautiful.

I have long since abandoned places like Negril, Montego Bay and Ocho Rios to the Rent-A-Dreads, crack whores and the tourist that loves them. They are all peas in a pod and deserve each other, I laugh every time a tourist complains that they were being harassed in those areas. I too was harassed in Negril but it was not from a fellow Jamaican but from a pack of drunk, crack and weed hungry tourist. Having to explain to one tourist after another that I don’t do drugs, don’t have any drugs and don’t know where to get drugs became too much for me and so I declared never to return, a shelf impose exile is in place. Anyway I prefer nice, quiet, mature, scenic part of my island for rest and relaxation. 

Spring Break Negril

I have no faith is the people driving Portland’s redevelopment, they are pimps. I have seen their handy work, their concept of progress and I do not like it one bit. There was a time when you could drive from Montego Bay to Negril and enjoy the unspoiled beauty of the Jamaican coastline but not anymore. It has been transformed into something hideous, tacky, monolithic and generic because ugly all-inclusive resorts litter the landscape, blocking your every view and destroying the once beautiful, natural Jamaican countryside. This is an environmental disaster, no different than the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico with the same effects on the ecosystem and should never have been allowed. Which goes to show that no amount of money can buy class.

Just recently one of these classless yobs with money devised a plan to build villas on Pellew Island also know as Monkey Island off the coast of San San Beach in Port Antonio. Environmentalist both local and abroad decided that this was not going to happen without a fight and fight they did. In the end the parish council did not approve the plan and the island was saved (for now). To me Pellew Island is The Symbol of Portland recognized worldwide. If Portland had a flag, then a picture of this island should be on that Flag. In any case that island should never have been in private hands but instead protected and owned by the people of Jamaica. Greed will be the death of us!

So now some idiot with more money than sense decided to create an artificial beach at the Blue Lagoon, I am sure the various ministers and some parish council members was properly compensated for this nasty disgusting act, they all got their palms greased while allowing this crime against the environment. As per the Jamaica Environment Trust  “the clearing and removal of vegetation from the lagoon's steep sides could result in silt running off into the sea”. Now Portland is NOT short of beaches, they are everywhere naturally accruing for all to enjoy. So I fail to see the need why this person thinks it was okay build one and I am sure this involved extracting sand from a natural beach thus a double destruction of our environment. We cannot allow these wealthy low class idiots to do what they want, when they want to, at our expense but Greed will be the death of us!

"One of the Caribbean’s most spectacular and tranquil natural sites, Jamaica’s Blue Lagoon has long been abandoned to touts, illegal activity and decay, but is now being developed (most recent being a large artificial beach on its shores, the site of events/parties such as one shown in the video whose address is below) – facilitated, amazingly, by the country’s environmental agencies.
Please write, fax or call the authorities using the contact info shown near the end of this video, to demand that all development be reversed, and the Lagoon restored to a natural state, protected forever as parkland, with all necessary facilities and regulations.

(I’ve been informed that email is not effective, as it’s read by staff and not by the addressee; if a letter comes it must be logged and taken more seriously, and I imagine the same goes for faxes and phone calls.)
Please pass it on."  --Mr. Marc Goodman (via Yard Edge)

I am not against Portland’s redevelopment, the parish is in a state of disrepair because of neglect and the people of Portland deserve a chance to have a decent standard of living. However I am concern with the nature of any redevelopment and the negative impacts it will have on Portland’s environment and society. Developers need to take the time to understand the brand that is Portland, understand her unique history and why this parish means so much, to so many and build upon that.

The Government should declare Portland a Green eco-Parish and developers forced to follow an environmental framework with sustainability in mind. A limit should be placed on coastline development, I say ban completely the building of Hotels/houses on our coastlines. I am sick and tired of seeing what was once a public beach with a diverse ecosystem turned to a private property overnight with wall that block all views of the coastline. 

To the Portland Parish Council there is a very thin line between rustic, old world charm and dilapidated and the Town of Port Antonio is dilapidated. I don’t care how the parish council and the tourist board tries to spin this, the town is rundown and in need of proper planning and restoration, at least fix the market for god-sake.

Port Antonio Market
Until the developers publish their plans for Portland, I have suspended all plans to spread my ashes there. If I die before this development starts I have instructed all to disperse my ashes on top of Jacks Hill, so I can survey my Kingdom Of Kingston and St. Andrew, better the devil I know than the devil I don’t know.

** Blue Lagoon to be declared a National Monument **

Tue. Dec.06,2011

Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange, Minister of Youth, Sport and Culture, has signed a Preservation Notice regarding the Blue Lagoon in Portland.

Miss Grange made a submission to Cabinet and received approval.
The Notice, which was signed by the Minister as a matter of urgency, went into effect on Monday for an initial period of six months.

It gives the Jamaica National Heritage Trust, which falls under the Ministry, the power to carry out the work that needs to be done for the Blue Lagoon site to be declared a National Monument.
The Notice, which will be posted at the site of the Blue Lagoon, bars a number of activities from being conducted in the general area.

They include certain construction activities.

The notice also forbids the use of power-driven craft at speeds in excess of three miles an hour, dredging, or interference with the foreshore or sea floor.

A statement from the Culture Ministry says the National Environment and Planning Agency and the Portland Parish Council will be working with the Jamaica National Heritage Trust.

Poolside Goblin Hill Hotel 

 The Blue Lagoon

 Goblin Hill Hotel 
 Goblin Hill Hotel

 Goblin Hill Hotel - Lookout Point

 Frenchman's Cove

 The Blue Lagoon

San San Beach -  Pellew Island