Today i had a great idea http://fb.me/EPBOVmF9
By the summer of 1972 my life in Toronto was settling in quite nicely, I was meeting lots of folks from St Kitts. I had my own apartment, well almost; I actually had a roommate, a high school teacher from Trinidad. He was quite interesting, he played steel pan and know all the inside people in the music scene in Trinidad. He was probably twice my age. I could not buy groceries because he just ate everything and never contributed. We only lasted a short while.
In the summer time I was invited to play soccer with a team that included mostly Kittitians in a local league. It was an interesting team comprising of players I competed against in St Kitts. I met the guys one day before a big game and I did not have time to register. The team was so anxious to get me playing that they took a chance and played me. I honestly don’t remember the game other than there was a big fight, I learned later that this was common. You know me right, I run from trouble. Anyway the team got suspended, although I was not as I had not registered. I had some other ‘offers’ but decided to retire from soccer; my ankles just could not take the stress.
Just one thing to take off my ‘to do’ list.
Whenever I wrote home I would write about my continuing search for a ‘good’ school. I had investigated some computer training school and attended one for a short time, just did not have the interest.
My job was going ok. To keep myself from going nuts, I had developed mental games to keep me focused. You may recall that my job was boxing books, say that fast. To stay awake, I would race against time to complete a shipment. I was shipping 3 times as many as the next guy. I was asked to go get my own books from the shelves as the pullers could not keep up with me; even then I was outperforming everyone else.
The supervisor would sit at the ‘head of the dumb class’ reading the newspapers and smoking. Back then you could smoke in the workplace. Sometimes he would assist the other guys when they were falling behind. I figured that if he got promoted I could get his job. As faith would have it, he quit. I applied for the job, after all I could sit and read the paper and smoke just as well, probably better, I was cool, I was from St Kitts.
I did not get the job; they gave the job to this high school dropout with a brain of a pea. I did not have enough Canadian experience.
Working for this guy was more than I could handle, I am Tony from Trafalgar and so I protested.
I found out you don’t do that and I got fired for insubordination, refusing to apologise, maybe I went too far. One of the first things that crossed my mind was that I had ruined the St Kitts worker legacy. Remember how I got the job? There was another Kittitian working there. I imagined that all the people who worked there would go home and have a conversation like this:
Ex Co-Worker: ‘this guy got fired today’
Family Member: ‘where is he from?’ Everyone always ask that.
Ex Co-Worker: ‘St Kitts’
Family Member: ‘St Kittians are not good workers’.
Ex Co-Worker: ‘Where is St Kitts anyway?’
That was very painful, I actually cried, real manly eh.
So I was back looking for a job with no Canadian experience since I could not reference that job. Probably was a very important life lesson to learn although I had this experience many time.
I drifted around, I needed money as I had credit now, that damn TV rental which I hardly had time to look at. Where was my dad when I needed him? I did some ’legal’ stuff for money, but I won’t mention them here, too embarrassing.
That winter I met a woman, GB, who was involved in the theatre community. She was the first black person I had met who did not have West Indian roots. She was Canadian from northern Ontario. Her ancestors had entered Canada via the Underground Railroad. I found her fascinating. She was able to convince me to volunteer my time at a Theatre on Bathurst Street just south of Bloor. The building housed a church at one time. My first night I met one of the actors, the second black Canadians with no Caribbean roots. Carl was from Nova Scotia.
It’s interesting how I can tell who the West Indians are, we instinctively greet each other when we cross paths.
My job at the theatre was to seat people and help with other tasks as needed. Salome Bay was a featured artist in the production. It turned out that there was another Kittitian volunteering there also. She was the cousin of Salome’s husband, who owned the Underground Railroad restaurant in downtown Toronto.
Volunteering kept me busy a few nights a week. It was around the same time that the Federal Government announced that they will match arts grants obtained from the City. GB asked if I would be interested in applying for a grant. Her plans included hiring students and run dance and percussion summer programs for underprivileged kids at the Palmerston Library and the Harriet Tubman center in Toronto. I had nothing better to do so why not.
We went to the city hall to pick up the application forms. The requirement included registering a non profit organization, which I reluctant did with a total stranger. Then we had to prepare a budget and a business case to justify the funds. Ok, that’s her job right, she is the experienced Canadian, wrong, earlier I had mentioned to her that I worked at the Treasury in St Kitts. I was bragging, another Trafalgar trait, didn’t think it would come back to haunt me. So now I had two additional jobs, prepare a budget and a write up a justification document. Yea little ole me from Trafalgar in the big leagues. It’s amazing the things that excite a simple human.
I could have folded or do what turned out to be one of those things that shape your life. I went to the library. I researched both documents and prepared them. There was a Jamaican librarian who pointed me in the right direction. I was quite proud of myself.
We submitted the application and were invited to do a presentation in the Chambers at City Hall. GB was a good speaker and we had worked on the presentation together.
When it was our turn to do our presentation we both went to the podium, I went for support. GB spoke, “I am GB, the technical director and this is Tony Carter my assistant and he will be making the presentation’.
I thought I was the Manager.
Let me recap, I am from Trafalgar in St Kitts, new arrival to Canada, very shy with a very heavy accent, always prepared my first 20 seconds of meeting important people else I stutter. The people before me were white, all staring at me at the same time.
What’s wrong with this picture? Someone once told me that if you dug a deep enough hole in the earth, you would end up in China. That’s what came to mind, China would be a great place. She had done it to me again.
I was facing a do or die situation. I took a deep breath and started to speak. I cannot tell you what I said, I did not read the prepared script, I got some laughs but mostly silence and $17,000 grant (that was in 1972/73). I suspected the alderman which included the mayor and 2 future city mayors, felt sorry for me.
That was easy. I should have made a career doing that.
To promote our new ’business’ we handed out some flyers at the library and the centre. We also decided to go on a local TV show called ‘Free for All’ on CITYTV in Toronto, ( I may be wrong with the name) but this was a show broadcasted on Sunday evening where anyone can go to the studio, register and make a fool of themselves. The plan was to go there with some drums, we had some volunteer dancers, play some music and the kids would dance.
I must tell you, I can’t dance except by holding on close to my partner and grinding, and I have a deaf tone when it comes to playing music. I had learnt my lesson from my previous experiences with GB. I waited outside until they called our name then entered the room. Too late for her to play games with me right, no she had a drum waiting for me, I had to sit and pretend to play it and my family and friends saw me. I think she enjoyed making fun of me, she probably knew my dad.
The 1973 summer went well, we projected we would have some money left and decided to find a permanent location to continue the program in the winter 1973. After a long search as real estate was expensive in Toronto even back then, we lucked out and stumbled on this place, 111 Pears Ave, downtown Toronto. This was/is an apartment hotel building that was under constructions. We were able to rent the mezzanine really cheaply.
We started our new program with a great plan, on the weekend we would run a ‘night club’ to raise funds to continue the program. We used our non profit license to purchase alcohol, rented chairs and tables, invited all the people we knew, by then it had around 50 ‘friends’ and GB had even more. Carl was the DJ. The first couple of weekends went really well. Then the people stopped coming, not sure why. Suffice to say we ran out of money and had to sublet the space. Torontonians may recall that the location housed one of the best night clubs in Toronto during the 70’s. No, it was not mine.
Now I had some Canadian experience, not what I wanted but….I was able to get a door job at ‘We Place’, a nightclub owned by the Tradewinds musical group, you can find them on YouTube. I forgot to mentioned, I started going to school, computer programming at CDC.
I also had another job for about a month. When the dance company closed, GB went to work for this guy who started a new company Bridlewood Heating and Air Conditioning in his basement in Scarborough. My job was to assist her to set up the ‘books’, something I had learned while running the dance company and researching budgets plus my stint at the Treasury in St Kitts. That was the last of saw of GB.
You noticed I was becoming a bookkeeper while going to computer school, Skills.
Later that year I was introduced to an American who had a great job at York University in Toronto. He was quite active in the ‘anti war’ (Vietnam) and ‘black power’ efforts. Anyway he got me a job at York University and although the job had nothing to do with bookkeeping or programming, I now had access to subsidized education.
Guess who introduced me to him? John Allen, a Kittitian from Trafalgar. I didn’t even have to have an interview. Kittitians rule.
I was on a roll.
The only Kittitian Couch Potato from St Kitts.
This morning I was not in the mood to take the dog for a walk so I let her out in the backyard to do her business. She headed straight for the fence between the two houses and that was when I saw this huge rabbit just sitting on a clump of bushes on the neighbour side of the fence. I think my dog forgot the fence was there because she crashed into it head first, thank god it is just a wire fence, oh and she is fine, I took this picture after.
The rabbit was so startled she must have jumped 6ft in the air, a Youtube moment. Would you like to know what was on my mind? Wish I had a camera attached to my finger. Can someone please develop one for moments like this?
I wrote this story back in June and completely forgot about it. Today I was supposed to be writing about my life’s trip, it’s not going to happen. Two weeks ago I did an outline for a story about my second year in Toronto then drifted off to my youth in St Kitts and wrote about that instead. Finishing the initial story is proving to be quite a challenge. I don’t like structure in my life outside of work so it’s not new for me to procrastinate. I think I am going to have to forget about the outline and start over.
Last Thursday I went by the neighbourhood ravine, Calgary 12-mile Coulee and saw a Coyote, which reminded me of this story.
The Coulee is home to lots of animals. Last summer there were black bear sightings, a lot of rabbits and prairie dogs. My son and I took a walk on this path that runs parallel to the ravine and saw a garden snake. So here goes.
One Saturday in June 2010.
Sometimes in the morning if you are awake just before the sun comes up you may get a little lucky and see coyotes heading back to the Coulee after a night of hunting.
It is hard for the Coyotes to get home quietly. We have crows and magpies nesting in the area and they don’t like the coyotes and they don’t care how the humans feel about their squawking at the Coyotes as they go by. They can get noisy, but they act as an alarm system.
This morning Jo, my daughter and my grand kids went off to a fun park for the day so I decided to get off ‘da couch’ and go hiking along the river bank (stream really) at the Coulee. I decided to take Jo’s 15 pounds of beef (a Schnauzer named Panda) with me just in case I needed to make an offering to a hungry coyote as I make my way through the area.
You men must agree that it’s a man thing to go off in the bush alone; women are faint at heart and would only hold you back. A man and his wife’s dog… off we go.
On my way down to the river (stream) I went by a man and his two small sons having a picnic on a bench. I am thinking: “Smart man, don’t expose your kids to the wild animals; stay close to ‘civilization’, it’s safer.”
When I got to the water I had to make a decision as to how to cross the river (stream). Should I lift the dog or should I let her swim cross by herself. Just this week I had heard on the radio that there was Lime disease spreading through dogs. I wondered how the dogs caught it.
I had never seen Panda swim either.
This Panda is a pampered dog. She has a winter coat and boots and refuses to leave the house in the winter if she is not dressed properly. I had a good story if she got eaten by a Coyote: “she defended me like a trooper”, but drowning? How do I explain that to Jo? So I decided to lift her and hop across the raging river (stream) with her in my arms.
As luck would have it I spotted a nice flat rock in the middle of the river (stream) so I decided to step on it. You know a boost, a quick hop and a skip. Bad idea, the rock moved when I stepped on it and I had a big spill.
Crap, too bad I don’t have a picture of that.
No one was around, so it was all good except a little tear on my pants. I hated those pants anyway, so I’d throw them out when I got home. Oh and I was completely soaked, looks like I peed myself. Phew, no harm done. The dog survived also, I must have let her go as I fell since she was sitting on the other side drying off.
I could swear as she looked at me she was thinking, “What an idiot, I can swim buddy.” And I am thinking, “It’s just a stream buddy you probably walked.”
I was about to walk away when I heard this voice: “Are you OK?” Damn, someone saw that. This old couple comes around the corner with a dog half the size of Panda, which proceeded to jump in the River (stream) and “WALK” across. How humiliating! Just in case they knew Jo, I texted her and told her I tripped over this fallen tree. You know the first story is always the right one.
Ok, now I am upright and ready from my real adventure. What do you do when you are going off in the woods? You get a stick for defensive purposes. So I found a nice fat stick banged it against the ground to test its strength. It broke, found another, decided not to test it and set out on my trip, man and his wife’s dog.
As I walked along I could swear there were eyes looking at us, coyote’s eyes I am sure. I picked up the pace. The river (stream) is winding, I am not sure what to expect around each bend. Just as I am ready to start running a family of 3, a mom and two young kids not more than 6 years old, comes along jogging with a little puppy.
What an irresponsible woman I am thinking, she obviously does not know how dangerous this area is.
I stopped to get my bearings, I looked around for landmarks. I saw that on TV. I could see some power lines overhead. Ok how dangerous can it be? We are close to civilization. I thought about the people that just went by, they did not look too concerned. Then I thought about this lady who got mauled by a bear last week in BC. I saw that on TV. I bet she was not concerned either.
It was too late to turn back so I slowed down and decided to enjoy the scenery, although I am still sure there are eyes looking at me. What if it was a Sasquatch? I came to this cleared out area and stumbled into a boy on a bicycle, probably around 12. I asked him how far it is to the nearest ‘exit’. He said he was not sure, but I will have to cross the river (stream) about 10 more times. He was taking a leak; I was tempted to tell him the fine is $300. I realized there was no one around to give him a ticket, decided to mind my business.
Another few meters and I came across a clump of rabbit hair. Damn was this rabbit eaten by a coyote or just shedding its winter coat? My anxiety was heightened again.
Along the path, whenever I had to cross the river (stream), I always had two choices; veer to the left or to the right. I always took the right, well; I took the left once, what if I made the wrong choice?
So far so good. At one point, Panda chose to walk behind me; maybe she was using me as human sacrifice. Animals do have great instincts. Maybe she saw the Sasquatch.
Eventually I got to the first ‘exit’ and decided to take it. The exit was a hill that was quite steep and this old man was jogging down it. As he got close to me, I recognized him as the man who had witnessed my fall. He jogged to the bottom, then to the top and for the third time was crossing me again on his way down.
I was thinking about ‘da couch’ and how out of shape I was. Panda was also pooped.
The walk back home is about a kilometre and a half away. As we got within 50 meters of the house Panda sat down and refused to move. I had to carry her in my arms; we must have been a silly sight.
When I got back to ‘da couch’ I decided I will write down my experience and tell it to my grandkids so I embellished it a bit. The truth, I did fall, was totally embarrassed, texted Jo, got cramped toes from the wet shoes, I was a little concerned about the coyotes, but they are nocturnal and they don’t like humans.
I decided to wait until the kids are older to read it to them; maybe that’s why I forgot about it. If you look really closely at the pictures, you may get a glimpse of the Sasquatch. It was a great hike; I’ll have to do it again soon.
My two year old grandson refers to the stream as the BIG RIVER, we go there to race popsicle sticks.
This morning I took the train to work and I was thinking…’ I wonder what would happen if everyone called in sick for a whole week.’
Last Thursday I made some notes outlining my next story covering my early days in Toronto. On Friday my grandkids came for a sleepover, then my son showed up from University in Saskatoon and we had a great Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday. The kids are quite demanding physically so after they left I headed straight to ‘da couch’ for some RNR.
My thoughts drifted and I began to reflect on my childhood. I tried to work on my story I started on Thursday but I kept drifting to my youth and sibling rivalry. I am in the middle of an older sister and a younger brother, a year and a half on either side. Sibling rivalry is a natural occurrence.
When my older sister and I would get at it, my mom would yell at me, ‘boys don’t fight with girls’. My sister fought dirty, she used her nails, and I was defenceless.
When I’d pick on my brother, of course I could not fight with my younger brother either , I could still hear my mom’s voice, ‘don’t fight with your brother’, while he was beating the crap out of me, of course I had to take the blows.
One of my parents was always around; sometimes I wished they would just disappear for a day so I could have my way. I think my parents enjoyed seeing me get my butt whooped, probably provided them with great entertainment. Pay back maybe, I had a potty mouth.
Growing up we didn’t have too many store bought toys. My mom would buy us a toy like a fire truck or police car and toy guns on Christmas Eve. I grew up in the 50’s. I had a policy, store bought toys only was suppose to last until the day after New Year’s Day. By then I would have found a way to destroy my toy and was working on my brother’s (one of the reasons he would ‘beat me up’ with my parents’ permission). I wanted to see what made them work.
Where I lived in Trafalgar my neighbours to the left were quite poor, my neighbours to the right weren’t, and we were literally in the middle. I had friends on both sides. One of my friends to the right, G, had lots of store bought toys. His family had a caregiver, Mrs H who lived to the left. I don’t think she had children but her sister did. She was a heavy set woman, who happened to be the village news monger and delivered the gossip with great gusto. She was intimidating.
My friend G and I would play with his Tonka Toys. When he had outgrown his toys he would give them to his caregiver for her family. I must admit I was a little jealous, what kid wouldn’t be.
One day I asked and he gave me one of his Tonka trucks, a nice big yellow truck. I was quite excited and headed off home; I probably would play with it for a few days then open it up. On my way home I saw Miss H walking toward me. I sense some trouble and from the distance I still had some options. I could turn left go around the block and avoid her completely. I could cut through the Bridgewater property and over our back fence and again avoid her completely. I pretty much had the same options by turning right. What to do?
With all those options I select the ‘dumb ass pick’. I walked straight at her and as I was about to go by, I showed her the truck, the devil made me do it. I think maybe I was being spiteful. She asked me where I got it from and I told her that G gave it to me. That was not what she wanted to hear. She accused me of stealing it so I told her what I thought about her. Remember my potty mouth?
The next few minutes was scripted from hell. She started to shout, the whole village was her audience;
‘Miss Carter, Miss Carter, Miss Carter, you son teef G truck, I see him with me own eyes, he teef it, o lawd he going staight to hell’.
We were still a good fifty yards away from my house. I am sure my mom could hear her loud and clear. Unfortunately my dad was also home. I started to run with Mrs H, the devil’s assistant, behind me shouting at the top of her voice.
My dad was a very proud man, gave us everything he thought we needed so why would I steal, eh.
I ran into the shop and I started to plead my case, my dad was not interested in my explanations, without saying a word and with his ‘evil dad face’ he simply took the truck and turned it over to Mrs H then escorted me in the back.
I won’t say what happened after that, I don’t remember exactly, but I could not sit for a whole day, he used what was closest at hand, a piece of salt fish tail. I promised never to steal again, although I hadn’t. It was one of those life changing moments.
To make matters worse, the next day I saw Mrs H’s family playing with the truck.
No one can take away my memories, the real toys I grew up with included, homemade catapult, made from guava tree stems, bicycle tube and parts of car tires. Of course my parents did not approve, those things were dangerous. With a catapult in your hand you were like David, you could take down Goliath with one swish.
We also played with a bicycle wheel and a piece of stick used to propel the wheel, there were kids in the Village who could make those things move like the stick was attached to the wheel.
Having fun with those homemade toys only lasted for so long and as I got older my needs changed. I would go by the Horsford store and see nice cricket bats and shiny balls and footballs and boots in the window. I wanted my own. I had no money; my dad had ‘beaten the urge to steal out of me’. He didn’t say I could not take from him, so that is what I did. I found ways to divide my parents and conquer; I found ingenious ways to ‘borrow’ money from my dad. I still don’t know how he did not figure it out, after all my ‘toys’ were not cheap. I would buy a nice cricket bat and shiny ball and he would show me how to protect the bat with linseed oil and never ask me where I got the money to buy them. Parents are complex.
I once made it all the way Antigua on a plane trip with the Cadets when I was about 15. When I returned my dad asked me how much the trip had cost me and offered a refund. I did not have a job. Again I am not sure where he thought I got the money from. Maybe parents aren’t that smart.
Way back then my parents hired a construction crew for a major construction job on our house that lasted a few months. There were 5 or 6 workers on a daily basis and during the summer I had to pitch in, help with fetching the water for the concrete mixing for example. I remember at the end of the week on Friday afternoon my dad would take out his roll of money and pay the workers. Of course I worked so I would stand there with my hand out.
He would take great pleasure reminding me that he fed, clothed and gave me a bed to sleep. Maybe parents just have to do things their way, a control thing.
I must admit that as a youngster I was not the easiest child to deal with. Being the 11th of 13 children, I think my parents were tired of raising kids so I got away with things my older brothers hadn’t. I never in my wildest imaginations thought I would be a parent, else I probably would have been a better child.
Today if you ask my friends who knew me when I was a kid, they would not admit to knowing that side of me. I saved my dark side for my siblings and parents only. I was a model citizen to my friends, except, you know there is always an exception, when I was not doing really well in a ball game I would take my equipment and go home, ownership had its privileges.
I was in my later teens when I stopped fighting with my siblings, even my potty mouth went away. It turns out I was not that bad kid after all, a small part of my life journey, just a phase I went through. Oh and I believe that I am a great parent, ask my kids. Yes I am a little controlling, learned that from my dad.
Despite all that, my dad sacrificed to get me through Grammar School. Maybe he saw the potential in me.
I was in my second year in Toronto when I started to find myself. Next week I will continue my journey. I think.
The only Kittitian Couch Potato in Calgary.
People have been asking how I ended up on ‘da couch’, so I thought I would let you in on my secret.
My family moved to Calgary about 5 years ago. Jo’s job was transferred here. She works for a big oil company and me being self employed I figure I’d take a chance and start over. I have a very short attention span and changes are easy for me, besides I figured what’s the worst that can happen.
Moving here had its drawbacks as I worked with my eldest daughter in Toronto. She had left home a few years before and I did not see her that often, you know what kids are like. As a parent you never feel like your job is complete so to be close to her I helped her get a job with one of my customers. I also worked there and for the next 5 years we started most work days with a little chit chat and coffee. Nice eh.
I must say that I had gotten a little lazy at that job, (short attention span,) and needed to revive my career, so off to Calgary we go, as you can imagine my daughter was not happy.
Toronto has a board based economy, some manufacturing, wholesale and distribution and what not. By contrast, Calgary’s economy is based on oil and gas for the most part. I tried to restart my consulting business but soon found out that the oil and gas references were completely different to what I was accustomed to. The industry has its own unique language. My job for the most part is asking questions, documenting the answers and recommending solutions. I needed a dictionary to survive.
I had to rethink my situation; I had to find an eastern based company. The big telecommunication giants would be a nice fit. I was quite fortunate to find a job with Bell Canada. The group I worked with sold and supported CRM solutions. After two years on the job I was ‘packaged’. The entire business group was sold a year later.
I then found a job with a smaller software company working with the same product I worked with at Bell. I lasted 6 months, during the summer the drive was tolerable but as soon as it started snowing I found it to be too much, I resigned.
Shortly after I found another job with another telecomm giant, TELUS, again working in the same type of product, a natural fit. After one year the company shut down the entire group and I was again ‘packaged’.
Three jobs in four and a half years, it was quite draining.
It was the end of January 2010 I found myself on ‘da couch’ asking myself ‘what do I do now?
With no job and no good prospects I thought I could change my life, again.
I started writing as a distraction from my situation, posting my thoughts on FB.
About a year earlier one of my sons’ friends introduced me to Facebook. When I asked her what to do with it she said, ‘talk to your friends’. Ok, what friends? She added me and I added my other kids and a couple of friends from Toronto, about 10 people.
At first I wrote to try and stay alert; my plan was to write about growing up in St Kitts which required me to lie on ‘da couch’ and reflect. I have been away for 40 years. I started writing about my school days, from kindergarten and worked my way up to the Grammar school. In between I wrote about other stuff like mangoes and jumbies, check my earlier posts. My daughter though I had lost it.
From the feedback, I was beginning to think maybe I can write stories that people want to read.
What was my biggest challenge to overcome? Knowing that people are actually reading what you wrote. I was afraid of being judged harshly.
A few months into it, I was up to 50 people on my FB but I didn’t know anyone else, I hit the proverbial wall. My cousin Keeth France told me to just add people randomly to increase my readership and he also encouraged me to keep writing. The more people I added the more showed up as ‘people you may know’ on FB. What a concept.
I mentioned that I sometimes write about mangoes, I had help as Keeth’s wife egged me on by posting lovely pictures of mangoes on Facebook.
When I write I don’t always continue a story theme, my thoughts stray, I blame it on the comfortable couch. Now I write at night between 10 p.m. and 12 a.m. using a small writing book. Not sure why, it’s the only time I seem to be able to. When I write I scribble really fast and more often than not I can’t reread it but I know what I wrote so I can rewrite it later. I write sometimes in sentences or sometimes in point form or sometimes using doodle art. Probably need to change that if I want to be a successful writer. I don’t write stories, I write lots of random ideas then cut and paste them together. How did we survive before ‘cut and paste’?
The stories started getting longer and from some of the comments I received it was obvious that FB was not the right place to write, so I created a blog and here I am.
It’s like being in writing school all the time though.
Here I am in 2010 on ‘da couch’ thinking about my life in 1971, reflecting on my life before that. Got it?
Now I can continue.
In my last post I wrote about my early days in Toronto. My first year there was quite painful and I spent a lot of my quiet time thinking about St Kitts. Holidays were especially hard without my St Kitts family and friends, but I always had my memories.
Easter in St Kitts was the time when people flew kites. My brothers were really good at making kites. On the Saturday before Easter Sunday we would ‘launch’ the kites. I am sure there was a competition for whose kite would go the highest and stay up the longest. We would take what we thought was the best kite, someone would take it across the alley, my brother would say go and the kite would soar. Once we got the kite really high in the sky we would sling shot the line over the electric wires and tie the line to the house. If it did not rain the kites would stay up until next day. My brother Charlie was a kite flying master. His kites flew the highest and stayed up the longest.
One of the fun things was when the kite string would break, the entire village, well us kids, would chase it into Buckley’s cane field and often all the way down to Camps fields shouting ‘kite bus, kite bus’. The goal was to gather (steal) the string. Kite string was in limited supply. Good times.
Sometimes I would reflect on my last year working in St Kitts. I worked as a teacher at the Old Hospital School. It was not a very good experience mainly because I was not very good at it. The kids were not much younger than I was and I think I got the worst bunch of kids in the school in terms of lack of discipline. One kid in particular, the late Pip, would go out of his way to make sure my day was as bad as possible. In the classroom he just totally ignored me, simply refused to participate. He lived a stone’s throw away from me and he was my brother’s best friend. When we were out of the classroom, he would constantly tease me and run away. Of course because of our teacher/student relationship I was not able to beat him up. We met several years later at the Toronto Caribana and we had some good laugh about it.
My most favourite recollections however were about my football playing days. I was very fortunate to play football at the highest level in St Kitts. I played with a team that was assembled in Grammar School. We won the national championship, stayed together helped by an old friend Mikoyan, moved as a group to Santos and carried on the winning tradition.
The fan support for our team was quite incredible. At some games the field would be surrounded by fans, I am guessing maybe 200 or 300 people cheering us on. I played against some of the top players on the island at a young age. There were some great players that would have been able to play in the world ‘big leagues’, players like Shine, Tudor, Nelon, Hicks and others. For the most part I fared pretty well. My biggest strength was that I hated to lose.
Of all the opponents I faced, Sam Condor (Deputy PM, St Kitts/Nevis) was probably the most difficult to play against. He talked a lot during the game; he would find ways to knock you off your game, like kicking your ankles on purpose. I remember once I went up to get the ball and he removed my legs from under me, I came crashing down. It was all in good fun, I think.
A game against Sam would start days before the actual game day. A bunch of guys would come together and argue Trafalgar style about the upcoming game. We would meet by the Old Grammar school field or on the corner of St. Johnston and Cayon or in front of Carl Brazier house. Sam talked a good game, but he could never win these verbal sparring. He was on my turf.
I recalled Sam liked being in the village; he was not a villager. Quite often my buddy Junior and I would drift off to go to our nightly gathering at the corner of Cayon and Forth Street. When we returned, Sam would still be in the Village. Sometimes at night when I went to bed, I could hear him still arguing about football, sometimes politics or chatting about economic courses he was taking at the London School of Economics, ( I think, may have been another school.) Sam had a very strong voice, in the night air I could not tell exactly where he was. Often his was the last voice I heard before I went off to sleep. No comment.
I have not spoken to Sam in 40 years. Just recently someone posted a YouTube clip of Sam giving a speech at the Christina sinking Memorial. He started by saying his wife could not make it to the gathering. I asked a friend of mine who Sam had married. Then it all made sense, Sam was not in the Village late at night trying to drive me crazy and to knock me off my game, his interest was my neighbour, his wife, a few houses up the road. He was trying to impress her.
My buddy Junior told me recently that Sam still has good football skills at his age, he plays a good mid field for some ‘old mans team’, maybe there is still a game in our future, I’ll probably let him win.
To this day I still dream about those great times, Jo tells me she sometimes can look at my facial expression and know what I am thinking about. Ya right.
When Christmas came around that first year in Toronto, it must have been one of the really low points in my entire life; I can’t even begin to describe it. I remember it snowed on Christmas day and I went for a walk. I can actually still remember what winter smelled like back then, quite refreshing. Today the air is dirty.
There I was walking around in the snow and bawling and singing Christmas carols, cussing myself for making the decision to leave home. It’s a good thing no one was close enough to hear me.
Later that day we went to my late uncle Roland’s home, Mother Gwen is a great cook.
Some things you never forget.
The Only Kittitian Couch Potato in Calgary