By Dr. Richard A. Byron-Cox
“Boy, that’s de best you can do?” questioned the MC. “Bark like ah big dog!” he commanded. “You sound like ah little poodle. Wake up de people man, this is Nine Mornings!” The crowd was choking with laughter. There were certainly way more than a thousand people fully attentive to what was taking place on stage.
Clapping, laughing, dancing, shouting, responding in one way or the other to this spectacle happening a 4 a.m. I stood there in my very damped T-shirt and soccer shorts having walked all the way from Calliaqua after having arrived in the country a few hours from Europe, itching to be at Nine Mornings. I had been MIA, having white Christmases for many years.
That morning’s cultural cook-up had the flavors of the Bowmans, -SVGs first family of Christmas music-; the spices of La Gracia dancers; the herbs of a comic skit; the sweetness of Parang King, Carlton “CP” Hall; and more. The audience feasted. The pot boiled over with waist-line moving parang renditions from Epic Sound Steel Orchestra.
Indeed, Epic was forced to play at least five “one-for-the-road” as the street-party crowd couldn’t get enough! We reluctantly dispersed way past 7 a.m., and my walk to Calliaqua in the cloudless brilliance of the morning sun led to a heavy nose bleed. So what!! Ah bin paranging.
The rest of Saturday was spent doing a few things that needed to be sorted immediately. Night fell; and my body succumbed to jetlag and exhaustion.
1 a.m. Sunday morning found me marching from Prospect to Heritage Square again. I enjoyed watching the boys on their bicycles doing various stunts; young people playing road and table tennis on the street; the Nine Morning Train going around the city carrying passengers singing merrily to the tunes played by its onboard steel orchestra.
I heard accents from diverse countries; took in the show on stage and greeted many acquaintances I hadn’t see in donkey years, most demanding that I “pass through fo’ piece ah ham and drink ah ting during de season.” I responded with thanks yous but made no promises. I regretted not attending the curtain call of the steel band that morning, choosing instead to start my walk back to Prospect on completion of the performances. I had battled the sun and lost. One bloody nose was enough!!
By Sunday afternoon I was back in the overactive beehive. One could attend the prison and/or religious concert; shop “till you drop,” or just observe. All were caught up in the massive flow of human activity with its vigorous current of excitement, as no one remained unmoved in this Christmas-energized Kingstown! The veins of the city expanded to accommodate this great pulsation. Yet in all of it, my soul was resting. I was at home.
I had come to SVG intent on making a Christmas-Nine-Morning-Community walk from Chateaubelair to Kingstown, getting to the latter in time to attend Nine Mornings. My “soldier” -as we say in local parlance- for this walk in the dark, Otmar Marshall objected. “Me cyar mek Shatbelair!” he declared. “We could do “Bagga.” I surrendered. The whole Marshall clan backed the enterprise though, with Sehon chauffeuring us to Barrouallie.
Most uplifting was Otmar’s mother’s insistence on joining. We tried to dissuade Evelyn, but she was obstinate. We set out from Barrouallie at 1:50 a.m. on a journey filled with conversations and laughter. I sang from Shadow’s “I come to play” to CP’s “Ah love me Christmas.” I danced and shouted, “Seasons Greetings!” to the wind and anyone awake. We met a few persons all with enquiring looks; and saw beautiful lightings in places like Layou. Arriving in Kingstown at 5: 45, we went Nine Mornings. My heart, soul and mind were contented!!
Evelyn having not slept the entire night, now had to report to work. She is one strong woman!!
I showered before sleep knocked me over and out for three hours. I awoke, and after some hours working, I attended Sehon’s Christmas-mood-setting hangout “diplomatique.” The menu was mouth-watering while the bar was universally liquid! Guests were stunned when it was realized, that I am not on friendly terms with alcohol.
While this amiable company engaged in light chitchat; I was of necessity cantankerous, determined to be judicious about all things, Christmas or not. This only amused our host, who declared, “This is no time for seminars!” Then, to ensure my tongue stayed behind my teeth he offered a Cuban cigar. I hadn’t smoked in a century of moons, but his trick worked so well I didn’t even cough once.
Tuesday morning, I was up at 1 a.m. and walked from Upper Queens Drive to Kingstown from whence I headed for Calliaqua intending to have a dip at Villa beach, thence back to Queens Drive. Upon crossing the decommissioned E.T. Joshua Airport I met Cecil Ryan and joined him walking around the Arnos Vale grounds.
We did 12 laps during which he explained that the various temporary constructions on the field were for Steel Expression on 28 December. We discussed a variety of issues all related to SVG’s development and culminating with him inviting me to be guest on his radio show. I accepted.
In the early afternoon I had lunch at Syd’s beautiful Oleander. No superlative does justice to Syd’s genius in the kitchen! You have to taste it! I then “limed” with the great Burns Bonadie who share with me special pages of his oral SVG encyclopedia. Later, at home, I returned to sending season greetings, and as the day closed, I drifted off to sleep knowing it was only a few hours now, before I reconnect with Vincy Christmas. I was certain it wouldn’t be white nor cold.