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Poverty – den and now


When it rains it pours, last week after reading Cims Martin’s lovely piece on his boy days, ah couple ideas foh an article popped up in my head. Den bright and early Monday morning, de pieces came to-get-her when Fitz “Bosco” Dowers (an ole buddy) had his dear wife drive him to my home to deliver ah copy ah some of his treasured writings.{{more}} One article in particular “Poverty-Then and Now” an account of the writer’s personal experience living in poverty, said it all foh me, it is excellent material foh discussion among dem Econ students at Community College.

Ah lot ah de younger generation won’t know or ever heard about Fitz “Bosco” Dowers. He’s now in quiet retreat doing what he does best, writing; after doing national service at de Customs and District Offices throughout SVG, wuking from Clerk to Permanent Secretary, he den moved on to the CDB and Caricom Secretariat in dey early days, he served us well.

But it didn’t all begin at de top foh Bosco; ley we say “Sco” dat is de shortened version of his nickname. Yesteryear everyone had ah nickname, some de-rag-ah-tary, some come-play-man-tary. Young Dowers wid de body-mass and strength of ah King Kong was automatically nicknamed “Bosco” after ah famous Comic Book character who was all muscles and strength. Dat “Bosco” would ah been today’s “Incredible Hulk”! But we had two Boscos, both from de Sion Hill area, Cecil “Bosco” Craigg, a former Mr. SVG in the 1950’s and one of this country’s leading Body-builder in those days, and of course Bosco No 2, Fitz Dowers, de young Grammar School boy, ah hero in school!

One would never imagine dat Sco, de silent giant, calm, cool and unruffled was born around the turbulent, 1935 roit-us period. Yes born in de Struggle, number three in ah family ah nine, couldn’t ah bin easy foh ah Mom to find tea, bruk-fuss and dinner foh all nine ah dem. How well he remembers those durable tea-cups made from ovaltine and condensed milk tins wid handles soldered on to dem. Today he proudly writes about his living experiences as an illegitimate child, born into ah poor, lower-class family, yet he made it thru secondary school, University, Senior Caribbean Public Servant. According to him anyone born in de 1930’s would smile at what people today calling hard times or high cost ah living. He aptly reshuffles de phrase “ today’s cost ah high living”! He recounts de limited food choices that was available to de real poor and how he and his siblings survived on his Mom’s one shilling or 24 cents ah month salary as ah domestic, subsidized wid his Granny’s four shillings or 96 cents ah month poor relief. Whereas in those days de Rich lavished in things like rice, flour, butter, beef, pork, imported canned stuff; corn flakes, oats, cream of wheat etc, poor people had to mek do wid mainly locally grown vegetables and fruits: sweet potatoes, breadfruit, bananas, yams, eddoes, dasheen, corn, cassava, farine and arrowroot-pap; small fish like spratt, ballyhoo, dodger and jacks. Ironically, today things have turned around and de poor people menu is what de Nutrition experts are recommending as de most nutritious and healthy foods. So when dey raise de price ah flour and rice, we shouldn’t buy, eat what we grow locally.. Dat is de sacrifice we have to mek.

Long ago mango season was ah time of great feasting. Sco remembers going home foh lunch and meeting nutten dey to eat, so he would just head foh de nearest mango tree, eat ah few ripe mangoes or plums, sometimes green ones, den go by de public stand-pipe and wash dat down wid some sky juice and back to school. Today yuh ain’t mad give dem children chicken two days in ah row, de will complain how dey fed up, de menu boring.

Fast Foods was when yuh eat down yuh food fast, ah quick meal was ah fry fish and bread in one ah dem small shop round Bay Street. People were generally fit and healthy or had de Wellness Rev-all-yuh-shun, dey didn’t have to go to de GYM, walking to and from wuk was enough exercise; today everybody driving Sketel dat belongs to de Bank. And de more de gas price goes up de more dey drive up and down aimlessly. De same applies to Vinlec, fuel sur-charge more dan de energy consumed, but every body burning lights all night. Long ago when de wind blow out de lamp or de flambeau, dat was it till day-light. Sco painfully observed when de Cable TV people raised de rent by almost $10, nobody come-plain; but CWSA in an effort to improve an fairly efficient service, added de same $10 to de bill and dey almost experienced ah boy-cut, noise foh so!

Dey’s ah TV in each bedroom today, stereo wid DVD and Video connected to de TV tek up half ah de living-room. Yesterday dey were lucky if one household in de community owned ah Radio, so dey would be be ah community gathering where everybody flocked by dat household to listen to de latest News. No one in de village owned ah telephone, right now we have over eighty thousand cell phones, some people walking round wid two and three phones. Lie-Za say dem girls ain’t wuking no way, but dey got cell phones hook up all over, phone even ringing in dey back-side, of course she mean back pocket. Well, Dat was just another peep back in time, many thanks to Sco. Basically what he is saying is dat things don’t necessarily have to be as bad as dey are, we have created and continue to create dis “cost of high living” dis living-hell foh we-selves. It is all our wrong doing, choosing wrong values, using de wrong route doing de wrong things, and now ending up on de wrong side ah de fence. But all is not lost, with radical change things can be different. But we will have to mek those changes. We have to change out life style, change our attitude to wuk, people and things, change our habits, change our values and our morals. We don’t have to turn back de clock, we can’t, but we can stop de clock in us from ticking in de wrong time zone. And wid dat, ah gone again

One Love Bassy

Bassy Alexander is a land surveyor, folklorist and social commentator.