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Ah Big Man-shun is Ah Head-ake


Ah notice an Ad in de papers last week way one Financial Institution was forclosing or simply selling out 15 properties, 10 ah dem are family homes; it is frightening because dat has been de trend foh de last two years, Banks selling out people’s homes foh default payments; people just can’t afford to pay de huge mortgages. Every week another Institution, thru its Solicitor is selling out scores ah properties. Yes it frightening but not surprising, is like ah competition is on, who got de best car and de biggest house.{{more}} Young families living in surplus space; two and ah half storey buildings wid three and four thousand sq. ft. ah floor area; master bedroom wid Jacuzzi and walk-in closet foh de wife; two additional bedrooms with washrooms, ah guest room complete wid kitchenette and washroom dah never in use; two living rooms, ah TV room, ah study way nobody ever reads, two porches and ah carport. De monthly mortgage payment is in de thousands $3,000 to $5,000, more dan what ah wuker in de YES program gets ah year! Yuh don’t have to be ah planner to realize dat in SVG people building houses way out ah dey pocket. And dat is wreaking havoc wid dis eke-on-me.

Ah like looking back way we come from, and ah got to say thank goodness in my village, we have remained a community wid small houses bordering affordable income and just under middle income. Ah guilty of breaking de tradition, my original home back in de 1950’s was 20 feet by 20 feet wid ah half-ah-ground floor, ah add on to it and de present size is about twice what it uses to be. Ah could still see every house from top village to bottom village. We had one wattle and darb house (mud walls and fever grass roof) aka trash house wid. Dat was way Mr Peters and his wife Tanty Rosa lived, two plots above my home was his hut, 6 feet by 8 feet dimensions, inside was cool, ah real poor man’s palace. Missah Peters was all de lickle children hero. He told us stories about his service in de 1914-1918 War. He received ah small monthly pension and when it was pension day, Missah Peters would dress up foh town. De whole village would be looking out foh him on his dramatic return home. Like every other ex-soldier did, he would get drunk and revisit de Battle field in Egypt. His stick was his rifle and he would march from Kingstown to Murray Village. Yuh could ah hear his “lef-right-lef-right” ah mile away, and we lickle kids uses to run down to meet him and marched behind him. De high point however, was when he reach Percy Bonadie’s gate, Missah Bonadie would shout “Company take cover!” and Missah Peters would head foh de nearest gutter, stretch-out on all-fours like he did in de military trench. De whole village went in uproar. Come to think of it, Missah Peters, ah “black man”, ah true colonialist, had volunteered to fight (dig trench) wid de British in de War; he risked his life foh our freedom, and what did he get in return, life in ah mud house de symbol of real poverty back den. One night he didn’t make it home from town, he was found Resting In Peace under one ah those Eucalyptus trees on Murray Road, ah guess de NME caught him before he took cover.

But ah don’t know way and when dis “Big House Sin-droan” got started. Ah board house 18 feet by 20 feet uses to be ah Man-shun, kitchen was detached and toilet outside. ‘Member de good ole days ah pail and poo-zee (lix wid poo-zee); not exactly de days we proudly remember, not dem nights when yuh had ah die-ah-rear. Thankfully some bright builder-designer came up wid de I-dare of everyting, kitchen, toilet, bedroom etc under one roof. De size ah de house increased to 20 feet by 24 feet= 480 sq ft way ah family of six to eight sometimes lived comfortably. In 1985 when Guv-ah-mint built those 2-bedroom, Low Income houses at Fair Hall, de dimensions was 21 feet by 24 feet equal to 504 sq. ft. Presently dey’s only one ah those 90 houses still standing wid de original size, every other building on dat project is now ah man-shun, some wid three floors, five bedrooms etc. Interestingly most ah dem houses are occupied by families wid three and four members. Ah know ah few people who live alone in some. And dat has been de tale of de houses. Not even de high prices ah building materials could frighten us from building bigger man-shuns. Expensive building materials is like de incentive to build bigger man-shuns. Lie-Za lives in one ah dem Guv-ah-mint three bedroom, affordable income houses, 700 sq. ft. ah simple layout and design, quite functional and effective. De bed rooms small she says, but she glad foh dat, her excuse to have she own bedroom and put Lie-Owe by himself. However, dis is de way we ought to go, simple houses, good structural support, comfortable size rooms, no unnecessary cosmetics and facade. One ah these house would cost approximately one hundred and twenty thousand dollars, one couldn’t ask foh ah better deal. De mortgage payments would be in de hundreds and no Bank will get de chance to sell out yuh property. Ah big man-shun is not necessarily ah Home, is ah head-ake! And wid dat is gone ah gone again.

One Love Bassy

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