Horizon at Sandy Point

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Dog politics

Man rat. Man crab. You know the saying: two man rat cyah live in the same hole. Applies equally to man and to rat. It applies to dogs too.

Two dogs - the older almost 13 and half blind; the younger a bigger breed but the personality of a teddy bear - have been sniping at each other for months. Growls, scuffles, spats. The last confrontation was a bitter battle. The aggressor - according to the on-line vet - goes for the legs, the neck, the throat. The defender grabs at whatever he can, ears, back, fur, seeking to inflict a hurt and loosen the aggressor's grip. Defender becomes aggressor with the slightest advantage. It seems impossible to part fighting dogs until they tire or one limps away whimpering with pain.

In this current conflict, it is the veteran - who has been hit by speeding cars, had his ear shredded by a pitbull, dognapped for nine days - who has inflicted most damage. This dog is fearless and attacks anything - he smells a pompek and thinks it's a pitbull and vice versa. Blood is dripping from a puncture behind his ear but he seems to be grinning.

The teddy bear is limping and growling with the pain of his swollen joint. The teeth marks are deep. He is learning a hard lesson about knowing your place in the world. He who would be cuddled and petted is learning the price in the dog pack for being favoured in the human pack.  He is learning defensive aggressive behaviours. Snarls, bared teeth and mean stares are directed to the other. From opposite corners of the yard, they glare and lunge in the direction of the other.

What to do? How to separate these warring factions? Schemes for new fences and gates are devised. Send one away to live somewhere else? Neuter them to reduce testosterone (the male hormone) and aggressive behaviour?

The biggest issue in applying the "final solution" is human male squeamishness about interfering with a male's crown jewels. Women so easily have their ovaries and wombs removed for health reasons: you don't need them past a certain age we are told. But men want virility all their lives! And so it is with dogs, mirrors of human machismo. The bitches were neutered long ago. Hopefully, the neutered males will also retain their personalities without the testosterone aggression.

Could we apply the "final solution" to also root out human aggression, territorialism? We might realise that the differences between ovary and testes are just that. We might learn to love without being constrained to reproducing pairs - the world population is already over seven billion! (Remember when the taboo was inter-racial?) Will "human rights" allow us any volunteers?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

To market to market

Market day! Get up early to beat traffic. The prize was an early selection of the best fresh food. Walk with big baskets and your own plastic bags. Even from the outside - just to find parking - the big central market in Port of Spain is abustle with colourful characters, loud, lively and smelly. With my father - the discriminating food shopper - we would walk from the "greens" market, to the meat, to the fish, and most likely back again. Later in life, he bought from specific vendors who would keep what he wanted. But every so often, he would cruise the aisles as though it was an entirely new adventure.

Even when his immediate family had dwindled, market shopping was a weekly ritual. Most of us fell out of the habit: my sister because she thought she would expire from the fishy smells; and others because it was too much to feed a family of two or three. From the central market you would take home grandiose proportions of everything. Simpler to get just what you needed from the nearest supermarket.

Today, the pendulum is swinging back, and market style shopping is once more fashionable. But for different reasons. Lots of big cities are attracting markets back to their neighborhoods. I've shopped in street markets in Santa Monica California, in Brisbane Australia, and in France, Italy and England. What we are realising about these markets is how they are empowering entrepreneurs, reinstating the relationship between the producer and the purchaser, and expanding tastes for different fresh food and varieties of standard fare. Not to mention elevating standards of quality and flavour!

Baskets of Wasamaki roots

Fresh flowers from Wasamaki

UpMarket is a specialty market that is open on the first Saturday every month. The venue is the Woodbrook Youth Facility on Hamilton Holder Street (near the National Stadium) in Port of Spain. It opens at 9 or 9.30 am. The array of goods, not to mention the people and their skills, indicates that there's scope for new markets up and down our country.

Clothing racks in the back of the market
Here are some of the things that piqued my interest in 45 minutes on Saturday. I would have liked to taste the home-made cheeses and the ice cream, picked up some pesto and sampled more of the interesting condiments. I went away with two large samaan platters, delicious biscotti and a bottle of pepper infused salt - Perfect Fire Salt. Here are some of the other treasures captured on camera.

Soaps and palm bark bowls from Surinam

Philip Arthur and his woodware

The Perfect Pepper range from Leesa Reize

Home grown and home made
Most interesting was the table of sculptures made from salavaged metal pieces. But where was the craftsman? By the time we left, he had not yet arrived.

Village made from metal pieces.

Do you see the three boltheads rowing the boat that bounces on a single spring?

An enterprising panman providing soothing sounds
and selling his CD collections!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Dancing on this earth

With little to do since the injury some eight weeks ago, he has been going through old slides. You know the little pieces of celluloid mounted in cardboard or plastic frames that saved the photographic images of the last century, before the digital age. A lot of them are dusty and flecked with fungus, but the memories are pristine. The little machine - made in China and without a proper name or plug - is being used to scan slides from the 70s, animals in Kenya, faces from decades past. It's amazing how little you need to tickle the synapses and follow ephemeral threads to landscapes and adventures stored in the brain.

So, old man, what do you have to say to this just barely twenty self? And what still beats in the blood from that age?
Circa 1970

Old Man: I think I'll grow my hair again. You should cut yours!

Young man: Hair? The least of my worries - things to do, places to go, wine, women and the world at my feet.

OM: It was a time wasn't it: Idi Amin's Uganda, Burundi, driving through the Sahara navigating by the stars, wildlife and a wild life - our version of drugs sex and rock and roll - fun while it lasted but I don't think I want to go back there.

YM: I want to have it all, see it all, taste what might almost kill...  Go back to sleep old man, and let me have my youth! You can't tell me what to do.

OM: But listen, maybe I could tell you how to avoid trouble, how to eat well and get enough rest, how to be safe ...

YM: Safe? Not high on the agenda. I need to travel by the seat of my pants. I need to sleep on the beach and wake up in the surf. I need to taste it, smoke it, drink it ...

OM: Yes, the moment... always the moment. And though you want to last forever, you know you never will...

YM: Oh but I will - you'll see me still in other faces other places ...

Slow fade to the strains of Cat Stevens:
Oh very young, what will you leave us this time?You're only dancing on this earth for a short while...