Horizon at Sandy Point

Monday, March 31, 2014


Chaguabarriga: the name itself is miasmic, like the fetid smell of things rotting in a mangrove swamp. It is to this estate that the colonists subscribing to Etzler's scheme aboard the Rosalind were bound in 1845. It's the new homestead on Trinidad - last island south in the Caribbean - where Willy Tucker's Papee intends to resettle his family.

And so, Willy Tucker crosses the Atlantic into the new world with his true love Marguerite. The journey stirs the blood with the adventurousness, the "time out of mind" quality of the sea voyage: a boy on his own even in cramped quarters, true love found and explored, no luxury cruise but a transit of faith upon which future fortunes are riding. The final destination - Trinidad, Chaguabarigga - brings truth, trickery, loss and the struggle for survival.   

Willy's voice is central to Robert Antoni's As Flies to Whatless Boys. It is as a boy would trade stories with his mates - colloquial and unadorned, direct and true. Almost 35 years since he came out to the colony, he is sitting on the deck of the Condor with his own son, under a half moon, with the lights of the island in the distance. He has been invited to deliver a lecture based on his self-learned study of hummingbirds and the skill to preserve them. But before he embarks on another sea voyage, Willy entrusts this tale of continuity to his son and heirs.

More than a hundred years after that, Robert Antoni (Mr Robot) searches historical documents to prove the background to the Tucker family story. He bounces up Miss Ramsol who guards the archives and photocopier with her body. Letters and written records are important devices in Whatless Boys: Marguerite's notes; Etzler's contracts; newspaper reports; Willy's commission to lecture; and of course the rude provocative email teasers from Miss Ramsol.

In the end, Mr Robot has his story. But we are left with one mystery. Where is Chaguabarigga? Is it today's Las Cuevas? Yarra? Blanchisseuse? Where are the oilbird caves nearby? What was the Amerindian trail they trekked to bring Papee back to Port of Spain?

Robert Antoni's Whatless Boys is an entertaining read - enjoyable on many levels -  adding to the rich lore of the many reasons people came, or were brought, to Trinidad. It is sad, funny, a growing up story of longing and fulfilment and loss. It is never self-pitying or apologetic, a story to be handed down from generation to resourceful generation.

Saturday, March 29, 2014


By the end of the movie Gravity, we are grateful for the weight of our own limbs. What this means is, we are grateful for the force of the Earth pressing up through our feet, articulating blood, muscles, giving the heart reason for its rhythmic beat.

Outside of our natural environment, 600 km above the surface of Earth, we confront the nature of need. Out there, emptiness has a different meaning. Perhaps, it means freedom, without ties. Out there, there is no life support that can replace the mother Earth.

"At 600km above planet Earth, the temperature fluctuates between +258 and -148 degrees Fahrenheit. There is nothing to carry sound. No air pressure. No oxygen. Life in space is impossible." reads the caption card at the start of the the film.

See trailer here:

The man and woman - encased in white survival suits and helmets, working outside the craft -  are bouncing around tied to a flimsy structure that is itself buffeted and rattling like a weather vane in solar wind.

For 90 minutes, we witness the struggles of Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) in space, without air, without life support, without gravity.  There are, they believe,  compensations for working so far out they can see the curve of the blue planet. For Kowalski, the Earth is  serenely beautiful seen from this far. He is in awe of the shimmer of sunrise on the Ganges. Stone loves the silence, the emptiness that is vaster than the emptiness in her heart.

When their craft is thrashed by debris orbiting the earth - bits and pieces from end of life satellites - they face the possibility of becoming other random pieces of space garbage. To be or not to be means simply, living til you die. Kowalski makes the first choice. He instructs Stone to swing towards the other orbiting space stations, and then to use one of their re-entry pods: "You just point the damned thing at Earth. It's not rocket science."

We all wish for  escapes every so often, to be unfettered, untethered, to drift in solar wind. Sure, sometimes, to stand on the earth is real pressure. Gravity is a homecoming, a descent from the stars, a rebirth and a reality check. 

I watched Gravity in the same week that Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 is declared lost. I think that those 239 persons could not have been grateful for gravity, or even a soft landing in one of earth's most turbulent oceans.

Gravity won seven Oscars, and was the Best Motion Picture of the year for both Golden Globes and the Academy Awards. Here's a note from IMDb:
To prepare for shooting, Sandra Bullock spent six months in physical training while reviewing the script with Alfonso Cuarón. Cuarón said, "More than anything else, we were just talking about the thematic element of the film, the possibility of rebirth after adversity." They worked out how she would perform each scene, and her notes were included the previsual animation and programming for the robots. Cuarón and Bullock zeroed in on Stone's breath, "and how that breath was going to dictate her emotions," he said. "That breath that is connected with stress in some instances, but also the breath that is dictated by lack of oxygen." Their conversations covered every detail of the script and Bullock's character. "She was involved so closely in every single decision throughout the whole thing," Cuarón said. "And it was a good thing, because once we started prepping for the shoot, it was almost more like a dance routine, where it was one-two-three left, left, four-five-six then on the right. She was amazing about the blocking and the rehearsal of that. So when we were shooting, everything was just about truthfulness and emotion." James Cameron, best friend of Cuarón and a huge fan of the film, said "She's the one that had to take on this unbelievable challenge to perform it. (It was) probably no less demanding than a Cirque du Soleil performer, from what I can see. There's an art to that, to creating moments that seem spontaneous but are very highly rehearsed and choreographed. Not too many people can do it. ... I think it's really important for people in Hollywood to understand what was accomplished here."

Friday, March 21, 2014

Draguignan: at home in France

(From the mistah wrapping up his time in France!)

Going back to the parents' house was both strange, and like coming home. Both a comfortable space but so foreign. I longed for the familiarity of warm days, the routine of driving in a green valley and the habits of perpetual t-shirt weather.

This does not mean that I am not grateful for the experiences. Different sights, colder weather. Different pace, more regulated - buses, trains, planes, highways - but also less inhibiting, free of responsibility. I couldn't be late for anything. Most of all though, I am grateful for the chance to re-connect with family: parents, sisters. They still regard me in the way that they have for 60 years; there's comfort in that, but un-ease too. But that's family; and probably the best place to have alone time.

So here are some missing links in my travels, and a couple connections to the past: my parents' parents.

Looking out of my room in Draguignan: vast sky and far mountains

Draguignan: hill country with pretty houses

House seen on my walk up the hill

Quite luxurious residences

House on the hill

My parents backyard pool, covered over for winter

Touch of the weather: hailstones like big marbles!

And crocuses that come up every year since they were planted
Day trip to San Raphael

Adrienne and Khanta in San Raphael
Adrienne's mother: in Jouy-en-Josas, south east Versaille, France; no photos found for Adrienne's father

Khanta's father

Khanta's mother
First Christmas in Trinidad for Adrienne, 1950:  with her sister-in-law, Khanta’s brother, father and mother, and three nieces
And our generation: that's me left on the second row down

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Memories of the father

How did your father shape the person you are today?

If I am truthful and unsentimental, it would be to remember my father at the end of each shop day - usually after eight in the evening - sorting the cash he had taken for the day. There was a specific way that the bills were lined up - the ones, the fives, the tens, and the twenties. He said it was to make it easier for the bank; but I think he enjoyed playing with his money.

Then, there were the deliveries. At night, when he was delivering goods from the shop. I remember being squashed among packages - redolent with smells of saltfish, fresh butter, cheese and brown sugar -  in the back of a delivery van going to Santa Cruz. Later, eggs and live squawking smelly broilers would be packed in to coincide with taking us to school in the morning. Helen asked to be dropped outside her school gate when there were chickens in the trunk. If the word were invented then, we would have called my father a workaholic.

George Banks is a typical father figure in Mary Poppins, a no nonsense banker, distant from his children. The film, Saving Mr Banks, suggests that he needs saving. But you have to rack your brain to remember him in the Mary Poppins movie, alongside the ever cheerful Mary (Julie Andrews) and the chimney-sweep Burt (Dick Van Dyke): who are most likely the persons that children wanted their parents to be!

In Saving Mr Banks, Disney Studios releases what it took to bring the Mary Poppins stories authored by P. L. (Pamela Lyndon) Travers to the screen in 1964. Twenty years of personal persuasion by Walt Disney (played by Tom Hanks) did nothing to soften the crusty unlikeable Ms Travers (Emma Thompson). The breakthrough only happens when she begins to let go her own childhood. The father Travers Goff (played by Colin Farrell) was not a good banker, drank too much, and regularly got fired from any other job, but adored his daughter as if she were a princess, his distraction, his eyeball.

The child Ginty (played by Annie Rose Buckley) who becomes Pamela Lyndon Travers (the pseudonym is made up of her first name Lyndon and the father's first name) is revealed in flashbacks to Allora Queensland in Australia. We see the childhood events that twisted the heart of a little girl, who may have wished for a cheerful saviour nanny, but always had to fall back on her own wits. We also see in the Disney Studios, the process through which the books and characters created by P.L. Travers are brought to life on the silver screen; "no animations, I hate cartoons!"

Saving Mr Banks is a worthwhile "making of Mary Poppins" movie, with heartfelt performances by Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Ruth Wilson (Margaret Goff) and Annie Rose Buckley. More than that, it causes us to reflect on our own fathers, and the kind of adults we become because of them.

If you were one of those kids who went around saying "supercalifragilistic expiali-docious" you must see Saving Mr Banks. And if you're too young to remember, then get in touch with what your father brought out in you! Heck, rent a copy of Mary Poppins, click your heels and "go fly a kite... send it soaring, up through the atmosphere, up where the air is rare...!"

Friday, March 14, 2014

plucked from the sky ...

So there's this transport device from another space-time continuum, another galaxy. And the beings are considering the blue planet spinning around a medium-sized star. Such interesting colour gradations. So many changes taking place on the surface. Seething with life forms. The most populous of which are surely the most interesting. And the aliens plotted how to take some specimens as samples. And where.

The biggest concentration of population was in the area  around the place with the long wall - long thought to be one of the few human constructions visible from outer space. They could take a few hundred specimens and perhaps they would not be missed.

And what better way to take them than in a container,  a silver tube that would hold a few hundred at a time, neatly arranged and transportable.

When Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 did not arrive in China, was not accountable on radar, was not emitting transponder signals, what do you think happened to it? How should we account for the disappearance of a Boeing 777 wide-body jet with 239 souls over the south China sea? An explosive accident, sabotage, hijacking are still on the cards. These are all theories based on what humans know of aviation. Should we ever consider the inconceivable.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Eye over London

I want to go in that! The one place that I wanted to visit in London. And never got a chance to. There was one in Manchester too, and I was denied. Well. this was my treat on the way back through London! So while Trinis were wining up falling dong nasty and muddy, I was high high way above London. Here are the views from up there. Rainy cold bad weather, but no matter, I got my wish. See my views from the Eye over London.

Charing Cross Railway station (at right)

Whitehall Court

Hungerford Bridge

House of Parliament

Photo taken by the son
Each cabin on the Eye can hold more than 20 persons
Changing skyline of London: at right is the dome of St Paul's Cathedral, designed by Christopher Wren

Millennium Bridge leads straight to St Paul's: view on the walk along the river
Buckingham Palace in the distance

Almost missed the bus!

Traffic on London's liquid highway is almost as busy as its roads!

After the Eye, some refreshment!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Le Touquet by the sea

We left Paris and headed to Crillon. Next day, we drove north to the coast to spend the day and a night on the sea. It was about a two-hour drive from Beauvais to Le Touquet Paris Plage - Tokay on the beach (as it is pronounced).
The beach at Le Touquet: lots of people and it's still winter!

We bundled up warmly to have a meal on Babette's deck.

Cycle tracks are calling this adventurer, the abominable snowman!

Somewhere warmer for me!
In the mid-1800s, the idea was to develop what was marshland into a seaside resort. After the first world war in the 1920s, it was probably the smartest resort with its reputation for chic. World War 2 intervened, and Le Touquet slowly recovered. Today, it has grown by attracting many sports - yachting, sailing, riding, golf. The Casino is still there. Ocean facing residences built in the last century have given way to high rise buildings with many apartments each with its own terrace overlooking the sea.
Older quaint houses

Town centre

Still a few traditional buildings amid the high-rises

The new face of Le Touquet.

Le Touquet is nearer to the south east coast of England than it is to Paris, and so easy to get there from the Chunnel!

The tower was my landmark to guide me back from the sea.
Boules is a game of old France, in which you have three tries to get your "boules" nearest a designated spot. In this case, the spot is a little red ball in the dirt.

Players line up on one end of a square

Each has three balls, three tries

Can you see the little red marker?

One more ball coming up!

Every man has thrown his three balls!

Let's see whose balls are closest!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Miss Miles takes to the streets

Miss Miles - a play recollecting the life of Gene Miles (gas station Gene) - was created and produced by Tony Hall. The character of the famous 60s whistle-blower, fashionista, rebel was channelled by Cecelia Salazar. Tony and Cecelia decided to bring Miss Miles to the streets of 2014 carnival as a street to pavement re-enactment, for one day only, Carnival Monday.
The face of 2014 Carnival: iconic design by Peter Minshall
The face of Miss Miles - the face of 2014 carnival - was created by Peter Minshall who modeled Miss Miles as the avenging angel, eyes flashing, a broad voluptuous mouth, and of course the mole. This design became mask and banner, t-shirt icon in the country's red white and black. Bunty O'Connor sculpted the face of the younger naive Miss Miles, a face not yet coarsened by hard times or rejection.
Penny wears the angelic Miss Miles

Here's the mask of Miss Miles the avenging angel.

Hazel wears the not yet hardened Miss Miles

Tony Hall, playwright, producer and bandleader for Miss Miles

Players discuss their moves

Actors in discussion: Jacqui Chan and Cecilia Salazar
Bunty carried the banner to Adam Smith Square

Then Rory took over.

Costumes for the little band of about 50 players were designed and made by Meiling. Three silk banners bearing Minshall's iconic design for the face of 2014 Carnival sailed above the players who carried placards rejecting corruption in all aspects of public and private life.

Among the players were Jacqui Chan, Cecelia Salazar, Penelope Spencer, Mary Hall, Lindsay Hall, Hazel Simonette, Brenda Hughes, Ina Blake, and others.

Raising the flag bearing the Gene Miles icon!

Gene Miles - her mouth twisted in a sardonic expression - floats above the playground at Murray Street

On Carlos Street

Tony negotiating the turn onto Ariapita Avenue
Cecilia will play Miss Miles again after Carnival. Her father came to see the band!