Thursday, December 31, 2009


My heart goes out to the family of young Jaman Morris. According to the report in the press, the youngster was hit off his bicycle by a minibus just days short of his 13th birthday, which incidentally should have fallen on New Years Day.

Is it therefore inappropriate for me to appeal to motorists to start the New Year with the resolve to show a little respect to other road users especially cyclists and pedestrians? For it seems to me that some motorists often approach pedestrians and cyclists as if they are gladiators in the arena and they get a certain amount of sadistic pleasure in seeing how closely they can get without actually hitting them Unfortunately however, they often miscalculate and guess who becomes another statistic? Just recently I had such a close shave with a JUTC bus and it was not the first time.

I wonder what it would take to bring motorists to the realisation that they have no special God given right to the roads to the exclusion of all others? But it is probably a national thing as I wrote a letter to both dailies earlier this year suggesting that when government builds new roads, cycle lanes should be put in. None carried the letter. but what can I expect? We are a rich country and automobiles are to be encouraged, not "fuel efficient" things like bicycles!

Thursday, December 24, 2009


For Christmas 2009, “Fun and Thrills Adventure Club” members decided to assist and mentor some children from the National Children’s Home in Papine instead of doing their usual gift exchange.

So on Saturday 19th December we sat down and had breakfast with the kids who are abandoned children living in the home run by the Methodist church in Jamaica and unlike most kids in the island, they have no families with whom to spend the Christmas season or even have anyone to visit them on Christmas day.During breakfast, Damit had a photo slide running, showing pictures of some of the rides we had gone on over the past few months.

After breakfast, we.handed over a cycle rack (made and donated by Howie), safety helmets (for which Naomi got sponsorship) and bicycles. These bicycles did belong to the home, but because they were in a state of disrepair, the club had bought all the parts needed and paid for a technician to go to the school to repair the cycles.This was an excellent technician who took the time to explain to the excited children gathered around him during the four days it took to carry out the repairs, exactly what he was doing and basically how cycles work.

After breakfast, our most professional crasher, Barry, gave the kids a talk on road safety. One of the kids wanted to know how come someone who consistently crashed in the most spectacular manner, could talk to them about safety but it was explained that since he crashed the most, he learnt the most from his experiences.


From our plans were (it was Charles' idea and this is not unusual since Charles is a professional mentor and surrogate father to many in his own right!)explained early in December to Mr. Leroy Anderson, Director of the National Children’s Home, he was extremely enthused, especially when it was revealed that some members were willing to give time on some Saturdays, to mentor kids by taking them on rides in Hope Gardens.

After breakfast, Mr. Anderson thanked us profusely and urged the children not only to take good care of the cycles but also to remember the safety tips that they were being given.Some members then took a few of the children for a ride in Hope Gardens, promising that this activity would become a regular feature of the Saturday morning activities of the Club.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Hampton Old Girls

I will never become a member of the Hampton old girls association, although I attended that high school. You see I have no intention of ever getting 0ld so I stridently refuse to be involved with anything so named. However, my neighbour Verleeta is an activist with that organisation so sometimes I am browbeaten into attending some of their functions.

So yesterday I had to give up my healthy ride to Hermitage, to attend their carol service and brunch. The service was held at the Jamaica College chapel and it was OK with most of the carols, thank God, being those jazzy "relevant to Jamaica" ones created by father Ho Lung.

Brunch was at St. Andrew high school .(Hampton is located in the country at Malvern in St. Elizabeth. It was a bit badly organised as the caterer came without serving staff. However the "old" girls jumped in and after an inordinately long wait we finally got fed. As they say, good things are worth waiting for and it was good.

During the after meal chat, I was called on to say something about the late Millicent Knight, an old girl who later became headmistress of Westwood High School and someone about whom I had written. She should have been at that function as a special guest but she died three weeks ago. She was 98 years old and had thoroughly enjoyed her life. I would sum her up as someone who was extremely happy in her own skin.

Incidentally, I was asked to provide transportation for another famous old girl from the chapel to the brunch. That is the great Olive Lewin, icon of Jamaican dance and music. I had never met her before and although she looked very nice, unfortunately she suffers from Alzheimer's. Terrible disease. Poor soul, I don't even think she was aware that it was her old school's function. Her life has "ended" so tragically in comparison to Miss knight's.
Oh the terrible hazards of old age.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Well its now winter in Jamaica.

I know. laugh all you want but the fact is we have very serious winters here sometimes. Anyway, there are two recorded occasions when snow flurries were seen at the Blue Mountain Peak.

But you don't have to go to the Blue Mountains to freeze. I do it all the time. At Munroe, Spaldings, Colleyville and my hometown of Malvern, I am forever cold.

Neither is Kingston exempt as the members of "Fun and Thrills" have been demonstrating over the past two weeks. For no longer can we find most of our "dedicated riders" on a Sunday mornings at 6.30 am, for they all claim that it is too cold to get out of bed.

This Sunday was no different for we only four of us rode out of our headquarters at close to 7 am. They were Michael, Chris, Barry and of course, myself. Damit joined us about an hour later in Maryland.

Talk about cold! After riding uphill for over an hour, when I got to Maryland and got off my bicycle, the cold bumps were still visible on my arms. It must have been at least 72 degrees!Then horror of horrors, none of my brave Tarzan like colleagues jumped in the water. At least last week, two did show the spunk and jump in. This week, none did, but each one was urging the other to jump in but they never did! The water looked like ice and the air outside gave enough warning about what awaited anyone who got wet!

Well at least the breakfast was wonderful. Last week, Coy introduced us to gungo and salt fish and it was absolutely delicious. And guess what, he did it again this Sunday and although I did not know it could have been improved on, it was even better this week.

So whether its winter or summer and whether I am freezing or not, I suspect that Coy's breakfast will remain a magnet to drag me out of bed to continue doing the Sunday rides. Unless of course it actually snows!

To be fair to Howie and Heather however, despite the fact that its winter, I am sure they would have gotten out of bed, but they had gone to Negril to enter the "Reggae Marathon"and they did fantastically well in the half marathon category with Howie doing 2 hours and 8 minutes and Heather 2 hours and 40 minutes. I look forward to Howie's report (on everything, not only the running part!) on his blog.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

On Sunday November 22nd, 2009, we had a wonderful ride from Bodmint near Falmouth (where we stayed), to Good Hope great house and guess what, there were many persons with cameras this time! For as I rued last week on my first visit there, none of us could capture the picturesque scenery then.

Well I wont take a bow for misleading my fellow cyclists, for what I remembered to be a flat and slightly undulating ride from Falmouth turned out to be quite a challenging and hilly terrain. That's the difference between travelling in a 6 cylinder SUV and having to use woman power on a two wheeler!

All things work for the greater good however, for had Donna and Charlene not heard that it was a flat ride they would not have come along, but they did and conquered it all despite the fact that Donna hadn't ridden for months.

The road was a bit bumpy but the overhanging bamboos and trees not only saved us from the pelting sun but also created an ambiance second to none. Thankfully too, this is not a route that is heavily trafficked so we felt relatively safe all the way.

As we rode, horses looked peaceful in their paddocks, the fauna delighted, Zuri enjoyed seeing the peacocks showing off their feathers in all their glory and all riders oohed and aahed, not only at the well restored great house (which we were unable to tour as it was fully occupied with guests who had attended as wedding the night before) but at the absolute beauty of the lush rain- forest that we know as the Cockpit country as it loomed majestically in the background.

All hopes of a swim in the inviting Martha Brae river were stymied by a sign prohibiting swimming as it could contaminate the shrimp and fish breeding grounds below. The real reward of that ride came with the return journey which was basically downhill and a cool, gentle breeze accompanied us all the way.

The weekend's pleasure was enhanced by a swim at Oyster Bay. .....not half as nice as Silver Sands Beach but it was welcome means of cooling us off for the long drive back to Kingston.

The story of Oyster Bay, a peninsula offshore Falmouth, is sad though. Apparently the development there has been stopped but a bit late in the day isn't it? For the developers had cut and put in a road in the middle of morass which is the prime breeding ground for all sea life. The section on the northern side of the road is fully destroyed while the larger section on the southern side is slowly dying. Will the developers be allowed to continue or will they be required to totally abandon the project and restore the ecology of the area? I bet on the former for we live in an extremely corrupt country where money will always prevail over what is good of the country and our children's future.

(Others on the Sunday ride were; Howie, Michael, Damit, Stefan, Heather, Penny, Charles and Michelle.

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Wonderful Start to the Weekend.

":Fun and Thrills" had planned to conquer the rugged Cockpit country by cycling from Duncans in Trelawny on Saturday 20th November, to Flagstaff, a forgotten maroon community tucked away ruin the hills of St. James. Here, according to recent news coming out of the tourism industry, are heritage trails which take you to the artifacts which are preserved to remind us of the courageous struggle the maroons put up to ward off the British invaders. Well Duncans was out as the cottage was booked, but thanks to Kenton, we got alternative accommodations and guess what, when we arrived on Friday night he had a lovely glass of vodka in his hand which was just made for me! I knew from then that it was going to be a wonderful weekend!

But I digress.

We too were warded off as we were told beforehand that the road to Maroon Town was virtually impassible. Undaunted, Howie decided to expose us to rural Trelawny with a planned ride from Falmouth to Wakefield, Friendship, Sherwood Content (the birthplace of world champion Usain Bolt) Duanvaile, Clarks Town and back to Duncans, a journey of 32 miles.

So off we set at about 7 am Saturday morning. All went well as we rode easily through the picturesque countryside where sugar is king, to Wakefield, then guises, what, Charles the undisciplined one took off by himself towards Deeside instead of turning off to Friendship. As a result we had to wait a very long time as the support vehicle had to go to get him. Impatient, Michael also rode off to catch him and got a puncture in the rush, so we had a double delay at Wakefield. But I would like to give you some good news about Wakefield. It has the best kept public bathroom I have ever seen in a rural area. This is on the market compound in a wooden building but it has ceramic tiles a flush toilet and is equipped even with tissue and it was as clean as a whistle. Why can’t the other parish councils maintain public facilities like that?

After we left Wakefield it was an easy and scenic ride to Friendship. All along the way, we were surrounded by lush groves, endless blooms of wild orchids and magnificent trees, some of which were obviously hundreds of years old.

The big challenge came on the road to Sherwood Content for the road was unpaved, and hilly most of the way. I am not ashamed to admit that on two occasions I pushed my bicycle uphill for a while and by the time I had reached Sherwood Content, I was totally exhausted. So after a threatened mutiny, Howie agreed to let us off the hook, that being carrying on to Duanvale and Clarks Town. He said the ride back from Sherwood Content would be downhill, but as usual, what is downhill when one is driving turns out to be uphill when we cycle.

After much struggle we got to the point where the peaceful, inviting, Martha Brae River with its lush flora ran lazily beside the road and the atmosphere immediately converted to one of tranquility and absolute pleasure for me. As we roide, we saw young men from the area fishing for mullet and Cray fish in the river. they were equipoped with long bamboo poles and basket trraps.

We returned to Bodmint just minutes before 1pm and happily Charles the organizer had arranged for a chef and we had a delicious brunch waiting.

After that we decided to get a water massage under a waterfall that Charles had heard about when her he wandered off earlier. This was at as place called Liberty and boy did that water massage rejuvenate us!

Having been deterred from trying to get to the maroon village on bicycle, we decided to check if it was feasible by SUV. The road was certainly as bad as we had heard once you exited Trelawny and entered into the hills of deep rural St. James, their section of the cockpit country. After driving for what seemed to be hours (but probably was only about half hour) we finally saw signs of life. That sole life was an actual hermit by the name of Mr. Leslie. He seems to have been in his late 60's or early 70's but looked like he was as strong as an ox. The point is however, he had been living by himself deep in the bush since 1987 without human company, and horror of horrors, without electricity although we did hear a radio. He seemed quite happy though and even gave us some ripe bananas and plants. To each his own. However, when he told us that it was another 5 miles (of the same type of road) to the maroon village, we made an about turn.

That evening, Donna who now lives in Falmouth, joined us for dinner and the again the food and the camaraderie was really great. I certainly enjoyed the entire day and turned in shortly after for a wonderful nights sleep and another exciting ride the nrxt day.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Different Experience

This weekend at Silver Sands was more than the usual sea, sun, fishing and dominoes. For it was heavily overcast on Saturday and there is no way that I go into the sea or pool when there is no sun, for I get cold very easily. Don’t let anyone fool you, Jamaica can get cold!

So on Saturday morning, fishing was canceled and we were rather bored as the dominoes players were not coming until after 6pm. My cousin Lolita and her husband Robert were here from Canada and they were interested in getting an idea about the price of real estate in the area, so Delroy, (another cousin) came to take them around. Since I had nothing better to do, I went with them and after they viewed a few properties, I asked Delroy to take us to Good Hope great house, since I had always heard about is and am always searching for places to ride to on those occasions when we can get "Wine Down."

Well we were not disappointed. Accompanying us too was Jerome, a cardiologist from North Carolina and guess what, since we were all just killing time, no one had a camera. What a wasted photo opportunity, for the area is so picturesque.

Good Hope is an 18th century great house sitting on over 1000 acres of land. It overlooks the Queen of Spain Valley, the Martha Brae River and the Cockpit Mountains and the vista is absolutely breath taking. I t was originally a sugar plantation with its own sugar factory, but the factory is now used as a packing house for agricultural exports.

Most of the other fine buildings which were built with backbreaking slave labour, are restored and really gives us a good idea of the opulence that was the lifestyle of the colonial masters. The main buildings have been beautifully restored and refitted with the period furniture. What was originally lavish living quarters for the owners has been converted into suites which are now rented out. Even the "carriage house" has been converted into flats and what was the "counting house" is now the honeymoon suite. The most modern addition is a Yoga deck overlooking the Martha Brae. Outside the Great House are beautifully manicured gardens with a wide variety of unusual trees, a lily pond a bird sanctuary, swimming pool, tennis court and hot tub.

Naturally, the great house is situated on a hill (with a helicopter pad to boot) but below it are the stables and a potters’ studio. We met a young potter named Ian there and he gave us a very interesting tour of the place and explained a lot of the processes involved in the art.There are great swimming areas in the Martha Brae, between the great house and the potter's studio.

Next we decided to go look at Chris Blackwell’s country hide away called "Pantry Pan." According to Delroy, the late King George the 5th had an illegitimate son and to avoid scandal in England, he shipped him off to Jamaica and gave him that property.

We had to cross the Martha Brae a couple times to get there as the property is located on the road to Bunker's Hill but, Lawd, di road bad. Definitely out for riding. Anyway, his house is in no way spectacular, just a big house located on a well manicured property. It is definitely out for riding, but not Good Hope as it is in
Wakefield which is only 6 miles from Falmouth and the road is paved. Falmouth is 10m miles from Duncans.

Later it was dominoes, food and liquor as usual and on Sunday, it was my worst fishing expedition as I only caught two miniscule butter fish but that was better than Fidel (Pat and Howie’s cousin) who caught none. Dominic of course was sea sick but brought in two!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Goodbye Hilm


Every since Hilma died, I am only comforted by the timeless words by Shakespeare in Julius Caesar ........Cowards die many times before their deaths, the valiant never taste of death but once."

Hilma was by far the most courageous and vibrant person I have ever had the honour of knowing and calling a friend.

She passed on the 28th October after many serious health problems but unlike most people who have been afflicted with far less serious illnesses than her, she never accepted that these could defeat her and she lived life to the fullest. In fact, I would go as far as to say that Hilma was courage personified.

I vividly recall about three years ago, receiving a call from her while driving up Mount Rosser. She told me the lump she had found was malignant. She must have detected the fear and horror in my silence for she cheerfully assured me that it was discovered early and would be removed without a problem and all would be well. Its embarrassing, but she was the calm one while I was panic stricken.

The worse was yet to come however, as when the various medical procedures started at the hospital, it was also discovered that she had lost 95% usage of her kidneys. To tell you the truth, even now I can’t come to terms with how calmly she dealt with that double whammy .

Shortly after, she went through a terrible spell in hospital and at one time it was really touch and go but the minute she was released, she calmly and cheerfully took everything in her stride.

She had to be dialyzed twice per week but she treated dialysis like how we would accept having to take our vitamins and most days after dialysis, she went straight to work, after a short rest.

Because of her job as a flight attendant, I usually never knew when she was in Jamaica until she called me, but I can recall that on three occasions when she called and I inquired when she had returned to the island, her off the cuff reply was that she had not gone abroad but had been in hospital and was now released. She just did not want to worry her friends when complications had arisen and would wait until she had recovered before telling us.

On the day she died, Wednesday October 28th, I took her to dialysis at UWI as her car was down. When I picked her up she said she was feeling a bit weak and observed that even if she had her car, she did not think she could have driven herself to the hospital. She was coughing persistently and I expressed concern that maybe her recent bout with pneumonia had not been completely over, but she dismissed my concern saying that after they removed the fluid from around her lungs, she would be ok and was planning to go to work in the afternoon.

That was Hilma, so I dismissed all thoughts that she might really have become even more gravely ill. It was with total horror and disbelief that I heard Elara say that afternoon while we were at the hospital, that Hilma had died.

I have never before seen anybody exercise such courage. She will always be a great inspiration to all who knew her.

It was not just for her courage that she was outstanding, but in so many other ways.

She was a very loyal friend and employee for if anyone dared to criticize Air Jamaica in her presence they would get a thorough tongue lashing. She was a classy dresser who loved life and she was the life of every party.

We have a regular get together on Friday evenings and it was never the same when Hilma was absent as she brought a special vibrancy to those sessions keeping us entertained with the latest jokes or interesting experiences she had in flight and even stories about the happy days of her youth in Brown's Town... and she had a fantastic memory for she could remember things that happened to her from an early age, when most of the rest of us could not even remember what happened last year!

She only normally missed these Friday lymes when she was on duty but the Friday before she died she called to say she couldn’t come as she was not feeling well. Maybe I should have picked up something from that, but regretfully, because of her positive spirit, I did not even contemplate the possibility that she was close to death.

Hilma's main focus in life was her children Marsha and Jerome. Her goal was to ensure that they had the best possible education to properly prepare them to take on the challenges of life.

Just over two years ago, I got a call from her telling me I had to go to Miami with her as Marsha was graduating and she needed someone who could help her make a lot of noise when Marsha was walking up to the podium. Now, had anyone else ever told me that they wanted my company because I was a, loudmouth I might have been offended, but that was the relationship we had, like sisters really.

Once Marsha had achieved her goal’s, Hilma turned her full attention to doing the same for Jerome. In fact, at times I wondered if she was also attending medical school with him, as she would call to tell me all about the latest medical procedures that he had learnt. When he did his rotation in genecology, she called excitedly one night to report that he had delivered 5 babies in one day.

There was no stopping Hilma as she was always planning for the future.

She loved to entertain and about a month ago she reminded me that I had to come to her house for Christmas dinner and the last time she came to our Friday lyme, that was just two weeks before her death, she was planning Jerome’s graduation party.

Yes the body has succumbed but Hilma will remain like a shining light for all who knew and loved her.

I grieve with Marsh and Jerome but one day the pain of her loss will gradually begin to diminish and be replaced by the happy memories.

They are lucky to have had such an exceptionally loving, courageous and vibrant mother and I want them to know that because she had such a positive impact on everyone who knew her, I am sure that I am not talking out of turn when I assure them that all her friends will always be here for them .

Walk Good Hilma. We love you and will never forget you.
After I delivered that tribute, another good friend Audley Nain sang a most appropriate and moving solo "She was beautiful" originally done by Roger Whittaker, then Jerome, her son and my godson, delivered a touching remembrance.
Air jamaica pilots and flight attendants had a guard of honour as the body was exiting the church and while it was all good, I know Hilma would have preferred to be a spectaor and we would have preferred that too!
Now I am off to another funeral, that of one of my favourite cousins Dougie Chong formerly of Lucky Star Bakery. He will be buried at 11 am.

This is not as good period for me.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Children's Agencies and Jamaicans for Justice

Congratulations to Jamaicans for Justice for calling for the removal of the head of the Child Development Agency.

It is not that I know Ms. Allison Anderson or have any special desire to see her back, but Jamaicans and especially those who work in the public service, need to wake up to the fact that when things go wrong, the problem inevitably lies at the top. And things always keep going wrong for the children who are in the care of the state.

I have also noticed that over the years, we have only concentrated on establishing various "child" agencies to deal with every single issue that affects our children and as should be expected "too many rats..."

I wonder why it has taken this new government so long to recognize that they need to consolidate the various "children" agencies if taxpayers are ever to get value for money and the welfare of the children become paramount.

By the way, under whose portfolio does the welfare of our children really fall these days? Maybe that where the buck really ought to stop.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Politics, Mountains and Beaches

Our mountains are green, lush, picturesque and just plain beautiful. It is as if I become more invigorated each time I go into them there hills.

Today was no different as we rode to Newcastle, my fourth try and my third success. Actually my fitness level is really improving greatly for what used to be a four hour struggle is now a three and a half hour challenging ride. I am talking about a constant uphill ride for about 12 miles. The ambiance does ease the pressure somewhat as the view is so breathtaking.

As I rode into the hills a SUV stopped beside me and two ladies shouted "Joan Marshall" in unison. Well you know when you hear that name you are talking about people who come from way back in my long life. It was Maureen and Pansy Williams, two sisters who were at Hampton with me. I was in the same form with Maureen who is now a dermatologist at Cornwall Regional hospital but I also knew Pansy well and while I have seen her from time to time, Maureen I have never seen since we left school almost a century ago! It was a pleasant if short reunion but I am amazed how they recognized me in my helmet and all. It just goes to show that their memory is far better than mine for they had to tell me who they were!. C'est la vie.

I missed stopping to pick and eat raspberries on the way up to Newcastle for unfortunately they are now out of season. You know, I have to watch how I speak as people are always picking up my voice. I saw a group of men just below the Catharine’s Peak factory working on the break away on the road (there is a lot of work going on all the way on the many break aways that have emerged over the years as a result of landslides. Seems like a by-election is in the air as that is the constituency of Joe Hibbert. ) and as I told them good morning, one shouted out "Is you dat Miss Will" When I answered in the affirmative I was immediately surrounded by friendly fire as they greeted me happily. The the issues that they want me to address on radio came at me from all quarters. The main problem however is the fact that they cannot get any pay for the coffee they deliver to the Mavis Bank Factory. Apparently the factory is in financial bind and while these peasant farmers are doing their part and delivering boxes of Blue Mountain Coffee to the factory, they just can't get their money, They reminded me that that Blue Mountain Coffee covers three parishes, St. Andrew, St. Thomas and Portland and they told me the growing areas are all all represented by JLP member of parliament..... James Robertson, Andrew Gallimore and Joe Hilbert. The men said the small farmers in the hills supported the present government but they have been abandoned. I told them that they should stop supporting politicians because of family tradition for that is when they take them for granted by ignoring them when they win. It is not until the next election comes that politicians return with sweet words and they fall for it. They asked me to big them up on the programme but the only name I can remember is Kingsley and the day is not even over yet! Anyway when he told me he wanted Renato Adams to become Commissioner of police, I knew it was time to resume my trip to the army training camp.

All but Anne Marie completed the entire trip up on bicycle. When we got there, the temperature was at least 10 degrees lower than it is in Irish Town and all the hills below us were heavily shrouded in mist.

After breakfast at Cafe Bleu on the way down, I decided that I had niggeritis ( as did Damit and Anne Marie)and we drove down in Howie's pickup from Irish town to Kingston. Zorie, Stefan and Penny's 3 year old daughter, kept us amused as she chatted non stop from we got in until we arrived. She is a funny kid for seeing her this morning you would never know she had a tongue as she refused to answer us when we tried to talk to her, but after a hearty meal, there was no end to it. She clearly not only resembles her father but is also powered by food as he is!

I thought yesterdays ride to Hellshire Beach was uneventful, apart from me seeing a dead baby crocodile about two feet long on the road. He seems to have been run over by a car and I cant say I am sorry for those things grow to be 20 foot monsters that have now qualms about attacking humans. However Howie revealed that we had a near tragedy as a new rider who had been brought along by Peter had swung out in front of a car on the Boulevard and his heart stopped for it only the quick reflex of the driver that saved her. Apparently that drew the ire of another motorist who gave them a proper tongue lashing over the incident.

The sea was great and the food good but expensive. Naomi who lives in Hellshire joined us at the beach but she did not swim but went riding into the Hellshire hills with Orrell. We had two new riders a (apart from the lady who had a near miss). They are Johann (pronounced Yohan) and Soldier Mike, a flight lieutenant at the Air Wing of the JDF. He brought his wife and his two adorable kids.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Getting Blessed

Today should have been just a normal ride up to Maryland, but it was very different from the rest. For today was the day when we were all blessed. Yes. I said blessed.

Well as you know, whenever anything weird happens, Charles is behind it. And he did not disappoint. For when we stopped for a "Kodak moment" at our usual bridge, we saw a small group armed with a large cross and flags, emerging out of what was once Blue Mountain Inn.

Immediately Charles decided that we should ask them to if we could take a photograph with them. Some of us were reticent since some of these religions are not friendly to "worlians" but he rode off to catch them and did just beyond the turnoff to Maryland.

Surprisingly, not only did they agree to take a picture with us, but the lady carrying the drum dropped a hell of a great prayer on us. From then on we were blessed, for not one person crashed or fell, although Barry was with us. (Well I did trip and fall by the orange stall, but that was minus the bicycle! I suspect that Howie will scandalise me about it on his blog.)

It was a very pleasant and heavily overcast day and we had some 14 riders. The swimming "pool" was not as deep as we have become accustomed to but we had a wonderful frolic anyway and of course our water mnassage under the falls. In fact it was so nice that Naomi took her car's alarm for a swim too!

As usual Coy made the day with his delicious, ackee and saltfiish, okra and saltfish and pap chow. He had introduced us to bizzy tea some weeks ago as he claims it cleans out the blood and again we had our arties and blood flushed. It was great and Charles owes me $500 as he claimed I could not eat all the food I had on my plate. Obviously he does not understand why I ride!

The wicked coup de grace was when Barry convinced David to try a penalty kick using a ball lying on the ground of the community centre where we have breakfast. Obviously without thinking,David did just that and he was barefooted to boot. Then to his chagrin, he discovered that it was a bowling ball, not a softball . Ouch. I still feel it for him.

No Malaria in Jamaica

Would you believe that my daughter Michele was called on to give blood in Denver, Colorado where she lives, and when they heard she had spent 10 days in Jamaica in the summer, they told her she could not give blood for a year? Why? According to the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), there is a high incidence of malaria in Jamaica, hence the restriction.

That is absolutely not true however, as the World Health Organization web page on travel restrictions gives no such warnings. Besides while it is a fact that we had a small outbreak of malaria about two or three years ago, that was dealt with successfully long ago.

Michele’s blood type is A negative, a type shared by only 6% of the world’s population. So they called her as someone needed that type urgently.

I think the approach of the CDC is quite backwards for what they do in Jamaica is, after the blood is taken, they test it for diseases etc. By so doing, they do not turn away donors who they may never see again, but get rid of the blood after the fact, if it is in any way defective.

I remember last year when my very dear friend Hilma Walker was in hospital on the verge of death, because she too had that rare blood type, it was touch and go for her for days. We only got some relief when a public appeal was made on radio for that blood type. After that, some of the persons with A negative started an association aimed at bringing in all who shared the type and to build up reserves.

Anyway, I told Michele to save her blood and give it when she comes to Jamaica next April for the triathlon, for we are in critical need for that type of blood. I was thinking of Hilma when I said that to her,but unfortunately Hilma died on October 28th, four days before her 58th birthday. My heart is broken by her untimely departure although I knew she was very ill. Anyway her courage was such that we simply forgot her illness and always assumed that she would have lived forever. Unrealistic I know but what can I tell you?

My heart goes out especial to her children, Marsha and Jerome, especially, Jerome.This is not only because he is my godson extremely close to his mother, but also because at the tender ago of 28, he has high blood doubt brought on by the pressure of his mother's illness, something he felt helpless about.

He is a medical student with only two years to go. Even if he had been fully qualified he could not have helped her as her time had come. She had fought well but some things are just beyond the human spirit as much as we would like to think we are in control.

God go with Hilma and I know I will never forget her.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Negril Ride

I declare Heather the champion rider in Jamaica, not only because she completed the ride from Kingston to Negril in fine style, cruising over the long continuous hill from Alligator Pond to Top Hill (a series of hills which Michael and Howie admitted had defeated them as they had to stop and rest a couple of times) like the energiser bunny, but also, at about 9pm when she reached Savanna la Mar, she took on a road bike which she had never ridden before, to complete the journey. It was actually quite an amusing sight seeing how she hugged up the road bicycle like a lizard on a limb (to steal a line from a popular dancehall tune) as she descended the last hill leading into Negril.

Those other MTR's who completed that challenging ride, arriving at the round about in Negril at five minutes to 1 am, were Damit, Michael and Howie. From the way he performed, Orrel (he also was not defeated by the hill in St. Elizabeth)could have easily completed it, but because he had to go back to Santa Cruz, he turned back at Savanna La Mar.

Kevin too performed in fine style, out riding everyone and keeping up with the lead vehicle whenever he chose to ride, but he was having challenges with his knee which had him going in and out of the vehicle at regular intervals.

As to yours truly, my ambition had been to ride to Black River minus riding up the long series of hills from Alligator Pond and I basically achieved my goal, jumping into the support vehicle about 5 miles before we got to Alligator Pond. I have an excuse however, as I had taken quite a spectacular fall in a huge ditch aka pothole and have the souvenirs on my knees, plus pictures to prove it.(Incidentally, at Freetown in Clarendon, we had been joined by Mark aka Wake Early, a professional rider from May Pen. He said he had considered riding to Mount Rosser for exercise as he had been unable to join the professionals the day before on their ride to Negril, but he decided to accompany us to Alligator Pond and ride back by himself on the South Coast road.) He stayed back with me when I resumed the ride after my spill. However, I was not the only one to fall this trip, for although I did not see any, I understand Michael fell twice.

It was really a very enjoyable ,interesting, scenic and challenging outing and the day was beautifully overcast, saving us from the ravages of the sun. However, we arrived some seven hours later than our tour director Howie had calculated but this is because several persons had punctures and the breakfast was so delicious that we lingered at the venue longer than we should have.

To begin with anyway, as far as Fun and Thrills is concerned, we left early since they left out only 5 minutes late!
Charles, Michael Chuck and Michelle came with us saying they would go no further than Black River as they had to get back to Kingston on Sunday, but they turned back at Comma Pen in St. Elizabeth and as Jervis had to study, he went back with them.

It was at Comma Pen that we met one of the nicest Jamaicans that I have ever known. His name is Billy Powell and he operates a liquor store in Junction, St. Elizabeth. He and his girlfriend/wife seemed to have been out on a Sunday afternoon drive when he saw a few of us gathered at a small complex. He started a conversation then out of the blue, pointed to his house nearby and said he would be going home to get a melon for us. He took an inordinately long time to return (so we assumed that he had been gwowing us). Finally he returned with a melon and lots of cucumbers and pears. When he saw our delight, he said he was going to get two more melons for us for a friend. Again he took a long time to return so we left, but we ran into him a short distance away.

He gave us a huge melon and scallions. Then he asked for Mr. Chin. (that’s Chuck for every chiney man is called Mr. Chin!) We told him they had gone back to Kingston. Would you believe he then took off to catch them to give them their melon? According to Michelle he started to blow them from the bottom of Spur Tree Hill, but Chuck thinking he was a carjacker, took off light a light. He however followed them doggedly all the way to the top of Spur Tree Hill where they had made a pit stop and presented them with their melon! What an absolutely wonderful human being and what a way Chuck fraidy fraidy!

Well being STR, after driving to up the steep non-stop hills to Top Hill in cool air-conditioned comfort with great music playing, I remounted my bicycle for the wonderful ride downhill all the way to Newell and along the picturesque St. Elizabeth plains to Black River.

Kevin and Orrell were ahead of me but they passed our food stop so I was the first to arrive and being very hot, immediately took off my shoes and top and jumped into the sea.

We are always told that in life, timing is everything and again that truth prevailed. For had I gone for a swim about ten minutes later, I could have been eaten by a crocodile!
For no one told me it was dangerous to swim in the sea, and having spent a number of my youthful days swimming in the sea there, I had never heard of crocodiles swimming from the river side up to the beach.

Apparently they have now started that trend for when I came out of the water, a lady came over and told me it was dangerous to swim in the sea for it is infested with crocodiles! About ten minutes later as I waited on a bench by the sea to get my bammy and fried fish, who swam by but a huge (about 12 feet long) crocodile!

I am still having nightmares at the thought of being eaten by a crocodile and am very upset with the authorities in southern St. Elizabeth for not posting signs to warn the unsuspecting, as they have done at Alligator Hole in Clarendon. Do you know that for about thirty years ago, my children, ex husband and I did swim with the manatees there as no signs were then there and we had no idea that crocodiles ventured into the area where the manatees were. Now they have signs and warning people not to swim there.(Incidentally, if you ever wondered where all the john crows that used to be in Jamaica have gone, they can be found along South Coast passage which runs from Milk River to Alligator Pond. Chris even said he saw a black and white John crow!)

One memorable segment of the outing was breakfast in Race Course, Clarendon. (It was only to that point that Andrew and Barry rode…. Andrew riding all the way from Kingston but Barry only drove down to catch us about four miles away and rode with us to breakfast.)
The delicious spread of run dung, ackee and saltfish and callalo with fried johnny cakes, fried breadfruit, green bananas, pear and melons was arranged by Leslie, a friend of Howie’s.

Talking about Howie, although he completed the ride to Negril easily, he has sworn off riding for two weeks as his butt is sore! Yet he insists that he is going to ride around the island in April next year. Is he a masochist or what? No, just MTR!

We spent the night at Shield's Hotel in Negril and had a wonderful, leisurely frolic in the sea next day. We stopped at Howie's in Middle Quarters for lunch and they were nice enough to warm up some curried chicken that Damit had brought for us.

I thoroughly enjoyed the entire two days of that memorable Hero’s weekend, and have determined that we are the true heroes!

For more photographs, go to;

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Cutting Down on Government

Hearing the Minister of state in charge of local government on Power106 news this morning, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. For according to him, the local government reform programme had been set back another year and the consultants would stay in place.

Just last week there was a loud outcry about the level of fees being paid to divest the sugar factories, but does anyone have any idea how much we have spent so far on consultants for this so-called local Government reform programme which seems to have been going for over a decade? It must be costing us a pretty penny but we have nothing to show for it.

I am amazed that the government can be continuing this nonsense at a time when the prime minister is talking about cutting back on government. Isn’t it obvious to them that so-called local government is just another useless layer of government? How many of us even know our councilors aka local government representatives? How many communities have ever made representation to the councils to have something done and actually had them respond with action (not a bagga mout!)? When do we hear anything about most of the mayors and other officials apart from when they are going off on junkets to the Bahamas or Switzerland?

To get government expenditure back under control and give taxpayers some value for money, what we need to do is cut out parish councils and replace them with County Councils. This is not a novel idea for it was set out (after much study) in a well laid out document over a decade ago. That consolidation would require no more than around 80 representatives as opposed to the some 280 parish councilors that we now have. What on earth do we need 14 mayors and 14 bureaucratic structures for when we have only two cities, Kingston and Montego Bay? So three mayors, one for each county would be more than enough.

As I understand it, the main functions of the parish councils are; public health; some water supplies, fire service, poor relief, some level of town planning, local government roads, markets, street lights and parochial matters like bushing open land and community facilities such as playfields.

Almost all these functions are all overlapping with other agencies. Just recently the government instituted a road maintenance fund based on a levy on gas. Shouldn’t all roads be therefore centralized under the National Works Agency instead of being splintered all over the place for when you approach to your councilor to fix the parish counsel or farm roads anyway, all you get is the “…..there is no money " excuse.

Poor relief. Why can’t that not are simply taken over by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security which has Path and other such programmes as well as the bureaucracy that can oversee the poor houses.

Street lighting? Ah come on, when the street lights don’t work, you simply call the JPS and they deal with it and if we adopt the County council model, they can deal with the parochial issues, such as drawing up schedules for new areas to be lit.

Water supply? Don’t we have a National Water Commission with so much money that they can spend over half billion on billing system, so why should they have a problem dealing with a few extra local water supplies!

Markets used to be handled quite well by the Metropolitan Parks and Markets which was changed its name to NSWMA so why can’t they take back the function? With a fully blown Ministry of Health we certainly don’t need a different bureaucracy at the local level to deal with public health and the bushing and upkeep of playfields etc can be done by the Social Development Commission while the fire service remains the responsibility of the County Councils. All other parochial issues like zoning can be handled by the County Councils too. So what on earth do we need 14 bureaucracies for?

Right now the entire discussion about the cuts is swirling around which ministries to eliminate but apart from Sports which should be combined with Education and information which should go back under the prime minister’s office with a minister of State.

I really don’t see what great savings are to be made by cutting ministries. Instead, the ministers should be put to work to justify the existence of the over 200 statutory bodies, government companies and executive agencies that are under their portfolio for many of these were simply established to provide "jobs for the boys and girls” and have never given taxpayers any value for money.

But we are not serious about cutting governmental expenditure are we?