I know some of you Caribbean folks must have heard of Paul Keens Douglas and his classic Tante Merle at de Oval. For those not familiar check the above links. Paul Keens Douglas is one of the premier storytellers in the Caribbean and its pure jokes when he tells his stories.
The Tante Merle story is almost Keen Douglas' signature piece about a 'confuse' miserable old lady at a cricket match at the Queen's Park Oval in Trinidad. Its really funny. Anyway I tief the man title cause this story is about me at cricket but I cant really do no justice to it since I is juss a small man a try tell him lil story and not no premier type storyteller plus my story is a bit different and really not about being at the match. But anyways I refuse to be daunted and will just tell my little story about me and Kensington Oval, a place I blogged about yesterday.
Now most places in the world you have four seasons; winter, spring, summer, fall(autumn) but not so in Barbados. In Barbados we have three seasons; Christmas, Crop-Over and Cricket. Christmas is self -explanatory, Crop Over is our Carnival festival which is held starting in mid-July and actually culminates at the beginning of August (on the same weekend as Caribana up here in T-dot actually) and Cricket ..........
Well growing up Cricket used to be almost like a religion for us. Things got going just after Christmas when the Inter-Regional games would start. Barbados vs Jamaica, Barbados vs Windward Islands, Barbados vs Trinidad and Tobago, nuff national pride at stake and the like cause ya know we island people real competitive with one anudda and some a we doan like one anudda too too good. Cricket would continue for a few months until up around March and then in April there was always an International test series where teams like Pakistan, India and Australia came down to the West Indies to play against our World Champion squad.
Now Test match time was a serious time in Barbados. Kensington Oval would be packed to capacity and past capacity with spectators and most of the rest of the islands' populace were glued to their radios all day listening to the match. This was before they started showing a lot of test match coverage on TV. We love we cricket bad! Or at least we used to, nowadays the atmosphere is more like yea yea cricket whatever, West Indies loss again but that's another story.
But back then Cricket used to cause everything to grind to a standstill. In school at lunchtime a radio would be brought out of hiding so the boys could listen to the cricket coverage, in stores cricket on the radio, business places same thing. Even in government offices, the radio was on cricket and service which was notoriously slow would grind to a standstill. Don't interrupt people when cricket on unless its an emergency like somebody dead! Ya follow me?Alright den!
But then that was expected since Cricket was almost like life in Barbados. Every young man in Barbados in my era probably grew up playing cricket. From playing in the street with makeshift bats with tennis or 'tape' balls and using pieces of 2x4's, rocks or oil drums for stumps to playing on the beach skidding a 'skin' ball off the surf into the batsman, cricket was always happening as long as you had some sort of light (to clarify a tape ball is a tennis ball covered with electrical tape and a skin ball is actually a rubber ball usually a tennis ball that the fuzz has been shaved off to leave the ball bare).
And me well I was a cricket junkie. From the time I hit high school and start getting a little height, I was Malcolm Marshall, Michael Holding and "Big Bird" Joel Garner rolled up in one. I was a West Indian fast bowler terrorizing batsmen! Had a wicked Yorker going on (a yorker is like a .... chupse man I aint explaining google it) and a cruel inswinger. If I didnt have my own tape ball on me at all times I'd at least have electrical tape so I could tape a tennis ball at a moment's notice. I played cricket before school started, during lunch break and after school (til I discovered basketball) and I have the cricket injuries to prove it too. My goal was to be like my cricketing heroes and make the West Indies team. Talk about exercise Jdid was a fit yout. I was a tape ball bowling demon, couldn't bat ta save my life though. LOL!
Anyway moving the story along, after I finished High School I worked for a year before coming to Canada. During that year I had a few jobs including one within the civil service as a low level pencil pusher. The money actually wasn't that bad considering I was living at home and I was fresh out of high school, made me ponder the need for all this further 'edumacation' business. Actually come to think of it I had more flex money then than I do now. Wait a minute something's wrong here lol. At this job the hours were good and we were only really swamped for about a week every month plus the job had a few perks.
Perk Number 1: Back then (not sure about now) every civil servant in Barbados got what was called a 'cricket day' when the Test match rolled around. It was one day off from work during the test match where you could go to the match if you so chose cause ya know Test cricket is a 5 day game. Yea yea yeah North Americans cant understand how you can play one game over 5 days and it can end in a draw. Damn your shortened attention span I say! lol
Now for me this was like utopia. A day off work to go see cricket, it cant get much better! It was a lot better than being in school because in school you might get lucky once in a blue moon and a master might let you out at 2 'o'clock so you could scramble down to Kensington by tea time at 3 but here was an entire day off to go to cricket. And I would still be paid! Oh man, Life gets no better. Its been all downhill ever since I say.
Except, cricket days were assigned on a seniority basis and as the new kid on the block (word to marky marks brother!) I basically got whatever day was left after everyone else had decided when they were going to take their day off. So you know what that means no first day of cricket for me, not even a fourth day yep I got stuck with day number five. Damn!
Now what was so bad about day 5 back then was that West Indies were world champs, they kicked ass and took names, and usually finished most matches in 4 days or maybe like an hour into day 5 if rain was falling. Serious demolition job on the opponents! So my getting the 5th day meant I really wasn't getting any cricket to watch. Plus if the game finished early then you weren't getting that day off at all. Day off cancelled you had to go to work. So so unfair! Of course since the match started on Friday I could (and would) always go to it on day 2 and 3, Saturday or Sunday but to my mind a grave injustice had been incurred by yours truly. Babylon a downpress I man star! I felt like Cinque in Amistad. "Give us us free!" so I can go watch cricket.
So hear what happen. All week leading up to the test match I was vex, fuming, I had it up to here. Friday morning, first day of the test I still vex but I was acceptant of my fate. Sigh! Got to work early that morning and I think 2 of my colleagues had their cricket day then and were off so the rest of us were holding down the fort. Cricket started at 10AM, at five past ten after the radio came out and I heard that West Indies were batting, I say to myself by hook or by crook I aint missing Haynes and Greenidge bat. This might be the last time I see them play ever cause I going away next year and I don't know when next I going to see test cricket. So quick so a plan formulate in my head. I find the boss and tell him "Amm I juss remember that I have to go up hayso by this place to look into getting some documents from CXC for de school ting in Canada." It was a legitimate sounding excuse since everyone at work knew I was leaving soon and I was trying to sort out some of the details and documents. Alright then! Easy so I left the office around quarter after 10. Ya think I went to anyplace near CXC office for documents? Ya lie!
Dem think that dem gine stop me from seeing cricket?. From seeing Dessie and Gordon and Viv one last time before I move to the frozen wasteland of Toronto? Dem wanta unfair me cause I is a yout and give me day 5 when dem know full well cricket finish halfway through day 4! Dat cant work!
So back then luckily I lived less than 15 minutes from work so I walked home calmly changed clothes, got my little transistor radio and put on my disguise of dark shades and big cap and dodge back out to the front road like a ninja and hop on one of the minibuses to Bridgetown with strains of Special Ed's "We're on a Mission" ringing in my head lol. Now Bridgetown was about 20 minutes walk from home but I would have to walk past the office so I wasn't taking any chances.
So I swiftly caught a minibus and off I went. Got to Bridgetown about 10:45 but I couldn't take the direct route to Kensington Oval from the Minibus stand either just in case I was spotted by a coworker who had a legitimate cricket day. Serious undercover mission this ya kno! So see me hustling through all sorts of alleys and backstreets that nobody don't use in Bridgetown. Dodging thru Shuttle street and all them little side streets filled with half empty rumshops and street hawkers that don't got nuttin on dem trays. Then I dip into the 'Orleans, a lil bad boy area more in hype than in reality, that's a shortcut to Kensington but can be fairly confusing if you're not sure where you're going.
All this time I real frighten I butt up on someone from work. Aint taking no chances at all, so see me walking past all sorta bad boy types liming on the block staring me down like 'wait who is you! And why you waking through hayso in dem dark shades. Who you hiding from, you is a police'. Conventional wisdom would have said stay on the main road where you know where you going and people can at least hear you scream but nope not today. Got to get to de Oval without anyone I know seeing me.
Somehow I reached Pickwick gap, just outside the ground, without incident and ran into the torrent of people going to cricket. I'm dodging people left and right, even folks that I know in case somebody see me and holla out 'Jdid!' and blow my cover. Somehow even though the country small and everybody know everybody (or at least that's what most people think of Barbados) I made it into Kensington safely without anyone I knew seeing me and blowing my cover. Time was now about 11:20 or so. Went into the most unpopulated stand and found a seat in a corner at the top of a stand where not too many people could see me properly.
Anyway I sit down and I watch and listen to cricket from about 11:30 to about quarter to three. West Indies wasn't doing that well but I still enjoy myself. I missed seeing Haynes and Greenidge cause both were out by the time I get to the ground and in fact West Indies got bowled out relatively cheap. Was going to stay the whole day too but then something say alright you had ya fun, you show your defiance try and get back to work.
So see me again using back alleys and dodging all spy like, peeping round corners and hiding behind lamp posts, and using my ninja camouflage techniques to blend into wire fences and Tamarind trees, and posing off by storefronts like a mannequin just to get back to the minibus stand. Then I caught a bus home, changed real quick and walked back down to the office all nonchalant trying not to sweat too much, got to pretend I was waiting in an air conditioned office all day ya kno.
When I got back all the guys still listening to cricket and cussing West Indies batsmen (of course back then if we were bowled out for two it was safe to say the opposition would be all out for one). Don't even think they really noticed I was gone so enthralled with cricket they had been. Only one 'igrant' girl really bothered me about where I had been and why it took so long for me to get back to work. She was always trying to mek my life miserable for no apparent reason. Apparently she thought I got lost on the way to the CXC office and had been wondering what had happened to me. Hear me; "No girl I went up by the office and ya know how things duz be when cricket on people duz be workin real real slow. So I was up there the whole day, all this time waiting and they giving me the runaround. And ya know for all this time I did gone I aint get the documents yet. Chupse! Looka depending on how things going (with cricket I was thinking but didn't say aloud) I might gotta do de exact same thing Monday." :-)