Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 21st 2015 Contents Iam re-reading some of G K
Chesterton s Father Brown mys-
teries. His writings bring back child-
ish memories and emotions about
the English. Until I went to England,
I thought the English were composed
of three groups. First there were the
aristocrats who rode horses and did
good deeds. Then there was the mid-
dle class---doctors, accountants,
shopkeepers and so on, who worked
hard Monday to Friday, played village
cricket on Saturday and loved the
Queen. The lower classes were dirty
and smelly, tipped their hats smartly
to their betters, knew their place and
died for England with a smile on
their lips and a hand on their heart.
There were also people called
Welsh, who gladly worked in mines
and sang songs. Some of their doc-
tors gladly accepted no payment for
treating children, with strange dis-
eases that nobody could do anything
about and which caused them to
cough "until their little shrivelled
bodies, half hidden under a flimsy
blanket, shuddered into convulsions"
and wasted away. All the doctor
could do was to look impressive and
pose for a picture of him contem-
plating the child. But everyone loved
him. He had a beard.
There were also some people who
lived north of the English, spoke
funny and whose accents had to be
translated by kind English people.
(English people were always kind
and generous and tossed farthings
to beggars, who never worked even
though the English people had lots
and lots of mines in sunny places
like Rhodesia and Chile where the
natives were lazy). The people up
north never bathed and could not
wear underpants because they were
Forget the Irish, said the English.
Nobody was interested in alcoholics.
Although, grudgingly, some said they
were "not bad" in a fight against
the nignogs, as long as they had our
guns and the savages didn t. Many
savages died but that was probably
good because if they confessed before
they died they went to heaven which
was a place in the sky where a large
white man with blue eyes and a love-
ly blond beard sat. I always mistook
him for a picture in one of my book
of a Greek god called Zeus.
The rest of the world was com-
posed of loud, large Americans with
money or greasy, dark-skinned Por-
tuguese or Italians who you could
not trust with your money or as
Chesterton put it in the Innocence
of Father Brown, looked somewhat
like this, "yellow faces, at once
sunken and swollen, with a hawk-
like nose and heavy lids, a face of a
wicked Roman emperor with per-
haps, a distant touch of a Chinese
emperor." A Chinese Jew, perhaps.
Not the sort you would trust with
your money, either.
The climate in England was always
lovely, blue skies, gentle breezes (you
could see the banners on Ivanhoe s
castle fluttering over the castle walls).
Yes, it was cold at times but it was
a bracing cold, the type that made
a man of you.
None of that whimpering soppi-
ness of the tropics where half naked
men and women lolled about all day
and had explosive sex as night fell
and the rum and "drums," that hated
word, came out. English men who
fell into the tropical trap were said
to have gone "native" and were sent
to "Coventry" which was a dreaded
place and meant the Governor would
not invite you to his annual tea party.
The weather in London was
divine. As night fell, the mists rolled
in from the Thames, which was the
busiest river in the world, bringing
all sorts of produce from the native
lands and taking back brightly
coloured beads and mirrors for the
native children to develop their
minds with and to see how ugly
they were. Lamplights glowed mys-
teriously through the fog and every-
one hurried home to "Mother" and
tea and crumpets.
Imagine my shock, not surprise,
but shock, when I arrived for the
first time in jolly, old England and
walked out into the damp, bleak
cold of a London morning. From
inside the airport the sky was so
blue! Blue skies meant good weather.
Not here! And why did nobody ever
tell me about the amount of security
in English airports? At every other
corner of the airport there were
heavily armed guards! People crit-
icised the "short soldiers with huge
guns" at the airport in Maiquieta.
No one ever told me that security
was so heavy in the "Mother coun-
try." It s the Irish I was told then.
Now it s the Muslims or Arabs. Same
thing say most Westerners.
Where were the real English, the
aristocrats? Well, you either had to
pay to see them, to go into their
mansions and see where the wealth
of the Indies went or you had to
line up outside some big gates and
you might catch a glimpse of some
tired old lady in a Rolls Royce. This
was considered high, real high.
Especially if she waved her wrist.
Sometimes you saw one of the aris-
tocrats on the telly falling down
steps on her way home from a social
Once you got over the initial
shock though, it turned out that the
English, the ordinary English, were
really nice. The doctors were friendly
and professional and welcomed you
into their homes (even if we once
arrived unannounced at someone s
home and the teenager had to be
sent posthaste to the local grocer s
to buy tea and buns).
People everywhere were polite
and cheery especially the "lower
classes," who spoke funny but were
invariably helpful especially after a
couple of pints of their excellent
beer. Being a lifelong supporter of
Arsenal also helped. Amazingly
some of the English actually married
northern types and seemed content
and the mining folk from the Welsh
valleys, had gorgeous accents which
at times sounded like Trinidadi-
Then there were the "black Irish"
who were not black but introduced
me to black guinness and to the
bullet holes in the walls of the Post
Office in Dublin. Someone muttered
Ireland was the first colonial country
liberated from the English but in
the light of an Irish dawn, at 3 am,
I wasn t sure I had heard correctly.
Besides we had not had that prob-
lem, the English helped us to our
Independence, even though some-
one called Capildeo tried to prevent
Dr Williams, the "father of the
nation," well at least he was called
that until another "father of the
nation" came along and now we
have a "mother of the nation," quite
a family place, T&T. "We All Live
in a Yellow Submarine!" type of
Then of course, we had was to
fight the Americans, to regain our
capital in Chaguaramas. That was
when we all walked in the rain, real
heavy rain not this drizzly stuff they
have in the mother country. We
were so brave.
Tuesday, April 21, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
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