BUTTING FISH AT CHRISTMAS

SCRUNTER…LEROY  

BUTTING FISH AT CHRISTMAS     12 10 2012

By  EWALT  AINSWORTH

Looking back over the years at Christmases of long ago some things change but nothing ent change….things just turn round and come again.  Christmas is still a struggle and a contentious event in which the greedy exploit the needy.  Take EZ JET for example.  One year after taking to the skies tek way reservations from 30,000 people who had planned to come home and drink-a-rum on a Christmas morning.  Right now the FBI got CEO Sonny Ramdeo and he singing; Sonny Ramdeo singing like a singerman and some people ‘behind’ biting.  But that is not what this item is about.   

Guyanese like a Christmas that is bleached.  They like turtle…don’t matter how far away they go, they come right back and sit in open spaces free from all encumbrances, plait they foot and eat as much as they want and belch and don’t look back.  They like to talk about their exploits and their paycheck and who horning who and who wining back.  That is we.  But with the high incidence of violence and crime and corruption, it look like we devolving.  We was once up but now we down…down for the count.  The New Year resolution should be to get rid of all encumbrances, real and perceived.

Christmas too must be about forgetting all the political and racial and ancestral hurts and pains and dissent that comes back up.  Cousin Alwyn with all his British training and exposure almost end up in jail last year Christmas fuh thiefing coolie sheep and calling it butting fish.  He barely get save by the skin of he teeth in he old age.  At 82 he still craves meat and pepperpot and forget that this time na long time.  Beef,  like everything, has value but the big man cannot bring himself to paying the big money butchers and shopkeepers want for everything.  And so last Christmas he tek God out he thoughts and try a thing wid he meat-minded meager self.

This is exactly what happened.

Since 1974 Cousin Alwyn and his wife cut out and migrated to London and both he and wife worked hard…long and social hours and weekends and never coulda take a vacation.   Up to this day they still have the same shirt jac and pyjamas that they leave with.  They also have the same telephone, address and false teeth.  Nothing ent change.

Is share struggle and juggling; when one off the other one working.  Christmas was what they had paste up with glamor-cherry in the back of they mind.   Not black cake, not a card, not a Cornish hen or a pigeon in rigor mortice to celebrate.   All the preparation and new linoleum and polish furniture and blinds and the sssh from the pressure cooker and fresh pork and fresh mutton were only a memory.  Masquerade band and so, they never see and hear.  And if friends and family invite them over, most times is too far away plus you have to bring your own brown paper bag and platter.    Everyday was a working day and if they had the day off, was to sleep and rewind and come again.

Together Cousin Alwyn and his wife they made four sons…all boys and raised them well with Guyanese values.  They learn to say ‘thanks’ and ‘excuse me] and to be courteous to women, the elderly and respect the poor.  The children all adults now, also knew the value of a dollar and knew the meaning of sacrifice and to journal and to trust and obey….they all lawyers…like father – like sons.  Well except for the last one…Junior, the black sheep.. Junior did law but got caught up as a counselor for entertainers and was a herbalist on the side. Those children now have children and one of Junior’s boys, apparently was hustled out of the country.  He was caught pedaling a lil something on the streets.  The grandmother, Cousin Alwyn’s wife, no sooner he was deported she pack up and come back to Guyana.  The boy mother who was an educated consumer did not have the competency to survive in GT where folks smoke filtered tip marijuana and drink Heineken from sun up to sun down.  It was not the best thing to put the mother out to graze too.

This happened about four years ago.  Granny made her maiden voyage back to Non Pariel would normally get her pension money wired to her every month.  She started off by raising a few chickens and invested in a few head of sheep and a dozen cows.  By Christmas that year she had to abort the idea of growing her own food and trying to be self sufficient and in protest became a rasta like her grandson.

The house, her ancestral home, had quite a few fruit trees and coconut and breadfruit and sampan trees and so she set up a lil stand and started making ice block and sugar cake and fudge and mitai.  She explored different ways to keep her sanity and adjust to the new times and climes but everything she did met with resistance.

The community scoffed at her.  They looked down at her for spending so much time in England and come back poor like a church rat.  She did not bring back a Volvo or a big screen TV.  She did not convert the family house into a palace.  Granny did not eat out or go on fancy dress parades and wear broad rim hats to church.  She brought a bicycle and when she wanted to go anywhere, she would pedal her way or even walk if necessary.  Even the dogs when they see she coming, used to cross the road and go on the other side.     And even the grandson and his girl friend were misbehaving and had an attitude.  A lot of push back with sales from the coconuts and mango and guava and tamarind she would make ends meet.  After the first Christmas, she and the boy had a pact.  They bought a mini-bus and he would drive and she would be conductor.  They worked strictly Lodge and South.  But he preferred to work nights and as a big woman she did not find it catholic to be out until day clean and so she handed over the conductor business to her live-in Amerindian daughter in law.

Well people does say buck stupit; not this one from Moruca.  She used to pay herself first.  They would start at 7.00 pm nightly and whatever she collects in fares until midnite, is she own.  And after that, is fuh he and the mother and whatever else.  The grandmother noticed the trend from early o-clock and warned her grandson about the short money.  But he, with his brains almost fried, never worried with the grandmother.

One year into the bus now, a new engine was needed.  They barely had money to buy oil much less replace an engine.  The grandmother put her pride aside and said to Cousin Alwyn to send money but don’t come.

He obliged and for that third Christmas for her and the grandson, a new engine.

Same episode repeat itself.  And last Christmas, she send back fuh money again and this time Cousin Alwyn bring the money himself  and was intimately involved in overhauling the bus.  He was a mechanic at one time and he knew a thing or two and so he looked for a cool shade and jack up the bus.

Everybody put a hand.  And in two weeks time, motor.  But Christmas was almost upon them and he himself ran out of money and decided to further invest in some twine and knit a cast net and he bought a quake from some buck people at the back of Stabroek Market.

Three days clear the bus on the road all night till daylight but not enough money.  Cousin Alwyn took over the wheel and had his grandson as conductor.  All those nights the duo made money but once they went back to the status quo, no money.

Anyhow, the girl was vested in the house.  It was her house and they were mainly guests and did not want to rock the boat.  And so Cousin Alwyn walk in the corner and everyday he used to go backdam and catch fish.  At least so it seemed until one day a police patrol stopped him.

His quake was unusually heavy and had blood dripping.  Apparently, he was not catching anything like patwah, hurrie, hassar or tilapia.  And so he saw a flock of ducks and …shrwwww…he caught a mascobe drake or two.  He bruck the neck right there and then and while heading fuh home, skin it.

The police cautioned him fuh the flying fish he had.  This was about a week before Christmas.

Cousin Alwyn, he wife, he grandson and the buck girl change the color of that steam ship immediately.  A hurrie-currie in instalments.

Christmas week now, they try and tidy the place, paint the rooms, weed the yard and they make ginger beer and sorrel and the grandmother did some baking.  He felt bad that he could not provide properly and on Christmas Eve, took to the backdam.

This time around, he went night time.  And while going even before he tested the weights and water of the castnet, there was a flock of goats palavering in front of he.  He mek a grab and with that grab at hind leg, he twist and turn the goat and by the time it hit ground and before he coulda place a knee on the kidney and tek out he wedge, the neck was gone fuh channa.

Somebody see he and did not recognize him.  They thought was a thief man and the police come.  The same police that cut him a slack a few short days before with the flying fish.  This time was buttingfish.  The police and he were of kindred spirit.

The police himself was having a hard time providing for his own family and together they bust the butting fish from the head straight down to the tail in half.  Cousin Alwyn took one half, give the police another half and the coteur body, she too get a half.

And once that season was over, Cousin Alwyn pray to his lucky stars and took the cobweb off his passport and fortunately, convinced his wife to come back in the cold.  And they left the bus and everything fuh the wayward and stupid son.  They have moved northward from him and do not communicate since they returned; anyhow they plan to send him a card this Christmas.

SLING SHOT  —  GUYANESE XMAS.

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