Category Archives: Blogged Passages

St Paddy’s Day Limerick …. Begorrah!

In the bucolic community in Canada where I live, King Township, that comprises a handful of villages, a great number of small farms and probably almost as many horses as people, there is a vibrant arts community and an organization called Arts Society King (or just plain ASK) is at the centre of it.  Each year on the eve of St Patrick’s Day they organize a céilidh in the village where I live. I have emceed this event the last couple of years and would have done so again this year had the pretty severe winter we’ve been experiencing not forced a cancellation.

In the spirit of the event, and seeing as we are now two days past St Paddy’s day so I won’t be interrupting anyone else’s céilidh, here’s a limerick I wrote to promote  the event last year. (Must be read while supping Guinness and eating Irish stew!)

A versions of this you can see on page 10 of the current  Arts Society King magazine, “Mosaic”, posted on line at         http://issuu.com/kingmosaic/docs/maspring14_layout_1

If it’s Limericks dat ye can write

Den come out St Patterick’s Night

To Nobleton town,

Where da green beer flows down,

At da Postmaster’s House …. and recite.

 

For fierce competition dere’ll be

‘Tween various readers to see

When it comes to da verse

Who is better (or worse)

At dis comical poetery.

 

Dere’ll be plenty of old Irish stew

And I’ve already mentioned da brew.

Dere’s glasses o’ wine

To consume while you dine,

So dere might be a queue for da loo.

 

So if ye have nothing yet planned,

Ta be seein’ ye dere would be grand

And wear somethin’ green

Just to show dat yer keen

To be honourin’ ol’ Eyerieland.

 

And it’s twenty bucks paid at da door

To enjoy da hubbub an’ furore.

If ye need to quiz

Where Postmaster’s House is,

Isn’t dat what yer Google is for?

(But I’ll tell ye anyhow…. It’s at Old King Road in Nobleton.)

 

(Dere now!  Ye’ve really no excuse fer not bein’ dere, have ye?)

(And it’s all fer a good cause ye know …. It’s fer da Arts Society o’ King township (ASK))

(Oh, and all shillelaghs must be checked at da door.)

(And any leprechauns must be legal drinking age to participate in da brew)

(And dere may be coppers about wid dem brothelyzer things….  So if you want to drink and drive you better not be breathin’ when dey stop ye!)

With sincere apologies to all my Irish friends for the accent with which it was written. I hope you are still my friends after that…… 🙂

Quick! Follow That Poem! …. REDUX

Almost a year ago I posted the  article below on this blog . In it I promised an update on how the poem under discussion turned out….. So here’s that update.

The poem finally reached its destination after 123 verses…. 988 lines.  By far the longest poem I have written and I’m certain the longest written in classical/traditional style I have read. It maintains rhyme and meter throughout, rigidly. No “near rhymes” allowed. And explores way more aspects of human emotion and character than I would have thought you could in one poem.

And yes. It did make the final cut for the book that’s at the publisher right now. so you will be able to sit back, pour yourself a glass (or, by the time you’re finished, 6) of your favourite libation,and see where it leads you.  I’m quite pleased with where it led me.

Here’s the original post from a year ago ………

Poems that work mostly write themselves. A poem cannot be forced, it must flow and the writer must follow.

One such I’m following at present has thus far led me through 39 verses of eight lines each (312 lines), and is still not done with its journey. It has led me via storm at sea through heroism, community, pain, respect, love, loss, challenge, courage, strength, trust, helplessness, responsibility and myriad other factors of life ….. and, to be honest, I am enjoying the ride so much I don’t want it to stop.

But it will, and when it does reach its destination I’ll put it aside for the mandatory cooling off period before being picked up again for review and assessment; a necessary step. For while on the journey upon which the poem takes him, especially such a long and thrilling one, the writer becomes too enamoured with the scenery to see the road he has traveled and so perhaps has not ended up where he’d thought.

If it turns out well it will replace one of the poems already included for the next book, although if it doesn’t reach its destination soon it will need a book of its own to accommodate it!

I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Wrecked

“Never look back unless you are planning to go that way.”

 
….. Henry David Thoreau

Wrecked

 He’s dreaming of the shore that he knows he’ll see no more

And lamenting now his fate so cruelly tossed.

He never thought that life could go so fast,

The shadows of the past are merely all the ghosts of what he’s lost.

He used to run so free when he sailed upon the sea

Never knowing of the ports to which he’d call.

Adventure borne on every southern gale

Which filled his vagrant sail to take him every place and see it all.

 

And love he surely knew, whether false or whether true,

From as many girls as he’d seen distant lands.

But now his eyes look back toward the truth,

So hidden in his youth, and tears flow as he quietly understands.

He chose to sail alone, now he’s stranded on his own

With no other soul with whom he might grow old.

He should have settled down and made a home,

But chose instead to roam in search of what adventure’s path might hold.

 

His journeys ended here where the waters run so clear,

And tomorrow’s been decided by the past.

He didn’t feel the turning of the tide,

Nor knew the sea might hide the dangers where his future’s now been cast.

He’s grounded high and dry, as the ebbing tide flows by,

In a distant land he’d tried so hard to find.

He wished now that he chose the other tack

That would have sailed him back to places he now yearns for in his mind.

 

His keel’s been broke in two.  He’s no strength to build anew

And he hasn’t got the spirit, nor the heart.

He’s only got the memory of what’s gone.

He wants to carry on, but doesn’t see at his age how to start.

If only he’d have known of the pains from being alone

When the wind drove him upon this leeward shore,

He never would have set that wayward track

That never took him back to where he thought of settling down before.

 

And dreaming of that isle brings a melancholy smile

As he thinks of all the happiness he lost.

That lass he’d left there waving from the sand

With flowers in her hand.  This empty soul his wanderlust has cost.

He turns to let the spray wash his bitter tears away

As he curses loud the calling of the sea.

His fists are clenched in anger at the thought

Of life so come to naught.  Of prison made from striving to be free.

 

He stares upon the waves and imagines there the graves

Of his fellow sailors similarly cast.

He puts another bottle to his lips

And while he quietly sips, the present seems to blur into the past.

And once the bottle’s drained he has youth and heart regained

And forgotten all the sadness of before.

He’s running free again before the breeze

And challenging the seas to carry him away from memory’s shore.

 

While stumbling to stand with the bottle in his hand

He is hoisting every sail his dreams can find.

He sees the dolphins phosphorescent trail

Beside the leeward rail.  The alcohol, this time is being kind.

And sailing to the shore that  he knows he’ll see no more

He is laughing at his fate so strangely tossed.

Reality could never sail this fast

Through shadows of the past, and wasted opportunities now lost.

 

His mind is running free as it sails the open sea

Never knowing of the ports to which he’ll call.

A memory on every southern gale

Which filled his younger sail, to take him every place and see it all.

………….A memory on every southern gale…………

But now those winds must fail………….

There’s no more dreams to sail ………

…………..He’s dreamed them all.

 

The Old Pirate’s Treasure

Many experiences stand out as favourites, but few do so while invoking the same fondness as the one I am about to recount. Yes, it involves famous (on the western side of the North Atlantic anyway) T.V. personalities, but they are irrelevant to the attachment I have for it. It was the other characters involved: the treasure hunting family, my crew, the film crew, the magazine crew. It was also the quest itself and the way it was undertaken. The whole five days were fascinating and fun from dawn to dusk and then some. It was work, that is to say it was what I was being paid to do, but there was no drudgery involved whatsoever. Because of that I determined I would endeavour to set my life’s course in the direction this experience pointed, and for a while it looked as if that was going to happen. But then, as any one reading this series of books has no doubt gathered, my life has always had a habit of changing course without me having the chance to consult the chart. Too bad I wasn’t like the Old Pirate in this tale, for he never needed charts, as I was to find out to my amazement.

The Old Pirate’s Treasure

 Apparently you can still see them lying on the sea bed up in Statia Sound just north of Saba Rock. Many is the tourist that reckoned they’d stumbled upon an ancient wreck as they snorkelled the crystal waters above, and truth be told they had, in a way. But Statia Sound was not where the wreck was. It was several miles to the north and a tad to the east of where the old Spanish cannon and anchor now lie at rest. The wreck from which they came was up on the treacherous Anegada Reef, the fourth largest barrier reef in the world that has claimed at least one ship for every year the island that sits atop it has been known to people of European and African descent.

 How those two artefacts from the days of the treasure ships of the Spanish Main got to be resting where they are centuries after the vessel went down, and how a disparate group of individuals became the team that found them, is a story that, if told from its roots upwards, would be too long in the telling. So let’s just start it at the point where a prominent American television program hosted by two men, very famous in the United States, heard that hundreds of years ago a ship carrying cargo containing a large amount of platinum sunk in a storm on the reef. They also heard there was an expert, an old treasure hunter and island legend, living on a tiny cay close by who knew the reef better than any man alive and who had apparently figured out where that wreck was located. And so that television program and those two famous men decided to produce a documentary section for their show all about that expert and that wreck and the cargo it carried which, it was thought, was worth a couple of billion dollars at today’s prices.

The expert was one of the more colourful contemporary characters of the Caribbean. The flamboyant patriarch of a clan comprising three generations of divers and skippers basing themselves around his headquarters on Saba Rock where he maintained a small museum of artefacts recovered from the numerous wrecks he had explored around the Virgin Islands. A conservationist and friend of the Cousteaus he was often referred to (affectionately) as “The Last Pirate of the Caribbean”; a persona he made no attempt to discourage. About his neck hung a gold coin from the days when doubloons and pieces of eight were the currency of his buccaneering forebears which he had found on one of the many wrecks about which only he knew. 

To provide a suitable filming platform for the shoot, and to travel to and from the reef, a hundred and eighteen foot research vessel based in the British Virgin Islands was contracted.  She was skippered by an Englishman who had known the old pirate and his clan for a while. The project was organized by the publisher of a Florida based magazine focusing on the ocean realm, and an underwater film maker also based in the British Virgin Islands who had worked in the past with the Cousteau foundation.

The skipper was cautioned by others in the trade not to take such a large craft into such a menacing and shallow reef, but he’d confidence in his friend, the last pirate’s, ability to pilot the ship safely through, as well as in his own ability to recognize when it may be getting too risky to continue.

On the day the project was to begin an observer from the BVI government boarded the vessel to ensure no regulations were broken, that the reef would be dully respected and that should any treasure be recovered it would be dealt with appropriately. The film crew and their equipment were loaded aboard and the two famous T.V. hosts were made welcome. The old pirate and his sons and one grandson joined the team with their diving and salvage equipment and they set sail for the Anegada Reef.

The skipper was comfortable being piloted by the man who was arguably the most knowledgeable in the world about that particular reef, yet was intrigued and amazed to note that during the approach he hardly, if ever, looked at a chart and did not reference a compass at all when telling him the courses to be steered. Instead, even though they were heading straight towards a treacherous and invisible navigational hazard that had claimed the lives of countless sailors, he initially spent much of the time looking backwards, studying the islands behind them. It dawned on the skipper that as there was no prominent land ahead to see, his pilot was referencing back-bearings established from transits using land marks on the islands they were leaving.  

It wasn’t long before they saw the first rusted hulk laying half out of the water, but this was a more contemporary casualty having been driven hard aground while attempting to smuggle a cargo of illegal South American drugs to the islands to the west belonging to the United States. The reef expert now spent more of his time looking ahead as they began seeing the white foam and spray of broken water as the sea, driven by the fresh breeze, crashed upon numerous coral heads. The skipper positioned some of his crew at strategic locations in the bow and on the flying bridge to help identify dangers while the film and audio crews began moving around taking close up shots and sound bites of what was happening. The skipper found it difficult to concentrate with the distraction they caused yet knew they needed such footage as part of the documentary, so instead of asking them to stop and let him concentrate, he plugged in the remote helm and moved to a quieter part of the flying bridge to steer the ship, still within hearing of the old pirate who had not seen him move.  At one time, during a critical part of the approach to the reef, the cameras caught the old pirate who thought the skipper was still beside him, pointing to where the ship needed to alter course to avoid disaster, while urgently saying, “There it is skipper, over to port. That’s where we need to be skipper.” Then looking frantically round asking, “Where’s the skipper?” They were later surprised and amused to see that shot was not edited out of the finished documentary.

The first sunken ship by which they anchored was not that of the Spanish treasure galleon, but a more recent, yet still very old wreck of a merchant vessel that had been carrying a cargo of animal bones presumably to be ground down for some manufacturing process. The skipper was careful to find a sandy break in the reef where he could anchor with neither the ground tackle nor the chain doing any damage to the fragile corals and the ecosystems they supported. It was here the underwater film maker shot some background footage including a weed enshrouded hangman’s noose, eerily swinging with the motion of the sea, suspended from the aft section of the wreck. There, according to legend, the unfortunate Captain, upon realizing he was about to lose his ship, hung himself before the ocean could take him. It is quite feasible that mixed with the piles of decaying animal bones strewn upon the reef lay the bones of that captain and the gallant crew who must have fought valiantly but vainly to save the ship before its, and their, watery demise.

The sea was lumpy that day with the fresh breeze behind it so the decision was made not to progress further into the reef. Armed with their footage of the bone wreck and the lore of its suicidal Master, the team carefully up-anchored and picked their way back out of the reef, piloted once more by the expert and steered by the skipper, and headed back to Gorda Sound for the night.

The next dawn spoke of a calmer day so they set sail again early and headed to a different part of the reef where the treasure ship supposedly was buried under centuries of coral and shifting sand. Once again the skipper was more than impressed by his friend’s skill with back-bearings, obviously using different sets this time to approach a different area of the reef. After negotiating some narrow channels, which the skipper would not have considered taking had the old pirate not been beside him, and upon arrival at the spot where they believed they needed to be, the skipper set two anchors to ensure the ship would not swing over the reef, but remain in the clear sandy area where they were to work. He was concerned both for the protection of the coral and for the damage this could do to his propellers, for although the winds were light, there was still a bit of a swell running across the reef.

The old pirate’s sons and grandson explored the area with magnetometers to establish the presence of any metal. While doing so, and staking any findings, they were followed and then hounded by a good sized grouper who seemed to be a sentinel protecting the wreck site from intruders. He would try to butt and bite the magnetometer in an effort to thwart its readings. Despite the efforts of Iggy, as they affectionately named the grouper, the presence of sufficient metal was established for them to believe they were over a wreck. It was decided to rig the salvage equipment to blow the sand away directly above where the readings were strongest.

Although the water was shallow it was not known how long the dives would take before anything would be found, so the bosun kept a log of everyone’s bottom time in case any approached the threshold that would mean they required decompression. The two television personalities also went underwater and were duly filmed “helping” with the salvage process.

Eventually a large metal object became visible as more sand was removed. This proved to be the barrel of a ships cannon. Once enough had been exposed to fasten ropes around it one of the ships cranes was rigged and swung outboard. The skipper, driving the crane, lowered the hook and the slings now secured about the cannon were attached. Slowly the crane took the strain and the artifact of a bygone era was lifted from the sea bed where it had lain for hundreds of years. It was heavy enough to cause the vessel to list, and the ship’s counter-buoyancy coupled with the gentle action of the light swell helped break the cannon free from the clutches of the sea bed.

Once clear of the water the motion of the ship caused the heavy cannon to swing dangerously while being positioned over the aft deck. The crew clung tight to the guys but still it swung wildly until they could wrestle it down as the crane’s boom was lowered. The wreck expert chose a specific spot and used his diving knife to gently scrape away some of the encrusted matter to reveal the metal beneath. From what he saw he was able to state the cannon was indeed Spanish, which gave rise to the hope that they had located the wreck of the fabled galleon with all that platinum on board.

Further work by the team on the sea bed uncovered a large anchor which was again painstakingly cleared and released from the grasp of the ocean floor. This was even heavier and more unwieldy than the cannon but the crew managed to land it safely on deck without damage to vessel or personnel. The salvage equipment was recovered from the sea while interviews were recorded with the two T.V. personalities and the old treasure seeker. More background footage was shot but before the sun reached an angle where its glare would hinder their ability to pick their way westward out through the treacherous channels, the skipper manoeuvred the big vessel so the anchors could be recovered without dragging them or their chains over the bottom. He was more than a little grateful the ship was twin screwed for the operation called for some tight turns to avoid the coral heads before they were pointing in the direction they needed to steer. Guided by the old pirate he eased the ship at slow speed back out through the reef and into clearer water.

The excitement was high among the film crew and the T.V. hosts that they had found the long lost treasure ship but as they were motoring back toward Gorda Sound and the skipper and the old pirate had a few minutes to themselves on the flying bridge, the skipper looked sideways at his friend, grinned, and told him that he knew that had not been the treasure ship. The old pirate asked him why he thought that.

“Several reasons…… if it was that easy to find, and it was very easy, then it would have been found a loooong time ago, especially knowing how much is at stake …….. then there’s the fact that those two from the T.V. program earn their money by reporting things of interest to millions of people, and the last thing anybody wants, especially you, is for people who earn their money that way to know where that specific wreck might be ……. then there’s the fact that I know you well enough to realize that if you do know where that ship is, you wouldn’t pilot someone like me, a navigator who was assessing and analyzing and remembering your back bearings on the way out, straight to it ……… No; that was a wreck that you and the boys already knew was there. A real wreck, yes, and if you say that cannon is over three hundred year old Spanish, I’ll take your word for it. But there’s no way that was the treasure ship you told them we were looking for.”

The Last Pirate of the Caribbean didn’t say anything but studied the sea ahead and the landmarks on Virgin Gorda and Great Camanoe for a while until he was happy they were clear of the reef.  

Eventually he said, “You need to bring her a little to the west, and then just follow your way to Colquhoun Reef and into the sound. You know the way well enough. I’m going below to get changed.” And with that he left the flying bridge and joined the others. 

It was decided to put the anchor and cannon back into the sea as soon as possible and the chosen site was right in front of the old pirate’s home on Saba Rock. As the skipper carefully wound his way through the anchored sailboats off the Bitter End Yacht Club, the big research vessel dwarfing them as he passed, he raised much anxiety from many of the bareboaters who had no experience of such close quarters manoeuvring. But the couple of professional charter captains there that knew the skipper merely waved a respectful greeting as he eased by their boats just a few feet away. Ultimately he found space enough to anchor in the shallow water in front of the old pirate’s home and set to work returning the artifacts back into the sea where the lack of oxygen would retard the corrosive process and effectively preserve them. Once done he weighed anchor again and, weaving his way back once more through the anxious bareboats, moved out to deeper water to anchor for the night. This was done mainly because he was aware that the throbbing of his generators would have a disturbing effect on the other boats anchored close by as well as the hotel at the Bitter End Yacht Club if he’d stayed anchored where he had been.

A few years later the skipper met his friend, the old pirate, by chance in the Virgin Queen, one of the pubs in Road Town. He was introduced to the man with whom his friend sat at the bar and the skipper immediately recognized the name as belonging to the person who had found the greatest treasure trove on record and who operated a treasure museum in Southern Florida. 

The old pirate then produced a document and asked the skipper to read it and tell him what he thought. The document turned out to be a contract signed that day by both men written in very simple and non-jargonized language using the first names of each to identify them. In less than one page it set out the conditions in very basic terms by which the two men would form a company to find the wreck of that very same galleon about which the television documentary had been made. 

 The skipper asked his friend if he knew where the wreck was located and was told that he had a pretty good idea, which served to confirm his suspicions of years before that that could not have been the treasure ship upon which they’d dived and filmed. The old pirate then asked the skipper if he would be interested in working with the project which may or may not be successful. The response was that he would keep it in mind, but that as he had come ashore and was now running the affairs of an international shipping line in that country, he didn’t know if he wanted to jeopardize his present career by getting involved with a speculative venture such as that, albeit one that could have huge rewards. Truth be known the landlocked skipper was by then champing at the bit to become incorporated into just such an adventure, for sailing a desk round an office was definitely not his idea of living. However, common sense prevailed.

And that was the last the skipper heard about the Spanish treasure ship until many years later, well after the Last Pirate of the Caribbean had gone to meet Davey Jones after more than ninety years of a fascinating and colourful life. It seems the project with the treasure hunter outlined in that simple contract was never launched. 

The subject of the cannon and anchor arose one day when the skipper had been chatting on Facebook with one of the members of the old pirate’s clan who had been involved with the television shoot a quarter of a century earlier. It was then he learned they’d been moved into deeper water in Statia Sound before the old pirate had sold his home and moved to Florida where he eventually passed away.

The skipper, by then himself no longer in the islands, pondered this story for a while. He reckoned the old pirate must have gone to his final resting place, his ashes interred in an underwater cemetery, without ever having told the whereabouts of that wreck to anyone. No secret chart written on a tattered oilcloth where “X” marks the spot. But then, he mused, did he truly even know the location himself? Anegada is, after all, a big reef. And then he wondered if indeed that treasure really ever existed at all. For surely if it had, more people than just the old pirate would have been looking for it, especially after its story had aired on such a widely viewed television program.

Whatever the facts really were or are, he thought, the filming was a great project with which to have been involved and, as he learned, the documentary that came from it was to live on for decades on the internet. 

There had been some talk of having a reunion in Gorda Sound for as many of those involved in that project as could make it, and if that were ever to happen, the skipper thought, the tale of such a gathering would certainly be worthy of inclusion in a subsequent book, but that is for the future to decide. For the present he would be happy just to have the opportunity of getting up to Statia Sound once again and seeing the cannon and anchor, knowing he was one of the very few people in the world to have been involved with how they came to be there, and to wonder just how close he had actually been to a couple of billion dollars’ worth of sunken treasure. 

The Old Pirate would have been 100 years old in 2014, the year of publication of this book. In that tiny Caribbean territory where Blackbeard, Black Sam Bellamy and their ilk used to be based, where Sir Frances Drake has the main channel named after him and where the inspiration for Treasure Island was born, I like to believe that when the moon is full and the trade winds gently strum the palm trees above the white sandy beaches, another more friendly ghost may be seen gliding across the waters of the British Virgin Islands. No eye patches, no wooden legs or parrots, flashing cutlasses or flint-lock muskets. This one quietly checks on the location of an ancient cannon and anchor before heading several miles to the north and a tad to the east, finally settling over a deserted spot on a very large reef where, if anyone had been there, they might hear it say ……. “There you are.  Nobody’s found you yet then.  Reincarnation takes a while but don’t worry; I’ll be back for you soon enough.”

 

A Change of Luck

Circumstances are not always what they may appear at first to be. In fact there are odd occasions when what initially seems to be the direct opposite of that which you really need turns out to be even better than you could have possibly hoped for.

A Change of Luck

He reckoned he was about due a change of luck.

When he arrived, by most of his contemporaries’ reckoning, he’d have been described as pretty much destitute ……. again. He was well beyond just flat broke. He owned a patched green back-pack that had seen four continents since leaving England six years before and was not even filled by all his worldly possessions. A very small amount in Eastern Caribbean dollars he’d exchanged at the airport for the last of his American ones lay in his tattered wallet that had seen better days in more ways than one. He’d no roof over his head, work or other source of income and was pretty sure he knew no one there who could help. 

It wasn’t the first time he’d been down on his luck though and, as history would later prove, it was certainly not to be the last. But this time was different. He felt that he was destitute in a place where it really didn’t seem to matter that much, though he couldn’t put his finger on why he felt so.

It was getting on for dusk when he’d hitch-hiked from the airport and first walked into English Harbour. He’d liked the look and feel of the place immediately. There were boats. Lots of them; and that, for him, meant lots of work opportunities. And there were sailors. Lots of them; which meant he’d have no problem finding folk with much in common with himself. And many of them, he noticed, were around the same age as he. And many of them were female. Yes; he’d liked the look and feel of English Harbour right from the start.

The restaurant-cum-pub-cum-café that was in the middle of Nelson’s Dockyard was probably never actually named “The Greasy Spoon”, but that was what it was called by many who frequented it back then. Like hundreds before him, wandering alone through that reminder of bygone British colonialism, he was drawn by the music and laughter emanating from its shadowy interior. Reggae blasted through the mosquito screens that covered the holes in the wall where windows would have been had there been any. The mosquitoes didn’t mind the screens for they could, like anyone else, enter the establishment through the wide open doors.

Definitely different from Nassau, he thought. Nassau, where he’d spent the last six weeks working to prepare a beautiful old wooden schooner to sail to Antigua only for the owner to change his mind at the last minute, had still been good. But he sensed this was going to be better.  He’d been working on that schooner for bed and board and to earn his passage south, and so, when the owner reneged on the trip, he’d insisted he was bought an air ticket instead. To his surprise the owner agreed. To his even greater surprise, the immigration officer at the airport not only let him in but gave him the three months stamp in his passport he’d asked for. He took that to be a good omen.

The Greasy Spoon was dimly lit and the corners were becoming quite dark as the tropical sun made its usual rapid departure from the day. He could make out the smiling faces of those standing at the bar, illuminated by the Budweiser and Guinness signs, and, though not recognizing them individually, was familiar with their ilk and was instantly comfortable in their anonymous company. He couldn’t see the people at the tables in the darkened corners and so had no idea from where or who was launched the wadded beer-soaked paper serviette that caught him on the side of his face. He looked into the most obviously guilty corner but could only see the shadowy forms of half a dozen dread-locked men, those seated with their back to him twisted round to be able to observe the reaction to the direct and obviously deliberate hit.

As a stranger in a relatively strange land faced by a group from a pretty much un-understood by him, and even possibly hostile to him, culture, he didn’t know how to deal with this situation. He needed to make a positive impression here that would lead to work, shelter, food, companionship, but this introduction to the community in which he needed to make that mark didn’t seem to be starting out so good. A few of the standing white people were looking edgily between the Rasta table and the stranger wondering what would be who’s next move. When it did come it came from the darkest part of the corner where a barely perceived face, a shady shape in the deeper gloom, suddenly lit up with a huge white smile that glowed in the ultra violet light from one of the cheesy beverage advertisements on the wall.

“Wazzup mesun!” The smile said. “Ya ferget de people ya met so soon?”

The newcomer’s bewilderment was evident.

“Jeeze an’ bread!” It called from the shadow, sounding vaguely familiar, “Ya doan know who it is dat trow dat?”

“Can’t really see you.” He said, trying to recall that voice. “It’s dark in here.”

“Den lemme come show you.” The smile was now a positive grin as its owner stood up and moved from the dark.

The grin was preceded from the shadows by a right hand outstretched ready to shake and be shaken, and accompanied by a left arm that hung in the air in preparation for a hug.

“Ho-lee shyte!” Called the white-guy, his grin almost matching the span of the one on the very black face walking toward him. “Are you a sight for sore eyes!” His right hand and left arm now reciprocated those of the other. The white people who had seemed a little worried previously now relaxed and re-joined their own conversations. “When did you leave Lauderdale?”

“’Bout a cuppla week after you leff to go Bahamas. Wind pick up from de wess an’ me figure dat gimme de start me need to go eass. So me trow off me line an’ pull up me sail an’ here I am. Gonna stay here a while an’ wait de owner before we go down cruise de Grenadine and me go home to Bequia fer a while.” Their right hands had clasped and their other arms were draped on each other’s shoulders. “Lemme buy you beer. I t’ink it still my roun’.”

They walked to the bar slapping each other on the back. The Bequian asked the Englishman where he was staying. “Er. Well. Sort of nowhere at the moment. Just arrived. I was hoping to look around this evening and find somewhere…….. Cheap.”

The Rasta nodded his understanding, tapped on the shoulder of a tanned and bearded blonde man leaning with his elbow on the bar, talking with an equally tanned and blonde girl. “Hey.” He said, still grinning. “Jaapie. When your owner come?”

“Hey.” The man turned and answered with a smile. “Not for another ten days. Why?”

“Meet a good fren a mine. He need stay on your boat a few days an’ help you get it ready for when de owner come down.” He introduced the two white men by name.

“Hi. Hoe gaan dit?” Said the Englishman who’d picked up on the other’s accent.

“Ek is groot. En u?” The South African replied.

“I think I’m doing just fine.” Then as an afterthought, he added, “Now.”

“U kan die taal praat?

“Just a little. I was in S.A. and Rhodesia for a couple of years. Picked up a little.”

“Can I buy you a drink then?” He asked.

“Yaaaa man!” The Bequian interjected. “I’ll have a Heinie.”

The South African laughed and raised his chin and his eyebrows in question to the Englishman, who answered, “Dankie. Ek sal het dieselfde.”

“Make that three Heineken then please.” The bearded man asked the pretty Antiguan barmaid before turning back to the stranger. “Ja! Sure you can stay on the boat. I got plenty of room. You any good with a varnish brush?”

“Sure. That’s what I’ve just been doing for six weeks up in Nassau on a beautiful old wooden San Francisco Schooner. What type of boat is she?”

“Swan 45.”

“Ho-lee shyte!” He said. “I think I must have died on that plane and landed in heaven. Swan 45?”

“Yeah; and you must race with on Wednesday. It’s only round the buoys, nothing serious, but it’s fun, and there’s always a lekker party afterwards.”

“Racing on a Swan 45! Yup.” The Englishman was grinning from ear to ear. “I have died and gone to heaven!”

“No mesun!” Said the skipper from the Grenadines. “Dis ain’t heaven. Dis juss de Eastern Caribbean. But sometime it easy to get de two a dem mix up…….. Cheers!”

 

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly the spot where a significant chain of events begins. It’s very easy to keep going further and further back in time saying “…. It couldn’t have been then because that would never have happened if such-and-such hadn’t also happened three days before ….. and you wouldn’t have been there for that to happen if so-and-so hadn’t wanted you to go and …….. etc.”. So we have to draw a line somewhere and arbitrarily name a specific event that was the start of it all.

 I lived and sailed in the Caribbean for 18 wonderful years and would dearly love to return for another 18 years. If I had to name what event was the start of that incredible series of sojourns in paradise I would have to say it was that beer soaked wad hitting me in the side of the head in the “Greasy Spoon”, English Harbour, Antigua. Strange how something that initially seemed so negative would trigger such an amazingly positive series of experiences upon which was built a great deal of the future in which I now live.

Welcome to the New Website

Hi, and welcome to the new website.

Same URL but brand new look and I’d like to thank my nephew, Garry Finch, back in England for that.  Not only did he design and build the site but he took the picture at the top during a back-country camping trip we did together with my kids.

As I move forward with my writings its my intention to keep folks updated via this site and via my Wanderings and Sojourns facebook page (linked at the side of each page on this site which also connects to my twitter account @tortolajim.  Things are moving well with my poetry gaining recognition in the Ontario poetry scene even though its contemporary classical style is not one of the poetic genres generally fashionable here….. which only goes to make its success even more significant.

The long overdue book 2 “On Tropical Islands and Sparkling Waters” (which is actually the 3rd book in the series to be published) is now at the publishers and we are going through the lengthy back and forth of lay-up – proofing – correction -re-proofing – more correction -more re-proofing, etc which is the drawn-out technical stuff that must come at the end of all the interesting work of writing it if it’s going to be presentably readable.

Book 4, which is all about my travels around the Iberian Peninsular (Spain, Portugal, Gibraltar) and surrounding waters, is now well under way and I’ll be teasing you with items from that one on this blog from time to time.  And you cannot write about Iberia without some inclusions from North East Africa, where I also traveled, for the influence of the Moors, the Barbary Pirates, etc is woven intrinsically into the tapestry of that part of Europe, and indeed, the history of Iberia is written into that part of the world as well.

The first book of the “Earth Elves” series of illustrated environmentally messaged children’s books is ready to go to the publishers, but I need to either find a publisher, or come up with the funding myself to get it in print, so that one may be a little while before it sees daylight.  Meantime I will continue writing subsequent volumes in the series ready for when stars are aligned and they can hit the presses.

So keep watching for updates on this blog.  Whether they be about my work, the work of others, opinions about pertinent topics, guest posts, etc, I’ll do my best to keep them interesting.  And if you would like to be notified by email when a new one is posted please let me know by sending me an email to caridianpress@hotmail.com from the account to which you would like the notification sent requesting to be put on the mailing list.

Cheers for now, but hope to bump into you back here again often.

Jim.

WINTER OLYMPICS CARIBBEAN STYLE

Follow Jim on twitter @Tortolajim.

In honour of Peter Adam Crook, about to become the first skier from the British Virgin Islands ever to participate in the Winter Olympic games and only the second BVIslander to do so in any discipline, I’m posting this story. It’s about a Winter Olympic training camp that actually did take place as described below several years ago in the BVI and with which I was very much involved.

For more about the BVI Winter Olympics go to https://www.facebook.com/BVISKI?fref=ts

This story is taken from Book Two of the Wanderings and Sojourns series, “On Tropical Islands and Sparkling Seas“, which is at the publishers right now.  https://www.caridiangroup.com/publications/wanderings-and-sojourns-series/on-tropical-islands-and-sparkling-seas/

“So tell me again about the picture. Where are they really snowboarding?”
“In the Caribbean.”
“They’re snowboarding in the Caribbean?”
“Yup.”
“How? It’s too close to the equator. It’s tropical. There’s no snow.”
“Kilimanjaro’s much closer to the equator ….. less than 200 miles ….. it has snow year round.”
“Kilimanjaro’s nearly 20,000 feet above sea level. That picture is at sea level. You can see the sea right next to the snow. You can also see palm and sea grape trees. Don’t normally get either anywhere near the snowline ….. anywhere in the world.”
“Except the Caribbean.”
“There’s no snowline in the Caribbean. There’s no snow in the Caribbean.”
“There is in that picture. Must be true”
“That’s not real snow.”
“’Tis too!”
“How do you know?”
“I was there. Stood in it myself……… In my sandals.”
“You were snowboarding in sandals?”
“Don’t be silly ….. I don’t snowboard. You know that.”
“So what were you doing standing in the snow ……. in your sandals?”
“Shoveling it.”
“You were snow shoveling in the Caribbean?”
“Yup. …….. In my sandals”
“Where exactly in the Caribbean were you snow shoveling?”
“Marina Cay. British Virgins.”
“OK. I’ve been there. The highest point is about 50 feet above sea level, and that’s the top of a palm tree. It doesn’t snow at Marina Cay. It can’t snow at Marina Cay
“Didn’t say it had snowed. Just said I was shoveling snow.”
“So how the heck did it get there if it hadn’t snowed?
“40 foot refrigerated high cube container.”
“Ah!….. OK. You shipped it in.”
Of course. How else would it bloody well get there?”
“From Canada?”
“Florida.”
“WHAT?
“From Florida.”
“Snow from Florida?”
“Yup.”
“Dare I ask?”
“A film company that has a machine for making snow for movie sets.”
“OK ….. It’s coming together. So that’s how. Now can I ask why you shipped in a 40 foot refrigerated high cube container of Floridian man-made snow to Marina Cay?”
“Customer wanted us to.”
“Why?”
“So those guys could go snowboarding.”
“OK. Why would those guys even want to go snowboarding anywhere there’s never any snow, let alone at Marina Cay?”
“Winter Olympics training camp.”
“Right!”
“That’s what it was.”
“Winter Olympics training camp…….”
“Yup.”

“How long did the snow last before it melted?”

“About 40 minutes …. give or take…….. mostly take.”

“So what all happened?”
“Well we kept it in the refrigerated container until just after dawn when it was light enough to shoot but the sun was still really low so not so hot; shoveled like buggery to cover the slope for them to snowboard on, and took pictures of them doing so until it started melting.”
“After 40 minutes.”
“Well ….. a lot less actually. It started melting as soon as we put it on the ground. It was pretty much gone in 40 minutes.”
“What kind of training camp is that?”
“A very short one.”
“OK ….. So what’s the story behind this photo shoot?”
“The island was leased by a big tequila maker and they unofficially named it “The republic of their brand name” as if it was an independent tropical country named the same as their product. So ….. they use it for advertising and marketing purposes. So ….. this was a promotional shoot for their tequila based on the concept that the Republic of Whatever, which of course is not a real country, was putting a team in the Winter Olympics the following year, which they obviously weren’t.”
“And so they wanted to snowboard at Marina Cay.”
“Yup.”
“Why not go where there’s normal snow?”
“Palm trees. The Republic is tropical.”
“Of course ….. Palm trees …… In the snow.”
“Yup.  Palm trees.”
“Well, I suppose Jamaica did have that bob-sled team one year.”
“And the BVI had a speed skater one year too.”
“Really?”
“Yup.”
“Didn’t know that. Do any good?”
“Competed …… That’s an achievement.”
“That it is. Dare I ask where they found the ice to train?”
”New York.”
“New York. Of course ….. Not very tropical ….. New York.”
“Nope.”
“But they got ice.”
“Yup. But not many palm trees.”
“How did the snowboard team do ….. From the Republic of Whatever?”
“Apparently tequila sales were quite strong that year.”
“So they done good.”
“Golden.”

For updates and insights into Jim’s writings go to the Wanderings and Sojourns facebook page and hit the like button at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Wanderings-and-Sojourns/209257989178793 

Touched many nerves

Hope this works…… Audio link of another of my poems.  Let me know if it does work  To Claim The Highest Peak

The spring edition of 2013 Mosaic featured my poem below “If I Could Change”

Click here http://kingmosaic.ca and go to page 8

It seems that the poem I put in my last post has touched many nerves and I have probably received more positive feed back on that one than on any others. This comment from a former Rhodesian/Zimbabwean now living in South Africa was the most potent for me and truly helps me trust that my often criticized views on the place of humankind in the Universe are not as isolated as some would have me think.

“Jim this is absolutely brilliant …It flows so easily and beautifully whilst driving home the sword deep within our guilty souls …”

Here’s one I wrote recently for the global event (over 700 venues around the world) “100,000 Poets for Change”. This one has received very good reviews and will unquestionably be in “The Songs and Verses Volume II”.

If I Could Change

If I could change one day it would be this day.
I’d make it the day when we could see the wrongness of our destiny
So we might try to change the course we’ll take.
So we might stop and look behind with eyes that can no more be blind
To all the depredation in our wake.
So, through our blood stained tears of guilt for all the wastelands we have built,
We’ll mourn the wondrous beauty that’s now lost.
And we’ll account our selfish ways of unchecked greed that filled our days
No more in terms of profit, but of cost,
And recognize the debt we now must pay.

If I could change one mind it would be my mind.
I’d start to believe that I’d be heard and so would shout out every word
That told of where our attitude was wrong.
I’d start to trust these thoughts I bear that yet, with effort, we’ll repair
The damage we’ve inflicted for so long.
With confidence I’d find anew the strength to share with all of you
This true direction humankind should go.
And, never doubting I might fail, I’d lead toward that Holy Grail
Of balance; though that path I do not know,
But trust, that with your help, we yet will find.

If I could change one heart it would be your heart.
I’d open it up to what once was, to love the Elder ways because
There lived the time when man and earth were friends.
When all of nature, all of man, fit well within that master plan
Ordained to satisfy our mutual ends.
Not as we see our world’s now turned where we ignore the lessons learned
From evolution’s omnipresent school.
Where we believe we have the right to take all we desire on sight
And shatter every natural golden rule
The universe decreed right from the start.

If I could change one dream it would be our dream.
I’d centre our vision toward the day when we might wake to quietly say
We’ve found the new tomorrow at our door.
When we can see we can remain amid The Balance we’ll sustain;
So we can also be sustained once more.
That here’s a place where we can live where, yes, we still can take, but give
Yet more back to the Earth than that we took.
That here no more we tear apart her very soul, her very heart
Upon which all of us depend, but look
Instead with eyes that see how wonderful our lives can be
Unthreatened by our own unsated greed.
Now driven not from want, but basic need;
Allowing earth to heal instead of bleed;
To worship not the harvest, but the seed,
And so from avarice be ever freed
To join once more the Universal scheme

If I could change one day it would be this day.
I’d make it the day we’d start to see the rightness of our destiny
The day we changed the course we choose to take.
The day we stopped and looked behind upon the years when we were blind
And smiled that they are now all in our wake.
The day we made the pledge that we are never going to break.
To join once more The Balance, and within it ever stay.

Mother’s Day

In case anyone across the pond wonders why I chose to put this here today, it’s because in North America it’s Mother’s Day.

“I shall never forget my mother, for it was she who
planted and nurtured the first seeds of good within me.”
…Immanuel Kant

Requiem

Another day departed, and with it she is gone.
Her journey, long since started, once more has traveled on
To distant lands beyond our sight. To just the other side of night
Where dawn is always waiting, bright and pure.
She wouldn’t want our sorrow, nor have us know the pain
That come the next tomorrow she’d be not here again,
So thus, though gone, her warmth will stay to walk with us another day.
To help the one’s she loved so well endure.

We feel her close around us. We sense her silent breath.
We know the love that bound us cannot be lost to death.
We know that ere we walk this earth, the one who chose to give us birth
Remains in every step our lives will take.
Beyond the unseen ranges though now her feet may tread,
Her love shall bear no changes, our hearts need bear no dread.
For she’s prepared us well to live. To love. To laugh. To freely give.
To learn, not run, from each mistake we’ll make.

Now sailed beyond our vision, to reach another shore.
Accomplished in the mission she chose to come here for.
Completing well her earthly tasks, she’s gone to where her spirit asks
That she may help some others find their way.
We watched while she was leaving ‘till gone from mortal view.
Though sad, we were not grieving, for something in us knew
That though her earthly life be done, as ours her path has just begun
…And paths will cross again…
…Another day…

(This one is included in Book 3 “The Songs and Verses”)

Interesting website visitation stats

Considering we are analyzing well over 1,000 visits there are a few surprises here.

Ranking of top 25 countries from where this website was visited…..
1. Canada
2. United States
3. United Kingdom
4. British Virgin Islands
5. Germany
6. India
7. Brazil
8. Lebanon
9. Australia
10. France
11. Chile
12. Italy
13. Japan
14. Dominica
15. Indonesia
16. Russia
17. Belgium
18. New Zealand
19. Puerto Rico
20. Singapore
21. South Africa
22. Bahrain
23. Côte d’Ivoire
24. Spain
25. Gibraltar