Dennis Jones is a Jamaican-born international economist, who has lived most of the time in the UK and USA, and latterly in Guinea, west Africa. He moved back to the Caribbean in 2007. This blog contains his observations on life on this small eastern Caribbean island, as well as views on life and issues on a broader landscape, especially the Caribbean and Africa.







**You may contact me by e-mail at livinginbarbados[at]gmail[dot]com**

Thursday, January 08, 2009

There was a crooked man and he walked a crooked mile

An acquaintance commented to me that she found my blog post from January 6, The World Keeps Spinning And So Does My Head, was "all over the place". I told her that I was so pleased to hear that: it was, and I knew it, but at least she had read it all, and could make that conclusion. I explained again that I am a sort of blog purist in accepting that this is a medium for 'state of mind' writing. I try other formats for better shaped ideas. I have no problem with the many strands that float around in my mind ending up in one place sometimes; some of the strands will knit together nicely, but not all of them. But, as I said to my acquaintance, that is very much like life: it's not a neat package.

I'm trying my hand at writing a book, but as life is not a neat package, I have to deal with the fact that the first few chapters are now locked in a dead laptop, and have to hope that the combination of IBM/Lenovo and the US Postal Service, will bring me salvation soon. Yes, I should have saved the draft elsewhere, and normally would have done that, but in the maelstrom of Christmas I was a little lax. I am not yet distraught as the book was really only about two pages long so far: the core of the idea is clear to me, so I could even continue without the material written so far.

But life not being neat packages does not often get much airplay because many media houses like standard thinking, and that is often what we get given to reflect on. I was called on to make one of my little forays onto the radio the other evening, and though I could not hear myself I knew that I was not going along the standard thinking line. My moderator said he liked my range of ideas and hoped that I could contribute again soon. Let's hear it for not thinking straight.

So, I was really shocked to hear a woman talking at length on the radio yesterday in a manner that could be called 'wild'. Her essential message was that "we each have eyes but see the world differently". That's a theme that I pound a lot. She went on, however, to challenge many aspects of life in Barbados with a lucidity that was stunning. Her eyes showed her many things that politicians and many others in society do not appear to see. The radio moderator, Dennis Johnston, let her talk uninterrupted and then asked the producer to keep the remarks for a review of 2009: we are just one week into the year and these could be the comments of the year. Does it mean that Barbados has just become home for radical thinkers? Very crooked thinking in a normally straight line country.

Sifting through the influences around us is a very trying process. There's a lot of 'noise' that comes from predispositions and prejudices, and then there is the emotional state of the moment to deal with. When I listened to the lady's comments yesterday it seemed to be one of those rare moments when someone was obviously not speaking spontaneously but was still speaking with a clear conviction in every word uttered. I know a lot of people have had similar thoughts when they listen to president-elect Obama. His wife said as much in a recent interview: "what you see (and hear) is the real thing"; he's not changed much and he really has a conviction to help people. He's not messianic, but is a leader as much for his apparent sincerity as his ideas.

Much of life can be seen through allegories, and this is a well known literary device that has been used for many years--read The Bible sometime. Many nursery rhymes are meant to be memory joggers for historical events, moralistic stories or other things. While dressing my five year old this morning I started to tell her that her face was crooked, then I looked at her putting on her uniform and I said that that too was crooked. But, before she could start to straighten up her bloomers, I asked her to think if it was the clothes that were crooked or her. That kept her quiet for a few minutes then I sang for her:

There was a crooked man and he walked a crooked mile,
He found a crooked sixpence upon a crooked stile.
He bought a crooked cat, which caught a crooked mouse.
And they all lived together in a little crooked house

She, of course, has no idea what a 'sixpence'is but had images of the rest of the rhyme.

This rhyme is supposedly based on English history, dating from the times of the English Stuart monarch, King Charles 1 (17th century). He presided over one of the most tumultuous political and religious periods in Britain, culminating in a civil war and his eventual overthrow and execution. The crooked man is supposedly the Scottish General, Sir Alexander Leslie. The General signed a Covenant securing religious and political freedom for Scotland. The 'crooked stile' referred to is supposed to be the border between England and Scotland. 'They all lived together in a little crooked house' refers to the fact that the English and Scots had at last come to an agreement. The animosity between the English and the Scots was high then, but it had been that way for centuries before and is still high now.

There are no random thoughts, and this links well in my head with the fact that yesterday I spent half an hour explaining England's historic rivalry with Scotland to a Bajan, and then this ditty came into my head today. I never knew till this morning, after I started this piece and did a little checking that the 'crooked man' rhyme I sang was an allegory.

I know I have a crooked brain--I can read text even it is upside down or reversed in a mirror, but so too can my children, and I love cryptic crosswords. Now, I also have a crooked little smile.

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