Notes from a small island
A weblog by Jonathan Ali

Saturday, April 26, 2003  

Last evening I got a depressing reminder of why I hardly go out in this place anymore. I went with my friends visiting from England to a pub, just off the top of the Queen's Park Savannah, at the northern end of Port of Spain. It's a pub I used to frequent years ago; I enjoyed it for its relatively cosmopolitan, easy-going atmosphere and come-as-you-are policy, refreshing in a town dominated by its cliques and cabals and their various exclusive hang-outs.

We turned up to find the place had been taken over by Australians, strays from the just-concluded Test match who were yet to make their way to Barbados for the next game. They had draped two huge flags, their national flag, and a green and yellow one with a boxing-gloved kangaroo on it, over the front of the pub. In front of this display they were playing some sort of game. A chalk circle had been drawn on the ground, and loud, beery lads and lasses were tossing an Australian coin within it, mixed wads of Trinidadian one, five, ten and twenty dollar bills in their hands, betting on the probability of it coming up heads or tails. (I'd noticed the Antipodean penchant for gambling before, during the one day I went to the Test match - they were having flutters on practically everything happening on the field.)

I was reliably informed that the spectacle I was watching - which could have very well been mistaken by someone from afar as a cockfight - was legal in Australia, and commonplace in its pubs. No one seemed to notice or care that unauthorised gambling is illegal in this country, least of all my fellow countrymen (including one of the pub's owners) and women who had joined the Australians in their game.

They say everyone has their price. In Trinidad & Tobago, if you're foreign and white, that price is almost always next-to-nothing. We will sell you our land, our resources, our heritage, our bodies, our dignity for a song and a smile, minstrel style. Historically it's been largely to Americans; now it seems as if a rewording of the Mighty Sparrow's famous calypso, "Jean & Dinah" is order: "The Yankees gone and the Aussies take over now."

posted by Jonathan | 2:35 PM 0 comments


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