(An over-my-shoul­der-look at life)

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Michael Walker

For the past few years I have been more or less reg­u­larly con­tribut­ing a weekly col­umn en­ti­tled A-mus­ings to page 2 of this news­pa­per. Gen­er­ally speak­ing, these scrib­blings have been well re­ceived, ex­cept of course by my daugh­ter-in-law who felt that the ar­ti­cles were badly writ­ten and made me a fig­ure of ridicule within and with­out her im­me­di­ate cir­cle of Lu­cian so­ci­ety.

But any­how, be that as it may, I have de­cided to ter­mi­nate my A-mus­ings and turn in­stead to Re­flec­tions, which I have called “an over-the-shoul­der-look at life”; life in this case be­ing my life, mainly. Since Kenny An­thony’s demise and re­tire­ment from po­lit­i­cal wheel­ing and dealing, the en­vi­ron­ment for satire and protest has be­come much less in­ter­est­ing: less ripe. Even the peren­nial fid­dling with pub­lic funds by those be­decked with the trap­pings of their skim­mings and back­han­ders has be­come so bla­tantly open and ob­vi­ous that point­ing out their ex­cesses has be­come mean­ing­less.

When I was young it seemed there were al­most count­less equally young but just as opin­ion­ated “an­gry young men” who cre­ated nov­els and plays all about the in­jus­tices of so­ci­ety. Of course, many of these play­wrights be­came suc­cess­ful and their anger seemed to di­min­ish as their fame and wealth in­creased.

Let’s pause for a se­cond, dear reader: Did you no­tice the word “play­wright”? I sup­pose you did. I am sure the thought passed through your mind that a per­son who writes plays should be called a “play­write” or at least, though less el­e­gantly, a “play­writer”. I mean, where did that wright come from? It can’t be right, can it? Is there some rite of pas­sage, some transformation that oc­curs when a per­son ceases to be a mere scrib­bler and sud­denly be­comes a writer? By the way, the on­line Ur­ban Dic­tionary de­fines a “wrighter” as “a writer who hon­estly be­lieves in what he writes, is com­mit­ted to truth; a wrighter is in­tran­si­gent in his work.” Which to me seems fairly non­sen­si­cal.

A house­wright is a builder of wooden houses, a wheel­wright is a maker and re­pairer of wheels and wheeled ve­hi­cles; a ship­wright is a car­pen­ter skilled in ship con­struc­tion and re­pair; a plowwright is one who makes or re­pairs plows, and a play­wright writes plays, and that’s about it!

Oh, shit! Sorry, merde! Amaz­ing, isn’t it, how much more el­e­gant things sound when ex­pressed in an­other lan­guage. I was sup­posed to be ex­plain­ing the dif­fer­ence be­tween an A-mus­ings and a Re­flec­tions but I kind of got car­ried away on a lex­i­cal anom­aly, which is quite nor­mal where I am con­cerned.

My life has not been ex­cep­tional. In fact, it has prob­a­bly been much like your own with ups and downs, highs and lows, sprin­kled with dis­ap­point­ments and pleas­ant sur­prises, so don’t ex­pect too much. What I have tried to do is to search through my mem­ory banks to find events that might have changed my life in some way or, at least, af­fected the way I view things.

I’ve al­ways been a teacher, a pedant per­haps, and I find that I try to learn lessons in ev­ery­thing I do. Some­times, these lessons are pretty aw­ful. Take for ex­am­ple the day I filled my pants with merde. I wasn’t very old at the time and there would have been no way I could have spelled di­ar­rhea or di­ar­rhoea— de­pend­ing on which side of the At­lantic you hap­pened to be af­flicted—so suf­fice to say I was suf­fer­ing from a very loose stom­ach. And I was in school. I must have been eight or nine and I was in Miss Clarke’s class. I sup­pose she wasn’t bad, as a teacher. In those days I had no way of telling one way or the other but I do re­call that she was a tyrant and we were all pretty scared of her. In my rec­ol­lec­tion, she was old, very old, and thin. No one, but no one, ever spoke out of turn in her class. Ev­ery les­son had a quiet mo­ment that some­times lasted quite a few mo­ments, min­utes even, and woe be­tide any­one fool­hardy enough to break the si­lence.

Well there I was with my stom­ach churn­ing and my bow­els strain­ing for re­lief. I raised my hand. She ig­nored me. “Miss," I squeaked. I tried again. In fact I made sev­eral at­tempts to ex­plain my dilemma. Each time she si­lenced me with a glance full of mal­ice. The pain was pal­pa­ble. I squeezed the cheeks of my but­tocks as tightly as I could and tried to stand. I es­ti­mated that if I could just get to the door and es­cape the room I might have a chance to reach the boys’ toi­lets down the cor­ri­dor in time to avoid a catas­tro­phe, but there was to be no re­prieve. Quick as a flash, Miss Clarke leaped from the chair be­hind her desk and grabbed me by the col­lar of my shirt as my bow­els emp­tied and I felt the stuff run­ning down the back of my thighs. My shame was com­plete. That mo­ment, I swore by ev­ery­thing I could that if ever I be­came a teacher I would treat my pupils with re­spect and af­ford them the dig­nity they de­served, what­ever the sit­u­a­tion or cir­cum­stances. It was, in the true sense of the word, a shitty ex­pe­ri­ence.

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