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THE LOWDOWN – Of tears, hairs and fears

Richard Hoad

THE LOWDOWN – Of tears, hairs and fears

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APART FROM THE “chak! chak!” of the gravediggers’ hoes as they covered Mummy’s coffin, all you could hear was Leitha wailing and sobbing: “Oh God, de mistress gone!”
Leitha was my mother’s bosom companion. They spent many afternoons chatting away in our kitchen and I spent many timing her pot and eating her food in Forty Acre. 
Leitha’s sobbing was something new to me, for her ample body was usually shaking with laughter. And with good reason. Like traditional Bajans of that era, Leitha cooked on a home-made fire-hearth which also heated her irons. She slept on a khus-khus bed, kept water cool in a monkey, stored food in her larder, relied on her ground for provisions and yardfowl eggs.
Leitha had no electricity, water or telephone bills and could eke out a living “weeding farm” on the plantation for $6 a week or thereabouts. Besides raising a granddaughter and feeding me.
Fast-forward from Leitha’s time in the 1950s to a few years ago. Yep, we came a long way, baby. Utilities in every home, appliances like bush, every possible convenience. Moreover we could afford it.
Alas, in a few short years the chickens have come home to roost. And these aren’t yardfowls you can put in the pot or get a few eggs from.
This insular, xenophobic column has tried over the years to warn against allowing our country to fall into foreign ownership, CARICOMic or otherwise. The danger always is that these entities will sucker us into a “developed country” lifestyle and then milk us to the last drop of blood. And there’s no Lifestyle Anonymous to save us.
So help me God, how could the now Canadian-owned Barbados Light & Power Co. with any conscience rake in profits of $45.6 million while Bajan enterprises relying on electricity are facing shutdown or have already folded in large measure due to their ever-increasing rates?
If Light & Power Holdings were granted an increase to upgrade their plant and this was either not spent or didn’t cost as much as expected, surely in these difficult economic times they could have moderated their rates in the spirit of live and let live?
BL&P, along with the suppliers of feed and containers, are a major part of the cost of production of say, goat’s milk on which many Bajan babies are being nourished. They know that at some stage the farmers will have to pass on their profit-generating increases to consumers.
But it’s not only our money the foreigners want. They want total control to bend us to their ways. Recently, for instance, both my wife and daughter have been refused entry to Pine Hill Dairy.
As a dairy farmer, I have to be fanatic about hygiene. Clean milk tastes and keeps better.
But now it seems some white man in the States, Mr HACCP (pronounced Hassup), is getting ridiculous. Put simply, he is claiming that a woman in slippers or an armhole shirt is unhygienic.
And he is making the rules for Barbados, not only the Pine Hill Dairy.
This is the problem with adopting foreign standards. I once met a Canadian girl in a bathsuit at Accra. I didn’t notice the hair under her arms, but that from other places protruded almost to her knees. In great tufts. Long enough for rodents to nest therein and have their being.
Our women aren’t constructed on such hirsute lines, Mr HACCP. And your inferences are frankly insulting. By the way, I’m not talking about females entering any part of Pine Hill’s manufacturing plant. I refer solely to driving to a warehouse door to collect farm detergents.
Let me assure any females visiting Hoad’s Dairy Farm, especially when my wife is not at home, that they should feel free to wear a minimum of clothing. Or none at all.
Meanwhile, with no end in sight to this economic downturn, we Bajans must cut and contrive to survive the economic noose we have put around our necks.
Leitha and her contemporaries, contented with a simpler lifestyle, would have had no problem. But it isn’t easy to go back.
Richard Hoad is a farmer and social commentator. Email [email protected]