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DE MARKET VENDOR: De street characters of the Caribbean

BEA DOTTIN, [email protected]

DE MARKET VENDOR: De street characters of the Caribbean

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A feature of Caribbean life has always been street characters. Most are colourful and harmless unlike de dope addicts that would slit yuh throat fuh a dollar or de nuisances that does terrorize visitors and locals alike in Bridgetown.
I will never understand why we can’t round them up and put them away.?We want to keep Garcia lock up but we okay wid vagabonds roaming de place!
On a trip to GT last year, I discovered GT got plenty street people. One night, leaving Magnificent New Thriving restaurant after mashing up some pine cone fish and assorted delicacies, my hosts Dave and Angel Martins and I heading to de car when a fella who was “watching the car for us”, unsolicited, came fuh payment, whereupon a next character hustled over shouting that he was de “supervisor” and he was de one to be paid! I found out then that there is structure to street people!
Years ago, there was a fella called Beansley, fairly imposing, tall and well built, who roamed Bridgetown. He loved nurses and would follow the QEH nurses with words, some I could not repeat here. He was mad as hell but he would constantly shout: “Hoomba, hoomba . . . water! When a man head bad, he whole body bad. Hoomba!”
Cricket produced some of the best known characters. Gravy in Antigua is one of the most famous though I discovered on a recent visit to Antigua dat he is a businessman with a taxi service, so I revise my thinking pun he!
In de region, none can touch de legendary King Dyal, a man who apparently had over 200 suits, with pipes and canes to match, colourful as the rainbow, suits in green, red, pink, yellow, white. He claimed never to have worked a day in his life and to have been supported by benevolent well wishers, travelled to Britain, watched cricket at Lords. De Vendor is yet to see a ball at Lords!
Unfortunately, he was abused by many who called him Hog Food. His responses were acerbic! When the King entered Kensington, the game came to standstill! There will never be another like him. Last week, I heard PM Stuart pun Starcom news referencing Ninja Man, another street character, reminding all dat Ninja Man got de same vote as them! Frightening thought!
But de greatest of them all was Gearbox. Space will not permit me to tell all de stories I know ’bout Gearbox. He could be subtle or direct but always witty!
After the announcement of Sir James Tudor’s knighthood, I heard Gearbox in de bus stand describing the honour as a backward move.
Fuh me, de most memorable was in 1976 during the visit of H.M. Queen Elizabeth II.
The Queen was walking across Trafalgar Square heading towards Parliament. The Royal Barbados Police Band was playing. Gearbox had ascended the cast iron rails of the Parliament Buildings yard and was standing head and shoulders above the Police Band, directly behind the conductor, baton in hand, doing a pretty outstanding job of directing the band.
As senior members of the force headed to remove Gearbox, I heard him shout in his gravelly voice: “If you say to me, God bless Her Majesty, The Queen, I also say to you, God bless the Royal Barbados Police Force. Aha, ah, ah, ah!”
The police were disarmed. R.I.P. Gearbox.
I, Market Vendor, gone fuh now. You have a blessed and a wonderful day, yuh hear?