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WILD COOT: Old friend talk

Harry Russell

WILD COOT: Old friend talk

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“Wild Coot, what is this? You claiming to be a writer?”

He is a pal whom I first met in 1948 when I entered the hallowed halls of Harrison College in Form 1.3. We had not come face to face since 1958 when we went our separate ways, he to Canada and I to Jamaica.

“So how are you?” he inquired, looking serious and taking a seat on a nearby bench.

“Only a little diabetes, that is all. How are you? . . . . I see you are walking with a cane.”

“Oh, the knee joints are getting old and need support, not like before when I played inside right and you were at right full back . . . . Look, I went into the supermarket at Rendezvous Road yesterday and was browsing through the book section run by Pages. To my surprise I saw a book written by you; so I bought it. I took it home and rested it on the table intending to return to it in a few hours time. When I returned, I found my wife engrossed in this book and laughing uncontrollably all over the place.

“What’s so funny?” I asked her.

“She said that the book was hilarious, that the man who wrote it must have been as wild as a coyote. She thought that he is the one who writes those articles in the newspaper, that no wonder the articles were so salacious. She reckoned that he could not enter the book for a NIFCA prize, for it was too saucy. She felt that the character Sammy went all over the world sowing wild oats.

“That surely was not you?” said my friend as a pregnant look came over his face.

We resorted to a nearby café and ordered two cups of coffee and some doughnuts.

“Wild Coot, how you could say that we need a Trinidad parliamentarian? That is disrespectful.”

“Boy, you don’t know what is going on. You don’t know that we did not have to sell the National Bank. We had retained 33 per cent of the bank and I believe that there was a clause allowing us to buy back the bank. That decision to sell the balance of shares at BDS$5 is going to haunt us and our children for the next ten generations.

“Look at the situation now. Workers Bank in Trinidad was in trouble. Clico owned the majority shares. Trinidad government bailed out Workers Bank and took over all of the shares and renamed it First Citizens Bank. Trinidad government bailed out Clico. Clico owned Republic Bank. Thus Trinidad government owns both Republic Bank and First Citizens Bank. These banks compete now in Barbados. I am sure that they cannot have interlocking directors. But they are both owned by the government of Trinidad.”

“Dog bite it man!” exclaimed my friend, accompanying it with a few choice Bajan words.

“But that is not all. Massy now shows us what the Shipping & Traders conglomerate really owned as it sticks its mark on supermarkets, insurance, Knights Ltd, DaCosta Manning, finance house, and now there is the proposed super edifice at Warrens. That is why it is only fair for Trinidad to hold a seat in the parliament.”  

“So tell me,” he commented, “you have recently returned to Barbados and are writing under the name Wild Coot. I wonder if your findings are like mine as I have recently returned from the cold weather. But before you say anything, I find that Barbados has not changed with the times. There is the same conservative attitude, as if Barbados were the centre of civilisation. The same hierarchy seems to be in charge. The only difference now is that [some people] are trying to get as much money for themselves as they realise that they have no real power. I tried to discuss the matter with a workman who came to the house to fix a kitchen sink. You know what he said to me? ‘Skipper, if you don’t like it, guh from ’bout hey’.”

“Do you smoke, Wild Coot?” he asked.

“No, I do not smoke; neither do I drink or fête.”

“Oh, that is why you could write a book like the Diary Of A Randy Old Coot so graphically.”

He whispered softly as if he feared being overheard.

“Do you think that the commercial banks will leave?”

“Oh yes,” I replied. “Just like a person if he isn’t getting any sweets from a relationship.”

Harry Russell is a banker. Email [email protected]