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WILD COOT: Father time

Harry Russell

WILD COOT: Father time

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Recently I saw a friend of over 66 years’ acquaintance. His walk that 20 years ago was a spritely stride had slowed to a shuffling gait. Each step was carefully planted as if uncertain of its destination.

When I knew him in those bygone halcyon days, he was a challenge to catch on a soccer field – and mind you, I was like a hare. Now bowed down with father time he marks his footsteps gingerly. The three-feet stride is now a pathetic 12 inches as if balance is a problem.

“How are you old scout?” I hailed him.

“Oh that is you Wild Coot.” He replied after a while, having taken time to focus on me. A period of scrutiny ensued. Then he continued. “Straighten your back old friend. You are not too old to forget that you were a soldier, and a lance corporal at that.”

This took me by surprise. What I was seeing in my friend was really a reflection of my own appearance. I had deluded myself that my back was as straight as a ramrod. Come to think of it, I needed to reassess my gait and try to be the man I was 30 years ago. A vain expectation, although I might try.

Ah well! Have you noticed in people past 70 years of age that time has caught up with us? Most of us suffer from something or the other. The heart is not beating right after 2 550 000 000 beats (no wonder). We try to give it some help by inserting stints or a battery or even a transplant for a younger heart. Additionally, blood pressure is a silent killer and may have the ultimate say.

Then there is sugar. The thing that was so sweet is now taboo. We used to suck, especially cane, until the belly said no more. We would fearlessly rip the peel with our teeth. Now false teeth tell us don’t dare. Even if we peel the cane with a knife, we remember doctor’s orders: “No more sugar or ice cream, no more sweet gateau”. All that sugar that gave us immeasurable pleasure has come back to haunt us. While we still crave sweetness, it has become taboo. Even that little special sweetness comes in fits and drabs like “drainings” of a sweet drink carton.

I almost forgot my friend’s name. I remembered his face although I had not seen it for a few years, but his name eluded me. All of a sudden, there it was. Geoffrey, Geoffrey who? Oh yea, Geoffrey Simms. Memory has not forsaken the Wild Coot. The computer is slow now. It has too much data. It is suffering from “overhang”, just like the debt problem in Barbados.

My friend came closer, like he was not too sure how to steer the conversation. In a voice that piped and whistled in his sound, he asked: “Wild Coot, who are we to believe, you, the Central Bank or the other bankers? It seems rather idiosyncratic to be likening our economy to that of major world economies. It may be right to insist that ours is both a society and an economy but we cannot follow the example of the others, especially the Trinidadians, in reducing interest rates on savings to next thing to nothing.

“This economy in Barbados was built on savings. The genesis of Republic Bank is the Barbados Savings Bank. Loans are the corollary of savings. Therefore savings must be encouraged down to the small weekly saver. It is not encouraged by the recommendations of the present Trinidad newcomers. In fact, encouraging savings helps to dry up excess spending. Our biggest problem, and one that the bankers will not admit, is how to encourage entrepreneurs, growth and employment. We need to get the bankers to use their skill in promoting meaningful lending, not just cars, mortgages and credit cards (spending). We wait to see what Government will do with the savings for which it proposes to give people 5.5 and 7.75 per cent bonds. Drying up savings to protect the foreign exchange? Today, bankers do not seem to exploit the many benefits of the bill of exchange that is a great lending facility and an alternative security for an overdraft or loan. Bills can be negotiated, discounted, collected, accepted and letters of credit can fit in the mix. Probably too much trouble.”

My friend “steupsed” and walked off.

Try as you may, every Bajan will make sure that Christmas is enjoyable and the Wild Coot wishes it so. Merry Christmas.

 Harry Russell is a banker. Email [email protected]