WILD COOT: Crop Over experience
I USED TO GO every year to see the bands parade and to watch the dancing. It is and was a day of jubilation.
I now watch on television. It’s not the same. I miss it. Even all-day rain could not stop the bacchanal. All that the rain did was to reduce the already skimpy costume wear and make it even flimsier.
On Kadooment Day I would ensure that my video camera was well charged with an extra battery back up. Early on I would walk the route going as far as the top of Station House Hill, ready for the first band. I always made sure that I had a good supply of water in my backpack, a cold beer and a few sandwiches to munch on.
I never saw the bands parading at the stadium. I always thought that the revellers were too stilted at that stage. Too formal. Even when they reached Station House Hill they still felt that they were under scrutiny maybe from husband/wife or their children watching.
By the time they reached the middle of Station House Hill the small nip bottles would emerge from nowhere. The supply trucks, laden with Mount Gay and Banks, would begin to distribute and revellers would take their first shot. It was like adrenaline to the heart.
I remember seeing a woman smack her lips like she had just taken “commune” or medication. All that was lacking was an Amen. An excrescent sound emerged that predicted a change in dance calisthenics. My video was recording the change.
In fact she approached the camera with delight. The skimpy costume that she wore, now bathed in perspiration, refused to conceal anything. A fellow dancing behind her spotted the invitation and climbed on.
The Wild Coot wished that he were a tad younger. It was as if the mere sight of the video camera was a call of Hollywood. They started to wuk up, a Bajan pastime – really wuk up – in rhythmic gyration and coordination. I did not realise that a tuk band was following nearby.
Kettle drummer and fiddler went into action, inspired by the revellers. They drew closer. Bum bum bum, and the fiddler produced a long wail as the dancers separated to join together again. The look on their painted faces was heavenly, no need for milk and honey.
Like a flower that had just been pollinated by a bee. The lady took a breather. Save a little bit for later. I followed the bands, stopping eventually to change the battery. Most of the bands were roped off, but there was a group of revellers who somehow had a Chinese man locked in a stranna.
One lady had wrapped one leg around his waist while another held the raised leg from the other side blocking his escape. The poor Chinese seemed none the worse for wear, had a Banks beer in hand and had resigned to his fate.
Another band wore white T-shirts, most of them were obvious tourists. Their faces were red from the sun and too much rum; they were putting on a lively performance, keeping step like the natives with a chip and bounce. I did not get an interesting display again until I reached Spring Garden Highway where the bands coalesced.
By that time the truck music had begun to kick in with a hypnotic effect on the revellers. They were without inhibition now and one or two spectators were passing comments like “why wunna doan behave wunna selves, yuh in public”.
The smell of jerk chicken and roast pigtail permeated the air and made my stomach growl. By this time also nature and the body saturation of water and beer was taking its toll and I had to find some place quickly. Sure enough there was a facility, but the waiting line was long and uninviting.
But a shout and a slap on the shoulder change my mind and made me forget what was preoccupying me. “Wild Coot, see how Central bankers does let off steam.” I turned to see the most beautiful exhibition of winding and gyration between two women. They could have won a choreography award. They laughed and were quickly swallowed up by the surge of revellers and spectators that were enjoying the festivities.
There were children wukking up, young people wukking up, old people wukking up, people in wheelchairs trying to wuk up, politicians wukking up, even the Walk Holy ladies were by now wukking up, the Wild Coot was tempted to wuk up. Spring Garden was on fire.
•Harry Russell is a banker. email: [email protected]