By Tony Deyal
When you ask a Trini, “How things going boy?” (or girl) the reply is inevitably, “Ah day.” If you’re one of those “Trinis” who came home for Carnival and wanted to show off your Britishness you would most likely respond with, “I didn’t ask you how long you’ve been standing there. I asked how you were!” My neighbours in the old days of kerosene lamps and long shadows would first enquire of any noise in the yard, “Who day? Who dat day?” And if we are seeking to ascertain the whereabouts of someone we would ask, “Where he day?” or worse, “Way he day?” You can get two answers that are both difficult to understand: “He day day” or worse, “He day day day.”
From the context, you will realise that “day” can refer to a point close to you as “Ah day right here” or “He just day”. It can refer to a distant point, “He over day” or “He day” as distinct from “He here”. “He day day” means that he is there over there, and “He day day day” means that he is a little further away. Then the homophone “dey” can also mean “they” or “them”. “Dey day day day” can help you (if you understand the language) to know exactly where to locate any group of people.
While my colleagues in Jamaica, with Harry Belafonte carrying the tune, sing about “Day-o, day-o, Daylight come and me wan’ go home…”, now with Carnival almost day, or here, or even there, not just Trinis but many other Caribbean people are turning night into day. As Viv Richards, the cricketer from Antigua, said, “The true Caribbean people…we are carnival people, we are vibrant people, not dead people. We like to be heard and we like to have fun.” In Brazil, people buy tickets to go to the stadium to watch the carnival, but in Trinidad you buy a costume to take part, or buy some liquor and stand on the payment with your friends while your other friends and their bands pass by and some of them stop for a drink. Many of us will drink to that and, looking back in the past, I know that my friends and I even “drunk” to it in our younger days. Those were the days my friends I thought will never end.
However, now, with Carnival heading into its climax, for the first time in all my years, the end of our two-day Carnival will be a double-whammy. Instead of two days of Carnival followed by Lent, next week the Carnival Monday and Tuesday will be followed, not just by “Ash” Wednesday but also by “Cash” Wednesday. While one group heads to church to start Lent, most of us will have to make sure that we have Valentine’s Day gifts for our wives, girlfriends (or both) plus, for some of us, our daughters.
I think back to my early years when Valentine was a Jamaican cricketer and caused more than a day of anger from Trinis. He and a Trini, Sonny Ramadhin, wiped out the English and set up the basis for the emergence of the Caribbean at the top of the cricket world.
However, the Trinis were upset. “Why they have a whole day for Valentine and they leave out Sonny Ramadin? You ain’t see how they hate we Trinis?” Then Uncle Percy, who worked in Port-of-Spain, set the matter straight. “The Valentine that they talking about, and all the things for women that the companies have in the papers, is a way of using women to make even more money for them. Is like they don’t already have more than enough!” As we all learnt, instead of the poem by Elizabeth Barrett “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…” After all the spending on Carnival, you have to put aside enough money to buy the gifts to make sure you don’t suffer for the rest of the year and have to count the days.
The first time I bought Valentine’s gifts I started well. I was in Miami heading back to Belize (where I lived) and instead of a parrot-like the one we had in Trinidad, I bought a Dove- the chocolate and not the bird. That scored with the power of Vivian Richards. My wife and daughter loved it. The second one was the problem. It had to be both a peace and a peace offering. All my female colleagues recommended perfume, the stuff of fantasy and eroticism, romance and renewal of relationships. They had names like Shalimar, Jaipur and Obsession. I told the counter clerk that my wife hated heavy, cloying scents so after a lot of sniffing and smelling I settled for something from Dior. My wife loved it but my daughter, Jasmine, just 70 years old asked, “Pure Poison? That is what he gave you? This might kill you if you use it! Why he buy that for you?”
Since then I have been much more careful. I’m not like the man who was shopping for Valentine’s Day cards and when he found one with the words, “Baby, you’re the only one for me” bought a box of 12. I am more like the person who looks for advice about how to manage Valentine’s Day. One of my favourites is by the comedian, Groucho Marx, “I was married by a judge. I should’ve asked for a jury.” The American actress, Roseanne Barr, suggested, “You may marry the man of your dreams ladies, but fourteen years later you’re married to a couch that burps.”
Another one I’ve found is, “As a man in a relationship, you have two choices: You can be right or you can be happy.” I like what the comedian Chris Rock said, “There are only three things women need in life: food, water, and compliments.” Charles Schulz, the man who created Charlie Brown in the comics, put it best, “All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” In fact, a list of gift ideas for your loved ones starts with Godiva chocolates and heads into other gifts like Pandora jewellery, Gucci Flora, Sauvage parfum and the only one that never fails, red roses.
While others strongly suggest flower bouquets, fragrances, necklaces, earrings and bracelets, one writer asked, “If Valentine’s Day is for couples, what day is for single men?” The answer was, “Palm Sunday.” If that wasn’t bad enough, there is the man who asked in honour of Valentine’s Day, “What does a passionate kiss and a spider have in common.” They both lead to the undoing of the fly. So with that folks, let bygones by flygones and have a great Valentine’s Day. And if you want to get a date for Valentine’s Day, look at a calendar.
*Tony Deyal was last seen quoting comedian Jerry Seinfeld who said that when our day comes all women should know that men want the same thing from their underwear that they want from women; a little bit of support and a little bit of freedom.