Column this week
It’s Monday morning and I’m writing this column with a major concern on my mind – will there be anyone to receive it when I email it? I’ve only just realised that today is a public holiday in Trinidad, which means that not only is nobody at work, but nobody is even studying the fact that there are some of us who are not still in bed, lolled off or else by the beach, also lolled off. Unless things have changed since I’ve been away – and I’m willing to bet good money they haven’t – everyone is under the assumption that when Trinidad and Tobago has a holiday, the whole world does too, in a sort of symbiotic celebration of planetary proportions.
Back when I was home working for the newspapers I used to work public holidays and weekends on a regular basis. Few things are more depressing than leaving your house after Sunday lunch to go to work. The macajuel syndrome starts kicking in, the sun is at its fiercest then and you know that you won’t be seeing your bed before midnight. Worse than this is trying to get a maxi on Christmas day. The few drivers that aren’t drunk from celebrating the birth of Jesus take it as an opportunity to persuade you to “duck work” and go for a drive. Is Christmas family! What you working for!?
For all its pretended cosmopolitanism, Trinidad is a country that specialises in isolation. It is possible to go for weeks without knowing what’s going on in the outside world and if you do know, to not care. What am I saying; it’s easy to go for years without knowing what’s going on in Parliament and not care! We are a people who excel at creating our own versions of reality, many of them existing side by side and often clashing with each other. Politicians regularly feed us adaptations of events that conflict with what really happened, and we as a people seemingly have no problem accepting them. The UNC says one thing, the PNM says another and in the end, none of them really end up saying anything of merit at all. To get back to the topic, however, I also just found out that we’ve been granted ANOTHER national holiday.
Yes, Chinese Arrival Day will be celebrated on October 12th. I must say, I am somewhat disappointed, as I thought October 10th was the best day. In case you missed the column listing the reasons why, it was mainly because it would coincide with Excellent Stores’ double ten sale on Chinese prunes and preserved peach. They could have extended the ten plus ten discount to include Chinese food. People like me would run amok. Hmmmmm… shrimp lo mein…
Now, I won’t say that having another national holiday is the last thing the country needs, even though it’s true. Part of my reasoning for this is the fact that I’m jealous. England has only eight public holidays and we’ve used up all for the year already, excluding Christmas. By contrast, Trinidad has 16 official national holidays. This does not include the occasional “ketch a vaps” days when the government decides to celebrate the excellence and hard work of a particular individual or group by having the nation do no work at all.
Its days like these that make me miss home. It’s wonderful to head to the bar after work on a Friday, or better fete, a Thursday, knowing that you won’t be seeing the inside of your office until Tuesday. Of course, somewhere along the last few days there would have been at least one major party to celebrate, taking advantage of the fact that partygoers would have one extra day to recover from hangovers and aching thighs. Of course the terrible thing about having a national holiday is that everybody else has one too, which means that the stores, restaurants, gyms – pretty much everywhere, in fact – are closed. So unless you head to the beach, which is what everyone else will be doing, you only option really is just to stay home.
The ironic thing is, Chinese owned businesses tend to be among the few that remain open on national holidays. This is ironic because I wonder if this trend will continue come October 12th, in which case the Chinese will be celebrating their arrival, hard work and contribution to the country by more hard work. Which is how it’s supposed to be. At least, until I return home, in which case the days off and partying can continue.