THE 6.30 a.m. sailing of the T&T Spirit on the last Saturday in December was full of bright, young Trinis, all heading to the sister island to ring in the New Year.
Included among them was the couple in front of me in the line to purchase breakfast, at the onboard cafeteria, and as the gentleman ordered on their behalf, the early morning buff he got from his travelling companion left me smiling.
“It’s not ‘Cokes’! No wonder you had to tell the woman three times before she understood what you were asking for! You want a Coke!”
Before that lesson in brand names, there was a rare opportunity for a late-riser like me to witness the sunrise and appreciate nature’s hand brushing the clouds with various luminescent colours as the sun climbed into the sky and brightened the Port of Spain harbour.
It’s not the prettiest dock in the world, what with the grotesque wrecks in the background, but flocks of birds skimming the water as they flew east distracted the eye from the man-made decorations and made you appreciate what a beautiful place Trinidad is. And Tobago, where the inter-island ferry, one of the best acquisitions of any T&T government (and there aren’t many to speak of) was taking us, through a few lumps and bumps out in the Caribbean Sea.
That caused some queasy people to head to the washrooms, where two guys were going wretch for wretch that sunny Saturday morning.
You can’t help but feel sorry for people who are seasick…they look like they’re going to die.
Soon enough, the youths and the few older heads aboard the Spirit were driving their vehicles off the vessel and headed in different directions, some to little known apartments whose landlords would have greeted Trinidad’s best partygoers with open arms.
Tobagonians might not want to admit it, but sweet Tobago would have gone belly-up long ago if it wasn’t for the largesse of their Trini brethren, who spend their money freely in the sister isle, during the August school vacation, at Easter and now the young and restless going over by the thousands for Old Year’s Night.
Where I was staying, the owner hadn’t welcomed guests for the three months prior to December.
And you wondered why, because The Palms, nestled amidst the rustic charm of Signal Hill Old Road, was a picturesque haven stocked with fine food, bad booze and good company thanks to my lively touring party.
If you looked out the back window, all you could see in the distance was trees and shrubbery, with a solitary roof breaking the non-galvanised landscape, which included the sighting of a shimmering mot mot and the rarely-seen blooming of a Traveller’s Palm flower.
And around the corner, over two babbling brooks, was a 160-year-old Moravian church, its dusty grey shingles stoutly standing up to the southern Caribbean weather.
Past that religious relic was the busy Claude Noel Highway junction, with the NP station across the spread of asphalt, where the attendants were standing sentry alongside their automated pumps, providing the most efficient service you could ask for anywhere in Tobago.
We went from laid-back living to rush hour commuting, Scarborough off to the left and the best beaches to the right. It was serene, hectic, soothing and boisterous all within a square mile or two.
But since 1990, the ambiance of T&T, the “two of us”, is often disrupted by murderous mayhem and after a couple days in the pacifying Palms, I found out that even that location was not spared the transgressions of our worst citizens.
Twenty-two years before, sometime in 1992, the people who owned the property, John Dopson and his wife, were tied together and their house burnt to the ground, with the elderly couple inside.
John Dopson was a former Royal Air Force and BWIA pilot, an exemplary son of the soil, who was murdered in cold blood along with his wife and to this day their killers have not been brought to justice.
When we read reports about the case, there was mention of a lack of evidence. Yeah, right!
And it so happened that a good friend of mine, who visited us at The Palms, is the nephew of Mr Dopson and he said that the killers were involved in drugs and they had used the Dopson’s house illicitly while they were away on a lengthy holiday, visiting their children in England.
And in keeping with the “lack of evidence”, the nephew hinted that the police did not put their best foot forward, hence the non-closure of the case.
All these years later, some of our police are no more competent or committed to fighting crime, unless it is posing over the latest marijuana haul.
But this was all about a special occasion in tranquil Tobago, which is still “the capital of paradise”, and after my two daughters instructed me I couldn’t come to the party they were going to at Pigeon Point, I had to find an alternative venue.
I had to settle for a sit-down dinner at Café Coco, which allowed us access to see the fireworks at Coco Reef, in the company of hotel proprietor John Jefferis and his young wife.
It turned out that I missed a ring-dong party at my sister’s house back in Trinidad, but you can’t be everywhere at the same time and I’ll settle for fireworks without worrying about my dogs going crazy.
And on the day I was to leave Tobago, my car battery decided to die and I felt like the last steer standing after the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona as every other fully-loaded vehicle swerved around me—at a standstill with my bonnet raised—rushing to get onto the return ferry to Trinidad.
But there were a few good guys, from Tobago and Trinidad, who tried their best to help me and I want to thank them once more.
And it’s not too late to wish them all a Happy New Year.