The editor-in-chief had assigned, for publication in the Express' 50th Independence anniversary magazine, a piece covering the years between 1962 and 1970.
True confession: I failed the deadline.
I became sidetracked from the research and the notetaking into which I had plunged, trolling the contents of my personal archives.
The papers have stayed in the folders, most clippings bearing dates and bylines, following me with the books and journals, as I moved from house to house and once, to Canada, and back. To the royal blue filing cabinet and the pine bookshelves I turned, upon starting work on the assignment.
Assured by an instinctive understanding that 1962 to 1970 were the years of my upbringing, I decided that if I could not produce the historical account "OL" had ordered, I should reserve the right to essay a riff on the period in which my becoming took shape.
In 1963, I wrote my first "article" for a Fatima College publication edited by students' dean, Fr Anthony Pantin. My piece celebrated the first sports meeting on Fatima's own "grounds" on Mucurapo Road. Fatima had had no playing field of its own, on which to hold its sports. I wrote that Fatima boys used to take part, "against often prejudiced odds", as junior partners in St Mary's College Sports. The red pen of Fr Pantin, a CIC old boy, struck out that comment.
That first experience of reporting, commentary and editing must have had a shaping impact. As if it were fast food, I used to consume TIME magazine, but a career future had remained a blank space fillable by neither vocation nor counsel.
Fr Pantin had assigned me (and fellow sixth former Keith Smith) to write for his publication, based on the shared distinction of being "good at English".
Notably "good at" little else, it occurred to me, on leaving school, to post handwritten job application letters to the Guardian and, later, the Mirror.
Both applications remained "on file" when I took a clerking job at the Lands and Surveys Department in the Red House. I learned about maps and map making, and pay sheet compiling, and also how to drink and lime, and enjoy 30-cent "open-face" roti at Star, the St Vincent Street shop serving courthouse patrons.
It was, accordingly, as a member of a relatively privileged Port of Spain proletariat that I experienced the post-Independence years toward the pre-1970 loss of innocence. Or, as it came to be called, the gaining of "consciousness".
The immediate post-Independence period marked the close of an oil boom enjoyed from about 1954, something of which I then was only dimly aware. That T&T had been enjoying better times than most of the rest underlay the fraught political economy of the doomed West Indies Federation.
Independence didn't come with any golden British handshake. Economic self-sufficiency depended, like today, on oil industry-derived revenue, flagging in a different sense, even as the red, white and black ascended the pole. As unemployment grew to an official 17 per cent, I noticed that, in my neighbourhood, only those youngsters who had gone to "college", got steady jobs, or any at all. Youth unemployment reached past 40 per cent, a believable if officially disputed figure.
By 1970 mid-mornings, when tens of thousands of young people were punching the air on Port of Spain streets, it was obvious they hadn't taken time off from work. They had no jobs.
Thus, did the backstory of the times rise ever more to the foreground, for finger-in-the-wound Express coverage by 1968 when I had finally enlisted. Economic struggles had become indistinguishable from political.
Disappointing results came from the economic management by the vaunted nationalist regime of Eric Williams. Resistance showed in rebellious attitudes, raging newspaper debates, and dramatic street protests. Though still politically viable, the administration saw itself increasingly beleaguered, and menaced by apparently rival movements of mobilisation.
Organised labour was prominent among such rivals or potential rivals. Trade unions' assertions and their stirrings defined the politics of a period when the government sought "settlement" and "stabilisation" and "tranquillity", and denounced "subversion". All in vain.
A settlement was achieved with the sugar industry union, but in other sectors, including the public, workers loudly demanded their own pieces of the action. Sentiment radicalised all over, and took to the streets.
The government's pushback showed in appointing an inquiry into "subversive activities", in banning "subversive" books and people (such as CLR James), and in emergency passage of the Industrial Stabilisation Act to regulate union activity and strikes.
All of this came onto the reporters' assignment sheet in what was also a high season also of cultural decolonisation. On the "blocks", where unemployed young people assembled, brains buzzed with new readings and learnings of history, race relations, music, arts, and current affairs.
On June 6, 1967, the appearance of three white or whitish models on the first Express cover was neither unexpected nor noteworthy. By 1969, Earl Lovelace reported the milestone presence of a single black woman among "the creamy flocks" in the Carnival Queen competition.
In that year too, radio stations, ignoring a firm convention, played calypsoes on Ash Wednesday. Columnist Rosemary Stone acclaimed a "swinging Lent".
You have it: my best shot, all things considered, at covering the period.