A tale of two pities

BC Pires -
BC Pires -


FOR 13 DAYS, we haven’t opened an exterior door, except to get in or out quickly, and we haven’t opened a window at all. For two weeks, I thought our neighbours had moved out, and they thought the same about us. In Barbados, everyone has been locked up inside with every crack to the outside world sealed against volcanic ash.

We haven’t had significant ash fall for 11 days.

But so very much fell in the first three days that everyone on the island has been dealing with it ever since. I have blisters on my hands from sweeping ash. Sweeping the road in front of the house clean needed a stiff broom and every ounce of resolution I had.

I’ve experienced hurricanes, floods, droughts and earthquakes. All of them are better than volcanoes, once your house roof stays on, because they end. Unless and until you’ve experienced the fallout of volcanic ash, you cannot imagine how debilitating it is. It saps energy and will simultaneously. Why brave the stench of sulphurous air if, by the time you’ve cleared the step below, the step above is covered again? Dry-vac, wet-vac, soft broom, hard broom, first-thing-in-the-morning and last-thing-at-night and still there is ash underfoot ten minutes after you’re done.

It’s not coming from the sky any more but from everywhere else: the roof; the walls; the trees; the grass; the windowsills and door frames. You get into or out of the car and a sprinkle of ash dusts your shoulders. Your sea-grape hedge has become a silver-dollar one.

The firetrucking dust is everywhere and it cannot be beaten. The more you get rid of, the more comes back. Every firetrucking day.

The worst hurricane passes in days. Earthquakes are over in moments. Floodwaters recede in hours.

The ash has not stopped for nearly two weeks.

And Barbados got only a smattering of it.

Turn your hearts and minds – and your wallets – to the poor, suffering people of St Vincent. If it’s been as dispiriting as it has been for everyone in Barbados – this is all everyone talks about – how soul- and life-destroying must it be for people directly under the volcano, who have nowhere to go, nowhere to put tonnes of ash if they can gather it up, no water in their taps and no air in their homes?

If you want to experience hell, volunteer to help in Kingstown. Vincentians are nostalgic for the easy days of the pandemic.

Prayers clearly don’t work – or the prayers of Grenadians are stronger than those of Barbadians, and those of Vincentians are worthless – but good vibes do, as crowds of supporters in stadiums regularly prove.

So spare a thought – and as much money as you can afford – for your brothers and sisters in Kingstown. If they’re not in despair, they soon will be.


AMERICA MAY have taken a big step towards becoming the United States again with the conviction for the murder of George Floyd of Derek We-Don’t-Name-Him. All over the world, we all knew we had watched a murder in that nine-minute video, but the most dewy-eyed optimists everywhere had braced themselves for a hung jury.

There was dramatic video evidence in the police beating of Rodney King 20 years ago and all the police involved walked. In June 2014, Eric Garner also could be seen and heard repeating that he couldn’t breathe, and that did not even lead to a charge.

In Harper Lee’s novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, the great American literary illustration of the rigid racism of the American legal system, the black man unfairly charged with rape was convicted, his life deliberately ruined by the system itself, and only to placate the same white sensitivities that allowed the storming of the Capitol in January.

So this week’s recognition of a white policeman murdering an innocent black man is a big deal, not just for race relations and justice in the US, but for the world.

We all knew it could have gone the other way.

And the more alert ones amongst us expect a backlash.The greed and hatred that permitted slavery 400 years ago permits morons like Marjorie Potato-Head-No-Brain and Airhead Jordan to stand up for the liberty to trample others with Anglo-Saxons First caucuses.

Those of us who are awake, as opposed to woke, watch this space with great interest. And the same amount of trepidation.

BC Pires is still catching his ash. Read the full version of this column on Saturday at www.BCPires.com


"A tale of two pities"

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