Just BC

BC Pires  - Mark Lyndersay
BC Pires - Mark Lyndersay


Newsday columnist and author of the weekly Trini to the Bone feature BC Pires, 65, died on October 21.
He was unable to finish writing what he had intended to be the last instalment of the series, with himself as the subject. It has been completed by his family.
Newsday has published the feature since January 2019 and is proud and sad to publish this final Trini to the Bone in his memory.

My name is BC Pires and this feature, Trini to the Bone, might be the best idea I ever had “for the papers.”

I’m probably better known for my flagship column Thank God It’s Friday, which has been running in a Trinidadian newspaper and/or online since 1988.
Film people know my writing about movies, and others may remember my Ramesh & Bas Sends Back the Paper series.
Or my Most Boring MP Contest, won by then Speaker Hector McClean (with a 35-way tie for second); or my Book of Kenrick, a summation of the Bible in Trini dialect – but I think Trini/’Bago to the Bone has been better received than anything else I’ve done – and that includes a hard-news Q&A interview of both Santa Claus and Jesus Christ.

Wherever I go, I’ll always be from St Ann’s. The narrow valleys of Sydenham Avenue and Fondes Amandes made me broad-minded. Even in childhood, following a river to its source or walking across the top of a mountain onto another one gives you perspective.

BC Pires
- Mark Lyndersay

Many people don’t know that, like Minshall, I was born in Guyana and came to Port of Spain aged one. Even in Georgetown, where they say, “Once a Guyanese, always a Guyanese,” they tell me, five minutes after meeting me, “Nah, you from Trinidad!”

It was my dad, Joe, a public figure, my mum, Ann, and four siblings: Joanne, Victor, me and Joe Jnr. We get along well enough now, and I’m close to my mum and brothers, but if you had 100 words to describe our family, “communicative” would not make the list.

In childhood, I discovered the loving friendship of cats.
They’re the finest creature the God I don’t believe in ever made. If he’d done as well with the politicians as the cats and musicians, we’d all be in a far better place.

I was raised Catholic and went to Catholic schools, but it still didn’t take. I began doubting at age nine when a nun told me my cat who’d died wouldn’t go to heaven because it had no soul.
That was horse manure, because I knew that cat had loved me deeply and truthfully. And I couldn’t see how anything could love without a soul.

BC Pires
- Mark Lyndersay

Cats, music, books, films and the arts have rescued me more times than I’ve rescued animals from the TTSPCA.

My father was an atheist, but my mother made sure we all got up to at least Confirmation.
I think I finally gave up on God and religion in my early 20s. It just doesn’t make sense that I could be more compassionate than God.

My own family is my wife, Carla Kai Castagne, and my children Rosanna Lee and Benjamin, aged 25 and 23.
The children both came back from London, where they live, to be with me in the most challenging days of my life.

Since my diagnosis on September 19 last year, Kai has become an oncological nurse, a surgeon’s assistant, a dietician and a palliative-care specialist, in that order.

I became a barrister in Trinidad in 1984 and a solicitor in England and Wales in 1989, but from January 1988 I’ve done nothing but write to make my living.
We had nearly two decades of reasonable financial success with Cré Olé, the guide to dining in TT, before covid shut us down, like many others, in 2019.

I was nine years old and read my first William book by Richmal Crompton and knew I wanted to write. Nothing else seemed as wonderful. I’d wanted to be a doctor early (to see girls undress, I think, back in those Catholic Taliban days).
Then VS Naipaul published Miguel Street and I had the example of (a writer) born here actually doing it spectacularly.

BC Pires - Mark Lyndersay

I became “BC Pires” professionally because of VS Naipaul and CLR James.
Of course, I am invariably out LBW.

The three columns I’m asked to read most are Ramesh is Head (about the hairstyle of the AG who hanged nine men in four days), the one about Andy Caddick’s big ears and What Vivienne Means, the story of the new daughter of an old friend. Vivienne is probably still the best thing I’ve written qua writing.
But I like to think I give myself stiff competition with pieces like Animal Fete, Two Cockroaches Firetrucking and Lord of the Bling.

The rest of this profile was compiled by BC’s wife and children, based on his recordings, columns and things he told them over the years.

My father said that it didn’t matter if I was a garbage man; I just had to be the best damn garbage man in the place.
Of course, it did matter to him if I was a garbage man.
Being good at one’s job was central; whatever you did, you had to do it to the best of your ability.
If I wasn’t the best at what I did, it wasn’t because I didn’t try.

We marry, it seems to me, because without love, our lives are meaningless. And the best breeding ground for love is the family unit.
For me, family means one woman, with whom I raise our own children, a unit only as secure as its component parts, anchored as well in extended family, community, nation.
It is from the cradle of family that we look out upon the wonder of our short existences. It is within its safety that we learn the only things that invest our jokey lives with meaning: giving to others; loving our neighbour as ourselves; living as best as we can until we die.

My children could never disappoint me.
I miss them like water.
If I’m missing them too much, I can’t even drink out of the coffee cups they bought me.
It’s so good to be young. My daughter enjoys it more than my son. Each could do with taking a leaf out of the other’s book.

Children give you a lot of energy, but they take a lot of energy.

I loved to go for walks in the Bajan cane fields.
Every day I witnessed the beauty of the land. But I couldn’t dissect it from its history. I could see, as clearly as the cane blowing in the wind, the people who died and suffered in its planting, less than 200 years ago.

I don’t give a firetruck about money. Luckily we are as far from poor as we are from rich.
My wife manages all of our finances since we married. I can barely log into online banking.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” I believe this is the best opening line in a book. Even an agnostic is blown away by it.

I’ve had one guiding principle: Try to live my life in such a way that my children won’t think I’m an a--hole when I’m dead.

You can’t beat Death, only delay him. I didn’t delay him long enough, otherwise I’d have written these answers, instead of my family.

Other countries refuse to change a winning team or approach; West Indies selectors will always remain loyal to a losing one. It’s not rocket surgery, as the beauty queen almost said, but basic: in a tense game situation, age and experience will trump youthful energy every firetrucking time.
But West Indies haven’t figured that out yet.

BC Pires’s family says: BC passed away before being able to write the two most important answers in his Trini to the Bone. We have scoured e-mails, notes and documents looking for any possible answers. We still don’t know what he thought a Trinidadian/Tobagonian is, or what Trinidad and Tobago meant to him.

A Trinidadian could be someone like him, who says, the day he passes away, he’ll file his column tomorrow. Maybe TT is: the place he lived longer than anywhere else, and the only place that could love him as much as he needed.

But we have decided that if BC didn’t answer these questions for himself, we can’t do this for him. He had the utmost respect and appreciation for his readers, and we think he would like it if, just as in his favourite TV show, the Sopranos, you get to decide how you think it ends.


"Just BC"

More in this section