This year marks 16 years since I officially began writing news item as a full time career and throughout those years I have had the opportunity to meet many very important persons as well as many ordinary citizens with great human interest stories.
There are some I will forever remember and some I will prefer not to recall, but they are in my memory and I cannot deny having met them in person, especially when there is a picture to prove it. My focus for this article is about a gentleman I met in 2005 and who called me “Gouyave girl” whenever I met him at a function.
Last week Monday we all learnt of the passing of Sir Paul Scoon, the longest serving Governor General and our second Head of State to represent the Queen since the island gained Independence status in 1974. When I began writing the article which was more or less an obituary in the form of a news item, I could not help but recall the longest conversation or as I prefer to say interview I had, with Sir Paul in 2005.
I was at the time working on a assignment which focused on Grenada’s legal system during the period of the Revolution and it was mandatory that I speak to Sir Paul, who by that time had long retired and was enjoying his life as a private citizen in a place called Africa located somewhere in St Paul’s.
When I contacted him via telephone weeks in advance to reserve an interview time and date, I was surprised and shocked to learn that there is a place in Grenada called Africa. I was therefore, not excited to only meet Sir Paul but more so to visit Africa. As a matter of fact, that Saturday morning when I went into the city to get the taxi as directed, I had some of my colleagues believing that I was going to “Africa” the continent.
I left them in that belief until I saw some on Monday, and then I gladly told them that it was an unforgettable trip, the place is very nice and offered to give them directions as to where to find Africa in Grenada. This became a big laugh for a long time among my reporting colleagues.
Getting to Africa meant having to follow Sir Paul’s instructions. He said: “When you get into St George’s, go to an older taxi driver, tell him that you will like to go to Africa to visit Sir Paul Scoon and I am sure he will find his way.” Following that instruction has resulted in “Joe” — a total stranger at the time and myself becoming very good friends since that day.
So there I was in a taxi heading to Africa. When I told the driver why I was going to visit Sir Paul, I was given a complete lecture about Grenada’s Revolutionary history, because “Joe” who continues to be a very strong supporter of the Grenada United Labour Party said he was close to Sir Eric Matthew Gairy and knew why Sir Paul was selected as Head of State and why the Revolution occurred, but that is another article.
On entering the community of Africa with Joe giving me a guided tour as to who were the owners of the various homes, I came to the conclusion that this community only need a gate, because it was the location for the homes for a lot of “who is who” in Grenada.
When the taxi tooted his horn, we were expecting a security guard or a housekeeper to greet us, but to our amazement Sir Paul actually came out and welcomed us. The conversation between himself and Joe really proved to me that both of them were very acquainted with each other but had not seen each other in a long time.
“You chose a good man, he knows the place well,” Sir Paul said. “Now you make sure and return in time,” he told Joe as our interview was scheduled for one hour. As Joe was leaving, I opted to provide my cell phone number and requested that he call before driving back to Africa.
That was a Saturday I will never forget as not only did I learn so much about the politics and legal system at the time when Grenada had its own Court of Appeal, but I learnt about my family background, and he knew how I became a Straker. He knew so much about my family because he was born in Gouyave and knew the people. He was a proud Gouyaveman!
Recalling some of his childhood memories with me, he was quick to point out the place has changed drastically, but I was pleased to know that some of the shop owners he knew, I also had memories of them. He lived not very far from the river and believe it or not he enjoyed catching crayfish but was not an ardent lover of oildown. “Back then people referred to breadfruit as pig food and when my mother cooked it, it was not very happy to share what we ate with friends, so I never really liked it.”
He was very glad to see that oil down had become such a popular dish. “Now everyone wants to eat it now, but as a boy it was an embarrassment to say I had oil down.”
Joe was not called for more than four hours from the original time, as the conversation went from one topic to another. I learned so many untold stories, so many interesting human stories of kindness, gratefulness and gratitude.
As we sat in his back verandah which provided a view of the communities in the area and a perfect vista of the stadium which at that time boldly displayed the effects of Hurricane Ivan, we chatted and enjoyed an evening snack of tea and biscuits. He shared so much information with me that I cannot help but wonder if somewhere there is an unpublished manuscript about this life following his retiring as Head of State.
By Linda Straker