The residents of the peaceful village of Sherwood Content in the parish of Trelawny on Jamaica’s north coast are far from content. Their long-standing disquiet and frustration over their sporadic water supply was highlighted over the holiday season when their most famous son was forced to bolt four miles away to the Windsor River just to have a bath.
The world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt, is said to have cut short quality time with his parents over the yuletide season by more than a day, when the district’s chronic water shortage became too much to bear. His father Wellesley, along with other disgruntled members of the community recently expressed their discontent to newspaper reporters regarding the difficulties they faced in performing the simplest of domestic tasks without piped water supply to the same village which attracted international interest as the hometown of the triple Olympic gold medalist.
I am a little ashamed to say this, but I tried in vain to hold back mirthless laughter when I recalled the euphoria that descended upon the population after the stellar performance of the athletes in Beijing, and the pomp and circumstance that greeted them on their return home. Like the Christmas breeze, it appears to have been seasonal, any hope that there would be any trickle down effect of the victories in Beijing.
Even Bolt has had to face the reality after his delivery of fifteen minutes of fame for Jamaica, that his country cannot deliver one of life’s basics, not only to the gentle villagers of Sherwood Content, but to scores of other relatively newer communities that span the length and breadth of the island.
Governmental neglect, non-enforcement of existing laws and building codes as well as lack of discipline among the citizenry are just a few of the sources that have spawned some of these sprawling communities. For years, squatting and a host of other practices have occupied a twilight zone of legality in Jamaica. Their practice is so widespread, you don’t know whether they’re on or off the books.
Take the simple spliff. Come Jazz festival in a few weeks, with scads of high-ranking politicians and police inspectors present, if the nimbus cannabis hovering over the heads of thousands of patrons is any indication, then we have an edge over Amsterdam, where marijuana indulgence is limited to coffeeshops. And strictly enforced. Who knows? Probably at our jazz festival the only shocker would be for a cop to ask you for a draw. Just be careful you are never caught with an ounce in your car if you’re stopped for a traffic violation. For as is with many of our “twilight zone” laws, hue of skin and cash on hand are high on the list of factors to be considered in your apprehension.
Next to come to mind is indecent language. Just be careful whose company you are in when you decide to bus’ it. Around most politicians and liberals is fine, and since a few clergymen do missionary work in communities where it is the mother tongue, as “men of the cloth” they won’t go apoplectic or catatonic if you let loose a string. But if you value your freedom (and politicians on the wrong side of the fence this goes for you too) forego the use of bad words around the police.
For rape, felonious wounding or gun possession, just find some good, upstanding citizens to provide character references, and the judge will most likely suspend the sentence she intended to give you.
Beach heists. Not many on record, but before you embark on committing this particular “twilight zone” offence, just remember you will need some powerful connections in high places. Very high places.
If the worse comes to the worst and you are incarcerated, just remember that this is nothing to be ashamed of, as those behind bars or out in the wilderness can still lead from behind and run things. Come to think of it, more than half of the population is under lock and key in one form or the other anyway.
But how did I go off on this tangent, so far away from Bolt and Sherwood Content’s water woes? Last thing I heard was that the gentle folk of Sherwood Content hijacked a water truck, and the sideman and driver had to be rescued by the police.
The name Jamaica, land of wood and water is almost mocking us.