Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Amber of the Gods

If we accept that rum is the amber nectar of the gods, then the gods or God himself must be a Jamaican.

In Trinidad, I'll be getting into this carnival as much as my spirit will allow. I, like all Jamaicans, firmly believe that we produce the best rum - and that we also have a huge variety.

Barbados and their Mount Gay and Cockspur - are better than Trinidad. But really there is a great range in flavours around the West Indies. Martinique's rum is unlike those of the English speaking islands, because they (I understand) make theirs straight from sugar cane - and not from molasses. Molasses is the by-product of sugar - making rum a by-(by?) product of sugar - even though it now makes far more money than sugar.

Guyana has a very good rum called El Dorado. Cuba's 12 year old Havana Club is good - smells great. Haiti has a great rum too - the name slips me at the moment. But Jamaican rum stands in a class by itself - particuarly aged rums - there is an Appleton 21 year old, which should be drunk like a brandy. There is also Edwin Charley Black Label - which I think is kind of whiskey like. Younger Appletons. Gold Label Trelawny Rum - which used to be very popular in the 1970s and 80s, but lost out to Appleton special in the 90s. We have a new rum brand called Port Royal.

On top of this we have darker rums which are mainly for export (all the ones I have listed here are gold rums). The dark rums include the ones that the English are probably most familiar with - which are no longer for the Jamaican palate - Captain Morgan, Lambs Navy Rum, Myers. Coruba is dark and sweet and is the most popular rum in New Zealand.

We also make a white rum which is very popular with the masses - called J. Wray and Nephew Overproof. It is akin to lighter fluid - but smells worse. I am embarrassed to admit that many of my own friends have switched from Appleton Special or Appleton V/X to white rum - many mixing it with cranberry juice or coconut water.

You will note that I haven't mentioned Bacardi, which no self-respecting Jamaican would ever consider to be even remotely related to rum - and would place it further down the ratings than I place our white rum.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Wining, whining and rum

I'm off to Trinidad this week. Carnival! Trinidad's is reputed - at least in this part of the world - to be the best on the planet. I think it probably deserves that reputation - though residents of New Orleans, Rio and Venice and God know's where else may disagree.

I am a Trinidad Carnival virgin. But I have been to carnival here in Jamaica quite a few times and to Notting Hill a few times as well. Notting Hill seems to me to be much ado about nothing - with an audience of millions. Jamaica Carnival is fun - much smaller - and quite artificial. Well for us its just a reason to have a party - nothing to do with lent. Nothing at all, as it is actually held in the Easter period. And also, Soca music, though fairly popular, is not ours. Reggae and dance hall are our music. We do get some Jamaican music in our carnival - but Soca is the driver.

As for the tipple - everyone knows that Trinidadian rum is almost undrinkable - so all Jamaicans are expected to carry as much Appleton - or dare I say Gold Label? as they can carry. But I intend to give the old Royal Oak a try - really I do. Anyway, now that the Trinis have bought Lascelles, I guess they will finally have a decent rum. Its kind of sobering that Jamaica no longer owns its rum - but on the good side - at least I've got a good price for my shares.

Anyway - don't know how I'm going to survive a week of partying, drinking, wining and whining. But I'm gonna give it my best shot.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Take care Best Care

I have just been to the 'Best Care Chidren's Home' here in Kingston - not knowing what to expect.

The home is near to New Kingston - but hidden on a back road. Quite a large plot of land with a pleasant enough building with faded murals of flowers, cartoon figures and butterflies and the like. My first sight was a man with a wide and fixed grin walking along all the while trying to free his hands which were quite loosly tied behind his back.

Inside we went to the dining area, where little children - the smallest being about 9 years old but looking like a slight three year old - were being treated to a meal of sweet and sour chicken, rice and peas, vegetables and cups of juice. Many of the chilren were unable to speak or feed themselves. Many were reaching out to get some sort of human affection, even from strangers like me.

I saw another man who also had his hands tied behind his back. Why, we asked? The nurse in charge told us that the first one had a tendency to remove his trousers - which she was sure we wouldn't like to see. The other had a tendency to dig into the rubbish and eat food from there.

The first man eventually managed to release his hands, and first took a big handful of food from a bowl of food that was unattended. Later, he seemed to alternate between trying to put his free hand back into its cloth strap and trying to remove his trousers - which the staff had purposely put on him back to front, a trick which seemed to do much as the second line of defence.

Later, the children went off to the classrooms at another section of the building, while the older residents - many in their 20s came in for their lunch. Many of them were in a very sad state, unable to walk, some in wheel chairs, some basically pulling themselves across the floor, severely challenged both physically and mentally. Drooling, crawling, making noices but not speaking - but peaceful - and not in a drugged sort of way, just naturally peaceful.

We saw their dorms - the beds all made very well, with large stuffed toys on many of the pillows. Tv's and fans on the walls.

Its tragic to me, but heartening to know that we have such a place for these orphans of the state. The care they are getting may or may not live up to the name of the home, but on the limited resources available, at least they seem to be happy enough. The range in ages was surprising - but there is nowhere for many of them to go as they get older.

The home gets by on some aid from the state and donations from various businesses. Out of sight, these people are out of our minds - but thankfully are not completely forgotten, even in a country where human life often seems so cheap.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Sticks, stones and words

Five people are killed by police Tivoli Gardens. And the talk in Jamaica seems not to be about the deaths themselves - but whether or not a policeman said that 'innocents' died. It appears that it was the reporter who said it and not the policeman - but who should really care?

People died - who may or may not have been innocent. Investigations will hopefully tell the truth. Few people believe the police at the best of times - so why should they assume that the policeman would be telling the truth on this occasion.

The point is not what the policeman said - the point should be what is the truth.

The question should be, was it right for these people to be killed by the police - innocent or not?

But words, it seems, are far more important than actions.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Global bad news is local good news?

Stock markets globally are falling, thanks to fears of an impending or existing US recession.

Meanwhile, the Jamaican stock market seems to be doing quite well - proof of the contrary nature of our economy.

It should be a roller coaster year, but perhaps our market will boom this year, as 'Altertative Investment' investors seek safer harbour, and as our economy continue to buck global economic trends, whether they are positive or negative.

Given that we managed to accomplish negative growth when the rest of the world was booming, a global recession might be great news for us, as our economy may now grow. As long as no pyramids tumble, and as long as mother nature gives us a break - we may have a chance.

The alternative, that we will do even worse than the rest of the world, is not worth thinking about.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

All a flutter

New government, new year, clean sheets - true there's a bit of wind and a lot of hot air - but let us not dwell on that.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Holy to Unholy Fun

Christmas is over - it seemed to go buy a little more pleasantly this year. Its a great time to be in Jamaica - especially if you have the bucks for all the big parties - Boom, Utopia, Frenchmen and more. But even if you don't there's plenty more going on - Maiden Cay if you are off work and can get a ride to the sandbank. Maiden Cay is a pretty good name for it, given the fine lassies that pack the little spit like sardines in a can.

But now that the holy season is over in Jamaica, its time to think about the unholy one in Trinidad - namely that sin-packed bachanal known as Carnival

Well - I presume its sin-packed. In sun tan oil. Don't know for sure. I'll be heading to T&T at the end of this month to find out for sure.

With all the jumping and dancing and walking and standing and what not - I hope that Port of Spain doesn't become a Port of Pain.