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Monitoring me: A rare view in the rearview mirror; stone-cold sober 2018 reflections

“Which woman,” my decent, upstanding, well-behaved friend CJ enquired with a chuckle, “doesn’t want to start her day every day with a prick?”

Kees was on the radio, the melodic strains of his “Sweet type of Love” filling the room. Coincidence? Perhaps…

“Wanna piece?” she had asked, giggling and proffering a piece of black cake.

“Don’t mind a piece,” I had replied, doubling the double entendre, “but no cake; diabetes.”

WEAKNESS FOR SWEETNESS?: A diabetes sufferer gets help to have a sugar level reading done.

“Really?” she responded, sighing deeply. “How I envy you!”

She must have seen my bemusement because that was when she shared the insight about possible regular morning prickly pleasure.

There are no words,” French actor/playwright Sacha Guitry has written somewhere, “to console decent, upstanding, well-behaved women for the wrong things they have never done” (“Les honnêtes femmes sont inconsolables des fautes qu’elles n’ont pas commises”).

Guitry’s bon mot leapt unbidden into my head immediately after CJ’s witticism. Unlike her, I don’t want my daily morning prick; I need it, I have to have it. I have to hear what it has to say. And these days the news is not great. From January to September last year, the norm was between 85 and 90; for almost all of the following three months, it was over 100, climbing from 143 on 1 December to 155 a couple weeks later, a record high.

With my diet unchanged, the average for January 2018 was exactly 110, the floor of the danger zone. And the February/March average was down a mere three points, hardly an improvement to write home about.

Mind you, I could look at the empty half and reach a disturbing conclusion: some day soon I’ll do an Eric Williams on my family, falling into a diabetic coma from which I shall emerge in a body bag. Or accentuating the positive, I could do an Education Minister Anthony Garcia on myself and conclude that I am a “sweetman.”

But man to hang cyar drown. And what is to is must is. So although mortality has been on my mind for a little while now, all conclusions I leave where they belong, which is in God’s hands.

HARD LASH: Hurricane Irma lashes Puerto Rico with Category Four winds, deluging the island with countless gallons of water.

My quiet storm began with Irma and Maria. There’s a French singer with a unique gravelly voice who’s called Georges Brassens and who dubbed himself “Le pornographe du phonographe (Vinyl’s Vice Regent. The closest thing to a calypsonian France will ever produce, he sings that he rêve d’encore m’enjuponner” (dreams about getting under a few more skirts). I envy him and if CJ had offered me peace of mind instead of piece of her cake, I would have accepted gleefully. But the two female hurricanes offered neither piece nor peace but pause; they drove me to reflect at length on what I have made of the gift of life given me by the Creator.

There’s another French singer called Gilbert Bécaud, whose songs have filled my life since adolescence. And his Mai 68, recalling the turbulence university student riots provoked in France in that year, is one month off being a tribute to me. I’m 68 today. So just a couple of years shy of the biblical threescore and ten allocation, I am emphatically now over the hill. However, though over the hill, I’m in no hurry to get over the line.

Truth is that if life were the equivalent of the Tour de France, I would be what the television experts call a grimpeur. That is what said experts call those who are in their element when going uphill. I certainly don’t qualify as a descendeur, one of those whose best moments, like PM Keith Rowley’s, come on the way down.

Nowadays, I am just enjoying the surrounding landscape, not focusing on any finish line. But I have, I freely admit, found myself pondering the poignant question posed in Brassens’ song “Le testament” (The Will):

Est-il encore debout le chêne (Is the oak a-standing still),” he asks, “ou le sapin de mon cerceuil (or the fir that become my coffin will)?”

I know what I hope will be said when my time comes. Nevertheless, I haven’t yet got to the point of literally sitting at my desk and setting it all down in black and white. Standing or felled oak or standing or felled fir notwithstanding, I’m not in a negative place. For me. the ‘over the hill’ phrase carries none of the negative connotations many attach to it.

WHERE THERE”S A WILL…: French singer Georges Brassens, who famously sang about the terms on which he wants to depart this life.

Before I explain, let us give a listen to what Brassens has to say on the subject of getting over Life’s finish line:

Je serai triste comme un saule (I’ll be as sad as a weeping willow)

Quand le dieu qui partout me suit (When the Father who follows me everywhere)

Me dira la main sur l’épaule (Puts his hand on my shoulder and says to me go)

Va-t’en voir là-haut si j’y suis. (Check upstairs and see if I’m there)

Alors du ciel et de la terre (Then to Earth and to the sky)

Il me faudra faire mon deuil (I shall be forced to say goodbye)

Est-il encore debout le chêne (Is the oak a-standing still)

Ou le sapin de mon cerceuil (Or the fir that become my coffin will?)

UPHILL CLIMB: Wired868 editor Earl Best runs for his life, having an uphill struggle to complete the COSTAATT 5K in April 2017,  (Andre Cadogan/COSTAATT)

S’il faut aller au cimetière (When the trek to my grave I make)

Je prendrai le chemin le plus long (I’ll surely take the longest track)

Je ferai la tombe buissonière (Lokoi biche I’ll surely break)

Je quitterai la vie à reculons (I’ll leave life gazing fixedly back)

Je veux partir pour l’autre monde (When I’ve to go to the Other Side)

Par le chemin des écoliers (It’s baby steps, not a long stride.)

Tant pis si les croque-morts me grondent (Matters not if the undertakers complain)

Tant pis s’ils me croient fou à lier (Matters not if they think I’m quite insane)

Je veux partir pour l’autre monde (When I’ve to go to the Other Side)

Par le chemin des écoliers (It’s baby steps, not a long stride)

NO FUSS: Sisyphus pushes his stone up the hill, knowing that it will roll right back down when he reaches the top. Is he happy? Camus says he is.

The Sisyphus story tells us that the gods condemned him to roll a stone up a hill. That’s not too hard, you might think.  The catch, however, is that they also ordained that he would never be able to get it over the top. It would roll all the way back to the bottom of the hill and he’d have to start the uphill slog all over again. The result, remember, was pre-ordained!

But French existentialist philosopher Albert Camus has said that “Il faut imaginer Sisyphe heureux (You have to see Sisyphus as happy).”

And now that I myself am over the hill, I understand precisely what he means.

Because for me, over the hill is at one and the same time over the moon.

About Earl Best

Earl Best
Earl Best taught cricket, French, football and Spanish at QRC for many years and has written consistently for the Tapia and the Trinidad and Tobago Review since the 1970's. He is also a former sports editor at the Trinidad Guardian and the Trinidad Express and is now a senior lecturer in Journalism at COSTAATT.

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  1. I enjoyed reading Earl’s piece ..I know of the man and I always admired his ‘style’, passionate, honest and obviously brilliant…maybe that is my one regret.. ‘not allowing my dormant mind’ to erupt!!

  2. Like the roses coming into leaf outside, life’s a prickly unpredictable affair all right, sometimes with longer pleasure – or, I suppose, double pleasure.
    Why? Having hit the same score three months ago as you do today, and having had to look at issues of a Will and Power of Attorney recently, I recognise what you mean about being over the moon.
    Got to remember, though: there’s more moon to get over than normal, seeing that between our scores we’ve had two blue moons (31 January and 31 March, both being cases of a second Full Moon in a single calendar month).
    Whatever the unpredictability (le chêne ou le sapin), looks like it’s best to keep the old stone rolling.
    Greetings (from London), Earl!

  3. Lasana Liburd this piece reminds me so much of why, even though there is much that separates us (Alma Maters for one), we two ‘nous nous entendions comme deux larrons dans une foire ’ ‘were as thick as two thieves’ for many years as colleagues at a certain place of education next to the Savanna. I shall need to call him later today to wish him belated Happy Birthday and verify if the ‘mons’ referred to in the last line of his piece is ‘mons Veneris’… enquiring minds need to know..

    • Earl Best

      WJC, Hi. Howdy. Thanks.

      Correction. Enquiring minds wish to know. But genies are the ones who grant wishes, not sexagenarians making their buckets lists public.
      All I will add is a reminder that it is curiosity that killed the cat. Not even Wired868 is able to confirm precisely where Mr Curiosity was perched when he committed his crime, whether on Mt Olympus or on Mt Venus.