Sidi Mansour vs Ma Baker

Life in Kingston, Jamaica was sometimes like living in a war zone: occasional bursts of excitement — driving after dark through a ghetto zone, boarding up the windows as a hurricane approached — interspersed with long periods of boredom, for the city does not offer much in the way of amusement for a young family of unbelievers. By midday Saturday, we were already kicking our heels, wondering where to go. In fact the only option for non-church goers was eating out, which was fine, given the surprising variety of good restaurants: Japanese, Lebanese, Chinese, Swiss-French. I can firmly state that I have eaten the best samosas in my life (with plum sauce!) at the Indian restaurant in Marketplace, a great recent development by Mafoud senior.

Right next door to the Indian restaurant was another regular destination during our weekend outings, the Habibi Latino. As its name suggests, it offered a mix of South American and Arabic cuisine — I guess there was a mixed marriage involved. While we tucked into the hommos, fatoush, tabouleh and kibbeh, shivering slightly from the hyperactive air-co, the kids could crawl around the empty benches and dance to the CD of Arabic golden oldies. One of the songs reminded Mr B of his Baghdad days; for me, it brought back rainy summer days in a caravan on the Isle of Arran, listening to Boney M’s Ma Baker. We asked one of the Jamaican waitresses dressed in a black chador if we could copy the song, but this seemed to cause her great confusion and came to nothing.

We found the song again recently on a mix CD in my in-laws’ car, and since then … I have found myself forced into having to convince each family-in-law member, one person-in-law at a time, that Sidi Mansour is the inspiration behind Boney M’s 1977 hit. Maybe I didn’t need to go further than humming the relevant bits, but, well, I’m something of an obsessive musical listener — I may not remember the lyrics, but I reckon I have something of a photographic ear (you know what I mean). Result? Three hours on Acid (Pro) mashing up Saber El Robaey’s version of Sidi Mansour with Ma Baker.

[audio:Sidi Baker – remix.mp3]

The first reaction I got was typically Dutch in its laconic understatement: “Okay, you convinced me just a bit. nice.”

What do YOU think?

Daiquiri virgin

We followed Ernesto’s trail online hour by hour but by early morning it had become clear that he was turning away from Jamaica and moving north. So we feel pretty silly sitting in a house with boarded-up windows (actually only four windows – that’s all the plywood we had).

We also tried to follow local reports on Jamaican television, but TVJ was more concerned with showing a radio chat show from the US on the controversy (sic) of evolution vs creationism (Darwin pwns Genesis btw), Love Channel (sic) had its usual hallelujah whoop-up, which left only CVM-TV to report on the forthcoming wrath of God hurricane … by way of rebroadcasting the US Weather Channel.

But lo! Then came a hurricane report from the local studio, presented by a man who seemed to have a problem with ahm what we ahm say ahm … speaking is it.

According to the … ahm OfficeofDisasterPreparednessandEmergencyManagementODPEM ahm the … hurricane ahm Ernesto should pass the ahm island around … ah two o’clock. TheODPEM ahm advises residents in ahm the parishes of er Portland and St Mary to uh … run for their ahm … lives.

Oh well. Still a hurricane virgin, if we discount the heavy wetting by Wilma last year.

We consoled ourselves with a big Cuban lunch that began with plátanos a puñetazos (punched plantains) and ended with plátanos en tentación (bananas cooked with cinnamon, sugar, lime juice and white wine), accompanied by my first ever daiquiri.

Mmmmm. I popped my Maraschino cherry.

Ernesto has a problem

Music while you read, probably written by Winston Jarrett, but most definitely produced by Lee “Scratch” Perry.

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Ernesto has an identity crisis: he doesn’t know if he’s a tropical storm or a hurricane … yet. On this cool flash tracking map, he hasn’t even reached name status, just “Tropical Depression Five”. Oh the shame of it! He won’t be able to look the other hurricanes in the eye after such ignominy.

Of course all that may change by the time he reaches Jamaica on Sunday morning. In such circumstances it’s good to know that others appear to be prepared. Take, for example, the American Adjusters LC web site, whose motto,

We work through the claims maze with speed its our job

indicates that they are obviously too quick to be bothered by punctuation.

The rest of the text is similarly unconcerned with minor details such as actually making sense. It is clear that they have done an automatic text insert of the phrase “hurricane Ernesto damage claims” at least once in every sentence, producing such rhetorical gems as,

American Adjusters LC has carefully chosen its staff to be able to give excellent hurricane Ernesto damage claims. We provide a speedy processing of hurricane Ernesto damage claims, hurricane Leslie damage claims and hurricane Florence damage claims. We are definite that with our competent and resourceful adjusters, you’d be pleased to have hurricane Ernesto damage claims with us. We guarantee that we employ high quality method in hurricane Ernesto damage claims to satisfy that needs of our customers.

Maybe I’m too much of a stickler about language use, but I wouldn’t trust an insurance company that can’t be arsed to be more careful about wording – it makes me wonder how careful they are in processing insurance claims.

Shopping for hurricanes

Hurricane season is fast approaching and the signs do not augur well. Everyone has become a seasoned climatologist, foreseeing upcoming catastrophe in each new hot, dry day. This is how it was before Ivan, they tell me, even before Gilbert. And after the predictions come the heroic battle stories of surviving previous hurricanes – days, weeks, months without electricity or water, hours spent each day trogging up the hills to fetch water. It would quickly deterioriate into a shaggy dog story of onedownmanship, à la Four Yorkshiremen, except that the storytellers usually drift into vacant smiles as if fondly reminiscing the good old days.

So, what is to be done?

We arrived in Jamaica at the end of the hurricane season last year, although we immediately got a good taste of what it could be like (Read more …).

Prada portable generatorNow, though, we’re on our own and will have to fend for ourselves when the lights go out for longer than the “normal” outages. On trips to Mega Mart, I’ve been drawn to getting our own generator. I think it’s the rugged independence that appeals to me. They’re also surprisingly sexy, with funky colours and moulded contours. But still, they’re not cheap. Wadaya reckon?

And apart from a generator, what else should we stock up on?

Waterbeds III: the pics

Apologies for the quality of the photos, but given the circumstances they were the best I could do. Next photos will be back to my usual high standards ;-D

This part of the hotel had just been renovated. The force and volume of the rain was such that water seeped through the window frames (?) and poured down the walls inside, causing the paint to bubble horribly.
Bubbling walls

A touch of Barton Fink and the peeling walls.

Book drying

We laid the sodden books and games out in the corridor to dry out, then later tried blowdrying the pages, but they were just one big pulpy moosh.

By dawn the water had started receding and the pool area began to resurface.
Flooded pool
Our hotel room was at the same level.