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Red-letter daze

By Terry Joseph
April 10, 2002

SOME mornings appear quite mundane, indeed deceptively uninteresting at first glance, although elders preach that each dawn customises the flavours of its sunrise and no matter how boring the ensuing contest, a single event eclipses all others in any given day.

History records the premium event as that day’s signature, but it needs something to work with. Here in paradise, today hardly looks like a red-letter day in the making. Truth is, we have been stockpiling so much ordinariness in recent times that desperation is clearly setting in.

Out of pure embarrassment with this ongoing condition of banality, last Friday was pressured into being “D-Day” and given all kinds of excessive epithets, as if to conscript excitement to the calendar purely on the basis of nomenclature.

No one in the streets ever thought there was going to be a confrontation between the lunatic fringes of opposing political groups. The media was however convinced some kind of violent exchange would take place and police responded faithfully by placing chains and padlocks on the gates of Woodford Square, otherwise known as The People’s Parliament.

The last time Woodford Square was closed was on April 22, 1970, the day after a state of emergency had been declared in the wake of a decision by the Indian-heritage tribe to join their African counterparts in the burgeoning civil-unrest taking place at the time.

It looked to us then as if police had inside information about developments that could cause civil strife. Between that time and now, we have twice discovered that police intelligence on even the correct age of its senior officers is not always reliable.

It is as though we are going through All Fools’ month, rather than confining the prank-fest to one day. We opened with a formal fraud squad investigation into the age of a senior police officer. This ludicrous episode ranks among the big local news to date this April.

But let us be fair. It may be that some great thing occurred recently, an event that eluded our various networks, including the rumour mill and ever-popular mauvais-langue circuit. After all, several famous days in history weren’t always known to be so between sunrise and sunset, many of them only so described by hindsight.

Presumably, at midnight on April 10, 1849, most folks were long asleep, having categorised the preceding 24 hours as “just another day” or “more of the same”. Much later in life they would discover the now invaluable safety pin was patented at 11 o’clock that morning.

It was also the day in 1790 when the US congress, after a stormy session, approved the first patent law, from which anti-piracy and copyright lawsuits now so easily spring. In 1866 on April 10, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) was founded.

Owners of the British luxury liner Titanic also chose April 10, this day in 1912, for the champagne-smashing ritual that began the trans-Atlantic maiden voyage of their maritime monster. Five days later, the Titanic sank after hitting an iceberg, a fact that might only have come home to post-war babies when Celine Dion sang the movie’s main theme “My Heart Will Go On”. F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, one of the benchmark American novels of the 20th Century, was published on April 10, 1925 and on that day in 1974, Golda Meir announced her resignation as Israel’s Prime Minister.

Founder of the Salvation Army, William Booth was born on April 10, 1829, exactly 18 years before publisher Joseph Pulitzer, who preceded painter/sculptor Ben Nicholson by another 47 calendars.

Playwright, diplomat and legislator Clare Booth Luce came onboard on April 10, 1903, actor Omar Sharif in 1932 and nine years later, acclaimed novelist and travel writer Paul Theroux. Today also marks the anniversary of the death of Mexican freedom fighter Emiliano Zapata.

If, as seems the case, we’re really going for trivia, by the time you read this, I will be airborne to Miami en route to Gran Cayman for this weekend’s Batabano Carnival. It is my first time in Cayman and the Panazz Players steel ensemble makes its re-entry to the bright lights after a hiatus of some 16 months.

History books are not made of such stuff, you say, but what I ask you, might we put on record in lieu? Surely we are not going to stuff the heads of our nation’s future leaders with reams of information updating the current farce being passed of as parliamentary procedure? Or were we thinking of a rehash of the “Head” in the Flower-Pot mystery to describe last Saturday’s haul of marijuana from a living room floral plant at a house in Siparia? Alas, Dr Linda Baboolal’s stint as first female President of the Republic will only last “a ten days”, a period normally associated here with ridicule of fleeting glory, or measurement of time-elapsed between a signal event and its stay in local memory.

Among her early responses to questions from media, Madam President declined to give her age, as if we were only being uselessly inquisitive. Next thing you know, not only police officers are giving us trouble when it comes time to move on.

So, we’re left with a few cases of sporadic violence, suspension of some school teachers, ongoing voter-padding inquiry, impending international cricket fixtures and music concerts. Not a bad scenario, really, if one has to pit that combination against our brand of politics.

Happily, we have another shot at greatness tomorrow, April 11, when we can try for an event that will make our children proud of adult efforts to improve their lot.

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