GOWANUS Winter 2000
Letter Home From JB de Callao
By Anthony Milne
bitter chill it was!
The owl for all his feathers was a-cold;
The hare limp'd trembling through the frozen grass,
And silent was the flock in woolly fold. - Keats
I was just saying to my wife Ermine
on this frosty Christmas morning
Don't make the mistake of coming up here now. I JB de Callao, Port of Spain business man, tell you so. I came by BeeWee for a short business trip, not realising. Bringing my wife was another big mistake. It is like hell up here in London in what they call a "cold snap." Minus eight, they say. Fog so thick you can't see your hand in front your face, and frost white. like snow on the ground. But no real real snow at all though, and I never saw it before. So no white Christmas.
I got so damn excited when I thought
it as snowing I went outside to
No carne vinadash. This morning I
have to settle for corn flakes.
Not that I didn't try to make some carne vinadash up here. These people never heard of it; not to mention pastel and ponche de creme. I manage to connect with a butcher in Bayswater, a creole fella in a white apron.
I took him for a Trinidadian, so I
say, "Pardner, I want to make a
So I said, "Excuse me sir, you all
have any pigs? I want a small one,
I say, "You can't make carne vinadash with lamb chops man; what the hell you going to call it, lamb vinadash?
He look like he didn't like that, but I feel he didn't really understand what I was saying. After that I give up, and I had to settle for the corn flakes. Big Christmas day.
Last night I was to go to midnight
mass with my wife Ermine. When I look outside I change my mind. It was
dark like midnight from 4 p.m. I wasn't sure if it was the moon or sun
I was seeing. I went this
Church of the Holy Rood. Damn funny
name for a church, and I wasn't sure at first if it was a Catholic church.
I though it might be
Anyway, I got lost on the way to church
though it was just round the
I would have gone to the London Hilton but I didn't want the press to know I'm here. I said, "Ermine you should go and do some shopping at Mark and Spinster man, first time you been in London." She said I must leave her right there and just tell her when I was ready to go back to Trinidad. I suppose she will make me see hell when we get back to Port of Spain and she is back to normal. I had to give her a valium hoping she wouldn't have a nervous breakdown.
I took one myself the first day we
arrived to get the courage to go
I put on three pairs of socks, long-johns,
a track pants, three
Outside on the pavement I had to wait
15 minutes for a No 52 bus to go to Buckingham Palace. Just to see the
place nuh; I don't really know the Queen. And I know she has enough troubles
already with those boys; the Royal Princes or whatever. I hear one is an
architect or something, a little bit funny, and the next one in the Royal
The young one I don't know about.
But a paper up hear like the Bomb say they running woman left, right and
centre and divorcing
The Queen don't like it but the Archbishop
of London don't seem to
By the time the bus come I was stiff,
and when I try to get on I
I was still waving and calling out
to the driver when he close the
I was embarrass like hell, but I say,
"Excuse me constable, I new up
"Had too much to drnk then Mr Cowley?" the constable say. "Can't find your way home?"
"Drink? I say. "I don't drink at all, don't touch it, very seldom anyhow." This time my foot start to feel like it freezing off. "Constable my foot has stuck to the pavement."
"Stuck to the pavement has it? Well
you'd better unstick it," the ass
"If I could unstick it I wouldn't have call you, you constipated..."
But I catch myself just in time. Is
a damn good thing I took that
So I said very couteously, "Sir, if
you could just help me chip off
Then he look down and at last the fool understand what I was saying.
"Oh dear," he say laughing, "you have
got a problem." Then he take out his bootoo and start to chook the edge
of my shoe. Then he hit it two, three good lash. My foot was so numb with
the cold I didn't feel a damn thing. At last I was able to lift my foot
again. I thank the
Well after that I done with that.
I call up the Englishman I was to do
I am wrting this wearing gloves, so
you must forgive the back
Never me again.