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Bush for so

FREDDIE KISSOON Saturday, May 16 2009

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BEST BOSS: Chief Justice Ivor Archie (left) presents Andrea Alexis, of Eastern Divers Company, with the Employer of the Year award at the Employers' C...
BEST BOSS: Chief Justice Ivor Archie (left) presents Andrea Alexis, of Eastern Divers Company, with the Employer of the Year award at the Employers' C...

When I lived in East Dry River, there was a small abandoned quarry at the back of our house. It was a wild bowl-shaped place with all sorts of rough bushes growing helter skelter in cracks and crevices in the hard brown earth. At the top were big trees with grey lianas hanging down. On the opposite side, was a deep precipice. My brother and I named that land — “The Jungle” as it was a great area to play Tarzan.

One day when I was Tarzan and he was Cheetah, our mother called out, “Victor and Freddie, come inside. Rain coming!” but the game was going so good, we pretended not to hear her. After having a wonderful time playing in the heavy rain, we came down soaked to the bone from our heroics in the Jungle, to receive some hurtful pinches and a good tongue lashing for disobedience.

Shortly after, I was ill with roasting fever which prevented me from attending school. My maternal grandfather who knew a lot about medicinal bushes suggested that I should be given a bush bath. To my surprise, I saw some of the same bush that were in the Jungle being placed in the boiling water in a huge aluminium bath pan on the top of the back steps.

A small patois-speaking woman with her head tied, was sitting on a stool with a big calabash in hand waiting to administer the bush bath. When I was placed in the hot water in my birthday suit, I felt as if I was being boiled alive and cried out to high heavens. My mother comforted me saying, “Don’t cry. You’ll get better after this.” My brother who was taking in the scene from the yard below laughed raucously, “Look at Tarzan, behaving like a big baby!”

Shortly after I recovered and was happy to attend school where my teacher, Miss Pierre welcomed me with a hug and kiss. More than 30 years after, when I was writing Calabash Alley — the 78 fifteen minute radio serial commissioned by Radio Trinidad, I created a scene where Iron man forced Mabel, Danny, Ralph and Papa George to get up at five o’clock and run around the Queen’s Park Savannah.

They jogged along — huffing, puffing and panting — but as soon as they passed Queen’s Royal College, the rain came down bucket a drop. Iron Man compelled them to complete the journey. Two days after, Papa George had roasting fever which led to delirium.

A patois-speaking old woman, Ma Say-Say, was brought in by Iron Man to give Papa George a bush bath. While sitting in a rocking chair and searching for the bushes in a crocus bag, she said, “This bush is the man peeahbah and I looking for the woman peeahbah. I put both of them in the boiling water first. Yes, let me see. Way the roots? Oui, the gully root, coogay root. Me sister sen a silk cotton flower, Christmas bush, dee- tay-payee, bois lay lay, fits weed and black sage.

“Now a moreso of shado bani, uhum, verte-ti verte, ven ven, a string or curilee bush. Say say moi voyah jestema saki bon per benyah maladlah! She send the right tings. A piece of bois canoe, jeretoot and we must put in fever grass, chandilay bush and man better man...Ah, oui at last ah get the lemon grass. Dis bon. Tam tam fallback, zehbaypeek. I must put in a piece of ti marie and cousin mahoe.”

In the dialogue, I mentioned bushes like mad but many are not really associated with healing properties. Actually, Shandilay bush is also called ball bush, ball head bush or cartwright bush. Bois canoe, bwa cano or trumpet tree is the same. Lemon grass is also known fever grass, shado beni — fits weed and Christmas bush as baby bush.

After the All-Fours card game, the captain said to his side, “Like all you drink bush rum or what? Stop beating around the bush. Tell me, why we lose?” A player answered, “It was distracting with people like bush looking on. And, we had no luck. The team was only holding a setta bush all the time.”

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