I was really put out by the recent act of terrorism in New Zealand. A finer place to live and work one couldn’t find. True, my experience of that country goes back a good five decades, but I’ve never forgotten the place and its people. Topographically beautiful and diverse, and at the time, much of it pastoral and provincial in the best sense of those words, its two islands span many latitudes, thus giving rise to varying climactic and weather conditions. Its people, whether the indigenous Maoris or the “Pakehas” (Caucasians), are extremely welcoming and simple without being even remotely parochial.
I lived in the North Island’s capital, windy Wellington (it blows a gale or near-gale there daily), which could sometimes be tiring, even disturbing. However, I was also quite familiar with Christchurch in the South Island, for reasons which shall remain undivulged. It was in Christchurch, smaller and quieter, that I used to get around in either a Model A or a Model T, depending on the whims and fancies of my friend the owner, or indeed mine. What a smashing experience that was! But now, I shudder to recall, albeit vicariously, the recent goings-on at the hands of that monster, a non-New Zealander. I sympathise with any New Zealander living here in Saint Lucia. I somehow feel certain that our people were impressed by the manner in which the Prime Minister, Mrs Ardern, handled herself during and after the crisis, never mind the difficulty some had with the New Zealand accent. I grieve for New Zealand and its people, yet I am optimistic that that dastardly experience will eventually make them stronger and even more united.
The other news item which caught my attention this week came out of Brunei. Yes, well, the polar opposite of New Zealand. Once home to the residents of stilt houses which make up the nests of water villages stretching for miles, and of course the dazzling golden palace and surroundings of the Sultan himself, sitting away from all else, it did not exude anything approaching the same kind of, or similar, atmosphere as did New Zealand. Clearly, I never expected it to. However, there was a certain inscrutable coldness about the place, and I was not too disappointed that the Stable Master/Manager, a Jamaican, and friend of a friend, with whom I was supposed to connect and be treated to a tour of certain sections of the palace, happened to be on leave that month and was back home in Jamaica. In fact, I was quite happy to skip the intended visit to the gilded residence of the (at that time) richest person in the world, who was obviously turned on by gold – lots and lots of it – gaudily so. And now, what with his latest retrogressive laws, well, I can’t imagine that many travellers will be in any hurry to give him and his country a look-see.
I shall follow with interest what tomorrow brings for those remembered spots on God’s green – or rather now not-so-green earth… — Nahdjla Bailey