Monday, March 31, 2008

Unknowing smiles

The other day someone said to me: "Spec, why are you smiling?" I said: "I am?!" I wasn't even aware of it. As far as I was concerned I was probably looking blasé, but apparently I had a smile stuck on my face. I can't remember exactly what I was doing, but it must have been something 'routine' like work or waiting. I thought "Hmmm." Maybe somewhere within, I am happy and at peace, but am not conscious of it.

Then yesterday afternoon I was walking down the road to meet the French. A large pick-up truck passed by and the man driving it waved enthusiastically to me. I waved back, thinking I knew him. About one minute later he pulled up beside me (he had turned his van around and come back). He drove alongside me, gesticulating and calling out something about "Had to" and "smile". At that time someone had just called me on the cellular phone and I was talking, so couldn't make out what he was saying. I just waved and kept walking and talking. I didn't know him and thought he would drive off. But he turned the corner, stopped and waited for me to cross the road (by which time I was off the phone).

He got out of his pick-up and stood at a distance (perhaps respectful of the fact that in this age of crime it is best as a man to stay far when speaking to a woman who doesn't know you). He was staring at me, beaming and looking like he had just found some kind of treasure. "I had to come back and tell you!" he said (he had an English accent and looked like a mixed Indian/Anglo). His hair was wild like he had just been through a storm. I guess some people would look at him and think he was 'crazy', but I thought he just looked like 'himself'. He started to apologise for waving (maybe he felt he had to because he felt I would wonder why a stranger was waving to me) then said: "But I had to wave because you have the most captivating smile!"

"I was smiling?" I said, again not been aware that I had been.

"Yes! You were! And I had to come back and tell you to keep it! Keep it!" He was like a motivational coach in his energy. He went on about how the 'captivating smile' had made him turn around and come back and how 'it works'. "It works for you! Keep it" He looked so overjoyed and effusive, literally beaming.

I thanked him for stopping to tell me, he wished me a 'fabulous afternoon! And keep it!' ... to which I told him: "And you keep that wave" and continued walking.

That encounter made me think of a few things. First, the reason I had thanked him was not so much because of his appreciation of 'the smile', but because of the fact that he had turned around and stopped to tell me what he had felt in that moment. Not many people would do that. (i) They are afraid. (ii) They are too busy (iii) They might think the other would think they are crazy.

The next thing I thought was about 'being crazy'. When anyone looks 'too happy', in public (especially when alone), generally people tend to wonder: "What happen to she/he?" I remember once seeing a well-dressed woman walking down Maraval Road alone, smiling broadly for an extended period of time. People were staring at her as if she was mad. Another time there was a woman, absorbed in smiling and humming loudly to herself as she laid out her groceries for the HiLo cashier. The cashier was looking at her in that 'whappen to she" way, like she was crazy.

If extended smiling and humming are signs of lunacy, then what a pity we live in a sane world.


Friday, March 28, 2008

des nouveaux mots

After talking in French, when it's time to talk in English again I feel somewhat disappointed. My friend Nic feels the same way about Spanish (she is doing evening classes). We both agree that a new language is like a new life, a new perspective, a new everything. It can transform a mundane or routine task or subject into an adventure. Even sitting in traffic today heading into POS, I didn't notice the heat and frustration because I was busy parler-ing.
Sitting in traffic (l'embouteillage) on the way home from POS.
Here are some of the new words I learned yesterday and today:
âme soeur
- the French term for 'Soul mate'. It literally means soul sister ... soul (âme) sister (soeur). Interestingly, the term is even applied to a male person.
la vie de bonvivant - the good life; the life of someone who lives well
bordel - the word means 'brothel' but is used to say that something is a mess. I learned this word while eating doubles (bordelique - messy; or c'est le bordel)


Thursday, March 27, 2008

La vie est la classe

Yesterday I missed French class because of work but it's not like I really missed anything - because I've been getting more practice in real life by speaking in French during the day. I retain the language better through relevant real time conversation (where I can apply it to what's going on), than through a book. The advantage of the book is getting to see the spelling.

Two of yesterday's new phrases:
1. J'ai envie de (or j'ai super envie de) - I have a craving for ... (I wanted to say 'I have a craving for M&M's)
2. Quifaites - not sure I'm spelling it right, but it's a slangish term which is like the French version of 'liming'


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Je suis occupée

Le dimanche, le réalisateur français est arrivé à Trinidad. Elle travaille ici pendant deux semaines. Elle est sympa. Quelquefois nous parlons en anglais, quelquefois en français. Nous avons commencé notre premier jour de travail hier - un jour très long mais interessant. Elle regarde Trinidad avec une perspective differente et elle demande les questions interessants.

J'ai apprendu deux nouveaux mots/phrases:
1. la chauve-souris - bat (the animal - literally translated as 'the bald mouse')
2. faire le points - to make a list

(If you don't understand the above, to translate, you can copy and paste it into Babelfish and select the 'French to English' option. It translates with some words wrong, some left in French and using different articles - e.g. 'it' instead of 'she', etc. ... but you get the basic idea)

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The ones we love

Saw this link on Shutter Sisters today: the ones we love ... photos of loved ones taken by young people.

"The Ones We Love is a project highlighting young and talented photographers from around the world. Each artist contributed six photographs of the person(s) who is most important to them, taken outdoors in a natural setting. The goal of the website is to portray the people who are loved, cherished, and inspirational to these artists, and also showcase the differences and similarities in the photographs each of them took within the same guidelines."


Monday, March 24, 2008

Changing landscapes

This morning as I ate breakfast I thought about the world and how big (yet how small) it is; not only geographically, but in terms of the amount of people on the planet. Of all of these billions of people, we will meet and get to know only a few in this lifetime.

Why those people?

Someone walks along a vast sandy beach. One of the grains of sand which stuck to her foot when she first started walking drops off miles later, right next to a grain of sand that it would never have been next to had the woman not walked that day.

The entire landscape changes.


Sunday, March 23, 2008

Getting into TV

Looking at TV may not be as exciting as looking inside of it. Bjork demonstrates.


I was born to be me

I was tagged by Human Being to write a six word memoir. Mine is the subject heading of this post.

Now I am to tag five more blogs for the meme:
Leaving the fifth blank for anyone who wants to do it.

What to do:
1.) Write a six-word memoir, post it on your blog (add an illustration if you like).
2.) Link to the person that tagged you in your post.
3.) Tag five more blogs with links.
4.) Leave a comment on the tagged blogs with an invitation to play.


Friday, March 21, 2008

Eureka! A great way to learn a language!

This morning when I woke up I was thinking that if I went to sleep listening to French on headphones, it would be a good way to 'immerse' myself because the language would be working into my subconscious. That led me to think of meditation ... that if I had some guided French meditations it would be a great way for me to 'absorb' the language and relax at the same time. Plus, being meditation, the voice would be talking slowly and understandably ... and not at the breakneck speed of the French comprehensions notre professeur gives us in class.

I went online and typed in French meditation audio and found this:

I downloaded and listened to some of the French version and it sounds great. Can't wait to sit quietly and try it. It will be exciting to experience the inner world in a new language.


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Many wows in many nows

The amazing synchronicity of life makes it happen.

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Thought of Dandelion(s) when I read this little story ...


(Source of story: Warrior of Light; Paulo Coelho)

Nadia spent the whole autumn sowing and preparing his garden. In the spring, the flowers opened, and Nadia noticed a few dandelions that he had not planted.

Nadia pulled them up. But the seeds had already spread, and others grew. He tried to find a poison that would kill only dandelions. An expert told him that any poison would end up killing all the other flowers too. In despair, Nadia sought help from a gardener.

'It's just like marriage,' said the gardener. 'Along with the good things, there are always a few inconveniences.'

'What should I do, then?

'Nothing. They may not be the flowers you intended to have, but they are still part of the garden.'



Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Mes devoirs

This term I have been lax with my French. Not as enthused as I was last year. I guess because I have more 'distractions' now ... and also because I am somewhat fed up of the book. I prefer when we talk about our lives, thereby using the language to express ourselves naturally, rather than doing lessons based on what someone else has written (which has nothing to do with us). I think I need to be immersed (either in France or Montreal, preferably) and live the language. Anyway, in a few days I can be immersed to some extent quand la femme Français arrivera pour faire le documentaire.

We get back our French midterm test results today. Hmmm. I guessed my way through parts of the comprehension. Maybe I was almost as creative as my classmate last year who wrote about skiing with the chef who crashed into a tree.

Now to go and do my French homework for this afternoon's class: You have a French guest spending a day with you. You want to take him out to somewhere that he will enjoy, so work out how to propose some of the possibilities in your area.

I'll start it off here ...

(Au téléphone)

Moi: Allo, Jean.
Jean: Elspeth! Ça va?
Moi: Ça va. Ecoutes ... Il ferrai beau temps demain. As-tu prevú quelque chose?
Jean: Non. Mais j'ai entendu parler d'une plage ... Toco?
Moi: Oui, Toco. Ça te dit?
Jean: Oui, pourquoi pas? Allons-y!
Moi: Ça me va.
Jean: C'est loin de ta maison?
Moi: Oui, assez loin. Viens chez moi à six heures du matin et nous partirons à sept heures. Nous passerons deux heures dans la voiture, donc nous arriverons à ma plage favourite, Mission Bay. Tu verras de l'eau bleu et des grandes vagues.

(I'll finish the rest offline ...)
Later ...


Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Yesterday from the moment I woke up at about 4:30-ish (after meditating briefly) I headed for Lily. I thought I would just tweak a few sentences, but sometimes all it takes is one thing to click ... one word or sentence that has the right feeling to it ... and next thing you know, I was grabbed up and swept along. Before I knew it, it was 4:30 p.m. and time to head down the road to French class.

Of course at points during the day I had to reluctantly rip myself away from the flow of Lily to attend to other things:
1. Lunch meeting with someone who briefed me on a new project I may be working on
2. Make and answer VHouse-related calls
3. Do a little research for une femme française qui arrivera le 23 mars. Elle filmera un documentaire et je travaillerai avec elle.
4. Eat, drink and bathe

Sometimes one has to find the discipline to sit down and work on something. But in the case of Lily I think there may be times when I will have to find the discipline to 'dis-absorb' myself from it and do other things.

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Monday, March 17, 2008


Last night I sat on the verandah upstairs to eat a slice of pizza. I swung the reclining chair around so that I would be looking over the back garden and the field toward Port-of-Spain in the distance. The sky was like a large screen, bright and a little hazy. My decision to sit there was perfect timing. I had only been sitting a few seconds when a long white streak cut through the atmosphere. A shooting star (meteoroid)! One of my favourite natural phenomena. It was beautiful, lasting quite a while before disintegrating totally. Reminded me of high school days in the Chemistry lab, burning magnesium strips.

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Demolition of house and book

Yesterday while I was in the writing workshop, the contractor was demolishing the old house on the land where Veronica's House will be built. Amazing how different a piece of land can look after demolition of whatever structure was on it. In parallel, I'm sure the first draft of my novel Lily will look and feel different from what it is now (and has been since 1998) when I demolish it and build something else.

Lily is what I am attempting to rework in this workshop. I had written it over two or three days in 1998 when I was living in Woodbrook. I had woken up one morning consumed by the sudden impulse to write out what was streaming through my head. Perhaps it had come from a vivid dream, because everything was so markedly visual. I hurriedly started writing out the images I was seeing and did nothing else for two or three days and nights (except bathe and maybe drink water). It was like taking dictation from a boss who spoke rapidly and didn't let me go for coffee breaks. I had never been (and have never been since then) so consumed by any creative process. The visual descriptions were beginning to tell a story from the perspective of a camera. I didn't have a computer or a laptop then, so I had to borrow a friend's laptop, to enable me to keep up with the speed at which everything was coming. I didn't intend for it to be a book, but before I knew it, that's what I had. But it didn't feel like a 'book book'. It was a visual, moody, atmospheric piece which somehow had a particular rhythm, like a long piece of music using words as notes. (As I had been writing it I was also hearing the music, which is the reason why I went and got a loan and bought my keyboard Haniel).

A comment the writing tutor put at the end of the extract I had submitted (we had to submit 5 pages prior to being selected for the workshop): You use language here well. Your sentences sing. I think however you need to give your reader more clues, to follow your narrative line.

What she is saying is right and reflects what I always felt about Lily. The musical/lyrical aspects are the dominant parts. They are what swept me along. A narrative line is there, but all over the place and needing 'orchestration'. Literally, like a dream that I woke up from and tried to explain in concrete terms. It is also the 'vomit' she spoke about - what comes out first and needs to be reworked many times before becoming the publishable novel. So saying, I think it is very interesting vomit, with wonderful colours, textures and shapes ... but (again, as she told us) can we eat it right now?

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Something is missing

These days blogging feels different. I'm not sure why. I love doing it every day, but something is missing and I don't quite know what it is.

Maybe I am feeling emptiness, after having been so intensely woven into The Dream House and Veronica's House. They had (have) a distinct purpose to them.

As much as I love blogging and don't consciously feel like stopping, it is beginning to feel 'dead'. Why am I blogging daily? What is its importance? What purpose does it serve? Who cares? If I stopped, what would change?

In a way, it's as if the blog is a little extension of me: a daily cyber canvas of general thoughts, feelings, ideas, projects ... life in a cyber nutshell, so to speak. So then ... if I took what I just wrote and replaced the word 'blogging' with 'living', what would that say?

These days living feels different. I'm not sure why. I love doing it every day, but something is missing and I don't quite know what it is ...

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Friday, March 14, 2008

Going green

Some friends of mine are going (back) to live in Canada and had a garage sale some weeks ago. I got this green trail bike (with strap on bag to hold water, etc.) and a large hammock big enough to hold two, maybe even three people. I haven't used either yet ...

Before using the bike I need to get around to servicing it, getting a lock and a helmet. I'm thinking (for now) I will ride it around St. Augustine, whenever I have things to do in the area and don't feel like dealing with traffic, finding a parking space, using gas to get from point A to B, emitting exhaust fumes, etc. I can ride it to French classes, to the grocery, to the bank, to the stationery shop, to Greenlight meetings, early in the morning (instead of walking) and up to the Mount for exercise, etc. I could take off the front wheel so the bike will fit in my car, then go riding on the trails in Chaguaramas (which I've done before, but with a rented bike) ... and so on.

The other day a friend and I were driving through Curepe and then onto the highway. A young woman (looking like a foreigner) on a bike zipped by my car. We passed her and stopped at a traffic light. As the lights changed, there she was again, confidently zipping onto the highway and keeping a steady pace. We were stuck in traffic and she breezed by us and sailed onto the Southern Main Road without a care in the world ...

One sure way to beat traffic.

Were it not for the heat, crazy drivers, road rage, no bike lanes and often deep drains at the sides of roads, I would be happy to ride to most places I go ... and use the car for long distances only.

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

I look into my glass of water

Location: Hotel Normandie
A woman sings.
A man drums.
In my glass of water:

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Writing workshops

Last night when I got home there was an e-mail saying I've been accepted into the Cropper Foundation's Residential workshop for Caribbean writers. It will take place over 3 weeks in July up in the coastal area of Balandra. It will be a whole new experience. I've never been to a writing workshop in my life and now suddenly in 2008 I'm in two.

Yesterday I had to be in Port-of-Spain for a function starting at 8 a.m. ... so left home at 5:30 a.m. to avoid getting stuck in traffic (which starts piling up from 6:00). Got into town by 6:30 and had all that time to kill ... so sat in my car and tried to do my writing homework for this Saturday's session. Somehow it just wasn't happening ...

Once I start to think about something (especially something creative) and deliberately apply structure or effort to it, it just doesn't seem to flow that easily (if at all). I'm not a structured person when it comes to creativity. I'm good at what our workshop tutor refers to as 'the vomit' - the first thing that comes out. It's the cleaning up process (where the vomit becomes something that others can eat) that I need to consciously work at.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Karen, Marcus, Alex

Just felt I'd put this photo up for Chookooloonks today.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

E. Hemingway

Saturday gone, we went to our first session of the writing workshop (fiction). Our tutor is here from the States and will be with us for 3 hours every Saturday for the next 8 weeks. In that time, at points during the week, we will each also have 2 one-on-one sessions with her. It is a class of 18 people (16 female, 2 male) - inclusive of Andreamuse and my friend Carolyn.

Homework is a lot of reading from prescribed texts ("Read it as a writer, not a reader") ... and of course some writing. I must admit, I'm not much of a reader. This needs to change ... "if you are going to write novels" (as one girl in the class pointed out to me). Unless a book really grabs me during the first page, continuing is an effort or, at best, a determined choice. My sister Vanessa, on the other hand, consumes books like a rabid animal.

Nevertheless, I did the homework on Sunday. Just the reading part ... not yet the 'write notes about it' part or the 'write a page describing a character or a setting'.

This week, until Wednesday, I will be in a training workshop (video related). Thursday and Friday will be busy with other things ... but I will make the time somewhere within those days to work on my prose, especially if I am to meet my date with destiny ... 2013 (by which time I am basking in the afterglow of my run away best selling novel-soon-to-be-a-major-motion-picture).

Once when I was in Paris, I went into a quaint bar with my friend/traveling companion/Cambridge housemate, Harriet. We sat at the dark wooden bar on tall wooden stools and ordered whatever we were drinking. At one point Harriet said to me: "Look down, E." When I looked down I saw a name engraved in brass, screwed into the wood of the bar before me: Ernest Hemingway. I was sitting in 'his' seat.

Not that I want to be like Hemingway, but it was an interesting symbol.

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Sunday, March 09, 2008

Official Veronica's House website

Scene from 'Invisible': Veronica and her 4 year old daughter.
Those who are interested in knowing what is happening with Veronica's House can log onto our new official website, kindly created by Roger Kirton.

There are different tabs, as you will notice. Have a look around.

ABOUT US gives you an overview of the project.
MEDIA gives you the film and an Express newspaper article.
MAKE DONATIONS gives banking info (Canadian info and Paypal to come)
TORONTO will give updates on what is happening in Toronto as Katie has linked up with some people there to organise a few fundraising screenings and events
OUR TEAM gives an idea of the team (names to be added) and a thank you list (names will be added as time goes on)
CONTACTS gives you main contacts

The website is a work in progress and there are still a few tweaks to be made. We will most likely be adding a WEEKLY UPDATES tab, so that you can log on weekly to easily get detailed progress reports.


Saturday, March 08, 2008

The girlzzzz in 2013

(From l. to r.): Keshia A., Dara N., Elspeth D.
Read all about this photo here

Last week our famous friend Keshia A. called from her spa in Mexico and extended an invitation to all of us to fly to our old home ground (Trinidad) for a reunion at More Vino (wine bar) ... on Friday 7 March.

Anything for an old pal.

The first day of the shoot also happened to be 7 March, so I had to postpone filming. Jane (Campion) and Stevie (both of whom have been clamouring to work on the motion picture my runaway best selling novel has inspired) were sorely disappointed ... but I assured them that filming will happen once I return to Toronto in a month's time. Got to make a stop in London before heading back. Madonna wants me to spend a week or two, see the colour scheme and 'feel the spirit' of her new mansion ... so that I will gain inspiration for the new window lamp she ordered.

It was great seeing the girlzzzzz again. Amazing how much we've all achieved in five short years! Paula O. with her Pulitzer, Keshia A. with her spa and soon-to-be-#1-in-the-world TV talk show ... and Dara N saving people left, right and centre with her super legal powers. Our various successes remind me fondly of my old high school motto: Per ardua ad astra.

So true. Keep on keeping on and one day the stars will be yours.

See a few more of our 2013 photos here and read all about our fame and fortune.
(This was our 'Come as you will be in 2013' lime. The role playing was lots of fun ... and funny ... and felt quite real).

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Friday, March 07, 2008

Animal cruelty in the name of 'art' and 'fun'

I never know if these things are really true ... but knowing what horrors human beings are capable of, I wouldn't be surprised if this disgusting art display is real. The pictures don't look Photoshopped or staged.

I learned about it this morning from an e-mail a friend sent me:
Please sign the petition to boycott the artist. His name is Guillermo Habacuc Vargas. He took a starving dog off the street and tied it up in a gallery as his exhibit. He felt that the dog would have eventually died on the streets so it was okay to let it continue starving. If you can spare a moment please sign this petition to boycott this "artist" representing his country in the Biennal Central America Honduras 2008 exhibition.


Animals are helpless ... and at 'the mercy' of humans, who foolishly consider themselves to be superior, acting as if they own the planet and (one day, they believe - through space exploration) the entire Universe.

The other morning when I was going for my walk around UWI I met a man strolling with his dog. We ended up walking and talking about various things (one topic being animals). He told me about a time he was walking through campus and witnessed a car full of laughing young men deliberately drive over a sleeping stray dog ... obviously for 'fun'. The dog apparently was not killed. It jumped up and ran off ... but no doubt was suffering from internal injuries.

In movies I close my eyes for scenes involving animals (e.g. horses falling in battle), even though they (are supposed to) have that disclaimer at the end about no animals being hurt during filming. Neither can I view real life animal cruelty (e.g. the seals being clubbed in Canada). Looking at those photos of the seal cubs being clubbed leaves me feeling as helpless as they are. Just disgusting. So that you can have a fur coat?!!! Even visiting the PETA site ... I see the headlines and find it extremely difficult to read further ...

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Thursday, March 06, 2008

Drinking a rainbow


Wednesday, March 05, 2008


I now realise the value of having a 'personal assistant' (aka secretary). Things are really busy - not only with Veronica's House matters, but work coming in. I am thinking: "How will I do all of these things?" I am trying to compartmentalise my mind, structure my time, balance my life ... not wanting to get swept away by one thing and neglect the other things and, in the process, myself.

My friend Keshia is here from Miami for a week and has been helping me. Yesterday, as I answered a ton-load of e-mails and did other work things, she attended to Veronica's House matters. She made calls to the various organisations who had held meetings re the House, following up to see where they had reached in their planning, etc. I felt a load slip from my shoulders as she handled it. She is a pro at making calls like that, having done hours of community service in the States at one point. Her voice is gentle and friendly and she knows exactly what to say in those kinds of phonecalls, takes notes, phone numbers, reports back to me efficiently, etc. In other words, I can trust her with eyes closed to do what needs to be done. However, she is only here for a week! I need to have someone like that as my personal assistant on an ongoing basis ... someone who can:
(i) write grammatically correct letters to organisations and companies when necessary
(ii) write proposals (that would be a great asset)
(iii) make phonecalls, speak well, record detailed information and details correctly
(iv) interact personably with people
(v) understand the creative and business worlds
(vi) think financially
(viii) get a lot of work done without me having to 'look over their shoulder'
(ix) be proactive
(x) be trusted
(xi) keep me organised (writing things in my diary, reminding me, etc.)

My real list of requirements would be more detailed, but that gives an outline. Such a person is valuable and deserves to be paid well. This will come in time.

Now I am in the process of sourcing a new assistant who will work with me on an upcoming project. I think I have found the person.

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The 4th song (2008)

This is the song I've chosen to be #4 on my "Soundtrack for 2008".

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Monday, March 03, 2008

Eventful day & Français

I started off the day by making an appearance on the Morning Edition, to talk about Veronica's House. I felt a bit nervy, since (a) I don't like being on TV (b) I did it alone (c) I was talking about things I am a novice at (construction, etc). But those who saw it reported that I looked very calm and put it across well, so I guess my fears were unfounded. Along with an article which appeared in today's Express (on VHouse)*, it's a double thrust for the cause all in one day. Definitely now more people will be aware of it. I did get one important call after the show which struck me (among other things) for this reason in particular: within our conversation the woman described the thing she was telling me about (in relation to VHouse and the video) as "a window of opportunity". As she said those words, a bell went off in my head ... because of course that was the name I used for the window before it became 'Dream House' ...

* (I can't find the link to the article or I would have included it here).

And soon there will be a dedicated website ... for anyone who wants to check in and see what the VHouse progress report. Things are happening behind the scenes and abroad as well.

French exams are later today at 5:00 p.m. I have been distracted and threfore neglecting French this year ... compared to last year when I was more naturally focused on it. Did some cramming yesterday with one of the other students ... and I will do some more in a short while.

Wish me 'bonne chance'.

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Saturday, March 01, 2008

'Invisible' on Youtube

INVISIBLE: Children Living with HIV/AIDS
Length: 10 minutes 55 seconds
A mini documentary created in 2007 by Happy Hippy Productions for the TTCRC (Trinidad and Tobago Coalition for the Convention on the Rights of the Child)

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