by Shirley Osborne
“What if, instead of, Murphy’s got to go…help Murphy sheem-up a little bit, and actually help Montserrat?”
I have worked for the Montserrat Tourist Board in two periods of my life and have travelled much in many parts of the world, for work and for play, in every kind of seat: first-class in aeroplanes, sleeper-class in trains, as barefoot sailor, even hitchiking on the autostrada, and I can tell you with no fear whatsoever of being proved wrong, that travellers of every sort, in every part of the world, have a special interest in the local, not-at-all fancy, even sometimes a little bit grubby offerings of the countries they visit.
In France, with its much vaunted haute-cuisine, and in Italy with its equal and different fabulous cucina, you will find that just about every adult resident has a favourite restaurant that is not the four-star eating place on the most fashionable street, with the snobby maitre’d, but is, rather, what Italians sometimes call a trattoria – a little, not-at-all fancy place in some hidden corner, where the food is totally local, very tasty, and the atmosphere anything but generic or pretentious. Many visitors to France and Italy look, especially, for places like these. Ditto, China. India, the same.
In the game of chess, development is “the process of bringing one’s pieces into play in the opening phase of a game.”
If this Carr’s Bay/Little Bay development is the opening phase of Montserrat’s new game, perhaps Montserrat would stand a far better chance of success, sustainable success, any kind of success, if it brought ALL its pieces into play instead of chopping them off all willy-nilly and grandiose.
Improvement is generally the motivation for development, but I remember, for example, when the vestry at St. Peter’s decided that they wanted to improve the rectory. I was very young at the time, but I remember being appalled from the moment I heard the plans. The people who wanted development and improvement, because the rectory was old and the roof leaked etc, decided in their infinite wisdom that what they really should do is tear down the old structure completely, send in the bulldozers to flatten the gardens and build a modern new rectory.
And that is what they did and produced the not-at-all attractive house that now houses the parson. The rectory garden had terraces, stonewalls and hedges; there used to be palm trees, evergreen trees with pine cones, a lily-pond, and steps leading to interesting places. Now, development has left them with a decidedly non-descript building, overshadowed by a downright ugly flat, parking-lot kind of thing surrounding it, that from the very beginning, and last I heard, gets swampy and muddy and quite impossible to navigate when it rains.
All they needed to do to the old rectory probably was fix the roof, and maybe the plumbing, replace some floorboards and so on, like has been done at Government House and Waterworks and, right there in St, Peter’s, Providence Estate!! And preserve something for posterity.
Some years ago, during my second stint at the Tourist Board, I happened to be in Salem one day and found that there were trucks and men and chainsaws and heavy equipment amassed and blocking the road right by the clinic. The assignment? Cut down the guinep tree that stood there. Why? From what I understand, because I asked, the leaves were damaging the roof of the clinic, and medical development required that the guinep tree be removed. Cut down. Chopped up and carted away to where it could do no more damage.
So, these enlightened, progressive, development-minded men at PWD, decided that the intelligent thing to do was to cut down the guinep tree – this old, healthy, fruit-bearing guinep tree that Salem school children, for centuries, from my great-grandmothers’ time, at least, had enjoyed, and that provided shade for women and men waiting for the bus after a hard day’s work in Old Towne and its environs.
So, what if, instead of bulldozing Murphy and everything he has worked for these 38 years, the government of Montserrat took the time to parse through what is actually offered at Carr’s Bay corner and figure out a way to create a win-win-win for everybody.
What if, instead of, Murphy’s got to go, the people with the power instead, asked, how can we keep this little bit of Montserratiana, help Murphy sheem-up a little bit, and actually help Montserrat?
What if, instead of looking just to see what can be done for the nameless, faceless “tourists” and “investors” that they insist will come, the MDC instead, first looked at what can be done for the Montserratian individuals and collective with names and faces we all know, who belong here, to whom the island belongs, and who really should be the accorded first consideration, always?
Buildings and infrastructure are development only inasmuch as they serve “the people” well, people!! So, what if, the development of “THE PEOPLE” of Montserrat were made the most important driver instead of sticking with the “development of The Carr’s Bay/Little Bay Area?”
And no! Weed is not the major issue at this place. First of all, if we’re going to talk about mood-and mind-altering substances and their effects on human beings and their societies, and on Montserratian society in particularly, alcohol causes much more pain, heartache and crime than does weed, more lives are destroyed by alcohol than by marijuana, more injury and destruction, too, and the rum shops across the street are not at issue here.
In any case, even if weed is one of the issues of major import, Murphy is still not the big problem in this regard. The Police is. The police are! (Whichever.) So, how come everybody knows that anybody can buy weed at Carr’s Bay, and who from, but the police don’t know any of this? Are the police altogether impotent or merely deaf and blind?
The Health and Sanitation people can think of no other shops that need their urgent attention? I can tell them of a few, and I am not on Montserrat every day.
The MDC can think of no more intelligent solution than razing everything to the ground? To replace it all with generic, “modern” structures and businesses like there are gazillions everywhere? Even rundown shacks have their place and utility.
Can the MDC not think of a way to maintain something peculiarly Montserratian instead of trying to turn Montserrat into the Jamaican north coast?
Can the Small Business Association not think of a solution that could help Murphy keep, indeed upgrade his business?
Can Montserratians not think a little beyond the immediate and imagine what the place would look like without a Montserratian flavour? The Cultural Officer cannot create a culture to replace this. The Premier and his MDC and his “International” advisors and Montserratian actors can not impose, implant, or insert a culture onto or into Montserrat. That is not how culture works. But they can certainly destroy what little there is left of it. Witness the state of Montserrat today!!
My suggestions, my humble Montserratian recommendations,
Develop Murphy, smart people of the Montserrat Development Corporation.
Develop Murphy, caring members of the Government of Montserrat.
Develop Murphy and people like him, and watch Montserrat develop, in all its areas – Carr’s Bay, Little Bay and everywhere.
Develop THE PEOPLE, then sit back, I say, sit back and watch real sustainable progress, improvement, advancement, movement forward – TRUE DEVELOPMENT – happen.