“It was a
miracle,” I heard the elegant comments of a tiny woman as we were being
pushed to the front of the stage at the Plymouth Jazz festival last weekend.
There were no fewer than 34,000 people, folding themselves into their
bodies, digging their heels into the dusty ground, so they could see Elton
John with their own eyes.
be something if I suffocated here, I thought? Behind me as a tall dark
beautiful media worker steadied herself using my shoulders; in front, a big
woman wearing a plastic welcome-to-Hawaii-type garland aggressively shoved
her ample backside into my stomach.
companion, sporting the same look, hopped about getting security to get all
his friends in front of us, blocking the photographer next to me.
beautiful woman behind me began shrieking with claustrophobia, seeing no way
out of the wall of flesh around us I looked up to escape and saw the
Plymouth night decorated with a perfectly round moon and encrusted with a
gaped as Elton John’s fingers flew across his piano, disembodied hands with
wings, music’s own language. His guitarists took over for seconds as the
star leapt off his piano stool with surprising agility to spread himself
across his piano preening like a Cheshire cat in his long tails waiter black
In a flash
he returned to the piano and seamlessly meshed and carried his playing to
astonishing jazzy places. Elton John’s craft is beyond human.
garlanded man (who, like his companion, looked like he had stepped off a
cruise boat but was in fact a Trinidadian) spilled a drink on a shocked
woman’s head. He responded to my: “That’s obnoxious” by asking me who my
husband was to which I responded in a manner in which my mother would be
garlanded man returned the salvo with a truly nasty cuss for which he got a
shove from my husband who looks fiercer than he is (that was worth as much
as seeing John).
played himself the tiny woman was saying, her face pink with emotion “people
said he was gay, and he needed three private planes. But I understand, his
piano deserves a private plane. People said that VS Naipaul was an arrogant
&%#$@. Who cares? These men are magnificent at their craft. We are lucky to
witness it. Remember this night.” Pointing a tiny hand in the air, she said,
“Remember this moment,” as the moon swayed over us.
moment I remembered seeing and hearing Naipaul read Miguel Street in
surprisingly lyrical tones at UWI. I am fiddling through notes I wrote in
the dark as Naipaul responded to questions, mostly acidly, but finally
movingly. He said:
material is limited. I am against anything that imprisons the mind.
thinking of the debris left behind by the Empire. We are just little
unstable collections of people here and there. We are prisoners of ideology.
You have to take a step or two or three back to see the world.
“The rule of
law, the ability to change governance, freedom of speech, the development of
the mind, beauty and the pursuit of happiness which comes from seeking to
express the fullness of one’s soul. That’s universal civilisation.”
walked away J’Ouvert morning style to our cars, I was grateful to Clico, for
exposing us to Clinton, Colin Powell, Naipaul, for Elton John.
It would be petty not to mention Clico. We
are grateful to every individual or corporation who carves a window out of
the prison of the island mind.