Marlon Paul Moseley’s Still Skylarkin’ is a nostalgic narrative capturing the innocence of
The book cover of Still Skylarkin’
school days in Trinidad circa 1950s. When Max decides to ‘break biche’ (skip school) and convinces his friend, Fred, to join him, the stage is set for an adventure of unexpected turns and twists.
Things do not turn out as planned and what is expected to be an afternoon of swimming and raiding fruit trees ends up with the boys having to concoct a plan to explain a visible wound suffered by Max and the disappearance of his pants.
Max’s tale is just short of ingenious, although Fred, the more deliberate of the two, expresses his reservations. “Well, you tell me. What are we gonna do? Tell me how this plan is going to work? Let me hear? And on the bus, trepidation sets in. “Do you tink dat our parents know dat we’re not in school, Max?”
Max, bursting with arrogance reassures his friend but with marginal success. “But what about when we go back to school? Wouldn’t we be caned and put to stand in the corner?”
Moseley does not play his hand and we just have to wait for an enthralling and ironic end to the boys’ shenanigans. Admittedly, Max’s plan to skip the afternoon session at school is outrageously inviting. He is persuasive with air of swagger and misplaced confidence.
Leaving the congestion of Port of Spain for the windy, open environs of Chaguaramas, the boys are liberated, basking in their exploits; unrestricted by the taxing demands of school and home. But along the way there are doses of reality. There is the stench of poverty and vagrancy. The boys are well aware of inequity and even racial and ethnic fault lines.
For sure, the good ol’ days are laced with some bad memories. And for a moment the boys forget the lighter moments of life and engage in some social commentary, remarkably echoing the sentiments of liberals and activists. Max, uncharacteristically serious, states, “I just doh understand it. We have all dis oil money, and where is it going? To dem uppidy Trini people, de man in de red house, de Yankees and dem, an doh foeget dat Queen, like she ain ha enough in her bloody castle!!!”
Fred is more restrained and deliberate but is immediately challenged by Max. “If tings are getting better, how come they’re vagrants and poor people on the streets? I tink it’s dem dam Yankees, East-Indians, an de people in Europe who keep buying up we land with their hoity toity selves.”
But the burdens of a nation do not weigh too heavily on the boys for long. Fred wrests away these troubling thoughts. “Let’s jist not talk about dis anymore! We are too young to be worrying about such tings. Let de older people worry about it…”
Arguably, it is Moseley way of injecting some truth serum into a light-spirited offering that tails off with a glossary of “Trinbagonian dialect,” as he calls it.
Delivered with timing, colour and a slew of Trini argot, Still Skylarkin’ is refreshingly imaginative with an unmistakable joie de vivre. It serves as a time capsule that bears Moseley’s fingerprints. It transports us to a time when life was simple and authentic; when children were children, and the mere word of adults was law. Those days will never return, but for many of us yearning for the impossible, and those who have not experienced bygone Trinidad, the adventure of Max and Fred is more than worth our attention.
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Still Skylarkin’ by Marlon Paul Moseley © 2015
Publisher: Austin McCauley Publisher Ltd.
IBN: 978 1 84963 8203