[Book] Flight Paths & Missing Connections @ Barbados

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[Book] Flight Paths & Missing Connections @ Barbados

Unread post by bimjim » Mon Jul 09, 2018

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[Book] Flight Paths & Missing Connections @ Barbados
Pat S R Callender
Paperback
Published: 15th November 2017

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Flight paths and missing connections @ Barbados
Sun, 07/08/2018
Sir Henry Fraser

Sir Henry Forde says that it is regrettable that more Barbadian public figures - who have done interesting things or made a big contribution to Barbados – “have set aside time to record their experiences and the contributions which they have made to public life and the development of our beautiful country Barbados.” Certainly we’ve had some valuable biographies, but no autobiography of any National Hero or Prime Minister, Governor or Governor General, Bishop or Chief Justice, as far as I’m aware. In fact the only knight of the realm to publish an autobiography was Sir Alexander Hoyos – The Quiet Revolutionary (1984) until Sir Garfield Sobers’ My Autobiography appeared in 2003.

Jill Walker’s beautiful production Barbados: 50 Years of Barbadian Life Recorded in Jill’s Drawings and Paintings appeared in 2002, and since then we’ve seen a number of delightful, chatty autobiographies by Bajan writers committing their lives and a fascinating chunk of lost Bajan culture to posterity – such as Sydney Simmons with Strangers in the Village and Austin Yearwood with Down Danesbury Gap: Echoes of Memory. Perhaps the most entertaining have been hotelier John Chandler’s Hotel Barbados and doyen of realty Nick Parravicino’s Nick’s Life.

Our first politician to have the courage was Sir Frederick Smith with Dreaming a Nation, written with his nephew Alan Smith. And two great, inspiring medical lives have been Sir Frank Ramsey’s A Life of Service and Sir George Alleyne’s recently launched The Grooming of a Chancellor (Reviewed in my column last Sunday). Now hot off the press is Pat Callender’s Flight Paths & Missing Connections @ Barbados.

Pat Callender is an extraordinary man, and he has lived an extraordinary life, witnessing extraordinary events as Airport Manager for many years at the Grantley Adams International Airport. When I read it (and I read it twice, actually) I kept thinking of Arthur Hailey’s bestselling, heart stopping novel Airport published in 1968. Many of Pat’s stories are the stuff of a great action novel.

Pat was a product of the closely-knit community of Clapham (like the novelist Austin “Tom” Clarke), and like the latter he writes in a beautiful, smooth and easily readable style. Unlike Tom his memory, which like that of many autobiography writers may be selective, tells everything in a positive light, with candour and just enough detail to sustain our interest. His childhood was regaled with many amusing experiences, sprinkled with aperitifs of Barbadian history and culture – from sugar cakes, raising goats and the fear of the strap at St. Giles Boys School to the drama of the traditional funeral and Sunday School at the African Methodist Episcopal Church. These chapters – from birth to leaving school – are full of sage insights of every kind and are absolutely fascinating. They help to explain the accumulated wisdom and experience of a young man who would be able to cope with the drama of his later life’s work.

He attended the Boys Foundation School in the days of headmaster “The Iron Man”, Lee Harford Skeete, my father-in-law. He described Foundation as a robust school, and his Saturdays at the British Council and the now abandoned Carnegie Library were well spent. He was clearly a voracious reader with wide interests. I was amused by the irony of his quote from Virgil’s Aeneid on the siege of Troy, read while he sat on a branch of the tamarind tree: “My poor countrymen, what monstrous madness is this?” (Written perhaps at the height of our recent political crises?)

Pat left Foundation in 1959 and taught for two years at his old school, St. Giles. On January 4th, 1962 he joined the Civil Aviation Department as an Air Traffic Control Cadet at Seawell Airport. He was to spend almost 40 years of his life there, with the demands and the drama of the job constantly taking precedence over his family life – like that of an emergency doctor. His technical training, training and experience as a pilot, involvement in the trade union movement and post-secondary education in Canada all prepared him for the events which punctuated his career.

The body of the book includes accounts of the Cubana aircraft disaster in 1976, the New Jewel Revolution in Grenada and the horrendous events surrounding the death of Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and members of his cabinet, and the “rescue-invasion” of US armed forces in 1983, using Seawell Airport as the base of operations. Here is a sample of those tense events:

“There was frantic activity to get things ready for the next step – the support of the Grenada intervention. Time moved swiftly; the sky to the East was just showing the first signs of morning light, but the airfield at the end of runway 09 was still in darkness. The parking apron was brightly lit and full of aircraft painted in duck egg green and grey. There was a sliver of light showing in the East when the nine Black Hawks started their engines in a cacophony and moved to the central taxiway. A few minutes later they took off in a spectacular syncrhonised manner. It was still dark as they headed South. They formed a menacing silhouette for an instant against the skyline and disappeared over the cliffs near Paragon, heading for Grenada.”

In summary, I can do no better than to quote Sir Henry Forde in his introduction, that we will all “find his narrative interesting, delightful to read and a treasure of information to retain.” It’s a must-have book!


Professor Fraser is Past Dean of Medical Sciences, UWI and Professor Emeritus of Medicine

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Publisher's Comment:
Flight Paths and Missing Connections @ Barbados.
June 25, 2018
Carol Pitt, Principal, Caribbean Chapters Publishing Limited

It usually gives me pleasure to be able to participate in the creation of yet another publication by yet another Barbadian writer. The task of formulating, structuring and editing work that chronicles aspects of our social and political, and general history is a task that gives me great satisfaction.

So it is good to see yet another book being introduced into our literary landscape. I have come to value the biographical works of many Barbadian authors, because they help me form a more sophisticated, richer and more mature view of the country in which I was born and where I now live once again.

I was but a teenager when many of the more dramatic events described in Pat Callender’s Memoirs: Flight Paths and Missing Connections @ Barbados were unfolding, and the adults around me did not have many answers to my questions. I am grateful to Mr. Callender for having provided some clearer explanation about events that would have confused many young people at the time that they were happening on our little island. The news reports that we were subjected to only painted a superficial picture, providing the most essential facts but leaving us with many questions about matters relating to the Cubana crash, about the Grenada intervention, and many other events that made the news in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s.

And then Mr. Callender’s reflections on his early life bring back vivid memories of things that we may have forgotten: that ‘rocking engine’---the sight of its big roller, the smell of the asphalt and the fascination when “de road finish get barber-green”; or that ham hanging from the ceiling at Christmas with that thick layer of tar, and the smell of it when it was baking; or the white lime being spread in the yard; the Police Band playing in Queens Park for the Exhibition and at Christmas, and everyone in Bridgetown and beyond in attendance their best threads, meeting and greeting one another; the snowball vendor; that flit-can with the hand-held pump which emitted a hideous substance to deter mosquitoes, and every other living creature, including me.

There are so many more scenarios described in his book which would trigger vivid memories of earlier life on this island.

There has been much debate about the value of recording our past experiences and publishing them… for posterity. I decided to look to the dictionary for the formal definition of the word ‘posterity’, and the Oxford dictionary tells me that it means “all future generations of people”). Which means that we are responsible for preserving many aspects of our environment for ‘posterity’. The concept of posterity suddenly has much more significance in my mind. I had previously had only a vague understanding of the word, but now I know that it is a much bigger word than I thought.

We are to protect our environment for posterity. We are to buckle up and help repair our country’s economy for posterity. We are to keep our country safe for posterity. So the value of recording our past and present, the value of protecting our intellectual property, and the value of preserving our artifacts and written works is equal to the value of our economy, our safety and our environment. All should be reserved and preserved for all future generations of Barbadians.

Pat Callender’s memoirs and other similar biographical publications are no exception to this rule. They should be preserved and reserved for posterity…. for all future generations of our people.

Younger readers who are exposed to the memoirs and biographies of Barbadian elders who have made significant contributions to our lives and to the prosperity and stability of our island will better appreciate the value of who we are and of what we have. They would know that whatever they see around them that they tend to take for granted was fought for by courageous people who went before them. And therefore a greater effort should be made towards inspiring interest in such literature.

Pat Callender has done an outstanding job in recalling and sharing some of his life's experiences, and some of the lessons learned from same.

Reading is listening. Listening is learning. And so it is my hope that such publications will be accessible to as many future generations of our people as possible. The word is: POSTERITY.

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