Tuesday, 23 February 2010

This blog consists of posts published on my main blog between November 2008 and May 2009.

I have gathered them together here in one place to make it easier for people researching the Revo.

The thoughts and impressions in this blog are very much my own.  I represent no individual or organisation.

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This is the post I never thought I'd write.
And yet ... I can't help wondering if it hasn't been inevitable all along ...
As though everything that has come before has been building up to this moment.

Bear with me. Please. This is hard.
Some of you will know that I lived part of my story in Grenada. I've mentioned it before, here, here and here, but only ever in passing.
The time has come to put some flesh on those old bones.

I first went to Grenada in 1982, 3 years after the revolution.
I attended the anniversary celebrations.
My photo albums contain pictures of a smiling Maurice Bishop, PM of Grenada, embracing Samora Machel of Mozambique.
They're both dead now. History. I was there.
I was there too for the International Women's Day celebrations and heard Angela Davis speak.
Her photo's in my album too.
That first month that I spent on this beautiful island in the company of its strong, proud, resilient people convinced me. Somehow ... in some way ... I knew that my own destiny was meshed with this beacon of hope in the Caribbean.

My return there was delayed by an unfortunate accident, but eventually I found myself back in Grenada the following year, with the intention of helping to set up a mobile library. But it didn't feel quite 'right' in the way it had before. Beset by enemies, isolated and threatened by a paranoid US under Reagan, with murmurs of internal divisions and rumours of injustices - it felt as though the shine had gone off the revo.

I had been there about 5 months when on 19th October 1983, after weeks of growing tension and unrest, a crowd led by schoolchildren triumphantly released Maurice from where he'd been held under house arrest. The details of the casualties from the resulting attack on the people by the army have never been fully revealed. You can see some of them listed here. The revo had been ripped apart from within.

The coup was followed by 4 days of curfew. On 25th October, the US invaded. (Of necessity this is the most potted of accounts. You can see full details on this site if you're interested.) I stayed for as long as I could after the invasion, in spite of intense pressure to evacuate, but a few months later, penniless and heartbroken, I no longer had a choice. I returned to the UK to my frantic parents.

With hindsight, I suppose I must have been suffering from post traumatic shock, but no one had heard of that condition back then. I just think I was grieving. Even now, 25 years later, it's hard to describe the depth and intensity of the loss.

I returned the following year, but post-revo Grenada was a very different place and I couldn't see how to fit in or become a part of it. When I finally left in 1986, that should theoretically have been the end of my relationship with the island.

It wasn't though. The experience - seeing the hope and infinite possibility of the revo and then witnessing its destruction - had changed me forever.

Fast forward a couple of decades.
I'm an author with 5 books to my name. Friends often ask me why I don't ever write about what happened in Grenada.
'I sort of do,' I reply. 'Those experiences are part of me. They're part of my identity and so they inform everything I do and everything I write. It's just not explicit.'
Deep down though, I think I knew that this was only part of the truth and that one day I would have to bring the whole experience out of the shadows of my past and into my present.
I just couldn't see how.

A few months ago, I received an email from a guy in the US who had come across this photo on my website and wanted to know if I had any others.

I asked who he was and he told me he'd been part of the first wave of US soldiers in the invasion and wanted to see if he could recognise any of his old buddies in my photos. I politely informed him the images were not available.

The contact made me twitchy and a bit paranoid. I checked round the web and was shocked to see there's a big nostalgia trip in the US about the invasion. Grenada was a nice, short, simple war. And they won. Not like these nasty, messy, complicated wars they have nowadays in places like Afghanistan and Iraq, with their hideous resonances of the ultimate unwinnable war - Vietnam. I stumbled on a propaganda 'comic' telling the story of the brave US soldiers coming to the rescue of the grateful islanders, saving them from the red peril. The invasion took place a quarter of a century ago, yet I found forums where ex and current marines swapped stories and photos of the 'good old days in Grenada' when America could fight a war and win.

History. They were there and so was I. But my memories were very different from theirs.

More time passed. Then recently I 'met' Liane Spicer via the blogosphere. Liane lives in Trinidad and blogs at Wordtryst. We exchanged emails. I told her in about 4 lines about my involvement with Grenada. She said what other friends had already pointed out:

'What a fascinating story - your memoir will really be something! It's got all the elements: tropical island, politics, coup, invasion, romance, adventure, altruism... Are you writing it? Or maybe feeding it all into a novel?'

This was my reply:

'You know, I never have. When you put it like that, I suppose it does seem like it has literary potential. But … I don’t know. I’ve never figured out a way of doing it that I feel comfortable with. One day, maybe. As for feeding it in – well I suppose like everything else in life it has made me into what I am, so informs everything I do, but no direct feeding yet. Or maybe ever …'

(You want more spookiness? Having just gone back to this email exchange, I notice Liane's was sent on 25th October - 25 years to the day after the invasion.)

Grenada was back on my shoulder again. It wasn't going to go away.
Then I read a couple of reviews of Pynter Bender. The book is by a Grenadian author, Jacob Ross, and is set on the island. I bought the book and as I read I was overwhelmed by his evocation of the familiar sights and sounds. Memories came flooding back.
Grenada was whispering urgently in my ear.

So it was almost no surprise when I received an email from this woman, who is making a documentary on the revo.

History. I was there. And now I'm here, though I have no idea what will happen next. This post is the beginning of the next part of my journey.

If you've made it this far, thanks for listening.
Some people suggested I start in the middle, others that I begin with a random image. The possibility of fictionalising my memories was mooted.
But the consensus is clear:
Just start writing.

So this is it.
Part 1 of The Revo Blog.
And it feels weighty with significance.

I've realised I need to give some background before I begin to tell what happened in that time when my own personal story became entwined with that of the island of Grenada.
This is not a diversion tactic, not is it control freakery.
I just don't want to keep interrupting the flow with distracting explanations once I begin.

So this post will operate as a kind of appendix. Scene setting, if you will.

Grenada - statistics
Area: 344 sq km (approx same size as London)
Population: approx 90,000 (less than the smallest London borough)
The people: 80% African, 3% East Indian, 10% mixed
Capital: St Georges
Principal exports: cocoa, bananas, spices


Grenada - a short history 1951-1983
1951 - Eric Gairy wins election
1962 - government dismissed for corruption
1972 - Gairy wins another election. JEWEL and MAP (see below) are formed
1973 - repression and unrest. JEWEL and MAP join to form NJM.
1974 - 3 month general strike. Rupert Bishop (father of Maurice) assassinated. Grenada achieves independence from Britain. NJM leadership arrested.
13 March 1979 - Revo! Gairy ousted in near bloodless coup
June 1980 - 3 women killed by bomb at rally
1982 - IMF congratulates PRG (see below) for economic performance. US becoming increasingly threatening and paranoid
Feb-March 1982 - my first visit to Grenada
1983 - Reagan refuses to meet delegation aimed at improving relations with US. Rifts appearing in NJM. Rumours and unrest.
19th October 1983 - coup
20th-23rd October 1983 - curfew
25th October 1983 - US invasion
June 1983-February 1984 - my 2nd stay in Grenada
September 1985-March 1986 - my 3rd stay in Grenada


Acronyms
Map - Movement for Assemblies of the People
JEWEL - Joint Endeavour for the Welfare, Education and Liberation of the People
NJM - New Jewel Movement
PRG - People's Revolutionary Government
PRA - People's Revolutionary Army
RFG - Radio Free Grenada

The people in Grenada's story
Eric Gairy - corrupt dictator ousted by revo
Maurice Bishop - charismatic Prime Minister and personification of the revo

Image of Maurice Bishop from Spice Islander
Bernard Coard - deputy PM. Widely perceived as the leader and would-be beneficiary of the coup (though he has consistently denied this)
Hudson Austin - head of the PRA and 'voice' of the coup
Jacky Creft - Minister of Education. Maurice's partner. 5 months pregnant with his child at time of execution

The people in my story
Me - nice(ish) Jewish girl from London
H - the English woman I traveled with during my first 2 stays in Grenada
C - the English woman and close friend (still) who I met during my 2nd stay
J - the English woman and close friend (still) who was in Grenada June/July 2003. Mother of Gorgeous Goddaughter, born October 1986.
L - my Grenadian partner
B - H's Grenadian partner
W - C's Grenadian partner
M - J's Grenadian partner. Father of Gorgeous Goddaughter
PC - local wheeler and dealer who acted as our mentor

In the next post, I will be starting at the beginning, explaining how I came to be in Grenada in the first place and sharing my experiences of the revo at a time when it was still filled with hope and potential. Over the following posts, I will be relating events as they occurred , using my diaries to ensure accuracy.

Writing this as fiction is impossible. For me, the whole point is that the truth should be known. The truth, unvarnished and unpalatable though it may be to some, as I saw it at the time.

I said in the comments on my previous post that I only cried once during my 4 hours with Faye, the film maker. That response crystallised everything for me. I remembered all over again the exact moment when the Grenadian revo, and with it my own world, fell apart. And I remembered also how crucial it had seemed to me at the time to ensure people understood. I felt this huge weight of responsibility and it's never been discharged.

As the years passed, it was clear that the defining event that most people associated with Grenada was the invasion. Not the revo. And not the coup. I too succumbed in the end. US Imperialism was an easy enemy to focus on. War is something people think they're able to wrap their minds around. And traumatic though the invasion had been, it became less painful for me to reflect on than the events that preceded it.

Over time, my experiences coalesced into a series of well-worn, neatly-packaged anecdotes. Gone were the days when I had first returned to London in 1984, when people would go to great lengths to avoid my Ancient Mariner-esque intensity, determined to force them to see what I had seen and learn what I had learned.

Well, those days are back. The posts that follow will comprise a true and full record at last. Being a blog, people can choose whether to read or ignore, without me having to deal with the angst.

But the words will be out there. Accessible to all. At last.
I know I said I would plunge straight in, but I think you need a bit of my own back story first. A sort of 'laying my cards on the table', so you can have a picture of the young woman who arrived in Grenada in Feb 1982.

So - who am I? That was a question I asked myself throughout my youth. It wasn't until I emerged from my turbulent teens, that I knew I wouldn't be fulfilling my parents' expectations. I was never going to marry young, to a nice Jewish boy, and bring up kids in a semi-detached within walking distance of where I'd grown up.

Once I'd managed to work out that didn't mean I had some fundamental design fault, I set about finding myself. And found 'me' in politics.

The 70s were my decade. While working in straight jobs, all my energy and enthusiasm went into changing the world. They were exciting times, when that felt like a genuine possibility. The revolution was always just around the corner. These were the pre-Thatcher days, before greed triumphed over altruism. I was active in all the radical movements of the time: the women's movement, anti-racism, Northern Ireland, anti-nuke, community politics ...

Though many of the people I knew were members of the Socialist Workers' Party, or one of the myriad other left wing parties that abounded back then, I was never a 'joiner'. If anything, I was more radical, leaning to anarchy.

People associate anarchy with chaos and disorder, but when you think about it, a belief in anarchy as a workable alternative implies a fundamental belief in human nature: that, left to our own devices, human beings will choose to work together for the greater good. That we'll choose to access the capacity to do good that's within us all, rather than the potential for evil, greed and exploitation. It's not about every person for themselves, but about every person for every other.

Starry-eyed? Naive? Without a doubt, but it's still the way I feel deep inside. It's called hope.

So this was the young woman who decided in her mid-twenties that she needed to broaden her experiences and the best way to do that was to travel. To see other ways of living. To learn about other cultures, systems and attitudes. In 1980, I spent several months travelling across the US. The following year, I moved around, criss-crossing Europe. This last journey was undertaken with H, and it was at an open farm in Italy that we met J.

Travelling together by train when we left the farm, the three of us talked about possible destinations for a next trip. Grenada was mentioned in the list. I'd only vaguely heard of the island, and knew little other than that it was in the Caribbean and shouldn't be confused with Granada, in Spain.

Oh, and they'd had a revolution. Obvious choice.

The three of us worked and saved, planning on a week in Trinidad at Carnival, followed by a month in Grenada. At the last minute, J's father fell seriously ill and she had to drop out.

And so, in February 1982, H and I boarded the plane heading for the Caribbean with little idea what to expect, but filled with the desire to learn.
Feb - March 1982

H and I spend a week in Trinidad for Carnival. We stay with the aunt of a friend. I say 'stay with' but in truth we're not there much between dropping off our bags and then picking them up again several days later. In between, we eat little, sleep less and party non-stop.

I had been at every Notting Hill Carnival for years, but this is a whole different league. By the end of our stay, we're giddy and punch-drunk. Literally.

I can't pretend we saw much of the island. Enough to get an impression of somewhere large, bustling and - in the city at least - industrialised. Apart from the tropical setting and the sheer scale of Carnival, it doesn't seem that unfamiliar in many ways.

At Port of Spain International Airport, that all changes as we board the tiny island hopping plane that is the only way to reach Grenada by air in those days. Soon after, we touch down on the airstrip of miniature Pearls Airport. The relaxed and smiling greeting we receive from the people checking our passports gives us the feeling their interest is more curiosity than anything else, a far cry from the usual suspicion of airport officials elsewhere in the world.

The impression is reinforced as we get into a cab to the capital, St Georges, on the other side of the island and pass by a massive hand-painted billboard - Welcome to Free Grenada. Our hearts soar as we realise that we are privileged to be in for an experience unlike anything we've ever had before.

The cab climbs into the hills, bumping along the pot-holed road - the only connection between the two coasts. Within minutes, we're swallowed by the rain forest. Dense, lush and seemingly impenetrable, shades of dark green studded with occasional splashes of vibrant colour, it exudes a sense of hot steamy mystery.

We pass few people on the road, but those we do, all stop and stare. Some smile at us and wave. Every so often, we see more of the billboards, each hand-painted, no two the same. We don't know the exact significance of them all - only later, for example, do we understand that CPE is a Freedom School refers to the Centre for Popular Education, which aims to wipe out illiteracy on the island.

But if we don't always know the precise meanings, the intention is always clear. These are messages to uplift and inspire. The contrast between a unique billboard, portraying a smiling woman driving a tractor, and the ubiquitous ads we're bombarded with back in London, selling lingerie, cars, beer etc, is overwhelming.

The road drops as we crest the island's mountainous spine. We emerge from the rain forest to see St Georges laid out below us. Though sprawling, it's little larger than a rural English village. As we drive through the outskirts, the wooden shacks and corrugated iron roofs give way to colonial style white and pastel concrete houses and shops.

We stay the first couple of nights in a guesthouse in town, but we're on a tight budget and can't afford to spend the whole month there. On our first day, we go to visit Y, whose name was given to us by a Grenadian friend in London. Y is the head of Grencraft, the co-operative set up to produce, market and export the crafts that Grenadian people have been making for years, using the resources available: coral jewellery, spice baskets, shell artifacts, bowls and hats woven from palm fronds, wooden carvings, guava jelly ...

Y explains that Grencraft is a powerful symbol of the Revo, both in terms of its success and because membership of the co-operative is voluntary. The people have said they want a mixed economy so that's what they've got. The will of the people is paramount. Is Freedom We Making.
Y introduces us to a woman who rents us a little board house just up from Grand Anse beach which, at two palm-fringed miles of silky sun-drenched sand, is the largest and best-known beach on the island. It isn't long before it's clear that the house may be 'little' to us, but it's palatial compared with the homes of most of the people we meet and having running water, electricity and an indoor toilet are luxuries denied to many. Another thing that soon becomes obvious though is that the people who have the least are the most generous. In that at least, Grenada is not unique.

Everyone we meet is hospitable and friendly, almost without exception. In no time at all, we've learned how to cook on a coal pot using local ingredients and we're washing our clothes at the outdoor concrete sink.

There's this amazing spirit of energy and empowerment in the air. It's palpable. You can feel it, taste it. People are proud, you see. Proud of their Revo and what they have achieved. They want to share it. They know full well that what they are doing is unique. The people of Grenada have created a different way of living and being. And as such, they are a beacon of hope to the rest of the world that another way can and does exist.

Gradually, we begin to overstand, as people there call the state beyond understanding. The Revo on 13th March, 1979, had replaced a corrupt dictator, Eric Gairy, whose increasingly repressive (and bizarre) demands had been enforced by his gang of hated and feared Mongoose Men. At the time of the coup, Gairy was out of the country (something to do with preparing to table a motion at the UN on his pet subject of UFOs) and the Revo was almost bloodless.

Ordinary people had been oppressed and living in fear for so long, the coup - initiated by a group of young Grenadian radicals educated in the US and UK - had been joyously received, with the support of the vast majority of the population.

What ensued was government as we know it in reverse, with the ordinary people at the top making the decisions and the government at the bottom, carrying them out. In a series of meetings at local, parish and national level, people spoke out about the issues that mattered to them: poverty, unemployment, exploitation, education, agriculture, imports and exports, health, illiteracy and together they discussed possible solutions.

This was a pure form of democracy, where every single issue of importance affecting people's lives was debated on and decided by the people themselves, making a mockery of the idea that putting a cross on a piece of paper every four years, to choose between frying pans and fires to supposedly represent your interests, can be called 'democracy'.

The energy and enthusiasm, the passion and clarity, the sheer 'rightness' of it all sweep us up and carry us along in its wake. We go to the International Women's Day celebrations and hear the iconic Angela Davis speak. The following week is the 3rd anniversary of the Revo and this is when we first see Maurice Bishop, PM and head of the People's Revolutionary Government.
Warm and inclusive, articulate and charismatic, and underlying it all, his obvious love for his people and pride in their achievements, his words bathe us in a glow, uplifting us as no other individual has before. Imagine the oratory and presence of Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and now Barack Obama, and you'll come close to understanding how I feel on this day - that I am honoured and privileged to be in the presence of a man who appears maybe once in a generation and who exudes hopes of peace and justice and a better way.
A couple of friends whose opinions I trust have told me they're concerned that my use of the abbreviation 'Revo' might be sending out the wrong signals. Since I'm very anxious this should not be the case, I thought I should explain.

While in official circles and on printed information the period was always referred to in Grenada as 'the revolution', on the streets and in conversation it was colloquially referred to as 'the Revo'. For me, this implied affection and ownership: there had been other revolutions in other places, but what was happening in Grenada was unique. It belonged to them. It was their Revo.

For this reason I chose to use the abbreviation in these posts. I would be appalled to think that anyone who didn't know the context, might think that my decision to refer in that way to what happened between 13 March 1979 and 19 October 1983 implied I was trivialising or belittling the Grenadian revolution.

I hope that it is clear to anyone and everyone reading this series of posts that my respect, admiration and genuine awe for what the Grenadian people achieved in that time against all the odds know no bounds.

I was - and still am - humbled by what I witnessed.

The Grenada Revolution Online



February-March 1982 (continued)

Halfway through our stay and we're learning.

Limes are the most versatile of fruits. You can use them to make juice of course, but you can also use them to clean fish, as a disinfectant to scrub down work surfaces, in a marinade ... If you step on a sea urchin, half a lime rubbed on the sole of your foot will dissolve the spines.

The brown fibrous coconuts we've seen in funfairs are just the inner nut. Slice the top off a young green waternut and pop in a straw to drink the fragrant water. Then split the nut open and use the sliced off piece as a spoon to scoop out the jelly.

You don't drink the liquid inside a mature coconut. Instead, once you've ripped off the outer skin, slam the nut on the floor to break it. Drain off the liquid and and, using a sharp knife, gouge out the flesh. Grate it on a lethal home made grater made from a sheet of metal with holes stabbed into it and bent onto a wooden frame. (The skin on the ends of your fingers will eventually harden once the cuts have healed over.) Soak the grated coconut in water and squeeze it through a strainer. It's this liquid which you use to cook with.

Callaloo may look like spinach but don't even think of tasting a raw piece. It'll take off the roof of your mouth.

Saltfish should be soaked. boiled and rinsed several times before adding it to soup or rice and peas.

Bananas are known as figs. Some, like plantain and bluggoe, have to be cooked but there are many different edible varieties too, each with their own unique taste.

We see cocoa being dried and visit a spice co-operative. Nutmeg, mace, cinnamon and cloves, along with bananas and cocoa, form the most important sources of Grenada's income. But the biggest source of all is tourism.

And here's something else we soon learn. Toursim is a two-edged sword.

Cruiseships have just started including Grenada again as a stopping off point on Caribbean cruises. The tourists come ashore for just a few hours. They descend on St Georges, sometimes dressed in skimpy beachware that is considered disrespectful by the modest Grenadians. Some are rude and arrogant.

The money they bring is vital, but their behaviour can sometimes cause resentment. It's a delicate balance. The Revo has discouraged the old practice of children swimming out to the ships moored far out in deep water to dive for coins thrown from the deck. The self-respect and dignity engendered by the Revo means that these days few young men will agree to shin up a palm tree to pose for a photo for a couple of dollars.

Then there are the longer term tourists. There is an ugly scene going on that is common in parts of the world where people are desperately poor. Unemployment is still rife and many people have the same desire to see other places and cultures that brought us to Grenada, except their desire is driven by poverty.

Many young men in particular see their only means of survival as hooking up with a woman tourist, who will pay for food, drink and so on during the stay. For some, these relationships can ultimately provide the only likely way off the island.

As for the women tourists, many come with absolute awareness of the power this gives them and some - not all, but plenty - are more than prepared to abuse this power. In fact, we are shocked to realise that many seem to come to the Caribbean for this specific purpose. Time and time again, we come across women behaving in ways that we consider exploitative and ignorant. We are determined to demonstrate our difference from these women in everything we say and do.

These are just some of the things we learn during that first month in Grenada. And through it all, underpinning everything, is the Revo.

We visit a woodwork co-operative on the other side of the island. We go to a ceremony to hand over new fishing boats - a gift from Cuba. We see a small military parade and thrill to know that those good-natured men, proudly carrying their guns and cheered by the bystanders, are not to be feared. Everywhere we're met with the same warm welcome, shy dignity and quiet pride. It is clear we are among a people who feel they are in control of their own destiny.

And all this in the face of growing opposition from a paranoid US to the north, under the old cowboy himself, Reagan. And you know what? They're right to be scared. It's not that anyone really believes that tiny Grenada, even if they aligned with Nicaragua, Cuba and El Salvador, is going to topple the US beast militarily.

No. It's the ideology that scares them. They're worried that their own people will look at Grenada and see proof that a better and fairer system really can work. A system based on peace, love, justice, equality - not just a hippy Utopian dream, but in Grenada, a living reality.

The US administration tries everything to destablise and isolate the Revo and their propaganda machine pumps out their desperate attempts to portray the Revo as monstrous.

Look at who they're aligned with! Russia, Cuba, North Korea ... the US screams in panic.
Yes, Grenadians reply, but only because they're the only ones who will recognise and trade with us. You've refused our every attempt to establish links.

They hold no elections! the US gibbers in desperation.
One day we might, Grenadians reply, but right now we don't see it as a priority. Meanwhile, our system is far more democratic than yours.

There's only one newspaper! the US rants, scraping the barrel.
True, but it's not difficult to get foreign papers. That's hardly full-scale repression, Grenadians reply with a shrug.

For every accusation, there is a plausible and logical response. It's not too good to be true. It's real. And it's happening. Here. Now.

At what point do we decide we have to return, and not just for a holiday? That somehow, in some way that is appropriate, we have to contribute and be, as much as possible under the circumstances, a part of it all? Not to leech off the Revo, but to find a way to use the resources we have access to back in London to support it ...

It may have been earlier, but if not, it could have been on our last night. We hold a party in our little board house, perched on the hill overlooking the bay, and invite everyone we've met. As the evening draws to an end and we have to prepare to say goodbye to our new friends, to whom we have become so close, so fast, something phenomenal happens.

One by one, each person there stands and makes a solemn speech. They tell us how much they've valued our friendship. How they appreciate our efforts to truly overstand their island story. How they hope to see us again. We should hurry back. Or rather, forward. No one uses the word 'back' with its negative connotations. The motto of the Revo, is Forward Ever, Backward Never.

Or maybe the final decision came on our last morning. The woodwork co-operative had asked us to come in on our way to the airport. We were running late after all the farewells nearer home, but couldn't leave without saying goodbye. Jumping from the cab, we're met by one of the workers. She looks anxious when we say we can't stay long and says she's not sure if they're dry yet. Mystified, we follow her round a corner and see a row of handmade wooden trays lying on the ground, their glossy varnish drying in the sun. Each is painted with a map of Grenada.

With a smile, the woman picks up two of the trays and hands them to us. We're overwhelmed. Like I say, it's the people who have the least who are the most generous.

We board the tiny plane at Pearls, sad to leave but with eyes that have been opened and lives that have been changed. We know beyond any doubt that the story of our connection with Grenada has only just begun.

Over quarter of a century later, I still have that tray. Still use it. Though the varnish has dulled and the map has faded, it's still here. I can touch it, gaze at it, run my hands over the smooth wood.

If only the Revo had lasted as long ...
April 1982 - June 1983. London

Our plane touches down at Gatwick, but in our hearts, we're still flying high.

We're determined to return to Grenada as soon as possible, though logistically, the problems seem insurmountable. My 5 year relationship with F is at an end, I have nowhere to live, no job and no savings.

But you know how it is. When you're feeling positive, it can seem as though life itself is charmed. F meets us at the airport. When he hears our intention to only remain in the UK for a few months, he agrees I should stay in the flat we've shared in Acton, maintaining our relationship, but moving into the spare bedroom.

Within the first week, I'm contacted by a friend who tells me there's a vacancy where she works for someone to do stock control and accounts to provide maternity cover. The pay is far more than I have ever earned before.

J and I start a self-defense class. We're such naturals, the instructor keeps us behind after every class to give us free extra sessions.

Sorted. Everything's going my way. I have an ongoing relationship (which had always been non-monogamous), somewhere to live and an income that will enable me to save. Once we come up with a practical plan, we should be able to return to Grenada well within the year.

If this was fiction, you'd know something would go wrong at this point. When the main protagonist believes everything's going her way, she'd better look out.

Well, this isn't fiction, but ...

On Mayday, 1982, J and I go off to our self-defense class. This is no fancy martial arts technique we're learning, but rough tough street fighting. Each week we've compared bruises and pulled muscles after our extended session. On this day, one of my injuries is to my knee. It's not 'til I get home, put my feet up and watch my knee balloon before my eyes that I realise this is more serious than the usual knocks.

To cut this part of my story short, the following year is filled with appalling pain, daily grueling physio, 3 operations and a long period when I'm totally bed-ridden. Meanwhile, my relationship is disintegrating round my ears, culminating with F moving another woman in soon after I get home from hospital after the first op.
The knowledge that eventually I will be returning to Grenada is the only thing that keeps me going. There are few bright spots in that difficult year, and they're all connected with a tiny island half the world away:

  • The management where I'm working are really supportive and understanding. They arrange for me to have lifts into work and take time off each day for physio. During the weeks and then months when I can't get out, they deliver work for me to do at home and collect it the next day. I do it sitting up in bed, leaning on my Grenada tray.
  • Since I'm not in a position to go anywhere, at least I can save all my earnings.
  • I meet a guy at work who's Grenadian. He has a house in Tempe, just outside St Georges, and agrees we can rent it from him when we eventually return.
  • H and I come up with a scheme whereby we believe we can contribute something meaningful to the Revo. We know the revolution has gone along way to eradicating illiteracy on the island, but there is a lack of decent reading material. There's a library in St Georges, but it's underused and stocked with literature left over from the colonial period. Jane Austen and Thomas Hardy are all very well, but there are few if any contemporary or more relevant books. Meanwhile, in London, we have access to an outpouring of wonderful literature from authors like Alice Walker and Toni Morrison. Books by writers in the US, Caribbean, South America, Africa ... We come up with the idea of a mobile library, regularly visiting all areas of the island including the remote rural villages, stocked with all these amazing books. If we could set it up, with funding and donations organised here, we could stock it, get it on the road and then hand it over to the Revo.
  • I also buy a decent 35mm camera and we sign up as stringers for a leftie photo agency based in London.
So, theoretically, everything is in place. All we need is for me to be fit enough. It takes a year. In the end, I get there with the help of a wonderful osteopath, a change in hospital and a move out from the poisonous atmosphere of the flat and into a short-term place in a communal house in Shepherds Bush. I'm, finally able to put aside my walking stick and, together with H and J, book my ticket for Grenada.

Armed with a list of exercises and a supply of homoeopathic remedies, we bid farewell to family and friends and set off to fulfill a dream.
June-September 1983

No stopovers this time. We change planes at Barbados and then it's straight onto Grenada, to our new home in Tempe. J is staying for two months. H and I have open tickets. As far as we're concerned, we haven't come for a holiday. This is life we're living.

Geographically, Tempe is in a shallow bowl. Behind the house is a steep hill leading up to the Governor General's residence on the top and then down into St Georges on the other side. On the opposite side of the house is another hill leading up to the Lord Chief Justice's home. From my bedroom window, you can see yet another hill, with three forts, the prison and the mental hospital (known locally as 'the crazy house') lined up along its spine. Of the two other roads branching off from the strategic Tempe crossroads, one heads towards Queen's Park and the coast road and the other leads to Mt Parnassus and the interior of the island.

Our new home is a 'wall' (concrete) house down a small track with just five other 'yards'. On the ground floor lives A, a single man who tends the land and watches over the property. We have the first floor: a balcony, two bedrooms, a living room, separate toilet, shower and kitchen. Luxury indeed. The house is surrounded by trees, with a vast mango tree looming over the back. Beyond the grove at the back of the house is a stream and behind that, more trees and then the road.

Things should have been perfect. It's soon clear, however, that we have made an unfortunate error of judgment. In our enthusiasm to spread the word about the Grenadian revolution, we've encouraged everyone we know to come and stay with us. In our heads, we see this as giving people a unique opportunity to experience the Revo firsthand, as well as being good for the island economy. We'd failed to predict the kind of problems it might cause.

For the first four months we're there, we have a constant stream of visitors, lying on pieces of foam in every corner of the house. Although many of them are people we love dearly, they are there for a holiday, while we have a very different agenda. We'd visualised our guests being independent and just using the house as a base from which to explore. The reality is that we feel people have expectations from us as hosts and tour guides. The sheer numbers of people passing through means that at times it feels like we're living in a 20th century version of the Big Brother house. It was a tricky situation and in retrospect, I don't think we handled it well.

We're so preoccupied with these group dynamics, it proves difficult to pursue our own objectives. H and I do go along to the library in St Georges and meet with the head librarian to talk about the mobile library proposal. She's gratifyingly positive and says our next move should be to register ourselves and our proposal with the Ministry for National Mobilisation.

Our visit to the Ministry is one of the high points of those early months in terms of advancing our plans to contribute to the Revo. We have an informal chat about the library, talking about our plans to obtain funding and showing publishers' lists, and we also share our intentions to take photos in a semi-official capacity. We're given a form to complete - a sort of CV giving our personal background.

As we fill it in on the spot, we laugh at the contrast to any similar form we might encounter back home. There, we would take care to make no mention of our political activities. Here, the reverse is true. Delighted at the liberation of telling the whole truth on an official form, we list every one of our involvements, giving info that the authorities back in England would no doubt rub their hands with glee over. We hold back nothing. Checking the form, the comrade nods in approval. He tells us that the next stage should be to arrange a meeting with Maurice to discuss our plans in detail.

Imagine that. We hope to set up a relatively small-scale project and are told after just two meetings that our next step should be to meet up with the Prime Minister! And that's what it was like ... This process is as good an illustration as any of the unique nature of the Grenadian Revo and the pivotal role that Maurice played.


You see, Maurice not only embodied the Revo, he was the living, breathing personification of it. In the evenings, he could still be found sitting in roadside bars, drinking, playing dominoes, chatting and listening. Always listening. He never put himself apart from the ordinary people, let alone above them.

Universally perceived as open, humble, trustworthy - his skills had been recognised by his comrades in the Party. He had buckets filled with the sort of charisma none of the others possessed. While things were going well, his comrades were happy to exploit Maurice's ability to inspire trust and confidence. Only later, was this twisted to show evidence of his so called 'one-manism' and petit bourgeois tendencies of self-promotion. But that was later and I'm not there yet ...

Before things started to unravel, the people had all the evidence they needed to prove Maurice trusted them as much as they trusted him. When they said they wanted a mixed economy, that's what they got. When they said they'd like to move towards elections, if only to silence their critics, Maurice agreed.

Put at its most simple, Maurice wanted the Revo to move at a pace and in a direction dictated by the people. The trust the people had in him was absolute. It was also mutual.

The problems were already beginning to rise to the surface by that time, though we were perhaps less aware of them than we might have been if we hadn't been distracted by our stream of guests.

While Maurice was sitting in roadside bars talking to ordinary people, his comrades in the government were sitting in closed rooms talking to each other. While Maurice was convinced of the innate ability of ordinary people to get to the heart of the issues and come up with the best responses, his comrades felt very differently.

They were educated. They were well-versed in Marxist theory. They were the elite, the vanguard. Of course, they knew the correct direction for the Revo to take - far better than the uneducated lumpen proletariat masses.

It's sad evidence of how far removed some members of the PRG were from the reality that they should have had that impression and got it so wrong. It seems they had no idea of the true miracle of the Revo: the way ordinary people had responded and risen to the challenge of controlling their own destiny.

They certainly understimated the will of the people, but I'm getting ahead of myself again. The extent of the alienation wouldn't be clear for another few months yet.

There are indications that all is not well though, in those first few months of our second stay in Grenada. Distracted though we are, I can see the signs of changes since the previous year. Individuals selling coral and other crafts by hustling direct to tourists are being - if not outright harassed - certainly strongly discouraged. We meet fewer ordinary people involved in the network of meetings, while Party members working directly for the revolutionary cause seem drained and exhausted.

A gap seems to have opened up between the Party and the people. Or maybe between the government and the people. Or the Central Committee ... Or perhaps it is between certain members of the government ...

But one thing is becoming clear: wherever this gap is, the mass of the people are on one side as opposed to being part of a unified whole.

'Where's JH?' I ask one day, remembering a Rasta I'd met the previous year.
'He's up at the camp,' I'm told.
'Camp? What camp?'

And so I hear about this place where 'undesirable counter-revolutionary elements' are held without trial or any due process, for purposes of 're-education'. On further inquiry, I discover more about the definition of 'undesirable'. There are lots of Rastas up at the camp, I'm told, as well as anyone considered unsuitable to be around tourists. Most are not criminals as such, nor are they accused of organising political resistance. Put simply, these are people perceived as 'not fitting' with the image the revolution wishes to project.

Yes. Now I think about it, the signs the Revo had reached a crucial stage and was struggling were there by then, the fourth year of the Revo.

But it was still far from clear who was on which side of the gap that had opened up or how deep and wide it would become.


Images from Cafe Urban
Relationships

Since this is a personal account as well as a historical and political one, there are some missing details in the previous posts that I've realised I need to fill, coming under the heading of 'relationships'.

When I was back in London, somewhere between operations 2 and 3, I happened to overhear a conversation at a party in which Grenada was mentioned. I spoke to the woman afterwards and she told me her story, which bore a remarkable resemblance to that of mine and H.

C
and her sister had visited Grenada on holiday and had the same emotional response as we had. Like us, they too planned to return but then her sister fell pregnant and C told me she was planning to go on her own. We promised to look out for each other.

H and I had been settled in Tempe for some time when C came to visit us. She was staying with a group of women in Carifta Cottages - a housing development on the south side of Grand Anse - but the others were due to leave shortly. C asked if we knew of anywhere she could rent. We asked round and found out that the little board house at the entrance to our gap was available.

C moved in and we became (and remain to this day) close friends. With a background in community development in the voluntary sector, she was working in Grenada as a volunteer with NACDA, the agency responsible for developing and encouraging co-operatives, the method that she had chosen to use her skills and experience to conribute to the Revo.

N was a local woman living with her children in Mt Parnassus who later moved further up the coast to Happy Hill. We became very close early on during our second stay and she devoured our collection of books with infectious enthusiasm, providing us with gratifying evidence of the need for the mobile library. In return, N taught us to cook and took us on day long trips into the country, from where we'd hitch back together, laden with sacks of fresh produce.

PC was a local mover and shaker in Tempe. An older man, he took it upon himself to act as our mentor. His street wisdom, connections and sheer good sense, as well as the respect people had for him proved invaluable for us. It was PC, for example, who took H and I into the ghetto - considered off limits to outsiders. The ghetto was a tiny warren of shacks just off the Carenage in St Georges. As soon as we walked in, our presence was challenged. PC only had to say that we were with him for the protests to cease.

It was strange; at first I would often be conscious of being the only white person in a particular place. I never felt vulnerable, but I certainly felt conspicuous. After a while though, as our faces became familiar and our presence drew less attention, I wouldn't even notice. Yet at the same time, it was vital to retain an awareness of who I was and where I came from. My story may have been running parallel to that of the people I met and became close to, but the truth is that I could never forget I was there by choice and not by birth or history.

Another regular visitor to our yard was R, a 10 year old diabetic boy who would come into our kitchen and cook up batches of plantain crisps. And then there was Y, who taught us belly dancing. And M, who'd had a scene with J but stayed on in our yard after she left. And ... and ... and ... many more people who made up our daily landscape.

And then there was L. I have to talk about L.

Remember the background? When I returned to Grenada in June 1983, I had just come out of a disastrous 6 year relationship. I was determined to remain single, aware that I needed the space to sort my head out and work out how and why I had clung for so long to that particular shipwreck.

But remember too what I said about the tourist scene? A single woman was always going to be seen as available. As soon as we arrived, H resumed her previous relationship with B. No matter how much I protested that my single status was a choice and was not negotiable, I was under constant pressure from men wanting to be my 'personal friend'. I didn't kid myself that I was irresistably gorgeous, knowing the lure was what I represented, not who I was personally.

One person stood out from the crowd who would approach me each time I went out and congregate at all hours of the day and night on our balcony. Not because he was any more persistant than the others, but because he was the only one who I felt made the effort to get to know the real me. I'd met L the previous year and had felt the connection then too, but had never acted on it. This time, L was determined to establish a relationship. I was equally determined to remain single.

I lasted two months. Two whole celibate singleton months, before embarking on the most tempestuous and passionate relationship I'd ever had. L of course had many years experience of being with women tourists. And I was certainly no blushing virgin.

Even so, I think it was clear to us both early on that what we had together was different from anthing either of us had ever experienced before.
Faye's film

If you've been following this series of posts from the beginning, you'll know that it was triggered by meeting a woman, Faye Anne Wilkinson, who plans to make a film about the Revo.

Faye was born in the UK. Her mother is Grenadian and Faye was a baby when the events I've been relating took place. The film is about her own personal search for truth and understanding and she hopes that it can be screened on TV to coincide with Black History Month in October.

Faye's planning to go to Grenada with a small film crew in March, for the 30th anniversary of the Revo. As a teaser to attract potential funders, she has put together a trailer for the film, which you can see here.
Right. You know about Grenada. You know about the Revo. And you know about me. I've set the scene and assembled the cast. There's nothing for it now but to embark on the part I've dreaded the most. From here onwards, I'll be using the detailed diaries I kept at the time to ensure accuracy.

So this is it. The beginning of the end.


September-October 1983. Rumours

On 23rd September, the last of our overseas guests leaves. R is a good friend and I'm very sad to see him go, though I relish the thought of having our space back and being able to focus on our reason for being here.

On his last evening, R and I climb to the top of the hill behind our house. From here, we can see for miles in every direction, across seas and forests and mountains. But what we have come for is the light show in the West.

As we stand awestruck, the sun drips into the ocean, staining sky and sea alike with colours so vivid and outrageous, no artist could recreate them and be believed. It's one of those Caribbean sunsets that is so over the top, it's almost too much to handle.

'Y'know,' I say, 'When you get something like this that's so spectacular that it's overwhelming, it's a good idea to tear your eyes away for a moment. What you see as you look in the other directions may well be more subtle but just as beautiful in its own way.'

As I speak, I pivot slowly on the spot. As I turn my back on the pulled-out-all-the-stops sunset and face East, I gasp, tears welling up in my eyes. High in the sky is the thinnest brightest sliver of new moon. And curved over it with flawless symmetry is a perfect rainbow, arching over the crescent like a protective mother sheltering her newborn child.

I don't know whether I say the words aloud, but I do remember thinking them.
Sometimes it feels like life here is too perfect.
R leaves the following day and we attempt to occupy our space and regain our focus. But life has a habit of ignoring the agenda you've composed for yourself and imposing its own. There are tensions between the men in the house and inevitably these spill over onto us.

On 1st October, a week after R leaves, H becomes ill with a high fever. Her lover, B, has never been what you'd call gregarious, but is now becoming more and more withdrawn. The two of them retreat to their room, emerging rarely. Over a week later, H is still ill. N and I are sponging her off and are alarmed to see the sweat is literally spurting from every pore. It's clear she is seriously ill with something that isn't going to just run its course and be shaken off.

H is admitted to hospital in St Georges on 13th October and diagnosed with Hepatitis B, probably contracted from an insect bite. In the hospital, she has a bed and medical treatment. But that's all. Sheets, pillows, food etc all have to be brought in. I will have to get up in the morning, cook, take the food to hospital, sit with H a while, return home to cook again, then back to the hospital ... There isn't much room for anything else.

At home B has gone down with bronchitis, but, more worryingly, his mental state is giving cause for serious concern. When we'd first arrived in Tempe, we'd taken up the carpet floor tiles, worried they might get damaged. One of B's many anxieties centres round his feet coming into contact with the concrete floor. He lays tracks of carpet tiles around the house, linking the bedroom with the toilet, bathroom and kitchen and on his rare forays from the bedroom he follows these tracks with a rigid intensity.

People fear madness. It's too close and too real. It's almost as if we're scared it's contagious. And who knows, maybe it is. Whether or not that's true, with H in hospital, B's condition freaking out anyone who comes into contact with him, and constant arguments raging, our home has moved in the space of a week from being a cool place for people to come and hang out at all hours of day and night to a hollow shell filled with bad vibes and a tense and poisonous atmosphere.

It's a micrcosm, the turmoil within echoing the increasing tension in the island as a whole. The day after H is admitted to hospital, we hear that Maurice has been placed under house arrest. On my way to visit her, I find town is buzzing and rumours are flying. People are angry and confused, demanding to know the reasons for the arrest and to hear Maurice speak for himself to explain. Although the determination is clear, I sense an undercurrent of fear too. There are crowds gathering in the market square and lots of army vehicles visible on the streets.

In the afternoon, Radio Free Grenada relays a statement from Coard's office, saying he'd resigned as a result of rumours circulating last week that he and his wife, Phyllis, were plotting to kill Maurice. The statement goes on to say that 'certain elements led by an insurance company owner' had then seized weapons with the intention of killing the Coards.

There follows a message from the Security Forces - saying that anyone found spreading rumours will be arrested! After that, there's the news in which we're told that Maurice's chief of staff has been arrested for starting the original rumour.

The news says nothing about Maurice's current whereabouts and neither confirms nor denies that he is under house arrest. So rumours, now apparently illegal, are the only thing left to fill the vacuum. On the streets I hear various versions: that Maurice is being held at home, in prison, on a Cuban ship ...

A party member who I know slightly tells me that Maurice had refused to share power and had started the assassination rumour himself and had therefore been arrested. It's vital to point out that he is one of only two people who I hear criticising Maurice and attempting to lay the blame for the crisis on him.
Photo of Maurice Bishop and Bernard Coard from IPS News
To add to the confusion, L tells me he's seen the insurance company owner mentioned in the radio statement and that he's still free and walking around. No one knows what to believe or who to trust. Maurice himself is the one certainty. He could explain what's happening, given the chance. L also tells me that people in St Paul's are ready to take up arms to defend Maurice.

Except no one knows where he is. And those who do know, aren't saying.
October 1983. The last days of the Revo

Saturday 15th October



The mood in town is tense and very angry. After my first trip to the hospital I go to the market square. Kenrick Radix, a member of the People's Revolutionary Government (PRG), is in the square, drumming up support for Maurice. A demo begins with placards saying, 'We want Maurice'.

You have to understand. This is a place where, for four and a half years, the people have been led to believe that they are in control of what happens in their country. Now things are happening that they're not even being told about. They've even been instructed not to talk about them! Taking to the streets to voice their concerns has always been an integral part of the Revo and was the logical next step to ensure their voices were being heard.

I meet another party member who's keen to give her version of what's going on. She tells me Maurice had been 'misbehaving' for some time; holding back development, misdirecting funds, hanging onto power for himself ... She even hints at a possible CIA connection but says the party's hands were tied because of the popular support Maurice has.

She's twitchy, as well she might be given how out of step her perceptions are with almost everyone else around us. The Central Committee are now in control of the country, she confides, and they're organising house-to-house visits to explain the situation. She tells me that the problems have been going on for a year but the Central Committee's hand has now been forced. The alternative is bloodshed. The Committee are currently meeting to decide on what action to take.

It sounds so plausible, but I don't buy it for one moment, and neither does anyone else I speak to. For the first time, I hear Hudson Austin's name mentioned. He's the chief of the People's Revolutionary Army (PRA) and L tells me he backs Coard. That means it's unclear where the army's loyalty lies. From her hospital window, H saw troops mobilising on the beach last night, though she couldn't see what they were up to.

Each time I come home from the hospital, I switch on the radio. Regional stations report confusion and sketchy details. Flights are still ok but phone communications have apparently been disrupted. On Radio Free Grenada (RFG) a spokesperson denies reports from elsewhere in the Caribbean that several members of the government have been arrested but he gives no further info.

In other words, we're being told what's not happening, but are given no clue as to what is.

So ... H is in hospital, B is both physically and mentally sick and L is making himself scarce. In the evening, I stay home, glued to the radio. The Prime Minister's office (just who the Prime Minister is at this point is a question not addressed) states,
'No questions will be answered to journalists in this period.'
What is it that they are hiding?

At 6.00 pm there's a new development. Leon Cornwall, a PRG and Central Committee member, who, with Hudson Austin, heads up the People's Revolutionary Army (PRA), delivers a statement. It's still a confusing mish-mash of rumour and counter rumour, but this time Maurice is finally mentioned. He's directly blamed for starting the original rumour and criticised for holding onto power for himself. The same rules apply to everyone, he says, and that is why action had to be taken against Maurice.
'The party will tolerate no one-manism. The army is united down to the last private,' he warns.

The tone of the broadcast is very heavy and repressive. As I sit scribbling down his words in my diary, a chill runs through my veins. Nothing like this has been heard before. It's clear we've entered a new stage.

The 7.00 pm news says that Kenrick Radix resigned two days ago and that a number of the organisers of today's demo 'and other people involved' have been detained. It's not clear if this includes Radix or not. So now people are not allowed to demonstrate in the tradition of the Revo and they're not allowed to conjecture about what's going on. The news makes no mention of the earlier statement by Leon Cornwall on behalf of the PRA and the omission leads to a feeling of unreality.

This can't be happening ...

Sunday 16th October

In between hospital visits I catch the midday news, which confirms that Radix is among those arrested. It's announced that an 'important statement' will be made this evening at 10.00 pm.

In the event, it's not 'til midnight, long after most Grenadians have gone to bed, that the statement by Hudson Austin on behalf of the PRA is broadcast. Austin confirms what I heard from the party member yesterday: that Maurice wanted power, that the problems had been hidden from the people for the sake of unity, that he is responsible for the current situation.

I sit alone in the dark and wonder if they really believe the people will swallow this line. All along people have been demanding to hear Maurice speak for himself and there's no sign of that being allowed to happen. They're not allowed to talk about what's going on in case they're arrested for spreading rumours and they're not allowed to demonstrate. They've gone from being in control to being controlled. And they're expected to just accept their new status? Surely, those who now are clearly the ones holding the reins of power must know that's not going to happen ...

Monday 17th October

Another demo was supposed to take place today but the rain is pouring down in sheets and people are keeping their heads down.

Tuesday 18th October

H is discharged from hospital and I bring her home. Though she's still weak and far from well, it will be a relief not to have to make the twice daily trips into town. She has to be on a very restricted diet - no fats at all while her liver recovers - and that's going to stretch my powers of invention.

C tells me she attended a NACDA political education meeting today. A spokesperson from the Ministry of National Mobilisation was grilled by the co-op workers. The questions they ask demonstrates their clear grasp of the issues:
'Who has more power - the party or the people?'
'Who has more power - the party or the security forces?'
'What's the reason why we're not allowed to see Maurice?'
'How is it decided whether a person is a comrade or not? We've noticed that RFG has started referring to Kenrick as "Mr" Radix, while others are still referred to as "comrade".'

The spokesman let slip that Jacky Creft, the Minister for Education and Maurice's partner, is 'up there with Maurice'.
In a frantic attempt to claw back lost ground he says that she's only there because Maurice asked for her. This response is met with jeers of disbelief.
'So she's under house arrest too,' observes an astute co-op member.
'No one's under house arrest,' the hapless spokesman protests. 'Maurice is confined to his home for security reasons.'
'What's the difference?'
'There's a difference in law. Radix, on the other hand, is detained ...'

Weasel words and no one's taken in.

On the 7.00 pm news we're told that Errol George, Maurice's security officer, has made a statement implicating Maurice. Three hundred people demonstrated in St Andrews earlier today, marching to Pearls airport, the newreader tells us.

Then - bizarre and surreal - there's a business-as-usual statement about the economy. As though all this is just a blip and everything is going to be fine.

I go to bed that night filled with dread and unable to sleep.

But nobody knows at this point that the sun has set on the last day of the Grenadian Revo.

Wednesday 19th October 1983. Coup

Photo of Maurice Bishop and Unison Whiteman from the 'Lost Bishop Photos'
NB: The photos are fascinating, but beware of the rest of the content on this site!

As soon as I wake up, I turn on the radio. The 7.00am news on Radio Free Grenada talks of possible reconciliation between Maurice and the Central Committee. It also reports several people - mostly school students - have been arrested as a result of the demo in St Andrews yesterday.

It doesn't surprise me that students are in the forefront of the protests. The Revo's energy and zest for life is largely a result of the relative youth of its main supporters. School students are the pioneers, the flowers of the revolution. Young, educated and idealistic, these young people's vision is unsullied by memories of Grenada's colonial past. It's the future that they concentrate on and they believe it belongs to them.

At 8.15am RFG broadcasts a statement from the Ministry of Education. The tone is heavier than anything we've heard so far. Students are being led by counters (counter revolutionaries) we're told. Anonymous phone calls have been made to schools giving details of demos and saying students should be allowed to attend. But the duty of students is to study - and nothing else! This is shocking and goes against everything these young radicals have previously been led to believe about their role in the vanguard of the Revo.

At some point in the morning, I say goodbye to C with a heavy heart. H and B are both ill and holed up in their bedroom and I've come to rely on C more and more over the last couple of weeks. She's going to Carriacou, Grenada's dot-in-the-ocean sister island, for a few days to do some work for a UK Law Centre on behalf of a Grenadian woman in London. She'd thought about postponing the trip, but when to? Who can say whether things will be better or worse in a few days time?

M left early this morning for his job as 'bag boy', collecting fares on a local bus, and L is off somewhere on the hustle. I go to the local shop and meet PC who gives me waternuts and callalloo for H. He tells me there will be 'a war on the streets of St Georges today' and that under no circumstances should I attempt to go into town. There's talk of shops shutting so I get as much food in as I can.

Back home, I start cooking cornmeal porridge for the invalids. I'm halfway through when our gas cylinder, which fuels our two burner cooker, runs out. At the best of times, this is a pain. You have to lug the empty cylinder into town and exchange it for a full one, which is too heavy for one person to carry alone. Instead, I go to C's house and swop our empty cylinder for her fuller one and finish off the porridge back home.

At 11.00am RFG goes off the air. This silence is far more frightening than when they were broadcasting things no one wished to hear. On the midday news, Trinidad radio says that Maurice has been freed by supporters who stormed his home, meeting only token resistance. He's now in St Georges with a crowd of 3000 people. There follows an exclusive interview with Maurice's mother.

Carna news says that Louison has been arrested and that all international phone lines are down now. They are receiving their information via anonymous telex messages.

At 1.30pm 610 News says that the army has opened fire on people in the market.

I'm here in Grenada. Just over the hill behind our house something huge is going on, history is being made. Yet the only access I have to information is the radio, from regional stations broadcasting from miles away. Twitchy and anxious, I can't settle and pace up and down, stopping only to fiddle with the radio. I decide to tape the broadcasts. Whatever is happening, it's clear we're living through history and I feel the need to record and bear witness.

Then something happens that changes my attitude. H says that now our cylinder has run out, I have reason to go into town and should do so. I'm shocked! If I do go in, I tell her, I'm going to have to be able to duck and dive, react and run if necessary. I can't do that while dragging round an empty gas cylinder, let alone a full one. And anyway, I can't imagine the shops will be open.

Arguing the case though, I experience a paradigm shift. Up until now, I've been obeying PC's instructions not to leave Tempe without any thought of ignoring his warnings. We've always said that we should listen to and respect what we're told by local people and not assume we know better. But now I'm thinking that maybe ... just maybe ... I should go into town after all.

Soon after, L arrives home, wide-eyed and freaked having heard gunfire, though he came from Grand Anse and avoided going near town. Now that he's here I assume he will come with me into town to check out the scene. I shower and change and emerge ready to go. L looks at me in disbelief. There's no way he's going to go back there, he says.

So now I have to decide. Do I heed PC's warnings and the evidence that the situation is highly volatile and stay home? If so, I will have to live for ever with the knowledge that I stayed on the periphery, content to look after number one, while life and death struggles took place just a couple of short miles away.

At 3.00pm Radio Antilles says that Maurice and Radix have been rearrested, that shots have been heard in St Georges and there is a car burning. Radio 610 says at 4.30pm that Maurice is in the hospital and that several ministers have been shot. Who's correct? How reliable is their information? I'm right here, but I don't know what's going on ...

I can bear it no longer. I tell L, H and B that I'm going into town. I'll go the back route, up the hill. That way I can look down on St Georges and get an idea of what's happening. If I decide to go in, it will be downhill and I'll be able to react to anything I see happening ahead and if necessary turn back.

I have no idea what to expect. I'm alone and nothing in my life has prepared me for anything like this. As I begin to walk up the hill, I see a couple limping towards me. The woman is supporting the man and I see a small round red-rimmed hole in the thigh of his trouser leg.
'Oh,' I think. 'That's a bullet wound ...'

But - and this is the strangest thing - the couple appear calm. They call out to people as they pass and the way they speak seems somehow normal and every day. I've never seen people in shock before and I seize on their apparent calmness as reassuring.

Things are obviously bad, I assume - but not unbearable. My brain does acrobatic stunts to justify this assumption. OK - Maurice has no doubt been rearrested and clearly there has been gunfire. In my deluded state I decide that the soldiers must have all been firing low. There will be injuries of course, but probably all to people's legs.

Nothing fatal. Of course, nothing fatal. Grenadian soldiers are not going to fire on and kill their own people. It's unthinkable.

At the top of the hill, there's a small group of people looking down over town. They talk of seeing smoke and gunfire from Fort Rupert, but apart from that they know no more than I do. My frustration grows. Do I just hang about here and then go home again, none the wiser than when I left? I tell the people I'm going to go in. They warn me to take care.

The road down into the market square is quiet. I'm jumpy and ready to react to any developments. If necessary, I can run into that house, I think, or duck down that alleyway, or hide behind that wall. But nothing happens. And in some ways that's worse. The unseen ... the unknown ...

I emerge into the market square. It's almost deserted, apart from half a dozen people liming against the shops bordering the square. There's the strangest vibe - an eerie stillness and hollow silence. So what do I do now? Stay there? Walk up the other hill to the fort? Go back home with nothing still to report? I decide to join the straggle of limers and wait for a while.

A guy I don't recognise comes over and starts to question me. The questions are the ones I've been asked a hundred times before: who am I? where am I from? He might just be chatting me up or he might be understandably suspicious. He doesn't know who I am but the distrust is mutual and I feel uncomfortable with the scrutiny.

Then things start to happen and when they do, events pile up fast. At that moment, against all expectation, a bus swings into the square filled with people. With relief and delight, I recognise the bus M works on.
'I have to check my friend,' I tell my interrogator and run across the empty square to greet M.

As I reach the bus, from which people are climbing down as though it's a normal day, we hear shouts and running feet. Turning to look over my shoulder, I see a small crowd running in obvious panic down the hill leading to the fort and they scatter across the square. One of them is PC. On seeing me, he yells in fury.
'I told you not come! Get out! Get out!'

We hear a rumbling from the direction of the road the people emerged from. M grabs me and yanks me onto the bus. With just him, me and the driver on board the bus screeches out of the square. As we go, I look back through the rear window and see armoured vehicles trundling down the hill. I can clearly see the faces of the soldiers on the back. They're smiling.

'Well, that's ok,' I tell myself. 'If anything really terrible had happened they wouldn't be smiling, would they? People have just panicked at the sight of them ...'

The bus hurtles round the corner on two wheels and onto the esplanade, where we pull to a halt. There are more people around here and, to my surprise, I spot an elderly man I recognise as a patient in the hospital from when H had been there. Can it only be yesterday that she was discharged? This man is terribly ill and frail, still in his pyjamas. He tells me that he and all other patients who are not critically ill were discharged this morning. The information strikes ice into my heart. Why would they clear the wards of patients as vulnerable as this man if not to make way for worse casualties?

We begin to talk to people and try to piece together the sequence of events. We're told that when the demo arrived with Maurice at Fort Rupert, the soldiers there laid down their weapons. A special troop of highly trained 'licenced to kill' soldiers - the Calivigny Squad - arrived and opened fire on the demonstrators. No one knows what's happened to Maurice. We're told that he seemed ill and weak. There's talk that he was badly treated in detention. We assume he has been rearrested. We hope he's uninjured.

'What do we do now?' I ask M.
We decide to take a look at the hospital, which we can access by the steps at the end of the esplanade. The same steps lead up to the fort, just below the hospital. But when we reach the steps, we freeze. They are crammed with people moving in both directions. Several are festooned with blood-soaked bandages, mostly around legs but at least one covering a wound in the abdomen.

But - and here's the thing - there is almost silence. No weeping, no wailing, no cries of anguish. Does this always happen in situations such as this? Shock ... denial ... I guess. But of course, M and I are subject to the same blocking techniques. We stand for a moment and watch the people filing up and down the steps.
'Um, I don't think I want to go up there after all,' I mumble.

M agrees. Instead we walk through the tunnel and out onto the deserted Carenage. We head down an alleyway and M produces a spliff.

So there we are, liming and getting high and trying to wrap our heads around what we have seen and what we might not have seen.
'Just think, ' I say to M. 'Whatever has happened here is huge. The eyes of the world are going to be on Grenada and on this exact point where we are now. My family, J and all our friends back in London are going to be terrified, wondering what's happening and if we are safe. Yet here we are, sitting by the Carenage, getting high.

It's the first but certainly not the last time that I give thanks for being here while this unfolds. No matter how hellish it may be - and whatever is to come - I would rather be here in the eye of the storm than elsewhere trying to visualise the scene.

Town is rapidly emptying now, with people using any means possible to get out and into the country. All phone lines, telex and flights have been stopped. A fly couldn't get into or out of Grenada now.

As M and I make our way slowly back to Tempe, we see heavy troop movements building up, armoured cars, tanks and personnel carriers trundling along the streets into and out of St Georges. Just a short time ago, these soldiers would be on the same side as the people against a possible mutual enemy. That's no longer the case.

Back in Tempe, H and L are frantic with worry. I've been gone for hours and while I was away W had arrived. He had been at the epicentre for the whole thing, from the point Maurice had been freed from house arrest all the way to the fort. Even more crucial, he had recorded the proceedings on a handheld Walkman, intending to create a record for C when she returns from Carriacou.

I listen to the tape with mounting dread. Taking his role as amateur journalist very seriously, W had interviewed participants. We can hear a Carnival-type atmosphere in the background at the fort, with people laughing and calling out to each other.
'Why are you here?' W asks a schoolgirl.
'We here to free we leader,' the girl replies, her voice filled with joy and passion. 'This is a great day for Grenada and for the Revo.'

On the tape, we hear the exact moment the vibe changes from triumphant party to mindbending horror. Shouts of anger and disbelief first of all. Followed by the rumbling of the armoured vehicles. Then there's the shooting. The screams of pain and anguish and fear. With the tape still running, we hear W's frantic footfalls as he tries to escape the panic, his breathing laboured and gasping as he leaps over a wall before the tape goes dead, the ghastly record ended.

At 5.30pm, the news from Barbados reports that Maurice has been wounded and is under detention in the hospital. Four to ten people are claimed to have died, including two NJM Ministers. They claim that all the Ministers who had previously resigned are in detention - 'whereabouts unknown'.

At 6.00pm Radio Antilles confirms that Maurice's whereabouts are uncertain. They report that shortly after 1.00am two heavy explosions and automatic gunfire came from Fort Rupert and thick black smoke was seen coming from the army headquarters. Then they claim that the USSR is behind all the problems! They also report that the whole island is without electric current or water. This isn't true and it throws doubt on all their other assertions.

At 8.15pm, we discover that RFG is back on air, though we don't know what time they came back. They are broadcasting a taped programme about agriculture! Once again, this feeds into our capacity for denial that things can really be that bad and adds to the sense of unreality we have felt for so long now. We're told to expect an important broadcast at 9.30pm. Meanwhile, our assumption is that Maurice is alive and though this is a dread day for the Revo, it's just a hideous episode in its story. Certainly not the end.

M pops out and when he returns he says he's heard more shots and saw people being searched on River Road.

At 10.05pm, RFG broadcasts the statement by Hudson Austin on behalf of the armed forces. H and B are asleep in bed. L is lying in our bed and M is sleeping on the foam in a corner of the living room. I put a new tape into the radio, collect my diary and a pen and sit in the darkness to record his words:

Last night, the Central Committee made an offer to Maurice enabling him to remain as Prime Minister. He said he would consider the offer. But today, a crowd led by Unison Whiteman, stormed his home. The soldiers fired above the people's heads 'as instructed'. Maurice led the people to St Georges where they stormed Fort Rupert. Maurice and Unison disarmed the soldiers there and distributed arms to the crowd. Their stated intention was to wipe out the leadership of the party, the armed forces and the Central Committee. A detachment of soldiers was sent. Maurice and his supporters fired at them, killing two outright and wounding others.

I sit in the darkness, scribbling down his words with a mounting sense of anger and disbelief. There were 3000 witnesses to what really happened. Who are they trying to fool with this fictional version of events?

With his next words, my emotions jerk from rage to despair.

In the ensuing battle, the following people were killed: Maurice Bishop, Jackie Creft, Unison Whiteman, Vince Noel, Norris and Fitzroy Bain ... among others. The country is now being ruled by a Revolutionary Military Council. Martial law has been declared. Anyone found disturbing the peace will be shot. There will be a 24 hour curfew for four days until Monday morning. Anyone seen on the streets breaking curfew will be shot on sight. The only exceptions will be for those maintaining essential services. This situation will continue until firther notice.

The broadcast ends and I sit in the dark, numb and barely able to breathe, tears streaming down my cheeks.

After a while, I close my diary and drag myself to my feet. I take the tape from the radio and stumble into the kitchen to check our supplies. I had stocked up earlier, but it's going to be hard to stretch the food for four days, during which there will be 6 mouths to feed - H, B, L, M, W and myself, with H on her very restricted diet.

Then I wake M and tell him not to go into work tomorrow morning.
'Curfew,' I tell him. 'Maurice is dead.'

I go back into my bedroom. In the gloom, I can see L lying on the bed, his eyes open, staring at the ceiling.
'Did you hear?' I whisper.
'I heard,' he confirms.

There are no other words. Sometimes words just aren't enough.

Image of Maurice from Grenadian Connection