“DIS TIME NAH LANG TIME!” – By Lear Matthews


By Lear Matthews

Dis time nah lang time! Remember Bertie Vann, Fogarty Bun Down, Kayto, Cow Manure, Tuts and Marjorie Monkey (from New Amsterdam), Peas Head, Law an’ Order, Mary bruk iron, Memory man Gonzalves and Side-Ways? They were called mad people or street characters – “Dey head ain’ good!” some would say.

Although generally tolerated and accommodated, they were teased and ridiculed almost every day.  When they tried to defend themselves, taunting youths unsympathetic to their untenable condition and incapacity, desperately took flight to safety. Chinka-Lay-Lay and Walker de British were known to arm themselves with bricks as a defensive strategy.

Their experience was likely attributed to social pressures, lack of resources and unattended mental disability – One psychiatrist fo de whole society! It was said that some of them “went off” after “studying abroad”.  Perhaps their challenges were a reflection of how fragile we could be. Indeed mental illness is prevalent in many a society.  Hopefully the GT “street characters” and others so afflicted are treated with more respect and empathy.

Dis time Nah lang time! According to the experts, the Guyanese context proves to be one of the most challenging for mental health in this hemisphere. Suicide, disaffected youth, domestic violence, child victimization and the woes of the homeless, appear to be a measure of mental health.  We hear about the alarming statistics, which appear to unabatedly persist, potentially becoming a public health crisis.  Possible solutions to this malady escalation require community-based care, informed national policy and qualified professional intervention.

Dis time nah lang time.  Remember the days of Pan Am flying in and out de homeland with no confusion? Now dey gat nuff different airlines, with all kinds of delays, causing tension and aggravation.  No reprieve when you complain, increasing the emotional pain.  Lang time when you go back home you could always stay at your family, with no hesitation.  Now-a-days hometown visitors increasingly stay at hotels, because of spiraling emigration and family dispersion.  Despite such transformation, a growing Diaspora, sometimes wary, persists in efforts to sustain cultural connection.

Dis time nah lang time – Remember when a shilling (24 cents) loaf was a big plait bread, a penny mauby with tennis-roll-an-cheese was a meal, and Bastiani bury de dead? Short Hand and Typing was de in ting, steel band was king and Johnny Braff coulda’ really sing.  De Bhoom was introduced by Tom Charles and the Syncopaters, Masquerade was prapuh flouncing and Yoruba Singers one of the best cultural entertainers.  Dis time nah lang time, when gay was happy; before Watchman turn Security.  “Operation” didn’t mean surgery; radio and gramophone, but no telephone in de home; no television showing all dem Reality nonsense; “Aunt Mary, a good neighbour” made more sense.  Sneaker was yatin’ and $2 dollar could’a get yuh two bunch a plaintain.  Remember when a freck for a small boy was a “jil”? Now is more like a hundred dollar bill.

Dis time nah lang time. We used to ride Raleigh and Hercules bicycle or travel by train on de East and West Coast train line.  Now some ah we ridin’ de subway to stops like Paddington (Lon.), Ossington (Tor.), East Broadway and Far Rockaway – nowhere near Tigah Bay.

Remember the Georgetown yellow bus with routes around our garden city?  Imagine a passenger asking: “Is this a Kitty-Campbellsville or Church-Durbun?” and another politely responding: “The latter Madum”.  Courtesy, comradery and respect reigned.  Dis time when yuh hear somebody sey: “Mistuh please fo a pass” on the Flatbush bus or B 103 to Canarse, yuh smile because yuh know is one ah we.

Dis time nah lang time! Where have all the writers gone? Martin, E.R, Wordsworth, Carew and Mittleholtzer – among those so inspirational.  Put out a clarion call to invoke their names for a literary revival!

Dis time nah lang time! Bicycle and dray cyart use to share Georgetown road space and the City Council made sanitation a priority.  Now cyar and Mini-bus congesting de place and people crying out for public health sanity to return to the Municipality.  As soon as rain set up, Georgetown flooding, while de politicians proroguing and demonstrating. Dis time the focus should be on compromising, BRIDGIN’ and developing.

Lang time we coulda’ mark time.  Dis time we don’t have much time!

Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  • jharricharan  On 01/31/2015 at 11:52 pm

    I really enjoyed this article…a sweet, sad experience.

    • ndtewarie  On 02/01/2015 at 12:25 pm


      Fo-day manin-cack a crow
      And he know he gat to go
      And all he gat is he sharp twenty-two
      And he food-carrier so shiny and new

      Today is had wok this whole month
      Today we gat to full all dem punt
      At break-time me tek a lil smoke
      And Kadwah guh crak a joke

      And then the dam lead-han’
      Playing lek some white man
      Sometimes behave like a real jerk
      Come and chase us back to work

      Buddy-by how me bones ah ache Oh Gad!
      If when Haray Ram tek me now, me glad
      Only Ram keep me going as I chant me bhajan
      Today, I hope me wife cook hassar and sigan

      The cane-cutter tek his roti from he carrier-dish
      He is thinking of his last daughter’s only wish
      To save ebry las cent of he salary
      To pay for her damn big dowry

      Po gyal na know fuh wat in store
      But agat to let me baby go fuh sure
      Oh Gad! Now I can hardly bend
      When does all dis hadship end?

      The cane cutter goes home at sunset
      Gat to hurry so he wifey don’t fret
      Still gat sum tumatee to plant
      So tired no matta how he cant

      Fatnight coming and its pay day
      Gat to tek a lil finey this Friday
      Shoot some crap wid Kak, Bud and Lulluby
      And Pum-pak to dance wen he get lil groggy

      Betta read yuh book get some larning
      You can’t last wid this cane cutting
      You cut, fetch and full punt in de sun or rain
      Come Munday and it’s back to cutting cane

      Pickney ah tell yuh dis life is haad
      Dis is nat cricket or playing cyad
      Yuh wuk till yuh get haad calluses all ova
      And de bakrah neva say thanks, son-of-a

      The cane-cutter is one of those dying breed
      These pioneers’ve fused the Guyanese seed
      Metal intact, they raked and did scrape
      And eventually changed the landscape

  • Deen  On 02/01/2015 at 11:44 am

    Lear Matthews, I too certainly enjoyed reading your article. It brought back a lot of memories of simplicity and joys of yesteryears. Nostalgic, amusing and delightful!
    Lear, thanks for recapturing the pleasant memories.
    Lang time ah gud, gud time.
    Take care and wak ah canna.

  • Rosaliene Bacchus  On 02/01/2015 at 2:38 pm

    Lear Matthews, I loved the rhythm of your poetic prose.

    Your message resonates:
    Dis time the focus should be on compromising, BRIDGIN’ and developing.
    Lang time we coulda’ mark time. Dis time we don’t have much time!

  • marc matthews  On 02/02/2015 at 3:14 am

    Time travel is possible in dis time. …Thanks bannuh

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: