GUYANA: A dip in the Dark – Short Stories – By Geoff Burrowes

  By Geoff Burrowes

When I was growing up I had an older friend named Tony. He was a lawyer at the old, well established firm of Cameron and Shepherd. He loved to gyaff (the Trinidadians call it  “old talk” and it was an art form widely practiced and refined throughout the West Indies and as Tony was an interesting gyaffer I enjoyed gyaffing with him after rowing in the dark fresh Georgetown evenings.

A gyaffer is generally a story teller, full of interesting , often humourous facts that his listener will often reply to, keeping the conversation going, often in a quite different and often more interesting direction. A good gyaff could often last for hours to the mutual satisfaction of all parties.             

Tony’s gyaffing was always salted with interspersions of “You follow what I mean?”

He grew up on a farm on West Coast, Berbice with his older brother Pat and his sister Barbara and hero worshipped Pat who was a sportsman of note in his later years and who had represented Guyana at Rugby and cricket and who in one cycle meeting at the GCC, rode his way, from C class against “GoatMan” “Bake”and companyto A Class with the likes of Laddy Lewis, Flash Gordon, George Cumberbatch, Malcolm Gordyk and his cousin, Carto and the other topnotch cyclists!

I can still hear hear his shin-bone crack during a rugby match at Eve Leary. Plenty of fodder for Tony’s gyaffing! One of the stories Tony told was how Pat, in the company of the Kauffman boys swam across the mouth of the mighty Demerara River to Versailles estate.

I was not about to do that, but since I was a pretty decent swimmer I quietly decided that I would swim along the river bank to the BG Airways ramp, after rowing one evening. I used to do stupidness like that from time to time!

After Mr. Singh’s grandson had docked the four one evening, it was still sunset over the  West Bank of the River and I quietly slipped off the edge of the ramp into the, by now, dark river. The river bank between Bungles Clavier’s ramp and the Guyana Airways ramp, about a mile upstream, was mangrove swamp and I stayed about fifteen to twenty feet offshore as I swam upriver. It was dark and quiet, with just the slurping of the waves against the mangrove roots, keeping me company.

After what seemed forever my reaching hand touched the rough boards of the Guyana Airways ramp and I rested at the bottom of the ramp as I caught my breath.

The swim back seemed much faster and my crew was still enjoying their Banks Beer at the bar when I padded past dripping Demerara water on Mr. Singh’s clean plank floor.

I didn’t say where I had been as I said before I had been stupid. You don’t go swimming on your own in a dark tropical river mouth simply because there is no one to help if you get into difficulties. Fortunately I didn’t and my stupidity escaped its just reward. I must admit I felt a sneaking pleasure at ‘getting away’ with it! But you can bet your life that if I had the choice today wisdom would prevail! But I wouldn’t have the memory if I hadn’t taken my dip in the dark!

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Comments

  • kamral khan  On 01/22/2023 at 12:44 pm

    I remembered Laddy Lewis. He rode a racing bike to work, at the wharf ? Also he lived in Dowding Street Kitty. His son Kenneth and I are about the same age. Kenneth attended St Stanislaus.I too have done some stupid things at Kitty Jetty. I also remembered BROKUP. Even with his disability, he was an excellent swimmer. Stay Safe

    Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPad

  • wally  On 01/22/2023 at 3:24 pm

    I knew the family in fourth and albert street..late fifties, was he married twice to a Gibord (?)I really would like to know’
    I always enjoy Geoff’s stories, would like to write some of mine,but, I might have to wait until my children are much much older, up to now they still think I am special, can’t let them ever think otherwise…thanks Geoff

    • Brother Man  On 01/23/2023 at 1:46 am

      If you’re old enough to remember the neighbours of the the late 1950s you must be in your 70s.

      If that’s the case, it’s a bit odd that you are still waiting for your children to get older before you can begin to write your memoirs, unless of course you mean your grandchildren.

  • George Jardim  On 01/22/2023 at 5:00 pm

    “ When I see women mistreated or denigrated it makes me so angry”. Geoffrey, you got me on that one. I support that totally.

  • Clyde Duncan  On 01/23/2023 at 11:50 am

    Crocodile Grabs Australian Woman During Night Swim
    30 May 2016 | BBC

    A woman is feared dead after a crocodile attack in Australia’s Daintree National Park.

    The woman, named locally as Cindy Waldron, 46, from Lithgow in New South Wales, was reportedly swimming with a friend on Sunday evening at Thornton Beach near Cairns in north Queensland.

    She was in waist-deep water when she was attacked, media reports said.

    “Her 47-year-old friend tried to grab her and drag her to safety and she just wasn’t able to do that.

    “[The friend] then ran to a nearby business and raised the alarm, and from that point police and other authorities were advised.

    “They had been walking along the beach and they’ve decided to go for a swim just in waist-deep water at Thornton Beach and probably a very nice, clear night, but obviously may not have been aware of the dangers.”

    Nine News reported that witnesses heard the woman yell: “A Croc’s Got Me, A Croc’s Got Me.”

    ‘An Avoidable Tragedy’

    Residents told Australian media that the area was a known crocodile habitat.

    And local MP Warren Entsch said the area was popular with crocodile-spotting tours and there were many warning signs.

    “This is a tragedy but it was avoidable,” he told reporters.

    “If you go in swimming at 10 o’clock at night, you’re going to get consumed.”

    Crocodiles are common in Australia’s tropical north and kill an average of two people each year, according to AFP news agency.

    In British Guiana the alligators were civilized …….
    If you don’t believe me – Ask Geoff!!

  • wally  On 01/23/2023 at 12:31 pm

    Years ago my uncle took a group of Demba’s staff to catch (try) Arapaima somewhere around Rockstone, I went curious, never a fisherman. We went out at night, hooked many, caught none, the alligators ate the flesh,but left the bones, that is civilized….Yes

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