A GUEST SERIES
9 – Bermuda – Kisses (2010, Transparent Records)
Released as a single in April 2010 (Did Not Chart)
The roof has come right off at the back. The wind has ripped through it and its flapping about like a pair of Ian Brown’s finest trousers. I look across at the old man, who has a cigar in one hand and a blow torch in the other and decide to move out of the way. I mean it’s his roof after all.
I should perhaps back up a bit. The house belongs to a man called Pythagoras, but everyone calls him ‘Santi’. I’m not sure why. Pythagoras is a brilliant name. The house is situated right on the coast in a small village called Tuckers Town, which is on the beautiful island of Bermuda. Santi’s house has just been hit by a hurricane.
Santi and his wife have lived in this house for 55 years. The roof, which is largely flat has withstood five hurricanes in the last twenty years, and this latest one, named Igor, was the weakest one to score a direct hit but has caused more damage than the rest of them put together.
At 9am the day after the Hurricane, Santi phoned me to ask for my help to fix his roof and clean up the fallen trees that now littered his garden. He said that the power was back on and that in return his wife would make me some mac n cheese, and he’d open a bottle of rum. I agree and tell him I’ll be there in an hour.
The walk to Santi’s house is a depressing one. I put some music on to try and blank out the walk but its hard work. There is a footpath system around the island, called the Railway Trail, so called because it used to be a railway. This trail is usually a mixture of sand and gravel today it is covered with leaves and debris and looks like someone has shoved a dirty green carpet all the way along it. It cuts through the National Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, normally home to about a thousand different types of trees and plant. Today it is a scene of absolute devastation.
This might sound weird, but I check in on my favourite tree, it’s a Banyan tree that looks exactly like a cat and I find myself feeling sad when I see that it is now half the tree it used to be.
I remember standing there, in this huge park the only human around and I’m trying to assess the devastation unfolding around the island. I’d completely forgotten that that iPod was playing and its only Matt Berninger’s baritone filling my ears that drags me away from the park.
Bloodbuzz Ohio – The National (2010, 4AD Records, Did Not Chart)
I first met Santi through his wife, Celeste. On my second day on the island I was sat at the bus station waiting for the Number 7 bus back to my flat. There were three people at the bus station. Celeste, me and a third chap who is sitting on a bench about 20 foot away. Moments later a white jeep pulls up, two men jump out and shoot the man on the bench through both legs and then drive off. Chaos ensues. I can still smell the sulphur today, I heard his scream every night for the next three weeks.
Celeste was dressed in her Sunday best and was on her way to church. I was carrying a bag of bananas, some pasta and some chocolate. She pulls out a mobile phone and does the necessary, I stand there wishing that I’d never got on the flight. I feel totally useless, totally selfish and totally alone.
Celeste is in her late seventies and she is an oasis of calm. She hobbles over to me, and asks me if I am ok. I nod. I mean I’m in shock, but I don’t have two mangled legs. She wanders over to the prone lad on the floor and shakes her head – she takes off her coat and covers him with it. “He’ll live” she says and then the ambulance and police turn up and she sits back down next me.
The next sentence she utters is one of the most glorious sentences that anyone has ever uttered in my company. Celeste brings out a small box of what looks like tobacco, puts a bit in her mouth and chews it for a minute or so. As the police guy shuts the bus station she spits the tobacco out of her mouth and looks at me and says “Goddam gangbanger muthafuckas ruinin’ my Sunday, forgive me Lord” and then she looks up at the sky and crosses herself.
Gangsta’s Paradise – Coolio (1995, Tommy Boy Records, Number 1 – and the only number one on this rundown I think)
From that day I checked in on Celeste and Santi on a regular basis. I would meet Santi on the odd Saturday in an Irish bar in town we would watch the football (big Stoke City Fan for some reason) and then we would catch a bus out to one of his favourite spots on the island. It kept him out of Celeste’s hair whilst she made yam and pineapple cakes. One place we used to love to go was Fort Scaur an old defence fort hidden on a small hill on the south side of the island. It’s the highest point on the island and yet you can’t see the fort from the sea, because they built most of it underground. It’s full of tunnels, linking the fort to the hill side and then down to the sea. It remains one of my favourite places on earth.
Neighbourhood #1 (Tunnels) – Arcade Fire (2004, Merge Records, Did Not Chart)
Santi and Celeste remain in the Top Five of brilliant people that I know. They are 88 and 85 now, still going strong. Still eating their yam and pineapple cakes.