Wed | Dec 13, 2017

Tony Deyal | Heads must roll

Published:Saturday | September 16, 2017 | 12:03 AM

I was in my car, heading east, trying to get ahead of the filthy weather associated with a most assertive, demanding and forward Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) that had already sent out its harbingers of thunder, lightning and big drops of rain splattering on my windshield and pounding the 'sunroof' of my car, perhaps to point out its uselessness and demanding entry.

I thought that if I had applied the same speed and haste to my journey through time, I would have got further ahead in life, but apart from the occasional head on my shoulders and elsewhere, I have never found myself over my head in any of my undertakings, and a good head is never to be doubted or questioned.

Some people, though, get a head in life that could be embarrassing. I was never sure why, but when I was about seven years old, there was a boy, perhaps a year or two older than me, who as a growing youngster had a cranium that was disproportionate to his body size but which, hopefully, would eventually catch up.

The poor boy, whose name I never knew, was heckled by my cousins as he passed our house on the way home from school. From the moment they saw him approaching our gap, they shouted, "Big head far*er (a term for someone who breaks wind or releases gas through the nether region of the body often and profusely)." I now qualify for the term, sometimes said in jest, of being an 'old' four-letter version of that young man, so I know when it is said seriously it can sting and may demand retaliation.

 

Patience exhausted

 

One day, it was clear the boy had reached his limit, and whatever had happened in school earlier, his patience and silence were exhausted. He let loose a string of invectives, adjectives, expletives, threats and accusations that were as imaginative as they were unexpected. Stunned to silence, we let him continue on his way.

The problem was that not knowing why he was behaving like that, my aunt reported him to his grandmother, with whom he lived, and in those days, these things were taken so seriously that she, his grandfather, mother and uncle beat him as both punishment and proactive response against further public outbursts that brought the family into disrepute. Had he kept his head, this would never have happened.

Another boy with the same physical disproportion went home crying about how the other children were calling him "Charlie Brown" because of his huge head and were teasing him with jokes like, "Your head so big that when rain falls, your clothes don't get wet."

She was aghast. "But your head isn't big. I am sure there are other boys in your class whose heads are bigger than yours. Stop crying. They are just jealous of your intelligence." The boy started to smile. "Now I want you to go to the shop," his mother said, "and buy five pounds of potatoes for me." She handed him the money, but instead of rushing out, he paused and said, "I need a bag to fetch it in." "You don't need a bag," his mom said. "Use your cap."

I was thinking about that joke when I saw a statement by the president general (PG) of a local union representing oilfield workers. Commenting on what has been called a 'fake oil' scam in which a company claimed and was paid many millions for oil that it never delivered to the national company, Petrotrin, the PG demanded, "Heads must roll." Looking at the bald-shaven headshot that adorned the report, I first speculated on the cost and difficulty if it involved his head.

But then I found the idea very confusing, especially since the heads of governments (HOGs) of CARICOM were rolling into Trinidad for discussions with the Trinidad and Tobago head, whose head is already hot from recent polls that show that his popularity has declined, a scandal about the ferry service to Tobago which seems to be heading full-speed ahead into the criminal courts, and the fake oil matter in which he and his minister of energy are posing with a protagonist in the supposed scam.

 

Not fair

 

As one of his supporters said, "I would not put my head on a block for him, but I feel this is not fair. The man now come back from major prostate explorations in California and now this thing with the oil have his head hot." I was going to comment about the need to make both ends meet, especially given the country's headlong plunge into a deep recession, but I did not lose my head and remained silent.

I was struck, though, with the 'rolling heads' comment. I can understand Rolling Stones, but heads? I am able to manage a gentle swivel, especially when one of those females who are said to be able to turn heads and other tricks passes by, and I know there was a dance craze recently in Jamaica where women swung their heads and locks round and round with dizzying rapidity and contortions, called by some 'dutty wine', because it went to their heads, but seriously, 'heads must roll'?

I know that English is a funny language in both a 'ha-ha' and 'odd' sense so that I tried to find out not just the meaning but the origin of the term. The best explanation is that it was a by-product of the French Revolution when, in 1793, thousands of French citizens lost their heads to the guillotine before crowds who treated it as entertainment.

It means that, as one head-case, Adolf Hitler, put it, people must be severely, drastically and fatally punished. Of course, some people in Trinidad who are concerned about the growing power of the PG feel that his should be among the first heads to roll, but this is ever the lot of those who are deemed headstrong or push a head that makes a lot of other people uncomfortable.

In my case, when I hear talk about heads rolling from people whose heads are so swollen that the doors of their homes and offices, even their cars, have to be enlarged, I head for the hills.

- Tony Deyal was last seen quoting Dennis Pearce's Sherlock Holmes spoof, "Arm yourself, Watson, there is an evil hand a foot ahead."