Wed | Nov 14, 2018

Tony Deyal | The wine of a punishment

Published:Saturday | January 20, 2018 | 12:00 AM

Easter was a big event in my village and the little cinema pulled out all the stops so it was non-stop religious movies. One of the perennial favourites was The Ten Commandments. Gerald King went to that and said he reached late, so he only saw eight.

The Robe was not yet worn out and every year was taken off the peg, dusted and shown to an appreciative audience of older folk. Ben Hur's chariot swung low and descended annually to great excitement and applause, especially from the 'pit' or cheap seats. The biggie for the church people was The Passion Play, a French film made in 1903. I was persuaded - forced - really, to watch it with the rest of my class, and as we came out of the cinema, one of the bigger boys, perhaps in jest, said loudly, "Passion play? Dey call dat passion play? Joseph didn't even kiss Mary and dey talking about passion play!"

Excellent and moving though it is, Earl Lovelace's The Wine of Astonishment suffered the same fate at the hands of a schoolboy for whom it was a 'set' book in the literature syllabus and he was dead set against it. The name comes from Psalm 60 of the King James Version of the Bible, "Thou hast shewed thy people hard things: thou hast made us to drink the wine of astonishment."

The boy's grievance, expressed loudly as we watched cricket, "Wine? Dey have no wine in the book. Nobody drink wine in the book and yet it name wine of astonishment! I think that is where the astonishment come from." Another boy, intent on milking the shared and deeply felt outrage down to the dregs, added, "And nobody in the book wine on anybody else either."

This is really the crux of the problem. While Iwer George, the calypsonian, insists that "a wine is a wine", the astonishing truth is that it is and it is not. In the Caribbean, the word 'wine' has two different meanings. The one the world knows best is the alcoholic beverage produced for thousands of years from grapes. This is different from the other 'wine' that the Urban Dictionary describes as a form of Caribbean dancing and explains that "to 'wine' is to gyrate the midsection of the body, specifically the waist and hips (pelvis)."

It further states, "The word 'wining' is broken English for the word 'winding', as in 'a long and winding road'. Winding describes something that is coiling, circling, rotating, or snaking." Commenting on the confusion between 'wine' in this sense and 'whine', the dictionary says that "wine" is not to be confused with the word 'whine', which means to complain or to make a whining sound.

Growing up, I was more used to wine as gyration than liquid gratification. In fact, one of the old calypsos of my youth truly captured the 'wine' and the 'winding'. It goes, "Mih mammy sen' meh to school/ The teacher call me ah fool/ She put me behind a blind/ And then she teach me to wine. / Wine, wine, wine/ Wine like a ball of twine." The song was accompanied with the appropriate motions and gyrations.

The one wine I tried in those early days that had nothing to do initially with dancing was Sanatogen Tonic Wine, which my father bought for me because it was advertised as a 'tonic' that would help me grow. It worked. It caused me to grow talkative, noisy, boisterous and then very sick indeed.

Like most Caribbean people, I have never mixed up wine, the drink, and wine, the movement, and sometimes find amusement in what the connoisseurs spout. "A good wine needs no bush," is one of their expressions. From my very limited and extremely restricted knowledge of both, I would agree on the basis that a good wine is best experienced in relative comfort, regardless of the relative difference in worth of a bird in the hand or in the bush.

The Roman playwright, Plautus, got it right when he said, "Let us celebrate the occasion with wine and sweet words." I will drink to that as well as to Ovid, the poet, with his observation based on experience, "Time, motion and wine cause sleep" and, as 17th-century English clergyman, Thomas Fuller, warned his flock, "Wine hath drowned more men than the sea."




Now in the 21st Century, a different fate awaits those whose love of wine leads them to the very unrighteous deed of 'thiefing a wine'. This has nothing to do with larceny like the recent theft of US$350,000 worth of wine in Paris, but is about men gyrating or wining on women without their permission. It has been a practice over the years that has not earned universal approval. The police say that any physical touching where there is no consent is unlawful and can be deemed assault. They advise that permission must be sought by the 'winer' from the person to be wined upon (the 'wine, tiny or otherwise) before the wine is a fait or even fete accompli.

Entertainer Machel Montano did not initially support this and told the crowd at one of his performances, "They say yuh could get lock up for thiefing a wine. All yuh forget that, find somebody to jam. This is carnival. They will have to lock up the whole of Trinidad and Tobago."

My concern is how the fines will be assessed. Would it be on age (in which case I am in trouble), quality (trouble again because of my bad knee), country of origin (for example, France, Spain, Italy, Britain), or colour (white, red, pink or dark). What about if someone calls me a 'Fat Bastard' or 'Elephant on A Tightrope'? What happens if I run into a "Mad Housewife" from California? My greatest fear is if my vintage wine, as Frank Sinatra calls it, runs into a youthful, bubbly, sparkling champagne from champagne and I pop my cork.

- Tony Deyal was last seen asking if it would matter whether the champagne is of recent vintage or a G.H. Mumm? Or is it a case of the Moet the merrier?