Left: The buildings in the town of Moneague are from old time Jamaica. Right: Life's always easier when you have a friend to help you out. - PHOTOS BY NORMAN GRINDLEY/DEPUTY CHIEF PHOTOGRAPHER
THE LITTLE man with the walking stick and the receding hairline lifted his hat and wiped a trickle of sweat from his forehead. "Yes sah! I know more about this place than all of you, for me deh bout yah since saltfish a shingle roof!"
I burst into a surprisingly raucous fit of laughter. I even surprised myself. But the curious stares that I got from the group of 70-something-year-olds seemed to say 'what you laughing at you idiot?' So I was quiet again in a jiffy.
I was in a rickety old building in the heart of Moneague, St. Ann, with a group of men whose combined age might have equalled my monthly salary. Needless to say, our communication had more than a few gaps.
Photographer Norman Grindley and I were paying a visit to veteran shoemaker, Iveri Walker. A clever bloke with an eye for detail. Mas Iveri, as he is well known in the community, has been the local shoemaker for decades. When the residents of the community think leather, they think of Mas Iveri.
On the day we met up with him, Mas Iveri was being visited by a few of his good old pals. They were chatting about the way the community was years ago. The good old days, as they say.
Now Mas Iveri and Mas William, the man with the saltfish affiliation, got into something of a spat as they debated whether things were better now or back when they were younger.
"Mi say dem time deh you never have nutting fi do. All you coulda do is tan up and look inna sky. Now more enjoyful," was Mas William's justification. But Mas Iveri wasn't convinced. "Back then was much more relaxing. You never have anything to worry about. Nothing to bother you."
A knock at a window interrupted the man's speech. Mas Iveri's eyebrows curled as he turned to face the knocker. "Yes mam?" said he.
"Is me Mas Iveri!" A hefty woman appeared at the window. She was holding a sheet of paper in one hand and a baby in the other. "Miss Merl send the money fi di shoes dem yet?" she asked.
"No sah. She seh somebody from round by the school would call wid it. But nobody come," Mas Iveri seemed upset.
"Never mind. Mi ago send Bwoy Bwoy fi it now," the woman said. "Bwoy Bwoy!" she shouted and a frail-looking lad in a khaki shirt soon appeared. His face was stained with mango and he had a mischievous smile on his face. "Go tell Miss Merl fi send di money come now," the woman said and the boy scampered off.
"Later Mas Iveri!" the woman said and hobbled away slowly.
With the distraction out of the way, the group of men went back to their debate as if they never stopped.
A tall man with a white beard, who had been standing quietly in the corner, suddenly interjected. "You too fool fool! Dem time deh did much better. Man and man did live more better and you never have any problem," he said to nobody in particular.
LIFE IN MONEAGUE
But no matter what they said, the men all agreed that life in that community of Moneague wasn't half bad. "Yes man. We just take things easy. We gather round and chat bout dis and dat and just take life easy," said Mas William.
Just when I thought all the elderly men in the community were already in the building, a shout came from outside. "Young bwoy!" Surely he wasn't talking to anybody here. Then Mas Iveri answered, "Oy man!" and a bald-headed man of about four score and seven years appeared in the doorway.
Somebody called him Fenton. He came into the building, greeted everyone and sat on a stool in the corner. In no time he dozed off without another word.
Mas Iveri continued, "All the noise noise you have in Kingston and those places, we don't have here. As you can see, I just do my likkle shoe mending and chat with mi friend dem and mi alright. No big noise, no big worry. Sometime is when you take life easy you realise that people don't have to worry themself as much as they do. Just find likkle enjoyment where you can and just easy!"
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