Dedicated to my late big sister, Claudette Earle
IF the science of human energy fields is correct, then we cannot dismiss the experience that the hype of the 70s called the vibes, or we simply term as premonitions that translate into the disturbing feelings you get, but cannot relate it to anything specific at the moment. It’s not our usual disturbed mood at the lack of finances or disappointment with other human beings. It’s that type of special communication that we describe in terms as, “I know something de wrong but ah couldn’t put meh hand pon it,” leading up to the morning when Claudette’s taxi driver shouted my name repeatedly and upon looking out he related in the same tone that Claudette had passed. I was searching for the source of that uneasiness; surprisingly, it was solved.
I came into the media in the early 1980s with one objective, to have my illustrated stories published. My first successful exposure was guided by Dr Denis Williams into the office of Frank Campbell, who was in charge. I had visited before and had spoken to Carl Blackman. But it was the latter experience that brought me into contact with Claudette Earle, I’m not sure that Claudette was the Sunday editor then. I was at that point attached in training at the Walter Roth Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, but also was writing and illustrating my stuff. Following that first encounter, it was later in the mid- eighties that I would respond to an ad for a freelance Commercial Artist at the Chronicle (The training allowance arrangement at the museum was starvation) I was interviewed by the HR Manager Ulric Captain-with whom I would have a lasting friendship – and I got the post. Claudette was then Sunday editor, and she remembered my debut publication ‘The Shrouded Legacy,’ which I wanted to forget because the art was not up to scratch. But Claudette’s question was different. She asked how did I prepare the story before putting it to art in panels with text? I was never asked this before, and a conversation emerged. I learnt that Claudette was also a creative writer with a collection of short stories. I was reluctant to insist that the Chronicle was a good place to push her stories because I had to consider that this lady was also the Sunday editor, and media is as cut-throat a platform as anywhere else. Claudette agreed that the art of ‘Shrouded Legacy’ needed more work, but she liked the story, that it could hold its own. During my freelance stint, it was Claudette and Godfrey Wray who had quietly declared that I was too intense and serious and encouraged me to develop a cartoon strip, or two. After playing forget didn’t work, they persisted, and I produced ‘Times of Vincent’ that dealt with adult social concerns and ‘Bugs’ that revolved around youth issues. I did not live a sheltered life and I had a lot of material.
Claudette encouraged me to do illustrations for stories by other writers that the Pepperpot would carry, and I did. Both Claudette and Godfrey Wray were encouraging to most talents in the media. My concerns were that though it was the 1980s, both the colonial mind-set and foreign mindedness were still alive. Godfrey reminded me that I was having access to the media. I responded that I was poking fun at society. They both assured me that, again, I was too serious. I got the chance to prove my point when I presented an illustrated story called ‘The Price,’ introducing a character called ‘The Elder.’ It was based on a story told to me years before as a boy by a ‘yard storyteller’ named Mrs. Pascal. It revolved around ‘crime-magic and a death that occurred when the Charlestown cinema burned (called the Fowl-Dung-Cinema ) I had extended and embellished the story based on other Drysdale Street additions, from persons I had spoken to, including my late favourite great Aunt. A few weeks of examination passed, then the strip got the approval. Within weeks of its printing, both the Chronicle and the Stabroek News had received an anonymous letter protesting that I had written an occult strip when I should be making people laugh with my talent. So, I was to be a ‘Joker’, both papers declined to carry the letter, and I knew who had sent it, but I insisted on the ‘colonial acceptance platform’ successfully.
I was later encouraged to write a column. By then, my development fell under the observation and scrutiny of Claudette Earle and Adam Harris. I would cover popular cultural events pertaining to visiting Reggae shows and local talents. I had a relationship with the main group that spearheaded the resurgence of visiting mainly Jamaican talents in the 80s – Worldwide Entertainment, owned by Davy Simmons. In the areas of my writing, both Claudette and Adam insisted on the verification of information carried in articles. This required cross-check research, management and not wastage of text and clarifications of proper ownership of cover music done by artistes. There was no Google back then, this was not new, the Walter Roth training insisted on that. Post-1992, from my knowledge, Claudette was intended to run GNNL, ahead of Sharief Khan. She had interviewed most senior politicians. She declined and, upon retirement, told me that in politics as a media head, it could be severely disturbing to one’s normalcy. There were other similar offers that she didn’t take up.
Claudette Earle’s creative side most likely influenced her more than she understood. The stability of the creative writer is severely tested and uncomfortable in predatory politics, but as far as I know, she was unable to publish her writings. But she remained to the end, an honest and matter-of-fact soul, a friend and sister to me, to Ronald Austin and many others, male and female. So long Claudette Earle, I remain appreciative of all the support you gave to my niche on the whole. Claudette will never be forgotten by many.