Friday, February 27, 2009

A brief literary break

Since I made the decision back in November to devote my blog to documenting my experiences during and after the Grenadian revolution (1982-1986) I've been neglecting my duties as a lit blogger.

What can I say? I only have one blog and we only get one life (maybe).

But here are some of the things I would have been blogging about if circumstances had been different.

I went to the launch of Rosy Barnes' new book, Sadomasochism for Accountants (great title, eh?) at the Poetry Cafe. Rosy was resplendent in feather boa and killer heels, the wine flowed freely, the company was to die for and the entertainment culminated in two men, wearing nothing but bowler hats and ties waving their tinsel-clad crucial bits at the assembled throng. (Not a typo - I did mean 'throng' not 'thong'.)

And I'm not lying about that performance, which took place in a tiny space crammed with people. All around me I could hear jostling and muttered complaints of, 'I can't see. I can't see.'

Oh, and Rosy's book is highly recommended and is seriously funny - a contradiction in terms, I know but check out this sentence if you don't believe me:

The most memorable thing about Paula's appearance is its striking lack of memorableness, sliding from the senses like an extra mild cheddar or a wall painted white with a hint of beige.

Rosy and I have been having an email conversation about the very different ways we each use humour in our writing. You can see the result here. It covers a lot of angles I've been meaning to blog about for ages and never got round to. (See above re only having the one life ...)

Elsewhere, Elizabeth Baines has been zapping round cyberspace on her virtual tour to promote her wonderful book of short stories, Balancing on the Edge of the World, which I mentioned here. You can follow her travels on the Cyclone site here, but for the ultimate in gold standard tour hosts, check out Sarah Salway's warm, in depth, thought provoking and witty interview here.

I'm delighted to announce that, following Tania Hershman's tour which stopped by this blog here, Elizabeth will be appearing here on 11th March, at which point there will be another brief break from the Revo Blog posts.

And then in April, I will be hosting yet another author, John Baker, whose new book, Winged with Death, will be published at the end of March.

Meanwhile, Emma Darwin has been busy promoting A Secret Alchemy. Emma and I have a fair bit in common. We're both members of the BloggersWithBookDeals forum, we both do freelance critiques for The Writers' Workshop, we live in the same Real Life road - and we're both authors, of course. (But she has a far more famous great great grandfather than I have.)

Oh - and Clare Sudbery is going to appear on Countdown! Daytime TV won't know what hit it ...

I'd like to thank Emma and Clare for their generously-worded links to the Revo Blog. Emma's is here and Clare's is here.

While I'm in thanking mode, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has taken the trouble to read and comment on the Revo Blog. Your support is greatly appreciated. I know the posts are hard to read - all I can say is they're a helluva lot harder to write ...

Special heartfelt thanks go to all those on the BWBD forum who have supported, encouraged, soothed and commiserated - and much more - over these last months. Without that support and the refuge of a safe place to freak out knowing I won't be judged the weaker for it I honestly don't know if I could have done all this. (You know who you are!)

And speaking of BWBD, Bookarazzi, the public face of the forum, is in the process of being jazzed up, thanks to the hard work and techy abilities of the wonderful Lucy Pepper (who is living proof that geeks can be gorgeous too). Check out the new look. There's also a regular Lit Bits post, with a roundup of launches, events, news etc coming up in the month ahead. Feb's is here and what a busy month it's been. Keep an eye open for March's - coming soon to a screen near you.

Thanks for hanging on in here with me during this journey where I attempt to bring the past into the present. I'm not quite sure how long it will be before the Revo posts are finished or what will happen then, but the Debi you knew before is still here lurking in the background!

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Revo Blog. Part 13

Previous posts in this series:

The time has come - how I came to the decision to blog the Revo
The Revo Blog. Part 1 - background to Grenada
The Revo Blog. Part 2 - background to me
The Revo Blog. Part 3 - Feb-March 1982 (1 of 2)
The Revo Blog. Part 3a - why 'Revo'?
The Revo Blog. Part 4 - Feb-March 1982 (continued)
The Revo Blog. Part 5 - April 1982 - June 1983. London
The Revo Blog. Part 6 - June-Sept 1983. Sickness and signs
The Revo Blog. Part 7 - relationships
The Revo Blog. Part 7a - Faye's film
The Revo Blog. Part 8 - Sept - Oct 1983. Rumours
The Revo Blog. Part 9 - Oct 1983. The Last Days of the Revo
The Revo Blog. Part 10 - 19th October 1983. Coup
The Revo Blog. Part 11 - 20th October 1983. Curfew. Day 1
The Revo Blog. Part 12 - early morning 21st October. Breaking curfew

21st-23rd October. Curfew continues.

The euphoria that follows surviving the breaking of curfew is short lived when we hear the news that a total blockade of Grenada means we should expect chronic shortages. But at least our own shelves have been restocked for the time.

1.00 pm - Radio Free Grenada broadcasts a statement by the Revolutionary Military Council saying there is absolute peace and calm in the country, that all foreign citizens (including Americans) are safe and unharmed and that diplomats have been issued with passes to check on their nationals.

Consequently, they assure listeners, there is no excuse for an invasion.

The BBC World Service has a report of Maurice being led into the fort with his hands above his head. It seems that in spite of the best attempts of the RMC to cover up the reality of what happened on the 19th, the truth is leaking out.

The news about diplomats visiting nationals is meaningless for us: we never bothered to register our presence with any UK authorities on the island, so they're not going to come looking for us.

This lack of visibility is a two-edged sword. On the one hand, slipping under the official radar feels comforting ... on the other ...

I had been right about one thing though. Curfew is indeed lifted briefly in order to allow people to restock their provisions. Since we've already handled that angle, L and I go for a walk up to Mt Parnassus instead. We visit FB, a friend of L's who I've never met before. He's a really laid back guy with a fixed smile who spends the time we're there lovingly fondling his new stereo equipment. We all get really high and FB makes us some superb soursop juice, which seems to take hours to create.

On one level, it feels like a normal social call. L and I try to relax, but we're jittery and constantly ask the time, scared that we might get distracted into staying too long and breaking curfew accidentally.

On our way home, we pick guava, cici bush, Santa Maria and blackstage. As we walk along the road, an army jeep draws up beside us and the driver asks us a few terse questions before driving off.

We arrive home without further incident and it's the strangest sensation. We've twitched and sweated against the restrictions of curfew for two days, yet while we were out for the brief official break, we were jumpy and anxious to get back to the relative safety of our yard. Then, as soon as we're back, we fret, wanting to go out again. Especially as the pressure we're all under, freaked and forced into such close company with one another, means that tensions in the house simmer below the surface at all times, breaking out into frequent arguments that I have to try to mediate.

And all this is against a backdrop of radio broadcasts that fill us with rage and despair.

1.50pm - another RMC statement on RFG. They seem to be scurrying round now, desperate to justify their version of events, yet presumably so remote from what most people are thinking and feeling that they don't realise that with every word, they increase the distance between them and just about everyone else listening.

They reiterate their claim that the army made every effort to avoid bloodshed on the 19th.

Maurice, they say, ordered people to raid the canteen. (!) Soldiers were abused and threatened and women were stripped, beaten and humiliated. Secret documents with plans for the defense of the country were destroyed and read by civilians. Maurice organised the armoury to be broken into and distributed weapons. He intended to kill all the officers at the fort.

As a result of allowing civilians into a military installation, four soldiers and many civilians died. 'Many persons have lost their lives.' The responsibility for this loss of life is entirely Maurice Bishop's. The army had wished to take the leadership alive but were unable to do so when they were fired on. The version of events depicted on other radio stations is all lies.

It's mindbending. We just can't wrap our heads round the implication that they presumably think they will be able to force people to accept this fictional version of what everyone knows to have been a massacre.

'Many persons have lost their lives.'

We're haunted by this sentence. The brief lifting of curfew has allowed more details to spread about the moment the army arrived at the fort, firing as they came up the hill. The initial disbelief turning to panic. The terror. The horror.

Don't forget - the demonstration that had freed Maurice from house arrest had been led by school children, who made up a large part of the numbers at the fort. We hear that in their desperate attempt to escape the carnage, many people leapt over the walls to certain death on the rocks forty feet below.

(NOTE: Apparently, some tourists had been on the beach at the time and filmed the terrible sight described above. I'm told this was shown on UK TV, though I have never seen it.)

With so much life-shattering information to assimilate, we all get together in the house for a group discussion about how to live together during the remaining days of curfew. We need to try to get our priorities right, to establish some kind of rules of our own, in the absence of all normal parameters. The result is a tentative and fragile agreement for increased sensitivity to each other's needs wherever possible.

7.30pm RFG - a new cabinet will be announced in the next few days, according to Hudson Austin. Officials have already been appointed at the Ministries. Austin has met with the Vice Chancellor of the American Medical School at Grand Anse to assure him of the safety of the students.

Lt Col Liam James (joint chair of the RMC) warns of a possible invasion in the next few days. Sanctions have been announced by Jamaica, Trinidad and St Lucia.

RFG announces that seventeen people were killed at the fort - three members of the People's Revolutionary Army, five civilians and nine leaders. Two civilians were killed in cross fire, and three by jumping over the wall. The leaders had been in the operations room, where most of the firing came from. Tribute is paid to the soldiers who died in the course of their duty.

(NOTE: These figures have always been disputed. At no time have there been any credible official figures given for the number of people who died that day.)

There seems to be a subtle shift in RFG's broadcasts. Though they're still focusing on laying the blame on Maurice, the attention is turning from what happened on the 19th to what could happen in the next few days. By attempting to reassure the outside world that the situation is under control and it's business as usual, they're clearly trying to head off what looks to be inevitable now. Some kind of military intervention.

There's a full moon that night and it shines through the louvre windows onto our bed.

Saturday 22nd October.

I wake at 5.45 to a spliff. Was it only yesterday that I did the same and then broke curfew with a knife in my bag? I can smell rain in the air. The rumbling of distant thunder seems like I imagine gunfire would sound. I imagine I'll soon know if that's accurate or not.

7.00am - radio 610. The Organisation of East Caribbean States (OECS) is considering a military invasion. US warships are on their way. A task force of 2000 marines has been diverted from the Mediterranean to evacuate US citizens if necessary.

9.00am radio 610. Two officials from the US embassy in Barbados are coming to Grenada to check on American citizens here.

12 noon radio 610. Rising tension reported.

12 noon RFG. Major Chris Stroud of the RMC met with the 250 US medical students to reassure them of their safety. The situation is firmly under control. The Ministry of Information denies reports of disorder during the lifting of curfew.

It's safe to say that no one believes anything we're told on the radio now. Instead, the rumour mill has gone into over drive and the information from that source feels more trustworthy, even when it stretches credibility.

We hear that the supermarket on the Carenage was looted by soldiers and also that food has been taken by force from local shops and not paid for.

We hear that P, from Back Street, has gone crazy with the pressure and has been taken to hospital.

We hear that the Calivigny Squad, who made up the troops who carried out the massacre at the fort, numbers 500 soldiers, that they wear black berets and drink cats' blood to make them strong and fearless.

We hear that a Tempe man has a pass for the hospital and he says that it's so packed that people are lying in the corridors without beds.

We hear that there are 800 people in the regular PRA - but wonder how many of them will take orders from the new regime.

We hear there has been a mass roundup of ex PRA and militia. (There are mixed reports about what's happened to Little W, the 13 year old who we knew the soldiers were looking for, and we're really anxious about him.)

We hear there is no longer a military presence at the crossroads. But this fails to reassure us and if anything makes us even more nervy. Presumably all efforts are now going into repelling an invasion rather than subduing the populace.

Then in the late afternoon, Little W himself comes round to tell his own tale.
(NOTE: In spite of the curfew, people are able to cautiously move around the immediate area with relative ease.)

Little W tells us in a shaky voice that he had indeed been picked up and taken in for military service. After a couple of days, they must have sussed he wasn't going to be much help and brought him home. L and P tease him for crying and he denies it. I get angry and say anyone would bawl under the circumstances and he throws me a grateful glance. I can see that L and P are just trying to cover up their own fear by laughing at someone they perceive as weaker.

6.00pm. Oh, the RMC are really working hard now to show they have control. The first policy statement is issued by Chris Stroud and broadcasted on Radio Antilles.

Grenada will pursue an independent, non-aligned foreign policy and continue to have a mixed economy. The RMC calls for peace. The new cabinet will be announced in two weeks. They will focus on economic construction - promoting agriculture and tourism and continuing with the building of the international airport at Pt Salines, in the south west of the island. They hope to continue good relations with other countries. Representatives from the Canadian and UK High Commissions in Barbados have been invited to Grenada. They confirm that they have detained Radix, Louison, Burke and the Trinidadian journalist, Alastair Hughes but give no further details.

7.30pm - RFG. The RMC will not permit harassment or intimidation of any group in Grenada. All social classes and interests must be represented. The first priority is to solve unemployment and ensure there is firm control over employing and dismissing workers. Local and international private investment will be encouraged. Hudson Austin is due to meet the PM of St Vincents tomorrow. Liam James says all Grenadians should be on alert against invasion.

Our brains feel twisted and shredded. Like everyone else, we're still freaked and traumatised by the coup ... the grief and the loss ... the shock of the switch from the belief that you could trust everyone and that everyone was on the same side to the paranoia and distrust that there are no longer any certainties ... the rage at the lies that seek to rewrite history ... the enforced imprisonment of curfew ... the surreal assertion that it's somehow going to be business as usual and there is still life for the Revo without Maurice and after the coup ... and now the near certainty of an invasion.

That night, the vast moon shines again through our louvre windows and L and I wonder why we can hear gunfire from Richmond Hill as we bask in its light.

Excerpt from my diary: Curfew is strange - it somehow makes you feel secure. You're at home. You have food. It's very unlikely anything will harm you. Yesterday when we went out, both L and I felt jumpy and kept asking the time and felt relieved when we got home though of course we then immediately wanted to go out. Days last weeks and yet time passes very quickly. Monday could hold anything ...

Sunday 23rd October. The last day of curfew.

Weird and surreal broadcasts on RFG. They're switching from talking about economics and trade - as though nothing had happened - then repeating the broadcasts from yesterday - then creating the impression that tomorrow will be a 'back to normal' day. Foreigners will be free to leave if they wish. Flights are hoped to resume as normal. Workplaces will open at 8.00am. Curfew will continue from 8.00pm to 5.00am until further notice. Schools, however, will remain closed for the time being.

It's only the part about schools that confirms they know their hold on people's hearts and minds is still far from certain. Then, mid afternoon, the tone abruptly changes.

3.55pm RFG. All militia should report to their units immediately.

4.55pm RFG. All immigration and airport officials are given a phone no to call urgently.

5.00pm RFG. The RMC issues a heavy plea for unity against an impending invasion. The news is followed by revolutionary songs: 'Let them come, let them come, we will bury them in the sea.'

It's enough to make your head explode. If there had been an invasion a few weeks ago, people really would have come out to barricade the roads and lay down their lives for the Revo. But now? Who would they be fighting for? The same people who had massacred, imprisoned and lied to them over the last four days? On the other hand, all lives will be at risk if there's an invasion ...

6.00pm RFG. The OECS plus Barbados and Jamaica took the decision to invade Grenada today. Armed forces are en route to Barbados where they will be joined by units from Jamaica and Antigua. An unidentified warship is already seven and a half miles from the coast, well inside Grenada's territorial waters. The invasion has been opposed by Guyana, Trinidad, the Bahamas and Belize. The RMC are prepared to hold conciliatory talks with any country.

An invasion is expected tonight and will result in the deaths of thousands of our men, women and children.

6.15pm RFG. Thousands of militia members are reporting to their units.

6.30pm RFG. Questions raised about the legality of the OECS decision to invade as it wasn't unanimous.

7.00pm radio 610. News from the Caricom meeting: Grenada has been suspended from Caricom. OECS proposes trade and economic sanctions and the cessation of all air and communication links. It has been agreed to involve external elements with the primary purpose of 'restoring normalcy' in Grenada. The Governor General may be used as a contact.

The UK is sending a destroyer to evacuate its citizens.

That's the end of the entries in my diary on this, the last day of curfew. When I look back now and try to remember how I felt at that point, the impression I have is one of holding my breath for a very long time. As I said before, the days of curfew had begun to feel relatively safe and secure.

There could be no such certainty after tonight. It's too much to wrap your head round, so it's as if life is suspended until we see what the next day will bring for us to react to.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Revo Blog. Part 12

Previous posts in this series:

The time has come - how I came to the decision to blog the Revo
The Revo Blog. Part 1 - background to Grenada
The Revo Blog. Part 2 - background to me
The Revo Blog. Part 3 - Feb-March 1982 (1 of 2)
The Revo Blog. Part 3a - why 'Revo'?
The Revo Blog. Part 4 - Feb-March 1982 (continued)
The Revo Blog. Part 5 - April 1982 - June 1983. London
The Revo Blog. Part 6 - June-Sept 1983. Sickness and signs
The Revo Blog. Part 7 - relationships
The Revo Blog. Part 7a - Faye's film
The Revo Blog. Part 8 - Sept - Oct 1983. Rumours
The Revo Blog. Part 9 - Oct 1983. The Last Days of the Revo
The Revo Blog. Part 10 - 19th October 1983. Coup
The Revo Blog. Part 11 - 20th October 1983. Curfew. Day 1

Early morning Friday 21st October. Breaking Curfew.

L and I are asleep in bed. I'm woken by a hand shaking my shoulder. I open bleary eyes and focus on a large spliff held inches from my nose by a smiling M. Early though it is, I don't have to think for long. There have to be worse ways to start this, our second day of imprisonment.

A little later, I roll out of bed feeling mellow. As I pull on my clothes, W calls to me. We have to go to the shop.

'What now?' I protest. 'I can't! I'm too high! Can't we wait an hour or so?'

W shakes his head in disbelief. If we know about the shop being open, others will also know, he says. Local shops don't carry much stock. They will soon run out. I can see he's making sense and feel a heavy weight of responsibility. There's no choice. With our limited supplies rapidly shrinking, we have to go and we have to go now.

I reach for the large grey shoulder bag we use for shopping and lift it from the hook on my bedroom wall. As it drops, I'm aware of a weight at the bottom.

I know what this is. Back in London, H and I had bought a large hunting knife in a leather sheath for cutting bush and so on. In the days before the coup, when I was going in and out of town twice a day to visit H in hospital, several people had told me I should carry it. I'd been reluctant at the time; I couldn't visualise a situation in which it could possibly help me and doubted I'd ever be able to use it. But eventually, as always, I bowed to local wisdom and put it in the bag.

On this morning on the second day of a shoot-to-kill curfew, there's a part of my fuddled brain that registers the knife is still in the bag. Another part of my brain attempts to grapple with the question of whether or not I should carry it today. But the largest part of my brain shuts down. It's too hard. I can't decide. With W calling again that I should hurry, I block on the knife's presence, grab the bag and the money and follow W through the door into the unknown outside world.

The shop is just at the end of our gap. Although it's on the road, which must carry some degree of risk, it's less than 100 yards from our home. If all goes smoothly, we should be back in a few minutes. It's not such a big deal.

It is though. W was right. We reach the end of our gap and are greeted by a couple of guys hanging out by the school. We can see inside the shop - the shelves are bare. Nothing left at all. The guys tell us that P's shop still has supplies.

P's shop. That's a different matter all together. P's shop is further down the road, right on the crossroads where we know there's been a roadblock. It's a strategic crossroads. Will the soldiers still be there?

W and I glance at each other, but we both know that in reality there's no choice. We can't go home empty-handed. We set off, keeping to the edge of the deserted road. As we walk, we hear a vehicle behind us and before it comes into view, we duck down behind a hedge and wait until the army truck passes.

This is all so unreal (and I'm so high) that I'm convinced I'm acting in a movie and have to stifle an urge to giggle as I imagine myself wearing a belted raincoat and black beret. I'm in the French Resistance.

When the truck has disappeared, we move back onto the edge of the road. As we come into view of the crossroads, our worst fears are realised. A group of heavily-armed soldiers is occupying the middle of the square. There's no way we can get to P's shop without them seeing us. This is now all too real.

'Right,' I say to W. 'From this point on, there's no ducking and diving. We need to walk in the middle of the road so they can clearly see us. Walk slowly and keep our hands visible.'

We're working well together, W and I. Almost immediately, the soldiers spot us.

'You should never feel so pleased about being with a white woman,' I mutter to W.

He knows what I mean. We don't believe they'll really shoot us on sight, in spite of Hudson Austin's warning on the radio, but the likelihood of them shooting an obvious foreigner is even more remote, given the mounting international pressure and the threat of an imminent invasion. Even so, it's impossible to predict what might happen and I'm aware my words are a puny attempt at bravado. We keep on walking at a steady pace, ensuring we make no sudden moves.

What I want is for the soldiers to come forward and confront us, but I see one of them flick a wrist. The soldiers scatter and take up positions behind walls at each approach to the crossroads.

Once again, we have no choice but to keep on walking towards them. When we get to the end of the road, we can see the front of P's shop. The shutters are down and there's no indication it has ever been open. We stop in the middle of the square, unsure of our next move. As I glance round, I can see the barrels of guns pointing in our direction.

The soldier who had given the order to scatter steps forward from behind his wall and the others come forward to join him, surrounding us. There are five of them, all armed with automatic rifles. Once again, I'm swamped by a feeling of unreality. I've seen this movie, I tell myself, but I'm not sure what happens next.

'Where are you going?' the leader demands.

Without having discussed it, W and I both know it makes sense for me to do the talking. I explain that we're low on food and that we'd heard the shop was open. The soldier's eyes flicker to the shuttered shopfront and back to us.

'You need a pass for that,' he tells us.

Pass? I know nothing about any pass, I say. My sluggish brain struggles to come up with something - anything - that might shift the impasse. Through the fog, I remember hearing something on the radio earlier as I got ready to leave. Something about curfew being lifted to allow people to stock up on supplies. I recall saying to W that we could wait 'til then and him replying that it would be too late and the shops would have run out. I grasp at the straw.

'The radio said the curfew would be lifted today,' I bluster.

The soldier raises his eyebrows.

'Yes, yes,' I continue, struggling to remember the details. 'Between ten and two, they said.'

There's an extended pause. It's as though the air is thick as treacle and everything's moving in slow motion. The soldier raises his arm and looks at his watch. I have to stop myself groaning aloud. I have no idea what time it is, but it's clear it's early morning still - nowhere near ten.

He probably thinks I'm an idiot. And he wouldn't be wrong. Maybe this is what persuades him we're no threat. He's about to let us go. Though he's still hesitant, I can see it in his expression. I attempt a smile.

It's at this point that we hear a jeep roaring down the hill. It screeches to a halt behind us. There are two PRA officers on board. The passenger leans out and points to the bag on my shoulder.

'I want that bag searched physically!' he growls.

My bowels turn to water. Only now do I allow the consious part of my brain to register the knife, nestling at the bottom of the otherwise empty bag.

The soldier who has been questioning us reaches out his hand. With bone-breaking reluctance I hold out the bag. If things had been moving sluggishly before, time now slows to a bare minimum.

I lock my eyes on his. Keep looking in his eyes. He's a man. He's just a man, let him see your humanity. Engage with his. It has to be harder to kill someone you've connected with.

It's working. His eyes remain glued to mine as he lowers his hand into the bag.

I see the moment his fingers encounter the knife. I see the shock and the regret register in those eyes I've locked onto. Slowly, so very slowly, he draws up his hand. He tears his gaze from mine and looks down, then back up at me. I can see his indecision. For a moment I wonder - he looks almost like he wants to cry and though this terrifies me even more (what does he know that I don't?) in spite of everything, I feel guilty for putting him in this position. What will he do?

But he's a soldier and just as we've had no choice up to now, neither does he.

'There's a knife in the bag,' he whispers.

Instantly, the soldiers surrounding us are on full alert. Weapons carried casually until now are readied, levelled and pointed at us, inches away from our torsos. Beside me, I feel a wave of shock emanating from W. He didn't know about the knife.

What have I done? I've put myself at risk but, even worse, I've put W at risk and maybe the others at home too. I still can't imagine them just shooting us on the spot. (What imagination could ever visalise such a scenario?) But I'm convinced they'll take us in for questioning. And then ... Then what? If they interrogate me, what line do I take? Pro-Maurice, which could lead to god knows what consequences? Or do I lie and say I support the coup? Or stay silent for fear of incriminating myself?

I turn to watch as the officer in the jeep gestures for the bag and examines the leather sheath. In the same unbearable slow motion, he flicks the catch and draws out the blade whose savage appearance H and I had laughed over when we first bought it, millenia ago back in London.

'Why do you have this knife?' he demands.

I start to gibber, the words flooding out over numb lips. I explain that I'd been carrying the knife before but forgot it was there.

'It's stupid,' I plead. 'What could I do with a knife? What could I possibly hope to achieve?'

I tell him about being low on food supplies. That there are six of us. Two of our friends are ill ... I show him the money - like that proves anything ...

Finally, I run out of words and turn back to the soldiers surrounding us. Once again, I look directly into each of their eyes, never allowing my gaze to drop to the barrels of the guns only inches from my abdomen. Guns can't hurt you. It's the men carrying the guns that you have to focus on.

Who can say how long we stand there? Time is almost at a standstill now. After a lifetime, I hear the jeep roar off. The soldier with the bag returns and hands it to me.

'He held the knife,' he says, and it sounds like an apology.

'That's cool,' I stutter. 'He can keep the knife.'

'You can go to the shop now,' he tells us, indicating with his chin.

Only now do we turn and see that P's shop is open at the back. I don't remember if we thanked them or not. I do remember the walk to the shop on shaking legs, about twenty yards away, felt like one of the longest distances I'd ever crossed. Dry-mouthed and nauseous, W and I cross the stretch in silence.

Once inside the dim interior of P's shop, we see a handful of other people are there and supplies are indeed running out fast. We stand in the cool shadows and look at each other for the first time. I wonder if I look as terrified as he does.

'I nearly shat myself,' W says with disarming honesty.

It's only then that the full impact of my stupidity hits home. Freaked and paranoid at the rumours that witnesses at the fort were being rounded up - and aware that it might be known that he'd taped what happened (so different from the version being recounted on the radio by so-called witnesses) W had misheard the officer in the jeep.

Instead of 'I want that bag searched physically,' he'd heard 'I want than man personally.' His relief when the soldier took my bag instead was short-lived when the knife emerged.

Somehow we go through the motions and buy flour, rice, potatoes - bulky belly-filling staples - and stagger back to the yard. The others have been frantic with worry at the length of time we've been gone, imagining all kinds of horrific scenarios. The reality wasn't that far short.

Once we're back home though, we can breathe again and reflect. With the seesaw of emotions that dominate all of that time, we're now euphoric. We broke curfew and came back with food, hunter-gatherer style. We've fulfilled a basic human need. And survived to tell the tale. I can't imagine ever being that scared or in that much danger ever again.

I didn't know then what was still in store for Grenada.

Monday, February 09, 2009

The Revo Blog. Part 11

Previous posts in this series:

The time has come - how I came to the decision to blog the Revo
The Revo Blog. Part 1 - background to Grenada
The Revo Blog. Part 2 - background to me
The Revo Blog. Part 3 - Feb-March 1982 (1 of 2)
The Revo Blog. Part 3a - why 'Revo'?
The Revo Blog. Part 4 - Feb-March 1982 (continued)
The Revo Blog. Part 5 - April 1982 - June 1983. London
The Revo Blog. Part 6 - June-Sept 1983. Sickness and signs
The Revo Blog. Part 7 - relationships
The Revo Blog. Part 7a - Faye's film
The Revo Blog. Part 8 - Sept - Oct 1983. Rumours
The Revo Blog. Part 9 - Oct 1983. The Last Days of the Revo
The Revo Blog. Part 10 - 19th October 1983. Coup

Thursday 20th - Sunday 23rd October. Curfew. Day 1.

From now on, these posts will include extracts from my diary (in italics). I've resisted the urge to edit these extracts as, confused though they are, they are a record of how I felt at that point in time, before I had a chance to process what had happened or fully comprehend it.

All hope is dead. It died yesterday up at the fort with Maurice. The hopes and dreams of an entire people are in shreds.

And yet the loss is even greater than that. This tiny beacon in the Caribbean whose brave light shone around the world, illuminating the dark places and bringing with it hopes of a better way, has been extinguished. Shock, rage - and horror that the Revo didn't succumb to its mighty enemies outside but imploded from within - mingle with utter despair.

And then there's fear. What will the future bring?

I can't stop thinking about Maurice and the others. What were their last thoughts as they were lined up against that wall, knowing they were about to be executed? True to form, Maurice's last recorded words were of despair for the people he loved.
'The masses ... They're firing on the masses ...'

And what about Jackie Creft? In the joyous procession en route to Fort Rupert after she and Maurice had been broken out from house arrest, her mother came out of the crowd to greet her.
'Look what we've got ourselves into, Mum,' Jackie murmured as they embraced.

As a woman, I can't help thinking. Were her last thoughts for those she would be leaving behind? Or with the one who would never know life at all now? Jackie Creft was five months pregnant with Maurice's child when she was murdered.

Photo of the courtyard at Fort Rupert from OAS

M was first to get up this morning. With the blank denial so evident yesterday, he had blocked on me waking him last night to tell him about the curfew and instead heads off to work as usual. He's stopped by soldiers at the Tempe crossroads and turned back.

We're relieved this seems to indicate the curfew may be more benign than we were led to fear from last night's chilling broadcast. On the other hand, in an odd kind of way, it adds to the uncertainty. Just what are the rules? If we don't know, how can we assess risk? Does it depend on which soldiers you encounter?

The first thing I do when I get up is switch on the radio and insert a blank tape. US airships are on their way to Grenada and a battleship is already at St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Excerpt from my diary: Tempe is quiet. How else could it be? They've put a whole people, a whole nation, under house arrest.
We can move between here and C's house. Where is she? How is she? My thoughts keep moving to mum and dad and the hell they must be going through. Perhaps worse than our own personal hell, we who sit here knowing we're living through history ...

H is in reasonable spirits. M listens to music and tries to wrap his head around it all. W is high on it all but very restless. B is freaked, speechless and feeling ill.
L and I spent the night making love and holding each other ... I am unable to think of any future but horror. At best, we all live. At worst ...

Oh sweet sweet Grenada. Strong struggling people - how can you stand against tanks? You thought you ruled this country - so when things you didn't understand started to happen you asked for explanations. When none were forthcoming, you obeyed the tradition of the Grenadian revolution and came onto the streets to make your demands known.

You were arrested.

Finally, after exhausting all other means, you freed Maurice yourselves and the soldiers laid down their arms in the face of the people. Guns for defending Grenada - how could they use them against the Grenadian people? When these **** **** **** realised they couldn't stop the people calling for Bishop they simply exterminated him and his comrades and imprisoned all the people.
Overwhelming sadness mingles with rage ...

Rain. Rain in the skies and rain in the eyes of the people. H and I have an enormous responsibility to bear for the Grenadian people we know and love. The rest of the world has to know what's going on here ... To be in England now would be close to unbearable. We have food. We have music. We have weed. We have each other.
The rain is falling in sheets. It's 9.30 on the first day of imprisonment. Bob Marley is telling us we're the survivors on the stereo. I hope he's right. They killed Maurice. They killed Jackie Creft. But they can't kill the whole of the Grenadian people.

W has been to the gap. There's massive troop movement at the road. He says people's feeling is to hope for a US invasion. Misguided but understandable. These fools have done the reverse of what they hoped for - you can't put the people in chains and then hope they'll support you. Why should the people believe anything these oppressors tell them now?

10.00am - international news only on Radio Free Grenada.
We just listened again to the tape W made yesterday and then to Austin's broadcast. There's a lull now as everyone allows to sink into their consciousness the fact that we'll be here on our arses for at least the next four days. You can't stop thinking about it and working out practicalities. Might they come to get me and H out? Can we refuse? etc etc.

But every so often I'm overwhelmed by righteous anger at this dread Babylon system. Why aren't the soldiers turning their guns on these oppressors? Aren't they Grenadian too?

11.00am - W returns to tell us an army truck was going round to collect ex-soldiers to get them to go back into the army.

The map of Grenada keeps falling off the wall.

13th March 1979 was the day everything seemed possible.

19th October 1983 was the day everything went irrevocably wrong.

There's no going back now - but what a grisly and ironic slant it gives to the Forward Ever Backward Never slogan.

Photo from Stormcarib

Midday - RFG seems to be trying to catch up They broadcast a statement from the Ministry of Information saying that the international press are all telling lies. They're taking groups of journalists to Fort Rupert and the hospital. What do they think that will prove? They put full responsibility for the current suffering on Maurice and Unison Whiteman. The Revolutionary Military Council (RMC) of whom Austin is the chairman, issues dire warnings about non-interference. There are 16 members of the RMC (all drawn from the armed forces) and they have full legislative and executive powers. The PRG has been dissolved. Cabinet has been dismissed. Passes are being issued for workers in essential services. There follows the first interview with a 'witness' who was at Fort Rupert, predictably laying all the blame on Maurice, saying he was arming counters.

12.25 - a soldier on a motorbike arrives at our house. W recognises him as one of the ones he'd seen earlier, rounding up ex-soldiers. He tells us he's looking for Little W!!! My god, he's 13 years old - any gun would be the same size as he is! They must be picking up militia members too. The soldier leaves. We can hear booming in the distance.

12.30 - news from Trinidad says no Grenadians will be allowed into Trinidad without a visa. At 1.oopm there's a broadcast by Chambers, PM of Trinidad. We're told it's important, but for some reason it's inaudible.

B is now in a filthy mood, stomping round getting vexed with all and sundry, wishing he was at home at his own yard so he wouldn't have to talk to anyone.

Six people, two of them ill, all of them freaked out, in one small house for at least four days. And this is a country where you are rarely at home, apart from to sleep and eat. All life takes place outside. But not now. Not now.

2.00pm - Chambers is calling for a Caricom summit.

2.30pm - RFG issues a coded call: 'All Ms CMs and As are asked to call 3117.' This is followed by more interviews with people who were supposedly at the fort yesterday. Unsurprisingly, they all confirm the official line, laying full blame for events on Maurice. Don't they see? Can they really be so out of touch? The more they lay claim to the 'truth' when almost everyone knows the REAL truth, the more their already-rockbottom credibility crumbles.

(NOTE: It later transpired that they really were that out of touch. Coard's analysis was apparently that the people would shout and demonstrate for a few days after cooling their heels in curfew but then knuckle down.)

3.00pm - RFG tells us about Michael Alse (?), chair of the People's Popular Movement of Trinidad, who had arrived in Grenada on 17th October as a mediator between the two factions. The upshot was supposedly that Maurice would be allowed to remain as Prime Minister on the condition that he took full responsiblity for the crisis.

Tempe news is that they tracked down Little W and took him away. Crying.

So how do we spend that first day of curfew? My diary gives minute by minute accounts, so obviously I spend much of the time making notes and recording the news. We cook. We eat. We listen to music. We smoke. We try to be kind to each other.

There's no doubt that out of us all, W is the one who has had the most traumatic experience. To add to the pressure, we hear that there are moves being made to round up witnesses to what happened at the fort. If these witnesses' versions don't coincide with the official one, will they be silenced? And what might that mean? Detention? Or worse?

Because if one thing is now clear it's that anything - including cold-blooded murder - is possible.

Hyper and close to the edge, W keeps replaying the tape he made over and over. At some point, H snaps. She can't handle hearing it any more. In response, W wipes the tape! I'm horrified! Even at that point I can see that it was probably the only incontrovertable evidence of what really happened up at the fort, apart from witness testimonies. And it's already clear how unreliable they can be.

With little to distract us, every tiny thing seems weighty with symbolism. As the map of Grenada falls off the wall for the umpteenth time, I try yet again to fix it back up. It's crucial. Grenada can't fall. But she already has ...

On one of W's forays to check out the scene, he tells us that one of the local shops is open at the back and people are sneaking out to buy stuff. We're low on staples - rice, flour, yam etc - and won't be able to stretch our supplies for the full four days. I check and find I have 20$ EC (about £5). A brief group discussion results in a decision: W and I are delegated to break curfew tomorrow and attempt to get to the shop and stock up.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The Revo Blog. Part 10

Previous posts in this series:

The time has come - how I came to the decision to blog the Revo
The Revo Blog. Part 1 - background to Grenada
The Revo Blog. Part 2 - background to me
The Revo Blog. Part 3 - Feb-March 1982 (1 of 2)
The Revo Blog. Part 3a - why 'Revo'?
The Revo Blog. Part 4 - Feb-March 1982 (continued)
The Revo Blog. Part 5 - April 1982 - June 1983. London
The Revo Blog. Part 6 - June-Sept 1983
The Revo Blog. Part 7 - relationships
The Revo Blog. Part 7a - Faye's film
The Revo Blog. Part 8 - Sept - Oct 1983. Rumours
The Revo Blog. Part 9 - Oct 1983. The Last Days of the Revo

Wednesday 19th October 1983. Coup

Photo of Maurice Bishop and Unison Whiteman from the 'Lost Bishop Photos'
NB: The photos are fascinating, but beware of the rest of the content on this site!

As soon as I wake up, I turn on the radio. The 7.00am news on Radio Free Grenada talks of possible reconciliation between Maurice and the Central Committee. It also reports several people - mostly school students - have been arrested as a result of the demo in St Andrews yesterday.

It doesn't surprise me that students are in the forefront of the protests. The Revo's energy and zest for life is largely a result of the relative youth of its main supporters. School students are the pioneers, the flowers of the revolution. Young, educated and idealistic, these young people's vision is unsullied by memories of Grenada's colonial past. It's the future that they concentrate on and they believe it belongs to them.

At 8.15am RFG broadcasts a statement from the Ministry of Education. The tone is heavier than anything we've heard so far. Students are being led by counters (counter revolutionaries) we're told. Anonymous phone calls have been made to schools giving details of demos and saying students should be allowed to attend. But the duty of students is to study - and nothing else! This is shocking and goes against everything these young radicals have previously been led to believe about their role in the vanguard of the Revo.

At some point in the morning, I say goodbye to C with a heavy heart. H and B are both ill and holed up in their bedroom and I've come to rely on C more and more over the last couple of weeks. She's going to Carriacou, Grenada's dot-in-the-ocean sister island, for a few days to do some work for a UK Law Centre on behalf of a Grenadian woman in London. She'd thought about postponing the trip, but when to? Who can say whether things will be better or worse in a few days time?

M left early this morning for his job as 'bag boy', collecting fares on a local bus, and L is off somewhere on the hustle. I go to the local shop and meet PC who gives me waternuts and callalloo for H. He tells me there will be 'a war on the streets of St Georges today' and that under no circumstances should I attempt to go into town. There's talk of shops shutting so I get as much food in as I can.

Back home, I start cooking cornmeal porridge for the invalids. I'm halfway through when our gas cylinder, which fuels our two burner cooker, runs out. At the best of times, this is a pain. You have to lug the empty cylinder into town and exchange it for a full one, which is too heavy for one person to carry alone. Instead, I go to C's house and swop our empty cylinder for her fuller one and finish off the porridge back home.

At 11.00am RFG goes off the air. This silence is far more frightening than when they were broadcasting things no one wished to hear. On the midday news, Trinidad radio says that Maurice has been freed by supporters who stormed his home, meeting only token resistance. He's now in St Georges with a crowd of 3000 people. There follows an exclusive interview with Maurice's mother.

Carna news says that Louison has been arrested and that all international phone lines are down now. They are receiving their information via anonymous telex messages.

At 1.30pm 610 News says that the army has opened fire on people in the market.

I'm here in Grenada. Just over the hill behind our house something huge is going on, history is being made. Yet the only access I have to information is the radio, from regional stations broadcasting from miles away. Twitchy and anxious, I can't settle and pace up and down, stopping only to fiddle with the radio. I decide to tape the broadcasts. Whatever is happening, it's clear we're living through history and I feel the need to record and bear witness.

Then something happens that changes my attitude. H says that now our cylinder has run out, I have reason to go into town and should do so. I'm shocked! If I do go in, I tell her, I'm going to have to be able to duck and dive, react and run if necessary. I can't do that while dragging round an empty gas cylinder, let alone a full one. And anyway, I can't imagine the shops will be open.

Arguing the case though, I experience a paradigm shift. Up until now, I've been obeying PC's instructions not to leave Tempe without any thought of ignoring his warnings. We've always said that we should listen to and respect what we're told by local people and not assume we know better. But now I'm thinking that maybe ... just maybe ... I should go into town after all.

Soon after, L arrives home, wide-eyed and freaked having heard gunfire, though he came from Grand Anse and avoided going near town. Now that he's here I assume he will come with me into town to check out the scene. I shower and change and emerge ready to go. L looks at me in disbelief. There's no way he's going to go back there, he says.

So now I have to decide. Do I heed PC's warnings and the evidence that the situation is highly volatile and stay home? If so, I will have to live for ever with the knowledge that I stayed on the periphery, content to look after number one, while life and death struggles took place just a couple of short miles away.

At 3.00pm Radio Antilles says that Maurice and Radix have been rearrested, that shots have been heard in St Georges and there is a car burning. Radio 610 says at 4.30pm that Maurice is in the hospital and that several ministers have been shot. Who's correct? How reliable is their information? I'm right here, but I don't know what's going on ...

I can bear it no longer. I tell L, H and B that I'm going into town. I'll go the back route, up the hill. That way I can look down on St Georges and get an idea of what's happening. If I decide to go in, it will be downhill and I'll be able to react to anything I see happening ahead and if necessary turn back.

I have no idea what to expect. I'm alone and nothing in my life has prepared me for anything like this. As I begin to walk up the hill, I see a couple limping towards me. The woman is supporting the man and I see a small round red-rimmed hole in the thigh of his trouser leg.
'Oh,' I think. 'That's a bullet wound ...'

But - and this is the strangest thing - the couple appear calm. They call out to people as they pass and the way they speak seems somehow normal and every day. I've never seen people in shock before and I seize on their apparent calmness as reassuring.

Things are obviously bad, I assume - but not unbearable. My brain does acrobatic stunts to justify this assumption. OK - Maurice has no doubt been rearrested and clearly there has been gunfire. In my deluded state I decide that the soldiers must have all been firing low. There will be injuries of course, but probably all to people's legs.

Nothing fatal. Of course, nothing fatal. Grenadian soldiers are not going to fire on and kill their own people. It's unthinkable.

At the top of the hill, there's a small group of people looking down over town. They talk of seeing smoke and gunfire from Fort Rupert, but apart from that they know no more than I do. My frustration grows. Do I just hang about here and then go home again, none the wiser than when I left? I tell the people I'm going to go in. They warn me to take care.

The road down into the market square is quiet. I'm jumpy and ready to react to any developments. If necessary, I can run into that house, I think, or duck down that alleyway, or hide behind that wall. But nothing happens. And in some ways that's worse. The unseen ... the unknown ...

I emerge into the market square. It's almost deserted, apart from half a dozen people liming against the shops bordering the square. There's the strangest vibe - an eerie stillness and hollow silence. So what do I do now? Stay there? Walk up the other hill to the fort? Go back home with nothing still to report? I decide to join the straggle of limers and wait for a while.

A guy I don't recognise comes over and starts to question me. The questions are the ones I've been asked a hundred times before: who am I? where am I from? He might just be chatting me up or he might be understandably suspicious. He doesn't know who I am but the distrust is mutual and I feel uncomfortable with the scrutiny.

Then things start to happen and when they do, events pile up fast. At that moment, against all expectation, a bus swings into the square filled with people. With relief and delight, I recognise the bus M works on.
'I have to check my friend,' I tell my interrogator and run across the empty square to greet M.

As I reach the bus, from which people are climbing down as though it's a normal day, we hear shouts and running feet. Turning to look over my shoulder, I see a small crowd running in obvious panic down the hill leading to the fort and they scatter across the square. One of them is PC. On seeing me, he yells in fury.
'I told you not come! Get out! Get out!'

We hear a rumbling from the direction of the road the people emerged from. M grabs me and yanks me onto the bus. With just him, me and the driver on board the bus screeches out of the square. As we go, I look back through the rear window and see armoured vehicles trundling down the hill. I can clearly see the faces of the soldiers on the back. They're smiling.

'Well, that's ok,' I tell myself. 'If anything really terrible had happened they wouldn't be smiling, would they? People have just panicked at the sight of them ...'

The bus hurtles round the corner on two wheels and onto the esplanade, where we pull to a halt. There are more people around here and, to my surprise, I spot an elderly man I recognise as a patient in the hospital from when H had been there. Can it only be yesterday that she was discharged? This man is terribly ill and frail, still in his pyjamas. He tells me that he and all other patients who are not critically ill were discharged this morning. The information strikes ice into my heart. Why would they clear the wards of patients as vulnerable as this man if not to make way for worse casualties?

We begin to talk to people and try to piece together the sequence of events. We're told that when the demo arrived with Maurice at Fort Rupert, the soldiers there laid down their weapons. A special troop of highly trained 'licenced to kill' soldiers - the Calivigny Squad - arrived and opened fire on the demonstrators. No one knows what's happened to Maurice. We're told that he seemed ill and weak. There's talk that he was badly treated in detention. We assume he has been rearrested. We hope he's uninjured.

'What do we do now?' I ask M.
We decide to take a look at the hospital, which we can access by the steps at the end of the esplanade. The same steps lead up to the fort, just below the hospital. But when we reach the steps, we freeze. They are crammed with people moving in both directions. Several are festooned with blood-soaked bandages, mostly around legs but at least one covering a wound in the abdomen.

But - and here's the thing - there is almost silence. No weeping, no wailing, no cries of anguish. Does this always happen in situations such as this? Shock ... denial ... I guess. But of course, M and I are subject to the same blocking techniques. We stand for a moment and watch the people filing up and down the steps.
'Um, I don't think I want to go up there after all,' I mumble.

M agrees. Instead we walk through the tunnel and out onto the deserted Carenage. We head down an alleyway and M produces a spliff.

So there we are, liming and getting high and trying to wrap our heads around what we have seen and what we might not have seen.
'Just think, ' I say to M. 'Whatever has happened here is huge. The eyes of the world are going to be on Grenada and on this exact point where we are now. My family, J and all our friends back in London are going to be terrified, wondering what's happening and if we are safe. Yet here we are, sitting by the Carenage, getting high.

It's the first but certainly not the last time that I give thanks for being here while this unfolds. No matter how hellish it may be - and whatever is to come - I would rather be here in the eye of the storm than elsewhere trying to visualise the scene.

Town is rapidly emptying now, with people using any means possible to get out and into the country. All phone lines, telex and flights have been stopped. A fly couldn't get into or out of Grenada now.

As M and I make our way slowly back to Tempe, we see heavy troop movements building up, armoured cars, tanks and personnel carriers trundling along the streets into and out of St Georges. Just a short time ago, these soldiers would be on the same side as the people against a possible mutual enemy. That's no longer the case.

Back in Tempe, H and L are frantic with worry. I've been gone for hours and while I was away W had arrived. He had been at the epicentre for the whole thing, from the point Maurice had been freed from house arrest all the way to the fort. Even more crucial, he had recorded the proceedings on a handheld Walkman, intending to create a record for C when she returns from Carriacou.

I listen to the tape with mounting dread. Taking his role as amateur journalist very seriously, W had interviewed participants. We can hear a Carnival-type atmosphere in the background at the fort, with people laughing and calling out to each other.
'Why are you here?' W asks a schoolgirl.
'We here to free we leader,' the girl replies, her voice filled with joy and passion. 'This is a great day for Grenada and for the Revo.'

On the tape, we hear the exact moment the vibe changes from triumphant party to mindbending horror. Shouts of anger and disbelief first of all. Followed by the rumbling of the armoured vehicles. Then there's the shooting. The screams of pain and anguish and fear. With the tape still running, we hear W's frantic footfalls as he tries to escape the panic, his breathing laboured and gasping as he leaps over a wall before the tape goes dead, the ghastly record ended.

At 5.30pm, the news from Barbados reports that Maurice has been wounded and is under detention in the hospital. Four to ten people are claimed to have died, including two NJM Ministers. They claim that all the Ministers who had previously resigned are in detention - 'whereabouts unknown'.

At 6.00pm Radio Antilles confirms that Maurice's whereabouts are uncertain. They report that shortly after 1.00am two heavy explosions and automatic gunfire came from Fort Rupert and thick black smoke was seen coming from the army headquarters. Then they claim that the USSR is behind all the problems! They also report that the whole island is without electric current or water. This isn't true and it throws doubt on all their other assertions.

At 8.15pm, we discover that RFG is back on air, though we don't know what time they came back. They are broadcasting a taped programme about agriculture! Once again, this feeds into our capacity for denial that things can really be that bad and adds to the sense of unreality we have felt for so long now. We're told to expect an important broadcast at 9.30pm. Meanwhile, our assumption is that Maurice is alive and though this is a dread day for the Revo, it's just a hideous episode in its story. Certainly not the end.

M pops out and when he returns he says he's heard more shots and saw people being searched on River Road.

At 10.05pm, RFG broadcasts the statement by Hudson Austin on behalf of the armed forces. H and B are asleep in bed. L is lying in our bed and M is sleeping on the foam in a corner of the living room. I put a new tape into the radio, collect my diary and a pen and sit in the darkness to record his words:

Last night, the Central Committee made an offer to Maurice enabling him to remain as Prime Minister. He said he would consider the offer. But today, a crowd led by Unison Whiteman, stormed his home. The soldiers fired above the people's heads 'as instructed'. Maurice led the people to St Georges where they stormed Fort Rupert. Maurice and Unison disarmed the soldiers there and distributed arms to the crowd. Their stated intention was to wipe out the leadership of the party, the armed forces and the Central Committee. A detachment of soldiers was sent. Maurice and his supporters fired at them, killing two outright and wounding others.

I sit in the darkness, scribbling down his words with a mounting sense of anger and disbelief. There were 3000 witnesses to what really happened. Who are they trying to fool with this fictional version of events?

With his next words, my emotions jerk from rage to despair.

In the ensuing battle, the following people were killed: Maurice Bishop, Jackie Creft, Unison Whiteman, Vince Noel, Norris and Fitzroy Bain ... among others. The country is now being ruled by a Revolutionary Military Council. Martial law has been declared. Anyone found disturbing the peace will be shot. There will be a 24 hour curfew for four days until Monday morning. Anyone seen on the streets breaking curfew will be shot on sight. The only exceptions will be for those maintaining essential services. This situation will continue until firther notice.

The broadcast ends and I sit in the dark, numb and barely able to breathe, tears streaming down my cheeks.

After a while, I close my diary and drag myself to my feet. I take the tape from the radio and stumble into the kitchen to check our supplies. I had stocked up earlier, but it's going to be hard to stretch the food for four days, during which there will be 6 mouths to feed - H, B, L, M, W and myself, with H on her very restricted diet.

Then I wake M and tell him not to go into work tomorrow morning.
'Curfew,' I tell him. 'Maurice is dead.'

I go back into my bedroom. In the gloom, I can see L lying on the bed, his eyes open, staring at the ceiling.
'Did you hear?' I whisper.
'I heard,' he confirms.

There are no other words. Sometimes words just aren't enough.

Image of Maurice from Grenadian Connection