Sunday by the Sea By Linda Rutherford
Guyana Chronicle
March 3, 2002

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“It’s all about the kids. They’re the ones who the seawall is developed for, to get away on Sunday from work and stress after school. So when they come on the seawall on a Sunday is to enjoy themselves and…free up dem mind.” - Acrobat, Owen

EVERYONE was in agreement: It was a slow night; in every respect.

“Sof’”, was the preferred adjective used by the younger generation to describe it, meaning that there was very little action to speak of on that particular night in question, four Sundays ago.

The occasion was the regular ‘lime’ on the Georgetown Seawall, to which Mecca every teen and young adult seems compelled to make their unwavering pilgrimage come Sunday evening.

The first person to point this out, that the night was slow, was Trevor, an old neighbour who was out there with his two young children, enjoying the fresh air and having the occasional ogle as the girls ambled by, curiously devoid of the trendy gear they are noted for saving for this event.

At the time he made this observation, which was around 19:00hrs, traffic had begun to build noticeably, but had not reached its usual congestive proportions.

Those in the know say it can sometimes take up to half an hour or more to get from one point to the other on Sunday evenings, particularly between Le Meridien Pegasus to the west and Camp Road to the east, a distance of mere yards.

When the Chronicle arrived, at around dusk, there were still a few parking spaces left in spite of the hordes of rather ord’nary-looking scooters, private and hire cars, and the odd vehicle bearing a diplomatic licence plates. Nothing trendy here either. On a regular night, however, the huge motorcycles - oftentimes bearing slender figures fashionably… and sometimes outrageously dressed - and the sleek-looking vehicles blasting hip music, would line the roadway on both sides.

Patricia John, who was lucky to bag a prime spot west of the bandstand, just before you take the short flight of concreted stairs to where that section of the seawall was expanded to form a sort of promenade, was doing brisk business under a blue marquee, selling her usual fare of black-pudding, fried shark, and assorted cakes among other mouth-watering goodies.

A single battery-run lamp gave her all the light she needed for the time being. The entire area would brighten significantly when other vendors threw on their own light as the place grew darker.

Just three months into the business, John said that on a good day, she would go until around 23:30hrs or thereabouts. She said, however, that business normally tends to slacken pretty early down at her end, as the action tends to be more upwind, in the vicinity of Camp Road.

Right of her, on the same piece of embankment she occupies, a young girl tends a trampoline, which we later learnt belonged to Shamie Shaw, a single-parent who operates a thriving business up on the promenade, selling bicycle and go-cart rides to the little ones.

Said she during a brief respite, she came by the idea close to three years ago during a visit to Florida’s Disney World.

“I saw it as a way of making an extra buck while at the same time entertaining my son and the rest of kids out there,” Shaw said, adding that “what began as an experiment has worked out quite well in the long-run.”

Shaw, who, before going to Florida, was in the habit of regularly taking her son Matthew, now six, for a casual afternoon stroll on the seawall, said what drove her into venturing into that type of business was the lack of recreational facilities in the area at the time for children.

“I used to bring out my son, but there wasn’t anything for him to do,” she said.

Recalling that it was in the month of June that she first went into operation, Shaw, who is seamstress by profession, said she started out with three small go-carts.

She’d also operated closer to the front of the promenade, where a cluster of forever expanding food and other refreshment stalls now abound due to the growth in popularity of the seawall ‘lime’.

Back then, she recalled, all one could get by way of snacks and refreshment was whatever little the owners of the traditional ‘cool-down’ carts and itinerant vendors, few of whom are still in operation, had in stock.

Neither were there so many electric lights, until just recently.

“I am very grateful for the lights; that’s a plus,” the woman said, adding that with this new development, she is now giving serious thought to coming out daily once the weather permits.

She is, however, calling upon the relevant authorities to reinstall the garbage bins, as “it is a little embarrassing” for her to have foreigners, who have, of late, been frequenting the area more and more, come and see it in such a mess.

“Every foreigner that comes to this country doesn’t leave without paying a visit to the seawall, and I would like them to have a good impression of my country,” she said.

Trevor, too, had remarked upon the lack of garbage bins and other public facilities, noting that the womenfolk usually have to resort to the proliferation of undergrowth behind the seawall, when they wanted privacy.

On the issue of garbage bins, he feels the authorities would be better off constructing receptacles made of concrete, rather than of iron rods as was done previously, so as not only to deter vandalism but more importantly, to avoid having to replace them regularly because of corrosion due to the proximity of the ocean.

As the evening wore on, a small crowd had begun to gather around two physically fit young men, who made jumping through hoops the size of a bicycle regular rim and smaller among other acrobatic feats seem like child’s play.

The older of the pair, a 33-year-old ‘dread’ named Owen or ‘Rubber Man’, said the two had teamed up ever since he returned from an extensive ‘walkabout’ overseas six years ago which took him to places like the Bahamas, Jamaica, Suriname, French Guiana and St. Maarten.

He, too, was to recall that there was little or no activity on the seawall back then. “The Seawall was very slow; it didn’t have anything going,” Owen said.

With the advent of talk about tourism, however, things began to slowly pick up. And, like Shaw, he too is happy about the lights, since the area used to be rather dark prior to that.

He is of the opinion that whatever activities there are on the seawall are mainly for the benefit of the children.

“It’s all about the kids,” he said. “They’re the ones who the seawall is developed for, to get away on Sunday from work and stress after school. So when they come on the seawall on a Sunday is to enjoy themselves and…free up dem mind.”

A peremptory call from his 27-year-old partner, Shaka, who felt he was doing too much talking at a time when the hustle was ripe, had him departing in a hurry, but with a rather contented smile on his face.

Meanwhile, over the way on Battery Road, just across from Patricia John’s stall, an elderly gentleman, who gave his name as Sadhu, was doing brisk business with a merry-go-round, which he swears has been in operation there for almost a year now.

But according to Shamie Shaw, it has been much longer than that; about six months or so after she opened for business back in 1999.

Hailed from Wales/Patentia, Sadhu, who says he has no uses for newspapers since he cannot read, runs the business himself.

He also has his own homemade lighting plant which not only supplies the merry-go-round with its many lights, but also powers the apparatus.

While he has always in the merry-go-round business, for the past 15 years or so, Sadhu said it was a friend who encouraged him to come out on the seawall and “mek a dollar.”

A gutter-smith and joiner by profession, he made the device himself, using “ol’ bed iron” and used oil drums.

His is a past-time that has no age limit, Sadhu says; like the seawall ‘lime’, anyone can just hop aboard and enjoy the ride.