Last Sunday morning following my regular Church sojourn, I took a walk around the city, which just happens to be the capital of the nation. A nation, by the way, that recently captured several tourism awards, including best honeymoon destination.
I had only recently returned from vacation, and except for one occasion on a busy weekday, I had not been to Castries in a while. On this particular Sunday I was curious to see if there were any new businesses, whether the show windows had been dressed up for Christmas, and perchance stumble upon a scene for the STAR’s back page.
Along the way I encountered several visitors off a ship docked at Pointe Seraphine. Alas, there was nothing much for them to see or do in Castries unless they wanted to booze up under the CDC near the market. I met others near the Cathedral who seemed to enjoy taking pictures while the Sunday-mass bells tolled.
Across the street from the Cathedral was where many of the visitors appeared headed. Perhaps, unlike many Saint Lucians, they had heard of this awesome poet and Saint Lucian Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott and wanted to visit the place named in his honour: Derek Walcott Square.
However, for those who wanted to get a close-up look at the bust of Walcott and its inscriptions, that would prove difficult. Derek Walcott Square was under heavy padlock and chain.
I was not quite sure who the guardians of the park were determined to keep out. In any case, in the middle of the kiosk inside the square lay a vagrant fast asleep, oblivious of the curious visitors desperately trying to photograph the venue.
As for the surroundings on the particular day, they fitted right in with the rest of the city that looked like one huge garbage dump. There was litter under the park benches and empty bottles everywhere. Obviously we’re proud of our reputation as among the highest consumers of alcohol per capita. Certainly more than we are of our record two Nobel Laureates.
The image of the square that Sunday was just ghastly. A dejected visitor shook his head, unable to get a closer look at the cenotaph at the other end of the square where, just a few days, earlier the Governor General and the Prime Minister had laid wreaths in honour of our fallen soldiers in World War 1.
William Peter Boulevard and other parts of Castries were similarly depressing. I should also mention that during my 45-minute walk-around I encountered not a single police officer!
We have been a nation notorious for the lack of the upkeep of parks, playing fields and monuments which soon become derelict. Think the George V Park, Mindoo Phillip Park, The National Stadium and I can go on and on. One would think that this would become part of the new ethos of any new government seeking to effect change, I thought to myself, my level of optimism waning.
As I headed away from the city Sunday, I saw a few more visitors in taxis more than likely heading to places far more pristine than the Castries city. And maybe, just maybe they are the ones who will score the island high as one that is simply beautiful. For others like myself we know better!