jctv (J):HOME




Birth cerfiticate



Diary, Monday 28th July 1997:

I had to drive to Little Kew Road where I could register my new-born son. Little Kew Road is a residential street off Maxfield Avenue in Whitfield town. The registry office was on the veranda of an unassuming house. A desk was set up directly behind the grill. On it were some large pebbles and some spiral-shaped objects, made of metal and probably belonging to an ancient car. The plastic black desk cover was disintegrating. The floor of the veranda was painted a wonderful deep rich red. Behind the desk sat an elderly and rather stately man with a pencil moustache. He exuded a calm authority that I wish were mine. We introduced ourselves and exchanged a perfunctory amount of small talk. He had worked for most of his life for United Biscuits in Fulham, London. He thought England cold. Now, in his retirement he filled in registration-forms for new-born babies. He inherited the job from his aunt. It is about his way of writing that I want to write. He sat behind his desk, with an ordinary ballpoint pen, took out a book of forms and began to write. His letters were formed so carefully, so slowly, so meticulously. The end product was not necessarily more finished or more calligraphic than any other hand-writing. In fact the letters and words he formed so slowly and so deliberately were really rather ordinary. But there was an extraordinary meditative pleasure in seeing him write and recite to himself, sotto voce, the salient facts of my son’s being.

With this “cerfiticate” I go to the central office in Spanishtown. There it is mayhem. A building not equipped to deal with the huge numbers of waiting people. Crowds of people waiting to be processed through the sluggish and unnecessarily ritualised bureaucracy of Jamaica and inevitably discovering on arrival at the counter they were pointed to, that their forms are not in order. As I waited, a man burst out in a violent shouting match, airing his frustration at the civil servants, shouting and losing control. I sympathised with him. It is a system partially maintained because of its informal economic potential for the civil servants themselves and for the go-betweens who make money brokering the frustrated and the desperate, and partially because of a conservatism informed by suspicion of motives. They are complementary.




Contact me at: jacob@voorthuis.net

copyright © jacob voorthuis 1994-2011

All written material on this page is copyrighted.

Please cite Jacob Voorthuis as the author and Voorthuis.net as the publisher.