Is it possible to forget the face of someone who was once responsible for the positive direction your life when into? Well that happened to me at the cremation of Andaiye, last Saturday. So it looks like Alzheimer’s is coming on.
There is this woman I knew for about five years before I left in 1978 to pursue post-graduate studies in Canada.
I met Diane Matthews through her common-law husband, Brian Rodway. I became friends with Brian when the Movement Against Oppression (MAO) in Tiger Bay was formed. Young Guyanese would not know MAO subsequently morphed into the Working People’s Alliance.
When I look back at those days, it still torments my soul when I try to understand how many of the persons from that romantic, philosophical and revolutionary age could become politically negative and philosophically jaded as they are today. And in 2019, they support a non-performing government that if existed in that epoch, they would have revolted against.
At Andaiye’s wake last Friday evening, in a conversation with Dr. Nigel Westmas and Christopher Ram, I told them both I fear we are re-entering the alleyway of rigged national elections and many of the persons from that great age of the seventies who today have a relation with the corridors of power will participate and support those rigged elections.
I made the identical remarks to David Hinds at Andaiye’s cremation.
It is times like these it would have been nice to have people like Diane Matthews in Guyana. So there was I watching at the flames as the fire kicked into the midday skies, talking with Denise, a WPA friend from the seventies, when this woman came up to me. She said hi, and I said hi, too.
She looked at me with powerfully staring eyes and said; “You know who I am?” My immediate response was to make a joke out of the situation because I couldn’t place her in my memory bank. With silly and misplaced humour, I said; “Yes, I know you, you are Denise’s sister.”
She then dispelled the bout of Alzheimer’s that struck me. She was Diane Matthews, wife of Brian Rodway. I spent four years in a comradely relation with Diane and Brian. Since 1978, I have not laid eyes on Diane. Brian died after I returned to Guyana, but I doubt I had interacted with Diane then. She left Guyana shortly after Brian’s demise to return to London.
Diane Matthews and Brian Rodway were perhaps the nicest man and wife couple in politics that I have ever met in my life. People like Diane and Brian have disappeared from the philosophical landscape of Guyana and the possibility of having the rebirth of their kind looks very remote.
I made up for the horrific memory failure by relating to Denise what Diane did for me. I applied to UG to do the degree programme in history and was accepted. On the day of registration, I had not a cent for my fees. At that time, you had to pay to go to UG. I managed a few dollars from my sister and the next stop was just three blocks away from my home. I lived on D’Urban Street, in Wortmanville, Diane and Brian on Bent Street on the edge of Werk-en-Rust.
I told Brian, this was my chance in life and I have to pay my fees. Diane got paid from the Guyana Chronicle (she worked with the Guyana Graphic which in 1974 was bought by the Guyana Government and merged with the Chronicle the following year), the day before. She went into her handbag, took out a few thousand dollars (I can’t remember how much but it covered my fees) and off to UG I went in pursuit of a better life.
How often a human forgets the face of someone who helped to define their life? Well it happened to me last Saturday. Diane Matthews’s face I forgot because it has been a very, very long time but her name and her kind deed I will never forget.
She leaves tomorrow for London, and I wonder if she doesn’t come back to Guyana, I have seen the last of someone who played a huge role in shaping my life.
I told her of this column and she wanted me to publish a fact so it can remain part of history. She said the National Library sponsored an event last Friday to honour outstanding Guyanese women. It was announced that Ms. June Ramsammy was the only woman to sit on a newspaper board at the time.
Diane said she was also on the board of the Guyana National Newspaper Ltd. Take care, Diane! My love always!
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