A bite to eat … it’s rat

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                              SHREWD: Rock star Eddy Grant owns most of Brixton


By ROGER TAVENER

Early 90s. Guyana after independence from nasty, colonial Britain.

Rock star Eddy Grant is laughing his fucking dreadlocks off as I clamber through his personal jungle deep in the rainforest.

In a silk, olive-green Paul Smith suit and brown suede brogues, I’m attempting to avoid snakes, spiders and blood-sucking killer mosquitos.

Oh and there are leopards and panthers and other cuddly big cats at large, which I believe should really be in a zoo.

The ill-chosen attire was certainly not selected for its camouflage properties in this god-forsaken swamp straddling the Guyanese and Brazilian border.

Eddy, founder of the 60s band the Equals, and creator of dozens of hit songs, is a bit of a fucking joker as it turns out.

I’m here because he's been given thousands of acres of jungle in recognition of his ongoing generosity to his country of birth.

As a shrewd investor, he owns most of Brixton, London, and intends to use some of that wealth creating a learning centre of eco-excellence in his pocket of rainforest.

Whatever.

So I’m told that today we will meet the Prime Minister, Hamilton Green, at his office in capital Georgetown. I dress accordingly.

Mr Green berates me for a while over the way the UK pulled out of this poor South American country leaving the infrastructure to crumble with no further investment.

He taps a pen angrily on his maroon, leather House of Commons blotting-paper pad.

Some vestiges of the old colony remain it appears.

“We are only one foot above bloody sea-level and all our money goes on sea defences,” he moans.

I try to be sympathetic.

“Oh well, you’re a journalist, so you probably want a drink. It's nearly 9.30 am”

Yes, what’s with the fucking delay?

“But you must play me at table tennis. If you win I will give you another rum cocktail.”

Suddenly I become Chester fucking Barnes. (Google him)

After a tense ping-pong battle and fine brunch, Eddy says we must go to see his land.

He has an elderly purple Jag. Everybody in Guyana knows it and him. His driver whizzes us  mile after mile into the jungle.

Even more miserable when I get back to the hotel and the newly-married freelance rock n roll photographer waltzes in with two girls...So bitten to death, forced to eat rat, ruined 500 quid suit and girl-less

I need a drink. There’s a roadside bar 150 miles into the rainforest with a flashing Guinness sign. It’s manned by authentic ethnic  South American Indians in full feathery dress.

Its a perfect pint, chilled thanks to a generator and it even has a fucking shamrock on the frothy head.

“Hey Eddy, this isn’t fair. I’m not suitably dressed.”

“It has to be now,” he chortles.

Gimme fucking strength Jo'anna, to paraphrase his biggest hit.

So we get off the highway down a dank, dark, steamy track and come to an old research centre which has fallen down in a heap of rubble and corrugated iron roofing.

Careful when you get out. Snakes live under there.

Who the fuck said I’m getting out? 

There are millions of trees here and they all look the same. I can write about it without getting out. 

In the end I’m shamed into walking through the dense forest. Every step is fearful and I’m getting soaked from the dripping canopy.

And I haven’t had a chance to protect myself with bug spray. I’m being eaten alive by the mozzies.

Eddy laughs: “I’ve got built-in resistance. You white blokes haven’t.”

Later. I go out with minders in dangerous Georgetown. I can't stop itching and I’m covered in red blotches, even in places I never knew existed. Eddy is still laughing.

The meal wasn’t too bad but then he tells me it was a large rodent I’d just eaten. Rat. Fuck me.

Photo session. A few more drinks.

Even more miserable when I get back to the hotel and the newly-married freelance rock n roll photographer waltzes in with two girls...

So bitten to death, forced to eat rat, ruined 500 quid suit and girl-less.

I go to the bar.

They’re hookers, barman Jimmy confides, pointing at the sign: “Under no circumstances can guests invite prostitutes to their rooms.”

Unless they bung the concierge, says Jimmy.

Pretty much every girl in Guyana is on the game it seems. It’s so poor. And the only people with cash are the Canadian miners from up the Demarara River who need some company.

So, I might get malaria. He might get an STD. What was more fun?

Back in London. Story works well.

I have no morbid diseases.

But I turn on the radio to hear musician Eddy Grant is in the London Hospital for Tropical Diseases in a coma after receiving a mosquito bite in his Guyanese rainforest ...

Fuck me.


© 2005-2018 Alastair McIntyre