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ODE TO LISTRA by Frank Sears

posted 28 Jan 2014, 17:51 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 28 Jan 2014, 17:57 ]
Dear Listra (and Leslie) 

This is not a ‘Dear John’ letter or maybe it is in reverse, but in the still of the night, in the aftermath of your mother’s funeral on Tuesday 21st January, I felt compelled to put in writing what in ‘our time’ I would have told you for all to hear. If I was an irreverent person,
Listra Ransome, as befits real Fyzabad people, attended Fyzabad Intermediate School which in those days catered for both genders and which curriculum took students through Primary and Secondary level. Listra started her career at the OWTU (Oilfields Workers Trade Union) thirty-seven years ago in the Labour Relations Department where she is now the clerical supervisor.

Listra herself was in the melting pot where politics, industrial relations and thousands of working people interacted from the heady days of the ULF (United Labour Front); of frontal attacks against President General George Weekes in particular and the Union in general; with the blue-shirt army being the standard bearer in T&T against apartheid and for control of the commanding heights of the economy.

When flying pickets were launched against various companies in the east-west corridor and massive industrial action shook the Southland in the oil sector and at Federation Chemicals, Listra, along with the rest of the Union’s staff, was totally involved

Now Ransome Thomas, Listra is the wife of Wayne Thomas, Principal of St. Michael’s A.C. School in Craignish Village, Princes Town, and the mother of one – Keon. Listra embodied in spirit and action what the OWTU was about. Her father – Arnold Ransome, who himself was an oil worker as was her brother Leslie, is a professional baritone classical singer.

Frank Sears met Listra when he started to work at the OWTU in 1978 and his appreciation of her discipline, work productivity and working class viewpoints emboldened him to pen a short anecdotal Ode to Listra Ransome Thomas.
I guess I am being coy, so no need to raise your eyebrow, I would have used the opportunity during the service to say something about your mother Viola. Mind you, I never did meet her or at least I can’t remember ever doing so but I did see her in the flesh, so to speak.

So here I am, beating about the bush to say what I want to say, not only to you, but to Marva, Joan, Ingrid, Jennifer, even Pamela, Gita, Cheryl and all the other ‘women in blue’ who I did not see at Belgrove’s funeral home. Since the service was about a celebration of Viola’s life this is not a eulogy but a praise, as is done at weddings. I could hear you and others mumbling by your body language to get on with it, so here goes.

There are just three things I wanted to say about Viola. I remember seeing Listra’s mother alighting from a taxi (it had to be a taxi because no private car driver could be so ungrateful not to deliver her to her doorstep) at the top of Jones Street where it meets Royal Road. I was in another car so it was just a fleeting glance of a red-carpet moment. Viola Ransome, most likely returning to her home from her job, coming out of the right-hand back door of a car on the top of a hill, with all the feline poise and grace befitting royalty was a sight to behold. There and then I wanted to be that red carpet.

The second reason why I felt driven to say something is simply because of her name - Viola. You may not know it, but I have a close affinity to Shakespearean female names. They carry an old-world beauty of their own. Take it from me, who grew up under the tutelage of my mother Nerissa, a name given to the servant of Portia in the Merchant of Venice. I get taste-bud pleasure when I hear Viola pronounced in 18th century time as Varoola in the Twelfth Night being called Veeola in 21st century Trinidad. Pleasure turns orgasmic when the person fits the personality of their name. Shakespeare had Viola as a likeable person of exquisite refinement.

The third source of contentment is that Viola Ransome was and is the mother of two siblings who I have known for decades and through them I experienced why life and relationships are so important.

That’s it for now Listra, I end by telling you that your mother was beauty in perpetuity.