By Kielon Hilaire. Picture a city that can often be so busy that from the moment you enter it may sometimes seem like everyone suddenly moves or breathes faster and that everything is trying to knock you down as you cross the streets. This is what the City of Port of Spain feels like to me on most days. So imagine my surprise when I eventually “discovered” a Square that exists as part of the city that just seemed to be the opposite of chaos; it’s what many commuters of Port of Spain easily know as Woodford Square.
Now Woodford Square was named a few things before, including the Place of Souls and Brunswick Square but this article isn’t meant to be like a history class that focuses on all that happened back then and what lead up to the present. What’s most important in that regard is the fact that in 1917 the Square was named Woodford Square in honour of Trinidad’s longest serving British colonial governor, Sir Ralph Woodford. For many decades the Square has been used to host a variety of events — which may bring some to question, what makes this 99-year-old Square that much different from other Squares that may do the same?
I mentioned I “discovered” the Square; what I meant by this is that I literally spent years working in Port of Spain and had gotten so caught up in the daily hustle and bustle that I’d never once taken the time to visit Woodford Square, not once. And prior to my first visit — which was only prompted by a pretty girl I had planned to meet up with — I always used to ask myself, what exactly do people really do in that Square?
After visiting Woodford Square I can safely say that each visit has been different. The Square is huge and surprisingly the air is calm and fresh for a place that is near the heart of the city. It contains many trees, benches scattered at all corners of the land and a fountain at the centre of the vicinity. As though these were not enough for someone to have a relaxing time — especially a Friday afternoon after work — at times you just may visit the Square and be privileged to witness live entertainment such as Soca artistes performing, Spoken Word sessions, promotional events from companies and comedy skits. So in a sense the Square, at least for me, serves as a near instant way to wind down and impulsively take a break from the city life — paradoxically within the city — after seemingly going and going like that immortal energizer bunny.
With all of the above said most of my fondest memories at Woodford Square came from me doing nothing else but sitting on some of the benches on different days and observing the actions of random people and creatures on the compound. On one occasion I met a photographer who was trying to capture scenic pictures involving passers-by, on another occasion I saw a squirrel trying to climb up a very tall tree but was having a hard time climbing without consistently dropping its nuts. And another time I was sitting with my girlfriend and I saw a homeless guy animatedly waving and talking to a knife. Considering that no one else appeared troubled seeing the guy pretend to be Kenshin Himura from Samurai X, we simply continued chatting like it was nobody’s business. Well, at least until he leapt off his seat with his knife!
But jokes aside, one thing I will say for sure is that one of the most interesting experiences I had while visiting there is seeing what happens when an unknown man comes near the outskirts of the Square several times per week after 5 in the afternoon and throws some food into the compound. After he or anyone else throws something like that, if the timing is right and you happen to be sitting in the right place, my suggestion is that you just sit back and stare upwards in awe at the power of nature. Hint: sometimes for a minute or two you just may want to duck.
For a Square that has had owned its name for 99 years it sure hasn’t lost its spark and ability to keep many others interested in visiting it. While I can only speak from my experiences, I highly recommend that more people take some time to try “discovering Woodford Square” and see it as more than just that popular place in town that’s surrounded by the red fencing.
At first it may not seem like anything special to some people, but I can also say the same about hustling through Port of Spain on a daily basis with the hope that I don’t get knocked down. I like peace! Life is too short not to appreciate the simple things that we miss or fail to see the beauty in each day. And I am almost certain that come 2017 more persons will suddenly find Woodford Square to be so much more interesting because 100 years will just seem more remarkable to them than 99. But I believe we should always strive to appreciate beauty … despite fanfare, despite age.
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