Cyril Patrick is kind of an unassuming guy.
Pass through St Lawrence Gap, Christ Church, and chances are you will find him lounging in a chair before a table of art and craft –– pretty much the story of many of the vendors in “De Gap”.
What makes you pause is that on closer inspection you can’t help but realize Cyril has one leg; and, beyond that, there’s something familiar about his craft. What makes him stand out is that what he’s selling is not the average type of beaded jewellery. His pieces, from key rings to T-shirts, all have his face imprinted on them.
Some years ago, a visitor paused to paint a portrait of him, sitting just as he was right at his table in The Gap. What started as a painting over time evolved into art and craft. Now the Gooch, Robinson and Hughes families from England send him memorabilia for him to sell and he refunds them for what they spend. It seems to be an arrangement that works, though Cyril admits that times have got so tough, he now has a challenge even sending funds back for what he has.
“They liked me a lot . . . . Vistaprints UK T-shirts, that’s where they are done in England. The people who do them, the husband is not here but the wife and kids are here now. I feel bad.
“I still owe them a couple bucks from making T-shirts. I can’t give them no money now because it is so bad. People who like me buy T-shirts to take home. I have pictures at home with kids wearing T-shirts, looking good with my T-shirts on,” he explained showing the craft.
“It’s a painting, a tamarind tree, the tiles on the road. I have an explanation to it. It is not a picture from a camera. That’s the table here, the camera, the tamarind tree, the tiles on the road. It was done right here. At the time I used to not keep clothes on me, so she captured me like that, looking
a little idealistic.”
He pauses for a minute to shout over to an approaching group: “Hello, li’l brother. How are ya?”
“I’m good,” comes the fine-voiced reply. The group walking towards him is the family he was just talking about.
“His grandfather makes the T-shirts. Tell them. Go ahead, don’t be shy,” Cyril encourages young Riley Hughes.
And the family pauses for a brief chat and some photographs. This is an arrangement and friendship that work for all of them.
Cyril first started selling in The Gap about 13 or so years ago after he lost his leg.
“[B]usiness was already cool before and everything was going smooth, but now everything has gone downhill. You are seated sometimes a whole day and you go home with nothing. You can’t even pay the bills any more. So I just sit here sometimes, looking for friends to come by.
“Some call me at home from England or wherever they are to tell me when they are coming. So I just sit here hanging, despite the fact that things are bad; but nothing is progressing because there are few tourists.
“A lot of people say you have to change what you are doing, but I can’t because I don’t have a car to carry lots of weight. So I just do a little table and hang in there . . . . I understand things are not just bad here, they are bad all over the world.
“Everybody talks about the season opening soon, but there really isn’t a season right now. The season is no season right now because the same people that come have to look for money. They are just like
Cyril said every morning now when he opens his eyes, he contemplates if it even makes sense getting out of bed on account of how bad things have got for him and
his little trade.
“[B]ut I have to go in this place and make a buck and a buck is better than nothing at all. So I just try.
“I got a table, but there’s not much there. I work hard Monday to Friday, go to the supermarket when I leave work and whatever is left I try to put up for the weekend. The weekend now, there is nothing to count. So right now I don’t make anything.
“If I make $30 today and $25 tomorrow, by the time I get to the supermarket, it’s gone. When you work, you have to stop to take home some food. You have to take something to eat, and you come back here next morning and all you can find is the road staring back at you.”
Cyril made it clear though that he was not looking for a handout, just for something to be done to make it easier for those like him that live off tourism to make a dollar.
“The Prime Minister is not here to see the road, nor am I begging him for a cheque. I was not raised that way to sign any papers as a disabled person to get a cheque; but I try on my own to see how strong I am, to see if I can maintain a standard of life. Despite things being so bad I still get a little bite every time I go home at night with a few dollars . . . ,”
said Cyril. (LB)