Marigolds On Tour Cuba Bbc1 11Th Dec 900Pm

Jan Leeming

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Jan's Blog

Computers and the internet are amazing things. One of my concerns with putting together this site was that it could remain current, yet with all my travelling I've often much to say, but little time to say it. Years ago when reading the news it would take me days on end to reply to the kind letters people sent. Now, with the magic of the modern age, I can keep you up to date with what I'm doing and other events in my life.

MARIGOLDS ON TOUR - CUBA - BBC1 - 11th Dec. 9.00pm

Date: 10th December 2017

Obviously I couldn’t write about Cuba and Marigolds on Tour until all was announced. So prior to the transmission on Monday, I am able to tell you a little about Cuba and Havana which is where we did most of our filming

After the programme I’ll be able to expand a little more but, like all good mysteries, I can’t give too much away.

Visiting Cuba was an interesting experience. We really only saw Havana so I don’t know what the beach resorts look like or how well developed they are. To me, Havana seemed to be in a 50’s Timewarp - and most certainly was in so far as the cars were concerned. They do have some small new cars but you mostly see the old American gas guzzlers from the 50’s. They are either held together with string and household paint or they are in magnificent condition and these are the ones used as Taxis or on display for the public to be photographed with, by or in.

Down by the waterfront a large majority of the once beautiful Spanish buildings are in a state of decay as are many of the ones in the leafy suburbs. I asked why so many of the large and hitherto beautiful buildings were either empty and/or in a state of decay and the answer was that the owners had fled the revolution, never returned and the Government does not have the finance to do them up and offer decent homes to many of their people. And sandwiched in between these once glorious buildings, you will find little shops opened by the entrepreneurial Cubans who are trying to add a little to their finance.

Apparently every one is able to buy, monthly, five staple food items very cheaply but, as always those with money are able purchase a great deal more.

The concept of ‘Marigolds on Tour’ is to look at the way other countries treat and deal with their old people. And certainly the oldies in Havana had a much happier way of life than so many in our country. Mind you it is much easier to be happy when the weather allows you to be outdoors to exercise, dance or simply to meet and chat with your friends.

Cuba boasts that there is no illiteracy and that all are eligible for excellent health cover. Of course for decades the Cubans were financed and supported by the USSR but all that disappeared decades ago and they are now on their own. Our crew were not allowed to film in either a school or a hospital and when I enquired the reason, finally (and it was like drawing hens’ teeth) I established that the infrastructure in the buildings is in a state of decay and they don’t want you to see it.

I couldn’t find anyone who would openly talk about the Revolution - neither ordinary folk nor the better-off. But I am led to believe that the Country is still controlled by the military.

I can’t give everything away, prior to the Transmission on Monday 11th at 9.00 pm on BBC 1 but I can tell you that my lovely hostess went to 7 different food outlets to try and buy ‘milk’ for my coffee and tea and she failed. There is milk but it tends to be available in those ghastly little individual packs in hotels (which I think are under Government control). You see cows and beef is readily available so why no milk? Either they don’t have many dairy cows or else (my theory) they don’t have the refrigerated lorries to transport milk. Virtually everything you see is ancient and I didn’t notice any of the latter.

I’d never heard of the Buena Vista Social Club before but was charmed and excited to visit one of their old haunts and where they practised in the 1940’s. It was once a magnificent palace which, during the Revolution, was taken over and turned into over 40 very very small apartments. ‘Strawberry and Chocolate’ a well known film was shot in the Palace. There’s an old photo of a large expanse where the inhabitants hung out their laundry and where the Social Club rehearsed.
I took this from the Internet for you - Buena Vista Social Club is an ensemble of Cuban musicians established in 1996 to revive the music of pre-revolutionary Cuba. The project was organized by World Circuit executive Nick Gold, produced by American guitarist Ry Cooder and directed by Juan de Marcos González. They named the group after the homonymous members' club in the Buenavista quarter of Havana, a popular music venue in the 1940s. To showcase the popular styles of the time, such as son, bolero and danzón, they recruited a dozen veteran musicians, many of whom had been retired for years.

This is the National Flower of Cuba - the Mariposa (not unlike the Tuberose) with an exquisite perfume. I was told that during the Revolution young ladies carried messsages wrapped around the stem of the flower and tucked into their hair.


If I’ve wetted your appetite, then do tune in on Monday 11th to BBC1 at 9.00 pm

MARIGOLDS ON TOUR - CUBA - BBC1 - 11th Dec. 9.00pm

What do you think? Send your feedback to contact@jan-leeming.com.