Like Barbados, prominent attorney-at-law Andrew Pilgrim is also marking his 48th birthday.
However, Pilgrim, who was born on November 3, 1966, is actually 27 days older than the island.
Independence is therefore a time of introspection for him, when he seeks answers to where he wants to be in terms of his own happiness and professional development.
For this proud and unrepentant Bajan, born on the cusp of the island’s achievement of political independence from Britain and one who would have benefited from its free education system right up to tertiary level, Independence is also a time of deep national reflection.
“As you get older, you feel more invested in the country and I see if there are things that I can do to make it better,” he told Barbados TODAY on the sidelines of the basketball court, at Orange Hill, St James, just after a high-energy practice session.
The free-spirited Pilgrim, who is well travelled, said his personal sojourns had helped to shape his appreciation for his beloved homeland, especially its freedoms, which he tries never to take for granted.
“Although I may concede that right now Barbados may not be at its most inspired, I still love Barbados,” Pilgrim said.
Apart from his successful legal practice, this gifted stage actor, who has performed credibly in both serious and funny roles, is a natural comedian. Even in the courtroom, where tensions usually run high and frustration and anger are often visible, Pilgrim is known to push the envelope.
“Sometimes I just make a little joke and remember that everybody is still human and just keep it real,” he says.
In fact, during the interview, Pilgrim, who is already affectionately referred to as both on and off stage as Pilly, introduced us to another side of his alter ego that is pushing him towards more active involvement in politics.
“Ras Pilly told me he wanted to enter politics, so I got to discuss the campaign a bit more with him. I would probably manage the campaign for him,” he said.
Asked if this meant that he was about to formally throw his hat into the ring, Pilgrim did not want to say much more at this stage but based on his current schedule, it is difficult to see where he would fit in any additional responsibilities.
Presently, when he is not in courtroom, Pilgrim, who is a criminal lawyer of over 20 years experience and a former President of the Bar Association, has basketball practice at least five times a week.
“You have to prioritise, but you learn how to manage your time, to say, ‘look, I have a case tomorrow which I know I have to read at least eight hours of work’ and find out when I am going to get that eight hours in. And if I am going to do it early in the morning . . . in between cases of work . . . , immediately after normal work hours [or] if I am going to play ball for a shorter time that day,” explains Pilgrim, who can also be frequently found riding in the countryside or taking part in hikes.
Pilgrim is also a “creative” cook, who loves to travel and performs on stage whenever he gets the chance.
To date, his most riveting role has been that in Hit for Six, a 2007 feature film about cricket, love, and scandal, directed by Alison Saunders-Franklyn. However, Pilgrim has been acting and performer for most of his life.
Soon, he also has plans to re-enter the calypso arena where he intends to produce songs for Ras Pilly. This is borne out of his concern that the island is not as strong culturally and socially as it should be.
“I feel like there is an absence of cutting edge music in Barbados,” he told Barbados TODAY.
“Barbados has a lot of very good musicians and very good singers [but] the traditional role of the calypsonian, not in the sense of the modern era, would be the kind of person who is looking at society and turning it inside out and being critical of it and asking society important questions. I find we have lost that and I guess people are afraid so much about the lawsuits [and] what people would say.”
He also noted that in a small society “it is hard to be critical and still maintain your confidence and your power.
“But I feel like I don’t owe anything to anyone in Barbados. I don’t belong to any political party, I don’t belong to anything, I am just me. And I feel happy to be critical of things that need criticizing and to give compliments where compliments are due, because whenever you belong to any organization people always feel like you have an angle or you have some kind of thing to do to justify whatever it is you have to say,” he acknowledged.
Not many people may know this, but before deciding on a career in law, Pilgrim had aspired to become a professional jockey, but he quipped, “I got too tall”.
The outspoken lawyer, whose mother and father were both teachers, then considered becoming a history teacher, just like his father who convinced him to take up the more lucrative career as a lawyer 22 years ago.
“I feel happy about the fact that I feel confident when I go to court and I can stand up and talk with confidence. But different aspects of my life contribute to that too because when you are acting and speaking to thousands of people in front of a camera you have to deal with the issue of nervousness, so your confidence gets high and you feel you can say anything and do anything anywhere or when.”
Though very successful as a criminal attorney, Pilgrim recalled listening to a radio programme just recently which he said intimidated him with its findings that the career of a litigator should not go past 25 years because of how taxing it was on the individual’s personality, integrity and moral fibre.
So does this mean he is about to hang up his legal robe?
“Just play it by air,” was his initial response.
Pilgrim however went on to state: “I feel like I am pretty close to being in my prime in terms of being a lawyer, although I probably thought that 15 years ago as well. . . . I don’t see the end as something that I couldn’t go on anymore, but at the same time I see a lot of things that I would like to do, like travel, but I don’t do if it is something I would keep doing for another ten years,” he said.
After pausing for a few seconds, he continued: “Sometimes I wish crime would dry up so that I would have to go and do something else, and I would have to put all my energy into acting or producing or something else. But I guess that’s not realistic and that’s not life. There is always going to be crime and maybe it’s a question of we need to educate young people a little more so that we see less of certain types of crimes, so that the society being introspective would appear to be more considerate of others.”
Still he longs for his next travel adventure.
The 48-year-old voyager, who spent an entire year travelling across the African continent after he and his wife of ten years, describes the experience as an invaluable one and undoubtedly one of the best in his life.
“Some people thought it was expensive and wanted to know, ‘how could you all afford that?’, but it cost us about 10 [US dollars] per day to live in almost all parts of Africa,” he said, noting that “South Africa is probably a little more expensive but most of the African countries we would spend US$10 on food for two people and somewhere to stay every night”.
“We carried a tent and most hotels or guest houses would let you camp on the grounds for like two dollars and let you use their facilities for like two [US] dollars. And food was way cheaper than what it is in Barbados so we would spend like one US dollar in breakfast,” he recalled, adding that he planned to travel around the world as much as possible.
In the meantime, the clock is ticking and the very fit and athletic looking Pilgrim, who rides to and from his office some days, is a lot more conscious these days of his age.
In fact, he is thinking about dying his hair so that he would look more funky.
But, on a more serious note, he wants Barbadians to live healthier lifestyles.
“The same things I would do at 21 I still do and most of them I do better. I am still fit, I am still strong. But I would like to tell Bajans to be more health conscious because I was looking at the hospital statistics recently and how much of our health budget is spent on things like diabetes.
“I know I am the ‘macaroni pie man’, but I do feel that we should try to eat more healthy and get more exercise. I see a lot more Bajans coming out on mornings and doing their walking, but it is something that a lot more people should come out and do in this beautiful space we have here.”
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