What I Did During My Summer Holiday. Pt 1.

sunset

 

This has never been nor ever will be a sailing blog. Sailing blogs are like dreams and dramas; only interesting to the people who own them. A friend of mine asked me what it’s like to sail, within thirty seconds I’d bored myself. She agreed that yes, the technical sailing stuff is indeed sodding boring.

I have read a few sailing blogs over the last couple of years and generally they fit into two categories:

  1. Young Attractive Couple. He has a six pack and surfs. She looks great in a bikini doing a headstand on a rock. They buy a boat, look impossibly beautiful in photos and whine about the terrible inconveniences they have to suffer like not being able to find a decent yoga class.
  2. Highly Technical. S/he can fix a ripped sail in a category five hurricane and make a brew for the crew. The HT regales you with a blow by blow account of how they fitted their dubry mcflobbem with a special spingle-bollock and they’ve never been happier. Aye, crack on fella. Their Cunningham’s are their pride and joy and they seem to be forever fiddling with them – what the hell is a Cunningham anyway? No don’t tell me, I genuinely couldn’t give a fuck. Do not make eye contact with an HT at the marina bar, it will be five hours of your life that you cannot get back.

I’m over simplifying of course. The thing is there are lots of people sailing around these days and often a blog is a useful way of letting loved one know where you are. In the good old days of letter writing it’s the equivalent of the Round Robin annual letters that turn up inside Christmas Cards.

My one and only stock phrase when asked about a trip from A to B is the following:   Shit weather, shit sail, didn’t die. Beyond that I have fuck all interest in the academic bollocks surrounding this whole boaty thing. As long as I know how to stay safe, not fall overboard and not hit things then I’m a happy woman.  John knows he has precisely a two-minute window to teach me new things, after that my eyes glaze over and I’ve had my attention caught by a fish jumping or a turtle meandering past. Turtles and dolphin are far more interesting than tell-tales on a jib sheet – see I’ve uttered something technical there and I was bored shitless before I finished typing it.

Now that I’ve had my hissy fit I can continue. We – John, Dogs and me are in Grenada at the moment. After last year’s catastrophic hiccup of a hurricane season we decided to get the hell out of Dodge and go south with Mahalo. All advice suggests that we’re less likely to take a battering here and there are plenty of marinas to haul out if needed. We have always wanted to see the other countries in The Leeward and Windward Islands so we decided to take an extended holiday. I mean when you live in paradise where do you go on holiday? Apparently sailing is one option – hardly fucking paradise sometimes, but as I remind myself, I chose to do this, I can stop at any time and bugger off back home. No-one has a gun to our heads forcing us to live the way we do.

We set off from Antigua on July 15th. I think the phrase is “shitting myself”. The dogs hadn’t been tried and tested on the boat, let alone deal with their business. There’s a lot of business that comes out of Holly and Fred believe me.  We were given reliable advice from an experienced sailor that if you want your dogs to pee and poo on a designated patch on the deck, just rub some chilli on their bums.  That advice was not reliable. “Oh no you didn’t?”  Oh yes, we did.

The triumphant moment of the great deck crapping day came somewhere off St Lucia. After four days of refusing to take them ashore they let the AstroTurf patch have it.  Why the toilet drama? Why not just take them ashore twice a day? It isn’t always possible. Travelling with dogs means paperwork. There can be a mountain of paperwork, import licences and Government Vet inspections to arrange for each country  in which you intend going ashore. The French islands’ attitudes to animal import licences are similar to French Sailors’ attitudes towards clothes; non-compulsory. So, it wasn’t until we left French territories that we couldn’t legally take them ashore. Getting our confused hounds to crap on a patch of fake grass at the pointy end of the boat will go down as one of my major life achievements, especially the belligerent eleven year old Golden Retriever.  We will not speak of the chilli-bum incident again however.

We are seven weeks into our extended holiday. We have not killed each other.  I did threaten to catch a flight back to Antigua and he could sail his own fucking boat if he didn’t stop speaking to me like one of his old engineering cadets and I admit I’m not an easy person to live on board with when we’re anchored in a Butlins type marina with all Jolly Hockey Sticks and timetabled social events.

We have settled into some sort of routine and we have slowly made our way through different anchorages in each country. Each time we pull up for a night or several we are the new kids on the block. Every stop is an education. We have had the time served cruisers who shout across,  “Don’t anchor there, I’ve got eighty metres of chain out” this translates as “Fuck off you pleb, I’ve been here for five years and I now own all of the water in a two hundred metre radius” We smile sweetly and park up, thanking the wizened wanker for their help. I can half understand why some people see us coming and a sense of dread consumes their soul. They’re sitting there on their lovely shiny boat with all of the buttons and bells and here’s us, on our thirty-two-year-old less than perfect boat looking like a cross between The Addams Family and The Clampetts arriving with two stinky dogs hanging out of the cockpit. I might cringe if I pulled up next to us. Ah, arseholes, you get ‘em everywhere. We should be used to them living in Jolly Harbour.

The sailing or rather the cruising life (my autocorrect wants to correct cruising to cursed for some reason) does attract single men. They spend years alone on their vessels and having met them in bars it’s obvious why these anti-social, loudmouthed, obnoxious cock-snots live a life of solitude.  I had imagined that perhaps these men are international drug runners or are wanted by Interpol for exciting criminal acts, but no, sadly they’re just too racist, sexist or down right fucked in the head to exist in regular society. The sea is welcome to them.

Then you have the welcoming committee. They are the first on their dinghy to meet you at the marina or anchorage. They stop by with a friendly, “Hi, is it your first time here? Uhhh lovely, where are you from, where are you going?” Do not be fooled, nah-ah. They’re just scoping you out as worthy acquaintances and it doesn’t take long for them to ask in a crab like fashion how much you paid for your boat. It’s subtle and you could miss it, but the conversation goes as follows:

“What sort of boat is she?”

“Wauquiez”

“Uhhh, never heard of that, how do you spell that?” – partner quickly Googles Wauquiez

“Yeh not many people have heard of them”

“What year is she?”

“1986”

“Ohhhhhhhh, but she’s had modifications yes?”

“Some”

And voila! They’ve calculated that we are the underclass  with an old boat and not to be invited to play dominoes on their super-duper gin palace.

These people are the regular readers of websites that have reports of crimes against cruisers. Outside the safety of their marina or mooring buoy there be sea monsters and each island is inhabited by Hannibal Lectors who want to steal your dinghy and shit in your cabin – NOT true by the way.

There is a hybrid of welcoming committee and time served. These cruisers are passive aggressive. They pootle through the anchorage looking for their usual spot and get mightily pissed off when they spot us sitting there merrily swinging our legs in the water with no intention of moving for at least a week – the swim deck is down, water maker is on, sun canopy is welded into position and the dogs are lolloping around the deck. They shout a greeting and ask if they might be too close to us if they anchor now and go on to tell us that it’s very roly where we are and we might little to try somewhere else, they’ve been experienced in this area for over nine years. When we don’t move, they shrug and shout across that they’re going around the corner anyway because it’s quieter there and no neighbours means no pants. Yeh thanks for that. Keep your crusty clunge to yourself love. Having been witness to all varieties of saggy nut sacks and gynaecological displays of vaginas from many of our European neighbours at anchor, one more fanny I can do without.

The hippy drop-outs are an interesting bunch. They have a loose relationship with personal hygiene and like to serenade the setting of the sun each night with bongos. Their boats are an eclectic mash-up of gaffer tape and hope. They’re a joy to be around because their energy is infectious. They are invincible. My favourite drop-outs were the guys we met in St Vincent; Australians who are, “Just seeing how long we can go before we run out of money”.

We have the codgers. They are lovely sweet people, possibly in their nineties who have lived on board for decades (or maybe they’re only in their forties and have been left out in the sun too long and have gone crispy?) They spend all day wandering around their deck with a piece of string looking busy. They never thrust advice down your throat when you meet them, but look aghast when you tell them you don’t clean your metalwork every three days. I love the codgers. They are genuinely warm in their welcome, they have seen us all come and go. They are in it for life, parted from their beloved boat and the seas only by death.

The most amazing people we meet are the reason we left Antigua; the incredibly generous, kind, inquisitive and engaging people who are born, live and die on these tiny nations stuck out on the edge of The Caribbean Sea. We have been welcomed in each country we have visited – with a few exceptions but they are rare exceptions.

 I will write about our experiences in each country next time when I have time to sit down for a few hours and get my thoughts in order. Now that we are moving just short distances from anchorage to anchorage here in Grenada it is easier to find time to relax.  A relaxed mind can write and let friends and family know that we’re not dead yet.

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A Not So Royal Wedding

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One of the advantages of living here in Antigua – besides the azure crystal waters, white sandy beaches and the simplicity of life – is that I am not bombarded with mainstream media. We have no cable TV pumped into our house, by choice I may add. I have to search out my news via The Internet and I get a giggle out of the occasional magazine or printed newspaper left at our house. Just a quick note on that – to my dear lovely eclectic group of friends, I will never read Chat Magazine or its like. I really don’t care whose boobs have been pumped up to the size of space hoppers nor do I care which Z-list celeb has fucked a donkey at dawn down a dark alley in Magaluf – you get my drift.

 This reliance on the internet could of course lead to confirmation bias, but I like to read all angles on issues that take my fancy and have even been known to spend a few hours reading through some violently unpleasant websites and forums where the angry, dispossessed and down right lunatic fringes of society vent their frustrations.

My relative isolation from the mainstream means I have been spared the British Monarchy’s PR operation via The BBC regarding last weekend’s Royal nuptials. I can only imagine the run up to the event; the mass hysteria, the ginger themed street parties and an endless loop of ‘experts’ slapped and put in front of TV cameras to give their so called informed insights into The Royal Family, right down to the correct pronunciation of scone* or some such nonsense. Apparently one of the biggest Google searches during the run up was, ‘How to make cucumber sandwiches’. Unless someone mistakes their dildo for a cucumber I don’t think making sandwiches can go too far wrong, or if you do get confused at least wash the dildo first.

Thankfully my brush with The Royal Wedding was minor. Some friends and acquaintances went into hyper-drive on their social media accounts and that’s fine. Whatever floats your corgi? As you can guess I’m not a monarchist. That’s not to say I wish the individual humans who make up The House of Windsor any ill. I don’t know them; they may be really nice people. It’s the concept of Monarchy I find distasteful. The fact two people have found love with each other, feel the need to marry and set up home together is wonderful, great, ‘triffic etc etc, but why Prince Henry/Harry through accident of birth is any more special than an other human on this planet is beyond me. We are all here through an accident of birth. We get no say from which vagina we fall. Through historic privilege the Prince has had more of a chance of survival and marriage than many throughout history and this leads me to the point of my subdued rant today.

 In 1864 there was another wedding. It was a quiet affair. Samuel Warren Bone married Mary Ann Bastin in a church in Devon. I doubt that any of Samuel’s relatives were in attendance, as I shall explain. Samuel was twenty-one years old and Mary Ann was twenty years old. Samuel and Mary Ann were Cornish by birth. He was a sailor in the days where ships still had sails and voyages could take many years. I know from research that Samuel was here in Antigua in 1862 on The HMS St George under the charge of Captain Francis Egerton. Samuel at that time was a Boy, First Class. The voyage was from 1860-1864, which would suggest Samuel met Mary Ann shortly after his arrival home and they soon married. After 1864 all of my research suggests he never went to sea again and instead after achieving the status of Master Mariner, he became a coastguard in Northumberland, first on Lindisfarne, Newton-by-the-Sea, then Embleton and Crastor, finally retiring to a large house in Gateshead where he was pensioned with his family. Samuel and Mary Ann had fifteen children, thirteen of whom survived to adulthood.

Samuel’s survival hinged on a simple letter and his virtue of birth, albeit an incredibly humble virtue. Samuel Warren Bone’s parents both died in the 1840s cholera epidemic that swept Cornwall. He was one of seven surviving children, who all ended up being taken to a workhouse. It would seem from the documents I have that Samuel’s father William was also in The Navy which meant he inherited an entitlement to attend The Royal Hospital School in Greenwich. In order to achieve relief from the workhouse there had to be proof of entitlement. This is where his sister Mary Jane steps into the story. It is clear Mary Jane could see no hope for herself and her siblings; the workhouse was not a place where people thrived, especially children. In a last ditch effort she wrote letters to The Royal Hospital School seeking her brother Samuel’s admittance. I have a copy of a letter she wrote along with her father’s naval record and various letters attesting to the authenticity of her claim that her brother should qualify for the school.

                “Sir, I thank you kindly for sending me to enquire about the respective ages of my brothers and sisters but all the references I have to there (sic) ages in this piece of paper I inclosed (sic) to you with other documents. But we are seven in number. One older than myself and rest younger now a living. I trust it will be taken in consideration for my dear orphan brother to take him from the union, god knows my anxious feelings about him and all the rest of my dear brothers and sisters in a bad state of health not able to take myself of them off the parish, I remain your humble servant, Mary Jane Bone, Torpoint Union (workhouse) 9th June 1854.”

What can’t be seen in this text are the water smudges and stains. Were these tears as she was writing or just stains because of the age of the document? I will never know the truth, but the romantic in me pictures Mary Jane writing this in desperation, her parent’s are dead and thinking that there was no earthly future for her or her young siblings.

Samuel was admitted to the school. I have no idea what happened to his brothers and sisters, even Mary Jane. I have a feeling they will be buried within the grounds of the Torpoint workhouse, in unmarked graves, their lives for most part unrecorded other than as long forgotten scribblings in some dusty workhouse register.

So who was Samuel Warren Bone? Why have I devoted so many years researching this one person? He is my husband John’s Great Great Grandfather.

John had very little knowledge of his ancestry beyond his Grandparents. We had no idea his Great Great Grandfather had been in Antigua when we bought this house and made the decision to move our lives here, and why would we think there was any connection? To the best of John’s knowledge his ancestors had been miners and agricultural labourers who lived a hand-to-mouth existence.

My fascination with Samuel Bone has become an obsession. I have learned so much from aged, long forgotten historic records. Gradually I have built a picture of a man who left the sea when he married. Maybe his own lack of family led him to be a passionate family man who did not want his own children to suffer in the same way he did? I know that the picture atop of this page, of the elderly man and his wife is nothing more than a snapshot in time. I know it is easy to project when gazing at old photographs, but I see great kindness in Samuel’s eyes, and the manner in which Mary Ann is clasping her hands together positioned towards Samuel, implies a deep affection after all those years. I see strength and pride too. Goodness knows it cannot have been easy. John and I visited one of the cottages Samuel and Mary Ann lived in on Lindisfarne. I can only assume they all slept in shifts! How thirteen children and two adults lived in three small rooms is beyond imagining.

So if I am to look for love, meaning and purpose I do not look to The British Royal Family. Instead I look to people like The Bones. A couple who saw two of their children die in infancy, who saw two sons killed on the first day of The Battle of the Somme, who ensured all of their children could read and write at the very least.

Their history is not celebrated, their descendants are many; my amazing husband just one of hundreds alive today. All of this is because of that letter written by a shaking desperate hand from a workhouse in Cornwall in 1854.

 

 

*It’s scone to rhyme with gone, no debate. I’ll slap your face with jam if you question me, not nice jam either, but the shit apricot stuff that sits at the back of the cupboard. The insipid orange goop you bought in January because you promised yourself that in 2018 you would channel your inner Mary Berry and ice all of your own cakes and become a baking Goddess – it’s already May, it’s probably mouldy now.

To The Power Ten.

CocoBay

Cocobay Antigua W.I

Several years ago I was merrily doing my thing on a beach, enjoying alone time, just messing about in Antigua’s turquoise bejewelled sea when a voice from the ocean yelled, “Come play with us”. My British self thought, “Fuck you, you entitled pricks, I didn’t come with the ticket” but that soon melted when I saw the grinning faces from where that southern US drawl originated. A quiet afternoon on the beach was the start of my friendship with Jim and Tom – fellas, I have typed your names alphabetically, there’s no deeper meaning there.

A whole new world perspective opened up for me that afternoon on the beach and over three short days, which flew past in the blink of an eye, I discovered that in North Carolina there are two people who have hearts bigger than the universe and tongues so acidic that the late Joan Rivers could have been taught a thing or two. Through them I learned of their best friend Judy, who in turn became a long distance friend via Facebook. Jim, Judy and Tom are the very antithesis of everything Trump America stands for; they love without boundaries and shout out proudly against injustice, giving the voiceless a platform and through their various social working and counseling activities ensure their Christian beliefs are not just words muttered in church each Sunday but are a tenet by which they live their lives. Their patience and love is never more evident than when they tolerate my atheist ranting. Despite our differences we share a belief in three essential human truths:

  1. Social Justice for ALL.
  2. Laughter
  3. Bitching. Especially at guys in tiny-winies who really have no place to walk with a swagger – peanut, that’s all I’m saying.

Late last year Judy was diagnosed with cancer. She died yesterday. We’d had conversations on Facebook and naturally I sent the usual trite messages people tend to send others diagnosed with terminal illness. Nothing seems right but we feel the need to say something. Her last message to me was as follows:

 “You bet I will dearest girl. I am def surrounded by the best caregivers. My husband and sisters are incredible and want what I want. When this shit is over I’m coming to see you!!! ”

Cancer however had other ideas about us two meeting in person.

Some people are considerably more than mere flesh, blood and bone; they exude a muchness. Jim, Judy and Tom together were more than just three people they were humans to the power ten, a force. I am damn sure that energy will move on and grow through everyone touched by Judy’s passionate vitality. That to me is the real afterlife.

More power to sassy women and long may we reign. Sleep well lovely woman.

 

Edit: Something that sprung to mind. I find often that Yorkshire people have a way with words, this grand old chap certainly did.

http://english.emory.edu/classes/paintings&poems/auden.html

What’s Behind The Square Window?

Christmas

 

Most British children who were allowed to watch television from the 1960s onward will remember Play School. We had a selection of toys presented to us who could apparently speak through their human companions; Little Ted and Big Ted – who I’m sure were gay or maybe that’s just me. There was Jemima – a throw back hippy rag doll and her evil counterpart Hamble. I fucking hated Hamble. If Hamble were a person she’d have been that dodgy looking woman down the end of the street with 50 cats and a house that smells of ammonia, stale cabbage and burnt tapioca pudding. Finally we had Humpty, a rotund character. I’m not sure we’d be allowed Humpty as a toy today because the program makers could get accused of being fatist. It’s because of Play School that I developed an irrational fear of feet. Some middle aged woman presenter did a sketch on feet. Her feet were minging, I mean disgusting gnarly bunioned beasts. At least that’s how they looked to my 5 year old eyes. I’ve never really recovered and I’m wondering whom I could sue?

Everyday on Play School we were invited to look behind a window of the house and a story would emerge from the image that came slowly into focus.

Play School and its window stories are similar to living here in Jolly Harbour. Behind each of our condo doors lies a novella in itself. Dickens would have had a field day and if I had any sort of self discipline I should sit down and type a weekly saga of events. Scrooge was positively Mr Fezziwig compared to some of the miserable shites who live around here in the winter.*

Antigua is a rich vibrant explosion of colour and people. Jolly Harbour? Not so much at times. The comradery experienced during our hurricane season seems to have died a death. Our resident tourists have returned; old scores, petty resentments, bitching niggles and gripes resurface for their annual airing. It can be a dangerous place to live for the idle handed. It can be very easy to fall down that rabbit hole and never escape. I can now understand why some ex-pats throw themselves towards charitable deeds; it staves off the temptation to live on an existence of gossip and backstabbing. I’m not saying that Antiguans aren’t prone to a good old gossip. 10 minutes under the tamarind tree at our local beach will give you an intimate insight into those who are no better than they ought to be, but the ex-pats seem to take it to a whole new level. Some of the resentments people hold against each other can last 20 years or more, or so it seems and all because someone’s patio is one third of a tile bigger than they think it should be. A prime example is Brun-fucking-Hilda. Short version of who she is: A lady who unofficially looks after a few villas in our street for some elderly Swiss homeowners. She has zero social skills and she screams at contractors, tourists and other homeowners as if she owns the whole damn village. One of her particular pet hatreds, of which she has many, is people parking on the driveways of the empty villas. For 7 months of the year there are approximately 4 fully occupied houses in our cul-de-sac and the rest of the time we have renters drifting in and out. So naturally builders and contractors park in any available space. It’s not the crime of the fucking century. It’s not like the parked cars are permanent fixtures – unlike one homeowner who took it upon himself to build a doorway through to his neighbour’s balcony just because he felt like having an extension to his property – parking a car temporarily is not the same as commandeering someone’s balcony as their own. There again, if that’d been our house, and someone wanted to have through access to our balcony and bedroom I’m pretty certain that we’re both in agreement on this, John and I would just have taken to having sex on the balcony or making sure we did our anal ablutions in full view.  They’d brick up any doorway pretty damn quick, unless they’re a very special type of pervert of course. Anyway, Brun-fucking-Hilda decided she’d had enough of the riffraff on the unused drive so she annexed it off with another of our neighbour’s plants and tied together scratty pieces of string in order to establish border rights. NO ONE WAS FUCKING THERE! NO ONE HAD BEEN THERE FOR MONTHS! When confronted by us regarding her evil plan she waffled that she couldn’t understand English and scuttled off back to her home in the hills. We haven’t seen her since. The actual homeowners are lovely and on return were horrified to learn their home had been looked after by someone that clearly embraces psychopathic tendencies. Peace reigns supreme in our little corner of paradise. I can’t say the same for the rest of Jolly Harbour. The residents association is battling the same old battles but the long-term residents just plod on with life knowing that in 4 months time or less, everyone will pootle off home again.

Thankfully The Yuletide Spirit does indeed live amongst us yet. We had a group of Barbudan evacuees living down the street following the devastation on their island. When we asked one of the beautiful little girls how things looked after they’d been over for a weekend to assess the damage, she just in a matter-of-fact way pulled her tiny finger across her throat in a resigned gesture; all gone, nothing left of their beautiful family home. Later that day we saw Hayley and her friends again. Their energy and zest for life is infectious. They bounced down the street to fuss Holly and Fred. The girls found us hunting out our Christmas decorations and dived into the boxes and promptly decorated our house from top to bottom. We had no tree at this point and we told the girls we’d be back in a few hours with a tree. Much excitement greeted the tree. Once again they set about adorning our plastic symbol of winter evergreen beautifully. We were taught a Calypso Christmas Song and our tiny home was ringing with laughter, noise and joy. John was forced to learn to play ‘How Will Santa Get Here’ on his guitar. The fact he couldn’t play  it perfectly within 5 minutes caused hysterics amongst the girls. Eventually we were all jumping around the house singing.

Our home calmed down to a dull roar and Hayley asked where are our presents? I told her that we don’t buy presents for each other anymore as we have everything we want and need in life. The girls were not happy about this at all and I was chupsed severely. They left our house deep in discussion. About half an hour later they returned with tiny gift-wrapped packages. They placed these parcels solemnly around the tree and called John in from outside where he was fixing something on Mahalo. He was instructed to open these shiny packages. In each gift was a small toy, a bangle, some crayons. Each girl had taken one of their last remaining precious possessions and wrapped them carefully for their neighbour because they were sad that he wasn’t going to be visited by Santa.

 That my friends, is Christmas.

 Have a good one, however you choose to celebrate.

 *If you haven’t read any Dickens you must do so, immediately. Put him on your bucket list and if you don’t at least try, fuck off you miserable fucker (all those literature/ language lectures and seminars were not wasted on me, oh no!)

……….Feeling a Bit Tallis.

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There are some weeks where the only solution to the shit with which you have been surrounded is to have a good wank. Seriously. Just find a space and masturbate the living sigh/scream/clench out of yourself.

I can’t sit here and type that my life is tortured, because it isn’t. I live a life of absolute wonder, joy and contentment and I will not make any more apologies for this.

Right now the big exhale has begun in this tiny corner of the planet. Hurricane season has passed for another year and those of us who escaped the fury can sit and be grateful for the peace. I cannot comment on those who are suffering still; this was not my experience of 2017. I would like to think that those I have met, who have had to rebuild their lives, have encountered, at least through John and I, compassion, empathy and stillness in which to regroup. Yeh yeh, that’s a bit proper hippy dippy but you know what? Fuck off. Space, silence and the warm stillness of stroking a dog can help some people. I’d like to think that our little space here on the rock in the middle of nowhere has in some way helped those we met, to begin the painful process of moving on. Moving on can be wrenching; I know it is. In moving on we often have to fasten down the screws of the coffin, a coffin which may contain hopes and dreams.  We carry our past with us, yes, and our history shapes our present but the process of moving forward can be painful and some traumas are too burdensome to bear all of the time.  ‘Nuff of the navel staring bollocks.

So where am I right now? It’s been a while since I could be bothered to update this journal. It’s a very self-indulgent act, having a personal writing blog. I have been so far up my own arse that putting words to how I feel would make a mountain vomit, but thankfully I’ve had a few glasses of wine and I feel relaxed enough to splurge out a few paragraphs. Of course listening to the late GREAT Lord George Michael of The Shuttlecock helps too.

So, to summarise. We had few wee storms pass; Mahalo survived, dogs are fine, John’s arse still hasn’t sagged and Antigua remains.

The resident tourists are dribbling back. They bring with them their sense of entitlement – of course. Example? Apparently it’s disgusting that batteries are being stolen out of golf carts; golf carts are the vehicle of choice around this little community and it seems their batteries are a currency here on island. My reaction? Take the fucking things out of your carts on a night then you dozy tossers! If you choose to tax reside in a country where the minimum wage is less than a loaf of bread, don’t be surprised if opportunists take what isn’t bolted down. Fuckwits! Yeh, ‘k stealing isn’t cool. Blah! Of course it isn’t but you know what? People with nothing to lose will take what they need to survive. Just because you’ve a house in a gated community, that doesn’t protect you. Take a long hard look at the reality vaccuum in which you’ve decided to be tax exempt and wonder why it’s so cheap.

So the old year rumbles on towards the new. What will change? I’d like to think we learn from history.

As Sir Terry Pratchett said, ““If you do not know where you come from, then you don’t know where you are, and if you don’t know where you are, then you don’t know where you’re going. And if you don’t know where you’re going, you’re probably going wrong.”

I think I’m still going wrong, but we’ll see. Every now and then I feel the need to hit that Big Red self destruct button. That’s probably a human thing. At least I have John; he keeps my self-restraint boxing gloves tied firmly in place.

Our Airbnb is drawing to an end too. John and I have begun a new venture – of which I will write later. I am so grateful to the incredible humans who have passed though our house this last year.

We have had in excess of 20 bookings since January and so many people have been much more than paying guests.

We lost, and I say lost because that’s how it felt when they left – Carmen and Tobias. Two incredibly vibrant world travellers. They breezed into our lives for a three night booking and stayed for three weeks whilst they bought a new boat. Fred fell in love, Holly fell in ambivalence – as is her way. We learned how to live without meat in our diet as Carmen is a die-hard veggie person* This old soul felt energised just having them around; it reminded me to look at each day with new eyes, not jaded ones.

Short and sweet I know but I’ve just been distracted by The Tallis Scholars on YouTube and I need another glass of cheap plonk.

I do so hope that normal service will resume soon**

*Ask Tobias about the night he was hovering around the sweet and sour chicken left overs.

**Don’t worry, I’ve a beady eye on the big old sack of shit.

 

The Year Where Nothing Happened.

Jose Prep

(A little bit of hurricane preparation after Irma but before Jose)

 

We’ve pretty much settled in to life here in Antigua. The dogs are resigned to being sweating bags of hair. Holly has found her inner tree sloth; she’s constantly damp, stinky and I swear she has green slime growing in there somewhere. Fred’s mood swings rival my menopausal outbursts and his list of enemies grows daily; mongoose, rope, vacuum cleaner, the mosquito fogging machine, his own reflection, his farts and of course hurricanes. I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t call a hurricane a mortal enemy. Just days before we celebrated our first full year of ‘living the dream’ we witnessed the birth of several hurricanes out in The Atlantic Ocean. Irma skimmed us, Jose dodged us but we took a little more of a pummelling from Maria. By pure chance we were spared the full fury of all three. I cannot say the same for our sister island Barbuda and our other Caribbean neighbours. The list of causalities across this tiny region feels incomprehensible. The weeks following the weather onslaught have brought reports and photographs detailing loss, total devastation, acts of selfless heroism, and the utter realisation that there by the pure luck of wind direction that could have been us. I have been trying to find some whimsy, some acerbic observation about recent weeks. I have nothing, zilch, I just can’t find a funny in weather systems that have wiped out homes, destroyed livelihoods, changed landscapes beyond all recognition and more over killed dozens of humans and countless numbers of animals. We have met several evacuees from our neighbouring islands and these people have the same look, numbness, a blank stare as though they are working on auto-pilot or waiting for the dream state to end and they can wake up to normality tomorrow. I know how resilient humans who live out here can be and I have no doubt people will rebuild lives and businesses, but for now, it’s all pretty raw.

Describing our experience to family and friends who were not in Antigua at the time has been difficult because nothing happened. It got windy; we had a lot of rain. The storms passed. We got some seaweed and other detritus washed up on the beaches, power took a while to be restored on parts of the island and the supermarket ran out of chicken. The most challenging aspect was bagging dog shit in storm force winds, but I am a seasoned northerner; picking up dog shit in sixty mile an hour winds is nothing, in fact that’s standard practice when hiking along Hadrian’s Wall in the summer.  At least I wasn’t wearing thermal gloves  I am not being flippant; this was our reality here in Antigua. Within days of Hurricane Maria passing us, we had the sails back on the boat and we were ready to head out for a test sail.

I suppose it must be scarier for people who aren’t here, who are glued to weather reporting websites who can only see radar pictures– which by the way are grotesquely beautiful; a hypnotic spiralling cyclone has an unparalleled magnificence. The complete obliteration in the wake of Irma and Maria has no beauty and certainly has no apparent logic. It is part of the human condition following a catastrophe to try and make some sense of the whole event, to look for reasons, patterns, to learn lessons. Nature holds very little reason quite often and the weather just says ‘FUCK YOU MWA HAA HAAAA’. We – I say we, I mean the clever bods who are far better at sciency stuff than I’ll ever be – can analyse past events and predict future possibilities. This to me is fascinating and I hope to understand some of the sciency shit behind weather patterns if I can engage my mathematical, analytical brain. I had written a big atheist rant after this paragraph but I just can’t bring myself to go preachy at the moment If the comfort blanket of religion brings reason to unreasonable heart breaking events right now, go for it, fill your boots, have a ball, pray your frigging socks off.  I will stand and listen to anyone’s pain right now and if their self medication of choice is a God, so be it. Fear not, I am not being converted, to quote the late Sir Terry Pratchett, “There is a rumour going around that I have found God. I think this is unlikely because I have enough difficulty finding my keys, and there is empirical evidence that they exist.”

On a really positive note, we received many messages asking how we are from far and wide; family of course, well some family anyway, friends from across the globe, ex-house guests, a wonderfully sweet young person we met at an Anoushka Shankar gig at WOMAD, even a couple we’d spoken to briefly on the beach who remembered we had an Airbnb room sent a message via the website on the off chance they’d messaged the right people – there are probably fellow Airbnbers who got the same message and are baffled as to why? It is very comforting to know that there are humans out there who worry about others’ welfare – especially in a Trump/May era where it’s every fucker for themselves. If I could harness that warm feeling of concerned outpouring we received post-triple whammy hurricane fortnight, distill it, bottle it and distribute it freely I’m sure my hippy heart would be restored. Notice I said we received messages? That was deliberate; I could have said people reached out to us, I fucking hate that expression ‘reaching out’. People do not reach out, they speak to, they contact, they telephone, they email, and they correspond with. Neil Diamond reached out, The Four Fucking Tops reached out, I reach out to grab Fred when he tries to do a runner, but people when they want to speak to someone do not sodding well reach out.

So yeh, not much happened in the last year really. I’m still mouthy and opinionated, Holly is and always will be a cute stinking pile of stupid, Fred’s neurosis are a mass of evolving demons and John remains calm in the face of life’s challenges and keeps my hand away from the self destruct button.

 

hurricane-dogs.jpg

Hurricane? What Hurricane?

 

Fuck Off and Fuck Off Some More – or There’s a Storm A-Coming.

Uhoh

It’s hurricane season. This means different things to different people. To those who spend just five or six months a year here in Antigua it means very little because they’ve all jetted off back to wherever is home for the rest of the year. To the people who are here all year round it means it’s time to start watching the weather forecasts, but for those who have boats still in the water it’s time to panic like fuck and run around in the style of Chicken Licken. Some folks head south out of the path hurricanes generally take, some try and get into a boatlift and some, like us, leave the starting blocks like Usain Bolt when the wind so much as hints at a sniff above a zephyr to check moorings.

 I guess the quiet time and hurricane season can unsettle people living on this tiny rock. I can only assume it rattles certain chemical balances in peoples’ brains given the complete and utter codswallop that appears in my social media timeline right now. Here’s a little rant on that very theme.

It’s a strange unfathomable thing. Why would anyone move to a country in The Caribbean and start promoting a racist agenda? I appreciate some of my acquaintances may well be the full tin foil helmet but that’s not really an excuse or justification to be an out and out racist shit bag. How can people live with, work with and have family members who are married to Black Antiguans go around supporting some bullshit racist agenda that white people are being systematically wiped out by a global conspiracy to get rid of white people. I’ve news for those of you who support white supremacy. White isn’t all that, and guess what? We are outnumbered anyway, get over it. Where’s this rage coming from? It’s all because of some dumb troll on Facebook. I suggested to an online acquaintance that she might like to fact check her sources – she posted a comment regarding white Europeans being wiped out by strategic migration by peoples from The Middle East and elsewhere. Seriously? Really? Fucking hell! I politely responded that she might like to check her sources, you know just in case she was a click bait victim and nudge her away from sharing white supremacy crap – I do the same to people who like sharing brain-fart posts from Britain First et al (I’ve not posted a link to BF because they have the intelligence of a used condom, they are spunk-trumpets of the first order and even typing their name renders me nauseous). Then, whoopee, joy of joys, someone commented that said acquaintance was making a valid point and she proceeded to kindly show me a link to ‘facts’ supporting the theory. These facts were found in yet another white supremacist website, in fact after a good hour of searching online, all hits to this so called theory lead to guess what? More right wing racist agenda spouting bollocks. I replied to the troll, I know, big mistake but I did anyway. I said that I don’t care about the migration of humans because all humans have migrated in some way, whether through choice or displacement to which I was given another website to ‘fact check’. I ended my dialogue with the troll by saying, “Not interested, not engaging further”. She fired back with, “Where are you from”. Now there’s a loaded question, simply packed full of nasty intent. Thankfully I’ve had no more correspondence with that “Where are you from?” person and the tin foil helmet wearer is deleted. I should be more careful who I add in social media, some of the nicest people I’ve met in person support some of the weirdest shit online. It’s a sad thing though; the aluminum-wearing weirdo is probably a really nice person but shit, she’s gullible to click baiting and appears to enjoy the company of closet racists.

 I seem to spend a lot of time getting angry at little things at the moment, although racism is not a trifling matter. I suppose in busier times I’d scroll on past and think, “fucking moron” and pass no comment, but because it’s quiet here in Antigua I have a lot of free time and idle fingers find a fight. *Note to self, Trish you’re not insane, you’re passionate*

Maybe my rage-o-meter is set to extremely volatile at the moment – no, not because I’m menopausal, which I am, that’s a pure joy-ride it really is and I will bore the tits/moobs off you at a later date with that. – no, I’m set to explode on a weekly basis because I’ve been watching the TV adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’. I will not give a literary critique of the book – cop out I know, but you know what, this is my blog so fuck off. What I will say is read it, seriously read the book and as a little note to anyone who reads it and is in politics? It’s a warning, a cautionary tale it’s not a fucking woman hating wank fest manifesto to deplete women’s rights even further.

Think I’ll go for a swim now, I’ve raged on long enough and even Holly and Fred are looking a little worried that I might spontaneously combust.