As a snotty faced, stroppy child growing up in a Yorkshire village in the 1970s watching the amazing coloured flags of the Olympic countries parading by courtesy of The BBC, I never once thought that I’d be sitting on a white sandy beach in one of those countries.
Yes, we had colour telly, we were posh, or at least the Grandmother liked to give off the air that we were posh. We were far from it, the very best I can say about her is that she was a pretentious dragon with all the compassion and emotional depth of a plank. I’m confident that my Grandfather would have got time off for good behavior if he’d buried her under the potting shed. Hell, I’d have dug the sodding grave!
Anyway, I’m back on the island of Antigua after spending three months being a whiney, complaining, spoiled little brat back in the UK. Today I was sitting looking out at the storm clouds over Montserrat performing their astonishing aerial displays and I had a teary moment of realisation of where I am on the planet right now. How the hell did I get here from a council house in Yorkshire? Flippantly I tell people, well it was pretty simple, I married well, twice. I didn’t marry well twice, I married well once, to the ever patient John. The first marriage wasn’t really a choice it was more a sort of resigned mutual agreement. We’d gone as far as having children together and his Mega-Christian Mother was so horrified that we were duh duh duuuuuuh living in sin that she enticed us into marriage with the promise of helping us buy a house. As a mercenary twenty year old, who was I to say no? Here was a chance to have some stability and I was not about to bite that cash cow on the arse. I tried really hard to be the good wife and mother, but conventionality did not sit well on my electric blue hair tousled shoulders. Step-ford wife I was not, and making trite and artificial conversation with my exe’s co-workers was not a role I could play. At one Christmas event I was last seen under a table trying to look up some bloke’s kilt, then staggering up stairs to our hotel room and promptly vomiting in a plant pot. The marriage was doomed. He wanted a little wifey he could control and roll out at events; I wanted passion, spontaneity and space to be myself. To put it simply and saving any hurt feelings, we parted ways. What I will say is that whether you’re the dumper or the dumpee, parting is never painless. I did however give back my half of the financial wedding present when we sold the house. Whilst I may have been a less than faithful wife, I felt I owed his family that at least. Yeh, I know pretty sober stuff, not the usual jolly japes you’d expect from me, but I sense that I owe my ex some respect. Neither of us behaved perfectly during that phase of our lives and I’m sure there are still emotional scars on both of us. That chapter ended.
John came into my life (Ok, revelation time, shock horror, there was an overlap between husband number one and John, deal with it, humans aren’t perfect and sometimes we make antisocial choices, but nineteen years on, it seems to be working pretty well so blergh!)
On the surface we are possibly a rather tragic stereotype. We have a sixteen year age gap, he ran his own business, I was a single mother working part time in child care, oh yes here she is, little Miss Gold-digger. Yeh, except he was broke and at the time he left his first wife his worldly possessions were the contents of five black bin-bags, a Ford Mondeo and more emotional baggage than it should be possible for one person to carry. Welcome to paradise Trish, I’d struck a prize seam of gold right there! So how did I know he was ‘The One’? Easily, my German Shepherd Bitch, Poppy, didn’t try and kill him when they first met. That was the seal of approval. Oh and the fact he had and still has the ability to lick his eyebrows and breath through his ears.
We struggled through a few years with the usual issues of the blended family.At times it wasn’t pretty and I’m ashamed to say that I broke and on a couple of occasions I left. I think both of us were pretty naïve to think that love would conquer all. Love doesn’t pay the bills, love doesn’t negotiate with bailiffs, love doesn’t deal with control freak exes and it certainly doesn’t stop teenagers from being complete and utter nightmares. We survived. It was sheer bloody mindedness that kept us together at times and John’s pragmatic personality, which is the perfect compliment to my emotionally unstable outbursts. I think in a former life I may have been a vicious screaming Queen, or maybe I’m just my Father’s daughter but that revelation is for another day.
Naturally we did the usual family holidays amongst all of this chaos and after years of camping holidays followed by package tours to Spain and Greece we were free from children. We offered the youngest daughter the opportunity to spend a few weeks travelling in the Canadian wilderness to which she announced she wouldn’t be coming as that length of time away from her friends in the summer holidays would be social suicide. The following year we decided on a beach holiday and found ourselves in Antigua and fell in love instantly. The moment we stepped off the plane we were hit with the rich intoxicating perfume of tropical flowers. This was the reset button we both needed. Now I’m not a big fan of the all-inclusive experience. Playing dodge The Daily Mail reader at dinner is not my favourite past time. Not making eye contact with Mr and Mrs “We normally cruise you know” becomes somewhat tedious. Although I like playing with them, especially when they can’t quite get a handle on John and I, and what sort of contrary Mary would I be if I didn’t play with them a little. There are people sitting back at home now thinking they met two people actually called Morticia and Gomez. I could have been much more cruel,within the village we live in the UK there are people who aren’t quite sure whether I’m a call girl or not and whether John really is a porn star. If they’re going to gossip, give the fuckers something to chew on.
We decided on a second visit to Antigua, this time in a villa. This saw John and I come to the spontaneous decision to buy a house here, which we did. What’s life all about if you can’t do something for shits and giggles from time to time? We’d worked hard, had some lucky breaks, if you call John having a heart attack a lucky break and his critical injury insurance paying out a nice wad of cash. So rather than allowing this wad to be frittered away on fripperies we went all grown up and bought property.
And that is how I get to sit on a white sandy beach for several months of the year watching a turquoise sea lapping at my toes whilst over the water there’s an actual volcanic island. The ‘”Yo Yo Yo” jet ski boys are trying to attract the attention of the freshly arrived white skinned wanderers on the beach and the little beach restaurant is sending delicious wafts of barbequed food on the breeze. This lone island sitting perilously at the mercies of nature in the tempestuous Atlantic Ocean may not be paradise for all who live here, but here, right now, it’s paradise to me.