(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? What Hurricane?