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.

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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.

 

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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.

The Fred, The Mongoose and The No-Fish

Freddyboo

My Fred is not a ‘thick bastard’ as John describes him. Ok so he walked into a rock because he was staring at a mongoose. That doesn’t make him stupid that makes him very sensible because those mongooses are shifty little beasts. I stand with Fred on that one. Mongoose have a look in their eyes similar to the look I see in the face of a Jehovah’s Witness heading towards me with a copy of ‘Watchtower’. In my opinion Fred is far from stupid, he’s an example of Darwin’s theory; he has adapted to his environment and survived. Fred may be timid when it comes to mongoose, boat lines, bangy-bats and his own shadow, but I think this is a genetic timidity, one which I’ve observed in a lot of the Antiguan dogs. Fred is still the most kind, gentle and loving little dog we’ve ever had in our family. It’s almost a shame that we cut his balls off so he can’t pass on those street smarts to the next generation, but Antigua has enough problems with strays without my Freddy’s genes out there too. John did not get a verbal blasting for slating the lovely Fred because I am a reasonably tolerant person. I do shriek like a banshee when someone comes steaming through the harbour at over five knots because that sends Mahalo bucking around on her mooring lines like a donkey with a chilli up its arse but I’ve never killed anyone because of it. In fact I’ve never knowingly killed anyone. There are a couple of males in Yorkshire who carry the psychological and physical scars from having a broken nose. In my defence one twanged my bra strap when I was twelve and he got both barrels of my fury – yeh yeh I know, me in a bra at twelve. I think I had the theory that if you build the scaffolding around them, they will come. I’m still waiting. Still, at least I won’t get chaffing on my shins from my nipples when I’m seventy. Oh, and the other guy who got a broken nose called me a prick-tease. Of all the names I could be called that one is not remotely apt.  Anyone who has known me over the years knows for a fact that if I said I was going to fuck someone, I did*. Bloody male entitlement, grumble grumble he was lucky to walk away with his gonads still attached.

 

My tolerance is tested differently now. Since throwing open the doors of our small home to guests through Airbnb we’ve met great people – I touched briefly on this in a previous blog. For John, the suggestion to run our house as a part-time small business was not an easy sell but once the accounts showed that ten days of bookings pays for a whole month’s community charge and utilities he was swayed to my way of thinking. The only inconvenience we could envisage was that John wouldn’t be able to walk around the house with his love tackle hanging out once it got to rum o’clock and his one man Pink Floyd axe solos would need to be turned down a little – I don’t mind the mad axe solos, it’s the one hundredth attempt at that ONE phrase in ‘Purple Haze’ that he just can’t get which is slowly murdering my love for Hendrix. So in rolled the guests. Some required a little more work than others. We met the incredibly adventurous Holly-human, Simon-human, Daisy-baby (I’m assured Daisy is human just in miniature form but its such a long time since I’ve been around babies that I had to be reminded) and Scrump-dog. This vibrant family unit are sailing their way around the world and they have been drifting in and out of our lives for the last few months, now they’re finally on the next stage of their voyage. We’ve had vacationers from Harlem, Chelsea and her partner Taj – wide eyed energetic young people who I am absolutely sure will make a difference to this planet. We met with Hary from Berlin, a first time sailor who kept coming back to walk the dogs even after he’d left to join his boat! We had Billy from Virginia who works as a journalist in Canada. We spent too many nights sitting up talking with Billy. We didn’t quite put the world to rights but we did wonders for the distillery’s profits here on the island. We had part of The Barmy Army pass through in a frenzy of perfume and tutu skirts. Kosta from Vancouver who was a real dark horse, that’s not true, Kosta is far from dark as his feet paid testament to when they got sautéed the first day he was here. Kosta is originally from Russia but moved to Canada for a new life, he decided to learn how to sail and now he competes on serious big-girl&boy racing yachts, Awe inspiring in the truest sense of the phrase. Many of our guests were absorbed into our un-scheduled life and we hope that no one has required therapy once they have returned home. So tolerance? Why? Well there’s always a real chance when you throw open the doors to your own home that you’ll get a real bunny-boiling psycho-troll rolling through the door. We’ve been reasonably lucky on that score, we’ve never actually told anyone to fuck off, yet. No the risk is that someone will show up with political and religious views that are polar opposite to our own. We thought we’d got away with it, until last week. We took an out of season booking – two people from Louisiana – last minute through some friends of ours. I had to set aside my own prejudice and allow them in with a completely open mind. My prejudice – the same as all prejudices – stemmed from ignorance. My only experience of people from Louisiana and the deep south of The USA to this point in life has been Fox News, commercials for NASCAR, ‘Deliverance’ and the Donald Trump supporters that online news outlets vomit at me via the Internet. For the first few nights we were able to stay clear of politics, religion and The Confederate history of The USofA. We enlisted midweek back up by way of inviting some friends over for a dinner party. It was touch and go for a while when the subject of Vietnam came up but me being the awesome host that I am, I timed my cheesecake entrance to perfection. We dodged controversial bullets incredibly well. I nearly took a few rounds when I suggested that health care free at the point of delivery works well in The UK, I got a full frontal assault of eye-daggers that said, “Why don’t you just invite the Commies to come over to eat our first born?” The final night arrived and I was feeling thoroughly smug, I’d begun to think that I’d grown as a person – in the past I’d have poked angry people just to watch them turn purple and foam at the mouth in illogical rage. And then it happened John went and asked the big no-no, the one thing you never ask anyone who has been dropping hints all week that their faith drives them and their church is clearly a huge comfort and focus in their lives back in The USA. John asked our guests WHY they believe in God. I headed for the sink to wash up and afterwards grabbed a large rum and coke and tried to go fetal in the corner of the sofa. I think the debate rumbled on for three hours. I do know at one point I muttered that I simply don’t care and if there is a God why’s s/he not doing something about all the shit in the world right now. That was ignored, so I put some Peter Gabriel music on as a distraction and threw some more rum down the hatch. My choice of satanic music had a Noriega effect on them and they retired to bed. We parted on good terms the following morning, so much so that they left a John a gift. John is now the proud owner of a Kindle Fire with a whole host of books installed which ‘prove’ scientifically why creation is true, not just true because our guests choose to believe its true and that makes more sense to me, I’ll accept that explanation one hundred percent, if faith gives them joy and meaning to their life I would never be the person to tell them they’re wrong, but when someone says they have mathematical, empirical data which proves once and for all that some big assed hairy bloke in the sky did it all, forgive me if I raise an eyebrow of extreme skepticism. I look forward to John’s assessment of these great works of science. Thankfully I won’t be here when he’s reading his way through all this evidence because I’ll be taking a short holiday in The UK. The UK no longer feels like home, it’s now a place I see on TV – sadly too often for the wrong reasons recently – it feels remote. It’s a place I visit to see friends and family. I know I’m not Antiguan either, I have no right to claim that title right now, if ever. I suppose that makes me a Trish, a more tolerant Trish. I’ve even stopped screaming at the fishing rod when once again we return home from sailing with no fish. I’ll claim tolerance**, it might not be a nationality but I sure as shit believe it should be an ideology, and that can never be a bad thing.

 

*Mr Trish is the only recipient these days.

**Tolerance is not the same as apathy, I will never be apathetic. My blood is too hot to allow apathy to slime it’s treacherous tendrils around my soul. 

Dr Who and Peanut Butter

Sunrise

It may seem that I whinge and whine a lot about things in general. I’d hate for anyone reading my random ranting to feel that I am permanently angry/passionate about something or other. I don’t spend my life screaming at the television or slamming my laptop lid in rage just because of a Jollywood comment on Facebook; yes there really is a Facebook page called Jollywood. It’s written by and for the residents of Jolly Harbour here in our little bubble within a bubble on Antigua – you’ve got to be careful with bubbles within bubbles, too many damn bubbles and you suffocate.

I assume the term ‘Jollywood’ has been created with a certain amount of irony because there is nothing remarkable about our little community and those of us who live here certainly have no cause to believe we’re anything special in this world. There is no sparkle, glamour or glitz – despite the best efforts of some people who think they’re living in the 1970s and regularly turn up to the casual beach bar in ensembles reminiscent of The Working Man’s Clubs of yesteryear. Think Abigail’s Party and you won’t be far off the mark. The first time someone requests Demis Roussos at any one of the seemingly endless Karaoke nights within our villa’s earshot and I’m going to piss myself so Tena pads at the ready.

 It’s been nine months since we upped sticks, packed our lives into eight suitcases and two dog boxes – along with forty boxes of sea freight which took forever to arrive and when they did, we realised that we don’t need most of the crap we packed. I think nine months is enough time to have a tiny period of reflection.How do I feel sitting out here on this little rock now it’s more than just a holiday? It feels liberating. It’s hard to explain but I’ll try.

 1. Dog walking.

 I spent years walking, trudging and splodging around over and at times under the Great British countryside with the dogs through four seasons in one day. Here? I get to swim in milky turquoise water most mornings. Water which has the temperature of bath water – except for a few months earlier in the year when I walked into the water screamed, “Shit that’s Baltic and ran back out again” to have John stare at me like I’d finally fallen off the cliff into a chasm of pure insanity. It wasn’t Baltic and I may have been labouring the point a little by coming home, putting on socks and insisting on a hot chocolate. The air temperature had dipped below twenty-five degrees centigrade. Yeh I know, get over it Trish. I love and look forward to walking Holly and Fred now and each morning brings new joys. Will the rays be jumping this morning? Will I see dolphin and their young feeding just offshore? Will I find a jewel like conch shell in the sand? Those are the mornings I stand and breath and feel the warm trade winds on my skin and if it rains? It’s warm rain and the walk home is fragranced by all the beautiful blooms lining our street, blooms which throw off their perfumes after each rainfall. That is a simple joy.

 2. Dr Who, Star Trek and Sherlock Holmes.

 On the days we get the rain, and believe me this island lives and dies by rain. We have no permanent fresh water supply so Antigua relies on collecting rainfall and water production by reverse osmosis plants. I’ve been told that the plants rely on good sea conditions as heavy seas drag in all sorts of debris which blocks up filters and intake pipes so there can be no fresh water production. So when we do get rain it’s a real celebration, it means filled water tanks, crops stand a chance of growing and livestock get fresh scrub to eat. In short the island bursts into life. There’s not much to do when it rains. John’s discovered the joy of metal sculpture and I crack on with my latest tapestry, all this to the background of whatever our limited cable TV can throw at us. We get BBC America, woo-hoo. Not very exciting I know but it is to me because most days there is a constant stream of Dr Who, Star Trek and Sherlock Holmes. I can indulge my nerdy self in pure unadulterated geek porn. The simple peace on those sort of days is hard to describe. I suppose it’s like being swaddled in a cocoon of contentment whilst eating peanut butter on hot toast, where nothing else exists beyond the sound of rain and Jean-Luc Picard commanding, “Make it so Number One”. Even the barrage of adverts trying to sell me crap I don’t need with money I don’t have can be ignored.

3. Simplicity 

Let’s get the elephant out of the room before I start on about simplicity. Yes I know it took that thing called money and privilege to be able to live here. Understood, accepted now fuck off before you lecture me.

So I live here, got here through means I’ve mentioned in other posts. Life is actually pretty simple. For example, I’m wearing an old well-worn cotton floaty dress thing and swimming costume that has seen better days. Most days I wear a pretty much the same sort of ensemble, unless we’re off sailing and the floaty dress thing is ditched in favour of something with less fabric. I’ve drawer loads of clothes unworn and composting gently in cupboards unopened for weeks. John’s the same. Shopping isn’t a past time here not only because there are NO vast shopping hellholes but also because it’s just not important. Anything you do wear will be bleached by the UV and designer labels will be rotted down to sawdust by the sea air in the same time as a cheap cotton top. Life has simplicity when you don’t care about clothes, shopping and stuff, crappy pointless stuff, stuff that doesn’t really do anything – like a spiralizer, why the living fuck did someone invent a spiralizer? I got a free one once and to this day I don’t know what it really does. It mangled up a couple of carrots so I thought it might be a new sort of sex toy but given the blade in it I figured even the most ardent fetishist might wince at that. I can happily live without carrot mangling vibrators thank you very much.

4. People 

Humans are an amazing species. People are capable of love, generosity, invention and laughter. I wish I could bottle the essence of some of the humans I’ve met here. I’ve sat and shared hours with adventurers, philosophers, farmers and fishermen as well as travellers passing through Antigua and so many other varieties of person with realities so very different from my own. Humans never cease to amaze me. Sure there are some right royal pains in the arse but they’re fleeting and crossing their paths is a blinding flash of slight annoyance. There’s a woman, Claudine, she sits under a tamarind tree day after day selling trinkets and clothing to tourists, she is a huge gossip and if it’s happened in Antigua she’ll know about it, this woman has a smile for everyone, even the most racist of tourists who pass her by who at best ignore her and at worst look at her like she’s crawled from beneath their thousand dollar sandals. Her strength to get up and work that beach day after day to bring home food to her family – who all work to do the same – is incredible. I sure as hell couldn’t paint on that smile every single day, mainly because I was born with a face that can’t hide disgust or ambivalence. Some call it ‘resting bitch face’ I call it ‘fuck off now before I go Sparta on you’ face. When I’m quiet, be afraid, be very very afraid. When my lips are moving my brain isn’t working, when my lips aren’t moving my brain has already pictured you in a shallow grave.  Yeh, I’m still working on that long lasting inner peace thing but I’m getting there. Anyway, Claudine is one of thousands of people in Antigua who do the same job day after day and still manage to smile. We have another friend, Kevin, he goes out every morning with his fishing net to catch sprat or he goes diving for octopus, lobster or conch for his breakfast and we have sat for hours just talking about nothing and everything. Of course I can’t forget Vincia, she is an inspiration to hard working mothers everywhere. Her three boys are incredible young men and no matter how busy her day has been she has a smile on her face. Not only is she generous of heart, for example if her tree has only two ripe pomegranate, then I know we will be given the other. It is a true joy to know such amazing people here.

 I know I’m writing off my usual style but I don’t want anyone who reads this blog to think I spend each day looking for the terrible in life. I don’t and I guess now that the tourist high season is over we should have no more Airbnb guests so we’ll have more chance to reconnect with our friends here, and to sail of course, more sailing is definitely needed because I am determined to get out there more often now that my guts don’t form an escape committee every time we leave the slip.

For Fuck’s Sake, Put That Thing Away.

we-be-pirates(Picture by Karen van Rensburg)

We’ve got a boat, a yacht, a saily thing, and a bloody huge massive responsibility. Her name is Mahalo which means thank you in Hawaiian, which is fitting because all I’ve been saying to people all week is thank you. To say I’m bricking myself is an understatement. I know the pointy end from the flat end just about and I know the flappy bits are sails. As far as all the other terminology goes, it could be Martian. I nearly punched John when he said we were going to spend the day checking for seacocks, I thought he was taking the piss. I envisioned him standing stark bollock naked in a cabin and asking me to come look for a seacock, but no, apparently that’s a real thing. Somewhat like ‘The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy’ where all ‘hoopy froods’ know where their towel is, all good sailors know where their seacocks are and most importantly there needs to be a bung too. I might be laying my ignorance on with a trowel here but I really cannot stress enough how sodding scary it is to know that each time we go sailing out into the blue, the only thing keeping us alive is the protective embrace of Mahalo and until yesterday my only experience of anything boatish had been three ferry trips (where I threw up my intestines), a narrow boat holiday, a few days out with friends on their motorboats (I threw up the remainder of my intestines and quite possibly some lung too), floating on an airbed and I once owned a rowing machine. How Holly and Fred are going to adapt to the life of salty sea dogs I have no idea. I envisage all three of us up at the pointy end vomiting and howling in self-pity. John on the other hand is as happy as a wank addict in a sex shop and I’m just going to have to trust Pirate Captain John for my education on all things yachting.

 It may seem that I have sex on the brain because of all this talk of seacocks and sex shops* but it is in fact quite the opposite. It’s high season here on Antigua; we get cruise ships docking in St John’s daily, sometimes up to four of them. Each ship is a floating multinational city full of eager travellers all busting to find a beach, strip off and feel the sugar sand between their socks and sandals, known to me as The SAS Brigade. The SAS I can deal with, they walk up and down the beach covered from head to toe in Marks and Spencer’s finest cruising clothes collection, sunhat, black out shades and enough sunscreen to prevent even one ounce of vitamin D getting through to their skin. No, those gentle skin cancer conscious folks are not the issue; it’s the other sort, the ‘I’m going to drop my shorts and push my dangly old cock in your face’ types to whom I object. There’s nothing like the sight of a big hairy pair of bollocks or a Granny fanny being thrust in your face on a beach to put you right off sex for a while. I’m all for freeing the nipple; tits, boobies, gazongas, jubly bags of fun, whatever you want to call them are not a sexual organ but a flaccid cock (or not so flaccid on one occasion) is quite a violation especially on a public, non-nudist beach. There’s nothing stopping cruise travellers or anyone else for that matter, undressing and changing into swimming clothes discreetly. Hell’s teeth, John is a very body confident man but even he draws the line at waving his tackle around in public, we can exclude the naked Wii-fit hoola-hooping incident one Sunday morning in our living room, at least that was in the privacy of our own home and I did have net curtains at the time. So that’s a little plea from me, and I am so non-prudish, please please if you’re going to strip off on a non-nudist beach don’t be foisting your flaps, scrotum or foreskin at poor unsuspecting beach bums. I nearly dropped the book I was reading and there’s no telling what sort of  incident that could have caused**.

 Back to Mahalo and away from genitals. She’s a lovely yacht. She’s a 1986 Wauquiez Centurion; 40 foot of beautifully nurtured vessel. I may be ignorant of all things floating but even an uneducated eye can see she has stunning lines. I’m not ashamed to admit I slept on board last night even though she was tied up to our dock. Every creak and groan in the unusually high winds could not stop her from lulling me into one of the best night’s sleep I’ve had in a long time. I don’t know if yachts absorb energy? Maybe that’s too hippy-dippy even for me, but the sense of love and care Mahalo has experienced radiates out of every inch of her gleaming teak interior. Thank you Delwyn and Tom for allowing us to buy her from you, and we will do our very best for her. Of course we have to thank Karen and Michael for dealing with the brokering too. We were hand held from start to finish by Lighthouse Yachting here in Antigua, right down to getting a lovely big hug from Karen when I broke down in tears of joy and awe when we received the keys to Mahalo. I cry lots but I think it might be a shock to some people when this big strapping six-foot woman blubs like a baby, which I do at every opportunity. Of course if you remind me of this I will punch your lights out.

We’ve met a lot of people who told us the same thing; that living on Antigua without a boat is only half a life. To experience life and the island to it’s fullest you need to get on the water and live life in three hundred and sixty degrees. Whilst that side of it is very true, Mahalo also opens up the world to meet other people, not just cruisers but to visit other islands and experience their culture, food, society and language. We have been blessed with so many wonderful gifts since moving to Antigua, by which I mean the gifts of friendship, kindness and knowledge. Somedays we meet new people, some days we meet no people and we lock ourselves in our little bubble which extends no further than villa to beach and back again and that’s what is so lovely, we have that choice and I will no longer spend time apologising for the privilege we have that affords those choices; I spent a long time feeling very guilty about moving here and living the life we do, I think that feeling of privilege guilt makes sense? I could give everything away, go live in a cave, paint myself purple and pray to the universe for an end to poverty, hunger and world peace, but fuck it, I’m not going to do that. It’s going to take a lot more than a cave dwelling purple hippy asking the universe for help to sort out the mess of global politics right now.  John, the dogs and me are going to enjoy our fruits so there! Not once in my childhood did I think I’d live outside of our village, let alone the UK and the idea of owning a yacht? Fuck off, only posh twats do that! Well I’m not a posh twat I’m just one lucky, awestruck woman.

*A good title for an album that, if any of you lovely readers are musically minded, I look forward to seeing an album released with that name some day, maybe, ahhhh hush your tutting and sighing, you never know.

** Brian Moore’s second autobiography ‘Beware of the Dog’. He writes how he played rugby; fierce, brutal, raw.