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!)

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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.

 

hurricane-dogs.jpg

Hurricane? What Hurricane?

 

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.

Choose Your Bubble Carefully.

IMG_1578

 

I knew it would happen at some point. No I haven’t been placed on Trump’s travel ban list, although I’m sure that I’ll be on a list of undesirables somewhere on the planet if only because of my tattoos. Apparently because of my choice to have talented artists draw beautiful designs on my body I am:

  1. Uneducated
  2. Deaf
  3. Unemployable
  4. Capable of ripping unborn babies from the womb and burning them in sacrificial rituals.

 Oh ok, the fourth one may be an exaggeration but given the facial ticks and Tourette’s type comments elicited from some observers of my body art I’m quite sure that’s what some people think when they see me. I’ve had comments ranging from “Urgh, what’s she going to look like when she’s older?” to “I hate being served by people with tattoos, they’re just so dirty” and one very extreme reaction to my body art was at a village community meeting back in The UK when someone actually moved their chair away from me because clearly my art work is contagious. Just to educate you non-tattooed people out there, no they’re not contagious but petty minded ignorance is. I may not have been born with tattoos but I was born with thick skin and I bear detractors comments and actions rather well. The second comment I mentioned was spoken behind my back when at an ATM. It was a hot day in my old home town so I had on a t-shirt and I was proudly wearing my body art for all to see; I even think I may not have had on a bra so I was committing a further outrage by having both my nipples and their piercings clearly visible through the thin cotton – shock gasp horror, women have nipples ARGGGGHHHHH. Anyway, the hag faced bitch troll had obviously said those comments so that I could hear because she continued her rant about people with body art generally. I got my money, turned around and looked her square in the face and said, “Yeh well love, some people might think you’re too old to be wearing that outfit it’s just most people are too polite to say anything” I know, I was as bad as the bitch troll from hell but fuck it, sometimes the ‘be nice’ button in my head is on a well-earned holiday.

 So what has finally happened? Homesickness, that’s what has happened and it has crept in stealthily over the last week or so. Yeh yeh I know Antigua is home now and I’ve bleated on long enough to all in ear shot about how utterly fabulous it is here, and it is. I’m not sick for things back in The UK. I can live without decent cheese (we do get cheese here, good stuff too but you need a mortgage to buy it). I can exist quite merrily without British television and I can even tolerate the US channels we get here with their endless sodding adverts catering to viewers who have the attention span of a hyperactive squirrel. The adverts do make me wonder if The USA is a nation of pile suffering dodgy bowel victims who have psoriasis and/or at some point have been butchered when having trans-vaginal mesh implants. I didn’t even know what a trans-vaginal mesh was until I Googled it. There are some things that just can’t be unseen.

I don’t miss the Britishness of life and we could talk all day about what is Britishness anyway. If you were to go by some people here Britishness seems to be endless rounds of G&T evenings sitting around slagging off how shit everything is here (I’ve been to one or two of those sort of gatherings) and how they really should do things like they do back in The UK. I understand finally now what Jamaica Kincaid* meant when she called out on people who came to Antigua thirty plus years ago. She said it was because English people had no opportunity to feel superior on the planet now the Empire was dead so they bought properties here on Antigua because it is a corner of the world where they can still feel superior. I know I’m an Englander too but fuck me backwards with a wet kipper, I hope to hell I am NEVER like some of the Englishers I’ve met here over the last few months. A prime example of one such wank stain was heard by John when he was pulling down the pier outside our house. A neighbour leaned over his balcony a few doors down and told John he should get a black guy to do that because apparently ‘they cope with it better than us’. There we have it folks, insidious twatting bollocking racism in all it’s glory. It might seem an innocent enough statement to some people, but behind it was generations of the ‘Them and Us’ mentality. Mr Britisher might like to remember that historically The Antiguans’ ancestors didn’t actually volunteer to come here and work in the sweltering sun all day. Black or white, sweat is the same colour. I even met a woman who’s been coming here from The UK for over ten years,  she holidays in the same hotel, and for the last ten years has told everyone within range how much she’s paid for her three weeks, how Antigua is a shit place and how the people are horrible. Why come? No-one is holding a gun to her head every time she waltzes into a travel agency. She is not unusual in her attitude either, on our first visit to Antigua we were greeted by a woman on the beach who announced that her an her husband had been coming here for years and it’s all a bit shit really, from immigration right through to customer service and proceeded to tell me how lovely it is in Gloucestershire, where she lives. I simply stated “Fred and Rose West loved Gloucestershire too”. She quickly left our company and didn’t bother trying to make eye contact for the rest of the holiday, RESULT! My point? There are good and not good people all over the planet so don’t go slagging off a country in which you are a guest**. Also remember, as a guest you have the luxury of choice, you chose to visit here, you may even have set up a home here but unlike many who were born here you have the privilege to leave at any time. This is your bubble of choice, it might not be a perfect bubble, but where is?

 I miss friends and some family. I’ve been a snotting dribbling mess since my daughter visited. She’s gone now and it hit me how much I miss not being a bus or train ride away from both my son and my daughter. They’re both cool people to be around and I miss that. I was getting over my misery of Caitlin leaving when I received a letter from my Women’s Institute friends and it set me off again. So if you visit Antigua and there’s a tall, tattooed dribbling mess on the beach, it’s me. No change from when I lived in the UK some may think but I have a tan now.

That’s not to say I’ve not made new friends, of course I have. Our Airbnb room has provided us with so much more than a financial income. One simple run to the airport with a guest resulted in being paid in rum, which John exchanged for about one hundred foot of rope. I love it when currency isn’t just dollar bills.

We’ve met some amazing people from all over this planet and at some point I’ll write a bit about that, but only the nice ones. So if any past guests are reading this and you don’t get a mention in the future that means you were a twat (just joking?)

 The homesickness will pass and I’ve no doubt when I have a trip back to The UK I’ll feel homesick for Antigua, my little bubble of choice.

*Thank you Katarina for the loan of ‘A Small Place’

** Thank you to Dorothy for keeping me grounded and reminding us when needed that we are guests.

Thank Goodness for Dogs

jen

Thank Goodness for Dogs.

(Not so much praise for irresponsible abusive fucking retard humans who can’t be bothered to act with a shred of decency)

Facebook and I have always had a strange relationship. I love that I get to stalk fellow humans and judge them based on their posts. I’m sure that I’m not alone in this behaviour and if anyone reading this wishes to reciprocate my conduct that’s fine, fill your boots, have a ball, I welcome it, BRING IT ON BABY because I am my own worst critic and no matter how pathetic, sad, stupid or insignificant someone else thinks I am, I think of myself in far worse terms than anyone else ever could. Saying that, I also think I’m amazing, fabulous, gorgeous, scintillating, scandalous and exotic too. My hugely exaggerated sense of self is neutralized by my self-loathing, so fret not, I’m not about to arm myself with guns and shoot the shit out of a shopping mall. Although maybe I might, I’m not exactly sure of the gun laws here in Antigua, whatever they are, they can’t be as fucked up as the US. There again given the current political climate in The USA, I think access to guns by socially rejected teens, unsupervised children, the rabidly unhinged and the police is the least of that country’s worries right now.

I had very little knowledge or experience of US politics beyond the UK’s mainstream media outlets prior to my move to Antigua. After about four weeks of a constant bullshit barrage from our cable TV here I started to get a clear idea of how The US political system works. In brief, it’s just as fucked up as The UK’s and misinformation fed to the electorate swells nationalism, racism and ignorance. The posts that I’ve seen on Facebook over the last twelve months, some from whom I considered friends has shocked even me. I’m not sorry to say some of these people have been deleted and blocked out of my Facebook sphere (yeh Trish stick it to em good, that’ll show em, or not). A friend of mine said that the only way to deal with racism, sexism and downright ignorance is to educate and I go along with that to a certain degree, but you can’t educate a rotting corpse, spend too long around that level of stench and some of it rubs off on you and infects your ability to empathise. It does me anyway.

 …..AND BREATH IN BREATH OUT, BREATH IN BREATH OUT. REPEAT UNTIL THE RAGE PASSES.

 Meanwhile, back in the real world here in the bubble of Antigua the struggle goes on. Oh shut up with the “what the fuck do you know about struggle you lucky bitch, drinking rum and enjoying the sunshine whilst the rest of us in the northern hemisphere are freezing our doo-dahs off?” I mean the struggle against an endless stream of unwanted pups and uncared for adult dogs here in Antigua. John and I were pootling along in our daily life. We set out with purpose to hunt and gather a fly screen for the door, some cream cheese for a carrot cake and to find a mirror for the guest bedroom (It’s not all rock ‘n’ roll or drinking dark and stormies from a floating bar in a turquoise sea you know). So, We came back with a dog. A dog, yes, a dog, a three month old brindle ridgeback cross puppy. What the hell could we do with a half dead tiny scrap of a pup we found wandering in and out of the traffic in a village called Jennings. Of course the rehoming centre was full. So being the type of humans we are, we contacted Dogs and Cats of Antigua (namely Joy Farrell) and asked her for help. Eventually we agreed to foster once we’d got this wee thing to a vet, established what sort of nasty diseases we might be dealing with, treated her with medication, food, water and love, all with the view to finding her a nice new permanent home. We got her sorted out with the wonderful help of the vets at The Ark Vet’s Centre in St John’s and brought her home to meet Holly and Fred. Neither of whom was impressed at all. Holly took one look at her, growled and sulked off into a corner. Fred sniffed her, decided that this little pup was naturally Satan incarnate, whimpered and legged it into his corner*. So, we ended up with Jen, Jen the Jennings puppy. We were unsure whether she’d survive the night, but she did and as is the way of puppies, she bounced back to health within forty eight hours. So here we are, we have a tiny house with two humans, two adult dogs and one tiny screaming puppy, no secure gallery and no yard. Piss and poo time is bad enough already without throwing an un-housetrained puppy into the mix. Shit. Oh shit shite bugger damn. I know John and I wondered what we’d taken on, especially with the four in the morning wake up yowls. We’re too old for babies and poor old Holly certainly is. The cavalry arrived to our help, Facebook, the enemy, the lurker, the misinformation demon itself. On the occasions Facebook works, it works so well. Dogs and Cats of Antigua group might not have a physical location, but my gods it comes up with a plan of action. It’s exactly like a dog howl. It starts with one message and a cute photo of a little abandoned and pup and then BAM! A whole load of other people continue the howl and before you know it there’s an adoption agency in the US and/or Canada willing and able to find a home for these pathetic little mites.

 Two weeks on and little Jen is flying off on Saturday to a new home in New Jersey. Joy, Lynda and Jo from Dogs and Cats of Antigua, Lauren in the USA combined with FOWA Rescue over there in New Jersey, Dr Francis at The Ark and Dr Edwards the Government vet here on Antigua have all been instrumental in getting Jen away from her miserable start in life and the chance to find yet more humans who give a damn about those on this planet who have no voice. I was told that John and I have done a great thing for Jen, but I replied that only a complete bastard wouldn’t. On the day we stopped to pick up Jen from the road another lovely human, Susie stopped as well, so whatever Jen’s future she had two people willing to stop that day and that’s all it takes, one human at a time helping one of the voiceless at a time. For many dogs here it’s their only chance of a safe loving future, to get off island. There are too many strays plus too many un-spayed/neutered dogs and these dogs pop out a seemingly endless stream of new life for which there are not enough homes. Without the support of local people,people living here, holidaymakers and people travelling to and from Antigua regularly, these dogs would stand no chance at all. I know cats and {insert animal welfare issue of your choice} have the same problems, I know humans with mental and physical disabilities need help, I know those humans facing poverty need assistance, I know pretty much every human on the planet with the exception of the one percent are having a hard time right now,  but I’m writing about my experience with a dog because at that time in that space where I found Jen, she needed help and she got it.

Now I’m sitting typing this with a lump in my throat and a few salty tears and snot dripping down my face at the prospect of waving goodbye to Jen, but shag me backwards with a wet kipper, if us privileged humans can’t do something kind once in a while, well we really are all fucked as a species. So please think on, just be kind. Kindness doesn’t need to cost a shed load of money. Ok, lesson over, be about your day peoples.

 BE KIND, OK?

*Fred has accepted Jen into the pack. They spend many hours a day play fighting. He’s a real Daddy dog, a gentle lovely soul, but Holly? No, not so much. I think her days of being a parent are long gone, even Grand parenting is not on her agenda.

Blatant Self Promotion.

boaty

We have decided to open up our bubble to visitors.

Please feel free to visit the website and book book book.

We promise to not be all up in your face when you visit, but likewise if you want to hang out with us that’s fine too. If anything it’ll help save Fred and Holly’s sanity.

You can bring musical instruments, beer, wine, food, paints and canvasses. In fact we’ll make our space fit your mood. Equally, we will keep the fuck away from you and piss off to the beach everyday. Whatever suits. There’ll be fresh bread and yummies during your stay as well as wonderful scenery and opportunities to explore this wonderful island.

Follow this link to begin your escape.

If you want to treat yourself to a romantical sailing experience you could do worse than look up Catch The Cat or for the more fishy minded of you there’s their sister company Mystic Amara III.  At Jolly Harbour Commercial Centre you can book diving trips with Indigo Divers as well as hire cars, buggies, bicycles or book day trips to many of the island’s attractions with one of the various wonderful companies operating from the commercial area. Don’t limit yourself to the beach, Antigua has so much more to offer. Why else would two die-hard northerners have moved here if was just about the beach?

The added bonus is you get to meet Holly and Fred, the author of this blog and many of the characters about whom I’ve written (even the bitch troll woman down the street who hates dogs and John).