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.
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.
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.