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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Bah Humbug.

ShoppingChristmas

 

There are many things which I love about my homeland at this time of year. I love bright crisp mornings. I love the stunning colours which autumn and early winter brings to the Northumberland countryside. I love snuggling up by the log fire and watching old black and white films. I even love the wild cold easterly winds which whip the sea into a cauldron of fury building to a crescendo of percussive crashing waves against the dunes. I still get a secret thrill when writing my Christmas shopping list and planning all the lovely recipes that I’ll attempt this year. In my head I’ll be as calm as Nigella, blissfully whipping up amazing treats (in reality the kitchen will look like a bomb site and the dogs will be cowering in their beds after been yelled at to “FUCK OFF OUT OF THE KITCHEN YOU LITTLE TWATS”). MY attempts at arts and crafts will result in the living room carpet looking like a three year has run amok with a glue gun and glitter and of course I’ll not post any card until the very last posting date.

However…….

For the last three years I’ve returned home from Antigua straight in the heart of the consumer frenzy which is a UK Christmas.  I am never prepared for the shear tooth curling cringe inducing madness which seems to take hold of people at this time of year. Being flown from paradise on a warm Saturday evening and landing into a dismal stale piss smelling Gatwick at stupid o clock on an early Sunday morning is never going to be my favourite day of the year. Add to this the hysterical advertising screens all screaming “Buy our shit, buy our shit, because buying this piece of shit for your friends and relatives means you love them because you spent half your yearly salary on buying this piece of shit”. Into this mix throw a three hour train journey up north accompanied by refugees from the west coast mainline which was closed due to the epic floods, so the usually crowded Edinburgh service was filled to bursting. Some of these fellow travellers had the table manners of rabid warthogs and slapped their lips and gums around a truckload of stinking food. What dregs of humanity I had left gradually ebbed away and as we left the train and walked past the offenders I actually heard myself say, out loud, “I hope they get fucking mugged in Edinburgh”. After this was the taxi drive from station to home which just about finished me off; we pulled up to a traffic light and in a shop doorway was a huge semi-solid human shit. Welcome home Trish.

*Sigh*

Christmas in Antigua, well certainly amongst the people I know there, is not all about how much you can spend, it’s about being with family and/or friends, sprucing up the house with bright colours, maybe get some new curtains and cushions and FOOD! Lots and lots of food. My friend Kenya’s face comes alive just at the mention of the Christmas feast. He once spent nearly half an hour describing how full his belly will be and the secret to eating his body weight is to not drink any juice during the gorging.  I cannot wait until I get to experience a Caribbean Christmas.

In the meantime I’m stuck in the consumer feeding frenzy. I by-passed/chickened out of going into Newcastle for two days by ordering a lot of stuff online but yesterday I had to admit defeat and head into town for those little things that I could try and make, but honestly, by the time I’d burned the chocolate and wrecked a pan attempting to make a sugar syrup it would be easier and less stressful to just get on a bus, join the crowds and go grab a load of three for two offers.

Famous last words of course! It’s never that simple.

I admit I may not have been in the best shape emotionally or psychologically. Earlier that morning I’d splodged through ankle deep mud with the dogs. The dogs who had been collected from the boarding kennels, pampered, bathed, cuddled, fed and brushed and who promptly rolled in fox shit the minute my back was turned when slurping through a flooded hedgerow. Both disgusting stinking beasts were dumped in the river and dragged home on the doggy walk of shame on tight leashes. The instant I stepped off the bus in Newcastle I knew it was going to be a drama. It was two in the afternoon and already the bus station had pissed morons vomming up in a corner. Deep joy. Then there’s the ordeal by old biddies with shopping trolleys in Marks and Spencer. If a scientist ever wants to observe random object movement, just watch these old twats with their trolleys/weapons. Those shrivelled old sods are lethal; they have no logic behind where they’re going to go next, they are purely random creatures of evil ankle crushing intent. After being unimpressed by anything in any shop whatsoever I sat down for a few minutes to try and muster some enthusiasm.  I knew it wasn’t going well when the dulcet tones of the school children singing carols in Eldon Square didn’t fill me with Christmas joy; I just wanted to shout “FUCK OFF YOU ANNOYING SMALL PEOPLE YOURE NOT CUTE” Yeh, not my finest internal dialogue! The miserable faces of other shoppers didn’t lift my mood either. I’m not used to this disengaged way of shopping. Everyone walking around in their own little bubble, walking fast, with purpose no deviation from the plan, got to buy, got to buy, need to go this way NOW and screw you if you’re in my path. I was still in Antiguan mode and I love that in Antigua a conversation can start anywhere with anyone for no reason, just the fact you’re in the same place at the same time is enough reason to talk to someone. Any trip out for shopping can take HOURS because no-one’s in a hurry and I love love that. Newcastle? Not a fucking chance!

I did eventually find a few things which weren’t A) Over priced crap B) Cheesy bollocks which only sells at Christmas because everyone’s desperate to shift the crap they can’t sell any other time of year so they stick glitter and a bell on it.

And talking about crap which only sells at Christmas, do people really buy special bedding just for this time of year? Are your visitors going to storm out in a fit of pique because their pillows don’t have little holly leaves embroidered on them? If your friends and relatives are those sorts of people, fuck ‘em. They’re morons.

I knew it was time to get out of Dodge when I walked past a tragic beardy hipster in overly tight budgied trousers and all I wanted to do was cut that twattily pretentious mess right off his face.

Yeh, I know, that was a message from the universe to go home. It’s not worth doing time for that.