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 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. 

Choose Your Bubble Carefully.

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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.

Cheese Puffs, Pot Noodles and Sewn up Arseholes

hollyandfred

I’m sure the extreme academics out there who read this will be quick to correct my reference source on the following, fill your boots fellow pedants because I really do not mind being corrected*

As I once heard in a Dirty Harry Film, Clint Eastwood’s character ‘Dirty’ Harry Callahan smouldered through gritted teeth, “Opinions are like assholes, everybody’s got one.” There are very few universal truths to which I subscribe but this is one of them. The others which I firmly, passionately and will fight you to death on is that cheese puffs, pot noodles and kebabs cure everything. Kebabs cure hangovers, its that disgusting unidentifiable mush of sheep’s bum holes and eyeballs blobbed together with vast amounts of grease that sees off even the worst morning after the night before alcohol shame. Cheese puffs and Pot Noodles are just empty calories of salt and enough additives to send an ADHD kid into the stratosphere but they are a comfort to which I return every time I need a reassuring dose of cuddle food.

So where do sewn up arseholes come into this? Lets get back to the “Opinions…” quote. Everybody does indeed have an arsehole and an opinion on something, but I genuinely believe that some people’s arseholes are sewn up tight with an invisible thread made out of bitterness, resentment and plain bloody nastiness.

This goes someway to explain why some people are so full of shit. They walk around with their vapid, vile opinions sewn into their very gut.

No I’m not going to go into a big political diatribe on the whole bizarre state of world politics right now – I prefer to do that face to face with people because when I speak to real people rather than watch mainstream media reports I feel a whole lot more reassured that there are a lot more kind hearted, kind minded and kind spirited people living amongst us than the Bid Bad Wolf News Mongers would have us believe.

Unfortunately sometimes face-to-face encounters are with the sewn up shit retainers of this world. One of these encounters was not my own, so this is a re-telling of an experience Mr. Trish had earlier this week.

The dogs and John were on their ritual morning wee-wee walk down to the end of our street (the dogs were having their wee-wees, not John, he’s fully housetrained and uses the toilet, even puts the seat down and everything. I know right? What a catch.) Now Mr. Trish is a very friendly chap, he’s the prime example of Geordie joviality and will stand and talk to anyone who wants to share time with him, stranger or friend. Stopping to share “morning morning” pleasantries with a woman he’d never met before, he was met with a pursed up lime sucking face and so much anal retention the smell was coming out of her mouth. She announced in her best Lady Bracknell** voice, “It’s against Antiguan law to have dogs in Jolly Harbour, do you live here? I don’t want you walking your dogs down past here again”

Wow! I mean, fucking WOW. No hellos, no how do you do, no kiss my arse or anything. She just torpedoed into announcing herself as the moral and legal arbiter for the whole of our little community. Technically there is a no dog rule in Jolly Harbour, but that’s hardly enforced. As long as your dogs don’t go around savaging people, shitting on golf carts or running away with your knickers off the washing line you’re fine. In fact at least six people in our immediate vicinity have dogs. John decided not to cause a diplomatic incident, smiled sweetly, told her yes we are home owners and we’ll be staying with our dogs thank you very much and wandered off with Holly and Fred, the dogs having shit and peed their load (which he poop scooped of course) he left the said angry women with a face like a smacked arse, came home to me and recounted the tale.

I was ready to march right down there and have it out with the bitch. John persuaded me this was probably not the right course of action because after all we’ve only lived here full time for six weeks. Instead we spoke to some of our other neighbours to see if they had a problem with us having dogs. The result? A resounding NO of course they don’t. Holly and Fred bring a smile to most people’s faces. I think this is because vacationers, and part time residents often have to leave their pets back at home and they love seeing and petting friendly happy dogs. It transpires that the particular sour faced person doesn’t like anyone or anything and is known for being a bit of a stuck up cow.

Holy shit! I don’t get it, Antigua might have it’s issues both socially and economically but hell’s teeth, as far as I can see, and its one of the reasons we moved here, people are friendly, accepting and share what they have. This extends to neighbourhoods and neighbours. Let me explain. This is a close-knit community, we live side by side and we all have to find a way to get on because we live in, quite frankly, a little piece of paradise. Whatever someone’s background is irrelevant because for whatever reason and however we’ve all chosen to spend time, money and invest emotionally in this little piece of rock stuck out in The Atlantic. Being confrontational isn’t just unhealthy for the soul, it doesn’t make logical sense because during hurricanes, floods or earthquakes the people you live next door to could quite literally one day save your life and you never know when you need to call on them. On a much smaller scale I compare this to a time I worked in a coffee shop; we had our fair share of moody bastard customers. I once had a customer throw his coffee at me and tell me to bring it back when it tasted of coffee (I didn’t know he liked a four shot espresso, not only because I was new and didn’t know his preference but he didn’t ask for a mad bastard rocket fuel dose of caffeine). Anyway, two lovely ladies looked on the unfolding mini-drama in horror as I was covered in coffee and asked if I was ok. I smiled sweetly and said I was fine, but I announced in a loud voice so that the coffee abuser could hear, “It’s fine, what people need to remember is that the person serving them their coffee could also GOB IN IT”.

I think we can all learn something from that, especially snot faced women who don’t live here full time. My dogs create copious amounts of shit, it’s got to go somewhere, and she might like to remember that.

 

 

* Despite what some people who know me might think.

**Watch ‘The Importance of Being Ernest’ the black and white version, you’ll thank me and if it leads you to the genius of Oscar Wilde and you become a disciple such as myself, welcome to the club.