To The Power Ten.

CocoBay

Cocobay Antigua W.I

Several years ago I was merrily doing my thing on a beach, enjoying alone time, just messing about in Antigua’s turquoise bejewelled sea when a voice from the ocean yelled, “Come play with us”. My British self thought, “Fuck you, you entitled pricks, I didn’t come with the ticket” but that soon melted when I saw the grinning faces from where that southern US drawl originated. A quiet afternoon on the beach was the start of my friendship with Jim and Tom – fellas, I have typed your names alphabetically, there’s no deeper meaning there.

A whole new world perspective opened up for me that afternoon on the beach and over three short days, which flew past in the blink of an eye, I discovered that in North Carolina there are two people who have hearts bigger than the universe and tongues so acidic that the late Joan Rivers could have been taught a thing or two. Through them I learned of their best friend Judy, who in turn became a long distance friend via Facebook. Jim, Judy and Tom are the very antithesis of everything Trump America stands for; they love without boundaries and shout out proudly against injustice, giving the voiceless a platform and through their various social working and counseling activities ensure their Christian beliefs are not just words muttered in church each Sunday but are a tenet by which they live their lives. Their patience and love is never more evident than when they tolerate my atheist ranting. Despite our differences we share a belief in three essential human truths:

  1. Social Justice for ALL.
  2. Laughter
  3. Bitching. Especially at guys in tiny-winies who really have no place to walk with a swagger – peanut, that’s all I’m saying.

Late last year Judy was diagnosed with cancer. She died yesterday. We’d had conversations on Facebook and naturally I sent the usual trite messages people tend to send others diagnosed with terminal illness. Nothing seems right but we feel the need to say something. Her last message to me was as follows:

 “You bet I will dearest girl. I am def surrounded by the best caregivers. My husband and sisters are incredible and want what I want. When this shit is over I’m coming to see you!!! ”

Cancer however had other ideas about us two meeting in person.

Some people are considerably more than mere flesh, blood and bone; they exude a muchness. Jim, Judy and Tom together were more than just three people they were humans to the power ten, a force. I am damn sure that energy will move on and grow through everyone touched by Judy’s passionate vitality. That to me is the real afterlife.

More power to sassy women and long may we reign. Sleep well lovely woman.

 

Edit: Something that sprung to mind. I find often that Yorkshire people have a way with words, this grand old chap certainly did.

http://english.emory.edu/classes/paintings&poems/auden.html

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Fuck Off and Fuck Off Some More – or There’s a Storm A-Coming.

Uhoh

It’s hurricane season. This means different things to different people. To those who spend just five or six months a year here in Antigua it means very little because they’ve all jetted off back to wherever is home for the rest of the year. To the people who are here all year round it means it’s time to start watching the weather forecasts, but for those who have boats still in the water it’s time to panic like fuck and run around in the style of Chicken Licken. Some folks head south out of the path hurricanes generally take, some try and get into a boatlift and some, like us, leave the starting blocks like Usain Bolt when the wind so much as hints at a sniff above a zephyr to check moorings.

 I guess the quiet time and hurricane season can unsettle people living on this tiny rock. I can only assume it rattles certain chemical balances in peoples’ brains given the complete and utter codswallop that appears in my social media timeline right now. Here’s a little rant on that very theme.

It’s a strange unfathomable thing. Why would anyone move to a country in The Caribbean and start promoting a racist agenda? I appreciate some of my acquaintances may well be the full tin foil helmet but that’s not really an excuse or justification to be an out and out racist shit bag. How can people live with, work with and have family members who are married to Black Antiguans go around supporting some bullshit racist agenda that white people are being systematically wiped out by a global conspiracy to get rid of white people. I’ve news for those of you who support white supremacy. White isn’t all that, and guess what? We are outnumbered anyway, get over it. Where’s this rage coming from? It’s all because of some dumb troll on Facebook. I suggested to an online acquaintance that she might like to fact check her sources – she posted a comment regarding white Europeans being wiped out by strategic migration by peoples from The Middle East and elsewhere. Seriously? Really? Fucking hell! I politely responded that she might like to check her sources, you know just in case she was a click bait victim and nudge her away from sharing white supremacy crap – I do the same to people who like sharing brain-fart posts from Britain First et al (I’ve not posted a link to BF because they have the intelligence of a used condom, they are spunk-trumpets of the first order and even typing their name renders me nauseous). Then, whoopee, joy of joys, someone commented that said acquaintance was making a valid point and she proceeded to kindly show me a link to ‘facts’ supporting the theory. These facts were found in yet another white supremacist website, in fact after a good hour of searching online, all hits to this so called theory lead to guess what? More right wing racist agenda spouting bollocks. I replied to the troll, I know, big mistake but I did anyway. I said that I don’t care about the migration of humans because all humans have migrated in some way, whether through choice or displacement to which I was given another website to ‘fact check’. I ended my dialogue with the troll by saying, “Not interested, not engaging further”. She fired back with, “Where are you from”. Now there’s a loaded question, simply packed full of nasty intent. Thankfully I’ve had no more correspondence with that “Where are you from?” person and the tin foil helmet wearer is deleted. I should be more careful who I add in social media, some of the nicest people I’ve met in person support some of the weirdest shit online. It’s a sad thing though; the aluminum-wearing weirdo is probably a really nice person but shit, she’s gullible to click baiting and appears to enjoy the company of closet racists.

 I seem to spend a lot of time getting angry at little things at the moment, although racism is not a trifling matter. I suppose in busier times I’d scroll on past and think, “fucking moron” and pass no comment, but because it’s quiet here in Antigua I have a lot of free time and idle fingers find a fight. *Note to self, Trish you’re not insane, you’re passionate*

Maybe my rage-o-meter is set to extremely volatile at the moment – no, not because I’m menopausal, which I am, that’s a pure joy-ride it really is and I will bore the tits/moobs off you at a later date with that. – no, I’m set to explode on a weekly basis because I’ve been watching the TV adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’. I will not give a literary critique of the book – cop out I know, but you know what, this is my blog so fuck off. What I will say is read it, seriously read the book and as a little note to anyone who reads it and is in politics? It’s a warning, a cautionary tale it’s not a fucking woman hating wank fest manifesto to deplete women’s rights even further.

Think I’ll go for a swim now, I’ve raged on long enough and even Holly and Fred are looking a little worried that I might spontaneously combust.

The Fred, The Mongoose and The No-Fish

Freddyboo

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

 

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

 

*Mr Trish is the only recipient these days.

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

Dr Who and Peanut Butter

Sunrise

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

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

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

 1. Dog walking.

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

 2. Dr Who, Star Trek and Sherlock Holmes.

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

3. Simplicity 

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

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

4. People 

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

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

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.

The Cautionary Tale of The Dubious Pig and Why I Like To Be More Dog.

HollyCuddles(Picture courtesy of J.S)

I’ve spent the last few weeks laughing at little Fred learning so much every day.

It’s true that he’s learned so many things; dealing with house rules (don’t piss on the carpet, yes we know its green and it looks like grass), meeting bulls, horses, rabbits, bolshy territorial blackbirds in the garden and a whole host of noises, smells, but most of all his humans yelling at the box in the corner, especially when politics are mentioned.

All of the things Fred has learned in reality translate into things I’ve learned from watching him learn.

This can be extended beyond the world of Fred. Fred is our family’s seventh rescue dog. We’ve had an eclectic pack over the years. First we brought home Poppy the Poo who was a very beautiful German Shepherd, named for her love of munching the brown stuff. Then there was Wammy, the bewildered Labrador cross who seemed to spend his life in a confused state between love and fear of everything and everyone, the only constant loves being water and sticks. Then we had Ben, known as Mr Fluffy but my ever patient husband put his foot down at standing on the beach and yelling “Mr Fluffy, come on Fluffy-boy”. It was pretty hard to accept this veto from a man who thinks nothing of baring his arse at the merest hint of a dare. Our fourth dog was Saxon, or Mr Waxxy-boy. This loping dog looked like a cross between a Foxhound, a German Shepherd and Victor Meldrew. His journey began when he was found tied in a sack on North Shields Fish Quay with his brothers and sisters. He was rehomed with a married couple, but the marriage broke down and Saxxy was given to a local boarding kennels for rehoming again. We ended up with him after boarding our other dogs at those kennels for the summer. He wasn’t destructive, just heart broken and it took a good 6 months before he wagged his tail and accepted his new humans. What can I say about the fifth dog, a Red Doberman named Paris, aptly named as she was indeed a high maintenance, attention seeking whining bitch. Again she had ended up at the boarding kennels we used. I swear when the owners of the kennels knew we’d booked our pack in for the summer they’d get hold of the most pitiful, difficult to rehome dog in the area and point it in our direction when we dropped off our brood. Sixth in the list is Holly, a beautiful pedigree golden retriever from North East Retriever Rescue. Her nature is as beautiful as her looks. Naturally over the years our dogs have died so our pack has grown and shrunk; no it does not get any easier. I know from speaking to some people, the loss of one dog is unbearable and they cannot bring themselves to have another in their life and that’s fine, absolutely great, people do what they need to do to protect themselves from pain. For me, I feel that I learn and grow as a person by having dogs and this includes experiencing loss and grief as well as the joy and at times frustration especially when cleaning up a pile of dog sick or retrieving a chewed boot from under a kitchen unit.

So, what have I learned?

I’ve learned that dogs don’t have all the shitty character traits that some humans have. What do I mean? Oh this should be interesting and possibly unpleasant reading for some people. If you think it’s about you, it probably is.

Dogs are rather simple animals, what you see is what you get. Feed them, love them, exercise them, and give them a warm safe place to sleep, discipline them with positive re-enforcement and job done. A dog is a dog; it doesn’t aspire to be anything else. It doesn’t care what car you drive, it doesn’t question your lifestyle choices and it certainly doesn’t go around criticising how you spend the money you have earned. I’ll expand what I mean by that last statement. Since I returned to the UK with little Fred, plenty of people have a whole shed load of opinions regarding our decision to bring Fred home. My emotional response is, “what the fuck has it to do with you”. That’s pretty tame for me. Actually what has it got to do with anyone else? What makes humans think they have a right to question how an individual or family spend their income? I can only assume that some festering boil of jealousy is at the heart of their stance. The only jealousy my dogs exhibit is cuddle envy, and even then I’m anthropomorphising, I’m pretty sure a dog sees one of the pack getting a cuddle and thinks there may be food and pootles across to make sure they’re not missing out.

Digging deeper into “what the fuck has it to do with you?” has caused me many silent musings over the last few days. So much so I’ve started a new cross stitch and it’s not even winter. My husband is naturally quite happy with my silent fury, as he’s been the recipient of an Eton Mess, Toad in the Hole and a very unhealthy barbeque. I secretly believe he likes it when I’m pissed off as I go into cooking mode; great for him not so great for his waistline.

I am waffling, anyway. So, why do people like to criticise how others spend their income? It’s not as though the money we spent on Fred would ever have made its way into the pockets of the people who made the criticism. The person who commented on the money we spent on Fred had said to my son, “So, do you think the dog is worth the money she spent on it?”

What was he expecting? That if I’d not spent it on Fred that I’d have had a moment of insanity and transferred it all into his piggybank. In all honesty, if he and his wife needed my help and I was down to my last penny, I’d swallow the penny.

Why the preoccupation with mine and my husband’s life choices? Does bringing Fred to the UK have any impact on his family’s life at all? No is the simple answer. So what’s the real reason for the question he asked my son? It has to be that ancient monster called jealousy which I mentioned previously, it’s judging everyone else by his own standard, and it’s the inability to understand altruism, the inability to feel unconditional love. For the sort of person who asks that question, they cannot understand that there doesn’t need to be a reason beyond “because it seems like a good idea at the time”. Naturally, they are dubious when people aren’t making life choices in line with their own selfish agenda. We certainly don’t expect a return from Fred, other than the usual dividends of having dogs; companionship, loyalty, dog shit, chewed shoes and vets bills.

Jealousy seems such a waste of emotion. How is staring at someone else’s life and feeling bitter about it going to make your life better? We’ll all be dead soon enough, the bit in between being a dribbling baby and being a dribbling old person is so brief, I can’t think of anything worse than feeling pissed off at what other people have.

I’ve never had a life plan, and neither do dogs. I like to live life a little bit dog, not like a dubious pig, living in a world of selfish endeavour whilst wallowing in a mire of shit and mistrust.