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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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!)

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. 

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.

Sparkle, Flash, Bang

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It’s pissing down, its Halloween/Samhain and the skies are performing a spectacular sound and light show. It couldn’t get more atmospheric.

The result of the wonderful rain and lightening show is that I’m stuck inside for the day. This means daytime TV and cable films and Internet wandering.

I am a fan of the absurd and it’s amazing the weird stuff I can find when channel surfing. Today I stumbled upon a type of weirdness I hope never to stumble on again, ‘Sex and The City 2’. I didn’t even watch ‘Sex and The City 1’. I did watch a few episodes of the television series; I should say that John did if only to ogle at Kim Cattrall. I used to watch it in the background harrumphing at the self-pitying, self-indulgent bullshit the scriptwriters had these characters spout on a weekly basis. The film however seems to have gone to extreme lengths of fuckwittery. There’s only so much that I can stomach of some woman flouncing around in frocks as if trying recreate a Jack Vettriano painting, and apparently the Samantha character is evidence of female empowerment? Really? I’m all for being in charge of my sexuality and when I was single if I wanted a shag I went out of got one, but the Samantha person is a cartoon and the sexual vulturine behavior is just creepy, whether from a man or a woman. I’m pretty sure if Samantha were Sam and a man, he’d be decried as being a sexual predatory jerk.

Now, I am a small town woman, I have lived in small towns or villages most of my life so maybe that’s why the attitudes coming from these women are so alien to me. Are there really people so self obsessed and vacuous on the planet? I mean its not like the central characters are an exceptional clique, they seem to fit perfectly well with every other character, obsessed with fashion, shoes, bling, drama and being desperately scared of aging. So, why would anyone be scared of aging? The alternative to aging is being dead. I reckon I’ll take a few wrinkles, grey hair, increasingly creaking joints over being a pot of ashes over the mantelpiece.

Before you scream, “You do know its fiction right?” Yes I do, but most people acknowledge that there’s usually an element of truth within all stories, even fairy stories. I appreciate that fantasy is just that, a fantasy, and the late Sir Terry Pratchett said that people don’t choose fantasy to escape from reality but instead they escape to fantasy. That fantasy has to be somewhere you go and come back from as a different person. I can’t say I felt different after my SITC experience. Just sodding grateful that my sole aim in life isn’t to buy shoes and get fucked by as many faceless plastic mannequins as possible.

I’ll be honest with you, I lasted about 30 minutes into the film before I lost the will to live and went outside to enjoy the rain and watch the bullfinches fight over the few crumbs of cheesecake I’d left out for them. Sitting on the deck in the rain I had a few moments of missing John and reminiscing about how our relationship has developed over the years. The Carrie character in the film describes ‘sparkle’, that she wants her husband to sparkle, this means an endless round of restaurants, opening events and parties. WOW! I can’t think of anything more exhausting. Where in all that does it give you time to just enjoy the privacy and intimacy within the relationship? I mean what on earth could be better than a Saturday night on our stinky sofa, curled up slagging off ‘Strictly Come Dancing’, or sharing a bath on a Saturday morning after a soggy cold wet walk with the dogs. We don’t talk about anything particularly. It’s the shared experience of being in the same place at the same time, enjoying that connection that is only possible when you’re with someone who just gets you. It’s being with that one someone who knows that neither of you are perfect, but you’re perfect for each other.

That doesn’t mean constant ‘sparkle’. What it is, is when John sees that I’m tired or I’m descending into my bag of shit time and he knows that all I need is a cuddle, a kebab and a glass of wine. This was especially true during my years working at the Citizens Advice.

After one particularly harassing day with young Fred, forever known as ‘The Day of The Tea Towel’, John performed his magic touch of calm, of quenching the fires of fury and despair before an almighty explosion happened. Previously, one afternoon young Freddy Boo had eaten an entire tea towel, a pan scrub and half a cardigan sleeve and as with all things alien in a dog’s body they eventually work their way through to the other end. Naturally the aroma of cesspit accompanied this. I’d decided on a brisk walk the following morning with the little monster. Within 100 metres of leaving the house the little git squatted and to quote a beloved northeast expression, started shaking like a shitting dog. He squatted and shook and kept on squatting and shaking and if I hadn’t been so pissed off I’d have felt sorry for the little fella. He looked worried and did the puppy eyes of pleading mercy. He turned his skinny little arse around, still squatting and there was a poo and tea towel snake stuck between his arse and the ground. There was only one thing for it, to stick my hand in a poo bag and pull the offending article out of his bum. Not a drama really, I’ve had babies; I’ve had my hands in worse. It was then that a bus full of passengers pulled up at the bus stop where this little tableau was unfolding and they witnessed the entire event. I don’t know who was more traumatised, Fred, the passengers or me.

John walked through the door that night after work, saw the look on my face and said, “come on we’re going out”. By going out he meant to a small, unremarkable local pub which serves honest food, cold wine and there’s no smell of puppy farts. I could even keep on my manky old jeans and wear my favourite pair of knackered Doc Martens and no-one would give a flying fuck if I wasn’t in Gucci or whatever is the label of the moment.

Now THAT’S romance, that’s the sparkle. You can save your Hollywood lifestyle and endless excitement. I’ll take John, the dogs and a night of cuddles every single time.

From There to Here. How The Hell Did That Happen?

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As a snotty faced, stroppy child growing up in a Yorkshire village in the 1970s watching the amazing coloured flags of the Olympic countries parading by courtesy of The BBC, I never once thought that I’d be sitting on a white sandy beach in one of those countries.

Yes, we had colour telly, we were posh, or at least the Grandmother liked to give off the air that we were posh. We were far from it, the very best I can say about her is that she was a pretentious dragon with all the compassion and emotional depth of a plank. I’m confident that my Grandfather would have got time off for good behavior if he’d buried her under the potting shed. Hell, I’d have dug the sodding grave!

Anyway, I’m back on the island of Antigua after spending three months being a whiney, complaining, spoiled little brat back in the UK. Today I was sitting looking out at the storm clouds over Montserrat performing their astonishing aerial displays and I had a teary moment of realisation of where I am on the planet right now. How the hell did I get here from a council house in Yorkshire? Flippantly I tell people, well it was pretty simple, I married well, twice. I didn’t marry well twice, I married well once, to the ever patient John. The first marriage wasn’t really a choice it was more a sort of resigned mutual agreement. We’d gone as far as having children together and his Mega-Christian Mother was so horrified that we were duh duh duuuuuuh living in sin that she enticed us into marriage with the promise of helping us buy a house. As a mercenary twenty year old, who was I to say no? Here was a chance to have some stability and I was not about to bite that cash cow on the arse. I tried really hard to be the good wife and mother, but conventionality did not sit well on my electric blue hair tousled shoulders. Step-ford wife I was not, and making trite and artificial conversation with my exe’s co-workers was not a role I could play. At one Christmas event I was last seen under a table trying to look up some bloke’s kilt, then staggering up stairs to our hotel room and promptly vomiting in a plant pot.  The marriage was doomed. He wanted a little wifey he could control and roll out at events; I wanted passion, spontaneity and space to be myself. To put it simply and saving any hurt feelings, we parted ways. What I will say is that whether you’re the dumper or the dumpee, parting is never painless. I did however give back my half of the financial wedding present when we sold the house. Whilst I may have been a less than faithful wife, I felt I owed his family that at least. Yeh, I know pretty sober stuff, not the usual jolly japes you’d expect from me, but I sense that I owe my ex some respect. Neither of us behaved perfectly during that phase of our lives and I’m sure there are still emotional scars on both of us. That chapter ended.

John came into my life (Ok, revelation time, shock horror, there was an overlap between husband number one and John, deal with it, humans aren’t perfect and sometimes we make antisocial choices, but nineteen years on, it seems to be working pretty well so blergh!)

On the surface we are possibly a rather tragic stereotype. We have a sixteen year age gap, he ran his own business, I was a single mother working part time in child care, oh yes here she is, little Miss Gold-digger. Yeh, except he was broke and at the time he left his first wife his worldly possessions were the contents of five black bin-bags, a Ford Mondeo and more emotional baggage than it should be possible for one person to carry. Welcome to paradise Trish, I’d struck a prize seam of gold right there! So how did I know he was ‘The One’? Easily, my German Shepherd Bitch, Poppy, didn’t try and kill him when they first met. That was the seal of approval. Oh and the fact he had and still has the ability to lick his eyebrows and breath through his ears.

We struggled through a few years with the usual issues of the blended family.At times it wasn’t pretty and I’m ashamed to say that I broke and on a couple of occasions I left.  I think both of us were pretty naïve to think that love would conquer all. Love doesn’t pay the bills, love doesn’t negotiate with bailiffs, love doesn’t deal with control freak exes and it certainly doesn’t stop teenagers from being complete and utter nightmares. We survived. It was sheer bloody mindedness that kept us together at times and John’s pragmatic personality, which is the perfect compliment to my emotionally unstable outbursts. I think in a former life I may have been a vicious screaming Queen, or maybe I’m just my Father’s daughter but that revelation is for another day.

Naturally we did the usual family holidays amongst all of this chaos and after years of camping holidays followed by package tours to Spain and Greece we were free from children. We offered the youngest daughter the opportunity to spend a few weeks travelling in the Canadian wilderness to which she announced she wouldn’t be coming as that length of time away from her friends in the summer holidays would be social suicide. The following year we decided on a beach holiday and found ourselves in Antigua and fell in love instantly. The moment we stepped off the plane we were hit with the rich intoxicating perfume of tropical flowers. This was the reset button we both needed. Now I’m not a big fan of the all-inclusive experience. Playing dodge The Daily Mail reader at dinner is not my favourite past time. Not making eye contact with Mr and Mrs “We normally cruise you know” becomes somewhat tedious. Although I like playing with them, especially when they can’t quite get a handle on John and I, and what sort of contrary Mary would I be if I didn’t play with them a little. There are people sitting back at home now thinking they met two people actually called Morticia and Gomez. I could have been much more cruel,within  the village we live in the UK there are people who aren’t quite sure whether I’m a call girl or not and whether John really is a porn star. If they’re going to gossip, give the fuckers something to chew on.

We decided on a second visit to Antigua, this time in a villa. This saw John and I come to the spontaneous decision to buy a house here, which we did. What’s life all about if you can’t do something for shits and giggles from time to time? We’d worked hard, had some lucky breaks, if you call John having a heart attack a lucky break and his critical injury insurance paying out a nice wad of cash. So rather than allowing this wad to be frittered away on fripperies we went all grown up and bought property.

And that is how I get to sit on a white sandy beach for several months of the year watching a turquoise sea lapping at my toes whilst over the water there’s an actual volcanic island. The ‘”Yo Yo Yo” jet ski boys are trying to attract the attention of the freshly arrived white skinned wanderers on the beach and the little beach restaurant is sending delicious wafts of barbequed food on the breeze. This lone island sitting perilously at the mercies of nature in the tempestuous Atlantic Ocean may not be paradise for all who live here, but here, right now, it’s paradise to me.

Fat Old Knee

Me4

The only reason my thoughts have turned to Wedding Anniversary is that at this time of year I get a nagging feeling at the back of my head (now the children are grown up I know that it’s not nits) that there’s something I should remember.

This vague uneasiness usually surfaces when the winds begin to blow a little more steadily from the north, the fields have been carefully gathered in for yet another harvest and the air brings that heady smell of freshly turned earth.  This morning passing by The Hall, the grassy meadows were glistening with dew; the tears of summer as she is preparing to leave these shores until next year. The dogs’ breaths were ghosting in the sunrise as we set off for our ritual morning march through the farmland.

It was whilst yelling warnings at Fred such as “DON’T YOU BLOODY WELL DARE EAT THAT ROTTING DEAD PIGEON YOU VILE LITTLE SOD, GET BACK HERE NOW YOU FLEA RIDDEN SCROUNGE-HOUND” that I realised it’s mine and John’s wedding anniversary soon. I’ve no idea why a maggot riddled dead pigeon and the happiest day of my life should come to mind at the same time, but there you have it. Psychologists amongst you are free to send me your theories, but those close to me will not be surprised as you have all, at some point, been the victim of my thought processes.

John and I married in October, for the life of us we can never remember the exact date, we’re not even sure of the year and if it hadn’t been for my wonderful late Mother-in-Law giving us forewarning every year we would have clear forgotten about the anniversary thing. Don’t get me wrong, our wedding was simply perfect; a small gathering of the people we loved most in the world at the time. There had been several discussions about who to invite and it was decided, well I decided that I’d be buggered if we were going to pay to feed snide backstabbing relatives who neither of us would’ve pissed on if they were on fire. Our feelings on weddings remain unchanged; put more thought into your marriage than the wedding day because believe me no-one gives a shit if a chair covering’s ribbon doesn’t match the shoe laces of the best man and if they do, well they’re precisely the sort of people we avoided inviting to our special day. Here endeth the lesson.

After living together for a good number of years we were married in a registry office and celebrated afterwards at a pub in the Northumberland countryside.  John looked handsome and proud in a beautiful suit and white tie and I had on a dress. Finding a suitable dress for a 6’1” woman is a saga in itself. It’s bad enough trying to not look like a dodgy cross-dresser at the best of times with my height and build without snotty faced wedding shops making you feel like a leper. Let’s just settle with this, being asked, “Can I help you Sir?” gets bloody annoying after a few decades!  I know that I’m not naturally elegant or graceful and I do feel more comfortable in Doc Martens, jeans, a paint splattered t-shirt and an old Barber but there are occasions where I want to feel feminine.  I don’t think wanting to look stunning on my wedding day was an unreasonable expectation either. This isn’t some betrayal of my feminist principles at all. I think feminism and femininity are not mutually exclusive but that’s a discussion for another time.

Thankfully Droopy and Brown of York came to my rescue and did me proud. I had the most beautiful bright green gown created for me and it was agreed that I did not look like a bad transvestite at all. I managed to wear heels all day and not fall off them once even after a few drinkies.  I would love to list the wedding dress companies who turned me away from their door but I won’t, I’m over it now, honestly I’m fine (twitch, snarl, froth, growl).

So, we were married. We ate and drank (a lot), cried during the emotional speeches and began married life surrounded by love and laughter. The party ran on late and everyone was bussed back to their homes or hotels at the end of the night. Apparently one of the young guests threw up at the back of one of the busses but it’s not a party if there are no tears, vomit or a broken curtain pole.

Back to present day, me and the dogs are living the dream in the autumn sunshine. I am reliving warm and tender moments from memory and generally having a damned good start to the week. We meet some familiar faces across the fields most days. A few of whom will stop and chat for a few minutes, some who are just passing “hello, hello” types.  Today we met a lovely woman who runs a dog sitting service out with her charges. Fred’s little face lit up as all 5 came bouncing towards him and the chaos began; snarling, jumping, wagging, snot flying and chasing through the fresh stubble of the corn field. Holly at times can be more refined; she often just sits and waits for the hurricane of lunacy to finish so she can plod on with the rest of her walk in her own world. This morning Fred and his bunch of delinquent friends decided to play chicken with the humans. A bolt of black shot out of the stubble and came to a juddering halt against my knee. The pain was intense, so intense my head spun and a wave of nausea stirred. The poor woman with her dogs was quite concerned but once we established that I wasn’t going to die we parted ways. Fred, the cause of the pain, was undamaged, unwavering, in fact completely and utterly nonplussed.  The little sod took this break in my concentration to run off and munch on something dead in the field. I looked for sympathy from Holly, but no, she too deserted me and had followed Fred; whatever it was he was eating she accompanied him by rolling in it.

Well, so much for an autumnal stroll with blissful memories in the countryside this morning, fat chance with those two hooligans. I hobbled home with Holly and Fred both cowed on their leads, forced to do the doggy walk of shame until we reached home.

At least the subdued walk home gave me chance to finally remember the date of our wedding.

It was October 2nd 2004.

Happy Anniversary for Friday John.  I love you.  Here’s a little something until we celebrate together on Saturday