An Erection and a Pay Cheque

(What I Did On My Summer Holiday Pt2)

 

Dominica Morning

Our merry band made its way home safely. The summer sail to Grenada and back, viewed through a lens of distance and time, was life changing. I now realise that I’m not entirely useless around a boat. I know that no matter how much you love your partner, separate cabins is the only way to go on a 40ft lump of fibre glass floating around on the oggin but above all I learned that sobbing on the bow of said lump is perfectly normal. Stressful times need a release valve. I’m not going to sugar coat the experience. There were tough times. There were occasions I sat in my cabin listening to the flights passing overhead and wondering if I could make it to the airport and catch the first flight home to Antigua. Thankfully with the help of the people we met, the places we visited and the friends we made I was able to give myself a kick up the arse and remember my good fortune to even be able to live here in The Caribbean let alone leave land for 3 months and sail towards the unknown horizon. I certainly haven’t become complacent; most days I still need to pinch myself, but life on a boat turned the volume up to 11. I got to see, taste and smell even more awesome landscapes, flavours and scents. Here awesome is used in the truest sense of the word not the “Oh my gaaaad this waaaaaffle is arrrrrrrsam” sense. How can anyone not be overawed when walking through a rain forest with monkeys screaming over their head through the rain forest canopy? Who but the truly dead inside would not marvel at the ability of Grenadian bus drivers to cram 25 people into a bus designed to carry 16? Only the most jaded, cynical or zombie brained humans would not be overwhelmed at the cornucopian backdrop when walking through a country where no one should, in theory, starve; where every road and path is lined with fruit ready to pick straight from the trees and bushes.

The sailing itself was sailing. We sailed to places, we didn’t die, we anchored, moored or berthed, and we set sail again. In between we lived. We breathed in whatever each island had to throw at us. I danced from my soul at carnival in Grenada. I swear I probably ovulated fully for the last time in my life during J’ouvert – the first morning of carnival where everyone descends on the road to a soundtrack of thumping base, dragging boots and screaming exclamations of freedom. A place where all the men seem to look like Usain Bolt and ask your permission to dance, if you say no, that’s accepted and they move on. Other men should learn from that. The places we anchored, hiked and explored reads like a list from a National Geographic publication.

I won’t bore the shit out of you by describing the squalls, anchor drags or shitty passages because quite honestly, they bore the crap out of me and I was there. The memory I take from the past summer needs to be positive because if its not, I probably won’t set sail on a boat again. The jury is reconsidering its verdict on that but I’m sure it will be a majority verdict in favour of a trip somewhere.

What I wouldn’t recommend to anyone is having their menopause on a boat. I know I should have said ‘her menopause’ but John has been on as much of a learning curve as I have. It is a stage in life and marriage we are experiencing very much together. There have been times where I have thought that I’ve been going insane and when John has asked me to describe how it feels? The best answer I had at the time was, “I don’t feel like me inside my head anymore and I can’t do anything about it.” Whether because menopause is one of the final taboos or whether it’s just something women are expected to get on with, I felt ill equipped to rationalise and understand fully what was and is going on. To deal with the daily rollercoaster of changes ravaging my body and mind is bad enough but to contain that in a 40ft vessel is less than ideal. All the online advice to eat well and exercise is not always possible. Getting ashore is one obstacle, what’s available once you get there is another. Ramen noodles, corned beef and sparse rations of tinned vegetables were the best I could muster at times.  I suspect tiny agitations become amplified in these surroundings, exemplified best when I threatened John with divorce in St Lucia. This wasn’t just a threat. I had a well thought out cunning plan and I fully intended to execute that plan. At least I wasn’t planning to execute him. Having read tales of sailing couples ‘going missing’ at sea, I sense a back story.

I have always been proud of my mind, my common sense and my ability to think my way out of any situation. There are days I possess none of those things. Anxiety attacks, palpitations, hot flushes, forgetfulness, stinking rancid periods (when they happen and hell, that’s a roulette wheel, roll up roll up, place your bets, when she floods, nobody knows) but most of all what I find terrifying are the times when I simply have no energy to eat, move or engage with other people. This isn’t depression. The moods pass as fleetingly as they begin. Compound this with the memory of my Grandmother going completely interstellar mental during her menopause – I mean the woman lost the plot. She tried carving up the house with a bread knife a few days before we were due to go on a family holiday. I say she lost the plot, she never had much of a storyline anyway; her themes were a pedestrian tale of tyrannical family rule and sociopathic whims. So as you can imagine, every time I feel like my stable reality is slipping away I worry that The Grandmother is possessing me from the beyond. I know it will pass and I’ll come through the other side complete with wizened womb and obsolete ovaries and I cannot wait for that stage. It’s this bit in the middle that I am not enjoying and I hope that the more I talk to other women going through the same it will stop being a taboo subject. I used to boggle at young girls who hadn’t been told about puberty and periods and how I thought we’d got past that in a western culture. Now I boggle at how we women don’t talk openly about the other great change in our reproductive lives.

I hope when I emerge through this tunnel of confusion that my creativity returns and my acid tongue finds some alkali because I actually found myself at a social gathering last week telling men in my company that women no longer need them because we have electric tooth brushes. I know, right? I mean I know I’ve been guilty of telling people that John and I ran a sex dungeon just to shut them the fuck up about how we made our retirement pot but seriously, electric tooth brushes was a retort too far even for me. I suppose he and his male companion were asking for it. I’d sat quietly for about an hour listening to them discussing how relationships with older women should be conducted. I chirped in, after a couple of sipping rums mind you, that they needed to get over themselves because since the invention of the electric toothbrush men really need to bring something more to the party. I was told we still need men to provide for us. Sigh and eye roll. I said that as long as the toothbrushes are rechargeable, preferably solar powered out here, then they would have to bring something more to the party than an erection and a pay cheque. Yeh I know, I don’t think I’ll be invited back for a while.

Roll on leaving this perimenopausal state of insanity, not just for my sake but also for the sake of our elderly neighbourhood Lotharios.

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An Erection and a Pay Cheque

(What I Did On My Summer Holiday Pt2)

 

Dominica Morning

Our merry band made its way home safely. The summer sail to Grenada and back, viewed through a lens of distance and time, was life changing. I now realise that I’m not entirely useless around a boat. I know that no matter how much you love your partner, separate cabins is the only way to go on a 40ft lump of fibre glass floating around on the oggin but above all I learned that sobbing on the bow of said lump is perfectly normal. Stressful times need a release valve. I’m not going to sugar coat the experience. There were tough times. There were occasions I sat in my cabin listening to the flights passing overhead and wondering if I could make it to the airport and catch the first flight home to Antigua. Thankfully with the help of the people we met, the places we visited and the friends we made I was able to give myself a kick up the arse and remember my good fortune to even be able to live here in The Caribbean let alone leave land for 3 months and sail towards the unknown horizon. I certainly haven’t become complacent; most days I still need to pinch myself, but life on a boat turned the volume up to 11. I got to see, taste and smell even more awesome landscapes, flavours and scents. Here awesome is used in the truest sense of the word not the “Oh my gaaaad this waaaaaffle is arrrrrrrsam” sense. How can anyone not be overawed when walking through a rain forest with monkeys screaming over their head through the rain forest canopy? Who but the truly dead inside would not marvel at the ability of Grenadian bus drivers to cram 25 people into a bus designed to carry 16? Only the most jaded, cynical or zombie brained humans would not be overwhelmed at the cornucopian backdrop when walking through a country where no one should, in theory, starve; where every road and path is lined with fruit ready to pick straight from the trees and bushes.

The sailing itself was sailing. We sailed to places, we didn’t die, we anchored, moored or berthed, and we set sail again. In between we lived. We breathed in whatever each island had to throw at us. I danced from my soul at carnival in Grenada. I swear I probably ovulated fully for the last time in my life during J’ouvert – the first morning of carnival where everyone descends on the road to a soundtrack of thumping base, dragging boots and screaming exclamations of freedom. A place where all the men seem to look like Usain Bolt and ask your permission to dance, if you say no, that’s accepted and they move on. Other men should learn from that. The places we anchored, hiked and explored reads like a list from a National Geographic publication.

I won’t bore the shit out of you by describing the squalls, anchor drags or shitty passages because quite honestly, they bore the crap out of me and I was there. The memory I take from the past summer needs to be positive because if its not, I probably won’t set sail on a boat again. The jury is reconsidering its verdict on that but I’m sure it will be a majority verdict in favour of a trip somewhere.

What I wouldn’t recommend to anyone is having their menopause on a boat. I know I should have said ‘her menopause’ but John has been on as much of a learning curve as I have. It is a stage in life and marriage we are experiencing very much together. There have been times where I have thought that I’ve been going insane and when John has asked me to describe how it feels? The best answer I had at the time was, “I don’t feel like me inside my head anymore and I can’t do anything about it.” Whether because menopause is one of the final taboos or whether it’s just something women are expected to get on with, I felt ill equipped to rationalise and understand fully what was and is going on. To deal with the daily rollercoaster of changes ravaging my body and mind is bad enough but to contain that in a 40ft vessel is less than ideal. All the online advice to eat well and exercise is not always possible. Getting ashore is one obstacle, what’s available once you get there is another. Ramen noodles, corned beef and sparse rations of tinned vegetables were the best I could muster at times.  I suspect tiny agitations become amplified in these surroundings, exemplified best when I threatened John with divorce in St Lucia. This wasn’t just a threat. I had a well thought out cunning plan and I fully intended to execute that plan. At least I wasn’t planning to execute him. Having read tales of sailing couples ‘going missing’ at sea, I sense a back story.

I have always been proud of my mind, my common sense and my ability to think my way out of any situation. There are days I possess none of those things. Anxiety attacks, palpitations, hot flushes, forgetfulness, stinking rancid periods (when they happen and hell, that’s a roulette wheel, roll up roll up, place your bets, when she floods, nobody knows) but most of all what I find terrifying are the times when I simply have no energy to eat, move or engage with other people. This isn’t depression. The moods pass as fleetingly as they begin. Compound this with the memory of my Grandmother going completely interstellar mental during her menopause – I mean the woman lost the plot. She tried carving up the house with a bread knife a few days before we were due to go on a family holiday. I say she lost the plot, she never had much of a storyline anyway; her themes were a pedestrian tale of tyrannical family rule and sociopathic whims. So as you can imagine, every time I feel like my stable reality is slipping away I worry that The Grandmother is possessing me from the beyond. I know it will pass and I’ll come through the other side complete with wizened womb and obsolete ovaries and I cannot wait for that stage. It’s this bit in the middle that I am not enjoying and I hope that the more I talk to other women going through the same it will stop being a taboo subject. I used to boggle at young girls who hadn’t been told about puberty and periods and how I thought we’d got past that in a western culture. Now I boggle at how we women don’t talk openly about the other great change in our reproductive lives.

I hope when I emerge through this tunnel of confusion that my creativity returns and my acid tongue finds some alkali because I actually found myself at a social gathering last week telling men in my company that women no longer need them because we have electric tooth brushes. I know, right? I mean I know I’ve been guilty of telling people that John and I ran a sex dungeon just to shut them the fuck up about how we made our retirement pot but seriously, electric tooth brushes was a retort too far even for me. I suppose he and his male companion were asking for it. I’d sat quietly for about an hour listening to them discussing how relationships with older women should be conducted. I chirped in, after a couple of sipping rums mind you, that they needed to get over themselves because since the invention of the electric toothbrush men really need to bring something more to the party. I was told we still need men to provide for us. Sigh and eye roll. I said that as long as the toothbrushes are rechargeable, preferably solar powered out here, then they would have to bring something more to the party than an erection and a pay cheque. Yeh I know, I don’t think I’ll be invited back for a while.

Roll on leaving this perimenopausal state of insanity, not just for my sake but also for the sake of our elderly neighbourhood Lotharios.

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!)

Choose Your Bubble Carefully.

IMG_1578

 

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.