Dog days and a brief history of Bajan time

Another Wednesday was spent down at the Hope sanctuary, and Leila, one of the pups brought in after being found tied to a tree for several days, had finally overcome her physical injuries and was able to join the rest of the pups in the quarantine area. You wouldn’t even know that she was a rescue pup, though her inner psyche probably tells a different story, and she looked in great health. It was heart warming to see her running around with the other pups, but the greatest part was her remembering me from the first week and bounding over for some good old fashioned, face licking, ear chewing, puppy love. If I could take any dog, she would be it. So if she goes missing, my bag would probably be a good place to start the search.

All the dogs at the sanctuary are good to handle and very gentle, which is surprising given their history with people . You naturally have to tread carefully as human hands, although noble at the sanctuary, are ultimately also the reason the animals are here in the first place; but the dogs are nonetheless incredibly friendly and many want little more than a decent cuddle.

It is hard not to be affected when an animal dies and no more so for its kennel companion; and where there is life, inevitably, there is death. One of the older dogs recently lost her sister from the little kennel in which the two had shared their lives together at the Hope. The death has clearly been a devastating loss to the dog and has seen her retreat to a corner of her kennel, barely even coming out for food. It’s hard to watch anything consumed by such heartache, and is a stark reminder of how life can change so very quickly. Watching her grieve alone is heart-breaking, so the crew at the Hope are working hard to find her a new suitable kennel companion to share her time with and give her many more happy years to come. I am very much looking forward to the day that happens.

Casper, pictured below, is one of my favourite dogs. He is a big old fellow that lumbers clumsily but happily around your legs. The team at the Hope suspect his walking difficulties are caused by a motor-neurone disease. Casper, however, doesn’t appear to have a care in the world and certainly doesn’t let his illness get in the way of him getting in the way of me during feeding time.

One of the pups will be off to a new home soon, which is really exciting news for her and the Hope. Once the animals are rehomed, they will have several follow up visits and checks to make sure that their new owners meet the standard of living that the sanctuary requires of them. It will be an incredible journey to follow her progress and watch her find a new life with a new family.

The folks at the sanctuary are like an extended family to Dan and me, and have become a firm fixture on our social calendar and thinking about it, mostly are our social calendar. They take us out, introduce us to new friends and get us good and drunk, last night being no exception and hopefully someone will invite us round for chrimbo…

On Thursday, I could not sleep. I could not sleep because I had done all my work on time, which not only came as a massive surprise to both Dan and myself, but would also allow me to take the next day off and make like a baker and cake myself up. I realise that sounds pretty dull, getting all excited about baking, but I like to bake and feel that it nicely offsets the going out and getting wasted.

So to try and kill some time before the Friday bake off and and to potentially help me drift off, I decide to write up some of my blog because 1. If it turns out to be a bit on the dry side it will work nicely as a sleep aid and 2. There are fewer things more irritating than lying next to someone when you can’t sleep, who, if sleeping were a profession, could make a decent living out of it.

Outside I could hear the eclectic mix of island life roaming around. I would have gone outside to discover the wonders for myself if I wasn’t such a wuss, but I am so there you have it. The two most obvious noises (observed from the safety of the living room) were that of the Barbadian whistling frog and a cockerel, whose frantic and ill-judged crowing just about sums up Bajan time keeping. Make no mistake; he wasn’t very early, just very, very late.

Time is one thing that I’m slowly (which is exactly the correct Bajan pace) starting to understand, and it’s only through being here that I realise just what a punctual little Brit I am.

Bajan time runs on a totally different zone, and I don’t just mean AST. It’s very much like living in the old Malibu TV adverts, which at the time might have seemed to be a bit stereotypical, but turns out they were bang on the money. Planning anything that involves people needing to arrive on time really isn’t a good idea and, as I learned, having a dinner party is one of those misguided ideas. That is unless you remember to set the time of arrival to Bajan time. So for example, if you are planning a dinner party for 7pm, send invites confirming the start time as around 4pm. That should just about do the trick.

Another learning about the lack of needing to clock watch was when our good pal, Jewell, invited us to a boat party shortly after our arrival onto the island. The Jolly Roger was due to set sail at 6pm on a cruise along the west coast to herald the end of summer. We arrived promptly at 5, expecting boarding to commence at approximately 5.30 making for a prompt getaway at 6.

What actually transpired was us being met with laughter by the Bajan folk loading up the boat cheerily advising “It doesn’t leave for a bit, you know.” We responded with “Ok, so boarding at 5.30ish?” They laughed again. “Go get yourselves a drink or something and come back for 6.” We came back at 5.30, (because we felt that really 30 minutes is roughly how long you need to board 50 odd people and a few barrels of rum) but when we arrived back after hiding just around the corner, it was just us. Finally people rolled up at 6.30, and the boat eventually set sail at 7.30. This wasn’t at all bad by Bajan standards and actually they probably thought they had set off early.

I’m not complaining mind and there is little wrong with Bajan time; no one is trying to be rude, it’s how they roll here, and you just have to shake free from the British shackles of good time keeping.

The thought of baking cakes the next day (and being hungry in general) had me reminisce about foods I miss back home. Not that if I were back home I would necessarily bother with them, but when you can’t have something, you sure as hell want it.

I would happily sell a decent pair of shoes right now for a bag of salt and vinegar Discos: the daddy mac of the crisp world. Besides, shoes are probably cheaper to buy here than Discos. Back home, if I went out on any long journeys I would always take them as part of my staple traveling lunchbox which would also comprise a tuna sandwich, a packet of Discos and coffee. I always drink coffee when I’m traveling around as it makes me feel dreadfully important and gives me a real sense of purpose for absolutely no apparent reason whatsoever. Well, while there may be plenty of parties here, there sure aren’t any Discos! Even if I could find someone to import them, they would probably cost about £15 a bag, which is most certainly not in the water-tight-tight-ass budget. Speaking of outrageous costings, my new pal Vicky tried buying some imported cherry tomatoes. They cost $50, which equates to about £20 for a small punnet. Jesus wept, I thought. Or at least he would have done if he had wanted to buy cherry tomatoes for his beach picnic. He would have really had to stretch his fishes and loaves a bit further that week.

I am now digressing into mindless waffle, which is always a good place to end things. Or in my case, begin and end things. I hope that you have enjoyed another bite size chunk into the feverishly exciting life that is ours in the tropics and leave you in the grace and favour of the lord.

The week in pictures.

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Casper

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The sexy vet duo with Eva

Some friendly faces

Ello!P1030417

The view across the kennels
Little old Frisky

Little old Frisky

What you looking at?

What you looking at?

Sometimes, all you want is a hug

Sometimes, all you want is a hug

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Brother, can you spare a Dime?

Ronald Reagan once said ‘I am not worried about the deficit. It is big enough to take care of itself.’

Like Ronald, I too have a budget, albeit slightly smaller and not (currently) a nation’s problem, and am acutely aware of its ever increasing deficit. I do not, however, share in his laid back manner towards it and there is only one thing to do when faced with a financial dilemma which is to spreadsheet the crap out of it and at the very least come out looking like you tried. 

A financial spreadsheet, much like the road to hell, is paved with good intentions but inevitably the feelings of superiority that come with creating one soon wear off and the passion for sticking to it wears thin. It usually heralds the dawn of a change in lifestyle, probably the reason that resulted in making one in the first place and this is no exception.

The last time an out-of-towner asked me where they could find a list of London’s bars and restaurants, I suggested they take a look at my bank account (it is pretty bad, but life is short and that coupled with countless other clichés helps repress the guilt) but, at the very least, that careless spending was funded by a job. Times are different; there is no job and a budget more watertight than a frog’s behind.

Barbados is a pricey little number and the supermarkets eclipse London’s prices across the board on nearly all produce. If Waitrose hiked their prices by say 20%, you would be somewhere closer to the mark. As an island that grows little of its own produce and ships in most of its commodities, this unsurprisingly results in higher prices off the back import taxes.

Even the basic stuff like toilet paper is expensive, and going on a budget does make you start to question everything. Dan tried slipping Double Velvet quilted toilet paper into the shopping basket at the local SuperSaver Centre (this shop does not do what it says on the tin) but was quickly vetoed by myself. Here on cheap street it’s single ply all the way. I did (momentarily) silently question how we could cut back on this tedious item, and maybe only use toilet paper on special occasions; Christmas, birthdays, bereavement etc, and should we find any left over money from the weekly spend maybe extend it to public holidays. I know what you re thinking, but when you are living with a fun budget and a practical budget, you spend most of your time working out how to lessen the load in the practical budget and beef up the fun one. Also, after spending a month in Vietnam you see how people cut back on stuff like toilet paper (and hygiene in general) but then I did end up making an earlier exit from Vietnam and checking straight into the Hospital for Tropical Diseases so maybe there’s a lesson in there somewhere.

In the quest to cut back the practical budget, I would probably even stoop to powdered egg, which I’m not even sure what it is or how you powder an egg. It’s almost like re-enacting wartime Britain. Minus the war, which makes it a lot more relaxing. But, perhaps the toilet paper thinking is a stretch too far and you have to draw the bottom line somewhere. Brruudum chish! 

Once you get on a thrifty roll, however, it can get a bit out of hand and it starts to take on the same characteristics as addiction, and like with addiction, you get your fix when and where you can. Today we saved $3.50 (roughly £1 just so you get the gist of how farcical it becomes) on car parking fees. Due to getting tricked into spending more money than we had in a rum bar with some friends on Friday, the Saturday budget was completely obliterated. After having worked pretty hard on the app all week, we wanted to get out and have a walk but as with most places in Barbs because of the heat, you have to drive to get there.

We decided to go up to Farley Hill, and take a picnic, it was budget friendly, somewhat eclectic mix of all the food we hadn’t eaten that week, just on the cusp of having the ability to leave the house of its own accord). On one side of Farley Hill there is a free car park but the downside being that you have to pay to go in walk around and see the monkeys. On the other side is a pay and display car park but the grounds are free to walk around in. So we after doing a quick U-y upon realising the charge, we drove back over (wasting yet more costly petrol which I only just thought about now), parked in the free monkey car park, and walked back over the other side to enjoy the free grounds. The folks manning the gate had already seen us arrive, then watched us leave rapidly after reading the charge sign, a few minutes earlier, so we looked like a right pair of tight-asses, but a watertight budget comes free with a super tight-ass.

Most of the imported food comes in from the States, and I forgot about the vast quantities of salt and sugar poured into pre-packaged foods. It’s only through watching a fair bit of telly (we don’t have one at home so that addition really makes it feel like we are on holiday), and thus seeing plenty of American adverts, that you are reminded just how different the UK and America are diet wise.

 I bought some American brand raisin bran flakes, because they were the cheapest and out of all the other cereals they looked the least like a dessert. I looked forward to my breakfast as from the offset it appeared relatively healthy, but upon the first bite the raisins were liberally coated in so much sugar, that I actually had to resort to hand washing them individually (hey, so I really like raisins) and then put them back in the cereal. I have washed many things before eating them, but not a breakfast cereal. It did not taste good. Anything pre-packaged comes with a generous helping of diabetes.

I am not sure if anyone read ‘The Enchanted Wood’ by Enid Blyton (which if I stopped for one moment trying to pretend like I am a well read intellectual, I would happily admit to it probably being my favourite read ever), but the story revolves around a magical tree where, at the very top, strange lands come and go. It was also a time when Dick and Fanny weren’t names to be laughed at.

One of the lands – ‘The land of Goodies’ to be precise, had all kinds of magical and peculiar food and it very much feels like we are living in that land. For example, our butter tastes like ice cream, so classics such as boiled eggs and soldiers are very different these days. The ice cream flavour makes the soldiers really sweet so we have the eggs first and then the ice cream toast for pudding.

Eve’s baked beans were also another classic example of what happens when you put too much sugar in the mix, but (as long as you weren’t planning to have them as a savoury main) they would actually make a pretty decent, if somewhat exotic, pudding. Not sure what Jay Rayner would make of it all, but you have to work with what you’ve got.

In other news, as I’m not sure just how scintillating our food budgets and adventures are…

On Wednesday, I went up to chat to the folks at the Hope Animal sanctuary. It was a blisteringly hot day and the sanctuary rests high on the East Coast’s hills, so fundamentally at the closest point to the sun as possible, which does not make for easy outdoor work for these dedicated guys.

I met the full team properly, who are an awesome bunch of hard working, big hearted, Brit expats, who like a stiff drink at the end of the day. So it’s going to work out just fine.

It was the first day that I’ve probably ever done real manual labour and it felt good. I went out looking all tidy and proud in the morning, complete with my own packed lunchbox and came back looking completely destroyed. But it was also the most rewarding thing that I have done in my life as well.

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The sanctuary holds an annual Christmas fundraiser and I will be helping to put this together this year. And we do have a SPECIAL GUEST of honour which, to be honest, I’m pretty chuffing excited about… 

SIMON COWELL! 

Pretty good, eh? Let’s face it, even if you don’t give two hoots about the man, that is still a massive deal for a little animal sanctuary’s fundraiser. I might even attempt to join his harem, as it would be the one chance I would ever get to sit on a super yacht. Especially given my current approach to life is work hard but for free and live hard but not for free. So that is pretty exciting news and I’ve already got my dress picked out.

Well, this blog is a bit bitty really, but I hope that it at least gave you 15 mins of tea biscuit dunking time and another snippet into life in the tropics.

Tatty bye! 

‘That Was The Week That Was’- in tribute to the late Sir David Frost

So, as our day-to-day activity will not have you spontaneously combust with excitement, and trying to write a frequent, witty and interesting blog is an absolute blag, I have decided that weekly updates are enough for all concerned. To do things regularly, on time, and in a formal fashion, is just not the Bajan way and in this heat, just plain rude. So, with that in mind and from this day forth, I will be keeping a fashionably late, informal, weekly at best, blog. When in Rome, or what it feels like in this case, when in Rum…

Work:

It does seem that currently (whilst we very slowly acclimatise) a fair portion of work time is actually spent on rearranging the fan in order to hit all contours of our rapidly vaporising bodies. It sounds like an easy task, but lord knows it isn’t. It’s all about making the logistics work. Dan overheats at the drop of a Fedora Trilby Rollable Straw Sun Hat, so he needs a fair bit of breeze to keep him going, but because I prefer him to sit further down the table so he can’t see me on the occasional youtube/facebook skive, which makes for much time wasted on the positioning of the fan. Yesterday, however, was too mind-numbingly hot and stormy to waste on a good old fashioned fan-fight, so instead we sat next to each other and surfed the breeze together. It took us some time to reach that decision, which is a bit depressing in given how simple it is, but I put any lack of good judgment down to the heat these days.

Aside from fan fights and the constant call of the Caribbean sea, we are getting some good work done and hope to launch a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) on the Google Play App Store by the end of this forth coming week. It isn’t anything tremendously pioneering, rather more our first small foray into working remotely, and together, on a project. Dan is completing work on the backend, whilst I concentrate on the marketing of the app, the design, the features and copy and keeping up with youtube (it will not watch itself).

It will first launch in MVP form so that we can further develop the app based on user feedback and start integrating second stage features. As well as no doubt dropping some wee hints on the Facebook as to liftoff, any pictures taken from The Fish Pot also alludes to the fact that it has launched. We are denying ourselves going to our favourite restaurant until our first product is in the app store, so, as you can imagine, we are pretty desperate not to push back on that deadline.

In other work, I drove over to meet the team at The Hope Animal Sanctuary in St.John on the east coast of the island. I was a bit nervous of what to expect to be honest, as I can’t stand cruelty to any life form that cannot defend itself, and sadly most animals are neglected pretty badly over here, mostly down to lack of education. The sanctuary however, turned out to be an assortment of stunning views across the Atlantic and a few decent acres of land for the pups and kitties to run around in. The animals seemed in good health and are clearly well cared for. There were no aggressive dogs and a lot of work goes into rehabilitating the animals so they can be rehomed after a strong vetting process.

Predominantly run by expat Brits (who seem to have their hands in other ventures on the island making headway for some networking for us), the sanctuary is home to both abandoned dogs and cats alike and is branching out into boarding as a money-spinner to support itself. The sanctuary’s crew seem like pretty good badgers and I have a new mate in the form of Vicky. She lives just down the road from us in Holetown, so we will car share at the beginning of the day and bar share at the end of it. I start on Wednesday and in next week’s blog, I will divulge some gosh darn it flipping incredible news (I love my new found family friendly lingo) on their Christmas fundraiser and just WHO will be making a guest appearance.  I’ve over-egged the excitement pudding many times in the past, but not this time!

Life in general: 

We arrived into Mullins Bay, our home for the winter, on Thursday morning and was met by Joan, both our landlady and neighbour. We have been chatting to her for the last few months quite regularly and getting ideas of how to live well on the island, what to ship and general bloody good banter. In the flesh, Joan lived up to the warm, motherly, and inviting persona we chatted with on email.

Upon arrival, and after a hasty tour of our new home, we were ushered upstairs to have lunch with her and another neighbour, Maureen, an expat who has lived on the island for 35 years. It was a feast for at least 15 people but with only 3 invitees, and we, given the lack of food in our house, took advantage of the readily available produce in this one. There was chicken roasted in Bajan spice, vegetable cous cous, a variety of salads and cheese, garden fresh potatoes cooked in garlic and butter (see you later hip bones), all washed down with a stunning Malbec. Joan likes wine and has someone who imports the good stuff in for her at mates rates, so Joan is a keeper. It was the warmest of welcomes on the sunniest of days.

I made some brownies on Thursday as a treat for Dan and Joan.  Currently they are my only friends close by, so consequently I like to keep them onside. Home baking is a charming idea in theory, but the practicality of cooking in a similar temperature that the cookies require to bake, does not lend itself to a relaxing and enjoyable experience. I meant to deliver the cookies freshly baked to Joan, but ended up with such heat exhaustion that on completion I could do little more than lie on the floor and watch Two and a Half Men (the premise of which I still don’t understand; who are the guys, who does the kid belong to and why are people laughing at it?). I caught Joan the next morning, and dragged her out of the shower to come downstairs wearing only a towel to collect her winnings. Which by then had solidified over night in the heat into one giant, brown cookie lump.

The gardener came yesterday and did a nice little number on the lawn and cleaned the pool (we are a good 3 mins walk from the beach so clearly need somewhere closer to cool down…). It was incredibly stormy as he worked and the air was thick with electricity, but he just kept waving his electric strimmer around like he just didn’t care. Good for him. I admire a ballsy gardener. Also he may have been drunk, which I admire in anyone.

The garden is a rustic, sprawling haven and a fusion of the Mediterranean and Caribbean, with many secluded areas in which to hide out and rest (very useful after fan-fights have gotten nasty) and a swimming pool. There is a gas BBQ, which I would normally be outraged by, but in this heat it’s all about getting things done speedily and efficiently. You can’t keep getting your sweat on.

One final note, before calling time on this week and heading to the beach, I was dutifully keeping up with the UK’s parliamentary shenanigans (I like to keep abreast of happenings back home in case asked by locals, and I can look like I know what I’m talking about) and picked up on Cameron’s rousing defence of Britain being called a ‘small island.’ It abruptly brought me to get over not using ‘Notes from a Small Island’ as my title and that Bill should absolutely keep that careless title for himself…

Some snaps of the new gaff and our beach…

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To do, or not to do. That is the question:

The honeymoon was our first visit to Barbados and, for me, the furthest that I had ever travelled. Well, it’s at least 1 hour extra travel on the only other flight I have made: New York… Mental! A passion for transatlantic travel, you say? Heavens, no. I hate flying, transatlantic or otherwise. Sadly it turns out that all the places I am drawn to are only accessible by crossing vast oceans/seas. That’s what happens when you hail from an island, I guess.

The honeymoon itself comprised of 3 heady weeks of reckless spending, heat stroke and a fair bit of liver damage bought on by complimentary champagne in the morning and masses of Rum in the evening (decisions which can be credited to the mornings champagne), ultimately accumulating in a massive financial (and pretty physical) hangover. All in all, it was outrageously good fun. At least at one point in your life (if not more like me and on a daily basis), I highly recommend spending it like you’ve got it. Amongst the over indulgence and thrill of it all we met and made some really good friends, and they became one of the primary reasons for choosing Barbados as the place to test out a bit of remote working.

If I wasn’t so aware of my own predictability at failing to do anything other than write an archetypal bucket list, whilst completely waning to complete a single item on it, I would almost definitely do one. It would amorously list all the things that I would passionately strive to achieve whilst in Barbados, swearing solemnly and unrepentantly to complete each one without hesitation. Though, just like numerous previous penned bucket lists, it would become nothing more than a graveyard list of things that I would never do, somehow appearing half achieved because I thought them up and wrote them down. I used to write to do lists for even the most menial of tasks and tick them off before completing them because, in my somewhat confused mind, I had it assumed that if I thought of something to do, I would automatically complete it… It was only when working closely with a good friend, who generously spent her time helping me create to do lists, that I was asked why I had ticked off items needing to be completed as completed, and I started to wonder just whether or not I had quite got the hang of to do lists.

To be honest there are lots of things that I would love to do on this island, but ultimately there is only one thing that will create the experience that bought us back here; the Barbadian’s, their culture, their lifestyle, along with figuring out how the hell anyone can live on such an expensive island without resorting to Chefette every night.

So that’s it really. I’m not looking to change anyone, save anything, do anything ground breaking, and there will be no romantic bucket lists. I have thought about this for a few days, because it’s important to remember the reasons for living somewhere and ultimately for us it was the people and the lifestyle.

So here goes nothing, and everything…

 

And it goes a little something like this…

Somewhere between the North Atlantic and the Caribbean, something stirred…

Make no mistake, I’m no writer (apart from back in the glory days when I wrote and illustrated my own books, roughly between the years of 5 and 9 and mostly based around horses), but I thought that whilst I try and desperately figure out what I will do next, that a rough diary following two people trying to build a life in the tropics might make for some interesting reading and, if not, potentially a good laugh at their expense.

The people: let’s call them Dan and Sooze.

The place: The easternmost isle of the Lesser Antilles in the West Indies; Barbados.

A brief(ish), bordering on slightly tedious, explanation as to the title of the blog and the blog itself.

In an ideal world, I would have gone with ‘Notes from a Small Island’, but I can’t be troubled with (nor afford) a potential suing from Bill Bryson. I played around with a few titles, most of them pretty cringe worthy, though there were a couple of gems. I thought that ‘Desert island whisks’ (or Desert island Bisque’s for a particularly specialised show in the range) would make good for a cookery blog. Sadly for me that wouldn’t hold up much given that my primary repertoire comprises of Ginger Cake and Treacle and Honey soda bread. Neither of which use whisks. Or Bisques.

Further thinking resolved that traditional word play was out of the window as I only had 6 months to think of a name, so for a laugh I would instead venture down a more cryptic naming route. This coupled with my reasoning that if you are going to inhabit a place you should at the very least know where the hell it is, would lead me to NOTEs from 1310.

13°10 north of the equator, is one part of the geographical location of Barbados (I didn’t need the other bit to make the blog title work so I decided to trim some fat). Having never really moved on from not having thought up ‘Notes from a Small Island’ myself, I noticed that the acronym for north of the equator would read as NOTE. From that all I needed to do was to stick an ‘s’ on the end of NOTE and there you have it, one better than Bill surely. He got ‘Small Island’ which although maybe slightly more romantic and dreamy, was quite simply too much of a generalisation for me. A small island? That could be anywhere, dear Bill. I, instead, have given the precise topographical location.

There was a good 15/20 mins of self-congratulatory after that, which wasted yet more time. However, given that like me in the 35° heat, the actual blog could wilt and die pretty easily, so it seemed fair enough to really celebrate that one piece of work.

The blog itself, well who knows how that will really take form, but the general premise will have it follow the lives of two milky-white, slightly broke (after other recent travels), ditching the rat race of London and starting a life together in the tropics. It will be an insight into our Bajan community and general life in Barbados. My volunteering at the Hope animal shelter, other community projects and the ultimate goal: to create a business that allows us to work remotely. Forever.

If it fails, well I just spent 6 months in paradise, so you know, I think I’ll be ok…A bit more broke. A lot more burnt. But ok.