Monday, November 22, 2010

Living the dream....on film.....eek!

Our story so far. Huge thanks to Flip Camera (I really really really want one) and Chris & Sharon for producing and directing this and we are getting very excited about our upcoming big screen production. Would like Botox & Boobs first mind. Maybe we'll be filmed all misty screened like Jane Seymour in Dr Quinn, Medicine Woman....well, maybe just I will....

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Cap Maison to Screws

So, last week I was in St Lucia and was lucky enough to visit Cap Maison - google it - it is FAB, amazing and wonderful. The sunbeds are as thick as a Tempur mattress and each apartment has its own pool. This week I am back in Dominica and enjoying the hot pools at Screws. So flitting between one luxurious experience to another. Both totally unique but both totally different. Where in the Caribbean would you really like to be?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Thursday, October 14, 2010

I'll Buy It!

There are many real estate agents here and it's so small everyone is chasing the same business. Also, they have the same reputation here as elsewhere and because it is so small a lot of transactions are carried out by word of mouth, rightly or wrongly.

We have a lot of guests, friends and yes complete strangers because I'm a magnet for them, who ask for help, to view properties before their arrival and to generally assist them in the 'looking' process and what's a good deal.

However, who knows what's a 'good deal' here - the market is going up the whole time, the recession hasn't affected prices and the place is so utterly unique that how do you put a price on a great view of the sea, your own perfectly formed riverside pool, natural hot spring, historical plantation house etc etc? So, the surveyors merely price by what they know - that is the cost of construction per square foot and the price of land. Their other main criteria is access because the roads here are sometimes not here. Go figure. Or you may have your perfect plot but the plot before yours has been sold so you really need to factor in a helipad into your construction project.

So, if you want to buy this house, one of my favourites in Dominica and situated in an area of complete and utter outstanding natural beauty, let me know and it's yours!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Welcome to the world

Yep, it's all been happening here. Just finished water birthing, no, not me, my jungle (!) friends. Sort of a bit ying/yang for me being a full on hospital (yes please way more pethadine), girl. So, there's this big paddling pool in the Lodge, filled up with hot water, a bit of deep breathing and then out pops Junior. Couldn't be easier.....from a watching, sympathetic glances, just push, point of view. Midwife then tries to pass over the placenta. Err, no thanks, don't you have a medical incinerator in your car. Clearly not. Would someone like to bury it? Clearly that someone isn't me. I don't do burying. Even the first, lasted 24 hours, rabbit ended up in a shoe box hurled over the mountain, with a quick prayer mind. Imagine, digging away, burying this yucky looking white plastic bag thing and then the chicken (she thinks she's free range) or second much more healthy rabbit dig it up. Oh joy. You know, there's 'at one with nature' and 'at one with nature'. So, stalemate, it goes in the freezer, to go home with the new parents - so their dogs can dig it up. Off they all go a few days later, having hired a new car because they have so much gear (but clearly conveniently forgetting to fit in you know what) and an hour or so later I get a phone call from some students saying 'we're on the hill, can we have a look at the Lodge'. Sure I say, it's tidy but not cleaned. In they come, nutters of course, who happens to 'just be wondering around the top of the mountain?' Anyway, no-body but no-body looks around and opens the fridge and feezer. OMG, they do - something along the lines of 'is there enough room to freeze our freshy squeezed tree bark in there?' or some such nonsense. And, yes, it's still in there, nicely wrapped in a Buy/Shop/Spend/Whatever-A-Lot bag but still RIGHT THERE. So, nutter one says, 'oops they've left their meat in there'. At this point child 1 pipes up, because she is definitely a piper 'oh no, that's a placenta'.

So, the lesson of the day is, when any nutters want to stay, just ensure you have a placenta or two to hand. You know, what I couldn't even be bothered to explain as they winged their way out of the gate super quick.

Now, isn't there a nice little taste explosion/at one with nature recipe that we could rustle up.....

Friday, May 21, 2010

Trust In Me

So, I was gardening today, well actually I was walking around the garden, pointing out things to the gardener, but I did have seedlings (red sunflowers yes red, impressed hey?) in my hand, that I'd grown, anyway, I had that watched feeling. Actually, with a house above and a house at the side and being a source of entertainment for all sorts of reasons, this is a common feeling. Then I spotted it. Ok, so everyone says, here on the happy clappy nature isle, garden of eden blah blah blah, nothing can hurt you, but still you don't really want to be eyeballing a 6ft snake with only a chainlink fence between you. Ok, keep cool, everyone says they're afraid of us, well this one didn't look very spooked, anyway, do they tell you to stand firm and tree like or do they say leg it, what do they do in LOST? I am sort of a bit balanced on a slope and can't really leap away quickly, so I say 'shoo' (umm, bet that terrified him, not), then it does that scary tongue flicky thing, and gives me a look as if to say, if I want you I'll get you because I know you had surgery 3 weeks ago and you can't hop skip and jump away. By this time, the gardener has long gone, (happy for any excuse to escape from me droning on, ignoring all full moon planting prerequisites and when quite frankly it's Friday and who cares it'll all be grown back by Monday), so I edge back and tell Kaa to wait whilst I get my camera. Clearly, he is well trained as when I return he is still sunbathing. Then he gets all camera shy and slithers back into his hole under the, do I tell my son so he can go all Jungle Book on me hoping they'll bond and sing together or do I keep my mouth firmly shut.....

Friday, May 14, 2010

When it all goes horribly wrong....

Ok, so here you are sitting here in paradise, just living the dream and then one day, without warning,something happens you can't control. You suddenly get sick. Right, this is how it went....

Can I have a scan?
Because I can feel this big lump in my tummy.
What sort of scan?
I dunno - you know the one you have where you can spot a baby.
So you're pregnant?
No I'm not.
How do you know?
I know, trust me.
Have you taken a test? You do look a bit thick around the waist.
(I feel the waiting room patients strain slightly to hear more and see more)
No, but I am not pregnant ok. (And I grudgingly breathe in)
Ok, but you need to know the name of the scan.
Ok, it's an ultrasound.
All our scans are ultrasound. (in that you complete moron voice and I don't care even though you're sick)
Ok, show me your list of scans.......ok, it's trans-vaginal (I knew she just wanted me to say this in a tiny waiting room where everyone has absolutely nothing to do but listen to your desperate pleas for attention)
Yes, that's correct. (like I'm on this points system)
Well, can I book an appointment then please?
No, come back with a Dr's certificate.

At this point, I realised that sickness was not going to guarantee me a quick bypass around the system here and a first class ticket to communication excellence.

Ok, so then comes the insurance company. I get a form, get it completed and return it to the office. There, I get absolutely no sympathy, I guess they've seen it all before of course, so she just tells me she will submit it to Head Office, . This is on Tuesday, and I tell her I'm due to leave the country on Sunday. On Friday I return to the office and she tells me she's tried to jiggle (sic) it along but heard nothing so contact their office, in the country where surgery is taking place and oh, good luck.

So, I have surgery in 5 days, no insurance confirmation and an amount of EC$20K to pay on arrival at the hospital. I go to the bank, no far too easy that, can I get $20K out in one go - no way, have to give notice. Ok, no worries, I can pay by credit card. Here we go.

Hello, please tell me my credit card limit and balance?
$8,000 dollars is your limit and your balance is nil.
Ok, great. Can I give you $8,000 to put on my card.
What? (pronounced wur-arrr-ttt - sounds far more intimidating you know)
I want to go over my $8,000 limit to $16,000.
No, I am sorry we really don't advise you going above your limit, you might find it difficult to repay us.
No, I'm not, I am giving you in hard cash $8,000 and in return you are going to say I have $16,000 credit limit.
No, I'm sorry it is hard but you have to apply to increase your credit card limit.
But I'm not really you know, I am giving you $8,000 in real notes and I already have $8,000.
Well, on maybe one really important occasion you could go above your limit - what do you want to buy anyway?
I don't want to buy anything, I want to speak to your supervisor.
I'm sorry she will say the same thing as me and it's Friday afternoon and she is going home soon.

I put the phone down and cry.

So, off I go, overseas, to have surgery. I stay in hospital a week. During this time I am asked on two occasions, after surgery, if I would like to see my 25cm, 4 kilos in weight, lump. Now, if it was a baby, yes, but my very very large, very vertical scar, removal of various other organs too, reminds me there's no baby so I decline all offers, much to the nurse's obvious disappointment and observation that inferred I was the mad one as 'everyone' else saw theirs. I wonder, do you think they take a picture of it too?

So, finally I leave and I make it to the carpark, get in the car, and then, even on a Sunday, some jobsworth, clearly single, with no life outside his debt collecting job whatsoever, from Administration, has followed me.....and bangs on the window waving a big wad of paper. From experience I can tell this is the very itemised down to each cotton wood ball, invoice.

You need to pay before you leave - it's an exuberant (sic) amount. (He gesticulates in a breathless voice).
No, I'm not. (Suddenly, I feel empowered, here I am, can hardly walk, constant flashes of hot searing pain, family miles away, completely fed up and the insurance company, who are meant to make your life easy, have failed me). I'm back on Tuesday, I will settle it then. (I say in a don't mess with me voice)
Well sign something.
Ok, gimme something to sign.

So I sign my life away and we finally drive off.

Tuesday, comes and we're off to see the insurance company. Very nice chap and all that but absolutely nothing is resolved, they are questioning a pre-existing possibility. Clearly, I was definitely aware of my growing baby imitator many months before my insurance came into effect, not. So, during our chat, he advises me that the lady in charge of the insurance office in Dominica was very very excited about joining the company's Mediterranean cruise this year. This really wasn't the best bit of information to pass on to me but in my worn down by red tape state, I weakly retorted that I hoped that by actually paying my claim it wouldn't reduce their cocktail and canape intake. The VNC (keep up) found this so hilarious that he couldn't speak for a while. Funnily enough, neither could I.

Finally, I have my stitches out. But they don't come out. So I have a lot of drugs. Fab. They still don't come out. Then I have an injection right into my belly button, not so fab. Stitches come out. More drugs. I'm done.

I can fly home. Yay! I have to wear those very attractive elasticated DVT stockings. Thank goodness I had bought some jeans, sixth sense because I hardly ever wear jeans. So on go the tights and wow, my legs look like perfect staight pins - wow that's so cool. Then I hobble through x-ray. I forgot that these jeans have a built in/on buckle which sets the machine off. I get waved at for the once over hand machine and the officer lifts my t-shirt. Big mistake. Huge great scar staring at her. She nearly dies but has to say, of course, 'have you had surgery'. I want to say no and look down all surprised but I can't keep a straight face. Anyway, I'm whisked through, put in a wheelchair, onto the plane first, given a free drink. Great. When I disembark I reached up for my bag in the overhead locker though and forgot about my handiwork on my tummy again - passengers below me were put off their holiday cocktails for a while I'm sure.

So, I'm home, I'm recovering, I'm fine. The insurance company have agreed that I am not in fact pre-existing but they are not quite sure what I am. Clearly all the paperwork they send you when you are hooked in and signed up and paying large monthly amounts, corresponds to absolutely nothing that you may or may not be entitled to when you actually get sick.

The plus side is that I have this super flat stomach and of course if I get my DVT designer tights on I'd have these super slim pins too. The downside is that Victoria's Secret won't choose me for their next range - ok, for maybe more than just one reason.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Aerial Tram Ride Dominica

Cool, really cool. Just don't look down.

What's this flower then?

A Weekend In The Country - Mermaid's Secret, Dominica

So, here you go, enjoy and don't ask me what the flowers are. However, spot the coffee beans, limes, cocoa, nutmeg, pineapple, cashew nuts (really cool!) etc....It's getting booked up what are you waiting for?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Midnight Caller

Do you remember that show that had the sexy voice that always ended with 'Goodnight America wherever you are'? Well Patrick here in Dominica could give him a run for his money. So, here's the thing, local pyromaniac cuts down trees and starts a fire and then goes out. Since there's been no rain since I can't remember when, the fire is very happy and soon reaches heights of over 15 feet and carefully burns through leccy and cable tv wires. Anyway, up turns Blue Watch (who carefully connect up in Caribbean time) and soon the fire's out or is it........

Fast forward 9 hours and I'm home alone and off to bed and I can smell a lot of smoke. So I see from my balcony that the fire has reignited and is now in full swing. So, do I just ignore it or make a phone call to the neighbours and tell someone else, thus absolving myself of all responsibility....No, not so easy, Dominica is the go to bed early nation, no-one answers. (Now there's a comforting thought for a later even more urgent matter). I then wake up the Housekeeper who tells me this 7 digit number to ring for the fire brigade - what happened to good old 999? Anyway, here begins my midnight caller moment.

Good Evening, Roseau Fire Station.

Umm, you know the fire you came to today well it isn't really out.

What do you mean?

Well it's still on fire.

Go and check it for me.

What do you mean - go and check it? I can see it from here I am not going anywhere in my PJ's, with my kids in bed.

Well, what does it look like?

A fire, sort of fire-ish and red-ish and basically flame-ish.
(Clearly not on the first page of the regulation Fire Manual then)

How tall are the flames?

I can't really tell but sort of high-ish and worth checking-ish. (I'm loosing my nerve now). Anyway, I'm not asking you to 'der der der der der der' (fire engine sound ok) all the way up here, just maybe pop in your car and have a look......(I realise now I'm sounding girly and pitiful and should just give up)

Well maybe you could check it every hour or so for us?


Well I could ring you or you could ring me and you could let me know how it is.

But I'm going to bed.....Anyway, I think I've done my duty so what's your name? (long pause - no-one likes this question unless they're in a bar I guess, maybe)

Well, what's your name? (Ah, checkmate)

(So, we both exchange names and both feel on an even keel now I guess)

Anyway, (I say purposefully), I'm off to bed and I just wanted you to know because I don't want my village to burn down....

Ok, but you ring me back when you want.

Umm, ok......

Sunday, February 21, 2010

How much is that chicken in the freezer, the one with the .....

Well, there's this sort of wholesale place here but there again not really wholesale and their logo is 'we give birth to prices and others raise them'...and no it's not Mothercare. Anyway, my Mum is here and she is keen to get the full shopping experience and has overheard Merlyn (my wonderwoman help) saying we should buy our meat here so here I am forfeiting the equivalent to the M&S Foodhall (ok, never in a million years I know) to Lidl's long distant cousin.

So, here's the setting - 20 x 20ft room, strange tardis like cash desk to your left, huge freezer to your right, small table in the middle with slightly bloodied scales on and then a veritable line up of pen pushing staff on the left hand side. These guys well about 5 women and 1 guy are all very busy writing out invoices with lots of carbon paper and making no eye contact at all. Anyway, I have been here long enough now to not let the no eye contact ruse deter me. So, I grab a guy who's stacking up boxes and say 'Gimme a chicken'. Ok, I don't really say this but this is what I want to say but instead I say:-

Please can I have a couple of chickens?

Yes, what size?

I don't know (Dominican chickens are all one size, trust me). Just give me a couple please, I don't mind.

So, he opens the freezer which has about a foot of frost in it and then a jumbled collection of EVERYTHING - fish, chicken, hams, feet - ok trotters, and lots of things I definitely can't recognise. Anyway, I don't know whether to be helpful and prod around with him or just hold the top of the freezer up. I opt for the latter because I don't want to spot an eye or a nostril. I should actually be vegetarian - in fact if Eric (of Red Rock Haven fame) could cook for me everyday I would be, albeit I'd always make him do chocolate pancakes. Anyway, after lots of digging around, helpful man says:-

Only got one.

That's fine, one will do. How much is it?

I'll have to weigh it.

So, lots of weighing and shouting to one of the girls on the far left side. Is it me or is frozen chicken a lot heavier than fresh. Anyway, it's 25 bucks so I say fine and try and take it. Oh no, I can't do that. I have to go and get the invoice from Lady A. So, I stand there patiently waiting for the carbon copies to be suitably pressed and then I hear the most (ok, along with 'do you understand?') annoying expression here 'Let me tell you'. So, making no eye contact (I'm learning) I ignore this. However, this is followed by perfectly manicured tapping nails on the desk and a slightly louder 'Let me tell you, you can't buy one chicken'. You know what, I didn't even want to buy one chicken, I wanted to get my usual $18 dollar chicken in IGA and queue up and pay for it and leave and have a quiet life. So, now I'm apologising for buying one chicken when all that's in the freezer is ONE CHICKEN. So I look pathetically grateful and hand her my money. No, way too easy, she doesn't take money. So I look to the obvious cash desk that's all enclosed with a glass counter. No, way too easy too. Instead, more tapping and gesticulating from the man three along who has clearly lost his vocal cords. I give him the invoice and the money and of course there is no change. So, I edge towards my chicken which is now nicely defrosting on the crusty scales and am about to pick it up when money man finds his voice 'You must have a bag and take your invoice first'. So I skulk back to get my invoice and then back to the scales. Helpful man finds a bag but won't hand it over until I give him the invoice. Finally, I grab my $25, certainly not wholesale price chicken and leave. Never again. Well so I thought, as Mum pipes up tonight 'I saw a big bag of prawns in there you know, I think we should get them tomorrow'. Umm, well maybe more than one prawn in the bag qualifies for wholesale....maybe.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Parking Ticket

So, I got my first parking ticket this week. Well, it was only a matter of time - I park too close to corners and sort of breathe in as I am nudging my car as close to the one in front as possible. Then I feel a bit guilty so I sit in my car for a bit to double check that cars can get around the corner that I may have just parked a tad too close too.

So later on I get back to the car and have made someone who is most certainly not a policeman very happy who is there waiting to give me my ticket in case it had blown away from under the wipers. Maybe he's on commission. So he is expecting a big scene and I give him a big smile and admit that when your time's up your time's up. He didn't really understand that comment funnily enough.

Off to the Magistrate's Court I go as why wait the 14 days. Expecting some long slow painful process I am pleasantly surprised when I open the door to the Cashier's Office and no-one is there. The room is something out of Dickens - stacked full of ledgers and papers and everything slightly tilted and wonky and you know at a glance that once something enters this room, it will never ever be found again.

Hello, I've come to pay this'. (passing over my ticket)

'Why?' She says which completly throws me. Why? Well I don't know really really why but I guess it's because I should and it's the right thing to do.

'Umm, because I parked too close to the edge'.

'No, why do you want to pay it today? When did you get it?' She then spots that I got it at 11.20am and now it's 11.30am and she starts sort of shaking every part of her body and then says....

'You don't have to pay it you know, it hasn't been submitted. Why don't you come back in a few weeks time and check again?'

'Check what?' I say, knowing that nothing can ever be double checked in this place again. It would be the ultimate miracle if my A5 sized original ticket ever surfaced again let alone got matched with the possibly submitted one.

'I think I'd just like to pay it now please'.

'As you liking (sic) but I have to tell you now that you really don't have to'.

'Well, I guess it's going to a good cause isn't it?'
(Maybe filling a pothole or two).

Now, she looks at me as if I've gone loopy loo.

'A good cause?'

I realise that there's no point going down this line of conversation afterall so I hand over my $100 and wait for my $25 back.

'Well, I don't want to have to pay $500 in a few weeks time if my papers are all miraculously matched up', I say and she knows she is not going to stop some strange woman insisting on her taking $100 however hard she tries to desist her.

'I don't have change - well I have $20 and $5'.

'Well, I gave you $100 and the change should be $25 so $20 + $5 is right', I gently explain.

'No, the $5 is mine, so you owe me $5'.

'Ok, don't worry, you can just give me $20 and you can keep your $5 no problem'.

'No, I have to give you the right change'.

'Well, when do you want me to bring your $5 back then?' (Will this turn into some increased fixed penalty too if I wait too long I wonder)

'In a few weeks time, will be fine (being the operative word)......Good Day'

Is it me or is my fine now really $80?.

Sunday, January 31, 2010


I can't avoid eye contact with people in the road waving their arms at me, so here I am again picking up some slightly unusual looking man carrying quite a few boxes. To put him off I say quite firmly I am just going to the bottom of the mountain. No problem he replies, smiling a lot, so I grudgignly let him in. Then I can't understand a word he says so I ask him where he's from. 'Asia' he replies. 'Oh' I say, pleasantly surprised, I will chat about my back packing days. 'Have you been to Thailand or Hong Kong?'. He looks at me blankly and nods. 'Can you not speak much English?' (I say in the loud slow annoying foreigner to foreigner voice). 'No, I speak Creole & French' That's strange I thought, there must be some French & Creole speaking country in Asia that I don't know about. Not to be deterred, I plough on and ask him if he's on holiday. 'No, I working at Evergreen Hotel'. Oh, ok I thought. Then, as always, I get to where I want to be but then feel all remorseful and ask him exactly where he wants to go. Ten minutes out of my way, I eventually drop him off. He is very grateful and nods a lot and says he is sending all the boxes to his relatives in 'Haysha'. Jolly nice guy I thought but the post will be jolly expensive - he looks at me and asks 'You sent to earthquake too?'. Another OMG moment, he's not Asian, he's Haitian. There I have been wittering on about backpacking the beaches of Asia and all he's concerned about is sending off supplies to his relatives in Haiti. I must learn the local lingo pdq that's for sure.

Well it began with 'R'

'Mummy Mummy, we need to take Rosemary to school today Sister Annita said', exclaimed my 4 year old breathlessly at 7.30am last Thursday. I am now totally resigned to being given no notice by my kids about anything to do with school and instead fill their bags with whatever requests they like, usually fairly suspect, (did your teacher really say she wanted to see your Hannah Montana guitar shaped sparkly lippy?) but no time to argue as they are rushing out of the door, invariably late. Anyway, Rosemary cool, absolutely no problem whatsoever. My garden would currently make old Hugh Fearnley Whatsit at the even more greeener than he possibly is with envy as it's positively bursting with herbs and produce now. So Rosemary, bring it on, just bring it on. There you go my love, just hold it carefully in the car until you get there. So, I wave everyone off cheerfully because my husband does the morning school run (phew phew phew) and pat myself on the back.

Not so long later, my mobile rings.

'Hey, you got the Rosemary wrong love'
'What do you mean wrong?' (I am visibly bristling at this criticism so early on in the day)
'Well, as we were going into Church (always every Thursday) late, there was a distinct lack of any other 4 year olds carrying Rosemary'
'Oh well, (me positively bursting with pride now and patting myself on the back), no-one else probably could grow any'
'No, I don't think it's Rosemary they wanted'
'Are you sure?'
'Well, put it like this, as I handed Scarlett over to her teacher and she squeezed alongside the pew, all her classmates were clutching something else that sounds similar.....'
'Similar? Rocket? Well what?'
'Those necklaces with crosses on...'

Umm, not so self-satisfied smug yummy green mummy now, afterall.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

He Could Be From Here For Sure!

Friday, January 15, 2010

New Balcony & Chocolate (again again I know I know!)

So, builders builders builders, one of the most popular questions I get asked and the most stories you hear the world over though, of things that went horribly wrong. Anyway, I know two sets of great builders - one that builds in the Dominican way and by this I mean with Dominican finishes and the other with more European finishes so we are currently revamping parts of the house to combine the best of both. So the 'when in Rome' expression will become 'when in Dominica but with a touch of Dubai'. I have friends though that have built importing absolutely everything and there's a fully functional American dream house here that Martha Stewart would be proud of and another friend is starting the process and importing everything from the UK. Her house will be STUNNING (pressure's on KS!) and will combine European perfection set amongst Dominican beauty.

Until you live here you don't realise how important outside space is, however, until you live here you don't realise how much rain there is. So you need outside space that is waterproof. So, this is our latest addition.

ps The chocolates were an amazing gift yesterday from a very very nice person who has just relocated....every new balcony needs some......and nice and normal relocators!!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Short & sweet, sort of...

Whale Watching

Whale watching is like diving here - people can't believe it if you don't experience both frequently. Well, whale watching being marginally less effort we ventured out today. So first of all we are on a very small boat because the posh, ensuite bathroom, full bar & massage area (possibly) large boat is catering to the equally large cruise market. Our boat has 13 people including 5 kids and are all European sized. So, I get on and can't hear a word of the briefing because the engine is so loud. However, I do hear rum punch and smile and nod encouragingly like people do when they are in a herd situation.

An hour in and I'm telling the kids what a lovely boat trip this in and there's plenty more whales in the sea as it were and never mind we spot absolutely nothing when suddenly we are completely surrounded - ok there were 7 huge (derrr of course they are) whales all around us. The excitement level on the boat is fever pitch and all I'm thinking is why don't they just give us a little nudge. You know you read all these stories where animals suddenly 'turn' - tigers jump out of zoo cages, lions turn on their trainers and so forth. So here we are, in a tiny, insignificant, very light boat because it's full of skinny people and one day these guys are going to get bored and say hello, come on down, literally. So, next thing is that they swim right underneath the boat (thank heavens it's not glass bottomed) and give us a handprint - cool hey - this is actually a tailprint - when their tail hits the sea it does give a print. (No I didn't get a picture ok).

On the way back, we travel at speed and I mean speed, get completely soaked and the boat is on a fairly alarming angle. During this, the crew remain looking steadfastly ahead whilst clearly thinking how many can we lose on the way back - well it must get boring for them, there again maybe not, it's not everyday you can eyeball a whale is it. Wow wow wow!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow

So, Happy Happy New Year! It's that time of year when I get the most enquiries and bookings for here and elsewhere. One incentive is that I give 10% off all bookings paid for in full by 31st January (but try not to spend it all before the 31st March 2010) and secondly I guess when it's freezing cold and dark most of the day it's nice to have some hot destination to look forward to. However, I guarantee the day your holiday starts you are guaranteed to have a complete personality bypass:

Personality Bypass

This non-surgical procedure
Should be avoided at all costs
If your personality is bypassed
You won’t realise what you’ve lost!

It can happen quite by accident
To anyone it’s true
And before you know it, nobody
Can see the happy you!

Firstly you forget to smile
Deep furrows line your brow
You used to laugh and giggle
Now you can’t remember how!

What causes this phenomenon?
Can herbal teas assist?
How can you just turn back the clock?
Recapturing laughs you’ve missed?

Well first you wrinkle up your nose
Practise a wink or two
Then each day ask “How is your world?”
“How’s life been treating you”?

Responses may be minimal
But you’ll feel better “Oh yes indeed”
And you’ll avoid being “personality bypassed”
Of that you’re guaranteed!

Anyway, as usual I digress. So this starts at the airport when you stand in line and check your documents in some OCD like manner. Leave your purse in the washroom and then buy a load of stuff that might 'just in case' become handy on the plane and after. However, this is all in the realms of acceptable and the full on alarm bells actually completely kick in whilst you are in fact meant to be completely horizontal on holiday and instead you remain in a somewhat vertical state. Therefore, before you book this year, just ask yourself the follwoing questions:

Do you find holidays to be reinvigorating, relaxing and refreshing?

Do you return home feeling rejuvenated and with your batteries recharged?

Or, is it just one big headache and you can't wait to get back to "normal", sleep in your own bed and slot back into a comfortable routine?

Holidays can be challenging experiences. We step out of our normal environment with the aim of a pleasurable experience. Our expectations are often set by glossy brochures or travel programmes showing idyllic settings, beautiful scenery or even the promise of adventures in wild places. But, are we up to the reality of the challenges ahead or do we set ourselves up for disillusionment and disappointment? How much excess baggage do we take on holiday and how much complete rubbish do we bring back. Yes, a conch shell does look lovely in a bright blue plantation house in the Caribbean but covered in snow on a doorstep in Swindon, perhaps not. And, drinking rum & coke back home on a wet & windy day? I think not.

Reality can quickly take away the rose coloured spectacles of the view of the "wild places" when basic needs are delivered via "basic methods" - dig your own toilet perhaps or carry your own rubbish and of course accept that it's only the British that queue...

Even if you opted for a luxury villa in a tropical paradise, you might still find yourself catering for the family, but without the familiar equipment or having to use "foreign ingredients". Challenges come thick and fast. From truculent children who will NOT eat anything but their favourite brand of breakfast cereal, to the intricacies of foreign plumbing systems - such as what times of the day you can expect hot water (or sometimes any water!) let alone electricity.

Then there are the "decision dilemmas" - a group of people on holiday trying to make a collective decision about where they are going next is often painful. As with all committees, the end result is usually a choice that no-one particularly wanted but which had the least objections all round. That's of course if you managed to make a decision in time to go anywhere at all!

Add to that, cultural and language differences and it is easy to feel like a fish out of water. As expectations for the holiday and the reality of it start to diverge, the inner tension levels can soon start to rise and will leak out in many ways.

Personalities often change on holiday!

Some people suddenly become the main song and dance act, trying to impress everyone. Others may withdraw into a little "leave me alone" shell and only come out at feeding time. Some may try and "fit in" with the culture and customs of the new environment without any clue about how or why and become more of a hindrance than a help.

Some of this can be laid at the door of complete insecurity. Dealing with a new environment, having to relate in new ways with people you may only see occasionally, or even with total strangers, can bring forth bizarre inner demons. Insecurity, means that there is an inner need to bolster one's self esteem. Children will be more obvious about their demand for attention in order to "feel good" using someone else's energy, but adults have learned far more subtler albeit unpleasant ways to do this.

For example, competitiveness - who can be the most extreme? Who can drink the most, have the loudest most annoying voice, have the biggest hangover, swim the furthest, wear the sexiest bikini, etc... Being "the best" or "having an opinion about everything" puts you at the centre of everyone's attention and lapping up their energy.

And, for those who don't join the "competing games", the opposite ploy is often a total withdrawal, tummy bugs, headaches, illnesses that attract attention in the form of sympathy and some TLC. These aren't necessarily scheming strategies and the players are most likely not even aware of their actions, but they are an inner response at a sub-conscious level to feelings of insecurity.

Another aspect of personality change on holiday is the release of the controls on "normal behaviour". The brakes are off, indulgence is the name of the game and on holiday "I can do what I want, eat/drink what I want, say whatever I like, NO LIMITS!"

But, just as freewheeling downhill can be exhilarating and exciting, it can also be dangerous if you aren't able to steer where you want to go. That's when you might discover the brick wall of reality and "wham, what hit me, where did those kilos come from, where did the black eye come from, how did I end up becoming this bitter and twisted!"

Those people who feel restricted in their normal environment by parents/spouse/responsibilities/etc.. are often the ones who just "let rip" when freed from their shackles. They are also usually the ones who need another holiday after their holiday to recover!

Holidays are a great opportunity for self-awareness.

Returning back home to our "normal" routines, there is an opportunity to reflect on our behaviour on holiday, did we "like" ourselves, did we discover another side to our personality that we weren't aware of, did we discover hidden talents?

We can reflect on the difference to our "norm", and consider if there are aspects of our life that could do with some change? Perhaps we have also become aware of a bigger picture than our own life. Maybe, understood a different culture, experienced a different way and can now ask ourselves pertinent questions about how we might improve our life, our environment, our relationships and overall ourselves?

Or perhaps we just returned home with a sense of gratitude for what we do have and for the people that are part of our lives.

Holidays give perspective, if you are willing to stand back and look.

They may be an escape in the short term, but can also be life changing for the longer term.

Here's to your holiday this year, wherever you may go.