Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Must love dogs

On Saturday morning Charms took me on a drive down to Macqueripe, the sort of beach that lies nestled between two cliffs on the north coast of Trinidad. It's an easy drive from the house and for me, having been cooped up extensively in an office with little fear of escaping the last three odd months, it was liberating to get out into the morning sunshine, though it quickly turned hot and sticky. Admittedly I was in no shape to really appreciate anything more from all the hacking and wheezing that was coming out but I surely appreciated the effort she was making and persevered. This bay has had an interesting history, once part of the American base, this is where the officers lived in the little houses still dotted around and this is where the submarines came up to moor. Up until a few years ago you could still see the concrete bays, eerie and silent but those and the hotel up the hill have disappeared and now the only submarine is the Cable of Americas which comes ashore here. It is a place that tries to be beautiful despite all the crap that is done to it to make it more "touristy". I hardly ever go any more, it's just too dangerous on your own.

While driving out, there by the side of the road was the hound. Well, he looked like the hound if the hound was a half starved, sort of wild looking dog. I panicked, I wanted to rescue Rover, abandoned by the side of the road. He was a beautiful German shepherd, classic black and tan, great lines, this was no stray. The sticking out ribs made me want to cry and getting home to my own pampered pooch made me feel even more guilty. That happens a lot these days.

In the last year I've discovered that I prefer the company of dogs more than I do people. They have much better qualities, they're loyal, they pay attention, they know when to shut up and generally will love you. And though I often complain about my dog, in that week that he was at the vet while I laboured on a boat, I sure missed his furry self twining around whatever body part he could find. Right now as I write this he is resignedly resting against my ankles waiting for brekkies and walkies. Ghandi said that you could judge the greatness of a nation by how they treat their animals. Judging on what goes on here, well, less said better. Am I surprised, no. We truly never seem that evolved and lately the cracks have been showing more and more. Meanwhile I've been thinking about that dog and wondering if he's okay, understanding that sometime soon, I will have to find a place where they do love dogs.

Monday, April 27, 2009

What's in a name?

My new definition of irritation is being stalked relentlessly by 90 pound dog while trying to get over a nasty case of bronchitis. The hound does not understand that mummy is sicker than the proverbial dog though the loud hacking, barking noises emanating from my throat might be a clue. Nope, the hound just thinks that Saturday has rolled around again, and though a trifle confusing, is willing to put up with this new dispensation if it means his owner will throw that round yellow thing over and over and over again. When shouted at, he just looks at you with mournful brown eyes until you give in, and then you are in hell.

While this current state is vile, it still beats swine flu; though as a friend, gleefully I thought, said to me, bet you want to just spray yourself with Lysol now after all the close contact with the Mexicans last week. This, I suspect is her revenge for having to translate all the questions and comments from the onslaught of Latin American male ad nauseum since my already troubled Spanish deserted me in the midst of crisis. Apparently heavy applications of charm and otherwise cause my addled brain to further retreat into stuttering idiotdom but that's a story for another day. Preferably with heavy applications of tequila or thumbscrews, whichever is applied first.

Oops left the room for a minute to go pour some milk into my tea and returned to find the hound in front of my laptop, good thing he can't read or I'd be in trouble! But I digress.

Today I really feel for President Calderon. I "met" him last week, well if meeting him meant a couple dozen close encounters in the corridors, him smiling genially at me while saying gracias for pointing the way to somewhere and then his embassy sending a terribly lovely gift as a thank you for all my assistance which I refuse to talk about thank you very much. Of all the leaders, he, Madame Bachelet of Chile and Brazil's Lula are still my favourites, (yes I SAW LULA, was right there next to him!) They seem like nice people just from the way they treated us "help", well and the fact that they acted quite normal, not a bunch of posturing etc. What made the Calderon's very special for me was the call they received from their children on the way to the official dinner. Senora Calderon answered her phone and was speaking to her children, she passed the phone to papa. The whole entourage, security, liaisons, everybody came to a halt while Papa took the time to talk to his kids. Now that is man! They have young children, it was heartening to see that in the midst of all the pomp and circumstance Mama and Papa understood what was important, dinners come and go, childhood does not last forever. Sure it caused us some inconvenience but to a man/woman standing there, we were all happy to wait for them. It made them extremely human and we respected them for that. Phone call over, Papa said "go to bed", the President gently apologised for making us wait, took his wife's arm and went to join his colleagues. We all smiled at each other, these are the moments that make it all worthwhile.

So today, my heart is with him in Cuidad Mexico rocked by a 6.0 earthquake and ravaged by swine flu. What a name! Very Animal Farm, makes you wonder really if Mother Nature is exacting her revenge on us. That'll teach us stupid humans. The Mexican economy which was doing okay is now going to take a hit. Mexican products, tourism and people are taking a blow that is simply not fair, one hopes that they will weather this storm and come out the other side soon.

Vaya con dios mis amigos.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Havaianas to you too

For the last two days two book have occupied my failing attention, not because there are boring, quite the opposite, it is just hard to be attentive while alternately roasting with fever or shivering with cold against a backdrop of searing heat outdoors and persistent dog indoors. The books, Sue Townsend's, The Public Confessions of a Middle Aged Woman and Brigid Keenan's, Trailing Spouses, read them if you can. Both books were written by ladies around the same age, one a novelist, the other a coffeetable book author and are a collection of their experiences over the years. These two woman are screamingly funny, their ability to laugh at themselves refreshing, one knows they would have been inveterate bloggers had the facility existed earlier.

In the all too brief segues between contemplating my newest pair of Havaianas flip flops, a bright cheery red, dotted with, what else, cherry trees and gold straps, staring at the ceiling to avoid looking at the hopeful dog so that I can rest my eyes, I read for as long as I can. Meanwhile hoping that someone will materialise to take care of the house, cook lovely healthy, restorative meals and provide juice/foot rubs/cough syrup on demand. Sadly the hound does not have opposable thumbs so this is mere pipe dream. I suspect that for the next few weeks as I claw my way back to normalcy, the in-between moments will be spent contemplating whether it is time to think about the return of a significant other. As a background, this is a pretty vile case of bronchitis brought on by overwork, lack of sleep and whatever else was going on for the last two weeks. For those of you waiting my Summit stories, they're going to have to wait a little longer or call me on the phone.

The reason I brought up the books in the first place is that these women have reminded me of the pleasure of writing, as opposed to the utilitarian work purpose to which my pen has been turned of late. They've also reminded me that there is a world outside of the narrow little closet that I've been in for the last two years. And then it occured to me, anybody reading or just hearing about my exploits might think that I was a trifle glam. What a thought! Me, who can barely contain my thighs these days. In the last year I've rubbed shoulders with the Prince of Wales, partied with sundry celebrities while hanging on the super cool island of Mustique. I've just come off of seeing thirty some of the hemisphere's leaders up close and personal adn I have the thank you presents from grateful delegations to prove it. I've worked in the past with musicians, actors etc that are household names. I know lots of people and used to be generally considered a bohemian artist type before I gave up that to re-join the suitably offbeat, though really uptight profession that I do now. Along the way I've managed to collect an ex-husband, lots of colourful ex-boyfriends and a small cadre of really nice, really interesting friends who are all slightly mad, like me.

Wow, I'd be wowed if I read this about someone I knew, and yet, somehow it just does not seem that exciting to me. In fact, a long standing friend once said to me that I had all the qualities that in a different time and place would have made me one of those women, who when old would have many interesting stories that would mortify the children and thrill the grandchildren or nieces and nephews. Neither my brothers nor I have managed to produce any offspring so no danger there, the dog does not care as long as he's fed and walkied at the appropriate intervals. I can see it now, me in a suitably patterned dressing gown lounging in my Paris apartment left to be by a grateful lover. This after a lifetime of globe trotting, going on safari before taking off to work on an aid project or something. Hell even my dreams are earnest. Ah well, sadly I've never had to the ability to see that as an option, I've always just put my head down and worked. But I will admit to racking up experiences. Maybe one day I'll even tell.

These days however, my Havaianas are occupying more of my attention than they honestly should. I have a few pairs ranging from black with white pattern to green with hibiscus flowers, they are rivaling my extensive collection of high heels and winning hands down in popularity. I was actually offended when the lady in the shoe store in WestMall, no I was not buying myself more shoes, my friend was, looked at my flip flops and then said, you know, you can get tons of those for $10 at some store or other. At which point Charms hustled me out of the shop, she didn't want the explosion. Goodly reader, Havianas are not cheap, nor are they cheesy, they are Brazilian made and are the thing in flip flops. One thing those Brazilians know how to do, swimwear and beach footwear. They've even turned the "rubber slipper" into a "flip flop" which can be worn as a high end clothing item. And suddenly, my urge to flee the world of dark suits and towering high heels seems to be much more manageable, because you see, the lure of the flip flop is getting to be a siren call. See you on the beach.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Riding the adrenalin high

This is where I long to be...

Mi querido, besos para ti

The return of the Dragon Lady

Easter in Trinidad

"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven"

Somewhere in Trinidad, including outside my door, the Catholic faithful are recreating the stations of the cross. Families are getting ready to spend the day together, many go to the beach or find some activity that brings everyone to a central point. It is Good Friday and no matter what your religion is, custom dictates that fish will be the basis of today's meal.

The Good Friday "bobolee" or effigy of Judas Iscariot is being hoisted up, for the neighbourhood boys to thrash. Children are anticipating the chocolate eggs, chickens and other goodies that will distributed on Sunday. Granny or Mummy's Easter Ham, glazed and baked to perfection, or Roast chicken, brown skin glistening and crackling with goodness. ''

Easter bonnet parades, frilly dresses and kites in the sky. This week's rain making it all green, wildflowers springing up, waving happily in the wind.

Though it is a public holiday today and on Monday, my colleagues and I are at work because the project cannot wait. When it is all over we will breathe a sigh of relief, acknowledge the time we have given up and move on.

It is Easter.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Coffee sings the blues

The numbers on the digital clock glow eerily red in the darkened bedroom.; one twenty seven, no, twenty-eight. Outside the sky has turned into a velvety indigo, not the true inky darkness of nighttime, too many artificial lights for that. The stars mere pinpoints, not the bright, twinkling that you get in the dark lanes of Mustique. My back teeth ache with the acrid tang of the acid reflux keeping me awake while the neighborhood breathes softly in sleep. Even the insects are quiet tonight, biding their time one wonders. But for what?

The acid reflux a recurrent symptom, not eased by calming cups of tea or applications of chalky, fake flavoured chewy pills, it compliments the pain in my lower back and the ache behind my neck. Classic signs of stress related woes. Tomorrow morning, the first order of business will be to acquire some more of the purple pills that only ease, but do not entirely dissipate the burning pain and discomfort of having the pressure of stomach gas in places it should not be. Ultimately, the symptom is not the problem; it is the weeks of work, hard slog that have led to this. While the adrenalin rush from the task ahead is going to carry us through, the underlying fear that all is not well does not go away.

We are all under pressure to make it happen, no matter what the cost. In the living room the backlight from the laptop, yellow energy efficient bulb in the kitchen and streetlight outside are the only light in this room now. In this half light but not quite, Buddha seated in his spot on the Cabinet is serene, how I envy him. It is not the acid reflux keeping me awake but the growing disquiet of something too big to fix. I am not invincible, nor are any of us doing this, and we know it. The hound senses my feelings of unease and leans into me, his furry head soft and comforting to the touch. He whines gently, nudging me with his head and when he realizes that we will not be going back to bed, sighs and settles down to wait. Sometime his mistress must sleep and he will be there to watch over while she does, patient through the turning and tossing until tired over takes and an exhausted peace settles back in.

Everything in this room is recognizable; the shapes familiar even in the dark. I can find my way around with my eyes closed but tonight it makes little difference to the unease. I am reminded in these wee hours of no sleep, of all the plans I had for this space, the best laid plans lacking an implementation phase. The man who made me smile will be here in a little over a week. This is a nice thought but another stab at distraction; it will help but not enough. Even the thought of seeing two old friends, both brought here from abroad by family ties is not enough I have missed them and only realized how much when I heard their voices on the phone this week. As busy as it is, I must make the time to see them, to reclaim that piece of me that is missing.

I long for the comfort of fabric softened sheets and dog cuddled up. The Xman has once again become that, a part of my past, so the hound has reclaimed his superior spot. Funny how this time has turned out. Any residual goodwill, separated from all the other emotions from that period when we were together, he and I, gradually eroded away by his unwillingness or inability to grow, so there is nothing left. It is not about someone else, rather, it is to clear away that which just does not work. In these quiet hours I am reminded of a conversation with a new friend, someone whose experiences so closely mirror my own. A woman of strength and power whom I admire, respect and understand so well. “Open yourself” she said. I’m trying Es, I’m trying.

Cup of tea done, another attempt to calm my body, another attempt at sleep. Tomorrow is another day.