It makes a proper change, but can’t complain about the heat or humidity or much else these lovely days. We have had a number of mates finally feel safe enough to fly down to spend time with us without getting Covid-trapped. Having fresh eyes and minds here always makes us even more grateful to live here. Our life continues to be blessed with challenges and endless opportunities. Thanks to some begging and generous luggage allowances our stock of liquorice all-sorts, tea, whisky and reading glasses are also entirely restored.
We have had a few permaculture victories. Jayne has commissioned the first of our planter beds with her irrigation system. The planter box is getting a full five minutes of water (automatically via our water timer) every morning. The result of regular watering is dramatic. For the first time, we have healthy shoots of lettuce, rocket, cabbage and asparagus appearing from the seeds we planted. This is the first time we have had such a result. Our failure to propagate seeds may have partly been down to the quality and age of the seeds but most likely neglect. Watering “when we get around to it” is not a good strategy.
Jayne’s mushroom bucket suddenly bears fruit! A stonking great oyster mushroom appears and is harvested. This is not only a very attractive variety but also has a surprisingly strong and delicious mushroomy taste. We await many more but they don’t appear. After a week or so we give up and throw the remaining straw over the balcony. Not sure how but the next day the smashed straw bundle in the jungle has produced a flush of new mushrooms. Result.
Our vanilla vine has now been completely plucked of beans and most of these are now in the latter stages of becoming perfectly sticky and stinky. They are wrapped in a blanket for the cool nights and released to sunbathe on the balcony by day. Our afternoons are punctuated by welcome breezes carrying the unctuous odor of vanilla through the treehouse. It’s delightful.
Our friends being here has given us the impetus to get ourselves out and about a little more than usual. We get to introduce our favorite restaurants and hang outs. It’s also been a great excuse to jump aboard on our mate’s sail boat chasing whales. This time of year, there around 1500 Humpback whales mating, fighting and having babies. They rise close the boat and regularly breach the surface entirely. It’s a spectacular sight to see a massive female (cow) teaching a baby (calf) to leap out of the water. Jayne however has taken to steering the ship! She’s even nicked the captain’s hat. Typical.
Our community here in San Pancho is impressively creative. A friend of ours who used to be a wild punk rock guitarist has redirected his passions in later life to painting. He is now a renowned and very productive artist in the town. He has rather impressively developed the concept of painting-by-numbers murals. The latest of which is the changing rooms/toilet block on the local football field. He does his artistic magic on the building and then encourages as many people as possible to fill in the numbered areas. It’s very effective.
Our batteries arrive in Puerto Vallarta. There are four individually boxed batteries that each weigh around 35kg/75 pounds each. They have arrived at a distribution warehouse and I go to collect them. It’s a simple process with no questions asked. I check the paperwork which confirms that each massively heavy box contains import-tariff-free children’s clothes and shoes (of course).
The process of replacing our last dying nano-carbon batteries and commissioning our new, extremely expensive, high specification lithium batteries is mind twisting. Thankfully Jayne is highly motivated and excited enough to get this done. She has on hand two very helpful solar battery whisperers. A new friend she found online on a battery forum where folk with time and insane amounts of technical knowledge share their wisdom with the world. Her new solar angel, Ray, lives in Hawaii and knows his stuff. Her Dad who is famously smart when it comes to such things and Ray message Jayne highly detailed instructions. Within a number of opaque technical hours our dodgy intermittent power is replaced with a long life, reliable version. Our fridges can be turned on. I am not required to go out into the jungle in the dark resetting stuff. Brian our trusted generator is effectively put to pasture. I won’t have to fill him with fuel every few days. It’s a big win for us.
The fun fair is back in Sayulita. After a long Covid break it is now possible once again to ride on inherently dangerous fast spinning lumps of metal held together with rusty bolts, string and hope. There are blunt darts to be chucked, balloons to be popped, and balls to be directed in tiny holes. Prizes of plastic dolls’ accessories and tins of tepid beer are to be won. Folk line up to throw rocks towards lines of thick glass bottles. Should a rock actually smash a bottle rather than, more usually, bounce off dangerously, you are rewarded with a warm tin of Corona light. The price you pay for such fun is about twice the price of a tin of Corona light. Despite this slightly illogical financial transaction it is surprisingly popular. My guts are turned backwards by the thick pungent stink of hot rancid butter that is poured on everything and down everyone. The girls loved it.
Our friend who had the stroke has had a strange old time. The hospital here managed to stabilise him but could do little else. His blood starved brain affects his ability to think, speak and understand. His left side paralysed. We are lucky enough to have an extraordinary beautifully skilled doctor with extensive stroke rehab experience living close by. She visits daily and assesses what rehab is possible. Her positivity and care help enormously to keep tired and overwhelmed people optimistic and focus their minds on making things better. There is progress but painfully slow. It is a blessing that his insurance company agrees to medvac him to the USA. A team flies in from Mexico City to transfer him and his amazing partner by ambulance to his very own plane and fly him to San Francisco. He spends some difficult time in hospital under strict Covid restrictions before being transferred to a specialist facility in the bay area. He is finally in the right place getting the best care.
Our friends Emma & Rosie have birthdays close enough to be dangerous. They have decided to revive last year’s beach based Emmalypics. They create a new event. EmmaRosilympics. This to be followed by a birthday party in the jungle. This is a terrifying prospect. My arse has never quite recovered from last year’s over clenching while attempting to run on sand with a banana up it.
The day arrives and a there are a large number of participants. On a very sunny afternoon on a reasonably deserted beach to the north of San Pancho there are some rather strange sights to behold. There are relay races where teams launch themselves forward with balloons between legs or bananas clenched between buttocks. There is a welly toss. Turns are taken to throw a Wellington Boot as far as possible to establish the absolute biggest tosser on the beach. The now infamous tug of war is the highlight. We all take it far too seriously. There was a fair amount of blatant cheating which I facilitated and encouraged. When the games were played and the fruit and sand removed from our bits, the entire troupe of beach athletes then reassembled at our jungle bar. There was much rehydration till very late in celebration of wins and losses and two nutty women’s birthdays.
Thanks to the wonders of VPNs and the glorious BBC my Saturday mornings have become a great deal more exciting. I am now able to live stream The Six Nations Rugby and have supported my beloved Wales through what is turning out to be a frustrating season. Despite the lack of actual victories, it’s always emotional to watch the boys and sing the songs. My Dad and I used to contact each other after every single Welsh International. It was perhaps the time we communicated the most.
Our new Bodega has emerged from the jungle and is now ready to be filled with all the stuff we need to build our new little house, The Scorpion Temple. We have made the roof a funky shape and strong enough to build a casita on top should we ever decide to. We found a source of strange water pipes which have iguanas attached. They are installed to direct all our water ground-wards. There are concrete shelves and a workbench build in.
Our favorite feature turned into an opportunity to add some art. Jayne’s tactic to get me to be creative is crass and obvious but no less effective. When we were deciding how the stairs to the roof would look she very cleverly made a proposal which was so awful that I had to pitch in and “save the day”. Our proposed new iron staircase now has a sexy tribal scorpion design featured. After many janky sketches and refinements and weeks of iron work they now exist. We are very happy with our new Bodega.
This year has already thrown us a few googlies that have not passed us by. I am loathed to use cricket terms after the bloody Aussies stuffed England in the Ashes. I continue to avoid my less than sympathetic Antipodean mates.
Leaving our friends’ regular heath scares aside we have been told our war on Covid is at the beginning of the end leaving room in our group consciousness for an unbelievably atrocious war in Europe. We have the benefit of being way out of the direct firing line but also are left with a deepening feeling of separation. Living our best lives is an achievement but being disassociated from real world emergencies is extremely unsettling. It’s hard to relax when bombs are falling on innocents and millions of families are being displaced.
It is true that genocides, war and man-made famines are a constant in our world. Post 9/11 wars have directly caused close to a million deaths. The largest sub-section being civilians. Somehow, we have managed to push our outrage aside and get on with our lives while this has all been happening. One notable difference with the Ukraine war is that the potential to affect every one of us is so very real. Not just paying more for fuel. The doomsday clock, which is a concept designed to warns the public about how close we are to destroying our world with dangerous technologies of our own, is currently set to 100 seconds before midnight.
What is encouraging is the amount of kindness this situation is bringing out in people. Polish, Hungarian and German families amongst many others taking in entire refugee families into their homes indefinitely. Humanitarian volunteers helping as best they can. Jayne and I spent an amount of time in the refugee “jungle” camp in Calais. It was home to over 1300 migrants, mainly from from Eritrea, Somalia and Syria. In 2015, during the peak of the so-called European migrant crisis, the numbers began to grow. Migrants arrived from Afghanistan, Darfur, Iraq and other conflict zones. it was destroyed by the French authorities in 2016. We helped build and repair shelters and create a youth centre amongst the chaos. The people we met and their stories they told us will remain with me forever. We are not sure how you measure how much difference we made but we were there. Doing our best. Making things just a bit better for as many people as we could. The draw to fly out to the region, engage more and do something more useful is very strong.
Our extraordinary mate in California is making progress enough that he is released from his rehab facility to his house in Pacifica on the Pacific Ocean coast near San Francisco. We are blessed with a vast tribe of caring and useful people who have made themselves available to help. A bunch of handy buggers have transformed his multilevel house by installing ramps for his return. His much beloved adventure dog, Logan, has, however, remained in Mexico since his stroke. Another good friend of ours has been looking after her and his house here. This is very useful but Logan is much missed and can’t be on her Mexican sabbatical alone for ever. She is a big old dog. A French Pyrenees that looks to the untrained eye like a couple of sheep bonded to a mid-size hedge. A plan is hatched for a couple of very kind, slightly bonkers friends from the bay area to fly down and drive his car and his massive dog North.
The crew arrive on Sunday afternoon and plan to load up dog and luggage into their car and set off the very next morning. It’s a long drive. Joe (the builder now actor) and Yvette (dog whisperer) arrive with us and are taken to eat well, imbibe just enough tequila and watch a turtle release on the beach before they leave. Eventually, after what has been a quite incredible journey for both of them, John and Logan are reunited. There is not a dry eye in the house.