The aftermath of my scorpion stings is awkward but not too bad. My right foot is still numb after 6 weeks or so. It’s coming back to life very slowly but I have had to endure the inelegance of a dead foot limp and the occasional confusion when someone actually stands on it unnoticed until I try and walk away. This never happened before. Must be that I just don’t know it’s there and leave it lying around, in the way, and forget to move it. Whoever may find themselves standing on my carelessly discarded foot, would , to be fair, naturally expect any body part they happen to crush to be pulled out the way instantly. It’s all a bit odd.
Driving has also been made more interesting. With a dead accelerator foot it feels rather strange speeding up and decelerating by means of shifting weight rather than ankle motion. This became a factor in a very near miss on our terrifyingly dangerous highway. A large modern Pacifico bus was overtaking a stalled dump truck. Before the bus pulled out, the road was clear ahead, so I sneaked behind and followed him past the stricken vehicle. Rather than slowly and smoothly returning to the correct side of the road the bus suddenly swerved away leaving me facing an enormous concrete lorry heading right at me very fast. My reaction was to instantly lean right. I accelerated fast and swerved right at the same time. Somehow I missed the bus and the stationary truck but more importantly the concrete truck which flashed past me. It was close. Closer than I feel comfortable thinking about. I still have images of that big blue and white concrete truck, head on , that I can’t forget. It has made me highly aware of my exceptionally good fortune to still be here
Football is a great healer. My trauma is eased considerably by spending an indulgent few weeks watching the World Cup with a large number of equally deluded fans. England do OK again. Just well enough to spark the damp tinder of long held painful hope that rises to entrap your heart and mind in the fantasy of some magnificent victory. But as the hope was torn away once again we were able to marvel in the overall standard of the football which at times was truly breath taking. We have a number of viewing venues depending on kick off times. The 9 am matches are a great excuse to eat chicken wings and drink cold beers for breakfast while cheerfully engaging in traditional over excited shouting of encouragement and abuse in equal measure. There are a large contingent of both French and Argentinians in San Pancho so the final was a pretty big deal. And what a final!
There have been a series of developments with our new build project. It’s getting tantalizingly close to the time we move in. This in itself will be a major change for us. We are actually moving house (albeit 300M away). We have spent the past five years in our beloved treehouse. It’s 6m x 6m of our own unique space and it has suited us very well. It will be a more than a little wrench to leave it behind so my own plan is not to. My own vision is that the treehouse will become a man cave (even if 4m higher than the ground). Jayne has vetoed moving a great deal of my prized possessions (or crap as she calls it) to the new house. This gives me a place to house my crap and enjoy the solitude and engage in boy type activities. Jayne’s vision is slightly different. She either wants to rent it out, use as a guesthouse and/or use it as a dog house should I ever be naughty and need somewhere to “think about what I have done”. Don’t see the need myself.
Before we can make such decisions we need to finish the place. There is a great deal in progress. Jayne’s mega desk is now cut to shape and awaiting application of specialist resin varnish so it will last eternally. The final flush of drawers are made and awaiting installation. For some reason it has been decided that we need dozens of them. Our upper banister that will prevent us (me) falling off our raised sleeping space is being jointed expertly into place. Our newly designed four poster bed will form part of this structure and awaits being created from a pile of freshly delivered lumber. When the bed appears we will consider it time to actually move out/in.
Our time and attention over the past weeks has been sucked up by our two most labour intense projects. Our shower which requires the application of Tadelakt (Moroccan style lime plaster) and our rammed earth floor that requires drying out perfectly before the application of a blend of linseed oils. It had passed us by that drying anything out here is nigh on impossible. The humidity is often 100% and there are times when you can hang a towel out to dry and it gets wetter!? Now if it is a very thick layer of clay you are waiting on, it appears to take forever. We have applied a number of fans 24 hours a day and (after closing all doors and windows) deployed a large dehumidifier. Despite all efforts there is almost no perceivable improvement. The floor stays damp.
It is with some desperation that we agree its time for more aggressive tactics. A blowtorch. We find that by carefully moving across the floor directing the hottest part of the flame onto the clay it changes colour in a way that suggests it’s a little bit less moist. Jayne does a few dozen passes and things seem to be changing very slowly. I decide to help. What I have not taken into consideration is that I am a pretty much constant sweaty mess. Despite using towels to stand upon and my delicate ballerina type skills to move across the floor, my guts twist as it becomes obvious that I may have in fact made matters slightly worse. The sweat that was previously in me is now distributed over the floor highlighting the occasional spot where my delicate feet have left prints. Jayne is less than cheerful as she repairs the floor and we start the process of drying it out all over again. My help is unappreciated.
We have worked out that the Tadelakt application is going to be a beast of a job. The finish of our shower will require many hours of layering and hard polishing with a special purpose hard polished stone. We recruit a friend to stay with us overnight to help out. She has no idea what she signed up for! The girls have taken on the task of managing the project and myself and Jake will be called in to help as required. The Worlds Cup is in its final agonising stages so this works out.
Day one is spent in creating a single huge lump of mixture which needs to be the perfect colour from our stock of lime and dyes. When we start we cannot stop. The whole of the shower area has to be done at the same time or the finish will be inconsistent. The existing rough grey lime finish is covered with a white base coat and our recently smuggled specialist dyes are expertly mixed by complete amateurs into enough paste of deep purple Tadelakt to complete the job.Its already late and the following day is going to be hard so the girls call it a day.
Day two and the task ahead became terrifyingly clear. The first layer of purple is spread as smoothly as possible and worked with trowels as it drys. After about an hour it is set enough to start polishing. Our black shiny stones are rubbed over the surface. It takes effort. The task is to close up all the tiny holes that emerge from the drying process and prepare for the next layer. The next layer is a mix of water and soap. The soap dries very quickly and then the fun starts. If you polish hard enough and long enough it takes up a shiny smooth stone like finish. Looks great. Then the second layer of soap is applied and polished into a final layer. The polishing technique is to apply the stone flat to the wall with enough pressure to make a difference while moving it in small circles. It hurts. There is much complaining about the burning pain in my shoulders and my arms after only a few minutes of strong rubbing. Jake and the girls seem a lot less complainy. Clearly they can’t be doing it right. I am convinced this was going to be a long day. It was.
Day three arrives and we realise two things. The shower needs finishing and we are a long way off and of equal importance, it is the World Cup final. We have already kidnapped our friend from her family and effectively chained her to a shower for an entire weekend. We make a plan. The girls will layer the tadelakt and when the game finishes we will join them for further torturous hours of polishing. It was a day of two half’s. The World Cup final was a joy to watch.
So we now have a rather unique and beautiful shower. Three days of solid graft. The girls are happy which is crucial and we gain some comfort in the fact that we may never have to rub a purple wall with a shiny black stone ever again. We find out that the word tadelakt means in Arabic “to rub until ones arms fall off” (or something like that.) Jake and I now have arms like bags of achy rocks.
EntreAmigos is our community center which has an excellent reputation. It has even been blessed by the Dali Lama. Volunteers arrange (amongst many other projects) food banks for local families, recycling for the town and encouraging local kids to read and engage in educational activity. There is a constant need for fund raisers. The latest of which is a drive to raise a lump of cash to support the library for the kids. Teams are invited to enter the Great San Pancho Scavenger Hunt. Each team must raise a minimum amount of donations and engage in a series of activities that must be photographed in order to win points. The team with the most points will be declared the winners and their wisdom and beauty immortalized in the hearts of all forever and a day. We are persuaded to join in.
We have decided to call ourselves the “Scavengers -End Game” after a movie franchise I haven’t seen. We gather the evening before to talk cheating strategies and allow the girls to dress us up as superheroes. That morning we are greeted by a dozen golf carts with eager teams keen to get started. We appear to be one of only two teams that have dressed up for the occasion. There is a jolly but certainly competitive atmosphere. I start by wander around introducing ourselves to the other teams while stealing their golf cart keys. This goes rather well until I am spotted and forced to return them all.
Our tasks are varied in their ridiculousness. We must find an old woman born in the town and all of us have our photos taken with her while she is smiling and one of us is upside down. We need to find someone to take the shot and extra points are added for any horses and chickens we can add. I draw a series of horses and chickens on cardboard and hold them up over the bemused old lady wondering why we are holding our friend upside down. She sorta kinda smiles.
We are required to all be on a skateboard, or playground slide or beach or stage or tree (always with one of us upside down and getting someone else to take the shot. There is a lot of fun had. We return late to a victory BBQ. We have all raised way more than expected. The library now has a book budget of 20k dollars. The best news of course is that The Scavengers are declared the team with most points. We are suitably humble as we bask in our collective glory.
It is time for the Americans to outdo their Northern neighbours in thankfulness. Canadians are thankful about a month earlier but the Americans make a bigger deal of it so consider themselves higher on the thankometer. We get the benefit of being invited to two competing thanksgiving feasts and are grateful for both.
Having my son, Jake, living with us has proved, in general, a very good thing. There is an issue, however, with his bizarre need to exercise at stupidly early hours of the morning when any sane individual should be unconscious. I am not sure how this has happened but somehow I have been roped into joining him. As the sun hits the sky, six days a week I drag myself to the car and drive us both to the old prison in town that has been converted to a sweaty, old school grunt gym. Here there are small stacks of huge tyres, ropes hanging from the ceiling and what look like ancient lumps of concrete attached to metal bars. There are racks of hand weights and enough mirrors on the wall that it is almost impossible to ignore how bloody exhausted you look. It has been about a month of this nonsense. That’s a long time to feel tired and sore.
There is a new addition to jungle life. Luca (new name) is a street puppy that wandered into our friends’ restaurant in Lo De Marcos. Distressed to find that it was a vegetarian place he made the best of a bad job by adopting Jake. They are now inseparable mates. Sometimes the levels of cute became nauseating but we are getting used to it.
So Christmas somehow sneaked up on us again. The only festive effort we undertook was for Jayne to make a Christmas cake. This required particular effort as things like candied peel (why?), glacé cherries and molasses are not things that Mexicans recognise and certainly don’t sell. So we arranged for friends to travel from Canada and stay with us for a month to help with our building project and importantly smuggle us in some molasses and something revolting but essential called Swedish Berries??
Jayne finds the time and motivation from somewhere to make her own peel (why?) and cherries. The cake is made. I have never really been a great fan of Christmas Cake. The addition of candied peel (why?) is a mystery to me. This cake, it has to be said, turned out rather well. It needed the traditional Yorkshire touch of a block of strong cheddar cheese to go with it but it worked! So that was Christmas done. Apart from about a hundred friends new and old descending on us for our now traditional pot luck feast, jungle white elephant and after party till late.
We wish you a splendid New Year.
May 2023 bring you everything you need and something to share .