The Cirque de los Ninos is showing signs of life again. The circus school in San Pancho has been supported by the mighty Cirque de Soleil for many years and has been spoilt by being given access to world class equipment, training and resources. The world has changed, of course. Cirque de Soleil has just emerged from bankruptcy post –pandemic and has been sold. Its future is uncertain. A much-anticipated massive Cirque de Soleil theme park construction is currently on hold 40 miles away from us in Puerto Vallarta. No idea what the future holds for them but our little town’s little circus has somehow survived so far.
The kids’ extravaganza show has again been cancelled this year but hope is that it can be revived next year. For now, they are offering acrobatics and circus skills training open to anyone a few times a week. Jake has been sucked into their circus ways and is training to throwing himself around like a champion. We are also presented with small community shows. A few wildly bendy contortionist dancers hypnotise us for an hour of swinging about and contemporary dance moves. It’s all highly impressive.
As Jake is chucking himself about I am lured into the community gym which is sited right next door to the circus venue. Within are a few local boys who are properly skilled Thai boxers. The fastest of them is a highly skilled fighter and coach. In my distant past, I did a spot of martial arts. Amongst the many and varied bizarre adventures in my youth was a spell fighting in the streets of Bangkok in staged Large Farang v Tiny Thai bloke street fights. It was a betting game and fixed outcomes but we put on a good show. Invariably the win was to the little guy. The Thai boys and girls and especially the boy-girls were incredibly skilled and fit athletes with shins like iron bars. They regularly broke full coconuts hanging from trees with stunningly powerful and accurate flying back round house kicks. You don’t want to get your head in the way of one of those. I’m distracted by such memories and in a fit of nostalgia somehow agree to train Muay Thai amongst the younger, fitter and faster.
I turn up at the hot humid gym with a feeling of impending doom. It is with some relief that I find there are large professional pads that we will use to avoid breaking each other. In my head things slot into place easily and I’m kicking and punching away in no time. Body, however, appears to be unable to get up to speed. Within half an hour my arms don’t feel like they are part of me and I’m unsure how I’m still standing up. It’s at this point I get to hold the pads for three, three minute rounds of getting battered by someone half my age. Lucky me. The pads absorb a good percentage of the power but there is enough left to whittle me down. Then it’s my turn.
Three minute rounds. Full power punching and all the kicking. One torturous minute after another then another. Three of them. Half a minute rest. My body is leaking all of its senses, I’m sucking in air noisily, attempting to drink water with shaking hands in a foggy haze. Round two. It goes on. And On. Another half minute to try and make sense of all the spinny things then round three. It ends. I am stunned into a deep silence. Not sure I could speak if I wanted to. My arms don’t work. I can’t reach up to scratch my head. What I truly know is that the older I am the faster I was.
I am often asked what I miss about my former life in UK. It’s a good question. People aside, for a moment, the first few obvious ones are Draft Guinness and Greggs Steak-bake. Less obvious but equally true is the loss I feel by not having a bath in my life. Baths, for many precious years, were my sanctuary. Bubbles and candles, a duck or two. Pile of Sunday papers. Radio and importantly no water shortages. Endless top ups. I miss that for sure. Baths are not a thing here. We tried and failed to check into a hotel with a bath (just to use the bath) but there are no hotel rooms with baths. It’s a limited water, hot humidity, swimming in sea, shower culture. You don’t see baths very often but when you do…
When I saw the bath in the flat my mate Tommy is living in I went a bit daft. It’s a free-standing claw foot enamelled bathtub with high round back. It’s also very deep. I have a fighting chance getting very wet in hot soapy water. I spend a long time and lot of effort dropping way too many hints that I need to try the thing out. Tommy is away for a few weeks but on his return, I’m booked in. BYO bubbles.
It’s raining again. As soon as we drop in the cistern and fill her with water the rains come. Typical. Tropical storm Dolores comes at us full force then changes its mind at the last moment and heads West. Missed us by 8 miles which is close enough. The wet is, however, upon us. The cicadas scream their wee heads off at sunset, the pressure drops and it rains. We have seen our very first firefly. His zillions of mates are on their way. Can’t wait.
We have had mixed success with keeping the rain away with roofs. Our new treehouse roof is fabulous and we are only damp due to our humid sweating, our stuff remains dry even when the weather gets proper knarly. The rest of the ageing palapa roofs are less efficient. One has a hole in it, another a sneaky but significant leak, two others have further sneaky leaks and one we are assured is OK. By balancing on ladders and origamiing black plastic sheeting with dry palm fronds we mend the leaks and patch the holes as best we can. We smugly retire for the day and wait for the rain. Our leaks are clearly solved.
The next morning we hear that the cabana who’s roof was reported as OK has had problems after the latest overnight downpour. It’s the one we didn’t get to climb over. Probably best we didn’t. By some misunderstanding our Mariposa cabana has not been checked for termites in a while. The result is a few million fat termites and a roof where half the timbers have the tensile strength of toilet paper. The termites have scoffed the lot. It’s not a terminal termite lunch but near enough. The rain has made the old absorbent palms very damp and very heavy. The whole thing could collapse given a slight nudge. It’s clear our Argentinian friend needs to change location until we can get a team in to fix it. This is the incentive she has been waiting for. Guadaloupe, our live-in gardener girl, has decided to move back to the land of flushing toilets and windows. She has moved into a place in town… with a boy!
Further, more careful, post rain surveys make it clear our roof situation is far from useful. Despite painting the wood with nasty goop to keep the buggers at bay, the termites have stubbornly found their way into all sorts of hidden roofy places. A close pass from Hurricane Enrique throws enough water our way to prove beyond doubt that all five roofs we have (other than the new one on our treehouse) need proper attention. One requires completely replacing, three need reenforcing with plastic sheeting and fresh palms and the other needs a few more of our origami leak fixes. We don’t have the luxury of our usual prevarication and get on with the jobs as fast as the gaps between the rains allow.
Much as the world is wet our lives have become surprisingly dry. It’s a very natural thing here to take a tequila offered in welcome when you see your mates. It’s rude not to have a cold beer after doing sweaty work. Sunsets have margaritas attached to them. It’s an almost compulsory accessory. For reasons, I’m still not sure of (as I can’t quite remember how we got into this) we have all decided to be aware of what we drink in June. Or not drink alcohol. Or drink less alcohol or something like that. I approached the challenge as I did when I decided I was smoking fags too much.
I was getting on a flight from LA to London and realised I was unable to smoke for a lot of hours. I had just got back from nearly two months in the deserts of Nevada where I had been busy and awake for most of the time and smoked constantly. After a good few too many hours I notice I have had no cravings at all and my body was actually enjoying the rest from inhaling smog. This surprised me greatly. On paper, I was supposed to be climbing the cabin walls by now. I made a deal with myself that if I wanted a fag I would have one. But I would really have to want one. Not just smoke habitually.
I haven’t wanted a cigarette enough for over 8 years now so I make another deal with myself. If I want to drink I will have a drink. Anything I want, whenever I want it is OK. But I must really want it. Not drink by habit. I haven’t wanted an alcoholic drink enough for 29 and three-quarter days so far. Extraordinarily I am not missing it that much. That’s odd. I’ll see how it goes. No pressure.
Due to not learning from experience and having a VPN on our phones. We have been drawn into watching Euro 2020 (delayed) football. We see England win a game for a change and stupidly we take the bait and set out for an amazing day watching further football. By no logic and not much critical thought we decide Scotland v England has to be a good game. We waste that part of our lives drinking ginger beer and watching a bunch of Americans in a bar watching and commenting on football. It is far more entertaining than the match. We lose the will to live and remember the feeling of anticlimax and mild disappointment that is the feature of supporting most teams. Certainly England. No more football. That’s a lie.
Unbeknown to me Jayne gets a telephone call when she is in town by herself. This gives her the opportunity to make further calls and organize what is to be a memorable afternoon. She arrives at the treehouse and gathers me to go on a mystery tour. I am curious but also deeply suspicious of this behavior. I almost reluctantly get into the sub. We collect Jake who knows more than he is letting on. We then end up at my strange mate from Preston’s house on the beach. He takes us all into his new posh big V8 truck and then off the Pemex to collect Emma who has travelled in from Sayulita. I haven’t got a clue what’s going on but it’s clear I am the only one.
We find ourselves at the security barrier which protects the gated community where a number of our mates live. We park up and all walk towards Tommy’s place. Tommy and his son meet us and lead us up to his apartment. The owners have sold up and the new folk are due to move in soon but are having the whole place renovated before they do. I’m led up to his apartment with floorboards ripped up and the bathroom gutted. Tommy stands me in front of beautiful shaped thing wrapped in cloth. He removes the cloth and presents to me his gift of the bath from the apartment. Somehow, he has negotiated with the builders and acquired this lump of delight, to gift it to me. He is a top, outstanding, handsome, kind, lovely, splendid bloke. Absolutely my absolute favorite. To be fair, I kept making such a bleating fuss about the thing he probably just wanted to shut me up.
It takes five blokes and a good smattering of expletives to lift the immensely heavy iron casting to the huge V8 which transports us into the jungle where my bath is heaved to rest onto blocks we have laid out in front of the treehouse. There is much celebrating. Every time I leave the treehouse I am presented with my bath. My beautiful, beautiful bath. I can’t wait to buy bubbles, candles and ducks.
Summer Solstice is here again. Our compulsion to burn things on beaches started 3 years ago on this very night. There is a break in the weather and we are blessed with a day without rain. It’s enough time to transform another of my failed chairs into something resembling a janky coconut lady man. A matching janky base is masterfully constructed. Precious dry wood is collected. Fuel accelerant is stashed away. We decide to construct something pretty on the rocks in front of Tomatina’s bar in Lo De Marcos. We load everything in our cars and head beach-wards.
Again, our plans are somewhat thwarted by nature. It’s a high tide. Very high tide. The beach is getting eaten away at great pace. By the time we are considering unloading our dry wood the sea is at our ankles. Everyone has been washed from the beach and the beach itself has all but vanished. The sand sucked away to return another day. Not only are the rocks impassable but there is not a dry spot on the entire beach. High tide comes at us hard and dents our hopes of burning anything.
We return from scouting out alternative less accessible dry sand but find very little. There is a spot but it’s a hike. Especially carrying a janky coconut lady man, his/her base, fuel and a bunch of dry wood. A glimmer of hope appears. Thanks to a beautifully executed charm offensive by Jayne, Tomatina’s owners agree that we can set up our burn kit directly in front of them on where now a receding tide is threatening to leave our dry wood dry. It’s well after dark before the sea and tides look trustworthy and we have the confidence to assemble our solstice offering.
Its dark. The sea is far from peaceful and continues to threaten to disrupt proceedings. The fire is going well but a random wave could easily snuff it out. The long foamy fast waves race up the beach towards us getting mockingly close. The water is almost touching the fire. By sheer Canute telepathy we hold back the tide with pure will. The sea retreats and our latest Coconut Lady Man is silently consumed by flame. Perfect.
Photo Credit : John Curley