The New Year starts with unseasonal blankets and hoodies and even the odd beanie. I am essentially a Viking and happiest in a snow drift with an axe so this period of fresh weather is not terrible news for me. It’s is, however, not so good being the only warm-blooded bloke in the room sometimes. I am imposing strict social distancing rules to avoid Jayne’s cold feet and hands.
Our year begins with a growing list of stuff to do. In order to prioritise we actually make the list exist. Jake & Jayne’s bizarre love of spreadsheets is employed. We now have at our disposal prettily coloured pages filled with dozens of urgent and less urgent tasks. It is most likely to be used as a tool by which I am nagged. I look forward to ignoring it.
The boys have all but completed the entrance where our dragon gate will be. The round hobbit door has been formed with carefully selected and polished rocks. Soon we will be cow proof. Can’t come soon enough. The huge twats have been munching everything we have been nurturing. We are effectively growing cow food.
Jake has his first Mexican gig. He has been hired by a group of ladies and female DJs to serve cocktails at an exclusive party in a vast mansion on top of the hill in town. His life continues to improve slowly.
A mate of ours is having a birthday gathering and has decided to cook a pig to share. There are many ways to cook a pig but, as it turned out, by far the most entertaining version is chosen. Days are spent collecting logs from some of our fallen trees and interviewing pigs. It’s late at night. The wood and the honoured pig are ready to go. A deep pit has been dug in the ground. The wood is loaded and a fire hot enough to melt a tank is built. River rocks are pushed on top. We gather and ceremoniously protect the pig in banana leaves before placing it between two sheets of corrugated tin and carefully locating it in the pit which is then filled with earth. We depart for the night and agree to meet the following day to dig up lunch.
Now things rarely go as planned and almost never in Mexico for sure. When the pig finally resurfaces it is well steamed but has somehow skilfully managed to avoid being fully cooked. We are now out of wood and lunch is looking a far-off prospect. A posse is gathered to go and collect fresh wood while I am tasked to build a small fire with what I can gather. The plan is to create a spit out of a scaffold pole and roast the half-cooked pig to deliciousness.
The spit is constructed and finally the fire is at roasting temperature again and pig cooking 2.0 begins. All goes well as a tent of corrugated tin has been formed over our piggy friend to allow an even heat. He is soon smelling fantastic as his skin crisps up and thin streams of juices are released. The juices hit the glowing embers and ignite. The whole pig becomes engulfed in flame. Thankfully our host is a retired fire fighter so is able to douse the flames without entirely putting out the fire. The cooking continues.
It is said that a dozen men can BBQ happily for many days and occasionally there may even be food. It’s the highly entertaining journey to a possible feed that is the fun bit.
This may have been a slower project than planned but within a mere 16 hours the pig is released from its leafy jacket and divine porky goodness falls from its bones. The legs are wrapped in foil and thrown back on the embers to keep warm as the body of the beast is devoured by a hungry throng. It was a magnificent feast and certainly worth the efforts. We have learned how many blokes it takes to cook a pig…. All of them.
It is a sobering time in our small town. A well-loved local girl, Wendy Sanchez, who has been running a small clothing and art shop within our favorite Birria restaurant has gone missing. She set off to Guadalajara a few weeks ago and has not been seen since. Her family are understandably distraught. There is no sign of her or her car. No ransom demands. She has just vanished. Instances of young people disappearing in Mexico is very worryingly not rare enough. They call them los desaparecidos. Friends are continuing a campaign to keep her in our thoughts, put pressure on the authorities to act proactively and to send a message to those responsible that this is not something that can be tolerated.
Our abilities to make wood pretty is improving. Word has spread and we are tasked with creating polished tables for the new Tomatinas bar. Large heavy lumps of Parota wood are delivered. Gallons of marine varnish and loads of sanding stuff are acquired. Parota dust is actually poisonous and causes irritation to lungs and eyes so we must employ full PPE protection at all times. It’s a daunting job but we are fully motivated. The unusual cool weather is causing moisture in the air which can make the varnish dry in weird ways but Jake has more patience then even me. We are confident that they will be excellent. The wood is impressive and comes to life beautifully.
While we have the impetus we take the opportunity to upgrade our own tables. They have never looked better . We christen them with a Shakshuka & tequila breakfast.
Jungle peace and quiet is a wonderful thing. There is the opportunity, however, to add to the joyous sounds of nature. San Pancho has amongst its secrets a tiny shop run by a very sweet old man who is skilled at making musical instruments. His guitars are legendary. I have decided that I will treat the world and buy myself a new Ukulele. Jayne is, of course, delighted.
Jake’s fame as a bartender has spread and he has been approached by the Diplomatic Cocktail Club in town. It’s a skilled chef who offers pop up food and cocktails at exclusive invitation only events that are secret until 24 hours before. We agreed that the next secret venue would be our bar in the jungle and invitations went out the next week.
In preparation for the event we spend some time cleaning up the kitchen and bar. We find some curious fluffy stuff appearing from under the oven. Further investigation suggests that we have a mouse problem. Some mini beasts are stealing the insulation from the oven and making themselves nests. We are fully motivated to dissuade them with traps and peanut butter. The little buggers can’t resist peanut butter.
Day one and I check the traps and voila! Caught a big fat guilty looking mouse. I give him a few hours of shame in the trap before releasing him a mile away.
Day two and voila! His even fatter mate is trapped. He is a lively one so I leave him to think about what he has done until he calms down a bit. Unknown to me he has attracted some attention and we are being watched. After walking to the other side of the land to check the water lines I decide to release him into the thick bush. No sooner as he races out of the trap I hear the noise of two cats on the hunt. With luck he may have escaped.
Day three and sure enough another peanut butter coated offender is caught. This one a touch smaller than the rest and rigid with fear. I don’t wait much time to release him. A more grateful mouse I am yet to meet. He runs around in circles and appears to be dancing with delight at his unexpected freedom before zooming off at great speed towards the river.
The traps remain locked and loaded but it’s been a week since our last capture. The oven appears unmolested. Problem solved.
We have met with a number of architects over the past months to look at an investment in our land that will be a real game changer. We don’t have a single traditional window in any of our structures here. All our windows have mosquito meshing only, no glass. This makes the prospect of air conditioning impossible. This is acceptable for 10 months of the year but during those killer months towards the end of the rainy season a sanctuary with cool fresh air will transform our comfort and mental health. We have decided to transform what remains of the Scorpion Temple into our new summer house.
We currently have a large concrete foundation with a few janky walls and a totally termite destroyed roof. With some imagination and a number of months work we can create our brand new funky sanctuary. We are in the process of designing a raised mezzanine floor for a large bed, a round picture window, a kitchen with one of Jayne’s beloved islands, huge column arms with hands holding up a palapa frontage attached to a green living roof. There is even a proposal to create an outdoor bathing area. The prospect of long baths under the stars makes me very happy. First draft plans are in and quotes on the way.
Our lovely and totally mad friend in Sayulita is turning 50 and is milking it dramatically. She has arranged a beach Olympic day, a sailing trip, and a jungle party at our place. All socially distanced of course.
We gather kinda nervously for a beach cook out and whatever beach Olympics is. We have downsized our ambitions from a whole pig to a few burgers so the chances of getting fed in less than a day are vastly improved. It turns out that adding tequila to a bunch of ageing hippies on a stunningly pretty beach can get a touch competitive.
We start with more traditional daftness such as tug of war. I help by tying the rope around me, sitting down and refusing to move. It’s my anchor move and proved rather successful for the win. Spinning around a broom until dizzy enough to collapse while trying to run around obstacles was achieved by blatant cheating/distraction techniques.
All appeared to be going rather well until the banana race. This was a new sport to me so my training was lacking. The methodology is to hold a banana between one’s buttocks while attempting a hundred-yard dash. Now I am at a physical disadvantage here because I don’t really have any buttocks. My arse is best described as upper leg or lowest back. It’s hard for me to keep pants on. Being the highly motivated athlete I am, I give it a go. I have never had an over clenching injury before. I don’t recommend it. Where my arse should be cramped up and I crash unceremoniously out of the race. For the next few days walking took on new challenges. Despite the pain and the limp by far the most awkward thing was avoiding too many questions. It’s a tough injury to explain.
The Diplomatic Cocktail club’s first jungle pop-up is a total success. Over the course of a very long evening they sell out of food and all the drink. About 40 people showed up and left so at regular intervals so it was never over crowded but allowed things to click on merrily all night. They make more money than they bargained on and pulled off a memorable event, which was the point of the thing. We were designated chief food and cocktail testers and can attest that the entire menu was superb. When the time is right this might be a more regular gig.
One of the guests at the pop up is a very well-respected chef who is managing vineyards and a distillery inland. Jake and the girls are invited to visit and within days take they set off on a road trip for a few days. After a long 10 hour drive they find themselves in a beautiful valley, sipping unique wines and Mescal discussing distribution options throughout Nayarit. Endless possibilities.
The birthday sailing day started well with good winds pushing the steep angled boat through the light waves at stunning speed. We hang on tight while watching the whales and dolphins surrounding the boat. We appear to have adopted a painfully cute humpback calf which chases us while dutifully chaperoned by her massive mother.
The winds suddenly and unexpectedly decide to depart and we are left a few miles off shore for an hour or two not moving at all. It’s a good opportunity to swim around the boat. I am floating in the warm sea relaxing and watching the diving birds fishing close by when I notice the back of the unanchored boat getting smaller. The sails have caught a breeze and it’s time to swim hard to catch up. It’s much more difficult than it looks. I am comfortable sea swimming and manage not to panic but the boat is faster than I expect. It’s hard enough to maintain distance and pretty impossible to reduce the gap between us. A line with a buoy is throw out and I gratefully grab it and use the rope to pull myself towards the stern steps.
As the boat gets close I find myself in a cloud of a strange soft particles that look highly out of place mid ocean. The larger bits stick to my body hair. I clear off the worst of the mystery substance and climb onto the boat. It turns out that the sway of the boat in the doldrums has turned Jayne’s stomach and she has retreated below deck to throw up in the sink and flush it out to sea. I hastily remove the remaining odd lumps still stuck to my chest.
The following night we are invited to an exclusive private 80s themed gathering at friends renovated hotel. They are testing their kitchen and we are happy to help. We are very curious to visit the fancy hotel behind the wall that we have never seen so accept. We are accosted by strange women and suitably wrong clothing and heavy eye make-up applied. The girls back comb their hair and coat themselves in glitter. We all look truly ridiculous. The gathering is small and the venue rather posh. They have done a great job making the open court yard surrounded with rooms feel intimate and exclusive. The kitchen is large and well equipped so the chefs are able to cook up a storm. It’s a fun night but we return to the jungle early as Jayne is not feeling too well.
What happens next is best not described. Jayne appears to have contracted Norovirus and is effectively emptying herself very efficiently. It’s a very long night. We sleep very little. By the morning Jayne is in a wretched state. I head to town for sick person supplies.
Overnight one of the biggest trees in the area has come down. No wind or rain to help. This immense Copomo just decided this was its time and fell across the road, crashing onto our friend’s gate and very nearly taking the front of his house off. It’s about half a mile from our place but blocked our way into town. Our friend owns the local organic farm and is very well connected and by some miracle has a team of chainsaws on the problem immediately. The entire tree is dissected and piled into huge stacks of wood within hours. By the time I arrive on the scene at 9 am on the way to collect much needed medicine and hydrating things from town the central trunk has already been dismantled and our truck is able to pass by.
I offer my condolences for the damage and congratulate the boys on their amazing efforts. They are all friendly enough but seem to be looking at me kinda funny. The pharmacist also gives me a few sideway glances and even the check-out girl at the Oxxo seems to find me especially amusing today.
When I arrive back to revive Jayne with fluids and sympathy I notice what my tired early morning eyes had missed. The light shines onto our bed and is reflected back a thousand times. Jayne’s wet sick eyes are dark and running with makeup, her hair is standing upright on her head and the whole miserable scene is covered in glitter. I realise slowly that neither of us has showered yet. I check the mirror and sure enough my man-scara and guy-liner is still thick and my cheeks flash glittery colours. It is not a glamorous sight.
My nursing attempts are soon dutifully rewarded as I also get infected. We are totally pathetic and entirely anti-social. Everyone is now fully trained at avoiding viruses, of course, so we efficiently quarantine ourselves for the rest of the week. Our friend in Sayulita calls us reporting similar symptoms. We must have picked it on the boat trip. Her jungle party is postponed indefinitely. We rest.