We dodged a significant bullet. Hurricane Willa moved North of us 50 Km as she hit shore. The jungle here cools the air slightly and creates a diversion for big storms, which saved us. We have the benefit of 36 hours of hard rain and being stuck on our land for day or two but that is the extent of our hardship. Those up North have not faired so well. Villages that have been there for centuries are no longer. Many small towns under water. Dozens dead. Thousands displaced with nothing but the wet clothes on their backs. There have been regular convoys of donated aid. The volunteers are doing traumatic work as best they can but return shocked and dejected by the scale of the crisis. It’s going to take a long time to restore even basic human needs up there. It’s humbling.
Our newest nearest neighbours are a young couple who have been employed to caretake the nearest ranch. She is 16 and has a 10 month old boy. They talk quickly and in country Spanish which I find very tough to comprehend. They are very keen to be hospitable and share what little they have. We & some of our friends have joined them for freshly made breakfast and Palomita (choco powder & milk straight from the cow with tequila frothed up and drunk warm). It is clear to us that visitors to our place love this experience so we are arranging to add it to the list of things to do. Make a few extra pesos for them which will be greatly appreciated.
We are not the last gasp residence out here. We are beaten by half a km by our friendly old hermit who lives in a ram shackled brick structure up in the hills with his cat. He and his brother share the building to sleep in and cook on open fires outside. They use the window as access as he lost the key to the door years ago. He walks into town everyday to give himself exercise so his smoking habit doesn’t kill him. His solitude makes encountering him a longer than expected issue as he finds it quite tough to stop talking. But he is the font of great knowledge as he sees things and knows things about the land here that no one else does. He can put his hands on 20 kg of limes at any time. He can find you a snake, an armadillo or a jaguar. On our last visit to his place he showed us a very good size snake skin curing in salt & sun to make himself a belt. He also knows where the water sources are. We are particularly interested in that. Our experience of 24V water pumps remains sketchy as we find the last one we installed buggered and had to build one from the bits of the busted three. Anyway gravity is a much more reliable thing so we employ our happy hermit and his visiting brother to run us about a kilometer of water pipe from the water source to the pools down to our land. We have on our shopping list a new 2500 liter tinaco which will be spring fed as back up to our current solar powered water well solution.
The pool, which has been a constant source of attention, gets a gift from our friends. They are currently without a pool but have brought with them from Canada a brightly coloured pool robot. Eric, as we call him, is made of day-glow plastic and looks like something from an early 80’s disco. His job is to run around the bottom of the pool like a mobile vacuum sucking up all the crap and goo and dust that it can find and ingesting it until we clean him out. This would usually require quite some faffing, some pumping and removing large amounts of water with the muck. We are somewhat attached to our new time saving day glow friend. He just gets on with it. Our lives are easier.
Miracle of miracles we have an egg. An egg from one of our chickens! I would love to wallow in the result of our perseverance and patience but I can’t. Our new neighbours, as young as they are, are old hands at raising chucks. They delivered three new chickens to our chicken nunnery last night to teach our remaining two what they are for! So the relatively useless Sister Bland and Sister Bricklebank are now joined by three big fat useful birds and we have an egg. Just the one but it’s a start.
There has been the issue of the new highway being build 200 yards from us hanging over our heads for some months. The construction crews are getting closer and the thought of losing so much jungle right in front of us is not a good thing to feel into. We see surveyors and forestry folk wandering around the hills and are waiting to see what happens next. Our contacts have suggested to us that there has been a slight change in the routing and there is a chance that we might be spared the worst of it. Just the thought of being beside major construction for up to a year takes the joy out of a peaceful jungle experience for sure. The thought of losing so much habitat for birds and beasts doesn’t bear thinking about. We are preparing for much guerrilla planting of fast growing bamboo to create a noise and sight barrier as soon as possible.
I talk to my brother who tells me the news we had been waiting for. My Dad has passed. His stroke in February took him from us and it has been a long tough eight months of hospital and care home visits for my Mum and brother. It’s expected but shocking non the less. I managed to see him the week before his stroke and again during my last visit for which I am ever grateful.
We visit the next town Lo De Marcos where we meet friends in the bar. News travels fast here and it becomes a spontaneous wake for my Dad. I travel home laid out in the bed of the pick up truck watching lightening between the clouds and stars and remembering my magnificent father.
It’s Dia de los Muertos in a few days and friends are creating a shrine for loved ones to be remembered. It’s a noble tradition to give one day a year to remember and honor loved ones who are no longer with us. Far from the spectacular scenes at the start of a certain 007 movie dia de los muertos is a time of reflection and a private family day. Graves are laden with flowers and families gather. If your ancestor was a musician music is played, if a dancer then there is much dancing, if a gambler then much is lost and won, if a drinker… you get the idea. For those of us wishing to participate without a graveside, alters are constructed with flowers and photographs, salt and earth and candles. There is a gathering in the town square and as children run around collecting sweets like Halloween I stand beside the picture of my Dad in the middle of the alter with a bottle of tequila and toast his life with everyone I meet. Friends and strangers. It’s a very cathartic experience.
It’s a strange thing that funerals in the UK are around two weeks or more after someone dies. In Mexico you are buried within 24 hours. It must be a whirlwind shock for the family to arrange everything and come to terms with the grief all at once. It’s a more drawn out process in UK with deaths having to be registered and formalities and booking churches and crematoriums weeks in advance. This does, however, allow us time to arrange caretakers for the land and arrangements for the properties we help manage and find flights.
It also allows us time to coordinate selling our beloved house in Darlington. It has been with me for 25 years and helped me raise two kids, a business and a sack full of much valued memories. I love that house but it’s time to let go again. Neither my son nor daughter wants to move back to Darlington and I have realised that I don’t either so it’s time. My kids’ inheritance is moving to Mexico and will soon be transformed into a yoga deck and many other sexy structures. It does mean flying to the UK for a week to say goodbye to my Dad and my house. A challenge.
It all starts rather well. Wales give us the great gift of beating Australia in the Rugby for the first time in 18 years the weekend before the funeral. Dad just loved his rugby and wherever we were in the world we spoke after every International. At full time, after a few brace of Guinness, my brother and I treat the pub to a loud rendition of Guide me O thou Great Redeemer (Cym Rhondda). Everyone gets an earful – Bread of Heaven at full volume. Lucky buggers.
The funeral in the idyllic rural village of Folkingham in Lincolnshire has been beautifully arranged and is very well attended. My brother and I stand next to the coffin and do a joint eulogy and say out load how we feel about the magnificent bugger . As emotional as it gets but we both got through it. There are Welsh hymns to get all the feels going including a more tuneful version of Cym Rhonnda . My son helps carry him, my daughter does a poignant reading and my niece sings an aria like an angel. Not a dry eye in the house. Just my brother and I rode with him to the crematorium. He tells me that he considers the wicker coffin looks more like a bread basket which lightens the mood. The girls have smuggled in a few cans of Guinness into the funeral car. We toast our Dad , Derek “Taff” Beaverstock. One last belt out of Cym Rhonnda sung by Welsh male voice choir and we are taken to the pub. Our journey is made all the more memorable by the appearance of the strongest and most spectacular rainbow spanning the Lincolnshire fields guiding our way. I appreciate all the support and love from everyone. I am left with the feeling that my Dad is far from gone but with me always.
We bid Lincolnshire and family farewell and travel to Darlington to meet a lovely chap who used to live in our house. He called us out of the blue and asked to meet up. He arrives in a tweed suit carrying photos and flowers. He has done very well for himself over the years but had humble beginnings in a couple of rented rooms in my house around the 1940s. We saw the place where they hid from the bombs during the war and the room where he was born and slept in a sock drawer as a baby. It was great to be so nostalgic with him sharing memories of the spaces we all shared at one point in our lives.
So onwards to our solicitor to sign it all away. Then back the house to donate the last of the furniture and tools (too big to fly with) to charity. Much lifting stuff into vans and saying farewell to empty rooms.
Our good Greek friend and super-chef opens his restaurant in Darlington to us to feed us magnificently and welcome friends who have helped us so much selling the house. A thank you and further wake awash with organic Greek red wine. Then to friends in Manchester via the apple store where our genius sees what Mexican humidity can do to technology. We reload on tech and good food and good company and fly home. Something of an emotional blur.
We return to find the highway chainsaw crews have already arrived and started taking down the 6m corridor of jungle where the road is going to be built. They have been working everyday we have been away and are now well advanced in their destruction. We look from every angle of the land and can’t see any change. This is a good thing. We have workers coming to us for water and to borrow tools. They tell us that although their vehicles are parked next to our gate they walk over 2km before they start work. It looks like the highway is 2000m away not 200m away. You can’t see it and there is a hill in between. This affects the value of our land (not that we are wanting to sell it) and our future plans significantly. It’s not for certain yet but this is potentially the best news we could get after a tough week.
The rains have stopped. We swim in the ocean and see whales passing by from the beach. We have good friends staying with us and we all have been invited to our first US Thanksgiving Dinner. The jungle is now considerably cooler and less humid even in the short time we have been away. The cash from the sale of the house is on it’s way to fund our next stage of creation. There is a lot to do.
It’s good to be home.