Thursday, December 27, 2007

'You put on some size man!'

I left this little Island some 3 months ago, in the height of the summer sun, the raging heat, the island fever and the empty streets. Now I am back and the season is here (although not as much as it should be by all accounts). The harbour is filling with boats, the streets are peppered with lost looking tourists. It feels strange to see so many foreign white faces after a summer of being one of the few pale skinned souls remaining.

But it is lovely to be back, after so much time on the road, on the water and living out of a bag. It is lovely to stop and take stock and be somewhere which feels like home again. I flew in last week, from Grenada, after leaving the boat, Osprey, which had carried me some 3000 miles across the Altantic Ocean. That became ‘home’ too for a while, but this ‘home’ doesn’t move, it doesn’t rock and it doesn’t throw me across the galley when I am trying to make a cup of tea. This home will do for now.

In the strange way that things go sometimes, the first person I met at the airport was Harvey. Last seen waving me off as we sailed out of Tenerife over a month ago. We sat together on the ferry, swopped crossing stories and photographs and watched excitedly as the Christmas lights of Bequia came into view through the gloomy wet night. It was a good way to come back, with someone who had just done the same journey as me, it brought me back slowly and made me feel as if I belonged.

I awoke the next day to the sounds of roosters and dogs. The strains of dancehall reggae Christmas Carols were blasting out of most of the speakers on the island or so it seemed. The day was spent ‘catching up’. There is much to catch up on after 3 months away from an island like this. The old summer crew were still here, their numbers swelled by the incoming winter faces, some old and some new. There was talk and chat and gossip and news; burglaries and stabbings, break ups and get togethers, paternity riddles solved but murders not (solved but ‘sensitive’ is the word on the street so nothing has been done) it was all too much to take in.

I had missed the slow Bequia build up to Christmas, but was here in time to catch the end. Each night of the preceding week there had been ‘light-up parties’ around the Island. It is an intensely fought competition between villages with months of planning and fund raising to get the lights in place. Then one by one they turn them on, with music and sound systems and chicken stalls and rum. These parties go on all night, until dawn, then the next night someone else does it all again.

So I have caught up with the chat and spent my first Christmas in the Caribbean sun and now it is time to make up for those weeks at sea where I sat, and read, and slept, and ate. There is a much vented theory that it is ‘good for you’ being at sea. You don’t drink, I suppose, so that is a bonus. But people say that your muscles are constantly compensating for the movement of the boat, even when you are asleep, it is like a 2 week pilates class, crossing the Atlantic, 24 hrs a day. ‘It’s good for you, you’ll lose weight’ or so they say. It is a theory I have never bought into, much as I would love to. It’s rubbish. You move very little. Sails are raised, reefs are put in, things are fixed, ropes are winched, there is activity, of sorts. But when you are not asleep, or winching, or cooking, you are eating; all the time. I don’t think I got hungry once on that crossing. We had always put something into our mouths before the hunger had found time to kick in. I ate, solidly, for 2 weeks. So maybe they are right about this pilates thing. It is a 24 hour pilates class, but one you eat your way through too!

Well if I thought I could slip back into Bequia with this little fact unnoticed I was sorely wrong. Apparently it’s a complement with these VIncy boys, it wasn’t the women but the men who commented, 3 or 4 times a day I was greeted by ‘well you put on some size man!’. A complement, they say, it means you’re looking well, happy, healthy, or something. It didn’t really work like that for me. I have dug out my old running shoes from beneath the bed, dusted them off, checked for scorpions nestled inside, and hit the early morning streets with a vengeance.

So I am back, in the sun, for the winter, and I am glad. Another season looms with countless adventures to unfold, I am sure.

A belated merry Christmas and a Happy New Year (or oldest night as they call it here) to you all!


I have crossed an ocean in a 44ft sail boat since I last posted on here. In fact I have done an awful lot since I last posted on here. I have been slack and not blogged, I have even started to wonder what this blog is all about any more. It started off as a therapy of sorts, I suppose, looking back. Not only did it help me but it helped many others, they wrote and told me so, and that was really what kept me going; that and the joy of putting down words and creating a sentence which sounds sort of right. Eventually the bombs and the politics and the incessant study and analysis and the TRYING (and how could I ever have expected to succeed) to understand the minds of suicide bombers started to fade from this blog and it grew into a more inherent study of minds in general. I guess it became a kind of mental health blog for a while. I have seen enough of those close to me losing their minds and then for it to happen to me, well minds started to occupy my mind so I blogged about it, and that seemed to help people too so I blogged about it some more.

Now I have left a lot of that behind. I am living a sort of wandering, spontaneous, plan less life, a life free of bombs and politics, full of people and sunshine and oceans and rum so that is what I write about now. I suppose you could say that I am trying to show anyone who may pass by this blog that anything is possible. I suppose I am trying to say that sunshine after darkness can be found, no matter how black the darkness and how deep the tunnel, there is always a way out. A way which I have found, for now, but never a way which I will take for granted, I am done with taking things for granted any more.

So a natural progression has occurred in this little blog of mine, but now another, more confusing dimension has come along. I have always been anonymous in this blog, and with most of what I have written for anyone, even on TV and radio I never use my real name. I have people who know me who read this blog, but they are people who have known me since then, since the beginning and before. Now I am living on a little island in the Caribbean, starting afresh, I suppose. I have told very few people here why I came, why I left my job, my home, my friends and my commute to work. Any who have asked usually assume there was a man involved (if only that was all it had been!) but generally I have managed to live in the present out here.

The past is always there but it is fading back to where it should be, into that file named ‘past’ instead of the file it remained in for as long as it had to, named ‘current and not yet ready to go into ‘past’’. It is really not so important any more, it is not what defines me. I am not a ‘survivor’ or a ‘victim’ or any sort of label which the media so adore. I am just me, living a life which makes me happy. But now I have been rumbled on this island in the sun. People know who I am, they know I am ‘Holly’. I have only discovered that since I returned last week and I don’t know how it makes me feel. I don’t want this blog becoming another gossip column for Bequia. I don’t want to be talked about as a ‘victim’ any more, I didn’t really want anyone to know. But now they do, what do I do? I love this blog (slack as I have been lately) and I love to write. Not a day goes by when I don’t scribble or jot a thought or a passing little moment which I don’t want to forget to write about later. My mind is always full of ‘writing’ much of which never makes it onto here, but still, I don’t want to give up on Holly Finch yet. So I suppose I will go on, knowing that now I know my audience more intimately than I did before, and trying not to let the fact that I will be passing them in the street or drinking with them later inhibit what I write on here. It will be fine, I am sure, it always somehow is.