Where’s Donald?

I have to get this out there. I do wake up every morning, reach for my phone, click on the BBC News App and hope I don’t read of a nuclear exchange in the northeast of the Pacific

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where’s the groundsman?

Rim. Men and egos. It’s what has always taken us to war. Mind you, Donald is spending most of his time dissing black sportsmen – so hopefully his head is on other things.

Two highlights to report. First we all went to the ‘Cricket Club’ on Friday night. Now, you may not know – I certainly didn’t – that cricket is The Bahamas national sport. And the ‘Cricket Club’ is their national stadium. National stadium? Ehh, well, think British village green and you have it. The pavilion has an upstairs bar which serves inexpensive beer and a good chicken burger – which is also affordable. And there are four TVs showing different sports. There may be no cricket, but it’s a fun place to spend some time. The club also has live music on a Friday. We left before it kicked off, but C and I have it in our sights for next Friday. Hurrah!

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looking fab at the One and Only…

Second. Yesterday C, Bex and I went back for a coffee to the One and Only Ocean Club, which is an exclusive club on Paradise Island. I’ve mentioned it before. Well, again, we were treated like royalty, fed wonderful coffee and sat and soaked up the atmosphere. It was great. However, I was disappointed to learn that it is a brand. And that there are many One and Onlys (surely then, they should be called The One of Quite a Few Ocean Clubs?). Oh, well. When we win the lottery we shall plan to visit them all.

On the way out we stopped in the lounge and looked over the silver-framed photos on the grand piano – they are part of the whole One and Only tradition. The photos are of previous guests; The Beatles; Ursula Andress; Ian Flemming; etc. What was odd was that one of the frames was face down. I thought maybe it had been blown down by a over-vigorous fan, so I turned it over. Have a guess who it was?

Yes, you’re right. It was Donald. Seriously. People’s dislike for him (is that a strong enough word?) manifests itself in so many ways.

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where’s Donald?

Anyhow, books are selling, thank you very much. Have a great Sunday.

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$400? You’ve got to be kidding?

I have a couple of things to report. Both of them good, despite the title.

First, after two days of pottering about, we went on a boat trip. A $400 boat trip. For those of you unsure of the exchange rate, that’s about £300 – or the price of a decent road bike. Or Doris’s insurance renewal. You’re getting the picture?

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quicker than it looks

Our Jen, who with James, visited B&S earlier in the year, went on this day-long boat trip from Nassau out to one of the cays that make up The Bahamas. It’s $200 each and worth every cent – so she told us. To add treacle to the tart, both Bex and Jen said they would pay for C as it was a senior birthday this year. Bless them.

Even so, $400?

Well I have to say that $400 was cheap. What a day. Let me explain. 24 of us, including two loud, elderly Trump supporters, got on a fibreglass rocketship, which was fitted with four Yamaha 250hp outboards (that’s 1,000hp, the same as a Bugatti Veron). Then, across a sea which was like glass, we spent an hour speeding at 40 mph – that’s unecessarily quick -making our way towards West Africa. I could smell the fuel being burnt. Fabulous.

On a small beach the captain – we had four ushers and they were all great – just ran the boat aground on the sand. We were then given large cocktail sticks and handfuls of grapes (that must have cost $100, knowing Bahamian prices) and let lose on feeding a bunch of iguanas. Iguanas are like small dragons, but more scary. They have teeth and are blind, so can easily mistake a big toe for a grape. This was the first of our brushes with nature’s predators. Brill.

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I must check my toes

We then drove (at a million miles an hour) to another beach which had a couple of shacks on it. This would be our home for the next 5 hours. Food was provided; sandwiches and dips on arrival and a lovely fish and beef BBQ for lunch. And all the drink was free. Pretty much anything. As many times as you like, which I think is brave of them as, with some of the team quickly under the weather, we were about to swim with sharks.

First we fed the stingrays. Was this the best experience of my life? Close to it. Before we were given strips of fish for the rays to suck off our upturned hands, they swum among us. Between us. Bashing into our legs. Letting us stroke them. They can and do sting, but only if you really piss them off. Which we tried very hard not to.

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fabulous

Then the sharks. We’re talking human sized sharks (more C sized than me, to be fair). The staff fed them with dead fish on pieces on nylon rope. We all stood in the water as the sharks were hauled towards us and lifted out of the water. They chomped through the thick nylon rope – three times. Which made the snorkelling bit of the day which followed, extra interesting. The sharks had been fed, but they hadn’t gone anywhere. So as we snorkelled out to the rip tide, the sharks (sort of, but not on purpose) swam among us. One came within a couple of feet of my face. One swam below C. The guys shooed them away with the safety boat, but by then we’d already had our close encounter of the shark kind.  Then we swam down the rip tide like the turtles in Finding Nemo. I saw a turtle! It was another great experience.

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our home for 5 hours

Lunch, then more drink (our v loud Trump supporters had stopped being quite so Texan at that point, because they were struggling to string a couple of words together) and time to relax as the chef knocked up a conch salad. Mmmm, not my idea of a fun dish.

And then back on the rocket ship and home for tea and medals! Hurrah. So, my advice. If you come to the Bahamas – bring an extra $400 with you and go on #powerboatadventures. Fab.

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A quick update on book stuff. Loving book 4 (Money for Something?), now 42/120k words in and having no problem with 1,500 words a day. And Amazon UK have at last started marketing Fuelling the Fire. Have a guess what? As a result the books are selling. Hurrah!

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hurrah!

All-in-all, a couple of very good days.

Cake by the ocean…

I got a bit sunburnt yesterday. I think we both did. The four of us went out with a couple of B&S’s friends to a beach at the end of the island. We stopped for coffee at Louis and Steen’s cafe, which has fab views over the ocean. And then off to the beach for a bit too much of Mrs Sun’s much brighter Bahamian cousin. We were good – we stayed in the trees, but what with snorkelling and the trees having gaps between the leaves, the sun was merciless.

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the view from Louis and Steen’s

But we had a fab day. As we have had every day – it’s been a combination of trips out, swimming on the local beach, washing off the salt in the complex’s pool and looking for turtles and rays (yes, we’ve seen both) in the canal that runs along the back of their garden. And we’ve still been running. There’s a 4 kilometre circuit in the gated community which both C and I have been managing in the heat.

Oh, and we have the use of a couple of B&S’s teacher friend’s canoe. So we had a morning paddling out on the ocean and snorkelling, looking at lots of coloured fish, but not, sadly, coloured coral.

We also spent an early evening in Atlantis, the huge swanky hotel on Paradise island. It has two aquariums, a casino, a waterpark and so much more. If you go in after 5.30 you can visit the aquariums for free. Hurrah!

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Atlantis – all free after 5.30

 

And I’ve been writing. It’s been both fun – when I’m into it, and an effort – when I check book sales which are hovering just above ‘none’ (I sold two books yesterday). I’m really happy with Book 4, which I have named ‘Money for Something’ (it will not be the final title, I’m sure), and when you get to read it you will find the action moving from Croatia, Austria, Germany, The Bahamas, Colombia and the UK and US. But, to be honest, when I give myself a schedule of 1,500 words a day, squaring up to the keyboard and typing sometimes requires superhuman effort. But that’s what writers do. They get on with it. And we all follow the same mantra – ‘you can’t edit what you haven’t written’.

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So all’s well here. We are planning a couple of day trips to the local cays. And one of Steven’s Year 10 lads has his own fishing boat (for which read powerboat) and wants to take us out onto one of the very local cays. How lucky are we?

And, just now, we’re sitting watching the Grand Prix. Isn’t this what Sundays are for?

I’m beginning to get The Bahamas

We arrived just before the hurricane. We spent the first weekend holed up behind sandbags waiting to be blown into the sea, or rescued from the roof of Rebecca and Steven’s house. And then the heat became overwhelming as the high September sun reminded us who was boss.

Bex and Steven live in what, I guess, Americans would call a condominium; or a gated community. Their house is spacious, right by a water channel which links house-berths with the sea (big houses = big berths), it’s a bit tatty, and a good 20 minute drive from downtown Nassau. There are no pavements and everyone drives like they’re well over the limit, so walking anywhere is a no-no. So, to go anywhere you have to take your life in your own hands (actually, the driving’s not as bad as in Italy) and drive : the shops; the cafe; the pub; anywhere. Which sort of gives you a ‘living in the Green Zone’ feel.

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beach views…

Hot weather and behind the wire. To begin with, it’s not a great feel. Which I know sounds really uncharitable especially as we are here on the holiday of a lifetime. But if you always read this, you know that I say it how it is.

However, on Monday with Bex and Steven back at work and me on their car insurance, C and I decided to tourist. Actually it’s been fab. Well, the snorkelling, the beach views and guaranteed warmth are fab. The costs (when you’re still trying to get by on £40 a day) are prohibitive, the huge disparity in wealth (which you don’t get in, say Sierra Leone – everyone there is poor), and the midday heat – you can keep.

And there isn’t a huge amount to do, other than ‘beach’ stuff (it’s a very small island). We’ve done the very small fort on a hill, the water tower (yes, it’s a tourist trap), the power station – more of which in a second, Adelaide village (a bit like the National Trust’s Laycock – how things used to be, but it’s just a couple of houses/huts by the sea and a quaint white-washed church), and, oh, the only Bahamian National Trust property, which is a small garden filled with pine trees. Thankfully as NT members we got in for free. C loved that (the trees), she really did.

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C loved the trees

But it was the power station that did it for me. It is tiny and, apparently, is oil-fired – using two old cruise ship engines. Now this is a tax-haven. More dollars get laundered through Bahamian banks than, well, I can’t think of a washing machine analogy that works due to the current size of washing machines and the generous size of today’s undergarments. There is serious money here. There are some palatial residences and some of the most expensive hotels in the world. And yet, somehow, the government can’t make ends meet. Power outs here – fairly regularly, and, as a result everyone has generators. Oh, sorry, apart from the vast majority – the ordinary (mostly poor) Bahamanian who don’t. They just lose power. And I find that really difficult to reconcile. I could cope in West Africa where everyone was poor, even the rich people. But here the gap is so big, it seems irreconcilable.

I’ll stop there because we’re having a fine time. Snorkelling, looking at the beach views and enjoying the warmth. It’s a perfect holiday spot. Shame it’s not all inclusive…

How I became a reasonably unsuccessful novelist…

Article Title block - EditedIf you’re interested in my latest article see the tab on the top – or click on this link: How I became a reasonably unsuccessful novelist. And then go and make yourself a cup of coffee…

Let me know what you think!

Into the eye of the storm…

We made it. Into the eye of the storm. And that’s mostly thanks to Rebecca. If she hadn’t phoned us in NY on Wednesday night, telling us that Nassau was closing its airport late Thursday, we would have been oblivious to it all and arrived at JFK on Friday with no wings to take us to The Bahamas. After some tooing and froing with Delta, we brought our itinerary forward by a day, boarded a 220-seat 777 with only 7 other passengers and enjoyed the most luxurious 3-hour flight we ever have had the pleasure of taking.

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So, we’re here. What’s it like (other than very windy at the moment)? It’s a second-world country inhabited by a whole load of first-world people. There’s money aplenty – hotel rooms are expensive to extortionate. Basic provisions – for everyone – are 2/3 times what you’d pay in the UK. But there’s also a lot of poverty, swathes of uneducated people and more gun crime (I heard that there’s already been 90 murders this year) than is comfortable. Although, it seems that they leave tourists well alone and much of the heavy crime is gang related – however, Bex and Steven have moved into a gated community after they were robbed of everything last year.

And Irma? We were expecting very high winds, lots of rain and a tide surge that would sink the bottom floor of B&S’s house.

Our first job on Friday was to sandbag the front and rear doors, and then help B&S take anything precious up a floor. In the end, the preparation was unnecessary. Yes it has been (and still is) windy, but the tide-surge didn’t breach the seawall and we have remained high and dry. It’s worth noting that Bahamian properties are mostly built to withstand hurricanes. Those on the less prestigious islands, and most of Florida, are not. We’ll see how that pans out.IMG_20170909_085420_764

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C and Bex as the storm thrashed about

So, all’s well here. I’ve not much more to add, save I’ve finished my article entitled ‘How I became a reasonably unsuccessful author.’ I will put that up later in the week. And I’ve restarted Chapter 4 of book 4 (I must find a name). Marketing via FB, Instagram and Twitter continue.

I am a writing machine!

So good they named it twice?

I know that you will not be wanting to be shown all of our holiday snaps, nor do you want to read a blow-by-blow account of what we’ve been doing in The Big Apple. Suffice it to say that, since we arrived here yesterday afternoon we haven’t stopped. For the record, last night: Grand Central station, The Chrysler Building, HQ of the UN (been there before in a previous life), Times Square (where I fell off the pavement and now have a v sore knee), and finally we went to ‘The Top of the Rock’ – at $34 each a pricey but worthwhile trip up the Rockefeller Centre with huge views over the city.

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From the Top of the Rock

Today, up early (blame timezones) and a massive walk from Uptown Manhattan (51st) right the way down to Ground Zero, via breakfast at a deli, The Empire State Building, Wall Street, and then on to the Statten Island ferry, which is free and sails you past The Statue of Liberty, and then back to walk over Brooklyn Bridge. Phew. We did catch a subway home again.

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You have to look closely …

And, just in case I forget, the taxi we ordered to pick us up from Mary’s and take us to T5 turned out to be a capacious BMW 7 series with TVs in the back and more buttons than a Pearly Queen. It was as if I’d ordered a limo. Well done #godalmingairporttaxis.

So, what’s the real news? Well, New York is a scream. The architecture is fabulous – we love Art Deco, and, of course, most of the city was built up (did you see what I did there?) at the turn of the last century and, as a result, it all looks like the set of a Batman movie. The people are enigmatic. Some are wonderfully kind and open, like you never get in the UK. When I fell over yesterday (did I mention that I hurt my knee?) a man came rushing over and wouldn’t leave me until he was sure I was ok. On the metro, which, BTW is more arcane than a plate of spaghetti, everyone we’ve asked for help has been very forthcoming, if not always that accurate.

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The first skyscraper

But, put them in uniform and their demeanour changes. I know not to deal lightly with the law over here, but even in the kiosk of the metro, the man was more National Socialist than Republican. And here’s the thing. There are a lot of people in uniform. There are police everywhere. Not in a way that necessarily makes you feel safe, either. And there were scores of folk of mixed colour and size uniformed in the lobby of the Statten Island ferry. They looked harmless, but give a man (or woman) a peaked hat…

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I have another photo with me at the back end…

It’s tatty. We’ve read that NY has picked itself up in the last 20 years. Crime and grime are both down. But, in comparison to London, it’s shabby. Unkempt in some places. The metro is as our underground was twenty years ago. Filthy. Add to that C’s frustration with waste, and the city becomes less and less attractive. The air conditioning is on everywhere, and yet the shops all have their front doors open. Lorries the size of a cruise ship’s tug sit on the corners of the street with their engines running. And NY’s equivalent of the Mr Whippy have diesel engines which rev at a millions spins per minute – and it’s always on. Oh, hang on! And, and. Coffee shops (mostly) sell their hot drinks in styrofoam cups, even if you’re not taken your drinks out.

But you have to come. You really must.

Anyhow, got to go. We’re meeting one of C’s girls for an early supper. She’s over here at the Juilliard, so we thought we’d say hi. And then tomorrow, after another day pottering about (must get to Trump tower and blow appropriate raspberries), we’re flying into the eye of the Irma storm. Apparently Nassau airport is closing on Friday night. Delta tell us they should have us there by Friday lunchtime. We’re taking a suitcase full of rope and some large rocks with us.