Whaddyadoallday? Real Life on a Desert Island Rotating Header Image

October, 2011:

Say what?

OK. Last blog before we leave for Africa.

It has been a busy week of getting the house in order for friends who are coming to house and cat-sit. I know that it is better to have someone in the house when we are gone. The windows are open. It isn’t shut up like a tomb while we are gone. There are people watching things (including, of course, the cats). But sometimes I do long for the days when I didn’t have to clean and rearrange before I left. When I could just leave things however they were, walk out the door, turn the key and be gone.

As is always the case any day but especially when we are trying to escape, something broke. About 10 days ago it finally dawned on me that the water in our shower was a lot hotter than it used to be. Really hot! So I checked the electric meter and our daily usage had shot up 50%. Now, as an aside, I am sure that many of you are wondering why I even know how many kwh of electricity we use on a daily basis. Suffice it to say that if you did not heat your house and did not air-condition your house and if you lived somewhere where there are always right around 12 hours of sunlight every day and your electric bill cost you upwards towards $700US a month, you’d probably know how much electricity you used, too.

With a $10 a day bump in my electricity cost, I was highly motivated to find out what was going on. First things first, we turned off the water heater. Of course, Michael wanted to fall back into US routines and just buy a new one. I don’t even want to know what a new one would cost on this island. So I researched it and found out that it was probably the thermostats. The water heater is 10 years old in a ridiculously harsh environment, after all. Replacing the thermostat seemed like a reasonable necessity.

We actually have two small water heaters. One is more easily accessible under the west end of the house. The sick one, however, is directly under our master bathroom so that reaching it requires not really walking but not really crawling through about 25 feet of ‘hunch space’ that is about 4 feet high. Michael is 6’3” tall so it makes for an awkward approach. Putting the water heater in that location made sense at the time since we didn’t want to have to wait (and waste water) getting hot water from the first heater 100ft across the foundation of the house to our bathroom. But now with Michael hunching in and out time and time again, he was regretting the decision.

Anyway, Michael made the rounds of all of the hardware stores on island and bought two ‘universal, fits every water heater’ thermostats. One of them fit our water heater, and one of them did not. Next day he was off on the ferry to St. Martin to search for the second part.  Once they were both replaced, he turned on the water heater. It was scalding again. At that point he actually called the manufacturer to learn that the only other possibility was the heating element itself. So under the house he went again. (Did I mention his bad back, ruptured cervical disk, chronically sprained ankle and the fact that he needs a knee replacement? ) But he couldn’t remove the old element because he needed a different wrench to reach into its little hiding place.

While shopping for said wrench and a new element (on this island at least), he ended up talking to the plumber who offered to come switch it out for him. So it finally got done. Of course, the next morning when we checked the water temperature, it didn’t seem very warm. So under he went again to turn up the dial only to find that the plumber hadn’t plugged the water heater back in! Now in all fairness, he is a plumber not an electrician, but still. Seriously?

Meanwhile, just to follow up one more time on that spiral staircase…. It’s been just shy of six months since we paid the deposit to have it made and a little over 3 months since the guy last showed up. Michael has been calling and calling and calling. Earlier this week the guy gave Michael grief for not being patient. Again, seriously? Then Friday Michael told him if he didn’t get here this week to forget about it and never come back. We’d get someone else to finish it. He didn’t come. So in the final showdown, Michael called him Saturday morning and led with, “Donald, what the hell is going on?” Donald’s response? “Man, you can’t use that kind of language with me. I quit.” And he hung up.

SERIOUSLY?!?! Apparently this guy doesn’t know real swearing because Michael can piece together a string of expletives that will curl your hair. Seriously! You should have heard him under the house.

Gravel Angels

I know that I must sound like a broken record always talking about home maintenance and repairs. Then again, the question for this blog is ‘whaddyadoallday’? And the number one answer is ‘take care of the damn house’. Michael says that every morning when he opens his eyes, the first thing he thinks to himself is, “what am I going to have to fix today?” Sometimes it’s just something that happens to break on that particular day. Usually, though, it’s something in the routine maintenance, honey-do list department.

This week it was cleaning the roof and painting some areas that need repainting. It may seem like we spend an inordinate amount of time fixating on the general hygiene of our roof, but remember that the rain water  we collect off of that roof is what comes out when you turn on the tap in our house. If you are ever going to come to visit us here, you will be comforted by the knowledge that we work so tirelessly to maintain the roof. This week we were at it again.

Well, in all fairness, Michael was at it again. But to be absolutely clear, it is not that I won’t get up on the roof and do maintenance. I would. Michael, in his adorably, protective macho way, however, doesn’t want me up on the roof. So I provide ground support. While he is up there hatless, shirtless, and going snow-blind from the glare off of the white roof working at scraping paint and pressure washing, I am down below, moving the pressure washer, reconnecting hoses, or – my personal favorite – redirecting the waste water off of the veranda away from the pool. See, there are diverter valves that we unplug that allow us to keep the water out of the cistern (at times like these). Most of them conveniently pour the water out at the base of the foundation. However, our builder, in one of his many lapses in judgment, placed two of them right outside our living room where they pour out onto the veranda some ten feet from the swimming pool.

That means that while Michael is pressure washing the areas of the roof that drain through those pipes, I am down below, like the Canadian curling team, furiously sweeping dirty water away from the pool. I chase the water away from the pool and off of the edge of the veranda and then scurry back to the pipes to catch the next wave – over and over and over again until I am exhausted.

This time, just when I was going to complain that I have the physically harder job, what did my attention-getter, husband do? He fell off the ladder.  Well, apparently he fell WITH the ladder. (No, that spiral staircase to the roof that we are having installed still is not finished, but the guy swears he’s coming back tomorrow!) Anyway, Michael was coming down off of the roof; and the ladder floated away from the roof beam; and Michael floated with it in an arc to land in the bocce court below. (Probably 15 feet in altitude so let’s see 2piR for the perimeter of the circle and he went ¼ of the way so what? about 24 feet of flying.)

You can see where he landed. It looks like he made a little, snow-angel in the gravel. It’s a miracle he wasn’t hurt. But let’s face it. We are getting too old for such foolishness. From now on he’s taking the cell phone up on the roof so he can call me to come hold the ladder.

Twinkle, twinkle

First of all, my apologies for not having posted lately but we were traveling in Mexico, and vacation stories are on a whole different blog (http://our-wanderlust.blogspot.com) . On that same note, we will also be off again to Africa in a few weeks – just fyi.

Meanwhile, this is the slow time of year in Anguilla. The peak of hurricane season brings hotel and restaurant closures in most cases, lots of folks take the opportunity to leave island (apparently us included), and few tourists bother to arrive. It’s also the hottest time of year so even for those of us here on island, the pace of life is slow. That is not to say, however, that nothing happens.

In fact, Michael and I actually, honestly, snorkeled off of our beach the other day. We needed to test our new underwater video camera in case we successfully encounter a whale shark off of the coast of Mozambique later this month. So in we went. Luckily the water is really comfortably warm this time of year so that even though the visibility wasn’t great and there’s still plenty of errant sargasso seaweed floating about, we still had a good time kicking around. And it was lovely being in the water. Sometimes we forget.

Then the other night when I got out of the shower, I noticed flickering lights outside the window. I stepped out onto the veranda to find dozens of fireflies in the yard blinking up a storm. In addition, a real storm was brewing to the south setting off lightning flashes on the horizon beyond St. Martin. The moon was just a tiny sliver of brightness but that meant that the stars were also visible twinkling in the sky. Then I noticed even more lights flickering in the ocean itself – not the reflection of the moon or the lightning of even the lightning bugs on the water but two areas of warm glow coming up out of the water. So I grabbed a flashlight (and opted to finally put on some clothes) to venture down towards the beach to investigate and discovered two snorkelers out searching for crayfish by the coral pile just off the beach.

All together, everything made for quite a pretty, little light show.