Whaddyadoallday? Real Life on a Desert Island Rotating Header Image

desert island

Peas Porridge, Where?

Next month we will make 18 years living here in Anguilla.

We learned our way around this tiny rock back when almost no streets had names and even the ones that did certainly didn’t have signs telling you what they were. The second time we drove to our property we remembered (miraculously) to turn left off of the road to Blowing Point Ferry at the mutli-colored garbage bin and right past the goat hill ( a pile of rocks under a now Irma-toppled Neem tree) to as far as a car could safely travel and then daringly further still on a path mostly walked by those same goats.

Over time we settled into a routine like most folks have in their lives. This is the way to the grocery store. This is the way to the beach. This is the way to our friends’ houses. No reason to venture off of those well-traveled routes. Come and go. Task-oriented and not at all adventurous.

Then five years ago I started practicing on island and caring for my patients took me to parts of the island that I had never had reason to visit before. Obviously I have become accustomed to receiving directions that start at some mutually recognized marker (a business, a friend’s house, a cell tower) and then proceed from there with turns at colored walls or beat up, abandoned vehicles or onto a surprisingly well-paved road in the middle of nowhere. But still the contacts and accounting programs on my computer are stubbornly resistant to allowing me to enter such nonsense into the address fields of their data files.

We are not without technological aids, however. You can enter the name of my house or my practice into Google Maps and it will show you where I am and give you directions – even if it just says turn left, turn right, unnamed road. At least it gets you there with an accurate line drawn from point A to point B.

But even so….after all this time…..I can still be thoroughly stumped. This morning, for instance, another technological marvel, Facebook, alerted me to the availability, for a limited time only, of healthy porridges for sale today. Here is a copy of the post…see if you could find the location

Let’s see what do we have to go on?

South Hill is not a street. It is a village of many streets. That narrows it down but not too much.

I assume TR. refers to a teacher. Who apparently lives across the street from another teacher. No help at all to the childless.I don’t know a Daphne. I do know a Winifred but not that Winifred. So, not hot, not cold, not nine days old, no porridge for me, today.



First, I know. It has been ages since I have posted on this site. Life interfered. Irma destroyed the island. I could give you lots of excuses, but they would be just that: excuses not reasons. In reality, I just lost touch. But today brought it all back again.

Especially because this is winter. And we endeavor to try to remember that the world is not Anguilla. That we have friends up north who are out in the cold and dark scraping ice from their windshields and stomping snow and slush from their shoes watching their breath turn to mist in front of their sad, red, frozen faces.

Meanwhile, here in tropical paradise, Michael wanted to introduce me to his newest discovery – the best meat patties on island. We planned on going in to the Valley on errands early anyway. So we headed in for 8AM stopping first for sustenance. No sooner had we stepped foot out of the car but the woman at the little restaurant came out to meet us on the street.

“I suppose you are here for patties,” she said.

“Indeed, we are,” we replied.

“Sorry, but they aren’t ready yet. We got a late start this morning,” she announced.

Our disappointment must have shown because then she went on to offer an explanation.

“It was just sooooooo cold this morning. We couldn’t drag ourselves out of bed.”

Now, this might make sense if it weren’t for the fact that the low temperature last night in Anguilla was 73.1 degrees.

Ok, then, at least it was funny and good for a laugh.

In fact, I did laugh. And I tried to convince Michael to overcome his disappointment and frustration and to admit that he thought it was funny, too.

But, in his defense, he had a good point.

It would  be funny if this was a quaint and isolated incident on this charming, little island.

Unfortunately, our lives are chockablock full, every day, of similar little disappointments and frustrations.

And the laughing gets harder and harder.

And that is probably the real reason I haven’t written in a while.

Perhaps, I will see if I can rediscover the humor.


Back to the Beginning – Whaddyadoallday? the Book

Yesterday, April 18th, was the 15th anniversary of the day we arrived in Anguilla to live permanently. We landed at the dock with three cats, carry-on bags and four checked bags weighing 70lbs a piece. (Do you remember when you could check that much? It pissed me off at first when the airlines limited me to 50lbs instead, but my aging muscles now thank the airlines for saving me from my own folly.) Everything else we owned was in a 40ft container enroute somewhere across America.

Amazing how times flies. It has been an interesting journey to be sure. Over the years I made attempts at writing the story in book form. Even submitted it to agents once but without success. It has been written and rewritten a billion times. Somehow ‘posting’ a book is so much scarier than posting a blog. Yesterday,  though, I finally pulled the trigger. Whaddyadoallday? Top Ten Questions People Ask When You Live on a Desert Island is now available as a kindle ebook on Amazon.




When Michael and I first moved to Anguilla there were certain things that dominated the landscape here. I mean besides the beaches. Thirty-three beaches is a lot of beaches, sure; but there’s a lot more land to Anguilla than just the coast. So driving from beach to beach still means traveling over long stretches of bumpy, meandering, inland roads. Back in the day, you would find lots and lots of broken down, rusting cars, lots and lots of sheep and goats, and lots and lots of dogs. Nowadays, there are less abandoned cars and less sheep and goats, but there are still a lot of dogs. Historically, visitors and newcomers looked past the cars and were notoriously enamored of the sheep and goats; but it’s the dogs that have always tugged at people’s heartstrings.

There is no doubt that a dog’s life on this island hasn’t always been the best. Nutrition and medical care were not optimal. Diseases like tick fever and heartworm were/are common. And the life expectancy of an island dog without preventive medicine and treatment was relatively short. Dogs were used to guard property and were often chained to trees to serve that purpose. A lot of Anguillians are afraid of dogs and probably with good reason. Anguillian dogs weren’t particularly happy. Or at least they never looked happy.

In fact, you’ve probably heard the adjective “hangdog”. Google defines it as having a dejected or guilty appearance; shamefaced. That’s exactly how dogs in Anguilla used to look: tails and ears and head and well just about everything just hanging down. We rarely saw a dog trotting down the street with its ears erect and tail wagging looking for fun. But I’m happy to report that this has changed. Nowadays dogs do look much happier and healthier on this island.

They look different physically, too. Back in the day everyone talked about Anguillian Long Dogs – as if that was a breed much like the ever-popular Coconut Retriever, a cutesy description of just about any dog born in the Caribbean. Long Dogs in the U.S. are actually mixed breed dogs of the Greyhound/Saluki variety – meaning they have really, really long legs. This makes Anguillian Long Dogs ironic since they are long in body but particularly short on legs – the joke always being that the Queen of England must have visited once and her beloved Corgis must have sown their royal seed on the island thus giving birth (excuse the pun) to the local breed.

It occurred to me the other day, however, that you hardly ever see Long Dogs anymore. Still plenty of dogs but bigger dogs, shaggy dogs, different dogs entirely. So I set out to find one. They are apparently as elusive as the night crane. I finally encountered one, but he was a skittish chap darting into the bush whenever I approached so it was like trying to capture an image of Big Foot. Hence this grainy, out of focus photo but you can see that his forward-facing friend it a smidge taller than he is.

elusive long dog

Sadly I never saw him or any other long dogs again in my search and had just about given up hope when I received a call from a new client to vaccinate her young dog. Imagine my delight when little “Marley” turned out NOT to be the expected yellow Labrador but rather a real, live, bonafide, Anguillian Long Dog. Yes, they still exist! AND THAT, my friends, is not a hangdog expression!! That is a very, happy, little puppy. Bless his little wee heart.

Marley the Long Dog

FOOTNOTE: As an aside, my wordpress dashboard pointed out to me that this is my 101st blog post. I’m thinking someone should have baked me a cake after that last one. 🙁

Throw Back Thursday

I realize that TBT is a facebook phenomenon. And I realize that it typically involves the posting of an old photograph (which I do not have). My TBT is more an emotional one than a visual one. But it’s still all about being nostalgic. It’s just been that kind of week.

It’s been ages since I posted here. That’s because I’ve been unbelievably busy with my veterinary house call business. We thought we’d be doing simple wellness sorts of things (vaccines, ear infections, broken toenails), but that’s not at all how it has played out so far. No reason to bore you with medical jargon but I’m dealing with surprisingly unusual cancers and doing CT Scans and managing all kinds of complicated cases one of which had me calling the diagnostic lab in the U.S. where I sent samples on a very sick but very nice old cat. I just wanted to get another opinion from an internal medicine specialist to be sure that there wasn’t something else I should be doing.

I sat in the phone cue for a while until the call was picked up with “Hello, this is Dr. DuFort.” There was a bit of a pregnant pause while I got my wits about me and said, “I’m sorry. Is this THE Dr. BOB DuFort?”. With understandable hesitance he admitted that it was. So I said, “Bob, this is Georgia Paul, wife of Dr. Mike Paul, ex of Encina Veterinary Hospital in Walnut Creek, CA calling you from a desert island in the Caribbean. How the hell are you?”

You probably got the part where I knew Bob DuFort from a previous life, right? Yup, he worked at the very first upstart diagnostic laboratory I ever used when I first started practicing in California, *gasp*, 30 years ago and there he was answering my questions 4,000 miles and a lifetime later. Talk about a flash from the past.

Then on Tuesday Michael and I went over to St. Maarten for the day. When we were building the house we had to take the ferry over ALL the time to get things that we couldn’t get over here. But I hardly ever do that anymore. I don’t like shopping. I get all whiney dragging around in the heat. And *sigh* it’s just so much trouble. As a result, I mostly ‘let’ Michael go over on his own. (Why should I spoil his fun, right?) But he wanted to look at refrigerators and mattresses and we’ve been working really hard (see the above) so I went.

And it was actually a really nice day. We started off with a tasty little French pastry. Priced refrigerators. And bought a mattresss. And then went to Tropicana for lunch. Back in the day that’s what everybody did. Going to Tropicana for lunch on the marina in Marigot was THE thing. You ran into more ex-pat Anguillians there than you’d find at lunch in a restaurant IN Anguilla. That doesn’t seem to be the case anymore – or else I just don’t know the right people anymore. But it was still fabulous. And as we ate our just-flown-in-from-Paris truffles on toast and drank our oh-so-very-iced-cold rose wine and joked with our old friend, Christophe, we toasted to what is still a very uncommon life.

You see, back in the day we used to sit in those very same chairs and marvel in hushed tones at the miracle that was the reality that we actually LIVED here. After 15 years that’s not so much a marvel as a merit badge, but I have to admit that it still is pretty damn cool. Merci beaucoup! Santé.



Supply and Demand

Continuing on with the theme of supply side economics….In the last post I pointed out that we now have a dry cleaners. We have the high tech auto shop. And we’ve talked before about the amazing metamorphosis of our grocery stores. It’s not only that we can get olive oil. We can get several different brands of olive oil and almond oil and walnut oil. We didn’t used to be able to find Ritz crackers, and now we have so many choices in crackers that it is overwhelming (though my beloved, simple, Wibix crackers seem to have disappeared and the Sodabix that have replaced them just are not the same!).

We have vegan sections, lactose-free sections and even trendy if mostly misguided gluten-free sections. In fact we have so many theme areas in the grocery stores now that I can hardly figure out where the regular milk is….milk pops up in so many different places. It’s a veritable epicurean Disneyland – every bit as pricey but at least varied and engaging. We have Aidells gourmet sausages now, and we can even choose between Café DuMonde and Peruvian coffee! (Conveniently located next to the canned goat’s milk!)


There is one particular section placement that still throws me off a little bit, though. It’s probably just that I am older. I came of age in the days when certain ‘items’ were hidden away behind pharmacy counters. In fact the process of having to ask for them was favorite fodder for comedians and sitcoms. So first of all, kudos for having essential items out in the open and even conveniently placed right inside the front door for quick and easy access if you are on the run and in a time crunch. That’s cool. Yeah, I’m dope with that.

store shelf

Sure the condoms the jelly, all right there. Excellent. But the pregnancy tests right next to the condoms? Is that to scare you into using the condoms? If so, also very excellent. On the other hand, if that’s a caution against the true effectiveness of the condoms, then maybe not so good. But what about the top shelf? Do you see what’s up there? Coz sure, I saw, “Something’s Gotta Give” (many, many times to my husband’s chagrin). I laughed when Diane Keaton’s character stopped to take Jack Nicholson’s blood pressure in the midst of things. Ha ha ha. Very funny. I just had no idea that had become the standard in those circumstances.

But I guess life imitates art, and you gotta give the people what they want….that’s simple economics.

Eye of the Storm

Sometimes you don’t notice change especially if it is gradual and you are right in the middle of it. Like being in the eye of a hurricane. Lots of stuff goes on all around you but you’d never know. Not until there’s a shift in the atmosphere and the newness washes over you. That’s how it is living here in Anguilla now. Apparently change is happening all the time but we just don’t experience it until it comes to our door.

For instance, we broke with tradition and actually went out to a charity gala the other night. Dinner and dancing. Long speeches and line dancing (apparently the Electric Slide is HUGE here and folks still know the moves to the Macarena!). All requiring dressing up in nice clothes. We tend to shy away from really nice clothes here because they tend to require dry cleaning which always meant letting them sit around dirty and sweaty (dancing does that especially in the Caribbean) until we could take them back to the States for cleaning. In fact, when we first moved here it used to aggravate the heck out of me that Tommy Bahama was ‘purveying the island lifestyle’ by selling ‘dry clean only’ clothes. What kind of cruel insanity was that? But today we can throw caution to the wind, put on our finest, and party like it’s 1999 (or we are on a cruise ship) confident in the knowledge that we now have a dry cleaning establishment on island.

Dry Cleaner

Yes indeed. I took the fancy cocktail dress and the fine men’s slacks in on Monday and picked them up on Wednesday all pretty on their hangers for $20 and &$9, respectively. Someone can correct me if I’m wrong (since I am out of the loop) but that doesn’t seem out of line to me.

We also recently got tired of driving our car into the bush to a guy who works as a mechanic in his backyard. The car was making all kinds of noises (as 14 year old island cars are want to do), and we kept replacing this and replacing that and finally decided to try a new mechanic. Lo and behold there is a big new, state-of-the-artsy car repair facility on island. A real building. With hydraulic lifts and computers and all sorts of impressive gadgets. Impressive invoices at the end, too, of course. But, let’s face it, everybody knows you have to pay more for superior service.

At least that is what we are counting on as we find ourselves in the middle of our own personal whirlwind. I mentioned before that we are now naturalized citizen which means we can easily open a business. Well, easily in that we could get a business license and not need work permits (like green cards). Not so easy in other ways. See I really just want to finally be able to do what I have been trained to do and to get paid for doing it. I just want to do my doctor stuff. What I wasn’t counting on was having to learn so many other things: purchasing (with the added aggravation of ocean transport and duties), pricing (with the added aggravation of ocean transport and duties), shipping of lab samples, merchant services ,and Quickbooks. Not to mention logos and business cards and websites. It’s more than a bit overwhelming especially to my aging mind.

Then again, maybe that’s a good thing. Shaking life up a little bit from time to time. We have been getting a bit complacent. Comfortable. Staid. Settled. I don’t want a hurricane, of course, but maybe a nice little metaphorical, tropical storm to bring some nourishing rain and to stimulate new growth (and brain cells) might just be what the doctor ordered.

Easy come, easy go or not

I know that I’ve spoken before about how difficult it can be getting people here to this island. And I know that I’ve written before about what an ordeal it is getting things to this island. But really isn’t the definition of insanity doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results? Well, call us crazy.

We’ve been crazy this whole time. Way, way back when this whole ‘living on a desert island’ dream was just a twinkle in my eye, I read Herman Woulk’s classic novel about middle-aged angst prompting Norman Paperman to pack it all up and move to a Caribbean Island. It’s requisite reading for folks who turn around and attempt the same thing. But it was published in 1965. Even in 1998 we were sure that things would be different. Imagine how hope springs eternal as we sit here in 2014 living the dream yet still clinging to our delusions that mail will arrive in a timely fashion and that planes will do likewise.

I am thinking about this as we prepare to see off our third set of visiting guests in the past five weeks with a two week break coming before the next ones arrive. (Bad weather up north seems to make people remember that we are down here with an empty room.) These folks are leaving by boat and the seas are very calm today so I don’t think there will be any issues.  The last couple, however, was not nearly so fortunate.

Robin and Faye visit us from England. They fly to Antigua and then over from there on the local, Caribbean airline, LIAT. Now, historically, LIAT has always been given a bad rap (not to say whether that was deservedly so, but yeah it was deservedly so) hence the pithy plays on the meaning of the name as Lousy In All Things or Leaving Island Any Time (just not when scheduled). Anyway, our English friends fly Liat into Anguilla. They have had good experiences and bad experiences, planes on time and planes that simply flew over and elected not to stop for them. But recently the airline’s performance has been better.

Even when they arrived this time, they were only delayed about 30 minutes. That’s not so bad except that there never seems to be anyone at the airport to give you updates. I’m sure there are Liat employees about. They are just never anywhere where you can talk to them. And the electric arrivals and departures boards haven’t worked since the week they were installed. Flight Status links on Liat’s website give you a schedule not an update, and I just cannot sit on hold long enough for someone to answer their phone. Nevertheless, they arrived safe and sound at which point I thanked them for their lovely Christmas note that I had conveniently placed on the dashboard of the car having only just retrieved it from the post office on my way to fetch them at the airport on that the 12th of February! (Even the post travels by plane, you know.)

Fast forward (Ha ha, I crack me up. I mean slow forward. Remember where I am.) past all of the rum punches and sunny beaches to the day of their departure. On Liat. Back to Antigua. We arrived at the airport in plenty of time. They checked in. When asked if the plane is arriving on time, the agent’s response was, ‘we believe the plane is en route as we speak.’  Sly. Very sly. ‘We believe’. Do we look like we just fell off of the mango truck yesterday? Even so, Faye and Robin encouraged us to leave them and go home, but we’ve fallen for that one before only to have them arrive back knocking at our door when the plane didn’t come.  We insisted. We’d wait.

An hour later the plane landed. Not bad by Liat time.  We said our good-byes and headed home. Between loads of laundry I checked my email. There was one from Faye. My first instinct was to think she was kidding. But she was not. They boarded the plane, the engines started, smoke billowed out, and they were back in the departures lounge waiting for a new mechanic or a new plane or who knows what.  Their 3:30P flight was then hoping to depart by 7:30P. (This is exactly why they always spend a couple of nights in Antigua before heading home so they are not among the panicked throngs of passengers wondering how they will make their connections with British Airways or Virgin that same night.)

They were, however, without food or water since the airport restaurant closes at 5P. So I emailed her back and told her to meet us in the car park. We threw together some cheese and meats and crackers and chips and threw in a bottle of wine and before you know it we were tailgating in the parking lot of the airport. When the world gives you lemons, make charcuterie!

tailgateP.S. They did get to Antigua eventually meanwhile a good time was had by all.

The Loneliest Number is the Number One

Today’s theme will be a study of the number one. First because Michael is traveling in the States so I have been here alone for an entire week. I’m always ‘mopey’ when I’m alone. It’s not so much the being alone part as the him not being here part – if that makes any sense at all. And in spite of my contention that I could get so much more accomplished without him here, in truth that is never the case. I always spend at least one day just sitting around watching sappy, romantic movies: You’ve Got Mail, Something’s Gotta Give, Hope Floats, or whatever happens to be on the Hallmark Channel.  Then I snap out of it and try to get something constructive done in his absence, but the time that has elapsed between my last post and now illustrates my total lack of productivity. So let me just fire this one off before he gets home tomorrow.

For our first singular subject, we have our one and only dragon fruit which we harvested exactly 40 days from fertilization because I am an analytical person and numbers mean more to me than ‘when the tips just start to shrivel’ or ‘when it feels like a ripe avocado.’

Here it is just before harvest.Dragonfruit ready to pick



dragonfruit cut

And here it is cut open, ready to eat. So now we know that it is the pink flesh variety rather than the white flesh variety, AND we know that it was absolutely delicious!

Now we will move from the topic of living off of the land to trying to live on the (is)land from a shopping standpoint.

Before he left, Michael was in St. Martin shopping at the local restaurant supply store when he felt the impulse to buy one of those CO2 cartridge soda makers.  They only had one left, the floor model. It was missing pieces but he was welcome to buy it. No, regular price. No, no discount. But the salesperson assured him that the pieces it was missing weren’t really necessary anyway.  Did he want it? No, no thanks.

Then he was shopping here in Anguilla. He was in the process of hacking out the roots of some very established plants in an area where he wants to build a deck. Having already tried to saw off his feet with a pressure washer in the past, he wisely decided that work boots might be a better choice than flip flops. Surprisingly, there is a safety shoe shop on island. So he went in and asked the salesperson if she had a pair of steel- toed work boots in a size 11. More surprisingly, she had one left. ….. Well, actually she had one left one. No, not a pair. Just one left one. Did he want it? No, no thanks.

Now we come to my project. Having saved all this money not buying a soda maker or safety shoes, I wanted to repaint the front door. It has always been blue, but I was feeling like a change and wanted to paint it red. At the hardware store, I told them I needed some paint. Ooooh, we don’t really have any paint. No paint? Well, some paint. What did I want? Interior/exterior semi-gloss. Nope, none of that. What? I just need a quart. Oh, wait, we don’t have any gallons, but quarts we have. What color? This color red. Nope, we don’t have the base for that. Seriously? Well, let me look. Wait, at the back of the shelf, here’s one last quart. Huzzah!

Now for the big question: I’m painting red over royal blue. Is there ANY chance you have tintable primer….just one quart? Miracle of all miracles, yes. Great, can you tint it this color red? No, I don’t think we can tint it. Huh? It’s a tintable primer. The label says *Must be tinted prior to use. What do you mean you can’t tint it? So they called the manufacturer. Ok, we can tint it. We just can’t tint it that color red. Can you tint it close to this color red? No. Can you tint anywhere in the red color spectrum? Maybe.

So here’s what I got. The paint is on the left and the primer is on the right.Paint colors





I’m not sure that I gained anything at all using that primer compared to your average, every day, basic white primer; but for several hours my front door was an ironically nauseating, Pepto Bismal color of pink.

But now, it’s a stunning red color; and on the upside (and don’t I always strive to find the upside?), I think I still fared better than the other guy who was struggling to buy paint that morning. He just needed one gallon of white, interior/exterior paint which, as we know, did not exist. In the end, he didn’t look at all happy lugging his only alternative, a FIVE gallon bucket, to his car. Ah, if only I needed one gallon of white. I could probably buy it from him.


This week there’s been lots of attention given to the fruits of reproductive endeavors. But wow. Who would have thought that Kate and William would name their new prince after ME? I don’t even really know them all that well. But I’m humbled and honored just the same.

Meanwhile, speaking of progeny, I think that it is now safe to report that we have successful pollination and fruit set. Notice the plump, pregnant appearance of the wilting dragonfruit flower on the right in the photo below compared to the sad, dried, barren dragonfruit flower on the left. 

Initially I was hopeful that two out of the five flowers had set. Not great success statistics, but infinitely better than that zero success rate I’ve managed up until this point. Sadly, though, it appears that we have lost another one. It was probably just nature’s way of selecting against an inferior genetic specimen, but I’m disappointed nonetheless. It also appears that I am not just getting better at making baby dragonfruit but rather that the process really is dependent upon using pollen from a genetically different plant since the one fruit came from the very first flower that I pollinated with the fresh pollen from our friend’s plant while the other failures received a mixture of their own pollen and older, stored, foreign pollen.

I suppose I should count my blessing, however. In reality, we were really quite lucky to find a genetically dissimilar plant on our first try considering that we’re living on the dragonfruit equivalent of Pitcairn Island. First of all, I don’t think there are all that many dragonfruit plants here to start with. They aren’t exactly attractive landscape plants battling the Royal or Bismarck Palms for places of honor in people’s yards. In fact, I’ve never actually seen another one. Michael found ours growing wild and neglected along the fence in the far reaches of the garden center.  Plus for all we knew, every single dragonfruit plant living on this tiny little island could very well have descended from one single plant considering that the quickest and easiest way to propagate new dragonfruits is by rooting simple cuttings from another dragonfruit. That means that it was entirely possible and actually likely that our friend’s dragonfruit started out as a rooted stick broken off from our dragonfruit or visa versa.

So today I am in possession of a cutting from the friend’s plant that produced the pollen that led to successful fruit set; and in a peculiar twist, much like having a second child in the hopes that it will be a genetic match for my ailing firstborn, I now have had to adopt a second, unruly, gangly cactus in order to successfully bear fruit on either of them. Clearly it will take time for the cutting to mature and produce flowers so that my dream of an abundant dragonfruit harvest will be slower to reach fruition. For now, though, the biggest question is which palm tree is going to have to step aside and make space for the new kid.