Whaddyadoallday? Real Life on a Desert Island Rotating Header Image

desert island

Bella Ciao, Anguilla

It is time.

Inertia is easy. Change is hard. This is very hard.

This is the longest I have called anyplace home in my entire adult life. April 18, 2001 seems like a lifetime ago and like only yesterday at the same time. Today we leave Anguilla after 20 years 109 days.

So Whaddididoallthosedays?

Everything and nothing. There were a billion frustrations. And hopefully a greater number of joys. There was even terror (yes, I am looking at you Irma and Covid.) There were lots of those beach walks that I thought would fill my every day until regular life intruded on my time and bad backs and bad knees made walking on sloping sand a tad less enjoyable. But there was always the house and the view and the weather to make it all worthwhile.

And the full moon light on the Caribbean Sea. That was heaven touching earth every single time.

At the end of the day, though, the thing that I will miss the most will not be the sand or the beach. It will be the people. I will miss the friends we made here. The kinship.

When we first moved here and people asked what it was like living on a tiny island, I always said that it was a bit like living in high school…not always in a good way. Small, clique-y. With everyone knowing you and your business. But it was also like being in school in that it was easy to make friends based on the shared experience.

The easy connection with people on island was surprising especially to a couple of generally anti-social individuals like us. But in retrospect it shouldn’t have been. When we first moved here and met multiple people who came here single and found their soulmates, I marveled. How was that even possible? On an island with a total population of, say, 12,000 back then? How many of those folks are in your target demographic? Of those, how many are single and looking for someone like you? That elimination process alone would leave you with maybe, what? 200 possible matches? If I randomly picked 200 people from JFK airport or all of Miami, what would be the odds of finding THE one in that group? And yet, it happened time and again. In fact, for one woman I met just recently, it happened TWICE.

Over the years, however, I have come to realize that the mere fact that a person comes here, to a tiny desert island in the middle of nowhere naturally selects for a certain kind of person. I would say that people who move here tend to be out-going, hard-working, risk-takers who are open to and even embrace change. If they stay, they have to possess a hefty amount of adaptability, patience and good humor. So friendships here don’t just grow out of the shared experience of being here, but they are all rooted in a lot of common, compatible personality traits.

In our days here, we have made friends, good friends, with people from all over the world and from all kinds of backgrounds who we would never have met had our lives stayed on that comfy, suburban, California cul-de-sac. Each and every one of them has contributed to the experience of living here by making it fuller, more interesting, more enjoyable and really just ‘more’ than stunning water and fine, white sand would have been. To all of them I am eternally grateful. I will miss them most.

In parting, here is a picture of the tile that Michael hand-painted and hung next to our front door those many days ago. We will leave it for the new owner, but I have amended the image here. We are so lucky.

Where’s Waldo?

Here we are nearly five months into lockdown, and you might have thought you would hear more from me what with having next to nothing to do but write. However, fiction is not my forte. So without anything happening, there is nothing to write about.

Granted, with our very blessed COVID free status here in Anguilla, I did transition back into saving little dog and cat lives (or more accurately treating their minor ailments). We have been out to eat a few times. We have had a couple of distanced dinner parties on our veranda. And we saw the comet and some meteors. All things that my northern friends would likely be happy to be able to do without worry.  But it has really been pretty quiet down here. And we would very much like to keep it that way in spite of our Government’s recent desire to start opening the island in the midst of what threatens to be a VERY, I mean HISTORICALLY VERY, active peak hurricane season. (Fingers crossed nothing this way comes.)

My current malaise and inertia right now stem mostly from Newton’s Laws of Motion – The first of which states, “A body at rest will remain at rest, and a body in motion will remain in motion unless it is acted upon by an external force.”

That’s me. A body at rest. And now a body at rest for so long that it takes a very significant external force to move me. I may grow roots. It remains to be seen.
That’s why last week I found myself looking forward to witnessing lilies opening. Yup. Like watching paint dry but for one brief dynamic second at the end. This is the time of year that Michael and I actually get into our pool. Usually we are not hot enough to warrant getting wet. But August to October, that area of the veranda that is otherwise an architectural water feature earns its keep. At least once a day in the evening, we get in and hang over the infinity edge and contemplate life.Last week the lilies were blooming just on the other side of the overflow. We could watch the petals start to separate, space developing between them, the little orange anthers starting to peek out at the top, and then “sproing” the flowers would open. Not exactly gripping theatre but something to do nonetheless.Now those lilies are taking a break so it is back to staring at the sea. But last night something new caught my attention.  I saw a flash of bright green in a mass of bright green and magenta in one of the bougainvillea. Very hard to distinguish between the plant and the “other”…

But I was dedicated to the task of capturing an image. At least AFTER I (as an external force) convinced Michael to break his inertia to get out of the pool to go get my glasses and the camera.
It should be noted that I am not the photographer in our partnership. And hanging over the infinity edge on my tiptoes with a still healing torn rotator cuff hooked over the side balancing the camera trying to zoom and focus into all that mass and depth of foliage was no small feat. (Self-congratulatory pats on my back with my good arm, thank you.) But smack dab in the middle of that picture, just behind that one 2/3 circle of a tiny dead branch at about 2 o’clock from that center magenta flower was this:Can you see anything yet?  Ok, wait, Mr. DeMille, he’s ready for his close-up.My new COVID friend, Waldo, the baby iguana.

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.