Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Thank You Thank You Thank You!

This is a message of thanks to those marvellous members of my family (you know who you are!) who made my day, no week, no year! and sent me over an ipod nano for my birthday! Sigh, such joy!! What a marvellous surprise, and I will therefore forgive you of all the mean Spurs jokes you have been making. Watch out, we are on our way back up...

I will also hold you same people responsible for the fact that I am up at 1.15am acquainting myself with iTunes and having a great time downloading songs - I shall no doubt regret it tomorrow morning!

In fact, this very morning I said to Bertie that I missed having music on, especially doing the cleaning, as our computer decided not to play CDs (only DVDs for some strange reason) a couple of weeks into our stay here. I am so glad that will no longer be the case! However, I will have to go to my niece and ask her if and how to download all the songs from my CDs to the ipod. Being the technically savvy person she is, I am sure this won't be a problem.

So today's question - what was the first song you put on your ipod? Mine runs as such...
Michael W Smith - You are Holy and Never Been Unloved (highly recommend these two, you can find them both on YouTube too)
Tim Hughes - God of Justice
Now I shall have to decide how many songs to limit myself to each month in the interests of frugality and budgeting!

Safely Here

After a very pleasant visit with the in-laws, Mum made it through the 8 hour flight (with only one film!) and we were delighted to see her at the airport this afternoon. In fact, see her was all we did do for an hour or so, as she waited and waited and waited for her luggage, whilst we looked down from the viewing point (makes you feel a bit like a zoo animal!). Finally, she was the last to leave, as she collected her suitcase which had gone round the belt a mere 10 times before she realised it was hers! In her defence, she has borrowed the neighbour's and it is unfamiliar...

The girls were thrilled to see her - as were the in-laws - and all that she has brought. What do you miss when you are abroad? My goodies go something like this
- parsnip and swede (mainly for Baby JoJo to taste)
- nappies
- dental floss
- organic maple syrup
- pack of bay leaves
- cheddar and parmesan cheese
- jelly, all the flavours of the rainbow!
- women's weekly
- pens for writing on freezer bags
Poor mum, it is amazing she managed to fit any of her own clothes in, let alone drag all these cases across half the world!

A big thanks to Bertie who spent today taking down and putting up beds (we got a new one and then discovered it was too big for the room it was supposed to be in - oops!) and mosquito nets and new fans to replace all the broken ones (I hear it is snowing in London, but here it is HOT!) and now the house looks normal again!

Friday, 24 October 2008

Things We Have Been Up To

We are looking forward to half term next week (here we get 10 days, whoopee!), the highlight of which is Mum coming over to see us. Bon voyage mum! We have ordered a new bed for her and just need to pick it up. I am keeping an eye out to get rid of any cockroaches before her arrival. And if she is lucky, she may even have a ceiling fan to cool her!

LissaLou has been swimming again with her class today and had a great time. She claims to be able to swim now, but I am unconvinced.

There was a rat running around the washing machine downstairs (a biiiig one, honest!) so I wasn't able to do any washing recently! However, it has been duly poisoned and dumped now, phew.

We didn't make it to the beach this week either. Bertie went to Pika with his dad, sat down for a five minute chat, and turned up 2 hours later! No problem, I made pineapple jam with the four free pineapples the kind market seller gave me, and the girls had great fun playing in the road next door with their cousin and the neighbours.

Later that day, I went to a Ladies Group and Bertie took the girls and their cousin down for a walk by the sea. LissaLou gave me an excited rendition of the trip to me on my return, and I am ashamed to say I wasn't really listening! Bertie saw this by my lack of reaction, then told me the story again - they had been playing boats with some polystyrene and she had reached after hers, and tumbled into the sea from the pier!!! Needless to say I was somewhat shocked, very relieved Bertie was behind her and pulled her out before she got further than her shoulders, equally relieved that I hadn't been there, and unable to understand how they all managed to laugh about it! We worrying mothers eh?

I took Baby JoJo back to the dispensaire today for his next hepatitis B injection and general check-up. All is still well. As I left the house, Papy advised me that I should iron my skirt or people would think I had slept in it! I told him very frankly that I didn't mind what people think - me and ironing are not good friends! However, I may make an effort at some point if it means that much to him. Or maybe I will pay my enterprising nephew to iron for me? Hmm, his rates are probably far too high.

It has rained so much less this week and the temperature has soared. I am sitting glued to my fan!

I read a very moving book this week - The Kite Runner - which I would recommend. Has anyone seen the film?

We are going to a bible study tonight in Le Gosier and before we leave I have to
-wash up -hang out the washing - put away the dry washing - prepare grated carrot and fried plantain - tidy up a bit - collect LissaLou - get the kids showered and dressed, and me too - feed Baby JoJo... so I had better get on! Bon weekend!

NB and a special Happy Birthday to Big Bro Malc today! May I heartily recommend you visit (and comment on!) the gorgeous pictures on this blog and this one!

Monday, 20 October 2008

A Flower Theme

Imagine hearing a knock at the door and opening it to find your father-in-law holding a bouquet with these beautiful flowers, picked that very morning at Pika? What a pleasant way to start the day! They are now displayed on my bedroom cupboard...and the many ants on the flowers have crept on to the wall and got caught in the spider's web just above, hehe!

After church, we returned for our Family Party, unofficially for my birthday, though I have to admit it seems so long ago now! Bertie's nephew William had very kindly made another beautiful flower arrangement for me, with paper mache flowers in a jar full of sand and painted in bold stripes. In addition, Stella, probably the world's sweetest niece, has taken to bringing little bouquets of wild flowers. Interestingly, they are displayed in a little tube which is used to pump excess bogie (sorry, couldn't think of a polite way to say it!) from childrens' noses! However, I hate doing that so it is never used for that purpose and this in no way detracts from the beauty of the arrangement! So the house is full of flowers, bliss!

Our party went very pleasantly. Bertie's sister Felicianne made two quiches, and his SIL Morette made another one. His mum made rice and peas, and a chicken dish, and his sister Nadia made dombrey with crab and probably another quiche. (They are very big on quiche here!) We provided the juice so Bertie made jus de goyave, jus de maracudja and panache. Further to my baking lessons a couple of weekends back, I made some petits pains and some cinnammon buns, which came out okay (well, a little burnt, surprise surprise!) but I could definitely do with more practice! Then there were two cakes also made by Felicianne and some ice cream. Oh, were we full at the end!

The girls had a wonderful time playing with their cousins. At one point I came across LissaLou and Raisa in bed snoring, before LissaLou said "Il faut se reveiller, on va aller au travail"! CassCass spent her time comforting her little cousin Meddy who is going through the terrible two stage. I think she has an afinity with his tears and tantrums!

We finished with a few games of Mille Bornes, which I would highly recommend. As the title suggests, you have to get up to 1000 kilometres whilst giving your opponments crashes and punctures etc. Stella and I were battling it out at 950km when suddenly Bertie, who had been very slow off the mark (I think he waited 10 turns for a green light) pipped us to the post! Arghh!

We are still finishing off the leftovers and Bertie is now preparing his golf bag as tomorrow is the Big Day...first time on a Caribbean golf course!

Thursday, 16 October 2008

7 Months!

Perhaps by 8 months we will be back to photos of Baby JoJo and Baby Luke! For the meantime, I will have to stick to words!

Physical development - Baby JoJo is now sitting up really well, hardly ever falling over. I still don't like to leave him sitting alone because of the hard tiles though. He can slide along on his tummy - and unfortunately slid off the bed the other day (onto the aforesaid hard tiles, poor babe!) so lying on the floor is the safest position for him. He is working on his gross motor skills (that phrase always amuses me!) and grasping things from the floor with his finger and thumb. Will have to keep the place tidier. He also likes banging his hand on things. His favourite position is standing and he will go very stiff to prevent you putting him down.

Verbal - he makes lots of noise, cooing and gurgling and ahhing or ohhhing away. He still has the loveliest laugh. He also likes ummming with each mouthful of his meal - must be pure contentment!

Food - I have found getting organised with weaning and providing a wide selection of food more of an effort here, not helped by the tiny freezer we have (the large one downstairs has just gone kaput) but now that I am getting more into it, I am encouraged by a very hearty eater. Baby JoJo will devour his 3 daily meals at present and doesn't refuse anything, though he does prefer avocado and banana above all and loves chewing on a piece of baguette. I will need to start upping the portion size I think. No sign of any teeth, though teething does seem to be happening with all the dribbling and knawing that goes on. No bad thing as it means no biting - though during his feeds he loves pinching and scratching me! He tends to feed 6-7am; after his morning nap/before his lunch; after his afternoon nap/before tea; before bed.

Play - He really loves it when you sing to him, and zoom zoom zoom is his favourite song, though he will beam at more or less any. He continues to love watching his sisters and cousins and anyone else who is around, rewarding their attention with a huge beam.

Sleep - If I can organise myself (I usually can't), he will have an hour's nap at about 9am and then a couple of hours after lunch at about 1pm. He does tend to wake up early (like the girls, between 6 and 7am but nearer to 6) and he will have his final feed at about 8-9pm. I haven't managed to get him to sleep at 7pm (my goal!) yet, though last night he went down at 7.30pm...then woke and fed for an hour at 1am! That didn't seem worth it really!

Emotional - oh no! we are getting to the stage when he bursts into tears if I leave the room and only cheers up when I am back! Given the layout of our flat, with the kitchen separate and not really designed for him to play there when I am cooking, that is a problem! He is still happy with other people though, and went contentedly for a walk with Tatie Pierrette yesterday morning to the neighbour's house.

Looks - his eyes are still blue and he still has cradle cap and I still get advice from everyone about how to deal with it and still don't ever get round to following it...well, the girls' disappeared eventually without much help from me! His legs and arms are so brown from the sun then a much paler body where he wears his swimsuit!

Awaiting Omar

We didn't do our usual beach visit today for a couple of reasons - LissaLou and Baby JoJo are down with colds, and Hurricane Omar is on his way. He is supposed to be heading to the North Islands (St Martin etc) but passing us by in his wake, which means lots of wind and rain and a very agitated sea.

In preparation, Papy has brought his car into the yard (in the last hurricane it got its windshield broken and he has never fixed it - who knows what could happen this time!) and the furniture has been moved to safety outside. But as it stands, there is no more rain and wind outside than usual so I am not sure how affected we will be.

Instead of the beach, we chilled at home reading (me) and playing (girls) and then went to the shops to buy Baby JoJo a new high chair. It is very conveniently a promotional week for all child products in Carrefour so the shop was full of mums and babies. We tried him out in it this evening and he is ever so cute, and had such a good time sitting there. Funny to think that his little feet currently on the seat will one day reach the footrest!

After the shops we headed out to Ste Anne for a meal with friends from church. They have a most gorgeous oval shaped house in the countryside and to the girls' delight a triple swing outside, so they enjoyed playing on that with their five year old friend. Our friend is an English Teacher here and a real anglophile - she has ever brought up her son fluent in english - so there was plenty of english conversation going on. She is interested in new words (Wags, retail therapy, silver surfer to name but a few) so we had an interesting time finding some more for her - and for me! Am I the only one not to know that phat means great?!

Not only a time of new words, but also my first time eating conch (lambi) which apparently is in season right now. Surprisingly meaty for seafood and in a nice sauce was my conclusion.

I stayed up too late reading last night so am shattered now - Omar will have to do his best if he wants to rouse me from my sleep tonight!

NB For those unfamiliar with hurricanes, they work through the alphabet each year with alternate girl and boy names. The last we had heard was of Ike, so Bertie was amazed we had already reached Omar - what happened to all the others we wondered? He even queried if he had misheard, and it was actually Hurricane Homard (lobster!)!

Birthday Fun

Monday was the hallowed occasion of the birthdays for the Iron Lady and Yours Truly, and I hope she celebrated in as much style as I did. Bertie took over a lot of the child care and cooking, preparing some delicious fried plantain and ice cream for lunch, and our usual Monday morning shopping trip had the additional excitement of a bar of Fairtrade dark chocolate thrown in - yummy! Bertie had also been listening closely to me and got the very present I had hoped for - a Guadeloupe clock so that I can now know what time it is and when to collect LissaLou/put Baby JoJo to bed etc etc. I chatted on Skype to the family in the afternoon (lovely to hear you all!) and we visited his sister in the evening and it was such fun watching LissaLou & CassCass jumping crazily to the tv juke box. Even Baby JoJo was swaying in front of the box!

I don't know if it was a reaction against not having done much all day, but I came home and tidied until midnight! How refreshing to wake up to a tidy flat on Tuesday! This was followed by an enjoyable morning with some friends, a delicious chocolate cake and another ever-so-appropriate present; I had just lost my towel and given this house's track record, it could be another two years till it turns up, so I was thrilled to get a new towel with my name on it so no chance of it falling into another's hands!!

LissaLou wasn't very impressed with the day though - she asked about the party (we are having a family get-together on Sunday) and said she is looking forward to my REAL birthday then!

Monday, 13 October 2008

If I Had My Camera...

I would have taken a picture of...

LissaLou wearing a cardigan and pulling our huge suitcase telling me she was off to see her BF in England
CassCass wearing her fairy dress for church today - I was a bit concerned people wouldn't approve but she got so many compliments!
Baby JoJo sitting in his Bumbo stuffing his face - he has tasted lentils and baby pasta for the first time this week and loved them both.
Baby JoJo climbing out of his Bumbo, being caught by his mum seconds from impact! Time to get a highchair...
Me getting a lesson in preparing fish from my MIL. She buys it whole, then takes off all the scales, cuts it open and removes the guts (in true Heather style I commented that I didn't realised fish had guts! As ever, I plead my ignorance on my London upbringing!) and it was quite a sight to see me trying to imitate her! She was the height of patience with my fumbled attempts though. Personally, I think I would abandon frugality and pay the extra €2 to have the fish person do it!
The delicious gateau au yaourt et citron I made, which sadly burnt to smithereens! I am constantly asking Bertie if the burning smell is from us or the in-laws, and as it is generally from them, I have given up asking. Unfortunately this time it was us! I will have to adjust to a far hotter oven (is it affected by the outside temperature?)
The temperature outside the Town Hall today saying 18 degrees! And they call this the Caribbean?!

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Catching Up On Comments

I have had fun for the last hour reading through all the comments that you have left since our arrival here, many of which I didn't reply to - munch munch through humble pie as I give my profuse apologies...! Out of interest a query to you fellow bloggers, is there a limit on how far back you look at comments - sometimes I am tempted to leave one on a older date but I don't know if the writer will ever see it. And for blog-readers, if you leave a comment, is there a limit on how far back you check to see if it has been answered? Sometimes I am late reading them and then I don't know whether to respond or not!

Anyway, I have put together the questions that have been left hanging in the air and will try and answer them all...

Firstly, the big one from Bachman...will I produce a book titled "Notes from an even smaller island"? What an excellent idea! I shall have to think on that, and what slant the book would take, as all these travelogues seem to have a theme running through them. Perhaps Going Green In Gwada? As for doing it in french, er, I don't think so! But then I wondered if the title would be best applied to a book about the Isle of Wight or even the Isle of Man, given the link to the UK? However, I will certainly get your book writing tips (and those of Cally's Kitchen of course!) if I ever embark on such a scheme...(by the way Malc, how is the book coming on?)

Bachman also commented on the confusion SIL for sister-in-law with Societe International de Linguistics (or Wycliffe Bible Translators). I agree! Just like I always get confused with the word coworker, as I always read cow - worker, does anyone else?! But as for BM for my mother in law (Belle-Mere), that is how I mentally refer to our town, so further confusion will abound!

Moving on to Malvern Manor, (do have a look at these links - I would particularly recommend the lovely photos posted on this one today...). Mum - what happened to the Peppa Pig book? It took a month for a letter to reach me from NZ, surely the UK is a bit quicker?! I will certainly get a photo of LissaLou and her Mamie when the camera is back. Baby JoJo's vital statistics as of our last visit at the end of september were...
weight 7.81 kilos (slowed down a lot, probably due to not eating so much during his last cold)
length 68cm
head still 44 cm
Mum also asked a few Pika related questions. Pika is just the name the family gives to that plot of land, Bertie didn't know why, and but how funny that there is an animal of that name! I shall have to check with his Dad that there aren't any on the loose there! In creole Pika is referred to as en bwois-la. I sincerely doubt that Bertie prayed for the pig before killing it, would it have made it more tasty?!
Papy's green shoes are equivalent to cut down welly boots and we can most certainly get you a pair when you are here. You will be the height of fashion!
In response to Susan's query about my wasp sting - no the sting never did come out in the end! I would certainly recommend alcohol though, as it did the trick. I have become a dab hand at killing wasps since! Susan also asked whether we had Durian fruit here and the answer is no, but I wonder if Mei-Li is familiar with it from PNG? The strong smell reminds me of fruit that I saw with her in Chinatown, but I don't know if it is the same one. Bertie says it reminds him of one which we do have called corossol. However, we do have Jackfruit here, although he didn't know its name and hasn't eaten it.
And speaking of all these fruits and vegetables, I love mum's suggestion of making a book of all the fruits here - another project for her visit? Even better, how about drying the leaves and sticking them in too?
Finally, thanks to Mrs Wookie for the link to The Elysia Biodynamic Garden. I am not at all familiar with biodynamic principles so it was good to read and would be an interesting place to visit on our return. After Kirsty telling me that eau de cologne would be good to cool down a temperature, I am beginning to wonder if all the things I class as Gwada Myths have scientific explanations!

Hope that covers them all!

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Life Is Like That

We woke up to a tremendous storm at 5am (well, I should say we were woken up!) and it looks like it will be a day of rain. No trips to the playpark today! Unfortunately, the building Bertie works in on Saturday is prone to flooding, so it will be a tricky morning for him too. I just opened the door to the balcony for the first time today and LissaLou told me the rain had started again, so bang shut went the door! I don't think I will be opening them again anytime soon!

Clothes have a tendency to disappear here, if you don't grab them off the washing line the moment they are dry. Bertie found a missing pair of shorts...on his sister (he never wore them again for some reason!) and my favourite pair of white trousers mysteriously vanished in 2006. So I was delighted to come across them the other day, and even more so to find that they still fit! I took advantage of the cooler weather today to put them on, admired them, got on with the day...then a naked CassCass came and plonked herself on my lap and all too late I realised she had done a number two and not wiped her bottom! Sigh. The trousers have gone to the wash and will have to wait another day.

I spent hours sweating away in the heat to tidy the flat, only for CassCass and LissaLou to spill a packet of rice, break a glass or two, get the entire contents of their toy box out, chuck Baby JoJo's food on the floor...oh well!

Bad news - there was another cockroach on the floor this morning. Good news - it was dead. By what means I am not sure but very grateful!

I have renamed the final day of the week Fever Friday as somehow Baby JoJo keeps getting a very high temperature on it. Yesterday he hovered around 39 degrees which was rather worrying. We haven't had to visit any doctors or hospitals yet and I am not in a hurry to! We still don't have a social security number either to reclaim the cost. However, he is back to normal again today - a mixture of prayer and two hour feeding sessions! (Oh, and apparently the local solution is to put Eau de cologne on his head - er, right!)

Right, back to the life of a mother!

Thursday, 9 October 2008


I forgot to mention that each day begins with a double dose of Dora the Explorer in french whilst we try to get all three washed, dressed, fed, brushed and LissaLou off to school on time. We are enjoying the mixture of french and english from Dora, but our favourite bit is Schiper le Renard who comes to swipe things. We have learnt to cry with Dora, "Chiper, arrete de chiper!" and chuckle at his frustrated "oh mince!" Does anyone know what he says in english? It is also a very useful phrase to apply to other situations ie "mouche, arrete de moucher" "jojo, arrete de joer" "moustique, arrete de moustiquer"...oh the list is endless!

Daily Life

This is what our life looks like right now...
Mondays - Bertie drops LissaLou at school at 8am and then he takes me and the other two shopping. I am aiming to alternate between Carrefour (very expensive but so much more choice and organic produce) and Leader Price (very cheap). We collect LissaLou at 11.30am, have lunch, let her chill out and then Bertie drops her back at 2pm before I collect her at 4.30pm. He has one late class in Pointe a Pitre and then we aim for tea and bed not too late, but rarely achieve it.
Tuesdays - I have made some friends! My kind Texan friend who is leaving soon has introduced me to some other mums and we meet up for tea on Tuesday mornings at one of their houses. One lives just down the road from us, so it is nice to know the neighbours. Then I get LissaLou and we have lunch, take her back...Bertie spends the morning working with his dad at Pika and has a busy afternoon and evening; he doesn't get back till 7.30pm or so. I try to get CassCass and Baby JoJo to sleep in the afternoons but not very successfully and rarely at the same time. It is quite hard work organising tea and bedtime without Bertie there and the three of them. There is usually at least one in tears at some point!
Wednesdays - ahh, my favourite day! Bertie is with us all day and as we usually nab his mum's food for tea, not much cooking! There is a bible study at the church but he hasn't made it much yet.
Thursdays - Bertie is at Pika in the morning, we have nothing on although I have been going to the Post Office recently as people keep paying Bertie in cheques. With the queues there, that can be a morning's visit! Bertie again has a busy afternoon and evening, not getting back till 8pm. Definitely my least favourite evening!
Fridays - nothing on in the morning yet, then Bertie has classes in the afternoon. The second one is at home, and it is nice to have him there, although he often gets interruptions from the girls. At least his pupils are hearing authentic english!
Saturdays - Bertie starts at 8.30am so is gone quite early. Last week I took the girls to the playpark and we spent a lovely hour there then did some shopping after, which was very agreeable. However, such activities depend very much on the weather! Bertie is pretty tired when he is back so it is good to rest, but it depends what is on. Last Saturday my Texan friend showed a few of us how to make bread and cinnammon rolls, delicious! And a lovely way to spend an evening. The girls were distraught at not being able to come but they enjoyed a trip out in the car with their dad!
Sundays - church starts at 9.30am and goes on till midday, ouf! The first part is bible study and we don't go till the main service at 10.30am. After lunch we may be lucky enough to get a siesta, and there is an excellent chance that some family members will pop in later. This week it was Bertie's brother Richard and his family. LissaLou and CassCass had a marvellous time playing with their cousin Raisa and were more than delighted when their other cousin Stella turned up too. They also love their older cousins and these kind teenagers will quite happily play with them, do their hair, chat and chill together.

Petit Havre

We have been offline for the last few days for some unknown reason, so it is nice to be back again and to be able to tell you about this week's trip to the beach. It must look like we spend all our time at the beach, but I assure you it is only Wednesday mornings!

Once again, back to the internet for a photo of this week's location, courtesy of Havre is not that far from us and quite different from our previous destinations, as it is much more of a fishing beach. As we arrived the fishermen were bringing their fish from the boats to sell. Half an hour later I said to Bertie perhaps we should buy some, and he laughed and replied it had all sold in minutes! Fresh fish goes fast here!

We were sitting just to the left of this picture - there were four boats there today, and the same ropes tying them to the trees. Oh, and the bridge on the side has disappeared. The beach here is quite stoney and full of little red beasties who somehow attach to each other (bottom to bottom) and then wander around in this position. Very strange! There was also a lot of seaweed in the sea and even a dead jellyfish on the sand. But the sea was beautifully calm, which makes it so much easier as we can let the girls go running in and out at their leisure and they don't have as much water in their eyes, noses and mouths. Baby JoJo also enjoyed it much more, sitting for hours on our laps (we have given up on the inflatable seat now as he just spends his time drinking sea water then throwing it up!) splashing the water with his fist and laughing at our songs.

The weather was quite overcast (we could here thunder most the time, very odd feeling as you sit in the warm sea!) and believe it or not, we even felt cold on occasion! Definitely acclimatising! In fact, I have noticed that there are bits of the sea that are warm and bits that are cold. Bertie says it is to do with the ground but I don't really understand that - any suggestions?

This beach is a lot less busy, however, there was a huge group of children with a holiday club having a marvellous time jumping up and down in the water. They were much more organised than us, with their huge pots of lunch and marquee to eat under...even a brush to sweep the sand off their mats! As ever, we enjoyed ham and cheese baguettes then treated ourselves to magnums. No sunburn/stroke today I am happy to report, just an extremely pleasant morning.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

St Francois

Still camera-less, but here is a picture of the beach we were at today, courtesy of I liked this photo as we were in fact in the water right where that lady is in the picture, and we admired the colourful houses with their lovely sea view! This beach is called Plage des Raisins Clairs and is a lovely one that we have only visited twice before in all my visits here. It has more sand than most the beaches here and the little huts with picnic tables (you need to arrive early to get one of these though). It also has that rare luxury...showers! Two high and one for your feet. CassCass spent ages watching two girls use the feet one - I couldn't quite see the fascination!
St Francois is right at the western end of Guadeloupe and so it took us a little while to get there. Funny to hear the girls moaning about the length of the drive when last year we drove them to Scotland! The route was very clear thanks to the petrol strike. Fortunately we had a full tank, as there was not one station selling to the public.

The sea is a lot rougher here but to my surprise the girls loved playing amongst the waves and getting thrown back and forth. Baby JoJo was in a bit of a miserable mood and didn't appreciate going into the cold (relatively speaking!) water, but after we sat together in it for a while, he started banging the water with his fist and even enjoyed the waves trying to knock us over, as it gave him a chance to lick the salty water off his lips!

After our picnic lunch and showers, we went to see Guadeloupe's only Golf Course and therefore a sight of great importance and interest. Especially as I have given Bertie the green light to go and play a round next week! Our hearts sank when we saw them carrying out major work on the greens, but happily they still have 9 holes you can play on.

We continued our drive around the north coast and saw the magnificent scenery which Bertie said Cornwall reminds him of. Here is a taste of it:
CassCass and Baby JoJo were worn out by the sea air, so we had a look at the waves smashing against the rocks with LissaLou and watched a Bernard Hermitt try to pinch Bertie before carrying on our way in search of a sorbet. However, the roads were empty and so were the sorbet stalls - it is evidently low season! So it was another drive through the beautiful countryside of Grande Terre, full of sugar cane fields and very little else, before arriving back to our part of the world where we were greeted by (surprise surprise) huge black clouds and torrential rain.

I have learnt this week that in fact our town gets pretty much the most rain of the entire island! It won't be raining in Basse Terre or Grande Terre or Pointe a Pitre or even 3 km up the road but oh yes, the black clouds will be hanging over us and giving us a soaking. Sigh! At least we are nice and central! I also learnt our area suffers most in a cyclone - typical!!

We finished up our day with our first Roast Dinner since we left London. Unfortunately, I nearly killed both the cooker and the bird (figuratively speaking) by leaving the cover down and the potatoes were very black too! Nor was there any gravy. But it was most delicious anyway and I am looking forward to giving Baby JoJo his first taste of chicken tomorrow and then making some chicken broth with the carcass.

LissaLou went to bed early with a headache and rather hot so I suspect the poor girl has a bit of sunstroke. Hopefully she will be all better tomorrow, but we will have to get stricter about the wearing of hats.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Car Mad

I have been meaning to mention this for ages, as it is really the highlight of CassCass' little life: cars. And who they belong to. It is incredible how she remembers not only who's who in her whole huge family but on top of that she has learnt which colour and type of car each drives!

We first borrowed a white car, and that has been classed as "our car". Nevermind that it belongs to a friend of Bertie's sister who was on holiday and we will never drive it again. When we go to the town centre and see it parked streets away, there are shrieks of joy at "our car". For a while, LissaLou and then CassCass kept talking about the "nik nak". It took me quite a while to catch on that they actually meant zig zag - can anyone use this information to identify what car this one is?? I failed miserably, thinking it was a Fiat.

Next we borrowed Tatie Pierrette's car. That was very exciting too. Now CassCass simply hears it outside and immediately speeds out to shout "Tatie Pierrette's car!" Several times. And very loudly.

We have never borrowed it, but she is completely familiar with Papy's car and can identify when it returns home, something I again can't manage. It never ceases to amaze me when she turns out to be right!

Tatie Nadia's car rates highly on our list, with its air con and overall newness. After using that, it was hard to get CassCass in any other.

Tatie Felicianne's car is known as Meddy's car (her cousin) and again she knows the type and colour. Sorry, I have forgotten again what she drives! But I can tell you it is green.

Penultimately our current car is Tonton Richard's car. It's a....oh, ask CassCass, I really only notice the colour. This one is currently missing a part which Bertie needs to fix and CassCass spent several anxious days asking why it was broken. But in the meantime we get to drive our friend Agathe's much newer car, and I suspect it will be a sad moment when we say goodbye again to it!

When we see any car resembling any of the above, it will be commented on by CassCass. As well as those resembling our lovely car in London (that we miss soooo much!). Her idea of bliss is a trip out with Papa in "our car" wherever he happens to be going. There was a very sad moment the other day when she had been disobedient so he didn't take her, and she was stood at the gate watching him leave holding her bottle of water, flip flops and knickers, all ready to leave!

Rereading this entry, it has also struck me once again how generous people are here with their cars, and we are ever so grateful for that. I am not quite sure how the insurance works, and Bertie never seems to know either, but it looks like most people get multi people cover for their cars. Oh, and we might not be going anywhere soon, as the island is currently in the middle of a petrol strike. As someone commented to me today, you always know when the strikes start here, but you never have the least idea when they might finish. (Hence the bus strike that went on for months a few years ago, at which point everyone bought cars and the island became more congested than the M25. Bring in the congestion charge I say...)

Kiddie News

We continue to be amazed by the french LissaLou is picking up and coming out with. She sat and had a conversation in french with me and her cousin Steeven at lunchtime today, and okay so there is still a lot of work to be done in grammar and sentence construction, but you can get what she is saying! She sings lots of songs from school, such as "Meunier tu dors, ton moulin va trop vite" and a really cute one that says "les oiseaux vont a l'ecole pour apprendre voler tres haut," then a few other animals and finally "les enfants vont a l'ecole pour apprendre devenir grands". Or something. It has lovely hand actions though! She is obviously picking up lots of what is going on around her and sometimes we get a few random comments the teacher has made that day. Plus some less random ones. Today she told me that it was the last day of September, which not only impressed me as I hadn't realised it, but reminded me that it was but a fortnight to my birthday! Hurrah! But I digress. She also has developed her drawing skills to adding on eyelashes and other small details. I wish I could show you the card she did for her friend Lea's birthday yesterday, with Lea's blond hair and her own brown curls perfectly represented!

It is easy to get caught up in the chaos and destruction CassCass causes, so I need to reflect more on the positive changes in her! Her french is also coming on. Both of them talk to themselves in that language but CassCass definitely has a more authentic accent and seems more at ease with it than LissaLou. CassCass is such a little girl now, so much taller, very skinny and constantly running around the place. Usually naked, much to the in-laws' horror. She can count objects (up to 8 at the last try) and loves watching me write her name and spell out the letters. She will sit down with a pen and pretend to write too and occasionally "read" a story to herself like her sister does. It is quite amusing seeing all the things she does or says that she has picked up from her sister. Tatie Evie will be pleased - yesterday she came and asked me to sing Tatie's Deep Down song, and then requested the entire family (Mummy/Papa/LissaLou/Grandma/Tatie I love you deep down in my heart etc) whilst she bounced up and down on the bed. She still loves playing with her happyland and thomas toys. Ah, and a compliment for her excellent speech - a friend today said she would like to learn English from CassCass; she speaks so clearly she understands all she says!

Finally my little hearthrob! Baby JoJo is now sitting so well! He really can go quite a while before he goes kerplunk, so I occasionally leave him propped up with plenty of cushions. No fun on these hard tiles otherwise. He also spends a lot longer on his tummy just looking at things. The other day it was Papy, to the latter's delight! When he is on his tummy he will try and pull himself up like he is doing push ups. Funnily enough, he can roll from his back to his front but still not vice versa. He has the cutest laugh, and if you tickle him under his neck or play games with him there is a good chance you will hear it bellowing out.

Apparently my french isn't doing too badly either (despite all those many people who don't seem to understand what I so clearly say, grr!) Another friend today told me I spoke really well with a noble accent! The mind boggles! But that boosted my rather low confidence in that area I must say! I therefore shared my attempts to pick up the Guadeloupean accent - " a plus tar-oh, je veux boir-oh" and had the table in fits of laughter. Maybe I had better keep working on it!

Good Housekeeping?

In the UK, if you are not managing to keep your humble abode clean and tidy, you may get a comment or two, or someone sweeping their finger along a dusty shelf to make a point, or even a visit from Kim and Aggie...or it may just get completely ignored by all the kind folk around you. Here, it is a very different matter.

No, I do not have obsessively clean in-laws (far from it!). The state of my flat is in fact made very clear to me by....BEASTIES. Tons of 'em. Yuck.

Did I leave food on the table top or the dishes undone? Flies, everywhere. Great fun swatting them with a flip flop, they are surprisingly easy to kill.

Did I leave crumbs or jam dripping? Or even a few dead flies on the floor? Along come the ants, with their incredible instinct that allows them to find dirt in minutes. They are much smaller than the ones we had back home, but just as impressive in their actions. I have spent many hours killing them one by one...

Did I miss those crumbs under the sofa or the bed? Watch out, our friend the cockroach may be along shortly.... These ones scuttle far faster than any I remember in the past, and are far FAR bigger. It is pretty hard to get them with your flip flop, all that works is spraying the wonderful Baygone or screaming loudly and waiting for Bertie to turn up. Thankfully, I haven't seen many and mostly downstairs. I had a horrible moment when my SIL told me she had found one on the bed of her daughters one night (don't feel alarmed mum, but it was in the guest room!!). I am even more grateful for our mosquito nets!

And finally yesterday's traumatic discovery - it is only good to be green if you are organised enough to empty your leftovers and peelings regularly. Otherwise for your crime, maggots! Thousands of them! (Or so it felt.) And they don't die! It was like something out of a horror film, with more and more pouring out the box, me squashing them for all I was worth, only for them to start to move again - eek! LissaLou took great joy in watching me in my distress then running around the flat shouting "mankots! mankots!" Thankfully Bertie arrived home to help and we found that even spraying them with the deadly Baygone didn't do the job. So we put them all in a plastic bag in the bin and who knows what they are up to now? As for me, I keep seeing them everywhere...on my plate, in my glass, on the floor, in my hair...I expected to dream about them last night but was spared that!

So now I intend to be much more thorough in my cleaning schedule! No easy task as all the world seems to conspire against me when I get to cleaning. I met up with some nice ladies from the House Church that we occasionally go to this morning and they were telling me that they had left their houses by 9am this morning with the washing on the line, lunch ready, floors clean, washing up done...what was their secret? I begged to know. Ah, no children under 10 years of age in the house. May have to wait a few years before I get rid of all those bugs then.