A hundred and eighteen years.
That’s the length of time since Antigua was affected by three hurricanes in one hurricane season. On Monday night – Tuesday morning we had the third hurricane in the space of thirteen days. So what’s with the talk of Global Warming? If we were having three hurricanes in one season a hundred and eighteen years ago it’s not a new phenomenon.
But whatever the reasons – it’s harsh, it’s brutal and it’s scary. Antigua has been spared the worst of it. This third hurricane – Maria – was the worst of the three. We were to the north of her eye and when a hurricane travels from east to west it’s those who lay to the north of her path that feel the outer winds worse than those to the south.
This time I was in Avocado Cottage and by myself as B had gone on holiday last Saturday. It. Was. Scary.
When the first winds and rain started the power stayed on which meant I was able to track Maria’s path and follow reports on Facebook. A post from Roosevelt Skerritt, the Prime Minister of Dominica sent chills down my spine.
What was really scary was that he said the roof of his official residence had blown off. Now an official residence is, I imagine, a well-constructed building. If the roof had blown off of that, what chance was there for people in more modest homes? Gradually, the posts and messages coming out of Dominica became more desperate and urgent. And then the power went off so I lost connection with the outside world. The phone I use in Antigua is a little pay-as-you-go with no internet. My UK phone has G4 but the roaming is so expensive that the minute I switched it on I was bombarded by text messages telling me I’d used up all my credit.
So, it was me alone. With My Blue Angel, Ms Clary Sage, of course. I gave her a caress and a kiss and asked her to take care of everyone and then I switched off my hurricane lamp and tried to get some sleep.
Some chance! The wind was howling like I’ve never heard. I got out of bed, pulled back the curtain and peered outside. All I could see were the frantic shadows of trees and bushes bent almost in half then flaying about in some sort of wild, barbaric ritual. I pulled the curtains closed and got back into bed.
No power meant no fans. I’d only been in bed half an hour and already the sheet and pillow cases were soaking wet. I got up again and dipped a flannel into one of the buckets of water I’d lined up in the bathroom and gave myself a sponge down. I then sprinkled some clary sage around and slept fitfully, the howling wind, the rattling windows and constant tattoo of rain against the roof all denying me rest, until I could see daylight coming through the curtains.
The fella texted to check I was okay. I opened the curtains and looked out. “Oh, no! A seagull’s drowned in the pool!” It was only several hours later when I could finally open the patio doors and step outside that I saw the dead seagull was really a palm frond.
The winds lasted most of the day – far longer than Irma’s did and yet she was so much wider. The rain came and went, came and went. But being in daylight just made it so much easier, even though I could see the power of the wind against the trees. Miraculously my fences remained intact. And miraculously the phone system was working which meant at least I could talk to the Fella and my neighbour S who both had internet connections and were able to update me with the terrible state of things in Dominica and to a lesser extent Guadaloupe, our southern neighbour, who also took a bashing. You can see Guadaloupe from the south of Antigua, she’s that close. It’s the beautiful island where Death in Paradise is filmed, of course. I was also able to exchange text messages with the Daughter and let her know I was okay, although my credit was fast running out on that phone, too.
Fortunately my stove is gas so I could boil water for coffee and cook myself a hot meal – egg and chips! And as the day wore on I opened a couple of windows an inch or so to let some fresh air in before finally being able to open the patio doors around four in the afternoon. And then, I settled down for another night reading and doing puzzles by the light of my hurricane lamp, giving thanks that I was able to do so. Even then, twenty-four hours after the wind and rain had started they didn’t let up.
And so began another hot, uncomfortable night. I had a couple of windows open but my mosquito blinds had been damaged on a couple of the windows meaning all sorts of creepie crawlies could come in for refuge from the storm. I’d rather be hot…
Wednesday morning brought another stand-up wash and then I sat outside trying to keep cool. I decided to go for a little run in the car to blow the cobwebs away and see if the supermarket was open for some bananas and milk. The Fella had said some were and that mostly roads were passable.
I hadn’t gone far when suddenly – like some second-rate magician – the car gave off a huge puff of steam and ground to a halt. Oh dear! I called the Mechanic. He said he’d come but he’d be about an hour. I said I’d wait – after all, I wasn’t going anywhere! He came after an hour and forty-five minutes. I’ve never been so grateful to see anyone in my whole life. He lifted the bonnet, got his mate to pour water in, looked beneath the car, shoved his phone down into the enging and took some pictures, shook his head and said, “It might be serious.” He towed the car to his place and then gave me a lift home. He’s going to get back to me before the weekend. Whatever happens, I haven’t got the money to pay for any sort of repair, even if it’s not “serious”.
The Young Couple who are buying Avocado Cottage had an appointment with the credit union on the day Irma came. Obviously it was cancelled and rescheduled for Tuesday: the day Maria came. So, now, they’re waiting for a further appointment. So that’s two weeks we’ve lost. It’s so hard to stay positive and not feel as if the whole Universe is against you sometimes. I’ve been trying to raise some cash from the equity in my house in UK. Nine days ago – NINE DAYS! – the lender agreed. An hour later the underwriter emailed to ask why I wasn’t on the electoral register and wanting to see paperwork and building permissions for the extension on the back of the building. I emailed and explained I’m living in Antigua at the moment which is why I’m not on ER and that the dimensions of the extension mean no planning permission was necessary. I’d have thought he/she was working with this stuff all the time and would know from the valuation the size of the extension and that it didn’t need permission. Anyway – since then – NOTHING! Zilch, tipota, nada, rien de rien. I’ve sent further emails this morning and a WhatsApp message but still no reply. I’m thinking of starting a Go Fund Me so that I can eat this week. “Elderly Eccentric Stuck In Paradise Needs Help”. And get the car fixed. And go home. I just want to go home…
Anyway – the good news was that about ten minutes afte the Mechanic dropped me home yesterday evening the power came back on! Hooray! Hooray! I have had my run-ins with APUA and am always a little wary they will look at the list and say, “Elaine Spires? She the one always complaining? Put she house on the bottom of the list!” Actually credit where credit’s due;,kudos to them. They all worked tirelessly to get things up and running again so quickly.
The first thing I did was strip the bed and put on clean sheets. Then I had a long, cool, shower, the first in three days. And as I sat eating my supper – egg and chips again! -before getting into bed, the fan going like the clappers, I looked round my living-room and shed tears of joy and gratitude. I was safe, I was well, I was cool, I was clean, I was fed, I was sheltered.
The Fella forwarded me some photos from Dominica. It’s heartbreaking. Reports say there are now twenty-four people reported dead.
Universe – Weather Goddess – ENOUGH ALREADY! We’ve matched 1899.
But, worryingly, there are still two and a half months of hurricane season left to go…
Apologies for lack of pictures in this post. The internet is being erratic and I have been unable to upload them. I’ll add them as soon as I can.