Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Continuing story of the balcony and goats

Remember where we were with the balcony? It was yellow and green, but we ran out of yellow, so clever me used turmeric as that is yellow - but it turned red! So Danilo had a cunning plan. He painted it green with white stripes.

So now the balcony looked like a tennis court, or a ping pong table. By this stage I had given up caring what it looked like, and then we became aware of the nuclear missile launch by North Korea. "What on earth has that to do with our balcony?" you ask. Well here is the nuclear missile being wheeled out.

Spot the similarity?

So we had to change the floor as according to Danilo we might be mistaken for a Korean nuclear missile site. I did try explaining that geographically there was a slight difference between us and North Korea but the change had to be done. So back to red we went, and so far, red it has stayed.

Of course, the painting was done in what were brown flip flops.

Anyway balcony is now more or less finished and I love it. We just need some more furniture and plants and solar lights and it will be  perfect - until it falls down.

We do have some furniture - bar stools so that you can sit up, drink and look over the garden,

And this very interesting Dominican seat made out of the fibres in the leaves of the banana plant - so apparently it can be out in the rain. There are four depressions for people to sit in - and surprisingly it is comfortable, but you all have your backs to each other. So I assume it is for people who don't like each other, who don't want to talk to each other, or maybe it is a Whatsapp chair where people sit and chat away on their phones?

We have had a problem with El Criminal, the male goat who arrived a couple of months ago.

He would escape constantly, but would come to the back door, so I would go back to the paddock with him and prepare to open the gate, and then he would jump over the 4 foot tall barbed wire fence. When I went off on book tour, he would still escape but would make the rounds of the neighbours, eating all of their planted yuca and anything else he could find. So to save paying thousands of pesos in damages we bought more wire and increased the height of the fencing in the paddock to 6 feet tall. Did it work?

Yes, for 24 hours and then he would still escape. He would jump from a standing start - as if he had springs on his hooves. So, he had to go. Stepson number 2, Alberto came and collected him, and exchanged him for a pregnant lady goat called Chilli Pepper.

She is very cute, very tame and doesn't jump. Not sure when the baby or babies are due but it shouldn't be too long I don't think.

I hope you all had a good Christmas - here it was the traditional Dominican family Christmas with me cooking the supposedly traditional British Christmas dinner on 25th. However due to the oven not working (rats ate the insulation) we decided to have paella instead which you can cook on the top part of the stove rather than in the oven. Then a day before Christmas my  mum bought us a new stove which is fabulous but we stuck to the paella plan. Here we are all eating Christmas lunch, stepsons, dwendy, foster kids, granddaughter and of course Danilo.

Wishing you all the best for the New Year - who knows what delights (and disasters) it will have in store!!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Lindsay and Chivirico on tour

So off we went on book tour, Chivirico and I with 100 books in tow – some of the old one, “What About Your Saucepans? “ and some of the new one “Life After My Saucepans”.

Danilo had a case he was working on in Puerto Plata, so he was able to take us to Sosua in the car, where we set up at Midtown Bar and Restaurant.

It was lovely and we had a good corner spec where Chivirico set everything up. He was on commission of RD$50 per book sold so he was keen to make sure all went well.

The guests began to arrive although most seemed to want to see Chivirico rather than me!

And soon our little corner was full! Many of the guests were from the DR1 forum and it was great to meet them.

The food was lovely – look at the size of that prawn cocktail.

And they served amazing cheesecake.

Chivirico had never eaten cheesecake but that was quickly remedied.

What was even better is I met some new friends, lovely people and sold around 25 books.

We then moved on to Casa de Compai an amazing apartment complex owned by a friend of mine. It has recently been expanded to include 6 more beautiful one bedroomed one and a half bath apartments.

I should point out I took lots of photos to include in this blog, but Chiv was in charge of the camera and lots appear to have been inadvertently deleted!
Casa de Compai are apartments to die for. Beautifully fitted out, granite surfaces, fab beds, amazing bathrooms, piping hot water, all the mod cons you could ask for in the kitchen including full stoves with ovens, microwave, blender, coffee machine and a pool and flat screen tvs and and and... Plus the owner John Kumpel is a lovely guy as is his great dog Shadow!

Then it was off to Taberna El Conde for an amazing dinner, meeting more lovely people and selling more books. This is my favourite restaurant in Sosua - the food is to die for and it has a lovely ambiance.

The following day another friend, Meems, took Chiv off to play in the Pitch baseball batting cage in Sosua which he adored.The Pitch batting cage isa new addition to Sosua and is sponsored in part by the Pedro Martinez and Hermanos Fondacion. Not only is Pedro GOD, this is a wonderful thing for Sosua kids...and visitors.

Meanwhile I went to have my hair cut and coloured for the price of two books, by the amazing Julia who has a salon in Plaza Valentina in Sosua.

I am sure her camera is dodgy as not a wrinkle in sight but I loved the new hair cut and colour.

Then back to Midtown for a great lunch before we caught the 1.30 bus to Las Terrenas. RD$350 each which is around US$7 and a couple of dollars for the book bag and off we went on the four hour journey.  Chivirico spent the whole journey talking to the conductor (cobrador) and we talked about Christmas. He said he wanted Father Christmas to bring him a boogie which I eventually realized was a buggy. He also wanted a Samsung phone like mine – but a newer version. I explained that sometimes Santa Claus worked in mysterious ways and when we arrived in Las Terrenas, Dan was there to pick us up – in, guess what, a boogie! Chiv was beside himself and even more so when the next morning Dan took him for a long drive along the beach and even let him drive.

We spent the night at Dan and Manty’s guesthouse in Las Terrenas which is an amazing place and full of people from all over the world, mainly backpackers. It is large and feels just like home with a lovely massive terrace where people hang out, chatting, drinking, eating Manty’s amazing food, using the wifi, reading or watching TV.

We sold a couple of books there, then off to bed after Chiv had spent time with Dan.

 The next morning Chivirico hung out with Dan and I met my friend Helen for lunch and she took 15 books off my hand, buying 5 straight away and selling another 10 within 24 hours!

Then it was off to One Love Surf shack at 5pm for the final selling/signing event. Great bar/restaurant on the beach with a lovely laid back vibe and I got to sell and sign even more books and meet lots of great people. And guess what? Bahama and Harriet who came to visit a few months ago, when the baby goats were born, were there to say goodbye as they go back to the US soon. And Santa worked in mysterious ways when Bahama gave Chivirico a brand new Samsung phone. He will have to get it unlocked but I have never seen such a happy child.(Sorry it won't turn round!)

We caught the bus home at 6 am, meaning getting up at 5 am, and Chiv played with his phone all the way back. Danilo picked us up in Esperanza and by noon ish I was back in Wasp House with ecstatic dogs, cats and goats!

All in all a great time. Chivirico had a lovely time, I and he met old friends and made new ones, 61 books sold, we ate like Kings and Queens and stayed in lovely places. Now back to reality,

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Reminder I am on Spotlight Sunday tomorrow

Just a quick reminder that tomorrow I will be appearing on what is called Spotlight Sunday on a Facebook Group called We Love Memoirs. It is a lovely group of people from all around the world who enjoy reading memoirs and who also write them, although if you are a writer you cannot promote your work, apart from if you are invited to be in Spotlight Sunday. So on Sunday December 3, I will be on line on We Love Memoirs all day answering questions. People can ask whatever they like so it should be a fun day. If you want to join the page before then so you can ask me anything you like, just click the link above to join the site. We will start at 10 am Dominican time. Here are the other time zones: UK 2pm / CET 3pm / AKST 5am / PST 6am / MST 7am / CST 8am / EST 9am / AST 10am / UYT/GMT-3 11am / EET 4pm / GST/GMT+4 6pm / IST 7.30pm / MYT/GMT+8 10pm / HKT 10pm / JST 11pm / AWST 10pm / AEST 12am / ACDT 12.30am / NZDT 3am /

Following that, Chivirico and I will be getting ready for our book signing tour, starting in Sosua on Thursday 7, followed by Las Terrenas. I will post pictures the following week.

Now I must get back to sorting photographs for tomorrow to post during Spotlight Sunday. See you there!!

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Balcony and Books

The saga of the balcony continues.

Number one dwendy, Saya, who calls himself the maestro has been doing the technical work with lesser dwendies mixing the concrete etc. I told him he should wear shoes or boots as people were telling me that concrete was bad for bare feet. This was the result when putting the final skim of cement which we decided to colour rather than laying ceramic tiles which would have been expensive.

The "shoes" were flip flops and socks which wasn't exactly what I meant.

The colour was to be yellow and green, to blend in with the sun and the garden, but they didn't have enough for the last quarter, so danilo decided to buy more yellow and add it the next day. However, he still didn't have enough so clever me suggested turmeric. However, what neither of us knew is that if you add turmeric to cement it turns red!

So it now looks as if it was the location for a mass murder. Danilo says he has a plan, but I have no idea what it is nor what colour the balcony will end up.

As I mentioned last week or so, Chivirico and I are off on tour to promote and sign my books, but before then I will be appearing on what is called Spotlight Sunday on a Facebook Group called We Love Memoirs. It is a lovely group of people from all around the world who enjoy reading memoirs and who also write them, although if you are a writer you cannot promote your work, apart from if you are invited to be in Spotlight Sunday. So on Sunday December 3 I will be on line on We Love Memoirs all day answering questions. People can ask whatever they like so it should be a fun day.  If you want to join the page before then so you can ask me anything so just click the link above to join the site. I am not sure of the exact time yet, but will let you know as soon as I know.

And even more book news. Life After My Saucepans has been chosen as one of the top ten expat books of 2017 which I think is pretty amazing!  The list was compiled by the Expatbook shop and Expat Nest. You can read the full list here.

So just a reminder, for those who live on the north and north east coasts of the DR, Chiv and I will be on tour with  Life After My Saucepans and  What About Your Saucepans?  in Sosua on Thursday December 7th at Midtown Bar and Restaurant from 2 pm to 6 pm. I will be having dinner at Taberna El Conde at 7 pm if anyone wants to pop in there.On Friday evening from 7 pm I will be at Dan and Manty's Guesthouse in Las Terrenas and on Saturday at One Love Surfshack in Las Terrenas from 5 pm till 7 pm and probably later! Early next year it will be Santo Domingo and Punta Cana. 

Hoping to see you there!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Dead rats and geysers

The good news is that the balcony is still standing! The wood was taken out from under the plato and it didn't fall down. Now it is being plastered (with cement) and the next stage is for the non rottable (is that a word?) wood to be put in for the railings.

Last weekend we had a visitor. Meems, American, and fellow blog writer, came from Sosua where she lives and Danilo had arranged for Chivirico to be here too. We had a fabulous weekend helped by the fact she came laden with wine, chocolate and real American steak. She also bought me a very special gift of a limited edition picture of A Woman of Valor in Hebrew. Here is it in English.

When someone comes to stay there is lots of work to be done. Dogs have to be bathed, house has to be  mopped, beds have to be changed. On the Monday of the week Meems was due to arrive on the Friday, the hot water stopped working. The tank is situated outside at the side of the house and you just flick a switch for 20 minutes and hey presto, hot water.

After three days of nagging Danilo said he had fixed it as some wires were wet but asked Saya (Number one dwendy) to finish the job off on the Wednesday, which he did. Thursday morning I am preparing to mop and noticed there was no water in the cistern. I assumed that the lads had used it all in the plato making but as the street water was due to be piped in that day I wasn't too concerned - although to mop, you need water.

Danilo told me a pipe leading to the water tank had broken itself (Dominican speak, no one ever breaks anything, things break themselves) so off he went to Moncion to buy some new pipe. He came back, fixed the pipe and I went for a shower. My shower lasted all of 30 seconds before the newly fixed pipe fell off and the water stopped. Danilo redid the pipe. This time when he turned the water on it didn't even last 30 seconds before breaking. So all the water had to be turned off - luckily the cistern was filling up by now, but we had no water in the house.

The next day, still with no water, Danilo bought a metal pipe and that seemed to work, until he had a shower, forgot to turn the water heater off and obviously the thermostat isn't working and the release valve on the top of the tank opened sending fountains of hot steam up to the top of the house. At least now we have (boiling) hot water and water in the house for mopping but you have to remember to turn the hot water off after 10 minutes or we have our very own geyser.

Meems arrived to a clean house and I was going to cook pizza for dinner. I opened the oven to switch it on and was faced with the appalling smell of decomp as they say on the crime shows on TV. I slammed the oven shut and yelled at Danilo to start the barbecue. I assume there is a dead rat under the oven but we can't get it out so until we can the oven is unusable.

So we had a useless water heater (fixed), a useless oven (not fixed) and then the fridge packed up (fixed by fridgeman).

A new goat was delivered by Alberto. His name is El Criminal, and apparently he is a young Boer goat, bred for meat. He has no horns and is furrier than the others and seems to be fitting in well. Here is Danilo carrying him to the paddock in the rain.

And here is El Criminal in all his glory

Finally, the book signing tour is sorted. I will bring copies of Life After My Saucepans and some of What About Your Saucepans? and will also sign any you might have.I will be starting it in Sosua on Thursday December 7th and in the afternoon will be at Midtown Bar and Restaurant from 2 pm to 6 pm. I will be having dinner at Taberna El Conde at 7 pm if anyone wants to pop in there.On Friday evening from 7 pm I will be at Dan and Manty's Guesthouse in Las Terrenas and on Saturday at One Love Surfshack in Las Terrenas from 5 pm till 7 pm.. Early next year it will be Santo Domingo and Punta Cana.  Obviously I cannot go on the road without a bodyguard, so Chivirico will be coming with me. Hopefully as many people as possible will turn up for a chat!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

And it's Platoday.

Today it is Platoday. In other words the day the plato - or concrete floor is laid on the balcony. The last time we had a plato done it was on top of the guest house in Juan Dolio and I remember it distinctly as it was the day I was shot - July 21, 2006. Here's hoping history doesn't repeat itself.

Laying, pouring whatever you call it, the plato is a major job. First wood is put over the walls they built out of block and underneath the wood there are posts made from tree branches.

Here is Danilo sawing the wood, with a machete and hammer. Yes that is an electric saw behind him but apparently it burned out. It was attached to this... not sure why.

Anyway so now all the wood is laid and Danilo has to have a little snooze, as only Dominicans know how. He can sleep anywhere and anytime.

The next job is to make a sort of web of iron bars - varilla - to give the concrete strength and stop it breaking I am told.

We have tubes which will go in place for electric wiring so we can light the balcony and other tubes (well Gatorade bottles) which will allow the water to drain off it.

You can see the piece of wood at the top of the picture which is leading into the house. Next to my desk. Where I am working.

So what happens it that the guys at the front are mixing cement, gravel, sand and water.

They take their shoes off so as not to dirty their shoes - sort of home made concrete boots.Then they wheel the cement in the wheelbarrow through the living room, past my desk, onto the balcony and tip it out.

Please note my new desk with its signs which say"Be Quiet" in Spanish, callate as I spend all day long saying that, plus a picture of my mum saying"Be Quiet" as she always says that to Danilo (although he did ask me why she was saying Biscuit). The middle sign says La Jefa, the boss, just in case anyone forgets.

The wheelbarrow goes down the ramp and usually it falls over by itself and tips the cement out. Meanwhile, Saya (number one dwendy for those of you who read What about my Saucepans? ) sort of smooths it out, as it will have tiles put on top, and I would rather they are not wonky. It gets smoothed using a piece of wood which you can see at the top left of this picture

So here is hoping it will work. I have a sneaky suspicion that underneath the balcony it is dripping cement out and we have to wait 9 days I think before all the wooden supports underneath and all of the plywood is taken away. Then it is the moment of truth to see if the concrete stays in place - and for how long. Given past experience I cannot say I am feeling 100% confident.

Watch this space as they say.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

And the readers keep coming

Following the visit of Bahama and Harriet, and the birth of their namesake goats, a week or so later came two more lots of book readers.

This time it was Peter and Lisa, from England, who only came for a few hours but were laden with goodies from the UK. Chocolate, oxo cubes, curry spices, and even OMG parsnips. What a treat. They also brought vitamins for distribution to the local families, plasters (as the ones here don't stick), loads of shirts for kids at school and a catapult for Chivirico (which Danilo promptly nicked) as well as a set of toy saucepans for me!

It was lovely to see them and chat, and they enjoyed seeing Wasp House come to life, and of course, loved seeing the baby goats. Here is Lisa with Bahama.

Then this Friday, more readers. Keith and Elaine from the Isle of Man, their taxi driver Speedy Rodriguez and my friend Shirley. Elaine and Keith have an apartment In Cabarete and as Keith explains: "The loose plan behind today was that a friend on the Isle of Man had given Elaine two books to bring with her on this trip, which were an autobiography of life for an English woman, who moved to the Dominican Republic. Elaine was so engrossed, she read the entire first book on the flight over here. Imagine her surprise when she recognised some of the people who were mentioned in the book, including [for those of you a little slow at guessing] Shirley. Yes, the author is Lindsay. The dam (Moncion dam), with it's amazing views is mentioned in book two, so that was the 'excuse' for the trip out. It was a surprise for Elaine, as she didn't know we were going to meet Lindsay, although she guessed en-route when the dogs were mentioned, in particular 'Goofy' the Great Dane. By the time of the trip, Elaine had also polished off book two, which covers the time since Lindsay and Danilo moved in to their current home, so Elaine had the slightly surreal experience of meeting people and being in the house that she'd been reading about, leaving her with a peculiar sense of de-ja-vu."

Having visited the goats, eaten Danilo's Sancocho (what was left of it as the neighbours smelled it cooking and queued up at the gate with an assortment of pots and dishes to get some), Danilo took them off to the dam, and then for icecream, while Shirley and I caught up on the gossip.

Here is Angelo the taxidriver with the goats, you can contact him here

And Danilo at the dam with Elaine and Keith

Before they left everyone bought some books, which was lovely, and we had a little signing session,

It is so nice meeting readers of Saucepans, and lovely listening to them exclaiming as they see things they have read about.

The balcony is making slow progress, the wood is now being laid to be filled in with concrete and Danilo has had the balcony furniture delivered which is made of banana leaves. Apparently it doesn't rot in the rain. It arrived yesterday, together with a proper desk for me, which is enormous, so now I feel like an executive. The banana seats need mending in places so this afternoon Danilo is off to find an old man who apparently is expert in making furniture out of banana leaves.

This morning, the guy who brought the furniture up last night, Vasilio and Danilo and Chivirico took the dogs for a walk. Apart from Meg who won't go without me, and Goofy who refuses to walk on a lead - he just lies down. Having stood crying at the gate waiting for Lobo to return, for 30 minutes, I am hoping he will now see the advantage of walking on a lead.

The next few weeks will be busy as we have visitors planned for the weekend of November 10, then I am hoping to start my book signing tour, in Sosua and Las Terrenas and then later in Santo Domingo and Punta Cana. Watch this space for details.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Here we go again

So, remember the tale of the balcony?

The house has lovely patio doors all across the back of it

So there is an amazing view and I can have all the doors open which is like being outside even though you are inside. But there is an 8 foot drop outside of the windows.

So we built a balcony out of treated wood so it wouldn't rot or be eaten by termites. Many visitors like to sit outside on the balmy Caribbean evenings and some like to grab a bit of sunshine during the day.

It was on wooden tree trunks so looked a bit like Brighton Pier and even had a little staircase down into the dog house.

It was a lovely balcony, great to sit out on and all the visitors loved it. However, bit by bit it collapsed.

And collapsed a bit more

Until it totally fell down and was recycled as hen houses and goat houses. Now just like the phoenix it is rising again from the ashes - only this time in concrete. The dogs were amazed as bags and bags of cement were unloaded into the house. Here are Rasputin and Canguru watching on.

I am once again surrounded by semi naked men digging and laying blocks

The plan is there will be walls of concrete blocks and then they will build a wooden frame which will be placed on top of the walls and will be filled with concrete, left for 3 weeks then the wood is taken away and it (apparently) won't fall down.

Now Mr.  Always thinking of New Ideas Danilo, had the idea that chickens (or other animals) will live under the balcony so although this looks like a row of public toilets it will actually be a row of animal houses. Not sure what animals he has planned - just hope it isn't pigs. Once the concrete floor/roof is ready there will be treated (haha) wooden railings and a tiled floor. Wonder how long this one will last. It is much bigger than the last one so could work as a dance floor or roller skating rink as well.

On the goat front they are all still adorable and mother Oregano seems to think it is funny that her kids are inside the bran bowl.

I will leave you with what I see every morning when I go out to call them for their breakfast. They are usually right at the end of the second paddock so around 1000 metres away. It is always fun to bet on who will win the race.