Just got in. Literally half an hour ago. The house is strewn with suitcases and bags and bits of things, and neither of us can find anything anywhere. The dogs have been retrieved from boot camp (actually they love staying with Eileen who spoils them rotten, and Sophie in particular has to be dragged away, but Muffy, bless her heart, howls with delight and leaps into the car by herself, so as to be sure of getting home as quickly as possible), and we have just lit the stove to give the poor neglected house a scent of warmth and belonging again.
Oh I did miss you. Did you miss me? I kept thinking of what you were all doing and once or twice even found myself sending telepathic messages about the things I was seeing and the places. Did you get them?
No chance of posting though. They hadn't really got round to the Internet yet where we ended up, although if I'd been willing to flash a gold credit card I might have got two minutes somewhere - until the electricity ran out, that is.
We got to Tobago. Tobago as in Trinidad-and-. There was an incredible last-minute bargain from Gatwick to an all-inclusive hotel so we went for it. Nine hours flying and another hour sitting on the tarmac at Antigua while the rich and famous disembarked, followed by a final hour flying south before we made landfall on the tiny green island, but it was worth it.
This must be the last Caribbean island to remain relatively undiscovered and unspoiled. It's really really small (about 8 miles wide by about 25 long) and covered with lush rainforest. And the people are so laid back you would not believe it! They move slowly, they laugh all the time, and nobody, but nobody, has ever heard of stress! Even the birds take it cool as they sashay up to the breakfast table to get their daily supply of fruit juice.
That's a bananaquit, otherwise known as the Sugar Bird because of his passionate addiction to sweet things. DH had a ball with all the exotic species of birds and blooms, as you can imagine.
This one's a blue-grey tanager. We immediately set up a feeding station on our balcony, so that we could lie in bed in the morning and watch all the different birds coming in to feed, but all changed dramatically when one night a bat flew right in, circled the room and flew out again. When you live with someone like my DH that can only mean trouble. Sleep was banished, fresh supplies were obtained from the kitchen (lucky for us the staff were so laid back and amused: 'Bananas at midnight, man? Sure, no-o-o-o problem!'), and he sat up all night (yes, really all night, I opened an eye now and then and there he was with a remote control clutched in his hand), getting shots of the bats coming in to feed on bananas.
Here's an early shot of one making a pass over the banana and an ashtray full of fruit juice (yes, I did rinse it out next morning, because I didn't think the chambermaid should have to do that). It's not easy to get shots like this - he'd rigged up flashes and then hung a shirt over the balcony rail to give a suitable backdrop to the beastie, but they still fly very fast and flutter their wings at an amazing speed. But the next night, he'd decided to swing the bananas from a cord and see what happened. It took the bats a bit of time to figure it out, but then they got the hang of it, both literally and metaphorically.
It's all right, they were fruit bats. Well they had to be, didn't they, or they would have been going for us rather than the bananas? Vampire bats are much smaller. They are, really!
What, I just heard someone enquire languidly, does this have to do with knitting? NOT A LOT, I have to admit. Just getting to Tobago was so exhausting that knitting seemed far too much effort. And then the heat was fairly debilitating - five minutes in the open and you were ready to collapse until you got used to it - so handling warm fibres didn't appeal as much as it usually does. Well of course I went hunting for yarn. You know me. It's instinctive. You search even when you don't think you are. But after a while it dawned on me that perhaps a Caribbean island wasn't exactly the most likely location for treasure finds of this nature. Casks of rum and chests of jewels yes, wool and cashmere no. The nearest I could find were the cute crochet cotton hats in bright stripes worn by some of the men to contain their lengthy and decorative dreadlocks. But they wouldn't tell me where they got the cotton. Or maybe they didn't know. But they must know! 'Hey, cool it man, where's the problem? What does it matter? Take it slow and mellow man!' Oh all right so. I'll have another rum punch.
Explored tiny offshore islets, home to Magnificent Frigate Birds and Red-Billed Tropic Birds. Took a day trip over to Trinidad to an amazing wildlife centre. Watched ethnic folk dancing and drank more rum punch. Played in the surf (quite an undertow, you had to watch it). Went to the weekly market and tried to identify all the different vegetables on sale. Had the occasional rum punch. And yes, I did work on the Shepherd's Vest. It's nearly done. Need one more ball of yarn and I can photograph it for you.
All this knitters' dieting of course has meant that I have returned more passionate than ever. Can't wait to get started on eleventeen new projects, designed in my head while reclining exhaustedly with a rum punch. Haven't even got the mail yet - will go and collect it in the morning and MAYBE, just MAYBE my Interweave Knits and Vogue Knitting will finally have arrived. These are the magazines to which I subscribed at the beginning of October last and they still hadn't come by Christmas. I enquired in the gentle patient tone to which you dear reader have become accustomed (no I DIDN'T, well, maybe a little, but they didn't need to take that tone, really) and was told that it took three months to process a subscription. Why? WHY?
Anyway it means that I'm going to be the only nutcase reading about holiday knits in February. Be kind if I mention them here. Remember that it may be old news to you but it won't be to me. Hopefully once they get that time lag sorted out, I should be getting future issues at roughly the same time as you do.
But I couldn't wait until tomorrow. I went online to my favourite Yorkshire mill, Texere Yarns just two minutes ago and ordered 100g each of white and black alpaca fibre plus another of a cashmere/wool/angora blend. Spinning is coming to the fore again. If I can't get the yarn I want, I might as well try to create it. And I want to make a lovely thick soft alpaca yarn. Isn't it funny the way we move from one aspect of creative craft to another at different times? The spinning wheel has hardly had any use over the past few months but now I can't wait to get going on it again. Hope I haven't lost the knack. Anne, you're the expert - is it difficult to spin alpaca? You've got time to answer - for some reason, packages take an eternity to get here from the UK, although they whiz across from North America.
And I promise, all those lucky bags I said I'd send out and didn't - they will go out now, in the next week or so. Once I've emptied the suitcases and done the laundry and combed the dogs and put on three more sweaters (takes a bit of time to adjust to Ireland in January after the West Indies) and - oh yes - checked to see if anybody still wants my writing skills. Have to pay for the trip after all!
And I'll be happy to post more pictures of Tobago if anyone wants them. Humming birds, street markets, folk dancers, endless white beaches. The best bit, though, was undoubtedly that wonderful laid-back Caribbean relaxation. You just couldn't imagine them getting worked up over everyday problems.
Got to go to bed. Jet lag is sweeping across my brain like a monsoon.
Oh I did miss you!