July 2014: Adventures in Solitude

I returned from Glasto with only a few days to run around and see everyone. The next day, my brothers Alex and Mike accompanied me and regulars Brian and Soraya for the Fact film quiz.

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Which we won.

The next day I did the rounds, dropping in to Chester see a very heavily preggers Lucy, her husband Tim and baby Saul. Tim wants to call the new baby Saul II: Saul Harder.

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I do hope he gets his way.

Then it was one last night on the tiles with AB, Tom and Ste.

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When I say “flying visit!”…

 

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…I mean “flying visit”!!

 

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Saying goodbye to my lovely mum.

 

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Saying goodbye to my lovely hometown.

I came down to London a day early so I could grab lunch with another very pregnant friend of mine, Michelle.

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They’re popping like flies! Run away! Run away!!

That afternoon I took part in a photoshoot for the Australian magazine Frankie. We went to a workshop where they make bespoke hand-painted globes of the world. I was in HEAVEN. I also got some very cool pics of yours truly.

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Afterwards I met up with Casey for one last night together.

The next day she drove me to Heathrow Airport. So this was it, as always, at a bloody airport. I hate airports.

As a parting gift, I gave her my hat.

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“…doesn’t mean you have to like it.”

And so back to Panama.

The plane left and landed on the same day. I got to Panama City airport and jumped a taxi to the Albrook bus station. Then it was a FREEZING COLD (as always!) overnight bus to Almirante, the port for Bocas Del Toro. I got back to Bocas before 8am, paid a taxi guy to take me back to Jinja and there I was.

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Home Sweet Home

Thankfully, my super neighbours Kent n’ Marcy and Bill n’ Janis had been looking after the animals when I was away. They rock my world.

But here I was. Casey-less. On my own.

Okay, so I’ve travelled on my own a lot, but I’ve never lived on my own. I was living with my parents until I was 18, then I was in uni for a few years, living with friends, then Mandy then Casey… I never really had a place to myself. And now, I’m alone. On an island.

It was strange.

And so to work, I guess. But nobody told me just how much it rains in July. It was insane.

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Venice, Jinja-style
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When your 4″ gutters are overflowing, it’s time to invest in an umbrella.

And the thunderstorms. JESUS CHRIST THE THUNDERSTORMS!!! So there’s me up at 4am, crouched down in the kitchen, in just boxer shorts and wellies, torch in one hand, fire extinguisher in the other because the storm is DIRECTLY ABOVE THE ISLAND.

You know when you see the flash you start to count 1… 2… 3… waiting for the thunder? Have you ever had no delay whatsoever?

It doesn’t go KRACK-A-KRACK-A-RUMBLE it just goes BANG!!

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And splits trees in half, like this one, just 50 metres from my house.

I spent most of the month just existing, adjusting, getting my head around all the mad shit that happened in order for me to arrive at this point.

I did a lot of digging, for some reason becoming obsessed with removing the hundreds of tree stumps that litter the island.

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But all it did was make a nice big muddy puddle for bitey insects to breed. After this behemoth I decided to call it quits on the project – I’ll just leave them to the termites.

Three of the four new chicks were doing well, but the one we called Caska was having real trouble. She was a wee timid thing and the other chickens would bully her and steal all her food. So I let her hop up the stairs and come eat in the house.

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She would come up every day at lunchtime, regular as clockwork, the cute little thing.

Every Wednesday and Thursday I do the weather on the radio for the “Bocas Emergency Network” (or BEN). Us landlubbers (or ‘dirt people’ as we’re known) team up with the yachties to present a show every morning at 7.45am on the VHF radio network. It covers any news, gossip, coming and goings, what’s for sale and what events are happening across the archipelago.

Doing the weather is quite fun, and a good excuse for getting out of bed in the morning. I like to make up ridiculous Grand Poobar-style titles for myself such as “Second Trombonist In The Coconut Army Choir”. Although I dunno if the Americans who make up the majority of people on the network get the joke.

A couple of Americans that did actually find me amusing were Dave and Tori, a young couple who had met working in Texas and were now yachting around the world on their lovely little boat the Eva Marie. They summoned me on the radio (my callsign is “BEN 63”) and asked if I wanted to meet up for shit and giggles.

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Not long afterwards, the three of us found ourselves out in Bocas for a night of hilarity and destruction.

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It’ll end in Jenga.

Afterwards I retreated back to Jinja and spent the next few days wandering around the island jabbering to myself. I’m not into all this solitude malarkey… I need to find me some house guests… some – dare I say it?CouchSurfers.