Here's to friendship!

I think we will all agree it's been a terrible week all round. We must all find our peace where we can however as none of us can see into the minds of people who do unmentionable things to others.  All we can do is to try and love each other to the best of our ability and carry on.

And so to friendship…this week we were visited by Fifi and her travelling companion, Tom.  She and I worked together at J Walter Thompson.  She was always delightful, soft as a kitten, pretty as a picture but with an inner core filled with tenacity and strength.  She was visiting Disney World and thought it would be nice to drop in to say hello.  Isn’t it wonderful that she wanted no more than to see me, check out where I live and bring a beautiful orchid in a pot.  The true strength of friendship is that we haven’t seen each other for three years and yet we were able to chat and take up where we left off.  That is friendship.

Fifi

And Madonna who helps us with our social media.  We were friends at Leo Burnett many years ago – we called her and she said yes, she would help.  She came to stay and again, we were able to take up where we left off. 

Since living here, in Boca, we have made new friends.  Americans from Florida and Brits who find themselves,  like us,  living in a state or country that is not their own.  The American friends have all been welcoming, offering true gifts of love and friendship by sharing their traditions and learning new ones from us (which mostly involve Secret Santa and Coronation Chicken).   The expat Brits offering tips on how to listen to the Archers here and where to buy mincemeat for the Christmas pie and the best recipes for a Christmas pudding.

David and Peter, Betsy's parents

And so to Charlie who doesn’t always think right BUT is always an amazing friend to both Dom and to me.  Thoughtful and kind and always willing to chat and shoot the breeze. We are visiting him next weekend so stand by for pictures and anecdotes from Barbados.

Love, Lady V xxx

ps. I should also mention friends and family who faithfully bring Maynard's wine gums and chocolate biscuits from Waitrose.  True friendship xx

I was always in trouble

Passed for the grammar school but wasn’t willing to put the study in. I was academically lazy. Just wasn’t interested. I was interested in art and metal work. Made kung fu stars to throw at Old Trafford. At 12, I was caned twice for “abusing public artwork”. 

I had a problem with school and authority. Too many rules, I was always in trouble. As far as I was concerned, school was fucking war.

I was always a grafter though. Had a paper round. Worked at the grocers’ shop. I liked being with adults.

As Paul Newman says in Cool Hand Luke; "what we've got here is failure to communicate." I had that with anyone who thought they were better than me. 

Little Good Harbour. Barbados.

Little Good Harbour. Barbados.

Sunday morning, traffic is light and the turtles are having a lie-in.

So are the locals, except for the old fisherman rowing his way north to his lucky spot. It’s a tiny row boat, six foot long at most, and it takes him an hour to get there. He drops anchor, out comes the rod and he starts to fish, his back hunched against the sun.

He’ll be there all morning. A couple of good tuna though, and he’ll have money in his pocket for several days.

A cormorant floats on the thermals looking for breakfast. Then a silent kamikaze dives into the shallows. She surfaces, beak empty, and looks embarrassed - like someone who’s run for a bus and missed it. She glances round to check no one was looking and then takes off.

I sit on the plastic bench at the end of the pontoon. Sea crystal clear, one white sail on the horizon, a lazy swim.

Be grateful Dom. It doesn’t get much better than this.

WHY SELF PUBLISH ON AMAZON?

Dom and Charlie got together a couple of years ago.  The story of their meeting is well documented on this web site but to summarize….  They met at a double a meeting in Barbados..  Two very different people: posh public school boy with a title and Charlie,  millionaire who made it all himself, from the grimy suburbs of Manchester.    

They decided to write Charlie’s extraordinary story whilst out on a boat in the Carribean.  We spent a whole week with him recording on an I-pad. Of course, they changed the names of places to protect family and various treatment centres.    

We all three of us tried our best to find an agent who would take the book and sell it to a publisher but it is a difficult book to categorize and it seems a lot of publishers are looking for the next Harry Potter or Girl on a Train.  They were unwilling to take on a manuscript that is hard to place and take a chance with. 

Do you know though the frightening statistics?  30% of Americans, nearly 1 in 7, have struggled with alcohol abuse, and those figures are for 2015.  And in the UK, 33,000 people die each year from alcohol related problems. 

I believe this book is so helpful for addicts and alcoholics and their friends and families. On another level, it is so well written and rattles along at such a pace that it’s worth a read even if you aren’t an addict or don’t  know one. When Mac tells Charlie that she can’t help him anymore after 8 chances at getting clean it broke my heart and still brings tears to my eyes.

So we self-published. We could not have done it without Madonna Deverson who supported, inspired and guided us through the whole process and Tivy Jones who designed the arresting front cover.

So there you have it,  the story is out there.  People other than our families and friends are reading it and enjoying it.  We did have one review from a John Smith who said Charlie was a nasty man. I fully expect that he was once, but then he never did think right. 

He is not nasty now.  He helps alot of people on the road to recovery and he tries to make amends every day.  

Lady V. 

Charlie and Dom on the high seas with the environmentally friendly cement factory in the background

Charlie and Dom on the high seas with the environmentally friendly cement factory in the background

 

 

UPPER EAST SIDE TO DOWNTOWN DEERFIELD

“……and are there any newcomers joining us this evening?” asked the Secretary after her short introduction.

She scanned the room, squinting at us through bold tortoiseshell spectacles, every inch the headmistress who brooks no nonsense from her students.

Silence, bar a phlegmy cough and the clearing of a smoker’s throat. Then the scrape of metal chair leg and the newcomer got to her feet.

Insect thin, frighteningly thin – so frail and brittle looking she’d snap like a twig if she bent over. A tiny stomach in the shade of outsize breasts, no hint of any buttocks, bird-like feet slipped into tan Chanel pumps. Floaty white blouse – discreet navy blue monogram on each cuff - silk trousers and an abundant black wig, coiffed and shiny.

“My name is Diana…………” A hesitation. She wasn’t ready to finish the sentence. Instead, she forced a half smile. Her chalk-white skin was stretched so tight it seemed her face might splinter. Not a line, wrinkle, or blemish to be seen. Her face like a mask you’d wear to a black and white ball.

Her eyes said it all, blinking out signals of fear, hope, longing and bewilderment. Can someone please tell me, how did I, Diana, heiress, society lady, fund-raiser and philanthropist, end up in this airless church hall at five thirty on a Monday afternoon?

She reached behind and gripped her chair back with a bony left hand. A Cartier Baignoire hung loosely on her wrist and a diamond wider than her thumbnail sparkled in its chunky modern setting. She lowered herself down into her seat, the smile faded and she looked into her lap.

It was the last Monday of the month, anniversary night and there were two celebrants.

Sharon was first, collecting her one-year medallion. It had taken her six years to get one year. In and out, in and out. A couple of days sober, rest of the month seeking oblivion. But she continued with the meetings. For the smiles and laughter, the fellowship and stories of sobriety.

Then, a year ago yesterday, the voice that many of us talk about.  Rising from the deep and forcing its way into her consciousness it had whispered that it was time. Change, or die, it said. It’s that simple.

She poured the vodka down the sink, closed her account at the liquor store and burnt her address book.

It had been the best year of her life, this last one. Life seen through a new and long lens now. Real and lasting sobriety a possibility, not a dream. Waking up each day in her own bed - no man whose name she couldn’t recall lying next to her. No hangovers, no dread. Confidence seeping back into her veins. She felt nothing short of blessed.

Then Laura took the floor.

Forty years sober last Wednesday. Yes, forty years. Two lifetimes for some of the kids in the room. Applause and wide-eyed amazement. Laura looked so young, must have got sober when she was two years old.

She stood there in front of us, nothing remarkable about her clothes, shoes, make-up or hair. But something preternatural about her demeanor. Serene, so comfortable in her own skin a saint would envy her. No grandstanding, no preening airs of look at me and all my sober years. Sobriety had set her free. Free from the sickness and free from pride.

She looked at Diana, caught and held her eye. If collecting this forty-year chip serves any purpose, she said, it’s to show the newcomer that a sober life is not only attainable, but wonderful.

It was a perfect first meeting for Diana, hearing those two women.

Later, she walked alone along the beach, her bare feet in the shallows. The sun was going down, the sea was calm and benign and she was filled with hope, She stopped and looked out to the horizon, where sea and sky met. For the first time in her seventy-one years she said to herself – “My name is Diana and I’m an alcoholic.”

She let out a long sigh as the relief washed over her. Next week she’d say it to the meeting.

Travis

 The wind is blowing from the east today. 

A ribbon of white smoke pours from the cement factory and floats out to sea. Against the empty blue sky it looks harmless, a benign and pretty strip of cloud but get too close and the smell of sulphur will tell you otherwise, its acrid taste catching the back of your throat.

The evergreen Travis makes his way along the foreshore with his net slung over his shoulder. Same old blue faded baseball cap, torn Tee shirt and baggy trunks. No shoes and a jaunty walk. He stops and watches the water then inches his way into the shallows until he’s waist high. He raises his net above his shoulders, pauses, and throws. The net billows out in a perfect arc and lands with a soft splash. Travis chuckles to himself as he hauls in his catch. Half a dozen bait fish flap and jump as he pours them into the bucket on the sand.

We board the Grady White and the twin 150 Yamahas power up and we speed half a mile out to sea and then Ralph drops us down to five knots as he plots a course due south. 

Charlie sets up the rods. Five in all. Two outriggers with their pink and silver lures skimming the surface. Two downriggers, their five-pound weights taking the bait down twenty foot and forty feet. The last rod with another surface lure is secured in the middle of the stern.

Charlie watches the new radar he’s had installed. It’s meant to tell us if we’re over any large fish. Charlie admits he hasn’t watched the on-line tutorial. He fiddles with knobs. The screen flickers. An empty ocean floor.

My job is to watch the rod tips. Shout if they bend.

We pass the Sandy Lane Hotel. Charter yachts under full sail, a pest of jet skis skidding across the bay, a glass-bottomed boat lingering over the reef and its bounty. Turtles, moray eels, blue tang. 

We head on down towards Bridgetown. I keep watching the rods but there’s no need for me to shout. Flying fish leap and fly forty, fifty, sixty feet above the waves before disappearing without a hint of a splash. A wonderful, ethereal sight, their silver bodies catching the sun as they fly silently just inches above the surface.

Sea birds come and look at us. Fly alongside at right angles and then give up when they detect there’s no food to be had.

We make a long slow turn in front of the old tanker that’s moored offshore. It’s a rusting, creaking, dying hulk, baking in the noon sun. There’s not a sign of life, a modern-day Marie Celeste. Ralph says it’s been there for years. Why? No one knows. This is Barbados, mate.

We head back up north at eight knots, closer to shore now and trying for barracuda. I sit and watch the rod tips. Not a flicker, not a twitch.

Being at sea is a cure for madness, says Charlie. Well, it certainly puts things in perspective. Brexit, Boris, Corbyn, Cameron. Whatever.

As we head back to Little Good Harbour we pass Travis in his little white skiff. He gives us a wave. There are two twenty-pound kingfish lying in the stern.

No wonder he’s singing. 

Travis heads off 

Travis heads off