“Little Bit of Everything” in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize.

So what I have been up to since the last edition I can just feel a few (and I do mean a few) of you wondering. Or am I being a little (or a lot) pretentious? Egotistical? I’ll leave it to you to decide. But … if you think I am then please DO keep that to yourself. Not something we need to share, is it?

Well, I have continued to get up early -between 04.00 to 05.00 hours (its been this way since the mid eighties when traffic in London started to get heavier and heavier (and less bearable). So I started to set off early (and stay at work late).

Now I don’t have to worry about (and get agitated by) traffic congestion. OK there is the occasional build up of traffic on Ambergris Caye (normally around school start time when it can ‘show’ itself in Coconut Drive near Tropic Air but its second league stuff in comparison with what I faced and had to contend with when living in London. Do I miss it ? Are you serious?

It’s been cold here -OK not as cold as the winter conditions that many of you who are reading this are enduring but its cold when you have acclimatised to walking around in a T shirt, shorts and Flip Flops. On some days I’ve actually taken to wearing a sweat top. And I have dispensed with sitting on the veranda to take my early morning mug of black coffee. Long-time readers I bet would never have thought that you would read this I’m sure. But it’s true. It really is.

No complaints though. Well not from me anyway. Why? Well I may have had to wear an additional piece of clothing (or two when it rained) but I still had the shorts and Flip Flops on!

“Enough of the weather” I can sense you muttering. “What have you been doing since the last edition?”. Well I’ve been doing a little bit of everything.

Rose and I ‘hit’ some of the remaining unopened crates of stuff that we shipped from the UK and ‘found’ some of the framed prints and paintings that we decided to bring with us and spent some time trying out where (or not) in the house we will hang them.

I was particularly pleased to find the print that had hung in my office when I worked on The Sun (OK so I should have left it on the wall when I left the company).

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‘My’ framed facsimile of a poster from around 1896 by Louis Rhead. To my ex-colleagues – now you know where the poster went!

I also ‘found’ the front page replica that my colleagues presented me with when I left News International in 1995.

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Front page news!

I also spent a fair bit of time collecting and clearing rubble and other assorted debris from the front garden. There’s still loads of clearing to be done but it’s starting to look a bit tidier.

We have also purchased the first plants for our garden. Two palm trees (don’t know exactly what type of palm yet but I will find out). The shopping around was made easy for us. A boat pulled in at the end of the back garden and the younger of the two guys shouted out to Rose asking if we wanted to buy some palm trees.

Rose took a quick walk down the garden, had a look at the two trees, did some negotiating and within minutes Edward and Edward (a father and son team) were planting the trees where we asked them to.

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What else has happened since the last edition? Well we have received an offer for our condo at Banana Beach which we have accepted and we now wait (and hope) that the sale proceeds to a happy (for us) conclusion.

We put it up for sale around three months ago and when we did had been confidently told by our realtors –Pelican Properties – that once the high season arrived they expected to sell it. And -fingers crossed- it looks like they have.

Work on the spa and office suites which will be located just north of the Paradise Theatre has continued and, with the walls being built, you can now start to visualise what the development will look like.

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It surely won’t be long before they start building the casino!

Oh and talking about property sales the ocean lots across the road from us have been cleaned up and a ‘For Sale’ sign erected.

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Are we going to lose this view?

We always knew that there was a risk that we might lose the ocean views from the front of our house but hoped that we might enjoy them for some considerable time. This might not now be the case. But, we will still have the view of the lagoon and the tremendous sunsets.

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The headline for today’s edition is based on the single released in May of this year by Keith Urban and reached number thirty-three in the US Billboard Hot 100.

“Patience” in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize.

Let’s dispense with the veranda bit for today’s edition. Just take it as read that I went out there.

During the last couple of days -following our travails in placing orders with Walmart (or Wallymart as Wes, a reader of this blog, refers to this company) ,Rose and I have spent the last couple of days documenting the tracking numbers for every item we have ordered and that will be delivered (we hope) to Hyde Shipping‘s warehouse in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

It’s boring and painstaking work but it had to be done if we wanted to be able to produce a list that Hyde Shipping can use to ‘tick off’ our stuff as it is delivered.

As we worked our way through the orders notating the tracking numbers we were also able to record the expected delivery date (quite a few items have already been received by Hyde Shipping) and with this information calculate that we might, just might, be able to have our twenty foot container (laden with our stuff) set sail on 6 December with an arrival in Belize City on 8 December.

That’s the easy part though. The contents of the container will then need to be inspected and cleared by the Customs and Excise Department and the Belize Agricultural, Health Authority (BAHA). There’s no knowing how long we might have to wait for this to be undertaken . We are just going to have to display extreme patience.

We are hopeful though that the inspection and clearance won’t take too long and the container can be on a barge San Pedro bound the following week and within days I’ll have a decent chair on the veranda for my early morning musings. I’m hopeful that a more comfortable ‘spot’ for my derrière will have a positive effect on my contemplative periods. Or will I just be so comfortable that I don’t want to do anything? Time will tell. Hopefully not too much time though!

It’s been a while since I produced an edition and because of this (and probably reducing memory capacity through increasing age) I cannot recall exactly what I may or may not have mentioned so apologies in advance if I am repeating myself.

With the ordering process ‘out of the way’ Rose and I have now started to focus on the other things on our ‘things to do list’.

We’ve spent a fair bit of time discussing the design for the furniture we are now going to have made locally. First on this sub-list is our bed. We’ve grown accustomed to sleeping on the air bed (and I now truly know what rolling out of bed means) but we are so looking forward to climbing (why do they call it ‘climbing in to bed’? Sort of conjures up images of crampons and pitons!) in to bed and laying on a proper (and good) mattress.

We’ve now decided the dimensions,style and colour of the bed and the dresser that we want made to accompany (and , hopefully, compliment) it along with the dimensions, style and colour for the Queen and Full size beds for the ground floor, self-contained apartment.

We’ve also made a start on cleaning up the garden. At this stage just clearing up the debris remaining from the build. Broken pieces of tile, PVC piping off-cuts, plastic bags and bottles, chunks of cement, etc. One of Lloyd’s guys brought his machete along to give one of the trees in the front garden a good prune.

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Before

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After. Well nearly after anyway.

And work has started on the small rock wall that will run the length (from roadside to the lagoon) of the southern side of our adjacent lot.

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Getting the boards in place for the wheelbarrow.

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“That should work”.

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And it does!

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The wall begins.

We also had the benefit of the road being graded on either Wednesday or Thursday (see what I mean about the memory starting to fade) at around 06.00 hours.

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Grader going past the end of our front garden.

It improved the road materially and massively reduced the journey time to the bridge and we enjoyed it while it lasted. But it didn’t last long because the rain came down again and washed the fill away!

It’s been a busy few days but I still ‘found’ time to look out over the Caribbean

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And watch the sun ‘say’ goodbye for another day.

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The headline for today’s edition is based on the album released by George Michael in 2004 which reached number one in the UK Albums Chart and number twelve in the US Billboard Hot 200.

“Dancing in the Street” in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize.

Up yesterday (Tuesday) at around 04.40 hours and in what seemed like no time at all (well it wasn’t because it took me just a few minutes) I was out there on the veranda with the mug of black coffee and my iPad. Oh, and one of the two chairs that we currently have that can be moved easily.

I focused first on ‘knocking out’ yesterday’s edition of the blog which, given the paucity of stuff to include, didn’t take me too long. So I then caught up with what is going on around the world via my subscription to The Times online. I spent some time reading about (and looking at photos of) the disastrous consequences of the typhoon in the Philippines. This got me to reflecting on how fortunate I am.

OK I’d love two tickets for the World Cup in Brazil next year (anyone know anyone???). I wish I could speak fluent Spanish (or even enough to have a rudimentary conversation). It wouldn’t be a bad thing to have a bit more money. But on balance I’m more than happy with my lot.

I’ve got a fantastic wife (this very public pronouncement should get me whatever I want to eat for at least the next two weeks!). I live in a great place in our new home. I’m happy with my health and general level of fitness. Both could be better obviously but I am in to my seventh decade on this planet.

See what sitting on the veranda early in the morning does to me. I think it’s something to do with where the veranda is though.

Given that it was Garifuna Settlement Day Rose and I decided to enjoy the public holiday and have a holiday too (many of you are now probably thinking that life is just one long holiday for us anyway and to a great extent it is. But, not totally) and would spend a bit of it watching the Garingua that live on Ambergris Caye celebrate the day in 1832 when their descendants first landed on the British settlement of Belize.

I could (and probably should if I want to get serious about this blogging lark) have gone to ‘Town around daybreak to watch the reenactment of the Garifuna landing on Belizean soil all those years ago. But I didn’t because I was enjoying my period of reflection too much. So instead, Rose and I contented ourselves by heading off to ‘Town shortly before 11.00 hours.

On the way there we ‘took time out’ to take a look at the Boca Del Rio rejuvenation project as it nears completion. And it is looking good.

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Freshly planted shrubs and trees.

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Climbing frame for the children (and the young of heart. Or is it, young in mind?).

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Toilets nearly finished.

Even with our light detour we got to ‘Town in good enough time for the commencement of proceedings -the speeches.

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Ceremony opens with a song sang in Garifuna by a young girl.

Followed by another young girl singer.

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And then the speeches.

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Mayor ‘Danny’ Guerrero.

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And then Manuel Heredia Jr, the Minister of Tourism and Culture.

Followed by , for me the star of the speeches, Angel Nunez, who gave an unscripted, very enjoyable and educational, speech.

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Angel Nunez, former Principal of San Pedro High School.

I found the speeches interesting but this obviously wasn’t the case for everyone.

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But they were for some.

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With the speeches over the remembrance was brought to a close with a soulful, and heartfelt rendition in Garifuna.

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And then the drummers came out and it was time to party. But not before Jorge Aldano of the San Pedro Sun was presented with his Garifuna shirt for helping to organise the event.

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“Are you sure this suits me?”.

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And then they started to dance, nearly dancing in the street (OK, so around 60/70 feet away but I need a headline).

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She could really shake her booty.

The headline for today’s edition is based on the single released in 1964 by Martha Reeves which reached number two in the US Billboard Hot 100 and number four in the UK Singles Chart.

Feeling like an “Englishman in New York” in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize.

Not a great deal to ‘report’ on about yesterday. Goes without saying (so why am I saying you are probably thinking) that I got up (early – think it was around 04.45 hours. Must get batteries for that clock and fix it on the wall!), made the mug of black coffee, unplugged the iPad, grabbed the chair (how do I manage so many things at virtually the same time?) and ‘hit’ the veranda.

Spent some time looking at the lists (and I mean LISTS given the number of times we have attempted to place orders with Walmart) of stuff we are going to ship from Miami for our build in Ambergris Caye, Belize to make certain that we hadn’t overlooked (a kind way of saying forgotten) anything. And we had! What about the folding chairs for when we want to fish from the sea wall at the end of the garden? Oh, and the wrench and ratchet set so that I can easily remove (and replace) the cargo box on the golf cart. And the projecting alarm clock (don’t need it to wake me up but it would be good to know when I wake up if it is tomorrow or yesterday, if you understand what I mean. No? Well have a few mugs of black coffee and you might!).

And then there is the Sunbrella fabric for the cushions that Rose is going to make for the concrete seating area we have on the top floor terrace.

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The concrete table and seats. It will be so much better with comfortable (and weather proofed) cushions.

Rose has the curtains to make first (and we have a lot of glass in our house) but I know that when she gets going she’ll fairly whizz through this and in no time at all she will be on the cushion covers (oh, she has to make the cushions first though).

I don’t think (I know that I should know but…) that Rose has ever had professional training but she has a natural (born with it I suppose) aptitude for crafty (not wily, deceitful or sly but artistic) type of things. And with a room of her own (THE handicraft room) there’ll be no stopping her.

With the ordering out of the way I decided that I needed breakfast so I showered, etc and headed off to Estel’s (got to be done a couple of times a week or I feel that I am being disadvantaged).

When I got back to the house one of Lloyd’s ‘boys’ was hard at work with the final bit of land filling for our adjacent lot.

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Next job the small rock wall down the southern and western sides of the lot.

Whilst out on the veranda I noticed the reflections of the clouds in the lagoon.

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The rest of the day was taken up with cleaning the windows (in and out) and I used nearly a bottle of Windex doing it. And I haven’t ‘hit’ the ground floor apartment yet!

In the early evening we decided to drive to ‘Town for a Belikin but before doing so I took another look out over the lagoon. The water was the same but the change in lighting conditions makes it look so different.

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We waited for the sun to set (I so much like this time of day)

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and then took the twenty minute drive (it takes so much longer with the road in the condition it is) to Carlo & Ernie’s Runway Bar & Grill.

We hadn’t even managed to sit down before I was told by some of the regulars there -Americans – that I scooped the weekly NFL pool. I’d predicted eleven -yes, eleven – of the match results (winner, not score) correctly. I could sense there was amazement, bewilderment even that this Brit could do this. It’s an American game after all. I felt like an Englishman in New York!

I felt proud. OK, so I’d chosen the teams by whether I liked their names or not but I won and claimed the BZ$ 150 prize!

The headline is based on the single released in 1988 by Sting reached number fifty-one in the UK Singles Chart and number eighty-four in the US Billboard Hot 100. Following a remix it was released again in 1990 when this time it reached number fifteen in the UK Singles Chart.

“A House is Not a Home” in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize.

No editions of the blog published over the last few days. Been a bit tardy I suppose. Not lazy, just tardy.

Obviously I got up , had the ‘must have’ mug (it can’t be a cup, it just has to be a mug) of black coffee and spent my ‘quality’ (well I consider it to be quality time) on the veranda (first floor, western side) with my iPad which provides me with access to the rest of the world. You can travel wherever you want without getting out of your seat!

So whatI have been doing to occupy so much of my time that I couldn’t spare some time to publish an edition or two I hear you thinking (really stupid expression that isn’t it. How can you hear someone thinking?).

Well, I had intended to spend some time clearing some of the debris from the around the house ((the guys had cleared a lot of rubbish (garbage for non UK readers) before Daniel Camal, the building contractor for our build in Ambergris Caye, Belize, ‘handed’ the house over to us)) but we are still coming across bits of PVC piping, off-cuts of tiles, empty plastic bottles, polystyrene food containers, bits of wood, etc. But the rain put a stop to that. Every time I felt the urge to start the clean-up the rain came down. And down. And down (is it really necessary to point out that the rain comes down? I’ve never heard of it going up!).

We continued to ‘do battle’ with Walmart to place orders for the stuff that we want to ship from the States for our new home.

We’d placed orders so many times only to then have them cancelled. I written to Mike Dukes he CEO and then I received emails from Sharon, a Resolution Specialist. So, last Friday morning we placed the orders again full of confidence (misplaced as it turned out) that THIS TIME all would go through smoothly. They didn’t -the cancellation emails hit my In Box in a flurry.

So I checked with my debit card company. No, they hadn’t blocked my card. Walmart had reversed the charges!

Another email to Sharon (copying in the CEO) and within a few hours I received a response from Elena (Sharon had taken a day off) of the Walmart Executive Escalation Unit promising that she would look in to the problem and try to resolve it.

We didn’t get too excited. We’d ‘heard’ this before. Our hopes were raised only to be deflated. Why would this promise be any different? Well it was.

Elena emailed me late in the day to advise that the Billing Department had identified the problem and fixed it and that we should re-order. We were pleased to receive this news but not so pleased that we set about re-ordering straight away but on the Saturday morning (knowing that Elena was working over the weekend -I’d asked in an email) we went ‘at it’ with a vengeance and within two hours (I’ve mentioned before the slow Internet speeds here in Belize) we had completed the process. So, we just sat back and waited for the ‘cancellation’ emails to arrive. Pessimists? You bet after the experience we have had.

But … they didn’t come. Thank you Elena. And Mike Dukes. It’s good to know that a CEO of a major, major company the size of Walmart gets so involved. Respect Mike, respect.

It would be remiss (and very rude) of me to bring this Walmart episode (or is it a serial?) to a close without mentioning (and paying tribute to) the very kind offer of Michael Johnson who has recently started to reading this blog.

Michael is a manager of a Walmart store (I have no idea where) and very kindly offered to “do what he could do” to help us place our orders. I declined his offer (well actually I asked if I could put it on hold. I believed that persistence would (eventually) pay off. I subscribe to the view that Calvin Coolidge espoused :” Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not : the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

I may not have talent. I might not be a genius. But, I am persistent.

We now look forward to all of the stuff that we have ordered because although we just love our new build a house is not a home until you have the creature comforts in it.

Walmart didn’t consume all of my time though. Rose and I managed to open a few more crates and reveal more ‘old friends’. Two of which (it feels like it should be ‘whom’ given that they are old friends!) I will share with you now.

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Bought for me by Rose when she I visited Hong Kong (we also ‘took in’ Singapore and Thailand) in 1989.

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I got this (I think) in 1993 when I was working for Rupert Murdoch’s UK newspaper business. Where, by the way, I enjoyed the best years of my working life making many friends, including my best friend (Rose is actually my best friend but you know what I mean).

I spent time (sheltering from the rain on the veranda) watching birds (haven’t a clue yet what they are but in time I will).

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Foraging for food.

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A study of contemplation?

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House building. Been there, done that!

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Yesterday (Sunday) Rose and I spent a little time placing orders on-line for our patio furniture and then decided to do what everyone else (well nearly everyone else) on island was doing. Enjoy ourselves. So we took a drive to town for lunch and a few Belikins and on the way took a few shots of other people enjoying themselves on a very sunny Sunday.

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As I bring this edition to a close I’ll leave you with a few shots I took this morning of the sun coming up.

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The headline for today’s edition is based on the single (released a the B side) in 1964 by Dionne Warwick which (although not a chart success remains one of my favourite songs) reached number seventy-one in the US Billboard Hot 100.

“Living in a Box” in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize

I can’t really remember too much about Wednesday. I know I went out on the veranda around 05.00 hours with my mug of coffee (black, the coffee not the mug, that is) and my iPad. I also know that it rained (well I’m pretty certain it did anyway because it feels like it has rained every single day during the last two weeks).

I also know that Rose and I took a drive to ‘Town so that she could get her Belize Drivers License which is -for those of you who might be interested – a really simple process.

You fill in the application form and take it , along with a photocopy of the driver’s license from your country of origin, to the San Pedro Town Council’s Transport Department (located on the ground floor now), have your photo taken (for your new license), pay a fee of BZ$ 60 (BZ $ 180 for a three year license – you can only get one of these after you have had a one year license first) and you get your licence. Simple!

Another thing you might (or might not) be interested to learn is that renewal is on your birthday. So, it doesn’t make sense to get a license in September if your birthday is in October!

When we got home we had lunch and did some house cleaning. The guys that had worked on our build in Ambergris Caye, Belize had cleaned up before we moved in but … We then waited for our evening out because we had been invited to have dinner with Wes, a fairly long-time reader of the blog who lives in Houston.

Earlier this year Wes and his wife Teresa bought 18 Degrees North (sorry cannot find the symbol on my iPad) which is a vacation rental property around six miles north of San Pedro Town. Eventually (in around six years if I paid attention to what Wes said) they will move here and call it home but until then other people can enjoy all that it has to offer. And it has a lot.

Wes had already got our taste buds going when, earlier in the day, he had sent us a photo following his snorkelling trip.

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Look good enough to eat, don’t they!

Wes very graciously came to collect us in his boat (the journey up by ‘cart, following the heavy rain, would have been very long AND very bumpy) and after a quick tour of our house, we set off around 17.00 hours.

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Our transport.

After a short drive (perhaps around fifteen minutes) we arrived at the house where we were greeted by Samantha, the chef, who is available for hire by renters of the house and after a look around the house and its grounds sat down for a gorgeous meal of lobster and plantain, conch fritters, fried snapper, rice and beans, salsa and cheese dip and chips. No photos of the meal because I was too busy eating it!

It was too dark to take photos of the house that would do it justice so I have taken the liberty (and I suppose have cheated a bit) by including photos from one of the websites that Wes uses for bookings.

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The kitchen – where Samantha weaved her magic.

It what seemed like no time at all it was time for us to take the short boat journey home

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The view on the way to the boat.

Thanks Wes for a truly memorable night.

Yesterday I headed in to town for breakfast ( yes, at Estel’s) before going to have the cargo box for the golf cart fitted. Whilst there a group of Garifuna musicians and dancers popped in to entertain us.

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After breakfast I drove to Victor’s workshop where he very quickly set about fitting the resized cargo box.

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Resized box.

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Power on.

And Victor is off!

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It’s in.

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Drilling the holes for the bolts.

Victor is a very good worker and if you are looking for a welder (I am NOT on commission) you can get him on : (501) 623 1607.

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It’s cavernous.. You could virtually live in it. A bit like living in a box but…

The headline for today’s edition is based on the single released in 1987 by Living in a Box which reached number five in the UK Singles Chart and number seventeen in the US Billboard Hot 100.

“(Just Like) Starting Over” in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize.

I feel like I am really getting back in to my routine now. Waking up before 05.00 hours regularly. Don’t have to think where my mug is. Know where the coffee is kept. Even know where the plates and dishes ( the few we have at the moment) have to go when I do the washing up ((“doing the dishes for non-UK readers (I think)).

So when I got up yesterday morning at 04.45 hours it didn’t take me too long to grab the mug, put in a spoonful of coffee (I’m an instant man – no taste I suppose), take a chair (we still only have two that are easily moveable) and the iPad to the veranda and assume the seating position.

It’s dark when I normally get out there and there’s not a lot that can be seen. But the sounds are there. The rustling of the leaves on the trees when there’s a breeze. The sound of the rain falling (and we’ve had a lot of that recently) and the sound of the lagoon as the mullet (well I think they are mullet) jump out of and re-enter the water. Or is it a crocodile?

It’s my ‘me time’ of the day. Sometimes at this time I sit there really thinking about not too much at all. I suppose I do have thoughts. But nothing important or memorable. That hasn’t been the case since we moved in to our build in Ambergris Caye, Belize because I find myself thinking about what needs to be done next. I don’t take a pen and pad and write lists because I have been ‘blessed’ with a fairly good memory. Okay, I might forget where a cooking utensil has to go but not the important stuff (well, stuff that I consider important anyway).

Having lived in our new home for just over three weeks we are now starting to ‘find’ the omissions from our list of ‘must haves’. There’s the tap (faucet for non UK readers) for the well – ideal for washing the golf cart and watering the plants (when we have some). The motion sensor lights for the stairs leading to the first floor. And what about the cable TV socket in the living area of the ground floor apartment. How could we have overlooked that when we have one in each of the two bedrooms.

Then there’s the aggregate that I should have had Daniel Camal, our building contractor, spread at a width of five/six feet around all of the external ground walls. This would help when the veranda and water tank overflow pipes go in to overdrive.

This period of reflection was starting to tire me, it was just like starting over, so I showered, shaved, dressed, had breakfast and went to Victor’s (the welder) workshop to have the cargo box he had made for us fitted to the golf cart.

As I pulled in to the yard cum workshop I saw it and it looked good. Exactly what we had asked him to make

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but there was a problem. It didn’t fit!

Victor was hugely embarrassed and extremely apologetic and asked me to return on Thursday by when he will have made the necessary adjustments.

Victor’s workshop is very close to Caribbean Depot’s premises so I popped in there to find out the price of aggregate. For those of you that are interested (and for those of you that are not) it is BZ$ 82.50 a yard plus a BZ$ 100 charge to cover the bridge toll.

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Caribbean Depot’s premises, the place to go for building materials.

When I got home Rose and I resumed unpacking crates that contained stuff that we had shipped over from England and I met another of my old ‘friends’.

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He looks very happy there!

Tired of unpacking stuff Rose and I had lunch and then I took my book out to the lagoon side veranda for a little bit of time ‘soaking up the sun’. When I got out there it looked like something else had the same thing in mind. A giant mosquito.

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Big wasn’t he (or she).

I sat out there until the sun started to set when I decided to call it a day .

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Sun sets at the end of another day.

The headline for today’s edition is based on the single released in 1980 by John Lennon which reached number one in the US Billboard Hot 100 and the UK Singles Chart.