Today I shall stray from my normal pontification about important issues and, instead, tread into the murky waters of my day to day life. I am doing this because the next two blogs I will write to you will be particularly controversial. So, I will hopefully lull you into a false sense of security with this one.
Sharing some of the things that might seem mundane to me, will probably not seem quite so in your eyes anyway. I’m just trying to decide whether to tell you about my anniversary, my trip by chicken bus across the country or the killer bees. I know, you want killer bees first, don’t you? Fuck it. You’re going to have to wait. How can I build up the suspense and lure you into reading the entirety of my letter to you if I start with the potentially, most exciting part. So, I shall commence with my anniversary day.
Let me point out to you that my anniversary, like most of my life, is very unconventional. Your Tia (the one I will tell you about one day) and I were civilly partnered in the UK ten years ago. As there is no such thing as civil partnerships in the USA, allow me to explain. The UK were trying to give the impression of supporting equal rights for all citizens by offering civil partnerships to same sex couples instead of marriage rights. The whole thing is fucking stupid really because of course now in both the USA, where you live and the UK, where we were civilly partnered, same sex marriage is legal. But even ten short years ago, it was all very walky on eggshells.
There was this weird contingent of people who felt that they would be hard done by if same sex couples were allowed to be married and insisted that the word only belonged to heterosexual couples. Really, it’s all about a word? Um, no. It’s all about bigotry, but never mind, we let you pretend and did the civil partnership thing for while until you got busy bigoting (my newly invented word) someone else and then we snuck up behind you, as homosexuals are supposed to, and slipped it in.
Of course, anyone with an iota of intelligence, access to google or a little bit of education in history would know that the word ‘marriage’ was not isolated to defining a christian marriage between a man and a woman. So that argument was silly. Either way, the UK, often a country which revels in silly, and for that I do appreciate it at times – decided to make a nod to the ‘marriage for the hetero’ posse and give same sex couples civil partnership. Now, don’t get me wrong. It was a long time before many other countries started down the path of real equality for their citizens and we took the opportunity to have our partnership duly and legally registered and recognised.
Well, finally in 2014, the UK government decided to stop indulging in this particular type of silliness and granted full marriage rights to same sex couples. Any same sex couple wanting to marry could do so and those who had civil partnerships, like me and your Tia, could go through a simple administrative procedure to convert that civil partnership into a marriage. Now, your Tia and I do not live in the UK anymore, so for UK government type things, we have to depend on the local British High Commission (In some countries they have Embassies. Where we are it’s the High Commission.) So, we ask our British High Commission to please do the paperwork so that we can have our civil partnership converted into a marriage. Guess what. They won’t fucking do it.
They’ve given us a whole heap of excuses and even though this service is provided in other countries, it’s all down to the fact that the current administration of our British High Commission simply don’t care and don’t have any real interest in pursuing equality for their citizens. So, this is a good lesson in how even though laws can change, if there is an element of institutional discrimination in any body that administers those changes, people still won’t have access to their rights. It’s bloody annoying and insulting, but there’s bugger all we can do about it except go to the UK and insist on our rights there. We even looked into making a legal challenge, but it would simply be too expensive.
The shitty thing is that we shouldn’t have to, but as we’re up against some snobby types who think we should be grateful for their very existence, when pretty much all they do is spend money on drinking parties for their mates, we’ll just have to accept that the UK government doesn’t really stand by equality in practice even though they’d have the world believe that they do. It’s funny how these little personal and individual experiences remain a reminder that the world is irrational and annoying. We’ll keep you updated and let you know when we finally get the rights that were granted to us and can actually call ourselves ‘married’. I wonder if our not being married means that you are a bastard nephew.
So, let’s get back to the fun bit. We hired a golf cart for the day and went exploring. Yes, you heard that right…a golf cart. No cars to hire where we live and we only have bicycles, so this was quite a little adventure for us. We went to a beautiful rustic place on the beach, ate, drank and had a proper anniversary like time. It all ended with a stunning sunset and then obscenely expensive Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. It’s obscenely expensive because it is imported, but by then we were merry enough to not care about the price.
It’s funny how drinking can reduce your inhibitions about spending, so I suppose that this is time for today’s Badass Auntie’s wisdom #1 Do not go shopping or have excess cash or credit cards on you when you know you will be under the influence of mind altering substances, especially alcohol or marijuana. You are very likely to end up with outrageous amounts of expensive and delicious junk food.
So, where are we now? Oh yes, the chicken bus trip. It’s just occurred to me that I’ve had two of them since I last wrote and I even did a guest blog for someone about one of those trips. You can read about that one here. It involved a tapir, tattoos and chocolate. Yes, my life is weird and wonderful. Here’s the tattoo, just in case you’re curious.
I mentioned earlier that we only have bicycles, but I didn’t add that we choose not to drive. I’ve never liked driving, feel nervous in cars and am, admittedly, not a great driver. I did drive for about three years when one of my dogs, in London, was too old to get to the vet on the bus. But after he died, I pretty much gave it up. Your Tia, on the other hand, is an excellent driver, but we live in a place where your chances of dying on the road in car are disproportionately high and public transportation is cheap, so we opt not to. Of course, when you rely on public transportation, you must also accept that the word ‘public’ means that you are going to be sharing that transportation with everyone and anyone. So let me tell you a bit about my last bus ride.
The buses here are old USA school buses. They have vinyl seats sized for school children, which means that if you are my size, your knees invariably push hard into the back of the seat in front of you. Getting onto the buses and getting a seat requires a number of skills. These include, physical agility, ingenuity, a basic grasp of human psychology and a willingness to dispense with all good manners. Once you’ve fought, wrangled and insinuated yourself onto the bus and into a seat, you then have the important task of ensuring that your seat mate (you will have a seat mate) passes several tests. 1. Do they use deodorant and have they applied it within the last 24 hours? 2. Do they have trousers that do not display 23 inches of dirty boxer shorts? 3. Are they in possession of one or more babies? 4. Are they carrying a take away container of food? 5. Are they playing loud distorted music on their cell phone? 6. Are they as fat or fatter than me? 7. Are they loudly preaching about Jesus?
These are all real issues that one has to contend with on a public bus and so I greedily spread myself across my seat (assuming I’ve gotten one to myself, which usually does happen because of my bus riding ninja type skills mentioned previously) trying to make myself look like the least appealing bus seat partner one could imagine. I look at my Kindle as if I am oblivious to the world while catching sneaky glances at the line of people boarding until I find one person who fulfills all of my criteria. As soon as they arrive, I try to make my seat look as welcoming as I can. Most of the time, this whole process works.
It didn’t work this time. So, inspired by a good friend who writes stories of her odd experiences on our local buses, I will share my experience with you. This time, as I arrived, I was gleeful to see an express service bus (meaning it isn’t painfully slow, stopping at every single village along the way) just about to leave. I quickly hop on, realising that I didn’t arrive early enough to secure my choice in arse accommodation. Never mind. I locate a spare seat next to a young woman who looks like she has good hygiene, no babies and no food. It’s looking hopeful.
We take off and then I notice the two seats opposite the aisle from me. One contains a woman with her child – could be 3-4 years old and two take away containers containing fried chicken and chips (french fries to you) all slathered in ketchup – the way everyone here eats their fried chicken. On the seat in front of them is a woman with a baby, which seems to shit its nappies and require changing about every 20 minutes. I wallowed in this cacophany of olfactory assault for the full hour, ever grateful for the insane dangerous speeding by our bus driver, while simultaneously struck with a terrible bout of IBS and fantasising in a mixture of twisted curiousity and terror about what it might be like to actually shit myself in public. Yes. That was a lovely ride.
On the way back, I managed to use all of my wiles to gain a prime location and my choice of seat mate. I selected a clean looking, food and baby free young woman of diminutive stature. Everything was fine until she decided that sleeping on me would be extra comfy. No matter how many times I elbowed her, shoved her, poked her or otherwise attempted to disturb her slumber, she would not be moved. Please keep in mind that she was laying upon me, skin to skin in a bus with vinyl seats and a heat factor of 120 degrees. Bodily fluids were well and truly exchanged.
So my #2 piece of Badass Auntie wisdom today is to always realise that when a writer says they are saving the best for last, to keep you on the edge of your seat, they will drag it out for as long as possible and so my lovely nephew, you’ll have to read my letter to your sister to find out about the killer bees.
Much love from your Badass Auntie
There are always advantages to being the baby of the family and here’s one. You get the killer bee story. Where I live we have killer bees and yes, they are probably just as scary and terrifying as the ones you see on horror movies. The story goes that a long time ago some humans, who thought they were very clever (keep in mind that many people who think they are very clever fuck up the world in major ways) decided to bring African bees over to the Americas to breed with the local bees. This was done pretty much for greedy purposes as the Africanised bees were more efficient honey producers. More honey = more money.
Well, that didn’t go particularly well. Yes, they do produce more honey, but once they mixed with the local bees they also started to kill things – like dogs, horses and people. Apparently they don’t produce any venom that is more potent then normal bees, they are just super fucking aggressive and get upset really easily. Once they are upset, they stay upset for a long time and they will pretty much swarm and attack anything living within a certain area until they stop being so pissed off. These aren’t just fairy tales. I know people who have had their dogs and even horses killed by bees here.
But this story isn’t just about killer bees. It’s also about stubborn men, who can be almost as dangerous. So, let me tell you this story. We live next to an old, run down, wooden building. It’s maintained to bare minimum and provides inexpensive housing for a variety of seemingly nice working people. The owner has never been particularly friendly, but always reasonable and we are neighbourly. But we never push the point as it’s quite obvious to us that he has no intention of spending any serious money on maintaining the building. Sometimes that has been a bit difficult but normally when there have been really serious issues, we have called him it’s been addressed.
Actually, that’s not entirely true. We don’t call him, we call his son in law. Then his son in law tells him our issue. So for a few years now all sorts of creatures have taken up residence in the badly maintained wooden walls of this building. Most commonly bees and woodpeckers, neither of which are particularly desirable to us as neighbours. We’ve also even had raccoons living there. Here’s a recent photo of one.
The woodpeckers kill all of our coconuts. They are clever little fuckers. They punch a hole in every single coconut and use it to attract insects, which they then eat. Every fucking one of our coconuts is killed by them these days. So we are not enthralled with woodpeckers. We’ve had incidents with the bees in the past and the landlord next door has had them taken care of, sort of – at least enough to resolve the problem for a while. That’s the problem apparently. Unless all the bees are killed and the hive is removed completely, they will repopulate.
Now before you start getting your nappy in a twist, these are one type of bee that is not in any way threatened and while it would be an ideal world if they could be moved, it’s not normal practice here or in many places, where beekeepers aren’t keen on having the africanised bees mixing with their own colonies. So they are exterminated.
A few weeks ago we realised that the woodpeckers had moved out of the building and were trying to make a nest in a tree in our yard. Given that the building has housed many generations of arsehole coconut killing woodpeckers, we realised something must be up…and up it was. The bee colony had grown exponentially and, it seems, driven the woodpeckers and the raccoons out. Even more concerning was that on this particular day, one of the tenants decided to play loud music with a heavy bass vibration. If there is one thing that pisses off killer bees, it’s vibrations.
I’m down at the chicken coop and there is a ton of buzzing. Now normally a ton of buzzing indicates something dead nearby and flies, but I very quickly realised that it wasn’t flies, it was bees and from the type of activity I could see around the hole in the house next door that led to their hive (picture about a million bees covering the side of a house for about 8 feet in either direction) I could see they were about to swarm. I gather up the dogs, get them inside and tell your Tia to close all the doors.
Now this is the where the story of dealing with stubborn men begins. I call son in law of guy who owns building with bees and tell him it needs to be taken care of ASAP and that the situation was critical and dangerous. He isn’t tremendously receptive. It’s a Sunday and his voice makes it very clear that he has better things to do and that he thinks I’m a bit hysterical. So, he says he’ll call his father in law.
The next thing I do is call the one and only bee guy here. He’s the guy with the equipment. He tells me that he’ll do it but that he doesn’t get on with the landlord next door so he won’t do it without direct permission from him. The only problem with this is that he also tells me that he doesn’t and won’t speak to the landlord. I suggest that psychic permission might be required, but that doesn’t go down well.
So, I call landlord’s son in law back and tell him that the bee guy won’t deal with the bees unless he gets permission. Son in law says that his father in law gives permission. I call bee guy back and tell him. Bee guy says that’s not good enough. He needs to talk to son in law. I call son in law and ask him to call bee guy. Son in law refuses saying that he doesn’t want to get into trouble with father in law and wants to stay out of it and gives me father in law’s telephone number.
Remember that I am now trapped in my downstairs office. Your Tia is trapped upstairs. We cannot leave the house as the bees are getting more aggressive. So, I call father in law (the landlord) and he tells me it’s a Sunday and he doesn’t want to talk to me and hangs up. I finally wonder if it’s a language/culture issue, which does happen, especially when women are involved as a lot of men here simply do not discuss anything with women. So, I call my handyman, who, by nature of being a handyman, also happens to be a man. I ask him to help. I’m thinking I can get him to mediate between bee guy and father in law/next door landlord.
Whoops. I forgot it’s Sunday. He drinks on Sunday. He doesn’t hold his alcohol well. He turns up with some friends. Your Tia speaks to them and they say they are going to smoke out the bees. Your Tia realises that they are drunk and asks if they are certain they can do this. They insist that they can and that they do it all the time in their own village. So off they go. All thoughts of negotiation off the table.
After rescuing one of them from under the stairs with over 20 stings and seeing the young guy he works with and his huge stung swollen face, we realise that this is not going to work. So, I call son in law back and tell him that if he or his father in law are unwilling to talk to bee man, I’m going to have to call the police. He says I should do that. So, I call the police. Of course that results in nothing. Meanwhile, handyman and friends escape, leaving their beer behind but do manage to get next door and ask the tenants to turn off the music. They do. That helps.
I then think to myself ‘Self. What is the common denominator in all of this that’s preventing this situation from being resolved?’ I pondered for a while and then it struck me. All of this is being caused by stubborn fucking men, who rather than trying to resolve a now critical and life threatening situation all refuse to do anything because of some past argument they had that has not a fucking thing to do with me. So, I do the most rational thing under the circumstances. I call a woman.
This particular woman is one of those incredibly efficient, busy and capable women who you can always count on when things get difficult. She’s not a good friend, more of a friendly acquaintance, but she’s trustworthy and smart. I’ve now been trapped in the office for a couple of hours and your Tia is going to have to go to work soon. I’d like some water and food at this stage, but I have to make it safe to exit. The woman I call happens to know all parties involved. She manages to track them all down and try to mediate for me.
Meanwhile, I call the police again. This time I get an officer who knows me and says ‘Ah. You’re the lady with the tattoos’. Now I won’t go into detail except to mention that he likes me and that I wore a very low cut top last time I dealt with him. He remembers. He says ‘let me have a word with the bee man’. So, finally between the woman I called to give us some back up and the police, I’ve managed to get bee man to agree to come over. He does so in his own time. But, things have calmed down enough for Tia to bring me some water.
Before bee man finally arrives, the bees have settled down enough to get Tia off to work and me upstairs to eat and drink. The chickens are all safe – my biggest concern in all this. Bee man arrives, has a look and agrees that this needs to be taken care of, but he doesn’t want to do it until after dark, when the bees are sleeping.
So, eventually bee man and crew come back. When he arrives he asks me if I have insecticide. After scraping chin off ground and saying ‘no’, he shrugs and goes off to get some. While he’s away his assistant suits up and the other guy starts working on making shavings for their smoker. He returns and we watch safely from inside. The process went something like this.
Bee man, shouts profanities at man in suit. Man in suit makes terrified noises. This cycle goes on for about an hour. Turns out man in suit is in training and is shitting his pants. I don’t think this is the job for him. Eventually they manged to smoke the bees into submission and then spray the fuck out of them. They came back and pulled the hive out. There are still some stragglers. I have no idea if they will go completely, but for now, we’re not living a horror movie.
So, after all that, my Badass Auntie wisdom for you today is this. When dealing with stubborn men, it seems that the only solution is a capable woman. There may be many applications for this statement. Use it wisely. Also remember that when stubborn men are drunk and say they can do something, especially something dangerous…you might as not bother to argue, because they are going to fucking do it anyway. Might be worth having a video camera to hand though.
Much love from your Badass Auntie