There are the usual pests – flies, mosquitoes etc. but the biggest pest (har har) by far is the horse. It thinks it’s small and sneaky. Try to cut up vegetables for a meal outside and she’ll stick her head under your arm and try to ‘innocently’ grab a few mouthfuls. Shoo her away and she’ll retreat a few steps and pretend to be interested in something else entirely while simultaneously working her way around to your other side, as if you won’t notice a horse (of all things) attempting a flanking manoeuvre. She likes to come over when you’re sitting there having a conversation, stick her head over your shoulder and dribble a long stream of cud down your front. Or she’ll wait until you get up to go to the toilet. Either she’ll be standing directly in your way and refuse to move aside at all, or she’ll take the opportunity to wander over to your now-empty chair and drool a puddle onto it. In the dark. So that when you return from peeing and are congratulating yourself on having successfully guarded your delicate parts from mosquitoes, avoided being whacked on the head by a falling coconut and/or falling into the pig pitfall trap you then sit down in blissful ignorance having not seen the nasty smelly stagnant puddle of ooze that now occupies your seat and only notice the slight dampness in the vicinity of your hind-quarters once it has had plenty of opportunity to thoroughly soak in.
I have recently discovered that I’m not a fan of pigs. In fact I find them positively terrifying. They taste nice when baked in a ground-oven, stewed over an open fire or barbequed, but when you’ve got 3 full-grown pigs running at you aggressively because you have dared to approach the coconut they are eating (which you have just opened for them), while some people’s instinct is to shout at them and wave something pointy in their direction, mine is to put something solid (like a tree) between me, and them. Especially the large male whom we have named ‘big balls’ for obvious reasons. I suppose I could take solace from the fact that his dislike of me is not personal. He doesn’t really get along with the other pigs either – especially the piglets, which I find quite surprising considering that they are his. He likes to pick them up and throw them across the garden a good 10 or 15 feet, accompanied by the most horrendous squealing noises emanating from the piglets while they are airborne. The old adage ‘when pigs fly’ is entirely inappropriate in its usual intended context when applied to life on Taravai. Here it is an event that is realised several times daily.
Moving house is a nasty horrible necessity that I’m sure you have experienced at least once or twice in your life, and possibly many more times than that. At best it probably involved something along the lines of futilely attempting to cram the entire contents of your house into cardboard boxes. These sit in your hallway full of stuff that you’d really rather be using for a few days. Then you take a day off work to wait for a moving van that you’ve hired, cram the contents of your house into said van (or vans), drive to the new place and then undo all of the box work that you’ve just done over the course of the next month or so. That’s assuming you’re moving just down the road, don’t need to put anything into storage and that a wizard has magically taken care of the inevitable arguments, pleading and blackmailing that are part and parcel of having to deal with television companies, water, gas, electricity suppliers, internet and phone companies and on and on and on.
We recently helped our friends Jesse and Jack to move house. There aren’t any roads on Taravai, which means no vans, or van men to drive them. Electricity is entirely solar, water is caught on the roof, there are no phone lines, no internet and everyone has the same cooking gas cylinders so they stay where they are. Stuff still had to be packed into boxes but these were then brought out to Bob by boat and we all got an opportunity to go for a lovely relaxing sail on a beautiful sunny day with glasses of rum close at hand. The only one who didn’t enjoy the whole experience was Sparrow, the puppy, who was incredibly seasick and must have come close to dribbling away half her own body weight though she never vomited. As soon as the dinghy touched the dock she ran off into the forest and we saw neither hide nor hair of her until a very bedraggled, cold and unhappy puppy swallowed it’s pride and presented itself at the door some hours later.
Of course, if Bob hadn’t been there the move would have entailed gradually traipsing their stuff in rucksacks along a goat path on the edge of a cliff, an hour hike each way over rough terrain and it would have taken the best part of a week. Win some, lose some. This was a win all-round I think.
Jesse and Jack have yet another animal to keep them company. Jack went for a walk along the beach the other day and found two newborn goat kids bleating away in the sand. The mother was nowhere to be seen (or heard) and they were on the verge of death so he took pity and decided to try to rear them. Sarah suggested naming the female after her and the male after me, but I’m glad that didn’t catch on because the male died the following morning and is by now shark-poop. The female is doing very well however, and has been rather unimaginatively named ‘Goatee’. Sarah, Jack and Jesse take turns to bottle-feed it powdered milk via a fuel syringe. For a 4-day-old creature it really is remarkable, and is already quite comfortable bounding up and down steps, running around the garden and trying to eat everything, including Sarah’s hair. I’m pretty sure that when I was 4 days old I couldn’t do much more than cry, poop, pee and eat. I doubt I’d figured out how to see, let alone bound. The goat does the pooing, peeing, crying and eating too, in copious quantities. Hopes are high for a healthy and happy Goatee for ever after……….. that is, until Jesse leaves Gambier and a new tenant takes over the smallholding, at which point Goatee will, without a doubt, be eaten. Such is life.