I spent Wednesday evening packed into a small cafeteria with two hundred other parents. As we listened to Stylish’s principal talk about school rules and signing homework planners, I smiled to myself as I thought of how many similar “welcome to the new school year” talks I’d been to in years gone by. French or English, here or there, every primary school seems to follow the same script. Just the like the birthday party Indy attended the weekend before. Same kids, same moms, same presents, same activities. Except for the language, it was just like home.
A chill ran down my spine as the realization hit me.…
March is almost upon us, and with it comes New Caledonia’s big cyclone month. We have been very, very lucky up until now; only Cyclones June and Ian have come anywhere near us. But the weather has gotten rainier and rainier, and I’m reminded that the country was rocked by Cyclone Erica in March a decade ago. As Mad Eye Moody would say: constant vigilance!
The old wisdom tells us that, in a storm, a boat is safer at sea than in a harbor. And I can see the point: there is less to hit out there. But, as the sad story of the Bounty shows, being out at sea isn’t always the greatest strategy. …
When Erik went back to work, Papillon became My Boat. By which I mean, Papillon became My Problem. With my resident handyman thousands of miles away, anything that broke was going to be my responsibility. And it was just a matter of time before something bad happened. This is a boat, after all. So when the generator died this week, I wasn’t surprised.
I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m not very handy. As Erik kindly puts it, I’m not a natural tool user. No arguments here. But, being the big boss that I am now, I thought I could show some maturity and give this a whirl. …
On Sunday evening, Indy buried her head in my leg and cried, “I don’t want to go back to school!”
I patted her head. I was surprised, I had to admit it. Indy was always keen on school; she had been so pleased that the new school year would begin the next day.
But before I could say anything comforting, she went on: “I can’t stand wearing shoes all day! My feet get so hot!”
“But your new shoes are so comfy,” I said, certain I was the only parent in Noumea trying to reassure her child that her feet wouldn’t catch fire from wearing shoes all day. …
When my parents decided to visit, I was happy for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the prospect of exploring New Caledonia from the land side. All too often as we sail around the planet, we stick to strictly water-related activities. Sailing. Snorkelling. Swimming. The three “S”s. So this was a chance to try something new.
And over the past couple of weeks, we have been out almost every day. We explored the reef off Ile aux Canards. Toured the aquarium. Hit the beach.
Hmm. Okay, I guess we haven’t completely broken free from our water-based activity schedule. …
The girl at the tourist information center blinked at me uncertainly. “Pardon?” she asked.
“The Super Bowl,” I said again. “It’s a big sports event. American football?”
“You mean rugby?” she asked hopefully as she twisted her hands together. I felt sorry for her 21 year-old self – they clearly had not covered this eventuality in training.
“Not quite.” I looked over my shoulder at my father. He smiled at me hopefully. I hated to burst his bubble, but even if I spoke French like the President of l’Académie Française, there was no way I was going to find him the Super Bowl on TV in Noumea.…
Everyone has their own way of dealing with life’s unfortunate events. Some people eat. Some people cry. Some people exercise until they fall down from exhaustion. As for me, I grew up in a strong WASP-y tradition. That means when the weather is hot, I’m accustomed to spying men in kneesocks and long shorts. When it’s Sunday dinner at Grandma’s, we eat roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. And when reality serves me something I don’t want to deal with, I hide.
Mentally, of course. You can’t physically hide from reality – that would look ridiculous. Did Lord Grantham lock himself in a cupboard when Downton was circling the drain? …
“Are we really going to get a cyclone? A real one?” The girls looked at me with shining eyes, as though I had brought Christmas back eleven months early.
“Yep.” I shoved the awning onto the spare bunk. “It’s a real cyclone. Tropical Cyclone June.”
“Tropical Cyclone Juin,” said Indy.
“Do we have to go to the cyclone shelter?” asked Stylish.
“Is the wind going to blow the boat over?” Indy made wind hands, puffing out her cheeks and destroying an imaginary fleet.
“Do we get to use the cyclone lines?”
“When is it going to get here?”
“Guys,” I said, pausing in my struggle with the awning, “it is a cyclone, but not a big one. …
I opened my email this morning and found the unwelcome subject line: “Not liking the look of weather toward the end of this week.” I put my head down on the table. Erik had sent me the note from a land far away; apparently not even being up to his eyeballs in work could keep him from checking on the weather. Sadly, when we “don´t like the look of the weather” around here, it doesn´t mean a little rain is going to ruin our picnic. It doesn´t mean it will be too windy to hang out laundry. It means something bad might be coming. …
I have never owned a new vehicle. My first car: used. Ditto cars two through four. Papillon is older than I am. And all three of our dinghies were previously enjoyed. (Even our former house was in its eighties when we bought it, but since it didn’t stand up and walk around à la Howl’s Moving Castle, I don’t suppose it counts.)
Last year, we did a bit of a dinghy shuffle. We sold the old inflatable, and took on a tinny and a small sailing dinghy. This was a good move. The sailing dinghy is fun for the kids – especially Stylish, who loves to row it around the anchorage – and the tinny is perfect for Pacific conditions. …