This is the end, my beautiful friends – The Mermaids
We are in two minds to go and swim with whale sharks in Holbox, but this is a pain in the rectum to get to and will take up two solid days of the six we have left. So, we opt for opulence and relaxation on the Isle of Mujeres, after this we will be back in England the fattening pens of work. I have already occurred the wrath of the grammar school I’m going back to, but we will never get the chance to take two and half months off again until we are either retired or dead. Term started three days back, and they have not been able to find a teacher that can teach Chemistry. My blaze attitude of: ‘If you can’t find any one, I’m back in the country on the 14th September I’m happy to come back then.’ My laidback outlook is not what the leadership, and helicopter parents of tomorrow’s professionals want to hear – but needs must when the Devil drives, even in a Catholic school!
So, we are on a bus travelling to and through Cancun, there has been a gang shooting a few days before in the centre. The east side of Mexico is far safer than the lawless west side – I am aware I sound like a gangster writing that, ‘I’m Eastside’ (Not sure if I’m doing the arthritic ‘sign language fingers’ right?, if nothing else I look like a younger Richard Madeley/older Ali G, or a confused Albanian doing an injured eagle on the freeway, heading to the service station of liberty – it has an M&S.
We don’t get shot at and it’s not long before we are shooting the short distance across the sea to the Women Island, which appears to be Golf buggy island as we step off the boat. We have opted to stay out of the middle at the top of the island at Maria’s Kin Kan. The wife is neither happy with the location, the room or the price (I’ve booked it!); location from the centre about four miles, the room – not on the sea front, she makes her annoyance abundantly clear to a perplexed Maria, it is crafty ploy to try and get us upgraded – it does not work! Price: £600 for 6 nights, I point out this is reasonable, £100 a night for a place like this, is very good value, we are only getting it this cheap as it’s out of season and I have booked at the last minute, it is normally twice this price. The rooms at the front are booked out in a few days’ time, Maria does not have the super power to move the hotel a few miles down the seafront. The Wife goes to unpack while I give a DNA sample and passport details. “She’ll be fine, Maria, once I give her the right balance of mogadons and white wine and lie to her about our finances.”
The hotel is fantastic, ok the room does not overlook the sea, but there is a private white sandy beach, a jetty, infinity pool, the twinkling lights of Cancun at night, the underwater museum two kilometres off shore. We are one of five guests staying here, by the next day we will be the only ones for two days. We are A list VIP Royals, the chef, Gas from Argentina, will become our exclusive chef for the next day (I will have a face-lift and a lobotomy, and the wife will have a bum-tuck and breast augmentation – I think I may be getting carried away with the situation?), “Whatever you want, doesn’t matter if it’s not on the menu, I will cook it for you.” Hey, what’s not to like?
For me, if you are after a package holiday to the ‘Eastside’ (arthritis pose) of Mexico, Isla Mujeres is a far better option than Cancun itself.
By breakfast The Wife has calmed down, which is good as the only other people at breakfast are the owners. “I’ve been thinking about the money–” “You can’t take it with you, there’s no pockets in a shroud.” Just before she can reply the chef is upon us asking what we want for dinner. “Red snapper and squid,” I snap back, readily. He suggests other meals, now he has a free hand, he’s worked all around the world, large stints in Spain and Italy. The food on the island is generally great.
The island is incredibly small, a golf buggy will do you. There are mainly Americans without children around, the shops sell trinkets aimed at sports fans, of teams I don’t know well; Minnesota Musk Oxen, Arizonia Alpha-males, Santa Monica Serial Killers, The Michigan Muscleations, New York Dolls and The San Francisco Friends of Dorothy. We buy Christmas tree baubles, this has become a travel ritual now, it’s nice in the warm glow of Christmas to be reminded of exciting travels past (–the ghost that never visits in your youth!) Baubles for the children started with my sister in law, she buys them Villeroy and Boch, posh ceramic ones in the January sales and gifts them over eleven months later, (very organised, but then again, she does most of her Christmas cooking in October and freezes it!), it’s a great gift idea, the offspring are already adamant they are taking them with them when they leave the nest, so that is testament to how much they are treasured. They have some in-joke, that we don’t fully understand, about a ‘fat Mexican’ so we hunt down the ‘fat Mexican’ in baubalised form. The ones we buy are of a fat Mexican with ‘very’ flexible feet: Roberto! (sorry)
We kayak out to the Cancun Underwater Statue Museum, I have read an article about this, and it looks amazing. It’s an easy two km paddle. I would have liked to have dived it, but snorkelling will do. The Wife is not sure she will be able to clamber back on board the slippery kayak, but there’s no way I’m not having a look. It’s a little limited to what you can see without a guide and an aqualung, but I manage to see the terracotta figures, cars (VW), large heads and few mooning arses. Well worth a visit, especially if you’re a diver.
On the penultimate day I come down with a fever, sweating away even in the air-conditioned room. I have recovered a little by the last day, but still under the weather, there is a seven-hour flight to recuperate on. My body is having an allergic reaction to working again, that and some dodgy seafood from down by the catamaran port.
On the last night, the Wife says, “You were right about this place, it’s been absolutely amazing, you’re always right.” I write that down, remind her what she has just said, and it’s going on her gravestone.” ‘Eventually’, can take a while to occur sometimes!
Isla Mujeres, Maria’s, is a long way from landing at Manchester airport, dumping my bags at home, quickly saying hello to our daughter, put my suit on and being in work less than two hours after touching down. It will start again, work, the existential life-laundry struggle, amassing enough money to escape again, enough pension-pot not to have to drink your own urine, but the memories of a month in Cuba, hummingbirds, pumas, manatees, friendships forged. They will keep us warm when we are old and voting to re-join the European union. These jaunts away that make you feel alive (at least in your imagination), restore your faith in humanity, give you the freedom to take risks, remind you that life’s for the living, these are what separate YOU and I from the also rans.
So, when the stories and anecdotes have been recounted, the odd person would tentatively ask: How much did it cost all together? The meticulous accounts of The Wife’s: £10,166 exactly. Seems a lot, but that is the equivalent of five two-week holidays. I know large families that go away for two weeks in the summer and spent four grand – seems a bargain now, maybe?
BIG LOVE and Happy holidays, my fellow humans.
I had to give evidence to the Manchester bomb inquiry, the bomber Salman Abedi – a mass murderer who I met several times as a teenager, but never directly taught, went to the school I worked at for years. I couldn’t the authorities anything meaningful, he was a fickle boy and was not radicalised during his time at the school.
What I will say is: Don’t look back in anger, ‘cos you’re not going in that direction, and if you are, have a change of direction.
Bit longer this week, but that’s it then for a while. The end of this travel journey documented. I would like to dedicate these blogs to Trevor Wolfe from Boulder, Colorado. Trevor and Olivia, we met in Costa Rica. He had a degree in Botany, worked in the burgeoning marijuana business and we would often chat on Facebook, about many things, his horror and shame of Trump, my shame of leaving the brotherhood/sisterhood of the EU, both add up to the same thing, our collective fear of the rise of nationalism and self-interest, that then gives birth to xenophobia, that appears to be igniting globally – divide and rule, fanned by neo-liberal sponsored division. Then the communication went dead, when I was asking him about the legalisation of pot in the North Americas. I wanted to buy some shares and he had the inside track. This was strange, he was usually very prompt in replying. I saw something with his name on and a college friend writing a eulogy. I dismissed it thinking it must have been his father with the same name, and… this was the reason why he was not getting back to me, I don’t go on Facebook much. A few days later, I realised it was Trevor that had died, aged just 30 years of age. Both The Wife and I cried, we had only met Trevor a few times, but he was one of those beautiful, beautiful, people that restored your faith in humanity and Americans, the world is a much sadder place without him. Life is an absolute bastard sometimes, and if nothing else, reminds you: to love is to suffer. RIP Trev, and let all that partake raise their joints in your honour.
Next time: There is no next time. Only the now… Don’t dream it, be it!
Ian M Pindar writes books, and also about himself in the third person sometimes, so it looks as though he has a large team of dedicated professionals working around him. His latest book is in fact a novella and has the strange title of: ‘Foot-sex of the Mind’. It is not a Mills and Boon, but about finding out what is important in life far too late.
I was asked what books I read while I was away, and the fact you are probably reading this on the Goodreads site, here goes, by far the most read, and often re-read where the Rough Guides to; Cuba and Central America.
The others were, in this order;
& Sons David Gilbert
The Curry Mile Zahid Hussain
England, England Julian Barnes
Version of Us Laura Barnett
Breathing Lessons Anne Tyler
God in Ruins Kate Atkinson
The Amateurs John Niven
…and they say men don’t read fiction, and those that do don’t read women authors!