October 25: "Our graves" during Irma.
Just got these pics off of Oran's phone. Taken 9th Sept I think:
* The first pic shows the "space" between the garden wall and the house, and the remains of our bedroom. I was underneath at the far end. Elaine was under the near end. ** The second pic is of Elaine's grave where I found her in the middle of Irma's second half - by the tablecloth.
*** The third pic is my grave. My top half was in between the wall and the shed door, my bottom half was under the wall.
October 26: Eddie, and grocery-shopping
Several of you have asked about Eddie. Well it is clear that besides us having a life-changing experience - with some lasting effects - the same is true of Eddie.
He came through both hurricanes and tropical waves unscathed - no marks, bruises or blood - unlike his "parents"!!! But he has been quite a bit more nervous when it rains, more affectionate to us, but maybe older in a way - calmer and less rambunctious. He used to come on our bed sometimes during the night, and want to play-fight - so he would "disembowel" our bed clothes - and eventually calm down. But he was clearly terrified when Irma arrived. He was literally jumping on the windows and trying to claw his way out.
A few days ago we noticed he had a bit of swollen cheek - and the next morning we found he had been scratching it, and had torn it open - with some blood and pus coming out. But he was very good and let us gently clean it, until John could take him to the vet. He is fine now - the wound has healed, but we are still giving him liquid antibiotics. John holds him and I get the lovely job of trying to get this pink liquid down his throat!! So John has some pink stains on some t shirts to add the the other Irma stains. We are not sure what he did to cause the wound. It would seem he either walked into some sharp pointy things - like tree branches or wire - or a large-mouthed rat!!!
But he was so thankful for our medical attention that he brought us two lovely presents the night after the vet visit. Two very tiny rats - smaller than mice - just babies. He must have found a rat's nest. The first present arrived around 2 a.m. I think. It was dead. The second present arrived around 4 a.m. It was not dead!! When he comes in his cat-flap into our bedroom, he always announces when he has brought us a present. I keep thinking I have got the different sounds sussed - and then he changes them on me. Anyway, he took both presents under the bed - so there John and I are, scrabbling around the sides of the bed with our flashlights trying to find the presents!!! Not fun.
Where is our Canadian friend Whitney when we need her. Whitney is the expert shopper, who is renowned for sticking Post-It notes on the shelves at our main Supermarket Riteway - to tell the store when she is upset about the produce.
Riteway has actually done a pretty decent job of adjusting to the needs of folks here after our hurricanes e.g.
• I don't think we ever had Coffee Mate in the store before - but they realized pretty quickly that they needed to get that in - since there was no power, and people did not have fridges to keep milk cold. (As I have I think said before, I buy milk one carton at a time, and put it in my freezer. It does not freeze, but lasts for about three days - and then I repeat the process.
• we could not get chicken breasts for a while. I used to buy half a case from another store - Supa-Value - 12 breasts and freeze them - but can't do that anymore. So Riteway realized they had to find a way to get boneless. skinless chicken breasts in smaller quantities. So last week they had packages of 2 - perfect. So I could do one of our favourite meals - called Chicken Pizzaiola with spaghetti. And today they just had them packaged in single breasts. Also fine.
• they have tried bringing in raspberries, blueberries etc. I used to have them most mornings before Irma - but have given up on them. Can't really keep them in the fridge or freeze, without them spoiling.
• but I have learned that I can buy a big green papaya, and an under-ripe or almost frozen mango in the fridge for several days - and they are fine.
• one thing we needed today was milk. So, over the last few weeks we have adjusted to not having our normal milk - and have had to buy Lactose-free, or Soya milk, or Soya milk with vanilla, or Soya milk with extra vanilla ( not great in tea I have to say). There is also Lactaid, which I have not tried. And there is also - of course - Organic milk (at $8.99 a half gallon - as opposed to the normal price of approx. $5.) And there was another variety of organic milk with added something or other. Dear God. My mother grew up on a farm in Ireland, in County Mayo - and my uncle taught me how to milk a cow, before they had milking machines. So , could someone please line up all the cows that deliver these various types of milk - and just demonstrate the differences e.g. what they eat or don't eat - so I understand what we are drinking, and why we have to pay so much more for some of them- and should we even drink them in the first place
• AND SAVING THE BEST FOR LAST - FOR WHITNEY -- Riteway had No milk today - of any kind - none of any of the others above - not even goat's milk for god's sake... so what did they do?/??
• they were worried that Whitney might be on-island - so rather than have her Post-it notes on the very empty shelves - they filled them all up with cases and cases of eggs and butter!!!!
• OK - great - so let's have boiled eggs for breakfast tomorrow morning?, and maybe omelette for lunch? ham or cheese? oops - out of ham - and scrambled eggs for diner? etc etc.
• but we did manage to get Organic milk at One Mart.
I don't mean to be critical of our stores here at all. They are dealing as well as they can with a crisis of unprecedented proportions.
That's it for tonight folks. Love, Elaine and John
October 27: Duelling Generators.
Well the day started well when I found out that that not only Brandon but also Winnipeg had snow today. I quickly checked Weather Underground and found that we had none in the offing. We do have some rain, however, and that meant that I was up in the middle of the night mopping up the bedroom. Although we seem to have largely stopped the door leaks (with some good luck or perhaps cunning engineering) we still have some roof problems (actually Master Bedroom floor problems). In addition, one of our windows leaks quite badly. It’s the one that has all of the taped Xs on it in the pictures I‘ve sent. The water is oozing in all over the place. I am now convinced that it was probably very close to giving way during the latter stages of Irma. That would have caused some vexation.
So, onto generators. We have a big diesel that pretends it is English, but in fact is American and was made in China. It is going “as we speak” but has been anything but trouble free. Most of the country, post-Irma, had nothing, as all of the infrastructure was destroyed. BVI Electric are claiming that about 25% of Tortola now has mains power. To fill the gap there has been a surge in petrol generator usage. They have been pouring onto the island. Almost literally. All sorts of sizes and shapes and makes. Most people don’t have a mechanical clue so a lot have broken down. Oil? What’s that for? The second-hand values will plummet as the grid is restored. Those who read these missives will remember that we bought one last week when our Chinese motor went down. We now use it during the day when the diesel needs a break. It is very noisy. They all are. Diesels are much less noisy. Father Walter, next door, has moved back into his house. It was swarming with vigorous Catholics last week who were clearing and cleaning and waterproofing. And wiring a gas generator into his system. He gets up before 6 a.m., and so does his generator. It is about twenty feet from my pillow. Nuff said. He leaves about half an hour later and turns it off. Just as the Said Apt. block generator (one of them, anyway) goes on across the road. It is about 50 feet away. It runs for a long time. It is still on at 9 a.m. today. Two days ago it ran all day. Except for half an hour when it ran out of gas. During that afternoon we also ran ours for an hour in order to catch up on housework and “stuff”. When you go to town down Hunthum’s Ghut you can hear dozens of the buggers. Father Walter usually turns his off at 9 p.m. (as he gets up early), but the Said generators sometimes go until eleven. I have a permanent headache. I guess this is progress.
Yesterday we had some successes. I got two door locks fixed that had been cattle-trucked by Irma. Our living room was easy and yielded quite quickly to my hammer. The office lock was tougher. It was an expensive lock, and people who make expensive locks have to justify the expense by making them in at least 18 pieces that are hard to get apart, and go back together with difficulty. It took us two plus hours. Got it all done once but had missed one piece. So I took it all apart again after lunch and redid it. But now we are more secure. I also took the Jeep in to get a new battery. Very satisfying result, but $170. We still need a new windscreen, a new passenger window, a new front licence plate, a new passenger wing mirror, and a piece that directs the a/c from the windscreen to the passenger compartment. I won’t bother repairing the coconut dent in the left front wing. The Paddy Wagon (Oran’s car) is in better shape but also need a passenger wing mirror and some work to make the bonnet close properly. It is missing a small bodywork panel thanks to Irma. I found it over in the priest’s garden, but before I realized what it was, it was thrown away. I doubt it will ever get fixed now.
We have been more-or-less living in our kitchen since Irma. It is the heart of the house in many ways, and was almost untouched by the floods and hurricanes. So it is kind-of womb like. We are now trying to force ourselves to clear up other spaces and live a little. The living room is now largely clear, but needs a good clean. The office is the store for everything that used to be in our bedroom, in my shed, in the office, and elsewhere. We need to move it all outside and to repack and reorganize. But not during rainy times, as, of course, our “Level Two” roof is gone. So maybe next week. Ali’s bedroom is pretty good but we need to shift some stuff out. We no longer get TV programmes, but the TV in Ali’s room is just the right size for hanging our wet towels on after we mop up the leaks.
Today I will pursue car parts again, and we may vacuum the Living Room up if I get our noisy gas generator filled up. So it’s off The Hunthum’s Ghut Gas Station for me.
October 27: Hunthum’s Ghut, Hunthum’s Ghut, never knew the size of Hunthum’s Ghut.
So I went get gas at HG Service Station (got pictures on the way). HG is our main lifeline into town. The road consists of Great Mt. Rd (at the upper end) which is a good road even by the standards of a real country. It connects with Ridge Road quite near our house. The lower ends of lots of roads on Tortola were one donkey tracks on plantations – narrow, uneven, and winding, and HG is no exception. And it hasn’t improved too much since those days of yore. It can be quite a vexing drive at the best of times. Mr Hunthum was a Dutch pirate (?)/landowner who once, I believe, thought he owned Tortola. A Ghut is a river valley but with no water in it most of the year. There are no rivers on Tortola that flow all year round. Thu water runs down HG. But tornados and hurricanes run up it. It is like a funnel. Our house is at the top of HG. This is a major reason why our house, Father Walter’s place, and the Said apt. block (and others) got mashed by Irma.
I got nearly five gallons of gas but then have to decant it into one gallon jugs so I can fill the tank without hurting my back. Unfortunately the tank had an idiot proof filler-piece in the cap to supposedly help people like me. Also unfortunately the one gallon can also had an idiot proof filler piece in it – designed by a different engineer. The twain did not meet. Now the one in the tank mouth is lost inside the tank forever, having been pushed there by the clever can filler. Hope that doesn’t matter too much.
I never knew the size of HG as you could never see it through the trees. But now it is revealed as being quite sizeable (Fig 1). The gorge further upstream is much larger. The new bridge I took this from has an open cross section of maybe 40 square feet -- 20 feet wide and two feet high. Upstream is quite sizeable, but further downstream it has been constricted by urban growth and has been forced in between the road and the buildings and the bridges (Fig 2). The old bridge in Fig. 2 has on open cross section of maybe 20 square feet. (It is not clear to me why the new bridge was built it is very close to the old one.) This whole situation can be a challenge when it rains hard. The road and the river both got badly blocked during Irma and lower HG was a disaster area with cars, and even buildings, swept away, tarmac removed, and trees and brush from upstream deposited. They are currently putting it back to exactly the way it was pre-Irma. The more things change……….
October 31: We are starting to make some slow headway.....
.... it's slow - but we mostly feel a bit better every day - except for Saturday and Saturday night when it rained - again - bucketed down - and we discovered new leaks in our bedroom roof, which as we have said before is not really a roof - but was our tiled Master bedroom floor. So on rainy nights we now sleep with towels on either side of us on the bed , to catch the drips. John seems to get more drips - actually sometimes fairly heavy drips on his side. Hmmmm - better not go there.....!!
But we found a few more leaks recently - so that was depressing. I saw our contractor in town yesterday and told him, and he promised to "pass by" as they say - which does not mean pass by and wave at us, but really means to stop by. He didn't make it - but all of the decent contractors are just in short supply - so very busy. But we gather that he has fixed up some guttering at Luck Hill , and patched up the leaking ceilings - so that was good news.
So meanwhile, the good news is that:
• our two contractors, with their hordes of guys have largely cleared both our Luck Hill property and our property of the debris i.e. - with ours - it was the remains of master bedroom, master bathroom, plus fixtures like sinks, granite counters, cabinets and toilets, furniture, bed, roof over the second level, pergola over main level etc.etc. Besides their hordes of guys, they had to hire trucks, and they came with normal chainsaws, plus extended chainsaws, plus nimble guys who could climb up the trees, with both chainsaws in hand, and saw off the huge limbs - meanwhile the hordes of guys were pulling on ropes, and another guy was directing traffic, so the trees did not land on our $20,000 generator, or our kitchen, or on our heads, or on cars. I could not watch a lot of it. And remember that our property is built on part of Great Mountain - so is spread over 3 levels. So some of these poor guys had to hump a lot of the metal, wood and other debris, plus the very wet latex mattress, plus trees, plus myriad stuff down two levels - but the good/bad news is they did not find any of my knickers or bras. Phew!! So far we have paid US$ 6,000 for the removal. But our main contractor has not submitted a bill yet for the days that his guys worked. They had to carve up the wall and roof remnants to be able to then carry them down piece by piece to the main level. I expect that withe their bill the total bill for the removal of everything will be about US$8,000 - 9,000. Hope that gives you a sense of the magnitude of the challenge across the entire BVI's as to carting away the debris - let alone getting rid of it. But getting rid of all that debris was a good psychological boost for us
• We filed our property insurance claims some weeks ago - but have not heard back yet. We think our claims were submitted reasonably early in the queue - but time will tell. We are just hoping that the insurers and re-insurers don't go belly up before they get to us
• As I said to one of my Schaffer colleagues in an email recently, John and I finally got up the emotional and physical strength a few days ago to try get started on cleaning up our - so beautiful - living room. The doors got blown open in the second eye-wall - and that led to another set of doors being blown open - and as a result there was water damage to a lot of our furniture, paintings, and prints, and leaves and branches all over the walls. I started to try to vacuum some of the walls so,e ti,e ago- and was then advised not to do so - until after the loss adjusters came in, which they did over a week ago.
So we started the clean - up. Took us a good two hours - each of us - trying to get the bloody leaves off the walls without destroying our lovely painted walls.. We did make some improvement - and while we did clean up the worst corner, I would say we have another 6 hours or so to complete the rest. I did consider paying a cleaning service to do it, but decided against it, as we have so many ornaments and other treasures from our travels, some of which are quite fragile. The good news is that my Harry Potter wand is intact. The bad news is that I tried waving the damn thing, to see if it would get the rest of the room cleaned for us. No joy!!! Where's a wizard when I need one!!
• We filed our car claim yesterday, and are in the process of getting the new windscreen, passenger window, and side mirror. And our favourite car mechanic, Smiley has agreed to fit them all.
• WE went to DMV yesterday to get a new plate to replace the one that was lost. Had to get 2 new plates with new numbers. And in the " you could not make this up" category I was given Vehicle Transfer Form to complete. Why?? Because they don't have such a thing as Lost Licence Plate form!!! I resisted the temptation to ask to use one of their computers to type up such a form for them - would have been about 5 lines. I could done that and printed off 20 of them in the time it was taking the lady on the front desk to explain how to fill in the form. And then the lady insisted that I had the wrong vehicle number on the form - so we had to go outside to get the inspector to check the number on the car dor - and I was right! Anyway, we finally got the plates.
• John spent a good hour or more vacuuming up all the glass shards which were still all over the inside of the car from the shattered passenger window. And he also vacuumed our driveway, to get rid of all the nails and glass, to avoid any more punctures
• And I should get my new Blackberry and Kindle this week - and maybe even my new laptop. ( Ditsy lady at Tortola Express finally agreed that they owed me a refund for the first laptop I ordered, since it got lost by them and not Amazon. Not the sharpest knife in the drawer, this lady.)
• And finally I am off to get my hair cut. Yay!!!! It was getting to the point that I was going to have to resort to rasta locks, braids, or a pony tail. Not a good look
That's it for now folks. Kind regards. Elaine
November 6: My first post from my new computer!!!
.. and apologies that I have not yet merged John and my email lists- so some of you will get this twice. But now that I have my own laptop, with battery - I can do that at times when the generator is off. So I will try to do that in the next day or two.
So the good news is that - bearing in mind our starting point here - we are slowly and steadily making some progress day by day - and actually finding that we have a bit more emotional and physical energy to do so. Getting my new Kindle, Blackberry and laptop gave me a big boost.
I will try to be brief - to give you a sense of the progress we are making - as well as a sense of the changes that the destruction has caused to businesses and institutions:
• we went out for dinner with Glenn, a friend of ours, on Friday night to Gene's - a favourite restaurant of ours. Our curfew these days is from 11 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. - but this was the first time we had ventured out at night since Irma, which was 8 and a half weeks ago. We had a lovely evening with Glenn and a lovely meal, as usual - Gene is a great cook, and their service is very good. The driving, which is still awful with the condition of the roads, was made worse by the fact - which we had not thought about - that most of the street lights were out - because we have no power. Which gave all the idiots who have never learned where the "turn-off high beam switch" is even before Irma, just go overboard - along with the idiots who are driving even faster than they were before. So it was an ultra-stressful drive - but a lovely evening none-the-less - and I did not have to cook. ( with the driving here, I think I will have a permanent posture leaning to the left to avoid the idiots who will crash into our car when I am in the passenger seat.
• we have now moved all of our outdoor wicker furniture that was indoors - in kitchen, office and bedroom - outdoors again and put it under a tarp, along with our wicker dining table (without the glass, of course, which is in Anegada). That has restored my kitchen to what it was before Irma - although I keep walking in there and thinking there is something missing, as there is a lot of space!!. It has also given us some more space in our bedroom, and in the office bathroom, which is where we shower, as we both prefer a walk-in shower, rather than a shower in a bathtub. It has also given us some room to try begin to bring some order to the office.
• I spent some time cleaning the office bathroom, and vacuuming all the glass shards and other crap from the tile floors. I swear we will be picking up and vacuuming up glass shards, on the floors inside and outside, for the rest of the time we are in this house. So the bathroom is almost back to normal - except for the leaves that seem to be ingrained in the walls, and around windows and doors.
• Meanwhile John spent time sorting through the remains of his treasured Dinky Toys and packing away the ones that were salvageable - with or without boxes. A hard task for him. He has also been cleaning, disinfecting and deodorizing the sofa bed in the office - which fared extremely well. And we have laundered all the sheets, duvets, blankets etc.etc that were either in the office, or our bedroom. They were not outside - but some had water damage, and we wanted everything fresh and clean
• So we are now back to eating all of our meals in our living room again, rather than in the kitchen - which is wonderful, as I don't have to work around and keep bumping into two large wicker chairs any more. We are still working on getting Eddie adjusted to eating in the living room again... will take some time. He has been as traumatized by this whole series of two cat ( sorry Eddie) 5 or 7 hurricanes plus a few tornadoes, plus a few tropical waves - lost count of how many. And why wouldn't he be? But he is now cuddling up to John on John's sofa - so that is a good sign.
• We have done humongous amounts of laundry - when we have the generator on - washing things twice or more, and then assessing what to chuck, keep as "can't really bear to -throw this out - so will just wear around the house when we don't have anyone here", and " OK, maybe no-one will notice the little hole there, or the rip here, or the little different colour there" -- well that has narrowed my extensive wardrobe down to - well let's just say a smidgeon of a wardrobe. I am still functioning with my Irma Jeans,( with long T-shirts so no-one sees the hole in the backside), my pre-Irma ripped working jeans, my grotty white shorts, and a pair of shorts that Oran left me, plus a few T-shirts. But I do have one semi-smart casual outfit, plus one other outfit, that might be acceptable if the Governor were to invite us to an event. Ha!! Sincerely hope not - although I have to say our new young Governor has actually done a fairly good job since he arrived here not long ago - and got a "baptism of fire of with Irma". Meanwhile our current inept Premier continued to be inept.
• John also spent a ton of time today cleaning one portion of our living room walls - the worst part where the wind and rain had blasted in when one door got blown open. I had already spent a few hours a number of days ago working on the same patch. Anyway, he did a good job, and also got some of his trains back in place. OK - so that was the toughest patch of our living room - that's the good news. The space we have not tackled yet is about seven times that patch. And we are starting to think that these ingrained leaves in the cement walls actually add quite a nice touch - the dark brown leaves work quite well against the yellow walls. I'd like to say a unique touch, but I was talking to my hairdresser the other day and she was talking about the different look she had lately on her walls - with leaves. Seems to be all the rage since September 6th for some reason.
• We have been interviewed for a book being done by a local author. She called tonight and wants to do a short promotional video with us in it - sort of at the scene of the crime so to speak. Jeepers!! What will I wear?? My Irma jeans of course... and my dark blue knickers..... And she wants a photo of John with the plastic cleaning caddy that saved his life when it landed on his head, and which he is keeping. She is calling our chapter Crash Helmut.
• The extent of destruction is hard to appreciate unless you are here. So far the following institutions and businesses have had to re-locate: the House of Assembly ( our parliament), the Elmore Stoutt High School (our only high school), several other schools, most of the Government offices that were formally in the Central Administration Building down by the Cruise pier, Fed-Ex, Tortola Express, Said Department store - and others too numerous to mention. So people are asking " where has XYZ moved to?"
• And tonight we got an email to say that the Loss Adjuster for our Ridge Road house wants to come and look at the property again, and seems to be ready to recommend an interim payment. Jeepers - maybe he'll bring his tape measure this time! What do you think?? If not - "the Mandrish" will be ready to loan him one of ours, plus a pen and paper. This ain't rocket-science folks - I really don't think you have to be a trained loss adjuster to do this stuff ( apologies to any of you who are loss adjusters). As one insurance agent told our good friend Christine the other day - " Claimants high ball their claims, and loss adjusters/insurers low ball the offers, and we settle somewhere in-between." And Christine - god bless her - did "a Mandrish" and looked the agent straight in the eye ( Christine has lived here for 30+ years, and I think has probably over-insured her property) and said " I have paid you over $300,000 in premiums and I have no claims, and I am submitting a very modest claim compared to what I have paid - do you get my drift!!!" Yeah for Christine. !! And I feel the same way - and if I and others are not satisfied I am prepared to try to mount a class-action suit against the insurers. I keep hearing - if they feel your property was under-insured they will pro-rate your claim down. So if I was stupid enough to over-insure my property, would they pro-rate my claim upwards?? I think not. Sorry folks - but this just seems to be a racket or a crap-shoot.
• But to finish on a more up-beat note.... it would seem that there is an emerging market from potential buyers for "fixer-upper aka Irma damaged properties." I saw a post on FaceBook BVI Community Board and have followed up. BVi -pre-Irma property was expensive. Some of the folks that seem to be looking are either young belongers with maybe a budget of US$250K or less, but there seem to be some other expats with maybe a bit more money to spend. So I have three folks that I am communicating with - to see if there is an interest in our current house i.e. selling as is. Will keep you posted.
Kind regards. Elaine. Off to cook bacon and eggs for dinner, as requested by my love.
ITV News article about the BVI's post-Irma
SURVIVING HURRICANE IRMA
See PART 1 at
See PART 2 at
See PART 3 at
SEE A COLLECTION OF AFTERMATH PHOTOS FROM THE WEB