In March 2003 My wife and I went to live on a small island in the Indian Ocean. We stayed there for a year of tropical delights and frustrations.
As a break from fiction – and to help maintain my sanity in the midst of a strange culture – I wrote a series of emails to folks at home…
—– Original Message —–
To: Undisclosed Recipients
Sent: Monday, March 31, 2003 3:46 PM
Subject: don’t worry, it rains here too…
…but it’s a different kind of rain. The rain comes down (OK, in that way
it’s similar to other types of rain) but if you were smart enough to use an
umbrella, the force exerted is enough to close it tightly over your head and
keep it there until you are run over by a truck driver whose wipers can’t
keep up with the fresh water lake that unexpectedly appeared on his
Luckily, most Road Traffic Accidents here are not fatal and a couple of
bottles of local beer in the A & E department soon put you right.
If you’ve chosen to wear a rain coat (Not smart) the water bounces up
underneath it and you drown in about three seconds. Not a great way to go
I can assure you, as I’ve died twice in that manner already and did not come round
again until I’d had four local beers. I discovered too late that the state
refuses to pay for such expensive treatments and spent the next week
sluicing out bedpans in our nearby hospital.
Seychelles rain creeps up on you and there’s no way to prepare for it. A
cloudless sky, temperatures comparable to the north pole of the sun, you’ve
got your factor infinity on and wham, you’re up to your neck in water. You
look up. No clouds.
Actually, the safest way to deal with the rain is to stay in your favourite
hospital, preferably one that has a variety of good quality beer on tap.
It’s no use watching the weather forecast either. For a start it’s in Creole
and that’s fine for the locals but everyone said to me before we left ‘Oh,
Creole, yeah. Simple. It’s just like French.’
This is what the weather forecast is like. There’s a very plump lady (I
don’t want to use the word fat here but we’re talking plump, as in there may
be satellites orbiting her) of local extraction wearing a thick pair of
spectacles and swaying either because she’s drunk or her legs are about to
She’s superimposed onto a weather chart that has no map; The only thing we
know is that we’re somewhere in the middle of the Indian ocean and everyone
else on Earth has forgotten we exist. All there is, is a list of
temperatures and icons representing different types of weather. Except there
is no weather here – there’s just a climate and there’s only one type of
icon. Somewhat counter-intuitively, a little picture of the sun.
The forecast itself is made up of a little sun icon and a temperature always over
32 degrees Celsius. Sometimes it’s 33, sometimes 32.5 or 32.3. You get the
idea. The woman sways in and out of our view of the chart alternately
eclipsing and uneclipsing the fact that today is hot, tomorrow is hot, the
next day will be hot.
“wubba zubba zoo, Ze buzza wuzza. BO WA ZABBA! Buzza wuzza zee.” she says.
Yeah, just like French.
She sweats at you, on the point of keeling over and then SBC (Seychelles
Broadcasting Corporation!) cut to the war in Iraq, bringing you sharply back
to reality or something like it. Who wants to watch a war when you’re in
paradise? You put your factor infinity on, you go for a walk to buy some
more exploding baked beans because actually they taste quite good and wham,
you’re up to your neck in water.
You swim to the hospital just in case.
I did an experiment the other day. I wore no sunscreen (going against the
advice of the guy in that song) and went for a walk to get some
baked beans. Three minutes later I was in hospital with sunstroke.
Strangely, the remedy for sunstroke is the same as that for Road Traffic
Accidents and drowning. The doctor said I was lucky and I had to agree – they’d served the beer at exactly the right temperature.
You can only visit the hospital so many times in two weeks. I didn’t want
them to get suspicious so I put my sunscreen on to walk home and
wham…Well, you know the rest.
I wouldn’t want anyone to infer from this that I’ve got too much time on my
hands. Au contraire, (that’s what real French sounds like, by the way) not