I think the Caribbean is a gorgeous place to go on holiday. Hardly a controversial sentence, I’ll grant you, but there it is. While there recently, partly to take in a bit of local atmosphere, I read Marlon James’ Man Booker prize-winner, A Brief History of Seven Killings, which is largely set in Jamaica. In that book things generally turn out so badly that if that’s where we’d have been headed I think I might have wanted to turn around and fly home as soon as possible. But then I suppose I should have figured from the title that it wasn’t a feel-good read. (BTW, it isn’t brief and there are more than seven killings.)
Instead, we were going to Antigua, as were – inevitably – a bunch of cruise ships. I’ve witnessed this phenomenon before; the Caribbean cruise and the tourist trade it generates. What must that bit be like? Every port you stop at, you probably think ‘the shops in the malls here will be better than at the last place’. Actually, they won’t. They will be disappointingly the same; tediously so if you try more than three or four with what will assuredly transpire to be falsely renewed hopes. After all, there are only so many Rolex knock-offs you can look at.
On the other hand, there was the resort, the Jumby Bay Hotel. The name sounds kind of naff but the reality is spectacular. Literally, a small paradise island. Littorally, a small paradise island. I’m not a great one for beaches – too much sand getting into everything – but they do look aesthetically magnificent in conjunction with the Caribbean waters, and for reading on a lounger and a spot of swimming one can always hang around the infinity pool, which is appropriate in that at times you wish your holiday could go on forever.
Mind you, there are dangers in paradise. Whether it’s anecdotal, apocryphal or accurate, apparently around 150 people a year are killed by falling coconuts. When it comes to beach-related activities in exotic climates, a shark attack is statistically the least of your worries. The danger lies not the excess of pina coladas wrecking your mind, it’s the damn things falling out of a tree and doing your head in. So don’t only take a cap, best to pack a helmet as well. Or at least be careful where you sunbathe.
In parts the setting was reminiscent of a Greek island: the myriad shades of blue in the sea, the white sand and white parasols. But a huge difference between Greece and the Caribbean is that the latter never looks parched. A regular supply of sustaining rain water, conveniently most often delivered at night, gives Caribbean islands a luxuriant verdancy. They are magical.
Of course, the holiday could not go on forever. If it did, it wouldn’t be a holiday. And, as Joe Strummer put it, there was London calling…