This keeps on happening out here. In Tobago, a long thin island with rolling plantations taken over by mass tourism at one end, rugged mountains and lonely fishing villages at the other, I could see myself driving into the capital, Scarborough, saying hello to Norman Parkinson in his little café in the town centre. I would imagine driving up and down that winding coast road. In Trinidad, large and ugly though much of Port of Spain is, I wondered at living in the suburbs and joining the commute into town, with weekends hiking in the forests or exploring the north coast beaches. Even in Jamaica, which has a lot of rough edges, there were places I felt at home. More so than in Africa, I felt I could actually live in these places, join in with the community, rather than locked away in some compound or waited on by servants.
It became hard for me to remember my emotions on that first visit to St Lucia, or the sarcastic comments from my colleagues about me “going on another holiday” out to one of the islands. One of the project managers in Chatham had to go through my receipts on my return, and she got particularly miffed when she saw I had dined at Basil’s Bar, best in Mustique. Of course I had actually dined in the Kingstown version below the Cobblestone Inn, but she never believed me. But with names like Martinique, Antigua, Barbados, Tobago, Jamaica, they evoke the typical tourist image; swaying palm trees, crystal clear turquoise waters, bright white sandy beaches and lot of rum. What I found, as I had found elsewhere in the world, was that the true Caribbean is a mix of this (yes, there is a lot of those kind of places around) and a whole series of other images, high mountains, volcanos, sugar cane, bananas, fishing villages, spices, and of course, the wonderful people. And yet there is still this overriding feeling of living on the edge, and the pockets of poverty are as bad as the worst in Africa or Asia.