Words: John Worsey
I recently returned from a trip to paradise. We tracked down a too-good-to-be-true deal on an all-inclusive holiday to St Lucia, in the Caribbean. So good, in fact, that the rep we phoned to make our booking put us on hold to make sure she wasn’t about to bankrupt the company.
Without wanting to make your toes curl with envy, I can confirm the images you see of St Lucia – impossibly blue waters, improbably golden beaches, ludicrously luscious flora, and sun, sun, sun – are entirely representative of the holiday we’ve just had.
Anyway, I’m not writing to brag about my wonderful life – I’m every bit as cold and irritable as everyone else after a few days back at work.
No, what I want to reflect on is a provocative question from the flight home. I was supposed to be interviewing a Portsmouth business for this edition of Southsea Lifestyle, but that had fallen through. Instead, deadline looming, my wife suggested, “How about a comparison between two islands – Portsmouth and St Lucia?”
I must admit my gut response was, “No contest!” But the more I thought about it, the more I realised there are points of comparison. Similarities which, I’m pretty sure, are down to our respective stature as islands.
Standing on a sun kissed St Lucian beach, it’s easy to believe your deity of choice exists. But as I tried to stroll away the jet lag on Southsea seafront, I realised that it’s only familiarity that blunts the impact of our own coastline. Sure, it’s pebbly, breezy, and significantly colder in the water. Yet it’s still a vista that, if you look at it anew, gives you a sense of space, peace and perspective.
Outside of the glitzy resort we stayed in, St Lucia is a humble place. It’s got its problems. Life is not easy, and the choice of careers is far from abundant. Yet its people seem to share an unshakable, genuine warmth. The closer you look, the more evidence you see of entrepreneurial spirit at every turn. Everybody finds a way to smile through their problems. And when the weekend comes, forget your troubles – it’s time to go out and let your hair down.
Island life can sound isolating to someone who’s never lived it. But in my experience of Portsmouth and of St Lucia alike, there’s something healthy about being surrounded by water. No, we’re not Winchester, and we’ll probably never have their wealth. But what we do have is love for where we live, even when it’s shabby.
A keenness to take chances, born of having to build bridges. And the ability, no matter how tough our week has been, to go out and reclaim the fun.
As I found when I moved to Southsea in 2010, there’s a welcoming spirit here. It doesn’t have the novelty of a holiday abroad, but there’s a lot to love about our island. Next time an old friend tells me how tired they are of London, I’m tempted to send them a postcard: “Wish you were here?”
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