Hope for the best, prepare for the worst: 24 hours on a family vacation in Antigua

4am: “Just another day in paradise,” I say in an American accent as I open the curtains to a view of pink-tinged clouds hovering over a still Caribbean sea. My three children and husband are asleep downstairs, so I can use whatever accent I like without being judged. My eldest is 11 and harsh but fair in her appraisal of my abilities. “Mum, it’s not that you can’t sing, it’s that you don’t sing well,” was yesterday’s slight.

Before coming away, I vowed to rise early each day of our ‘holiday of a lifetime’ in Antigua to work on a novel. It’s to be a rom-com set here, in the glorious St James Club. Today is day 10, and the first I’ve got up to write. I go to retrieve my laptop from the safe, but the key won’t turn in the lock. I try over and over to open it until I’m sweating. And I’ve nobody to share my panic with…

“What do you mean you locked your valuables in the safe?” says my sister—when it’s 4am in the Caribbean, it’s 9am at home. “Isn’t that what a safe is for?”

“Yes, but I fiddled with the lock yesterday. I’ve fucked it. And our passports are in there, we won’t be able to fly home.”

“You’re not flying home today.”

“I know but imagine if we were …”

She hangs up. Of course, I can’t tell her the reason I’m distraught is that I was finally going to make a start on my novel. She’d tell me to pick up a notebook.

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