It might have been the fact that it was a rainy British day in August, the kind when the grey sky is a low ceiling and it's hard to see beyond the rivulets of water that run down the windscreen, but I'm still not sure she should have said it.
'You're living in a dream world out there you know,'
I stared blankly ahead. I wasn't sure how to respond because we'd been here before. This was the now familiar one way conversation that always started with you-don't-know-how-lucky-you-are and involved lots of uncomfortable silences on my part, or, if I was feeling brave, accounts of people I knew, expats mostly, who'd found Caribbean life tough, tricky, challenging. But they weren't my experiences. I wouldn't dare. I was really lucky. Didn't I know that?
Most of the time, yes. Like today when the deep blue sky is so vivid, so cloudlessly bright like we're on the edge of the world, a whisper away from the sun. Always being able to see the sea, sparkling - from a distance - merging into the sky and then pool-clear when you're close, it's coral, rock and tiny fish not myseries clouded by the sea of home, the dark, rough navy of the English Channel, but gems displayed on a bed of white velvet sand.
Yes, today it feels like a dream world, driving along the narrow country road that cuts through two strips of colour. The shiny green of the sugar cane field, tall slender grasses catching light on their tips against the sky, the sky so bright it's unreal, like a projected colour. A reverie.
Getting out of the car the silence hits me with a hot blast of air. A tall row of palms, spiky like the scales of a dinosaur's back, cuts through the field, and creates a grand driveway for the plantation house. The dilapidated grey rooves and industrial chimneys of the sugar factory below are a smear on the landscape, a motionless reminder of a dying industry that was once the lifeblood of this place. We walk across the lane, hot stone beneath our sandalled feet, leaves above us, shimmering in the sun.
What sort of dream is this? It's vastly different to my life in the UK - in so many ways. Unimagined. Unexpected. But real too. Like a groundhog day in paradise. Where the backdrop - of bright sunlight and clear skies and dramatic burnt orange sunsets over the warm sea - feels like a canvas, a stark contrast to the palpable rush of reality. Because real life is the constant rhythm of school runs and traffic and shopping and cooking and making friends, and friends leaving and sick kids and grumpy kids and difficult emotions and missing family and familarity and friends and England. And waking up to the sound of an alarm. And bird song.
At the weekend my older daughter invited two of her friends for a sleepover. We drove from school to the Tiki beach Bar and they hung out in the warm, turquoise sea, drinking mango smoothies. Later, I walked them back along the beach in the dark. And as they chatted and laughed and planned their midnight feast, the waves lapping at their feet, the stars above us were like shining nuggets of gold on a map. Little gifts reminding us where we were. Teaching us about life.
Do I live in a dream world? Yes, and no. Some days my reality is better than my dreams. And others it's hard to believe where I am, who I'm with, that life has taken me here. My life is what it is in the Caribbean - not better, not worse, just different. Just making up the varied patchwork that will become a history one day. A history made up of dreams and realities, bad luck and good luck. A life. And for that, I am truly thankful.