Trouble In Paradise

0 Posted by - 13/05/2015 - wanders

The sun beats down hard from a blue and cloudless sky making it far too hot for body contact, but Thomas curls himself like a cat in my lap and lays his head on my chest.   I am instantly transported to a different time, 7 years and 2 weeks ago to be precise, in this exact same place – a boat, speeding between Belize City and the Caribbean Island of Caye Caulker. I glance at the seats we sat in then, two places from where I sit now. Back then it was Claus holding the child. I don’t remember who’s; a little local who crawled into his lap. Babies and children knew. They could see straight through the tattoos to the massive, kind heart beating in his chest.


So I sit cradling our boy, my chin resting on his head, and stare hard at the wash behind the boat. Inside, I’m imploding. Like the controlled demolition of an abandoned tower block, my heart is crashing down on itself. Because it’s just. so. fucking. unfair. that a man who could so readily accept a stranger’s child into his arms never got to hold his own.

There are so many memories here that the dust barely settles between the detonations. I ask myself why I have embarked on this masochistic quest to trace our footsteps. I could (literally) be anywhere in the world. I don’t have to put myself through this….

But then I lift my head to speak to Thomas. I tell him “Your dad and I were on this boat. We sat right there and daddy held a little baby on his lap. He loved babies and babies loved him.” Thomas cocks his head to the side as he takes this new information in. He asks me questions and learns a little more about the father he never met, and so it’s worth it. All the ‘implosions’ and trying to feckin’ keep it together are worth it.


I am pleased to find Caye Caulker essentially unchanged. Sure it’s grown. There are new buildings and more golf buggies, more tour companies than I remember, even a little coffee shop that claims to be a starbucks, but it feels about the same. The people are instantly welcoming, even more so now that I have a child in tow. By the second day, people call out our names as we cycle around. “Miss Tarnya! Thomas, my man! How you doin’?”




The little boy who stuck to me like a limpit and tried to use my back as an island when we snorkeled not so long ago tells me “It’s OK mum, you don’t need to come in, I can go on my own” and splashes off into the crystal blue.


He squeals excitedly at the vibrant world below and tries to shout the names of fish through his snorkel. I’m reminded of a teacher’s comment on my report card – ‘Tarnya could talk underwater with a mouth full of sand’. I guess it’s no surprise my son is a chatterbox!


There is a LOT of snorkel-squealing and some serious limpet-ing when we enter the water with sharks and rays, but he soon finds his confidence.


Back on dry land, we cycle bare-foot on roads made of sand. We dine on local specialties (conch, fry-jacks, coconut bread!) and settle down to watch ‘vital’ (a local description) sunsets.





It does feel a lot like last time.
There is a bit less sunburn, a lot less alcohol and a gaping void where Claus should be, but Caye Caulker still feels like paradise.


  • kate @ livinglovinglaughing

    oh tarnya. what a post. Firstly… it is terribly, terribly. forever unfair. Im just so sorry Claus is not there, every day :( You are just so brave, to retrace these steps, to navigate these minefields so that Thomas can know and feel closer to the Dad who would have loved him so much. Heartwrenching, beautiful stuff. You amaze me, woman!! On a lighter note. I am in love with this island and want to go there ASAP! wow. wow!! so gorgeous!!! so quirky and colourful. Just stunning. Will add it to my list xx

    • Thanks Kate. I only look brave on paper. I’m a blubbing mess in real life :)
      Let me know when you are heading to Caye Caulker and we will meet you there. Thomas was dreaming up all kinds of schemes to enable us to be able to stay there forever!

  • Naomi Bulger

    This is heartbreaking and happy and beautiful and wrong all in one. Thank you for sharing and kudos to you for braving and reliving for the sake of your beautiful boy. I hope it was a healing time for you, too. x

  • Georgia Sutton

    Oh wow! This is the first time I have read your blog. What a stunning, bittersweet post. What an incredible journey you two are taking.
    I am off to read more of your wonders.

  • Dawn Rieniets

    What a beautiful story with stunning descriptions- I felt like I was there! Wishing you lots of love and memories on your journey.

  • This is so beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing such a vulnerable, painful and beautiful moment. xx

  • Wow, I really felt as though I was right there with you. Beautiful writing. Thankyou.

  • Andrea Sunderland

    My heart was in my throat reading that. You know, Brian’s dad died when Brian was barely 10. There was rarely ever any mention of his father after that day. As hard – as ridiculously hard – as this is for you to be in all these places without the man you love, Thomas will be so grateful to you, for sharing a piece of his dad with him. He will grow up feeling like he knows his dad, that he knows his soul and gosh that’s important. And maybe when Thomas grows up and finds someone to love, he’ll be able to speak about his dad to that person in vibrant detail, because his mum – that’s you lovely – made the effort to keep his dad’s memory alive. Seriously. I thank you for doing this. It hurts me so much to know that Brian only has a few memories with his dad even though they had 10 years together because they just weren’t kept alive through stories and talk. It’s just SO important. Love to you and Thomas xx

    • Thanks you for your lovely comment Andrea.
      Shortly after Claus died (I was 10 weeks pregnant) a well-meaning stranger told me “It’s OK, you could meet someone else who will raise your baby like his own and he will never know any different”. I was shocked at the suggestion and told her that even if I met someone else tomorrow I would go to every effort to make sure my son ‘knew’ his father.
      Claus also lost a parent when young (his mother when he was nine). He was ‘sheltered’ from the loss by family members and never really recovered from the loss. I am so determined to do things differently, even if it means a struggle for me.

  • You are brilliant at taking photos. You really captured the spirit of this place. How beautiful and sad all at the same time to share this with your son. No wonder your heart feels like imploding. Thank you for sharing this lovely post, full of love and memories. I think it’s such a gift for your son to keep hearing stories about dad.
    I also love that your son is doing my FAVOURITE thing in the world. Snorkelling! YES!