The Betsy. October 2018
I consider myself to be a rational person. I don’t believe in fate (is it genuinely the fate of horribly poor children to die?), or karma (boy oh boy are we going through a non-karma period of history right now), or alien visitations, reports of which seemed to dry up the second everyone got camera phones.
But! One odd thing has happened to me in my whole life, and it happened in Miami, so let me tell you about it.
In 2002 I had just had a narrow escape with a nice boy, and needed to get away- in February, the greyest, worst imaginable month to be single and in the UK.
So I grabbed two girlfriends and went looking for the nearest hot weather (probably on webcrawler or something, I’m not sure we were googled up in those days), and we ended up on South Beach.
If you are single and have just turned 30, Miami is very much not a bad place to be with your girlfriends. Our very first night we decamped to the hotel bar and drank insanely strong cocktails and had the most awesome time. We got chatting to a couple of girls who said, ‘hey we work on a big yacht in the harbour and we’re having a party tomorrow night- wanna come?’ And of course we were drunk as skunks, and said, ‘sure’.
The next night we got togged up and I went on a superyacht- one of those vast floating gin palaces you see- for the very first time. There is a picture in my bedroom I treasure even though it’s an awful picture (That I had to take and get developed, by the way, at a chemist, and wait an hour for).
It’s a clutch of people milling about on deck being served by a tall curly haired man behind a makeshift bar.
The reason it’s up on my wall because it’s a picture of my husband, five seconds before we were introduced.
He wasn’t the barman, it turned out, he was the engineer. And I was just out of a long term relationship, and very much felt like a holiday fling.
The second time we met was at the Outlander on Ocean. I remember seeing his silhouette against the fishtank in the walls and realising instantly that it wasn’t a holiday fling. And I remember my first thought being “Oh CRAP this is going to be wildly inconvenient.”
Andrew is from New Zealand (the literal furthest point in the world from Scotland, where I’m from), a ship’s engineer, hilariously funny, unbelievably hot and, astoundingly, he was into me too. He drove me down to the Florida keys; we danced to a country band in a roadside tavern in Key Largo. I had never been so happy. Oh, and by the way, did I want to extend my holiday and cross the Atlantic with the boat?
Can you IMAGINE when I called my parents? My mother thought I’d been kidnapped. My last boyfriend had been a posh banker. This was not on her agenda at all. Everyone else thought I’d turned 30 and just lost my goddam mind.
I didn’t care. I was extremely busy falling in love. If you can spend four weeks sharing a tiny cabin bed with someone, by the way, you get to know them pretty well, pretty fast. And hey, if you also stop off at Bermuda and Gibraltar en route, so much the better.
We finally came into land in Antibes, on the Cote D’Azur in France, and as the boat slipped in to port in a soft pink sunset, I thought I had never seen anywhere so beautiful, and wondered who on earth was lucky enough to live there.
We ended up living there for seven years, and our three beautiful and ridiculously tall children are bilingual, french and english, and bi national, Scottish and Kiwi. We now live in a beautiful part of Scotland, and sixteen years on he is still the handsomest, funniest, kindest man I’ve ever known.
Okay, are you ready for the odd bit?
When me and my girlfriends woke up the morning after we’d met the girls who’d invited us to the yacht party, we dismissed it.
Hey, we couldn’t remember their names, or what the boat was called, they were pretty drunk too and probably didn’t mean it, there were a million boats there, and hey ho, who cares. It was a sunny day in Miami, and back in London it was raining stair rods. We just grabbed our towels and headed to the beach.
You know South Beach; you’re there right now (you lucky lucky thing). It is miles and miles and miles long. It is absolutely rammed with people, thousands of them, all day every day, with every conceivable activity going on.
The odds of those same two girls walking past us on the beach that day, recognising us, and coming over to re-iterate their invitation, writing it down, and absolutely INSISTING that we come… well. Those odds are, when I look at my children, absolutely terrifyingly small.
So. You can see why I love Miami so much. I was finishing up a book this autumn, and I couldn’t imagine anywhere I’d rather be, and the gorgeous Betsy hotel, one of the nicest places in the world, kindly offered me their Writer’s Room for a couple of days to finish it, and I couldn’t be more grateful- the book is called The Bookshop on the Shore, the hotel is in the acknowledgements for helping me finish it, and even though it is set in chilly old Scotland, as with all my romantic novels, my happy times in Miami are in every single line.
Posted with permission from the guest.