Smoke & Mirrors: A Caribbean holiday from hell

A disastrous Caribbean holiday sans girlfriend turns the comms chief into an unlikely advocate of a disability-friendly workplace

by Guy Browning
Last Updated: 26 Sep 2014


I'm catching a flight to St Lucia with my Brazilian girlfriend, Conception. I've learned from bitter experience to take my holiday immediately after our bewigged CEO, Linton Spivey, gets back from his. Every time he passes through an airport he buys a business book. Without reading it he then inflicts the title on the company as a new management paradigm: pyramid, chaos, swan, blink, sweat, cheese - we've had them all. I've also very cleverly managed to miss a meeting with our gorgeous head of diversity, Celeste Nibelle. She wants to make Smokehouse more disabled-friendly. As our main business is selling surgical appliances you'd have thought we'd be well ahead on that but, to be honest, we don't really have a leg to stand on. Just as I boarded the flight I got a text from Spivey: 'It's all about agility.' Damn.


Now in very tasty health resort with a lot of yoga and wellness stuff. Conception was turned back at immigration because of some kind of international arrest warrant. I would have stayed with her but I had a spa treatment booked. I also pointed out that her detention was a minor irritation compared with Brazil's 7-1 humiliation in the World Cup. Am now effectively single so signed up for my first yoga class, which involved stretching things I didn't know I had. Not sure I get yoga. It seems to be a slow-motion tour of Kama Sutra positions without a partner. Gave up halfway through Downward Facing Dog and warmed down in the beach bar with Upward Facing Cocktail.


Disaster. I was running on the beach during 'beach boot camp' following a tidy little number in extremely motivational running shorts when I heard a bang and my leg gave way. I fell into the sea and nearly drowned, which would have been richly comic if it had happened to someone else. I was pulled out, and fortunately the contents of the motivational shorts was an orthopaedic surgeon from Glasgow. She told me I'd ruptured my Achilles tendon. Quickest service I've ever had on the NHS. Went to the local hospital where they very quickly scanned my credit card and then immobilised me for the flight home. Had a lovely moment when I was wheeled out of the health resort just as some Americans were arriving. I shouted: 'Never again!', which I thought was funny until my porter deliberately wheeled me over 50 yards of cobbles.


Dream come true. I am in seat 1A on the flight back. Insisted on an upgrade to first class for medical reasons. Only drawback was that I couldn't manage the steps up to the plane and had to be loaded through the catering truck. For one nasty moment I thought I was going straight into cargo. Good service on the flight but the oldest trolley dollies seemed to be in first. Surely it should be the other way round? Low point was trying to go to the loo on one leg. Was expecting someone to assist me but no one seemed very keen. Disappointing. If you're in first you expect a higher level of service. Lovely flat bed and duvet. There's even a tuck-in service. I asked for a good-night kiss and they said the purser would be along in a moment. Very funny.


Straight to local A&E to get plastered and not in a nice way. Am now on crutches for six weeks so got a taxi to work. Then had the greatest difficulty actually getting into the office. Trying to get through the revolving door on crutches I felt like a giraffe in a blender. We then had 15 steps up to reception that I'd never noticed before and now had to negotiate on my bottom. Embarrassing conversation with our leading customer halfway up. I managed to blurt out 'Help for Heroes' and hope that covered everything. Finally got to my office an hour later bathed in sweat and utterly humiliated. Spivey and Celeste were waiting in my office and arguing about agility and accessibility. Hauled myself into my chair, calmed them down and said we needed to ramp up both.

Guy Browning can be contacted at

Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime

Could coronavirus lead to gender equality?

Opinion: Enforced home-working and home-schooling could change the lives of working women, and the business...

Mike Ashley: Does it matter if the public hates you right now?

The Sports Direct founder’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has drawn criticism, but in the...

4 films to keep you sane during the coronavirus lockdown

Cirrus CEO Simon Hayward shares some choices to put things in perspective.

Pandemic ends public love affair with Richard Branson et al

Opinion: The larger-than-life corporate mavericks who rose to prominence in the 80s and 90s suddenly...

The Squiggly Career: How to be a chief strengths spotter

When leading remotely, it's more important than ever to make sure your people spend their...

"Blind CVs don't improve your access to talent"

Opinion: If you want to hire socially mobile go-getters, you need to know the context...