“Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone) in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize.

It’s probably the case for most of us that we don’t fully appreciate how fortunate we are until something horrible happens.

Now I know that I have had and continue to have a great life. I had a wonderful Mum and Dad. I have a loving (and loved) Sister. I’ve got fantastic nieces and nephews. A few friends that I know would be ‘there’ if I ever needed them. And if that were not enough I’ve got Rose as my wife and best friend.

But my good fortune goes beyond this. I worked in an industry that I loved. I had colleagues that I admired and trusted. Apart from a brief period of illness when I contracted tuberculosis (I ‘blame a visit to Hong Kong for that) I’ve enjoyed an illness free life.

Enough for anybody. But no, it’s gets better because when Rose and I first visited Ambergris Caye sixteen years ago we decided, no, we determined, that one day we would live here and call this place home and we set about taking the steps that would enable us to realise this ambition. And we did just over two years ago when we left the UK to realise our dream.

Now very often during my ‘me time’ in the early morning (you know, out on the veranda with my mug of black coffee and the iPad) I do occasionally pause to think about how lucky I am. I mean, there’s not a day goes by that I do not enjoy. Yes, even when painting the fence or weeding the garden.

When you can have breakfast with a view like this


and watch the sun go down


why wouldn’t you be happy!

But on Monday morning these passing thoughts took on a new nature. They gained real meaning when I read about the fire that broke out in Conch Shell Street the previous night and ravaged this area of Boca Del Rio.

My thoughts immediately turned to Lloyd and his family. Lloyd, frequent readers of this blog will know, has done quite a lot of work for us (landfill, garden clearance, building our dock, moving Gunner) and we’ve become quite friendly with him.


Lloyd and I when moving Gunner to its new home.

I wanted to know if Lloyd and his family were OK but didn’t want to disturb him unnecessarily so sent him a text. Around ten minutes later he ‘phoned me. They were all OK but their apartment, and everything (and I mean everything) in it had been destroyed by the fire. The wooden two floor apartment building had been razed to the ground.


Where Lloyd’s home stood until Sunday evening.


The building immediately east of his old home.

And to the west of him was the same level of devastation.



I didn’t catch up with Lloyd until yesterday – understandably he had been very busy – when we met at Estel’s. He’d lost everything apart from his boats (he needs these for his work) and his golf cart but he still had a smile on his face. “Nobody was hurt” he said, “That’s the main thing”.

By the time we saw each other he’d found new accommodation. Much, much smaller than his previous apartment but in the same street. He’d also got clothes for his family and a stove.

He’s got lots, lots more to get but hadn’t quite worked out what. “You don’t know what you got till it’s gone” he said. Lloyd’s a grafter though and he’s got loads of people that like him and will want to help him out.

Sitting there with Lloyd who’d lost everything was a sharp reminder of just how fortunate I am. I’d always thought I was. But now I know. I really know.

The community, as always, has rallied around to help the needy with a clothes and food bank being set up at the Lions Club premises in Barrier Reef Drive the day immediately following the fire. And yesterday a telethon/radiothon was held on Reef TV/Radio with donations being taken to the studio in Pescador Drive or given to the people collecting around the ‘Town.

When I saw Lloyd he had just passed the people with the collection buckets and he’d put in BZ$ 10.I think he’s so used to helping the needy that he forgot that on this occasion he is one of the people they were collecting for! A genuinely nice guy.

The headline for today’s edition is based on the single released in 1988 by Cinderella which reached number twelve in the US Billboard Hot 100.


  1. kristina nadreau says:

    thank you for the reminder

    1. More than welcome Kristina.

  2. Kris says:

    Hi John – back In America – it was good to see you and Rose again. Planning on coming back in November with my wife for our 25th!

    Seems you keep up with Lloyd well, and he didn’t quote our garden wall b/c of all the commotion he has faced in his life very recently. We’d appreciate you passing along my contact info to continue the dialogue and get a quote from him. Me thinks the best he can do for his family is to get right back in the trench…Feel free to share our info.


    1. Hi Kris. Good to see you again and to share a few beers. We’re both looking forward to meeting your wife in November.
      Does Lloyd know exactly what you want? Next time I see him I will give him your email address. Best John

  3. woof4treats says:

    If Ron and I can help out Lloyd’s family please let me know. We can bring an extra suitcase full of things in May no problem. We are here to help out.

    1. That is very nice of you Kathy.

  4. Jane says:

    We, too, had two close friends suffer in the fire, John. Both of them, and their families, are doing well as they didn’t have the total destruction that your friend, Lloyd, did. But their apartments were heavily affected with smoke and water damage.
    We’re so grateful for their resilient spirits, and we feel as blessed as you and Rose that we have all we need for a joyful life!

    1. They are remarkably resilient Jane. But that’s one of the things that attracted Rose and I to this place when we first came here just six weeks after Hurricane Mitch hit the island. The people just showed a spirit that could only be admired.

  5. Paul Cloutier says:

    The title of the song says it well ! We all tend to take things for granted.

    1. Until you see or experience something horrible at close quarters. Then you realise.

  6. What a lovely story about Lloyd. He must have a great heart to “forget” his family was one of the recipients of the money collected.

    1. He is a really nice guy Marsa. Before our container arrived he offered us the use of the TV he had in his boys’ bedroom. He really didn’t know us that well at the time either.

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