The new adventures of KT

One month ago we left Bermuda and returned home to UK.

I have bought a new pair of wellingtons and started a new blog:

pinkbikegreengrass.wordpress.com 

KT

 

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So long and thanks for all the fish! 

So long and thanks for all the fish!  
It is edging towards the end of November and my birthday. I am in a reflective mood because our Bermuda adventure is coming to a close. A few weeks yet before we leave the island, but close enough that I have been stocktaking to ensure we have just enough of the essentials before we sell the car. (wine, bread, marmite, toothpaste and loo rolls – anything else? )
To say I will miss Bermuda is an unfathomable understatement, but I am also looking forward to “going home”.


When we first arrived on island the commonest question was “Where are you from?”, one I found hard to answer – a while back we had sold the family home in Farnham, downsizing to a small home in the Buckinghamshire countryside, but due to a London-working life we had spent less than 100 days living in that house and so it didn’t feel as if I was “from” that area at all. But neither was I “from” London, though work found me anchored there midweek. My answer developed into “from UK, the south mainly”. In time it was asked less and less. But now, when people learn we are leaving Bermuda the question crops up again in the form “Where are you going? Where is home?” I still don’t know how to answer!
The truth is, we haven’t decided. The statement on the Bermuda flag would fit well – Quo fata ferrunt.

Whither the fates carry us.

Yes, that’s where we are going.


The next adventure is around the corner and it could be anywhere. Currently neither of us have work to go to and that is a strange feeling. Far too much energy to “retire” so we shall see what crops up and take it from there.
Without getting maudlin I was considering what it is about Bermuda that I will miss – in no particular order:
Tree frogs – even the one that sits outside our bedroom window squeaking loudly all night long. I have found a recording of Silent Night set to a background of tree frogs and Robert has made an audio clip of the Somers Hill frogs – not sure when or if we might play this, a dinner party perhaps?

Blue skies – with small fluffy clouds falling over themselves right in front of you

The colour of the sea – indescribable, as many shades of blue as there are words for Eskimo snow

22mph – In UK I am going to be one of those annoying women who drive along at 50mph in the middle lane of the motorway; no, not 50, far to fast.

Bermudian accents – hard to explain, but now I have lived here I would recognise one – a softish mix of American English and Elizabethan English with a shake of Caribbean.

Swimming and snorkelling and the fish – we have seen just about all of the fish on the ID card they sell at the Aquarium and have some pretty cool photos of many of them, including the Eagle Ray we spotted last week.

Having my shopping packed for me – I can see myself forgetting this does’t happen in Sainsbury’s.

Serviced gas stations – for my English friends this means not having to get out of the car when you fill up with petrol, and they clean your windscreen too.

Food at Angelo’s – this week I had a Crepe MonteCarlo and it was absolutely delicious!

Verdmont – where I learned how to be a docent and met many lovely people

Sitting in the warm sun and reading all day long

Twice weekly rubbish collections – yes, I mean two times each week, not every other week as in UK

Peas and rice – which is not green peas but purple beans and rice

Pink – kayak, bike, sand

There are some things I shan’t miss – mopeds everywhere, quirky road junctions, cassava pie, humid days, power cuts, sand in the car (and just about everywhere else too), tipping (just because I cannot calculate 17.5% so usually overdo it), co-pays at the doctors, salted codfish and potatoes, unreliable internet, the cost of everything; but even reading through this list I wonder if any of them really bothered me, they just add to the memories.
I have taken over 4000 photographs, written 150 or so blogposts with 13,000+ visitors (to my blog, not to my home!) and have thousands of memories.
And one day, I may come back, you never know.
Quo fata ferrunt!

Walking Bermuda

Now the weather has cooled down a little we have been getting out for some walks.

The most important was the PKD walk along South Shore beaches to raise money for research into Polycystic Kidneys. I hear there are 17 families with ADPKD on the island which places quite a demand on the island’s renal services. it was the first walk for PKD that I have done, but won’t be the last – they happen in UK as well. Beautiful weather, friendly company and not too long – brilliant for first walk of my walking season.

Bermuda PKD Walk 2015

Bermuda PKD Walk 2015

Halfway point for PKD walk

Halfway point for PKD walk

Our next walk was Coopers Island, the old NASA observation station at the end of St David’s Island. On a Sunday afternoon we found it deserted, had the beach to ourselves.

A Sailing Boat on a reach around the end of the island

A Sailing Boat on a reach around the end of the island

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Looking back towards St David’s from Coopers Island

This is all for a purpose – my walking boots are coming out from under the bed back home.  So I need some practice.  One of my Bermuda friends who “went back home” earlier this year has begun walking around the coast of Britain – in stages over time, she’s not completely nuts – and as I may have said before in this blog, I am competitive – so if she can do it then so can I ….. (might live to regret saying that)

Last weekend we continued the East End explorations and started at Ferry Point. This is where the ferry took people from St George’s across to the mainland before the causeway was built in 1871. The gap between Ferry Point and Coney Island was bridged by the Railway Line in the 1940s but today it is rough parkland surrounding ruins of 3 forts and one impressive Martello Tower, built in 1820s by a Major Thomas Blanchard.  Apparently it was restored in 2008 and for a period was open to the public – sadly no longer so.

We took the path from Whalebone Bay keeping close to the edge of the bay itself, an overgrown footpath coming off the Railway Trail.

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Despite having fallen in the hurricane, the casuarina tree stubbornly grows in a sideways reorientation

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Military cemetery for the Queen’s Royals, 1864

The military cemetery to the side of the trail  – 18 graves of soldiers from the Second Battalion of the Queen’s Royal (West Surrey) Regiment.  That regiment was first raised in 1661 to protect Tangiers, becoming one of the senior regiments in the British Army.  The regimental history  doesn’t say what they were doing in Bermuda in 1860s, but sadly they fell to the outbreak of yellow fever in 1864.

Review of 1864 from The Royal Gazette - paragraph about yellow fever

Review of 1864 from The Royal Gazette – paragraph about yellow fever

The above exert from the Royal Gazette digital archives made me curious – not the commentary on the epidemic, but the sentence that follows – what, exactly, is a “Day of General Humiliation”? Google   comes up with Queen Victoria  calling for Wednesday 7th October 1857 to be a day of general humiliation to pray for “tranquility in India” .  So it is a day of prayer, “humbling”.  It seems early humiliation days were accompanied by fasting and penitence, but later ones seem to have morphed into thanksgiving type of celebrations.  I cannot find out at all why they had one in Bermuda on August 30th, 1864.  It was not yet the end of the epidemic, there were no wars or battles in close proximity, it is not a current national holiday  – could it have been a late recognition of Emancipation Day which is more commonly held at the beginning of August?

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That yellow thing on the rocks looks rather like a Minion

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Lovers Lake

Lovers Lake is further along the trail, a land-locked brackish pond some 400 by 200 feet.  It is fed by subterranean channels from the ocean and so the level of saltiness is variable.  Despite the low oxygen content of the water there is here a specific, and protected, species of Killifish found only in this pond – Fundulus relicts.  

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Railway Trail

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The lime kiln is very overgrown

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Please can someone name this flower? A bit like buttercup?

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In case you cannot recall your O level chemistry

A view of Whalebone Bay as we walk back to the car.

A view of Whalebone Bay as we walk back to the car.

So that was last week. Tomorrow we are heading out to Dockyard, the west end of the island. I’ll let you know how we get on.

Tipu’s Tiger

Tipu's Tiger

Tipu’s Tiger

Once upon a time in Southern India there lived a Sultan of Mysore. His name was Tipu.

Tipu had two passions – he hated the British, quite reasonable since at the time they were  trying their best to annexe parts of India for themselves, and he adored Tigers:  he kept Tigers as pets, decorated his home with pictures of tigers, made his soldiers wear uniforms adorned with tiger symbols, had his cannons shaped like sitting tigers and his weapons decorated with golden tiger motifs. Sultan Tipu saw himself as the Royal Tiger of Mysore, defending his province against the British.

In the Mysore Wars, there were 4 of them, the East India Company, representing the British, fought against Tipu, at the same time as Mysore was being attacked from the North by armies from Madras. Tipu’s sons were taken as hostages and Tipu was forced to sign a treaty with the East India Company.  He didn’t actually get his sons back at this point, they were used as pawns to make sure he kept to his side of the treaty.  Tipu was humiliated and angry.  He ordered that houses in the capital city Senngapatam, were painted with scenes of tigers mauling Europeans.

In 1793 the news reported that the son of the British General Sir Hector Munro was carried off by an “immense riyal tiger four and a half feet high and nine long” .  Tipu, the Sultan of Mysore, celebrated the event with the construction of a life-sized model of carved and painted wood in which a mechanical pipe organ replicated both the growls of the tiger and the moans of the soldier victim.  This is Tipu’s Tiger.

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Why am I telling you this story?

For a while we owned our own version of Tipu’s Tiger – a simply carved, folk-art style model.  We found it at a craft fair on the island, a little battered, quite strange amongst the pastel water colours, cedar pens and sea glass jewellery.  At the time we knew nothing of Tipu, but somewhere deep in memory was a fleeting glimpse from childhood visits to the Victoria and Albert Museum, where the actual Tiger sits now.  We never learned the history of our own model, few clues came with it.

But as our Bermuda adventure is coming to an end (more about that later) I have been making tough decisions and some things will not be shipped back to England. This one was on and off the packing list for several days, finally finding for itself a new home on the island with someone who tells me she has a collection of folk art. I found it hard to part with.

The actual Tipu’s Tiger was shipped to London when Sultan Tipu of Mysore died in 1799.  He would have hated that.

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eMoo

This last week I have enriched my experience of Bermuda by selling some things on eMoo. It has not all been smooth sailing!
For the non-islanders, eMoo is a bit like Gumtree, local services, real estate and classified ads. Self-described as “your family friendly online community”.
For more than two years I have received daily emails from eMoo and window-shopped from the classifieds, never brave enough to make the call to buy anything.
We had a major clear out last weekend and, my impulsive nature surfacing, I decided to see if some things would sell.

eMoo (why a cow?)
First I had to remember my login details, drs? Gbm? After trying dozens of possible password permutations (hereafter known as ‘ppp’s) I gave up and re-registered with a different email address – so now I get two emails from eMoo at 5am every morning. My eMoo home page now has an extra heading of “My Stuff” that is fast being populated with a list of things I don’t need.

Unlike eBay, items reside in an “unapproved, unreleased” section overnight and are approved and released in the early hours of the morning. I wonder, do they employ someone to work from midnight to review all of these unwanted things or is it an automated computer program? Whichever, the process happens quietly behind the scenes until at 6:18 am someone who cannot wait until the sun rises phones me desperately wanting to buy the pile of T-towels or the carry-on-luggage bag ….. I would rather sell them the clock so they can understand that 6am is actually the middle of the night for some people 😠

Please note, I am anonymising to protect the identity of my buyers – of course I am not selling my T-towels, not yet anyhow.

My first sale was a huge success – advert, phone call, arrangements, pick-up all within two hours; result: two happy people on Bermuda. Inspired, I listed another five items and prepared for the emails and phone calls. Nothing! I checked my internet connection, charged my phone again and probably appeared quite pathetic as I repeatedly pulled up “My Stuff” to watch the count of views – this must be what fishing is like.

Day 3 of this experience had a good start, a few more items to good homes and I am once more feeling that therapeutic thrill of downsizing belongings.

My home is pretty hard to find – one poor chap ended up the other side of Harrington Sound completely, before I had learned a more precise wording of directions – sorry.
So I have chosen the option of ‘meet in town’ for some articles, the smaller ones at least: no I will not meet you in town with my queen-sized bed. Only once has this delivery option failed me, though I confess if I had taken my map in the car with me I would not have tried to deliver to a random householder the unexpected gift of some cooking pots.

The Bermudian sense of time has come into play – “be there in an hour” actually needs the extra words “might” and “or four hours”. There have been no-shows for collection but it is easy enough to re-list an item and there are no listing fees for the standard ads.
Actually listing is fairly straightforward once you realise that the first uploaded image will be inverted so you post a picture of an upside-down floor lamp and take several photos rotating the camera in the hopes that maybe one will work. I found it easier to use a desktop computer for listing as the iPad struggled with the online listing form and I was entering my phone number as the price, which would be a little steep.😯

Talking of prices, I am not aiming to make money, it is just a different way to recycle things. There are two charity shops that I know of on the island and both have benefitted from my impulsive purchasing that spends a few months in the closet before moving to a charity box (do you think I have a shopping addiction? Surely not? ) but eMoo has been a fun alternative. And if you take a look today, there are several items that I am selling that I am sure you need!  😉

Richard Norwood, Surveyor of Bermuda in the 17th Century

Bermuda: town planning of the 17th century

Bermuda: town planning of the 17th century

School geography lessons taught me the basis of English town development: growing outwards from a small crossroads, extending along rivers, canals and railways, concentric circles becoming more residential as they expand away from an industrial centre.

Bermuda developed along very different lines.  Although it began in the 17th century the island urban geography was as planned and deliberate as Milton Keynes. If you don’t know Milton Keynes, it is a grid of roundabouts connected by identical sections of dual carriageway, designed in the 1970s. So Bermuda is essentially a long road from end to end with “tribe” roads coming off in perpendicular fashion.

For this design we have to thank one Richard Norwood, a 17th century opportunist who happened to be on Bermuda in 1616 when Captain Tucker was wanting someone to do a survey of the island.  Norwood negotiated a fee of 2lbs tobacco or 5d per share.  There were 400 shares in the Bermuda stock.  At 12d per shilling, 20 shillings per pound, this amounts to £8 and 6 shillings.  Or about £800 ($530) of 2015 purchasing power.

At the age of 49, Richard Norwood wrote a journal.  This came to light in 1945 and was transcribed by the Historical Monuments Trust.

Text of Norwood's journal.

Text of Norwood’s journal.

Looking at the scrawled page – apparently typical of Elizabethan secretary script – this cannot have been an easy task.  That and some unfamiliar spelling:

  • turkell = turtle
  • rowle = roll
  • pilloberes = pillowcases
  • cushings = cushions
  • cokernuts = coconuts
  • puter = pewter
  • horeglase = hourglass
  • trinilts = tree nails
  • secticles = spectacles
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From “The Journal” (thanks to Wesley Craven and Walter Hayward and Bermuda National Library)

The focus of the journal is spiritual castigation, but from within the “catalogue of sins” we catch glimpses of the 17th century Bermuda.

Richard Norwood was forced to finish his formal schooling at the age of 12, when a fellow schoolboy with the memorable name of Adolphus Speed, won the only scholarship by a small margin.

He became apprenticed to a fishmonger in Stony Stratford.  this little town is quite close to my UK home and today is a charming place, but Norwood described it as

“much given to deboistness, to swaggering, brawling and fighting, to swearing and drunkenness” 

Whether dislike of the town or of the fish, he left his job somewhat abruptly at the age of 15 and served a short prison sentence for failing to honour his apprenticeship.

Thereafter he found work in the docks at Lymington and gained some fame when he fashioned a primitive diving bell from a hogshead barrel and used it to recover a large ship’s gun that had been accidentally dropped overboard into the harbour.  His innovation came to the attention of the Bermuda Company.  the adventurers commissioned him as a technical specialist for “there was a great store of pearls in the Summer Islands” or so it was thought.

After a 5 week voyage during which Norwood studied maths, navigation and religion, the ship stuck fast on the rocks.  The enforced 2 weeks on the offshore reef were enough for the conclusion that there were no pearls to be found.  So for the next year, 1614 or thereabouts, Norwood found himself at a loose end on an island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

He cannot have had much respect for authority , for he ignored Governor Moore’s restrictions that nobody should venture beyond Burnt Point, some 3 miles from the town of St George and built himself a boat from a hollowed tree with logs aside to balance it (basically a trimaran) and sailed 16 miles from Longbird Island to Somerset, where he gathered palmetto berries.

Governor Moore gave way to Captain Tucker and in 1616 Norwood began his island survey.

His journal describes how he began first in Bedford Tribe, which is now Hamilton Parish.  In order, he surveyed Smiths, Devonshire, Pembroke. But then a geographical leap across to Somerset was prompted by the need to plant the season’s crops away from a “plague of rats” brought to the mainland by Spanish ships. Reverting to order, Paget, Mansill’s (Warwick) and finally Southampton to discover an ‘Overplus’ of excess land between the westernmost parishes.  St George’s was not divided into tracts, it was maintained as an administrative parish.

The division of land

At this time Bermuda had a population of 600 people.  It had now been divided into 8 parishes, each of 50 shares of 25 acres per share.  each share had a stretch of coastline and a plot inland.  The land was allocated to the Adventurers according to the size of their investments.

During this time Norwood claimed to have read the Old Testament 5 times and the New Testament, 10.  Whilst this seems an honourable thing to do, it also sounds boring. I am reminded to be grateful for my Kindle.

A week in Bermuda: the perfect holiday!

An itinerary for visitors:

Having had a series of visitors during this last year I realised that the itinerary we used for them might be of interest to others. So here it is:

Day 1: Meet at airport, drive to home (or hotel) and sit in garden with cool drinks, listen to tree frogs and wait for the sunset. If your visitors have come from UK then keep them awake until past 9pm – they will still wake early but won’t be asking for breakfast at 4am the next day. The BA flight arrives around supper time but the passengers are very well fed generally, +/- wine, so I have discovered the best solution to “do we have supper?” is a bacon roll with a glass of wine. If you are island visitors staying in a hotel then perhaps a bowl of Fish Chowder – practically every restaurant/eating place serves this.

On the water.

On the water.

Day 2: This might depend on which day of the week it happens to be, so the days are interchangeable with the basic premise of “just one big thing each day”. So this day is a Kayak paddle with snorkelling. It does help if you have your own kayak and water access but even if not there are plenty of places to hire kayaks. We are lucky enough to have water access into Harrington Sound so we paddled across to Trunk Island and swam around the shallow waters there, good site for the snorkel-naive to practise.

Experiments with GoPro (image with permission from SL)

If based at the West End then Mangrove Bay and the islands around there would work just as well. For our last visitors we did a picnic lunch and took them into Hamilton for dinner. This coincided with Harbour Night, gombeys and craft stalls along Front Street. At the moment Harbour Night is only during the peak summer months, but I did see a news article that it might be extended later into the Autumn or that the Winter tourist program might have a similar event on a regular basis. Gombeys are amazing so if you don’t catch them at Harbour night look out for the Saturdays in the Park at Queen Elizabeth Park (Par-la-ville) or if it’s winter then Tuesday’s at Pier 6 along Front Street.
For dinner my recommendation is Angelo’s in the Walker Arcade, good menu, pleasant ambience and always tasty food. Of course that depends on your budget, but I am assuming you don’t wish to take out a mortgage to fund your island holiday.

Image with permission from SL.

Image with permission from SL.

Day 3: Start with a Jetski adventure. See previous post for suggestions. This was probably my son’s favourite activity, the girls on the other hand were “glad we have done it but never again” – with varying degrees of tremor when they finished! Substitutions for this would be a Wildcat Round the Island tour or one of the Boat trips around the Great Sound.
After the Jetski we visited the small Hayden Chapel, with a bottle of water and half an hour to watch the view or read a book. If you are closer to the East End then this would be a brief visit to Tucker House in St George or to Carter House on St David’s Island.
For lunch we visited the Southampton Princess Hotel – their Pulled Pork Tacos are delicious and I recommend the strawberry lemonade. I understand the cocktails here are also good, but I was driving 😟

The afternoon is for one or more of the South Shore beaches.

Image by SL

Image by SL

Day 4: In the morning visit Miles Market to pick up a picnic lunch then hire a Boston Whaler from Grotto Bay for the afternoon – 1-5pm, very reasonable cost at $140 plus fuel. Remember sun lotion, hats, snorkels and water.
If you wish to have a slightly bigger boat I would suggest St George, Mangrove Bay or Somerset. The advantage of doing this in Castle Harbour is the wreck off Nonsuch Island and the almost deserted beach that is only accessible by boat. Round this off with a drink at the bar at Grotto Bay or Swizzle Inn, then supper at home. I chose not to cook so a take-out from East meets West solved that issue.

Day 5: Dockyard, Glass-bottom boat, Mini-golf with a drive back via the sea-glass beach. To be honest the glass bottom part of the boat trip is the hook to get you on the boat, you don’t actually see that much under the boat, but what you do get is a gentle chug out to the Wreck of the Vixen, a feeding frenzy of bream, chub and snapper and maybe a few turtles on the way. Oh, and a rum swizzle! This is very reasonably priced at $45 per person and the tour guides are great. We were on a boat piloted by the youngest Captain on the island who started driving boats at the age of 4 – he is a little older than that now!
Don’t like mini-golf? What’s not to like – our very sceptical visitor was a convert after the first six holes, or was that just because each set of six ended up at the bar?

Turtle

Turtle

Day 6: Tobacco Bay for an early snorkel – before 10:30 the visibility is best as after that people kick up sand and you have to go further out in order to see the big fish. Then take a walk to the end of the little promontory with a can of drink and sit watching the parrot fish around the rock towers. That brings you to around midday for lunch at Blackbeards Restaurant, just around the corner overlooking Achilles Bay. I would highly recommend the scallops wrapped in bacon. Sun cream and hat are vital here if you want to sit and look out at the sea while you eat.

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Replete with lunch you take a drive to St David’s Island for a gentle walk along Cooper’s Island nature reserve. The second and third beach along from Clearwater Bay are just amazing, white sand, unspoilt, turquoise sea, everything that’s good about Bermuda.

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Then to cap this day off I suggest a Sunset Cruise. Our last visitors went with AnaLuna Adventures and they asked me to give the company five stars in the TripAdviser Review – they sailed to Flatts Inlet, swam around the island there and then off into the sunset with champagne. Idyllic.

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Day 7: This is where you have some choices to make : shopping in Hamilton, any of the museums, a wander in the Botanic Gardens or perhaps a walk along the railway trail at Baileys Bay. It is your last evening so a meal out perhaps? We enjoyed a relaxed meal at La Trattoria, good choice on their menu, and attentive wait staff (my husband suggested that was down to having two beautiful young ladies with us, but whatever, they were fun).

Day 8: A brief trip to the Zoo/Aquarium (it still isn’t fully open yet but at least what they have done is looking very good, much better displays than previously) and then drive into St George for the Ducking Stool at 12:30. Note this doesn’t happen on Friday or Sunday so you may need to shift days around. It was pouring with rain when we went this week, but the Town Crier announced that he wouldn’t let a bit of rain prevent the wench from getting what she deserved! So we all got soaked in one way or another.
End the week with a bacon butty and glass of wine looking out across the water.

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Prescription: Seven day course of treatment. Repeat often, prn (when required) with food and wine.