Category Archives: Life in Bermuda

Anything to do with living in Bermuda in 2014

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.

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!  😉

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.

Four-legged friends: dogs on Bermuda

The first dog was landed on Bermuda in 1609, and was probably a Spaniel called “Finder” or “Salty”: the ship’s dog of the Sea Venture. I don’t actually know the name, those are guesses based on the fact that medieval dogs were frequently named on characteristics. Ship’s dogs were used for retrieving things lost overboard, taking messages between ships, and hunting when ashore. Most definitely working dogs. The main need for a working dog on Bermuda in 2015 would probably be a drug-sniffing dog at the airport – they did have one when we first arrived but I haven’t seen him since. Neither have I seen any Guide Dogs for blind persons. But there are plenty of dogs on the island, most living quiet and happy lives, but some reaching headlines every now and then.

So what do you do if you want a dog on Bermuda?

Two websites might be sensible starting points:

Bermuda SPCA: http://www.spca.bm

Government regulations on animals: http://www.animals.gov.bm/portal/server.pt

If you are coming to live on the island and already own a dog then you will need an import certificate, a microchip and vaccinations.

The import certificate must be dated no earlier than 10 days before landing your dog and to get this document you will need a health certificate for the dog, original vaccination certificates and evidence of tick and flea treatment on the day of examination. There are no quarantine regulations, but certain countries of origin require a minimum of two rabies vaccines and certificates to confirm no contact with foot and mouth within previous 30 days. The government website suggests that dogs less than 10 months old do not qualify for entry onto Bermuda, but it is unclear whether this applies to dogs from UK.

Dogs and cats are subject to import customs duties: 25% plus a 1.1% wharfage fee. Now this is based on the value of the dog so you will need original evidence of the purchase of the dog and price paid.

There are dog breeders on the island, however, and there is a pet shop in Hamilton with the most adorable puppies. (For my RSPCA friends I am not advocating buying puppies for pet shops, just commenting on their cuteness). The SPCA have dogs “looking for forever homes” but they also comment that they have a long waiting list for adopting dogs.

However you acquire the dog, it will need a licence which is $25 per year if the dog is neutered but $115 per year if not. Unlicensed dogs may be destroyed.

Like UK, there are certain breeds of dog that are banned on Bermuda. It is far too sensitive an issue for me to venture into but just to state, pit-bull dogs are prohibited and will be dealt with harshly if found unlicensed on the island. In 2012 the newspaper revealed there were 1300 unlicensed pit-bulls on the island – but given these dogs are kept below the radar I have doubts about the validity of the figure.

There are some rules you will need to be aware of:

  • Dogs must be kept on a leash
  • Dogs are not allowed on beaches during Summer months, 1st April to 31st September.
  • Special permits are needed of you have more than 2 dogs on your premises.  Note that “premises” includes other households on the plot and requires the landlords permission. This multi-dog permit is specific to the dogs, owner and the address.
  • There are fines for being found in breach of these rules : $50 for an unleashed dog, $100 for a stray dog and $200 for a noisy barking dog, which requires only one neighbour to make a complaint.

Now I have owned dogs, and numerous other pets alongside the children, but I am not sure dogs are really a good idea on Bermuda, or indeed that Bermuda is best set up for dogs. It can be VERY hot, there aren’t acres of fields and parks for exercise and the dog can never run free. But thats just my opinion and I am sure there are hundreds of responsible dog owners who will work around the particular problems posed by Bermuda-life.

My landlord has an amusing story of his dog being taken to court for chasing ducks across Harrington Sound onto land owned by the Zoo … I cannot tell it like he does, but he had me in stitches of amazed disbelief.

Useful contacts for dog-owners:

Hermione, my first dog

Hermione, my first dog

Snorkelling Bermuda

Snorkel Bermuda

Sergeant Major

Sergeant Major

This is my opinion, based on just two years of snorkelling on the island. Before I came out here I had never snorkelled and the first time I tried I was a panicky-pink-puffing flounder barely able to keep my head down for thirty seconds. I am glad I persevered, however and now, if I were in a position to write a CV, snorkelling would make the “Interests and Activities” section!

Which Kit

As with any hobby I undertake, I enjoy buying the kit – yes, some hobbies never progress beyond this stage. I began with a combination mask-snorkel-flipper pack acquired for what then seemed an extortionate price from a local DIY-type store. I still have that set but more as an emergency or visitor option.

I have learned a few things:

  • Snorkels come in so many varieties, but I prefer a “dry” type with a valve or ball of some sort at the top end to prevent water getting down the tube. I do have one with just a splash guard, but the main reason it is still in use is for the comfort of the mouthpiece, not the keep-water-out facet.
  • The purge valve at the bottom is usually the first feature to stop working – this is where I wished I had rinsed the snorkels after use EVERY time.
  • Mouth pieces come in different shapes and sizes and it is only after half an hour or so you know if you like it – one I have has a large effective shield that sits in front of the teeth but my jaw aches after using it, I think because the grips that go between the upper and lower teeth are just too big.
  • My current favourite snorkel/mask is the Easy breathe, but even this is not perfect (see below).
Practice with Easybreathe mask

Practice with Easybreathe mask

  • The mask needs to fit well under the nose, if too long for your philtrum (the part between nose and lip) then the mask allows water in when you wiggle your nose. Think you won’t wiggle your nose? Well I did warn you.
  • See-through for me is better than black, but this is personal (black ones remind me of the anaesthetics I had as a child to remove teeth), black ones are said to reduce the glare of the water and they often are made of softer silicone.
  • Flippers mean you can cover longer distances but need practice, and my husband keeps telling me I am not using them correctly!

The Easybreath: We bought two of these just last week, a cross between the Hannibal Lecter and Darth Vader, I anticipate ridicule when I venture beyond the confines of Harrington Sound. I would award them 4/5 stars – brilliant for wide angle of view, ability to breathe normally through nose, no fogging, no water on face, but less good for going down in the water, and build quality (one of ours has a sticky float ball and the other seems to have lost its float ball altogether, probably when I put it together). On balance I am continuing to use this as my preferred snorkel, even without the float ball the top acts as a splash guard, but I may not use it when out in the waves.

Easybreathe in action

Easybreathe in action

Dry snorkels: This is one of the better websites when it comes to explaining the differences between their models. They are also a tad more expensive. The top ultra dry model is my second favourite snorkel, based on function, not just because it came in pink, honest!
Choosing a snorkel depends on whether you want to keep to the surface or dive down, how much luggage space you have, and budget. When I started to learn the clarinet in school I was given a cheap instrument of dubious quality and because it was so hard to get a decent sound I never ever enjoyed myself – sometimes beginners need the better kit or they never progress any further.

Which Place

My first snorkel experience was at Tobacco Bay. This is on the Eastern end, St George’s island, and presents a sheltered gently sloping sandy cove surrounded by photogenic rocks. It is pretty much perfect for snorkelling and we have taken our visitors here for snorkel training sessions.

Even here however, on a windy day the sea can be choppy and the sea floor drops away quite dramatically once outside the shelter of the closest rocks.
http://tobaccobay.bm

Tobacco Bay

Tobacco Bay

Perhaps my favourite coastal snorkel site is Whalebone Bay, further to the western end of St George’s island. You can pretty much guarantee privacy here as it seems even the locals don’t come here that often. Partially protected by a large rocky formation that sits in the mouth of the bay, there are superb examples of sea fans here. You might be put off by initial appearances – the beach is small with slippery rocks as the shallow water extends for some 30 feet, but walk carefully over this part and the rewards are quickly apparent, a variety of fish without too much swell from the sea. But there are no facilities, toilets having blown down in the hurricane – we used the old fashioned “change under a towel” method.
http://bm.geoview.info/whalebone_bay,3572963

Whalebone Bay

Whalebone Bay

Shelly Bay is listed on tourist sites as suitable for children and swimming as it is shallow for a long way out. The snorkelling her is best along the sides of the bay and just around the corner at the right hand end. Facilities are going to be redeveloped so it might become more popular for novice snorkellers . http://bm.geoview.info/shelly_bay,3573039

Shelly Bay

Shelly Bay

Church Bay is along the south shore and every guide book describes it as “the” place to go for snorkelling. So we did … and rather quickly came back again. Yes there is good snorkelling here, but also waves and personally I was swept about too much to be able to fix on any fish, even if I had been confident that I wouldn’t become the next Bermuda shipwreck all by myself. The advantages of the south shore are the proximity of the reef and sandy beaches. I was too inexperienced to get to an enjoyment stage here, so maybe this is one I will report back on after another year of snorkelling. http://www.bermuda4u.com/sights/church-bay/

The East end snorkel beach is right at dockyard. I cannot review it as I have only played mini-golf here, not snorkelled. It does however get good reviews on Trip Advisor and if you are coming off a cruise ship or staying in the western end it is probably worth a look. http://www.snorkelparkbeach.com/about-us/beach-and-snorkeling.html
Which Fish

Now you are kitted up and in the right place, what can you expect to see?
Fish – doh!

Fish

Fish

A comprehensive list can be found at http://www.conservation.bm/fish/
But here is a personal tally:

The sergeant major : – these are my favourite fish and are”friendly” in that they will come close and appear inquisitive but I have been “nipped” on a few occasions when they seem unable to distinguish me from food (a mighty large meal). The bite doesn’t hurt, it is more of a surprise.

Bermuda bream are the most common silvery fish around with distinctive black dots just in front of the tail.

Bream

Bream

Blue stripe grunts from 3 to 30 inches; the grunt can actually be heard when they grind their pharyngeal teeth together and the sound is amplified by the swim bladder.

French grunts, more yellow stripes with some at an angle rather than just horizontal, found frequently alongside the blue-striped grunts

Squirrel Fish 

 Honeycomb cowfish

Cow fish

Cow fish

 Barracuda

Bermuda chub
Four eye butterfly fish

Some fish I have seen in the aquarium but am not sure if I have actually seen them in the wild and these include the “Doctor fish”
The Latin name Acanthurus chirurgus, means thorny tailed surgeon!

If you snorkel late in the day you might see grey snapper fish. Young ones may have a pigmented stripe diagonally across the eye and i was told on the glass bottom boat cruise that this meant they were “in season” or fertile, but a google search suggests that it merely indicates a juvenile fish.
Parrot fish are for me the most exciting to see, perhaps because they are so large and come into shallow waters. In Harrington Sound we have seen both blue parrot fish and rainbow parrot fish, mostly small ones, for the larger ones you need to go to the outer coastline, Tobacco Bay and Whalebone Bay.

Each time I go out I see something different – last week we came across two large Spotted Sea Hares 
And yesterday we found what we think was a File fish – warning: post-snorkel fish identification can be a source of spousal disagreement – anyhow, we didn’t have the camera with us so that is one that got away.

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Blue stripe grunt

And Non-fish

Beware the Fire Sponge:  It really really hurst when you touch this. But it does warn you – it is bright red after all.

Fire sponge, bottom left

Fire sponge, bottom left

Fire Coral also hurts lots and is more deviously coloured in an innocent yellow, but not one to get up close with!

Giant anemone

Shallow water starlet coral,

Ubiquitous are petticoat algae, turtle grass and the merman’s shaving brush. 

Bermuda snorkelling is not the same as Caribbean or Pacific islands – the fish may be less brightly coloured and the coral more limited in species, but I would recommend it just for the relaxation element. Half an hour floating in warm water listening to bubbles and water while watching fish – in a spa they would charge the earth for this, and they probably aren’t real fish.

Conch

Conch

Longtails

Phaethon lepturus catesbyi

Bermuda Longtail  (image: HCL)

Bermuda Longtail
(image: HCL)

Long tails are everywhere this month and my daughter has taken some pretty amazing photos so it seemed apposite to write a post about them.

The full latin name is Phaethon lepturus catesbyi

Phaethon was the son of the Helios and Klimene who kept pestering his father to be allowed to drive the chariot of the sun, but when the sun god finally gave in predictably the young demigod lost control of the vehicle and thus set fire to the plains of Africa – there is a lesson there somewhere, one I certainly took a long time to learn (penknife to 10 year old son? hamsters as pets?) but at least my mistakes didn’t set the earth on fire.

lepturus, although a Latin word here, comes from the Greek meaning “thin tail”

Mark Catesby was an English naturalist who, in 1722, travelled to Virginia and the Caribbean to study the wild life.  He was sponsored by the Royal Society of London and paid an annual salary of £20, which was pretty generous in those days especially as he stayed with his sister who lived in Virginia so didn’t have to fund his own board and lodging.  He was one of the first academics to describe bird migration and in 1747 he published a book “Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahamas” in which appears the following plate of a long tail:

Catesby's engraving of a Longtail bird (image from eBay, source unknown)

Catesby’s engraving of a Longtail bird (image from eBay, source unknown)

The original plates and preparatory drawings are apparently held in Windsor Castle Library.

Catesby's description of a long tail tropic bird

Catesby’s description of a long tail tropic bird

The common name for them is “white-tailed tropic bird” and they are different from but related to the red-tailed and red-billed versions of the tropic bird.  Some sources claim there are just three species but a recent survey in Australia suggests some inter-species breeding and birds with mixed features.

You can, I presume, work out how to recognise them – they have long tails! These are two very long feathers trailing out behind the bird, used in the aerial courtship displays.  Juvenile birds don’t have them, but after two years at sea they return to their breeding place with impressive long tails of their own.

Longtail at Horseshoe Bay (image: HCL)

Longtail at Horseshoe Bay (image: HCL)

The nests are holes in the cliffs, some pretty close to the ground or sea level and the egg is laid on bare ground, the parent birds don’t actually make a nest as such. The single egg, a beige colour with purplish and reddish blotches, is incubated by either parent for 40-42 days and hatches in June or July.  Juveniles have yellow bills and less distinct black markings and they are fed, again by both parents, on baby squid and small fish. I actually saw 5 tiny baby squid a week ago when snorkelling and was looking for them yesterday but now I realise they have probably been eaten as we have several pairs of nesting long tails on the islands in Harrington Sound.

A long tail bird in a nest (image:HCL)

A long tail bird in a nest (image:HCL)

After around 65 days the young bird will fledge, taking off from the rock face it is a “fly or float” experience – most succeed but every year the local zoo takes in some birds who have failed to reach take-off velocity, returning them to the wild once they have learned the basics.  Then they don’t return for the next two years, they fly for the most part all the time and even sleep on the wing.

Taking flight (image:HCL)

Taking flight (image:HCL)

The markings include a black surround to the eyes which is nature’s equivalent to sunglasses, reducing the glare an reflection from the water so they can see the fish more easily.  They do plunge into the surface waters to catch fish but often pick out small fish as they break the surface of the water – flying fish.

The wings from the top have a black V-shaped marking and the wing tips are also black.

Bermuda Longtail (image:HCL)

Bermuda Longtail (image:HCL)

The pictures I have are all probably adult birds since they have reddish beaks and the youngsters have yellow beaks.

Historically they were named the “Bosun bird” because their call is akin to the bosun’s whistle.  Wikipedia describes the call: keee-keee-krrrt-krrt-krrt .  I hope you got that – don’t get the spelling wrong the extra r in the third word is most important! I can hear them out there this morning, but haven’t yet worked out how to attach a sound recording to the blog.

Sadly they are threatened by erosion of rocks, predators such as rats and cats, flooding and building works. Although protected in Bermuda by the Protection of Birds Act 1975, I am not convinced the act is enforced with any regularity on the island. There could be a conflict of interests – once the unofficial bird of Bermuda, the longtail was ousted from this distinction by the cahow in 2003 and the newer igloos are apparently designed to favour cahows and prevent long tails from nesting in them.  Igloos are man-made nesting boxes that one can install on your coastal property. Our landlord has made special holes in the rock walls alongside the dock and slipway and although I don’t think there are any nesting this year we do try to keep away from them when we are on the water. Personally I think the longtails are prettier birds than the cahows.

This one took me by surprise (image:HCL)

This one took me by surprise (image:HCL)

Not enough stripes for a Sargeant Major

Feeling quite proud of myself for designing my own cross stitch,  I was going to blog about the Sargeant  Major fish – that’s what I used for the design.  So I turn to google and Wikipedia for interesting snippets and find to my embarrassment I have not drawn/stitched enough stripes, so my fish is more of a Corporal then a Sargeant.  

  
These fish are all over the local sea – 5 vertical black stripes with yellow between or occasionally blue-grey colour, which is apparently the brooding male.  Last year we had a solitary one around our local rock, Redshank Island, but this year we have three at least and they have grown to about 4 inches.  

Now this may be considered cheating but when you go snorkelling take some bread with you because these little fish will eat from your hand and follow you about once they know you are feeding them. 

The proper name for them is Abudefduf saxatilis.  They were first named in 1758. I learned today that they have just one nostril either side of their face, unlike the related angel fish which have two – can’t say I have noticed, but I guess I hadn’t actually realised that fish had nostrils in any case ( clearly something lacking with my biology education, but it might have been that I was not paying attention).  

Late May and early June are the spawning season for these fish – probably so for many of Bermudian fish – it depends on water temperature.  The males turn a bright blue and several females will lay their eggs in the nest that a male has prepared. Incubation period is just 4 days until small larvae hatch out.  These, however, unlike the grown-ups, are very fussy eaters, demanding a particular copepod, a small crustacean, upon which they feed voraciously until day 20 when they begin to resemble the adult fish, just really cute miniature versions of them. 

Now I haven’t told any of my visitors this, but I did see it reported that Sargeant majors sometimes attack and bite – the specifics to the tale were a diver cleaning an aquarium tank and I believe the outcome did not entail loss of limb or life.  

  

Jet ski? 

My visitors returned from their first island jet ski tour: “absolutely awesome”.  A second was not on the itinerary but with that accolade barely an hour elapsed before we were on the phone. There are several operators on Bermuda: KS Watersports, Just Add Water and Somerset Watersports.  Sea Venture Watersports, Snorkel Park Beach, H2O Watersports 

Your choice is then west end or east end – my visitors did one of each and both achieved five stars in their opinion. Maybe quieter from St George compared to Dockyard but they each have their good points – a dive from a rocky outcrop on the first, swim with Bermuda bream on the second – I have to agree, pretty awesome. 

Cost was $125 for a single rider on their own jet ski, $135 for a double/triple. Some of the outlets charge $150 for a double. I am told it is more fun not to share – you can go faster! 

Tour length is between 75 minutes and 90 minutes for the standard tour then some operators offer longer 2 hour tours, though do check because sometimes the longer tour includes fifteen minutes swim of snorkel time so the actual time of high speed thrill is slightly less.  

You can expect 6 jet skis in a single group, but the early ones are likely to be smaller – my visitors had one tour to themselves and shared with just one extra machine on the second so it felt like an extremely personalised experience. We were concerned they might not run if insufficient people booked a session, as happens for some things on the island, but no worries here. 

The machines are different and while I am not going to discuss the minutiae, I would say that bigger is not necessarily better – bigger may be slower and unwieldy, especially if the rider is on the small side.  Sometimes the machines with just a simple “go” throttle are more fun, but that’s just a personal viewpoint.  

You wear swimming gear and buoyancy aids are provided.  You will need to sign a safety waiver and I do suggest holiday insurance to cover Watersports.  

Would I enjoy it? The response from my guests was “who wouldn’t?” Though they eventually concluded that maybe grandma would struggle. You do have to be over 18 and ID is required.  You also need a card number for the damage security – in the unlikely event the jetski is damaged or the rider decides to abscond (we are in the middle of the Atlantic so not recommended! ) 

So no guesses as to what my summer plans include now, but I might need to go to the gym for a few sessions first! 

   
 

Around the islands

Bermuda Islands

Map of Bermuda Islands

Last weekend we joined a Bermuda heritage lecture-on-a-boat as it drifted gently around the Great Sound islands. It was indeed a most pleasant way to spend a Sunday afternoon and unusually I stayed awake through the whole talk. The speaker was Andrew Bermingham, who has a particular interest in military history and the Boer war – yes Bermuda played a role in the Boer war, though separated by 7,188 miles of Atlantic Ocean.

IMG_1183

The Boer war was a series of battles in Southern Africa from 1880 to 1902 between the British and the Boers, descendants of Dutch colonists. The British and Dutch had been fighting over the Cape Colony for nigh on 100 years. By 1900 the British were running out of space and supplies in the Cape Colony so they shipped several thousand prisoners of war overseas, some 1,100 to Bermuda. They were imprisoned on some of the islands in the Great Sound: Hawkin’s, Burt’s, Hinson’s, Long Island, Port’s, Morgan’s and Tucker’s.

Boers in Bermuda reported by Boston News 1901

This wasn’t the first time the islands had been used to contain people – since the 17th century they had proved useful for quarantine in outbreaks of smallpox and yellow fever.

As the afternoon wore on I began to lose track and could well have believed there were actually 365 separate islands as Anthony Trollope had claimed in 1858.

An old canning factory?

Some of the islands have interesting stories, though I am not sure they are all entirely true.

Burt’s Island aka Skeeter’s / Murderers’/ Moses Island : just over 7 acres and now used for government youth projects.

The eponymous Mrs Burt was in charge of the isolation cottages in the late 18th century. I assume she was off the scene before the next chapter of the island story – in 1879 Edward Skeeters was convicted of murdering his wife and sinking her body attached to an 80lb boulder. The trial was long, with a long adjournment when a juror fell ill and a doctor pronounced him to be “suffering from a disease for which he might at any moment need surgical assistance”. After numerous days where every neighbour and his dog was called upon to testify, the jury took just 20m minutes to reach a verdict of guilty. For the full version (sorry about the spoiler) read it online in the Royal Gazette of 15th April 1879 and the final instalment in the edition of 10th June 1879.

Edward Skeeters

Extract from Royal Gazette, May 1879

There might in fact be a connection between Burt and Skeeters since one Lydia Burt gave evidence at the trial and she stated she was Anna Skeeters’ daughter – this seems to have been by a previous relationship as Edward and Anna Skeeter’s children died in infancy. It is a sad tale with a somewhat vindictive end – Edward Skeeters was sentenced to the death penalty and he was buried on Burt’s Island with an 80lb boulder as his headstone – yes, the same one he had used to sink his wife’s body.

Burying him on this island seems to have set a precedent as several more murderers were interred there during the early twentieth century. Hence the common name “Murderers’ island”. I cannot find any reason for the alternative name “Moses Island” though Moses is not unusual as a surname or first name on Bermuda.

Argus Island:
Yes, I know, it’s bank, not an island – but it was designated as an island for a short period of time during the 1960s. This seamount is some 30 miles SW of the main Bermuda island and in some narratives is called Plantagenet Bank. During the Cold War over $7 million was spent on projects by the US Navy to construct research and defensive laboratories in connection with Project Artemis. The result of Artemis was a marine sonar system to detect submarines at long range. The Argus Island Tower was 192 feet above the sea surface and designed to stand up too waves 70 foot high. However after 8 years the tower was condemned as unsafe and finally demolished in 1976 and Argus lost its Island status.

US_Navy_Argus_Island_Tower_near_Bermuda_c1963

Argus Island Tower 1963 (image from Wikipedia)

Agar’s Island:
I am jumping about a bit geographically as this one is situated on the inside curve of the Great Sound on the left as you approach Hamilton. It was named after Sir Anthony Agar one of the investors in the Somers Isle Company of 1630.

Construction_of_British_Army's_magazine_on_Agar's_Island,_Bermuda_in_1870

Powder Magazine on Agar’s Island 1870 (image from Wikipedia)

This island has 3 separate claims to fame – first in the 1880s it was a huge powder magazine and then in 1908 12 large fish tanks were built into the stone moat and opened as the first aquarium on Bermuda. Then in 1914 the silent film “Neptune’s Daughter” was filmed from Agar’s Island – it featured Annette Kellerman and some scenes have her diving into a lagoon pool which actually looks a bit like the one at Blue Hole (warning – would be called skinny dipping these days and I am sure it is not permitted on Bermuda now).

The Great Sound
Don’t panic, I am not going to comment on all the islands! That was covered in a small book by Terry Tucker, appropriately entitled “The Islands of Bermuda” first published in 1970 – there is a copy in the library. She concluded there were some 120 separate islands aside from the 8 principal ones that are today connected by bridges. I began with a boat trip round the Great Sound, but I have spent the best part of the afternoon captivated by one island in Harrington Sound – for that story you will have to wait, I haven’t got to the bottom of it yet and it goes pretty deep!  Then for my relatives who accompanied me on the tour, I am still looking for the history of the single red-roofed building that stands on the skyline! If any reader can tell me why it is red and not white like every other building ….

Dress Codes

Probably everyone has heard of Bermuda Shorts, a regulation 3″ above the knee, the National Dress of Bermuda. The sober colours worn abroad give way to pink and yellow on the island – yes, pink shorts are considered appropriate business attire for a man.  It makes some sense given the climate but why on earth are they paired with knee length socks?

An aside, it is claimed that the shorts became a local fashion after Nathaniel Coxon, a teashop owner on the island during WW1, cut off the bottoms of his khaki trousers and those of his staff after they complained about the heat (obviously not related to the saying “if you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen”  – or his teashop business would not have lasted very long – restated: “if you can’t stand the heat wear shorts” ).  Thereafter Rear Admiral Mason Berridge adopted the style for his fellow officers – I guess he must have frequented the teashop – and he coined the term “Bermuda Shorts”. Sometime later, Berridge credited Coxon and Coxon was awarded an OBE, (for designing shorts?)

Anyhow, it wasn’t shorts I was going to talk about, I began this morning with some research on nakedness and exposure on the island.  The trigger was driving past a man without a shirt: a most unusual sight. I had heard it was illegal to go topless in public and am sure last year there was a court case involving just this issue.

What I did find was an old picture of a policeman taking rather unusual measurements from a tourist:

Too short?

If the skirt length was considered too short a “Green Ticket” was issued:

May we respectfully suggest that your attire may prove to be embarrassing as there are certain regulations pertaining to propriety of dress that are being enforced in order to maintain Bermuda’s position as a most attractive and pleasant holiday resort.

Bermuda Laws are listed online at the clearly named website – Bermuda Laws Online

Therein I found:

SUMMARY OFFENCES ACT 1926 (1989 revision)
Offences against public morality
11 Any person who, in any public place—

(a) …….

(b) openly exposes his person; or….

which seems to cover it (or not)

And finally, the  tourist charged with being inappropriately dressed: case dismissed by the judge, though he was also charged with using bad language. The judge is recorded as saying:

….. a man not having a shirt on cannot be considered to be improperly dressed these days …. 

which I presume is the end of the matter!  What about a woman?

Island Medical Waste

In todays news is an article describing new procedures for disposal of medical waste. Aha, this is exactly what I need to know –  ever since a relative’s visit a few months ago I have had a jar of “sharps” on the kitchen windowsill, between the hand soap and flowers like an ornament or strange experiment.  I wonder what our cleaner thinks as she moves it each week to wipe the surface underneath.

The new system does not come into force until June – no worries, they have been incubating for a few months, one more won’t make much difference.  I read on, hopeful that there will be a link to connect me to a “this is what you have to do page”  …   8 paragraphs further on and I am none the wiser.  I search under terms “medical waste disposal” and “sharps waste” each with Bermuda as a defining tag, leading to older articles stating that the hospital bio-oxidiser stopped working many months ago and the interim arrangements included renting containers for storage of this waste, distinctly alarming!

In England I worked in practices and hospitals, we had “sharps bins” in bright yellow with scary biohazard symbols and protocols enough to decorate a ballroom.  In one building you even had to keep a list of the “waste-generator” (interesting name for what we usually called patients, but of course the document had been designed by a politically correct admindroid). I would like to tell you what happens on Bermuda, only it appears nobody knows. I looked on the government website, the waste management website, the hospital “portal”, the yellow pages, the pink pages ….  Where else? I can hardly go up to my neighbours to ask “are you a medical-waste-generator?”  – sounds rather intrusive does’t it. But how else am I to learn what I am supposed to do with my sharps?

Some of you will be saying “the relative should have taken them away”  – right, as if it is sensible to carry used needles  in hand luggage, or even permitted? Bring their own sharps box? Have you seen the size of them? Even the travel ones take the space of at least one pair of shoes and if a girl has to choose between shoe space and sharps box then I can pretty much guess what she will opt to pack! Besides, you can guarantee at least one “sharps” will be left behind, in the bathroom, the bedside table, even the washing machine, and then I am back to my original problem – how do I dispose of a small handful of sharps on this island?

Sharps

Sharps

Where have all the rabbits gone?

You might think that a news article about a “lost bunny” on Easter Sunday so close to April 1st is a wind-up but it did actually happen and there was a happy ending. It left me wondering:

Why are there no wild rabbits on the island?

An article from “Guinea Pig Today” from 2012 carries the headline

“Feral guinea pigs, rabbits are destroying Bermuda’s ecosystem”

In case you are wondering, no I don’t usually read that website, it came up on a search for “Bermuda rabbits”. I have to say, in my explorations I have not once seen either feral rabbits or guineapigs.

The second link on my search led me to a Facebook page for Bermuda Rabbit Society and, as you can imagine, many cute photos. But I am no closer to discovering why there are no wild rabbits here.

A book entitled “The Naturalist in Bermuda” published in 1859 infers the presence of rabbits on at least one of the islands in the Great Sound:

Extract from The Naturalist on Bermuda, 1859

Extract from The Naturalist on Bermuda, 1859

And in Harrington Sound, our local patch of water, there is indeed an island called Rabbit Island.

We live alongside Green Bay near the bottom left of the map, Rabbit island is the first of the larger islands as you sail or kayak across to the far end of the sound.

We live alongside Green Bay near the bottom left of the map, Rabbit island is the first of the larger islands as you sail or kayak across to the far end of the sound.

Lucy Hollis has blogged a photo of Rabbit Island in 2008
It looks much more overgrown now. We can kayak across there in warmer weather so I will take a camera with me on my next expedition.  The website Bermuda-online claims there are wild rabbits on that island, but I am not convinced – it is pretty rocky and there is no fresh water source. It belongs to the National Trust and is designated a nature reserve so no landing on the island to prove this one way or the other.

If there are wild rabbits then they would have arrived by ship, the same way the rats, hogs and chickens came across. Hogs of course are no longer roaming free, the early settlers ate them. Chickens are everywhere, I guess nobody eats them, they cross the roads at random – don’t ask me why. And my recent experiment at bird-feeding demonstrated the presence of rats, well fed ones. Maybe ships didn’t carry rabbits, I suppose they supply little on the way of meat or tradeable value.

Without foxes, there are no natural predators here to threaten wild rabbits so I would assume if they did exist then there would be an abundance of them. Bermuda grass is apparently a good food for a rabbit and we have plenty of that all over the place:

Bermuda grass

Bermuda grass

IMG_1143

Our own Bermuda grass. The island you can see here is called Redshank Island. Rather like Rabbit Island without rabbits, it does not appear to be home to any redshanks

Any other results from my search “Bermuda rabbits” seem to be for boats or grass suppliers. One strange link goes to an online auction sale for a shirt  with a print described as a Bermuda rabbit, but to me it looks like a frog – maybe I am missing some information here!  So I am none the wiser about wild or feral rabbits on Bermuda and leave the question open, in a slightly altered form, because one or two sites I usually trust for reliable information imply their existence:

Where are the wild rabbits on Bermuda?

Feed the birds ….

….It costs more than tuppence

Hungry Sparrow

Hungry Sparrow

My mother had a bird table outside her living room window, which given that she kept cats as well seemed a little harsh, but despite the cats her bird table was visited by hundreds of birds. I used to be vaguely interested when I visited, but never to the extent of setting up a bird table of my own. Yes we had one in the garden, what family with young children doesn’t at some point, but it was more of a support for the creeping bindweed than hungry birds. But it seems I have reached that age – I have developed an interest in feeding the birds. And I have a garden that is perfect for doing this.

Kiskadee

Kiskadee

On your first visit to Bermuda you might be forgiven for thinking the only bird around is a Kiskadee. They are noisy. Not endemic to the island, they were brought across from Trinidad in 1957 to control the anolis lizard (which itself was imported to control a fruit parasite). For the most part Kiskadees ignored the lizards and preferred insects and berries both plentiful so now we have lots of lizards and lots of Kiskadees. They don’t need any help from me to find food.

Non-lizard-eating kiskadee

Non-lizard-eating kiskadee

What we do have in Bermuda are sparrows – the same ones you saw when growing up but not now so common in UK. I was going to insist that the sparrows we have here are Old World Sparrows, not the American Tree Sparrow, but having looked at various images on the web I am not so certain about this – maybe one of my friends from the Bermuda Audubon Society will put me right.

Male Northern Cardinal At Feeder

Image from wikipedia, but if you come back to my blog later in the year maybe i will have one of my own!

But the bird I am trying to attract to my feeder is a Red Cardinal. I know he is close by, my neighbour ( the lemon-drizzle-cake-one) has him calling at her table and I am determined to get him to come round the corner.

So I set off to a garden centre to find a bird feeder. Actually I set off to first find a garden centre. To save you the petrol costs of a round-the-island drive, it is actually just off the roundabout in Paget, the one where Johnny Barnes greets the morning traffic. Don’t know why I hadn’t noticed it before, right opposite the National Trust offices at Waterville.

Here I made two mistakes: firstly I bought cheap seed feeders and secondly I baulked at paying $30 for a large tub of bird seed.

The tub would have been a good idea – bird seed is around $5 per litre and the tub was at least 10 litres, bargain. But I didn’t know that then. A stubborn streak prevented me from returning later so I ended up at another store with 5 litres of proper bird seed, 5 litres of scratch mix and another 5 litres of sunflower seed at the grand total of $54 (Bermuda cost of living is high, no less so for the birds). Plus of course the large plastic box with lid.

The lesson of the cheap feeders was short and brutal – first one disappeared overnight, then the second on the next night. Note, “disappeared”, not “fell off the hook” or “broke”, plain disappeared. Clearly I needed either a substantial feeder on a big hook or a roll of duct tape – I now have both. I have absolutely no idea what can have carried off my cheap feeders, cat? cockroach? heron?

The Red Cardinal comes from Virginia, likely deliberately introduced in the late 17th century, not this time to eat lizards, but probably as a caged bird, to look pretty. They certainly are very pretty. It is about the season for them to be mating and then they will build messy nests, lay brown mottled eggs and be conscientious parents with the young hatching in April. This from the “Guide to the Birds of Bermuda” by Eric Amos, a 1990 copy of which I found in the library. He begins with a statement that ornithology began in the mid 1800s when military men exchanged their shotguns for binoculars.

Apart from sparrows and maybe a cardinal I can expect a few starlings, mourning doves (a posh name for a small pigeon) and maybe a grey catbird that reportedly has a “long rambling introspective song” (no idea). It is unlikely that I will see the other birds – bluebirds and vireos – both populations declined with the loss of cedar trees in the mid 20th century.

Redshank island  - at the bottom of the garden :)

Redshank island – at the bottom of the garden 🙂

We are fortunate to have a waterfront garden onto Harrington Sound and from the dock if I sit quietly I can see an assortment of water birds – herons, egrets and terns in the main, but in the summer there are white-tailed tropic birds or long tails – it seems the whole neighbourhood has created nesting holes for them and last year at least two pairs were successful in breeding. I don’t need to feed these birds but if I take some bread down for the fish the birds soon appear.

So how am I getting on with my bird feeding project?

Non-Disappearing bird feeder

Non-Disappearing bird feeder

No birds?
While I can watch them from the safety of the sofa, they won’t pose for photographs!

OK, it may be wishful to place it so close to the house, but we shall see....

OK, it may be wishful to place it so close to the house, but we shall see….

But look what they have done to my table – that is for my coffee, not random bird seed, what a mess!

Bird table?

Bird table?

We don’t need no education

In the wake of a strident article in the Royal Gazette claiming “Bermuda’s public schools are like those of the third world”, I decided to explore the education system on the island. My days of choosing schools were some 20 years ago and I have no intention of making any recommendations in this post. However, I thought it might be useful to summarise what is available and provide some links to local school websites. The article is aimed at potential ex-pats with families planning on settling in Bermuda, it will probably be common knowledge to Bermudians.

So your first decision, and potential confusion is “public” or “private”. In UK public is a term saved for the few rarified and time-cemented institutions such as Rugby, Eton, Winchester. In Bermuda public means state-run, supported by Bermudian taxes. Private, in both, is fee-paying or independent.

I can already see you reaching for the cheque book, especially if the newspaper is anywhere near correct in that public schools here are substandard, deprived, poor.

Hold on though, is there any truth there?

My reading of the article is that the author is revitalising a long-standing political argument about standards within the Ministry of Education. If you visit their website, you could well jump to the same conclusions – the site is poorly presented, full if missing links and empty pages and has the appearance of something left in the development stages back in the 1990s.

Yes, there are problems with the department responsible for education, not least that it is a shared portfolio with the Economic Affairs department and has not had a dedicated Education Minister for the last 15 months. (Post-script note: curiously one was appointed as I wrote, lending the impression that maybe the original news article was all a publicity stunt in a deeply political game!)
But departmental disarray is not the same thing as claiming standards of education in public schools are deficient. And thats as far as I am going to comment on politics.

Back to the schools themselves.

School Levels

School Levels

Education on the island is compulsory from 5 to 16 years with 38 state schools providing it for free for the 6000 students in that system. The structure is

  • Primary: up to Year 6 of UK or grade 5 in US
  • Middle: years 7,8,9 of UK or to US grade 8
  • Senior: up to year 13 of UK, grade 12 of US, to the point of starting college (US) / university

On reaching the final year of senior school the students will take the “Bermuda School’s Certificate” which is graded A to D. The public schools follow the Cambridge International Curriculum, which gives a framework for English, Maths and Science and allows benchmarking against other international schools with external examinations. The pupils have primary level tests and middle school checkpoint tests and then sit IGCSEs in year Senior 2. This has only been running for the past 4 years but early results suggest Bermuda with 90% pass rates for the public school pupils compare favourably with an international average of 76% pass rate. So nothing there to support the claim of third world comparison.

The School Run

The School Run

It is true, however, that most ex-pat families will pursue private schooling, at least for the senior classes. Some send their children off-island to boarding schools in UK, Canada or US; whatever their reasoning it is not due to lack of options for private schooling on the island.

There are 6 private schools on the island, each having junior departments and all but one offering the equivalent of “sixth-form” (UK college level, ages 17 and 18).
Bermuda Institute  Southampton Parish

Bermuda High School for Girls   Hamilton City

Mount St Agnes Academy  Hamilton City

Saltus Grammar School  Hamilton City

Somersfield Academy  Smith’s Parish

Warwick Academy  Warwick Parish

Perhaps the first question to tackle is “What are the fees?” Education here is certainly not cheap, the range shown in the table.

12,300
Bermuda Institute
17,104
Mount St Agnes
17,985
Warwick Academy
19,000
Bermuda High School
19,990
Somersfield
20,000
Saltus

Annual school fees 2014/15 in $ (if paid in one single payment)

It is obviously cheaper to pay in a single payment at the start of the academic year, but each school offers the option of payment by instalments. I shall leave you to make the comparisons with your own countries.  None of these, by the way, are boarding schools, though all offer extra-curricular and after school programmes.

So what about size?
All of them adverts “small class sizes” though only Bermuda High School goes as far as to define small, which in this case is 20. Comparing size using pupil numbers is deceptive. Somersfleid appears to be the smallest with 480 pupils but does not offer senior years 3 or 4 (UK 12/13 or US grades 11/12) and they don’t clarify if the figure includes primary pupils. On pupil numbers, Saltus is the largest with over 900 students; Warwick Academy 780 ; BHS 690; Bermuda Institute 560; Mount St Agnes not stated.

Small classes: no overcrowding!

Small classes: no overcrowding!

As one might expect, all of the private schools are academically selective using interviews at younger ages and entrance exams for later years. Selection processes take place in the Spring term from January to March for entrance the following September.

While it might be tempting to choose a school on proximity/fees/size the curricular programmes play a role in differentiating between the schools. With the ultimate destination being higher education for the majority of students, the courses offered need to prepare them for the choices – UK/US/Canada. Traditionally the American system will use Standard Assessment Tests (SAT) and require a figure for Grade Point Average (GPA) while the UK system uses GCSEs and A levels. Europe uses the International Baccalaureate (IB) and most UK Universities these days detail acceptable IB standards for admissions. So parents or students may wish to choose schools offering the programme that gives them a competitive advantage for where they eventually wish to pursue further education.

GCSE
BHS, Saltus, Warwick
IGCSE
BHS, Saltus, Warwick
IB
BHS, Warwick
SAT
Saltus, Mount St Agnes, Bermuda Institute

The IGCSE groups subjects into 5 areas, the student selecting one subject from each area: languages, creative and technical, humanities, maths, social sciences. This is similar to the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme (IBMYP) that is offered by Somersfield. This school commences with a Montessori curriculum in primary years, then IBMYP with students moving onto BHS or Warwick if they wish to complete the IB. The IB here consists of 6 subjects, 3 at standard level and 3 at higher, with additional study on theory of knowledge, creativity and action and service. Warwick Academy also offers single subjects within the IB programme.

One aspect I haven’t yet covered is religion – Mount St Agnes is a Catholic School and Bermuda Institute is Seventh Day Adventist. Neither is religiously exclusive, but students will be expected to partake in daily faith-based activities within the school day. Non-religious community service is an integral aspect of all of the schools. For example Warwick expects a minimum of 25 hours from a senior student with a reflective written report at the year-end. Personally I think that this focus is something that stands out amongst Bermudian school students across the island — without exception, they seem to be polite and considerate, and you will find them volunteering in many different fields.

Of course there are many other aspects to distinguish one school from another, and you will wish to make visits to get a sense of the ethos, teaching and whether pupils are happy.

Happy? At school? Whatever next!

“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”
— Mark Twain

Bermuda Rocks

Bermuda Rocks

Spring onions

So the onion was dropped  and the Christmas lights taken down, it is now most definitely a New Year: 2015. Dropping things at midnight New Years Day seems to be a largely state-side celebration though I assume its origins were with the Greenwich Time Ball.  At least Bermudians just “drop” a symbolic onion – in parts of Greece they drop real onions on the children heads before they go to church on New Year’s Day. No, I have no idea!

I haven’t made any particular resolutions but thought I might begin the year with tidying my computer – well it beats cleaning the house, which I shall not attempt until Spring. Over the last two years I have amassed many links in my “favourites” column of bookmarks that relate to Bermuda in some way or other so this is where I started.

Before long I have been sidetracked by “Nothing to do in Bermuda”, a site that carries a comprehensive list of anything and everything local – from AA meetings to Ikebana classes (Japanese flower arranging) Now I like this site a lot and use it at least once a week, but it isn’t easy to find out who is behind it and I confess to being just a little disappointed that my blog is not included in the long list of Bermuda-related blogs.

I have a decision to make – do I continue the pruning process logically going down my list in order or should I permit myself to be lured by a surf from one site to another? Surfing wins and I find myself on Emoo. This is the island’s equivalent of “Gumtree”.   I could buy a boat for $89,000, a Rottweiler puppy for $3,900 or a fitness DVD for $5. Emoo definitely stays on the list.

From here I leap to Bermuda Tourism.  Given the latest “update” is from August 2014 I am left uncertain as to the current-ness of this organisation.  More recent and more regularly updated information is found on the bermuda.com website. But once again not clear who publishes the site or whether it is affiliated with any official organisations.  I did see in the Royal Gazette this morning that the Tourist board are rebranding Bermuda as “an all year round destination” and an “Atlantic destination” – apparently the people who run this board have learned that Bermuda is not in the Caribbean!

I am not getting very far with my “non-spring-clean” of my computer. I have just learned that spring-cleaning is thought to originate from the Persian New Year practice of “khooneh tekouni” or shaking the house. It is also the name of a rather risqué 1925 play.

Back to the bookmarks, with the next two, Bermuda Library and Bermuda National Trust,
remaining on the list even though both websites need a bit of TLC and updating.

Next is Little Monkey and Friends – a fun blog from another ex-pat on Bermuda, and she has dozens of children so I have no idea where she finds the time!

Andrew Stevenson’s “Whales Bermuda” wins a permanent place in my bookmarks, as do the book and DVD on my shelves. Counting down to around 9 weeks for Whale Watch 2015.

I seem to have collected some PDFs of Trees and buildings on Bermuda, they can go in a separate file. Skimming through the latter I learn that a double-pile house is one with two rows of rooms, or two rooms deep and became fashionable on Bermuda in the 19th century – that is over 100 years after they became usual in England. From this I presume that I have for many years misunderstood the sayings surrounding rich men sitting on piles – the medical interpretation is more humorous. So Verdmont is a double-pile house, I shall have to remember the term for my first day back there tomorrow. Built not long after 1696 it would certainly have been a huge statement of wealth on the island at that time.

I started this process several hours ago and so far have moved just one bookmark into the computer bin. I think I shall take the easy way out – start a new folder and new file labelled 2015!

Looking East from the Railway Trail near Bailey's Bay

Looking East from the Railway Trail near Bailey’s Bay

Home for Christmas

When standing at the check-in desk for the last flight home before Christmas, the one sentence you do NOT want to hear is “Oh, you have been offloaded….”
To be fair the check-in clerk looked as anxious as we felt, but he wasn’t boarding a six hour flight to his Christmas turkey, nor had he paid the eye-watering price of the tickets.
Anyway, it’s far too complicated to try to explain – involving a middleofthenight realisation that 26th was Boxing Day and not Saturday, a dawn phonecall to unbook a $12,000 flight booked in panic and not realising we had booked flexible tickets in the first place – told you it was complex!
Fifteen minutes later and one problem solved my hero husband turned to see I was lagging behind. All this time I had been outwitted by technology as I attempted to use “EasyPark” to register the fact that our car was parked in the parking lot. That’s a rather optimistic name for a random group of cars alongside the infamous airport tip where washing machines share final resting places with rusting cars and hundreds of cats.
“Loading, please wait” is most likely now burnt onto my smart phone screen. Not so smart today. Apparently the in-car meter runs on a different line of credit to the on-phone meter, so although we had anticipated the costs, added to the balance and checked the car park code, the computer still said “No”. It is for times like this that EasyPark has other EASY access methods. A credit card later and problem 2 was solved.

Neither money nor passport solved the third problem – by the time we reached the BA lounge there were NO sandwiches left. So I have 2 glasses of wine with immediate access to my nervous system. All that is required now is a short stagger to the plane…
Yes, Christmas has begun 😃🌲

The Bermuda Flag

This story began a few weeks back, my husband ordered a Bermuda flag for one of his recently constructed model ships.  Modelling supplies are hard to come by on the island and, perhaps surprisingly, so are small Bermuda flags suitable for the ship’s red ensign.  The flag was eventually sourced from UK suppliers at a cost of £4.88.

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Maybe a bit expensive, but in the grand scheme of things not too bad.  That was until we arrived at the post office to collect it:

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The tax was $1.76 (25%) and then a handling charge of $5.00.  That is almost 100% extra (£4.31).  What made it even more frustrating was that we had just a few days previously paid another $5 handling fee for something equally miniscule that could very well have been packaged in the one envelope!

Anyway, here it is:

IMG_0888Obviously this is the back side, it has not found its way onto the boat yet.

What is it called when you look for something everywhere and cannot get it then once you have finally tracked it down suddenly the item becomes uncommonly common? Well thats what happened – in the last week we have seen Bermuda flags just about everywhere.  That might in part be explained by the announcement that Bermuda will host the 2017 America’s Cup (more on that in the next post) and in celebration hundreds of paper flags were printed for the crowds to wave, but seriously, I even found one on a packet of sugar:

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The vexillologists among my readers will have noticed that the Bermuda flag is somewhat unusual in that it is actually a defaced red ensign and red ensign flags are really only supposed to go on ships at sea, not flown from land.  The British Admiralty did not exactly approve this but in 1955 they discussed the practice with the then Governor and decided that to prohibit what by then was a longstanding tradition would probably be unproductive and so retrospective permission was granted to continue with this as the country’s flag.

That is not the only controversy over the flag.  The coat of arms it bears is a red lion holding a shield with an image of the Sea Venture.  This coat of arms was granted to the island in 1910. It appears much much earlier however, on the title page of the 1624 publication by Admiral John Smith “The General History of Virginia, New England and The Summer Isles” .

image from wikipedia

image from wikipedia

It is at the bottom of the page with the lion carrying also a banner “Quo fata ferunt“, the motto “Whither the fates carry us”.  The Sommer Isles (also Somer’s, Summer’s, Sommer’s) was the earlier name for the Islands of Bermuda, named after Sir George Somers, the founding Admiral. The image was on the seal of the Somer’s Isles Company, the company that managed Bermuda on behalf of the Adventurers and Investors in the early 17th century.

Where’s the controversy? It is whether the ship is actually the Sea Venture or whether it represents an earlier wreck, a ship sailed in 1593, the wreck of which was reported by Henry May an English sailor. This argument is cleverly put together in a mini documentary, The Riddle of the Crest” to be found  on the Bermuda Conservation website.

Personally I think that although the image depicts a ship crashing on high cliffs and there are no such cliffs around the coast of Bermuda, it is probably artistic licence in that a ship crashing onto a hidden reef is probably not very easy to draw.  It is certainly the most popular view that the ship is the Sea Venture.

In my reading around this topic I found that the Governor is entitled to use a flag that is the Union Flag with a coat of arms in the centre of the crosses.  I also came across a page of rules connected to flying country flags – one I had previously learned when working at The Globe in St George’s: do not permit the flag to drag on the floor.  Of course I had learned by doing exactly that in front of the museum curator.  To make that situation worse a few weeks later I actually hung not just one but both of the flags on their poles upside down.  This, I am told, is an international distress sign – the vicar from the church opposite kindly called the BNT head office to see if I was alright! I guess it may not be random that I find myself at Verdmont now and not at The Globe Museum, responsible for the respect of the Bermuda flag.

Verdmont at Christmas

Christmas 2014

Christmas 2014

I am back at Verdmont! I am reminded what a beautiful house it is and what made me volunteer for the Bermuda National Trust in the first place.

In the entrance

In the entrance

This week it greeted me with the sight of Christmas. Decorations had magically appeared in every room.

Palmetto Angels

Palmetto Angels

Thursday was quiet but not deserted, two visitors enjoyed their picnic lunch with a view across to the South Shore. The sun, less fierce now, warmed the grass and my shoulders as I read happily on the lawn.

Table setting

Table setting

A neighbour walking her small dog and small granddaughter stopped to talk. The day moved gently with the lengthening shadows.

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And I closed the shutters, darkened cedar-smelling rooms fell asleep. Three hundred years of Christmas.

Herald Angels Sing

Herald Angels Sing

It doesn’t have to be cold and snowing to be Christmas!

“If you don’t eat yer meat, you can’t have any pudding”

One of my relatives sends me the National Geographic magazine. It takes a while to reach me – forwarded through Royal Mail to an expat-mail company to Bermuda mail sorting office at the airport, takes a rest there before passing through customs where it is awarded an extra stamp telling me that no duty is due, then, with any luck, will be delivered by a postman – if not lucky I have to collect it at the local post office, which isn’t open on Saturdays by the way! Anyhow, thats why I am only just looking at the November issue. Why am I telling you this?

Because on page 134, Bermuda is highlighted on a world map, and, given its size of 21 square miles, that means whatever the map is depicting, something on Bermuda is significant.

Not to scale?

Not to scale?

There are hundreds of amazing things about Bermuda the rest of the world ought to know but the article is not about any of them – it’s about MEAT.

The meat consumption on Bermuda is around 573 calories per person per day.

To add perspective:

meat calories per capita per day
US

424

UK

402

S. America

366

Caribbean

208

The meat products included are the expected beef,pork, lamb, poultry, rabbit and game but also some we don’t eat on Bermuda such as horse, ass, mule, camel and aquatic mammals. The article talks about the appetite for meat falling in developed countries due to health awareness, cholesterol etc, and economic downturn. It seems that neither of those have impacted Bermuda’s consumption of meat.

Bermuda boasts a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita of US$75,000.  By this measure, it is one of the world’s richest countries. On island consumer tastes have moved to fresh rather than the tinned or processed which dominated the import markets in late 20th century, with a current surge in demand for organic products. Obviously nearly all meat is imported, I have seen some cows and pigs on the island but in small numbers, probably not destined for the table.

Given that everything is expensive in Bermuda one might expect the cost of meat to be prohibitive, but actually compared with UK the relative cost of meat is lower. A Sirloin steak will cost around $6 per pound, not much different in UK. It seems to me that the quality of the meat is better as well – steaks here are delicious, even with my cooking.

Apparently our beef comes from the American plains, pork from Virginia and chicken from Arizona. British lamb and Danish bacon makes us feel more at home!

So is it just the relative costs and availability that keep meat as the predominant protein in the Bermudian diet? It’s an island surrounded by deep water with delicious fish – surely dietary protein would be fish-based? There are many restaurants offering a wonderful seafood menu and during the summer fresh fish is sold by the roadside. But if the statistics are to be believed Bermudians prefer meat!

14th November 2014

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Sunrise over the Sound

Today has been a good day. Today has been an ordinary day.

My husband noticed the sunrise as he made the morning coffee – he brought both to me in bed. 6:47am

I called in at the doctors after dropping R. off in Hamilton, nothing urgent, but he saw me straight away.  This is not the NHS. 9:34am

I needed a blood test. Painless and polite. 9:43am

I paid the co-pay. Polite, not so painless. $45    Insurance $75

Dropped into the pharmacy. No wait. Painless bill to Insurance Co. $262.55  9:52am

I needed a haircut, nothing urgent, but she saw me straight away.  $75   10:22am

I needed a coffee. I have a coffee. Sitting outside in the sun.

Today is a good day, like other days. This is Bermuda.

The closest I will get to talking about politics

Sessions House

Sessions House

This last week saw the opening of Parliament in Bermuda marked by the “Throne Speech” from the Governor, George Fergusson. I don’t know whether the Queen writes her own speeches for opening Parliament in UK, but I learned today that the Governor doesn’t, rather he is given permission to read it from the Government in power at the time. This year the speech talks about the “wisdom of our ancestors” and “deep rooted community spirit”, an altogether more positive approach than last year’s one that used terms such as “shore-up”, “revitalise”, and “most challenging”.

Bermuda’s Parliament was established in 1620 – the Throne itself was made in 1642 from Bermuda cedar and the gavel is the same one used in the 1600s made of cedar from a tree in St Peter’s churchyard at St George’s. The tree was apparently the one under which the first governing body held meetings, or so the Government website claims.

The political system mirrors that of UK with the Queen as Head of State, a Governor, who represents the Queen on the island, and two houses – the Senate as the upper house and the House of Assembly equivalent to the House of Commons. The constitution was re-introduced in 1968 and since then Party Politics has been the method of ensuring representation. Today there are two main parties: One Bermuda Alliance (OBA) and Progressive Labour Party (PLP). The PLP has been around since 1963 and has long passages giving detailed history on the website, while the OBA was newly formed in 2011 but as with many political groups it was formed by a conglomeration of other ideals and the two main groups of United Bermuda Party and Bermuda Democratic Alliance. So its no wonder that the current population are uncertain who is in power – PLP,OBA,UBP or BDA (that last acronym is also the one used by international airport naming group for Bermuda Airport – see previous post) It is, I am told, the OBA and that, I am also told, is a good thing. I refuse to enter the very scary world of political blogs so that is all I am going to say on it.

Last winter I joined a tour around Sessions House, the building where the House of Assembly sits or holds its sessions. It is one of the prettiest buildings in Hamilton, standing just a little shorter than the Cathedral. I heard somewhere that no building in Hamilton is allowed to be taller than the Cathedral. The original building of 1879 was a simple 2-storey affair but less than 10 years later a clock tower was added along with considerable elaboration of the interior.

King George III and Queen Charlotte in Chamber of The House of Assembly

King George III and Queen Charlotte in Chamber of The House of Assembly

The upper storey houses the main Chamber, an oak-panelled wall matched by chairs and desks in old English oak. Two large portraits watch over proceedings – King George III (1760-1820) and Queen Charlotte, copies of the originals – I didn’t quite follow if the copies were done by Sir Joshua Reynolds or just the originals – presented to Bermuda by Governor Sir James Cockburn. So that sets the bar high for a leaving present when George Fergusson returns to the home country. I wonder if Bermuda gives the outgoing Governor a present? A cedar tray made by prisoners? A pottery gecko? No, don’t worry, I think he is due a knighthood when he leaves here – sends me hurriedly to wikipedia to check he hasn’t already got one – he’s apparently an Honorable so far, pretty amazing family history, definitely born into the job.

The other portraits decorating the chamber are of past Speakers, but they have run out of space so a new speaker will oust the old timer who currently has been there since 1864 (which I don’t believe as the building was’t even there then). The Speaker is apparently chosen from among the 36 elected members and thenceforth has to denounce party politics and be impartial – seems a bit of a waste of an MP, if you vote on the back of one of his policies then he gets given the job of speaker, he can no longer act on behalf of his constituents. Voters clearly not deterred in the last election – that saw a 71% turnout. I suppose there are advantages of being on a small island the size of a town, there aren’t all the extra council elections where you have usually absolutely no idea who they are and end up casting your vote on the fact they have a kitten, or a child at your child’s school etc.

The Upper House consists of 11 Senators (some American influence has crept in there), all reportedly appointed by the Governor, but when you look at the small print, he has to choose 5 from the 5 preferred by the Premier, 3 from the 3 names proposed by the Opposition and only has his own say in the final 3.

The Mace

The Mace

The Mace is the symbol of authority of the speaker. It is carried in by the sergeant-at-arms when the speaker enters at each session. The current Mace came from London in 1920. It is silver gilt, a term I had to look up – I had no idea that an Ormolu Clock was made of gilt-bronze, can’t wait till the next Antiques Roadshow to impress my family – silver gilt is actually cheating, just a thin gold covering, but it sounds posher if you use the term vermeil and The White House has a lot of it.

The other formal piece is the Black Rod, like the British version this is both a rod and a person, representing the Crown. In Bermuda the role falls to the Senior Police Officer and he leads the MPs to the Senate Chamber for the Throne Speech – this is actually in a building across the road so one hopes it isn’t raining. If you read the local paper reporting on this process you could be forgiven for checking you aren’t reading Vogue – the reporter gives comprehensive detail on each members dress / suit / earings / tie – check for yourselves! Anyhow, the Bermuda Black Rod was again a gift, made by the Crown Jewellers and topped with a silver coat of arms.

So now the Parliament is in Season (that doesn’t sound quite right but you know what I mean) and we can look forward to …. well, the Budget comes next, February, I can’t wait.

Bermuda Parliament

Governor of Bermuda

The Cabinet Office

Quickie Lickie

It may sound like a Chinese Takeaway or an Ice Cream shop, but it is actually a laundromat.  With several branches across the island I was spoilt for choice, but convenience selected the one next door to my husband’s office in Hamilton.

Quickie Lickie Laundromat, Hamilton, Bermuda

Quickie Lickie Laundromat, Hamilton, Bermuda

For me this was a new experience, and as you get older they don’t happen all that often.  Not quite as daunting as a visit to the dentist but I was a little apprehensive, holding tightly onto the king-sized duvet as it tried to escape from the not-so-king-size black plastic bag.  At first I thought there was nobody there, but hidden at the back was an industrious lady folding newly dried pillowslips and because she wore an apron I asked her for some help.  She directed me to “one of the large machines” in which my duvet looked like just half a load.  But I was stuck again, no instructions.  You, of course, are laughing, who needs instructions to do the washing? I surmised I needed money and detergent.  The former I had – a pocket weighed down with coins, sought out just half an hour ago from the usual hiding places – back of sofa, old purse, trouser pockets and bedside tables – all useless.  I read the notice “Bermuda’s First Coinless Laundry” but still had no idea what I should do next.

Laundry Card Machine - obvious when you look closely, doh.

Laundry Card Machine – obvious when you look closely, doh.

One thing about Bermudians is that they are very friendly and very helpful and though it turned out the lady-in-apron was actually a customer and not an attendant, she abandoned her own tasks to help me out. So I needed to buy a “laundry card”, $5, and load it with more $ which I then should use to buy some detergent, $1.50.  I didn’t need coins but I did need neat flat non crumpled notes. My family will tell you that I scrumple everything – train tickets, boarding passes, even credit cards – so of course I did not have any neat flat notes and the machine rejected every offering.  I was assured that my dirty washing would be safe while I went to the bank; nevertheless I hurried there and back, wanting neither to loose my place in the non-existent queue nor to lose my new friend without whom I was sure I would make a fool of myself.

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My $5 laundry card

My $5 laundry card

So now I had machine, detergent, card …. straightforward now?  Nope, the machine I had selected for being close to the door, was also out of order, a fact that I did not discover until after I had discharged the powdery detergent into the detergent drawer (which is on the top of the machine by the way, not easily found).  Next time I will know to bring my own washing liquid. I wish I had asked her name, the lady-in-apron gave me some of her own liquid detergent, I’d like to pay her back one day, for today all I can say is Thank You.

In case you forget to BYO

In case you forget to BYO

From this point everything ran smoothly, and true to it’s name, quickly.  There were wheeled baskets to carry the washing across to the wall of dryers and now I knew the system – insert card, select cycle, remove card – just five repeats of the 75 cent dry cycle and my fresh-soft-duvet is ready for bed.

Spoilt for choice

Spoilt for choice

 

Does everyone find it so hard not to give in once you have made up the bed with new sheets? But it is another 8 hours until I can go to bed!

Escape to Washington

Most people will have heard that there have been bad storms in Bermuda this last week: starting with Fay and then, six days later, Gonzalo. It just so happened that my family were coming out too – great planning and forethought on my part to invite them at the peak of hurricane season, more like a naive “we didn’t have one last year so maybe …” Offspring-1 landed just 3 hours ahead of Tropical Storm Fay – BA pilots are known for their ability to land in any weather. Offspring-2 was in DisneyParis paying for her exhilarating experiences, while ours came loudly and relentlessly through the Saturday night. The dramatic finale for no1 was seeing a coconut palm tree snap in half just outside as she was sitting drinking an early morning coffee (the boiling of which entailed flashlight, saucepan, gas and matches as by then the power had given up)

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By daylight we had used up all the flushes (no power = no pump = no water for flush) and were pulling straws to see who was going down to Harrington Sound to get some water … Oh, no bucket, well that answers that one. Clearly my hurricane preparation pack was not up to standard; in fact I had been using the odd item from it for the past year so now we were down to just two tins of pilchards, one of beans and a few cereal bars with one loo roll.

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Later on Sunday we walked up to main road, the driveway almost impassable for the fallen trees. Traffic was surprisingly heavy – post-storm sightseeing I suppose. At that time we were unaware of the new storm brewing and I felt slightly exhilarated to have experienced something so powerful. Monday morning: family conference – decision needed; Gonzalo had been named and the BA flight takes off shortly – with or without our other offsprungs? In the end the decision was split, one came and one turned round, reasoning was unarguable, there was no leeway for being late getting back at the end of the week and so just too risky to put himself in that position. I agreed, yet still, as the hurricane approached, I felt the need to have all three with us somewhere, anywhere, just together. I became grumpy-mummy-wolf for a while.

Actually what was bothering me most was that, just two days before, I had bought a new kayak so we could all go out on the water together – it is still sitting in the hallway as yet unchristened. So proving that mothers can be irrational occasionally.

The second family conference resulted in our escape to Washington and hence the title of this post. As Gonzalo came closer we realised that if we could get off the island then in fact we should – we had no experience or skills that would be useful in the clear-up stage and sitting through another prolonged power cut with winds throwing debris in every direction was probably not going to be fun. Flights out last week were fully booked, even the extra flights. Then the airport was closed – they were boarding up windows as we took off.

We spent Friday mostly glued to news, in whatever format we could find it – Facebook, Royal Gazette, Bernews and the island emergency channel broadcasts until at the peak of the storm when all went quiet, with over 30,000 households losing power everything now was focussed on the live video feed from Dockyard – then that stopped too. The dark side of the moon.

We visited the museums along the National Mall. They are amazing – we really needed more than a long weekend. Next year, with all three offspring. I had forgotten how large American portions are – our order from the Chinese takeout last night will feed us for a week at least.

From the news, Bermuda seems to be bouncing back amazingly quickly after Hurricane Gonzalo. The baby born during the storm was not called Gonzalo, nor Harry Kane. No lives were lost as a result of the hurricane so the name will be used again.

The Offspring have returned to UK, with the remnants of Hurricane Gonzalo following close behind. I hear UK has had a rough time even though the storm has lost most of its strength. In some way it might be easier to prepare and protect an island in the middle of the Atlantic than it is to organise a unified response in a larger country. In the immediate aftermath of the first storm, Fay, we met people along the road and out on the beach clearing up debris, and we joined in, as if on some giant island-wide-litter-pick. That seems to characterise Bermuda, everybody joins in. The last bit I will leave to an advert from the local hardware store that reads:

We have available the following items that have arrived today:
Generators – 5500W, 6500W, 7500W, 8000W – Tarps, Rope, Water, Lanterns, Propane, Gas / Diesel Containers, Batteries, Chainsaws, Duct Tape and Plywood.
Wishing you all the best and a quick recovery.

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Incorporated Art

Bermuda is a pretty amazing place for artists – the landscape of vibrant colours passed on the commute into work is almost enough to make anyone stop and pull out a paintbrush. I don’t myself possess a lot of talent when it comes to creating art, at least that’s what I learnt from art lessons at school in the 1970s; but I can appreciate art for both skill and beauty. So I have just visited a small and exclusive art gallery in Hamilton – aka, my husband’s office.

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Canopius is displaying some works from 12 Bermudian artists, a project which has mutual benefits – the artists are able to showcase and sell their work and Canopius can expect a 15% increase in efficiency from their staff. (1)

Many offices have an excess of glass windows with movable partitions instead of walls, but the Canopius office lends itself to displaying art with virtually one long wall along the length of the building. I am not sure for how long each display will be exhibited, but the plan is to refresh the artwork regularly.

Canopius Head Office (image: Alan Williams, The Guardian)

Canopius Head Office (image: Alan Williams)

As you can see from the above image, the company has used an artistic flair elsewhere – the London office in the Lloyds Building has an arresting reception area with plush-pink-cushioned chairs, pedestal columns topped with Romanesque busts (2)

So it perhaps a natural derivative for the Bermuda office to branch out into the aesthetics of corporate art.

I will need a larger house if I am going to buy one of these!

I will need a larger house if I am going to buy one of these!

But if decorating the office leads to higher productivity, then one company has taken a risk by selecting a board of 1,200 Lego Minifigures as its corporate artwork. (3)

Reception area

Reception area

Bermudian Artists currently on display in the Bermuda office at Atlantic House, Hamilton:

Artists on display, October 2014

Artists on display, October 2014

Images, unless stated, are my own, taken with permission from Canopius, Bermuda.

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Ref: 

1. Knight, C.P., & Haslam, S.A. (2010). The Relative Merits of Lean, Enriched, and Empowered Offices: An Experimental Examination of the Impact of Workspace Management, Journal of Experimental: Applied, 16, 158 – 172.(http://www.identityrealization.com/app/…/2010+JEP+Space+Experiments.pdf )

2. Guardian: Hidden Spaces, June 2008
http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/gallery/2008/jun/19/exhibition

3. Qubic Tax Project
http://www.acrylicize.com
http://www.mymodernmet.com/profiles/blogs/acrylicize-lego-people-wall

People are very gullible. They’ll believe anything they see in print. (Charlotte’s Web, EB White)

Autumn news in UK is full of scary spider stories because that’s the time of year they all come in from the cold. It made me smile to read one such in a Bermuda paper – a possible sighting of black widow spiders on the benches outside the new hospital wing. The government entomologist has declared them to be brown widow with a less painful nip – so that’s alright then!

Last year, on one of my first exploration rambles I almost had a full blown panic as I walked into a huge sticky web connecting two branches at least 3 feet apart, with a very scary-looking spiky spider sitting in the centre:

Spiny-backed orb weaving spider

Spiny-backed orb weaving spider

Locally they call it a crab spider, for obvious reasons; it is a spiny backed orb weaving spider.

Did you know that the eponymous spider in Charlotte’s Web was an orb weaver? The author, EB White, spent some time living on Bermuda and it would have been a romantic connection if he had got the idea from these crab spiders, but it is more likely he saw the related barn spiders in his own childhood home and Charlottes “full name” in the book was “Charlotte Aranea Cavatica” linking her to another species of orb weavers.

The big spider in the centre is the female and somewhere near the edge a male or two will be biding his time for an opportunity to mate with her, a process reported to take up to 35 minutes. Sadly six hour’s later he pops his clogs and even the female only lives long enough to secure her egg sac under a low lying leafy plant. The teenage crab spiders wait in the undergrowth until they are big enough and scary enough to build webs out in the open – the appearance is all bluff, they are not poisonous and don’t bite.

If you want a poisonous spider on Bermuda then clean out the warm dark cupboards or sheds: the brown recluse likes to hide in cardboard boxes and shoes ( one reason I may invest in plastic shoe boxes). They aren’t good at web design and their tangled chaotic creations don’t catch much so they go out to hunt at night. They are not endemic to Bermuda, rather expats with work permits – they will eat cockroaches, so that’s a reason to leave them alone and let them live their reclusive lives. If you do get bitten then you probably need to seek medical advice because up to 50% of bites will turn nasty, some becoming necrotic. However, such bites are really not common – nothing in local news until you go back some 6 years. To identify your brown recluse it will have only 6 eyes and on its back a dark pattern in the shape of a violin, hence its common name “fiddleback”.

Brown Recluse Spider By Ladyb695 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Another solitary spider found in Bermuda, again a recent import, is the wolf spider or hunting spider.  The best time to find one of these is at night, armed with a torch, though I haven’t actually done this yet. Of their 8 eyes, one pair has a reflective lining, so like cat’s eyes they light up and glare back at you; a whole nest and I would be seriously creeped out! Have you ever read the book “The Haunting of Toby Jugg” – an old Dennis Wheatley story that my husband read to me once (I love being read to) – Toby, not only haunted by a hairy-multi-legged creature that he believes to be the devil, is also visited by a plague of smaller satanic spiders – in my imagination these are the slightly furry-looking wolf spiders with luminescent green eyes!

Wolf Spider By Bidgee (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons


But far more likely inside your house will be “Daddy-Long-Legs” spiders – not the crane flies that the British identify as DLL, but leggy fast moving harmless spiders whose untidy webs rely on an element of confusion and panic rather than any stickiness or strength to catch prey. These are useful spiders – they eat ants, albeit leaving the residue husk in a give-away pile on the floor under the web, but that has to be better than trying to track the source of a long line of ants with the nasty-smelling insecticide spray poised for attack.

Cellar Spider or Daddy Long Legs Spider    (one of my own)

Cellar Spider or Daddy Long Legs Spider
(one of my own)

That leaves just the wonderfully named “golden silk spider“, huge and quite scary looking with a colourful abdomen and hairy legs – you have to look up, they hang webs in trees, high up when the weather is good, low down when storms are on the way – hence their common name “hurricane spiders”. Their webs are huge, maybe a metre across with even longer support strands so they can span across the width of a Bermudian road. I have been out these past two days trying to get a photo of one but I guess there could be a storm coming as there are none to be seen. (If I can find a photo with Creative Commons rights then it will be here:

Golden Silk Spider By http://www.birdphotos.com (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

If not try Wikipedia! )

So finding a non-native black widow spider queueing for hospital outpatients is an unusual occurrence, even if it was brown, not black.
Bermuda definitely does not have “spiders large as saucers lurking in the dresser” (JK Rowling, Harry Potter #5)

Bermuda for the mobility-impaired visitor

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Last week I discovered how difficult Bermuda can be for visitors with any degree of impaired mobility – my mother-in-law came to stay. We actually had a lovely week but not without some problems and disappointments relating to accessibility.

Although Bermuda is a British Overseas Territory it is not covered by any of the British discrimination acts (Equality Act, 2010) and the island has no protective equivalent to the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). It seems that if not compulsory then many businesses are slow to make provision for the disabled and this includes tourist attractions.

Arrival
But first a word of praise: The staff of both British Airways and Bermuda Airport were excellent.
We pre-booked a wheelchair for both ends, wondering if it might be a bit over-the-top since in normal day-to-day UK life she only occasionally uses a stick, but of course sometimes the distances and obstacles one encounters at an airport would challenge even a triathlete. The “with-wheelchair” status was as good as a “beat-the-queues” ticket at Disney World and we were prioritised at immigration and offered help retrieving our luggage. The Bermudian welcome was outstanding.

Now that stick that I mentioned – well in case it “wasn’t permitted” as hand luggage it had not made its way into the packing and so one of the first things we had to do was to find a stick. It isn’t as easy as one might hope but the pharmacy in St George’s offered a small choice and the one I purchased was collapsible, adjustable and right-handed – perfect.

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Hamilton
For those who don’t know, Hamilton is on a hill and the only flat street is probably Front Street. I learned that
HILL + HEAT + HUMIDITY = NO-WAY
The slope up from City Hall to the Cathedral is deceptive, it is a good job that churches tend to be cool inside. If you then want to walk down to the harbour, Burnaby Street is steep – Queen Street is more gentle, but even that on the way up is hard-going. We did find a lift in the Wellington Centre which delivers you to three steps up from the Reid Street level which can be achieved with the wheelchair lift beside the steps. Many of the shops, however, could not be easily navigated, the old buildings have multiple levels and steps in all sorts of places, only some of those steps with hand rails.

St George’s
I volunteer for Bermuda National Trust and would like to say nice things but neither of their museums in St George’s are accessible to the mobility-impaired visitor. Tucker House has several steps at the entrance with more inside and The Globe Rogues and Runners displays are all on the upper level. Even more disappointing was St Peter’s Church – a long steep flight of steps at the front with no handrails and although they have a rear entrance through the graveyard, the road behind, Church Lane, is resident-parking only, and I could hardly leave my Mother-in-law balancing on her stick or perched on a gravestone while I parked ¼ mile away. Water Street and Kings Square are accessible, but elsewhere in the town take care with uneven surfaces, lack of pavements and narrow roads.

Dockyard
This visit was a success until we reached the Commissioner’s House – or, more accurately, didn’t reach it. There are two slopes up – one narrow but steep, the other wide … but steep. Having been there before I did know this but was disappointed that it wasn’t mentioned as we paid our steep (!) entrance fees – after all the entrance is for the Museum of Bermuda and most of that museum is IN the Commissioner’s House.

I shall simplify things and give you a list, since I guess some of you reading this will have landed here considering a trip to Bermuda with a mobility impaired traveller:

Not accessible:
Crystal Caves – probably obvious that there are no elevators in old caves!
Fort St Catherine – on three levels with lots of stairs, possible entrance to one level by wheelchair
Alexandra Battery – view from ground level only
St David’s Lighthouse – again probably obvious, some views from outside.
Admiralty House Park – steep slope and steps
Commissioner’s House
Sea Glass Beach
Most of South Shore beaches
Spittal Pond – uneven and hilly
Warwick Pond
Abbot’s Cliff – too steep, no path
Ferry Point Park and Martello Tower – ground too uneven

Manageable with help:
Ferry Point Park – rough uneven ground
Paget Marsh – boardwalk slippery after rain and no clear path across the grass to the start
John Smith’s Bay – parking and ramp down to sand
Elbow Beach – if accessed via hotel grounds; public access by steps only
Botanical Gardens – some parts accessible on level ground; wheelchair with “pusher”
Some parts of Railway Trail – but parking a problem
Fort Hamilton – steps to access views of city, cannot access moat path
City Hall
Sessions House
Verdmont – ground floor only
Shelly Bay
Blue Hole Park – first part only
Bermuda Historical Society Museum – ground floor only
Good access:
Spanish Point Park – gentle walk, wheelchair suitable; view the Floating Dry Dock
Gibb’s Lighthouse – at least good for ground level, great views, can park close by
Masterworks – ramp down to entrance, lift inside, toilets on ground floor
Front Street
Aquarium and Zoo
The best place we visited was the Aquarium and Zoo where the paths were well kept and easy to navigate, the ground generally level and wash rooms accessible. Masterworks might have come a close second but they were closed for changing the exhibit, and rather frustratingly did not inform the “Nothing to do in Bermuda” website which is where most attractions and activities are listed.

Transport is an issue if you are not staying with residents who have a car –
Buses do not have wheelchair ramps and because there are few pavements in most instances you will have to mount 1-2 steps to get on the bus
Taxis are often mini-vans requiring a step up
Ferries – not all are suitable for disabled passengers
There is no car rental permitted on the island
Mobility scooters are not permitted on the roads
Pavements are random, will disappear or change sides frequently
Roads are narrow, windy and hilly, not very suitable for pedestrians

So if you are considering Bermuda for a mobility-impaired visitor it will need some careful planning and you may not be able to experience some of the attractions.

Once we understood the issues we had a good time, we thought ahead and did a lot of “drive-by” sightseeing. Clearly a success as planning a second visit next year.IMG_0623

Odontosyllis enopia

I did see it, honest!

I did see it, honest!

Well, that was my attempt  to capture on film the most amazing mating process ever. It has not been blacked out for decency sake – just demonstrates iPhone limitations!

Odontosyllis enopia, a teethed and necklaced worm; 10-20mm long they live in the sandy bottoms of coastal water around Bermuda. For the most part nobody would know they were there and they don’t do much. Then on the 2nd and third nights after full moon, at 56 minutes after sunset, they put on the performance of their lives. The female appears first, spinning in excited circles of fluorescent green.  Then the males are supposed to come zooming up to the surface, he glows when he finds her – powerful chemical attraction going on – then, well, she releases eggs and he releases sperm and off they go back home, job done.

July and Augusts are supposedly the best months to see it but last August was a washout so we tried our luck last night.  We saw several over a period of ten minutes, popping up in the shelter of the dock and by the slipway. Magic!

Sorry I can’t show you!

A license plate to belong

I learnt last week that our car number plate is probably as valuable as the car itself, possibly more with the new scratch the shopping trolley made this morning as it fought for independence.

I read a local blog a few weeks ago where he (presumption on my part since he devotes a whole post to complaining about women drivers) ranted somewhat about the “old grannies” driving around the island – these are identifiable not by the fact that they drive small cars, or that their heads may be completely hidden by the headrests because they are short, but by the number plate beginning with “0”. So by his definition I am an “old granny” – I beg to differ with respect to both.

05844

05844

The number plate 05844 was issued to the 5844th car licensed in or shortly after 1975. Now obviously that’s not my car which I was assured by the friend who sold it to us is a 2008 Kia Picanto. (Don’t laugh, there isn’t much choice out here) So someone way back has retained this number plate and transferred it to a new car, maybe it has been on more than one car in the past 40 years. It could well be on a different car again in a few years time as we had a “let us know when you are selling it” request that definitely pertained to the license plate and not the car.

I think I understand the statement of belonging that an old plate carries. Twice now in one of the Front Street shops I have been asked “Are you on the ship?” and I immediately want to disown that possibility: I am local, I have a driving licence, a car, I belong here. But there is a hierarchy of belonging to Bermuda and I am at the very bottom, merely passing through. To want to belong is a compliment, to the country, the people. Though I have been an ex-pat for just over a year I know that a need to fit in and be part of your adopted country attaches itself to you as you get off the plane. The day we arrived and joined the “work-permits” queue at immigration it felt like a confirmation of sorts, as if we had achieved a qualification.

For now, as I drive around in a non-statement-making-Kia-Picanto, I shall enjoy the notion that the old number plate is a disguise. I shall aim to drive in a fashion that does not feed the ranting local blogger, does not give fuel to the old/granny/woman-driver stereotype.

Oh yes, on some journeys I join in that ranting – at the apparent inability to indicate, the suicidal stubbornness of a bike holding the middle lane, at a 50mph overtake across the yellow line. Since using a horn merely means “Hi” I am bereft of a frustration indicator, but exclaiming “What on earth…?” in questioning crescendo serves to defuse into a bemusement – after all, “This is Bermuda!”

Moldy Warp

What began as a simple packing-for-holiday exercise yesterday has turned into a full scale clean-the-house weekend. I am taking a breather now and surfing a euphonic google-trip as I search for ways to remove mould from a wool suit.

MOULD or MOLD? The middle-english variation MOHLD is more aesthetic.

The lifecycle of this saprophytic filamentous mycelium is as elegant as the words used to describe it – just look up the wikipedia page on hyphae and you are confronted with the phrase

the arbuscules of mutualistic mycorrhizal fungi

I have only a wild-guess idea as to what that means but elocution lessons with Miss Clutterbuck would have been more fun using the language of fungi. (kikekokekoo – my sole memory of those lessons, but yes she really was called that)

I first read that mould is a problem on Bermuda over a year ago from the pink book Tea with Tracey but up until today had arrogantly assumed “of course it’s a problem if you don’t keep your home clean” :O

Now I have found my own mould I will get off my podium and admit I was ignorant. :$

There is no shortage of web advice on prevention –

  • air circulation – makes it harder for spores to settle, so fans on and create a cross draft
  • light – after all, mushrooms are grown in the dark, cupboard doors open and lights on
  • clothes circulation – rotate wardrobe and chuck what you don’t wear (beginning to enjoy this)
  • keep it clean – sweat = fungi food, (enzymatic wash vs eczema, thats a harder choice)
  • closet heaters – takes moisture out of clothes, new use for the hairdryer maybe
  • dehumidifiers – air con on dry cycle and small units in the cupboards

Not such useful advice for solving the problem –

  • toothbrush dipped in bleach – maybe not on husbands best suit
  • white vinegar – will the brown stuff work too or does it have to be white?
  • make a paste with baking soda – I don’t bake (another embarrassing confession)
  • borax, ammonia, hydrogen peroxide, grapefruit juice – nope, not in my cupboards
  • spray with tea tree oil – hmmm, sure he will love going to work with that aroma

Then I came across a serious site that advocated disposing of any clothes with visible mould.
Our mould is most definitely clearly visible:

Mould: a coating or discoloration caused by various saprotrophic fungi that develop in a damp atmosphere on the surface of stored food, fabrics, wallpaper....

Mould: a coating or discoloration caused by various saprotrophic fungi that develop in a damp atmosphere on the surface of stored food, fabrics, wallpaper…. .. actually doesn’t look quite this bad on the hanger!

I read on, pulled into the story of biodeterioration by hydrophobic spores of Aspergillus, opportunistic pathogens, aflatoxins and extrinsic allergic alveolitis. That last field has really expanded since I was in med school when I am sure it was just called Farmer’s Lung.

My conclusion is : the suit must go!

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Suits – awaiting verdict

Moldy Warp?
Just a play on words.

Old English for mole.
Molde = soil
Weorpan = to throw

moltwerf ( old German); muldvarp (old Danish)

Moldy Warp the Mole lives nearby in his cosy underground house. One day, he finds a tiny square stone painted with a golden eye and realises that it must be part of a bigger picture, from a long time ago. There is nothing Moldy Warp loves better than finding things.

 

Moldy Warp The Mole: My 1966 copy of Alison Uttley's book from The Little Grey Rabbit Series.  Written in 1940.

Moldy Warp The Mole: My 1966 copy of Alison Uttley’s book from The Little Grey Rabbit Series. Written in 1940.

2:30 (or finding a dentist in Bermuda)

I have been very brave and I am going to tell you about it for two reasons – one is that I want sympathy and two is that when I needed it the information was sorely lacking.

Wednesday night I was up with toothache. Ibuprofen and paracetamol did work after a while but I awoke with an unpleasant feeling of dread mixed with guilt. I knew the pain would return, not because I am clever, but because I have had it niggling on and off for several weeks and done nothing about it, hence the guilt.

Actually I had almost done something about it – I did find the telephone number of a dentist in Hamilton, but …..

I swallowed some more ibuprofen, cleaned my teeth for twice the recommended 2-minutes, ate breakfast on the other side of my mouth and tried my best to ignore it. Eventually there was no hiding my discomfort – my husband was oh so nice, but I still snapped back at him when he told me “You need an emergency dentist”. Excuses flew through my mind in one last attempt to avoid this – cost too much / hate making phone calls / insurance – but even as I heard myself pathetically claiming “It isn’t as bad as it was” I knew I had reached that point.

I am going to make it easy for those of you who have floundered on my blog because you have toothache in Bermuda:

RING King Edward Memorial Hospital on 239 2009

Ask for the phone number of the duty dentist on call

Ring that number!

It really is as easy as that. I made the call at 2:10 (2:30 would have been funnier, but I couldn’t wait, it was starting to throb again) and saw the dentist at 3pm and was home again by 4pm.
I would joke that the only bit that hurt was the bill but even that was really not too bad.

I am a little embarrassed to say I had two teeth extracted, it sounds like I have never bought toothpaste. I guess, like many, I did not take as much care with my teeth as I now wished I had, and I dread visits to the dentist in part because I anticipate being told off and lectured. But the dentist I saw yesterday did not lecture me, grimace at me or otherwise make me feel uncomfortable – he was gentle and kind, and, even better, he stopped my toothache. 🙂

So what if you just need a regular dental check and aren’t yet at the stage of mixing painkillers with red wine and denial? That may not be quite so easy. For a routine appointment with a new dentist you are looking at a 5 month wait as a new patient. Not many of the dental practices have websites. The best starting place is probably the Bermuda Dental Association

On the page helpfully titled “Find a Dentist” they have a list of 20 dentists who are taking new patients but, looking closely, the list was last updated in 2009 – come on, it is now 2014!

My daughter was aghast that the wait could be that long – she felt the whole population of Bermuda could be seen in that time, the maths does compute. I don’t know why it takes so long, I have contacted several practices and they give a similar story. (I suggest phone is best as few responded to email enquiries and only the newer practices have a web presence.)

All dentists on Bermuda are Bermudian – the Dental Board will sanction work permits only for specialists, such as a periodontologist, certified dental assistants or sometimes for a dental hygienist. There are a few government dentists who cover school children and prisoners with sentences longer than two years. In a surprisingly technological approach the Bermuda government produced The Tooth Team,  a short YouTube video  – sadly it has only had 154 views in 4 years. School dental health seems much the same as in UK, a dental nurse does screening of specific year groups and a letter home advises on what needs to be done. Children can be treated free but I understand most are seen privately using parental work health insurance.

Dental health insurance might be a recent phenomenon in UK but here it is an expected benefit from your employers health policy. I was extremely grateful for that yesterday – a total bill of $299 was reduced to my own liability for $130 which was the co-pay and emergency fee. I suspect it would have amounted to not much less back home. The dentists will also deal directly with the insurance company on your behalf so the hassle factor is virtually eliminated. For larger bills and restorative work it is advised to get an estimate approved in advance.

I found another blogger who talked about Bermuda dentists in 2010, she gives some helpful information. Her experience was perhaps not quite so good as mine was in the end, but I am grateful to her for blogging about it since it gave me a place to start when trying to solve my problem.

So today I am sipping soup, trying to distract my tongue and using salt mouthwashes as advised. I am grateful he didn’t suggest clove oil, black pepper, red bananas (really?) or stems of the castor oil plant.

 

Flying Boats

I will get onto the real flying boats in a bit, but last Sunday afternoon we walked down the drive and across the road to the north shore where we stood and waited for some very fast boats to fly past.

Standing there inside the curve of the fishhook (look at the shape of Bermuda and you will see where I mean) we could see right across to Dockyard, one huge cruise ship on the dock and another performing an elegant 180 degree spin, like a slow motion handbrake turn, before it unloaded the thousands for their own flying visit.

The Round De Island Power Boat Race (note: the island = Isle of Wight; de island = Bermuda) is held annually in August. This is distinct from the Seagull Race in June, which is also around the island and also powered boats but more akin to a hospital bed push than the throbbing blur of the real powerboats. I believe it began in the 60s and was not initially welcomed by the yacht-sailing fraternity that flank the Great Sound, which maybe why it now starts and ends up at Ferry Reach, St Georges; keeping a clear distance between power and sail is only sensible.

It is actually quite hard to find out much about the Bermuda Powerboat Association online – I guess they spend more time on the water than on the web. The Bermudian magazine last month republished an article from 1988, an interview full of “it isn’t like the old days” – it never is!   Bernews have published the results and pages of photos, all much better than mine:

Powerboat (centre) and Cruise ship (left corner)

Powerboat (centre) and Cruise ship (left corner)

We might not have seen much but it was different, not something we would have experienced in the grassy fields of Finmere back in UK.

The real flying boats of Bermuda takes you back to the 1920s initially for local sightseeing but ramped up a notch when the government offered a £2,000 prize for the first flight between Bermuda and US.

A flying boat is one that is supported in the water by its hull with floats for added stability.
A seaplane is supported by floats alone.
That is the British definition, Americans use the terms more loosely and even have “floatplane” which just sounds like a toddlers version.

The first were brought to Bermuda by an WWI aviator called Hal Kitchener, nephew to the Lord Field Marshall. His father had been Governor of Bermuda so it isn’t surprising that he should return here after the war and he bought Hinson’s Island where he based his six ‘floatplanes’. He charge about $15 for 15 minute flights, the first of which carried his father-in-law clutching a letter from Hamilton to St George’s – Bermuda’s first airmail.

Ten years later the first flying boat reached Bermuda from US but it was several years later before an airport had been set up on Darrell’s Island and the Royal Mail Aircraft “Cavalier” carried mail while Pan-American flew a regular 20-passenger flight to New York. Hardly viable by today’s standards.

In 1942 Winston Churchill flew in the Boeing 314A Berwick flying boat from Bermuda back to UK. Compared to the Boeing 777 planes that currently fly the Gatwick-Bermuda route it was half the size but had twice the crew, for a maximum of 74 passengers (just 36 on night flights). The flight took 17 hours and 55 minutes. The in-flight entertainment was a celestial observation turret. I don’t think we afford todays PM such flights of luxury.

Boeing 314 Flying Boat

Boeing 314 Flying Boat

I have discovered during my reading on this a museum that I really really want to visit : Foyne’s Flying Boat Museum in County Limerick. If you click on any links in this blog then that would be the one (I am not paid by the Irish tourist board) Explanation: I might be a girl but I have a small collection of model aircraft that began when my best friend (aka husband-to-be) made me an Airfix Spitfire which he hung from the ceiling of my student room; now my mainly die-cast planes compete with books (mostly mine) and model tanks (not mine) for display space, but I don’t yet have a Seaplane.

My Christmas List

My Christmas List

5 minutes over

You would not believe how many blogs there are about parking tickets!

For example:
New York Parking Ticket  – it has been running for 5 years, offers free ebooks and tests on your knowledge (I scored just 2 out of 12 but it is based on New York rules)

Martin Lewis’s blog on money saving – he does seem to get a lot of tickets!

The Expired Meter covering parking and other driving offences in Chicago

Cabsnaptrap, a cab-drivers campaign to rid London of parking cameras, or at least hidden ones

You can probably guess the reason I was looking – I had a parking penalty notice 😦

It actually wasn’t that recent – just letting my embarrassment cool down. My family will delight in telling you this is not my first parking offence, but it was the first one in Bermuda and for some reason I felt so much worse about this one than I ever did about those earned in London.

I must have nudged shoulders with the traffic warden walking back to the car; from the time on the ticket it had been written just 2 minutes before I arrived. I think I actually flushed with embarrassment, though it could be that time of life and it was a hot day, but I fumbled into the car hoping fervently that nobody had seen me. I don’t really know enough people in Hamilton for that to be a likely risk, but it was just down the road from my husband’s office so I drove off quite quickly just in case.

The car behind me had a ticket too, but he definitely deserved one, he wasn’t displaying any voucher or easy park, but I was cross that we received the same penalty when I had at least tried to obey the rules. Or had I? OK, yes I did know I was cutting it fine….well, maybe I knew I had over run just a little …..Yes, I admit it, I was cross because I had been caught.

The car is listed as belonging to my husband and I hadn’t decided when or whether I was going to tell him so paying it as soon as possible was the obvious plan. Just how one pays a parking fine is a whole other story. I had just 20 minutes until our agreed “pick-up time” (only permitted one car per family on the island we had been faced with a choice of wobbly-husband-on-moped or wife-as-taxi ) and my new plan was to pay ticket now and confess over wine later.

In London, and probably in most counties in UK, one can pay parking fines online, also any other traffic offences. They will even give you a souvenir photograph (I am so tempted to use the image of my daughter driving in a bus lane here, but I am a nice Mother and I am not sure she has told her Father yet). Not so in Bermuda, no easy faceless payment system, I expect the shame attached to attending in person is part of the punishment. I had absolutely no idea where to go.

As I have pictures of most other events of my Bermuda adventure it is an odd lapse that I did not take a picture of the parking ticket! However, in small print on the reverse side it informs you that cashiers are found at the Dame Lois Browne Evans Building in Court Street. Now that would be helpful if I knew the whereabouts of Court Street.

Obviously I didn't have this map when I needed it

Obviously I didn’t have this map when I needed it (map from Corporation of Hamilton’s website page on parking)

Hamilton is laid out on a grid system – a small one with just four roads each way it seems, but given I knew the one at the front is called Front Street and the one with the Church is Church Street then it couldn’t be too hard to find …….15 minutes of my 20 now disappeared in one way system and traffic lights as I crawled past the police station, Chinese take-out and lawyers offices – all essential services but not what I was looking for. On my second drive past Sessions House (on my right) I was going to turn left – turned right last time which merely gave me a 360 degree view of the place – and by luck rather than judgement I had found Dame Lois Browne Evans Building.

She was first female black lawyer, Attorney General and MP in Bermuda

She was first female black lawyer, Attorney General and MP in Bermuda (picture from The Royal Gazette)

It took me one more circuit to find a parking space as most of the spaces along that road seem to be reserved for police, and then another couple of minutes to set my Easy Park meter (!).

No need for loose change, pre-load online or at supermarket then select your parking zone - could do with these in UK.

No need for loose change, pre-load online or at supermarket then select your parking zone – could do with these in UK.

I felt 100% guilty passing through the bag-search security, kept my eyes down and reached a cashier’s desk. She could not have been nicer, I wish I knew her name, she expressed amazement that I was paying the ticket on the day it was issued (actually within the hour!) and whispered that I could have left it to the end of the month – No, I certainly could not have lived with that, part of me was terrified that parking fines might be enough to deport me back to UK and I haven’t quite finished having an adventure yet.

My phone rang. Husband. “On my way”
My plan to tell him after supper lasted all of the few seconds it took to swap places and let him drive home (we always do that, nothing to do with the parking ticket) and I wasn’t sure whether to cry or get angry. He laughed!

I guess in the grand scheme of things it really was a quite a small issue. Looking at the positive, I have contributed to the city’s target of “generating new revenue to resurface city streets” (Royal Gazette Oct 2013 on the City of Hamilton’s new parking charges) But $60 for 5 minutes extra parking seems quite steep!

Further Information:
Parking in Hamilton

Bermuda Road Traffic Act 1947:
Parking = the standing on a road of a vehicle whether occupied or not
Control of parking of vehicles
….. Subject as hereinafter provided, the parking on roads of vehicles or …..
… Any person who parks any vehicle in contravention of any notice mentioned commits an offence against this Act.

Bermuda laws

Bermuda Police Service

Easy Park

Thinking of Bermuda

I haven’t often posted specifically about one company or website but am prompted to do so because this one is rather good. Friends have asked me how they might visit Bermuda or what they should do when here and up until now I have directed them to the standard Bermuda Tourist Authority (or whatever they are calling themselves at the time).

http://thinkingofbermuda.com

If you ARE thinking of Bermuda – wedding? (If you are one of my children please give me some notice so I can panic) honeymoon? conference? Or simply a wonderful holiday, then I do recommend you check out this website. The owner, JG, is locally born and bred, and clearly has lots of contacts (hoping I am not inadvertently connecting with a Bermuda protection syndicate). They use the rather distinguished phrase “destination management company” and the whole site has a rather luxurious feel to it, yet they also offer lowest prices and local contacts. More importantly there is a wealth of tourist information that beats that of the current official tourist site hands down.

However, I don’t want to loose my readers to competition – the “thinkingof…” site doesn’t have commentary or my very skilful writing, so don’t forget pinkbike for the less official stuff.

Declaration of interests:
JG said nice things about my pink Brompton:)

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Charity days

Canopius is in the National Newspaper today:)

staff training?

staff training? (picture from Royal Gazette, Bermuda)

My Bermuda adventure is in part thanks to Canopius, since while I may be having what looks like a prolonged holiday my husband has to work. ( I refuse to discuss the perhaps traditional role-split we have fallen into, but will state I am more than happy to iron some shirts etc. ) You might have read a comment about them in the coffee post – Nathaniel Canopius brewed the first cup of coffee in England in 1637.  June 13th was the second company global community day – all the offices took part in some way or another and the purpose was to support local causes; so Canopius Bermuda found themselves cleaning windows at an elderly care home.

Nowadays many large companies will put a charity day into their corporate calendar.  The format might be that the office closes and everyone volunteers at one particular place, as did Canopius Bermuda, or it might be an in-office collection perhaps associated with casual dress or wearing specific colours. Something like this has been around for years though one British chap seems to be claiming the praise for devising “Giving Tuesday” in the US and is now lauded for bring the idea to England.  If you research the concept (I don’t really recommend this  – the last hour net-surfing has not enlightened me further) there are hundreds of web pages clamouring for your attention and ultimately your money.  I restricted my Googling to “Bermuda Charity Days” – 3,580,000 results.

How far back does it go? 

In 2500BC Hebrews had a mandatory tithe to benefit the poor. Tithing is popular within Christian churches, voluntary but expected to be around 10% of your income. In 387 BC Plato’s Academy set aside days for working to benefit others  – could this be the first instance of a ‘company’ charity day? (The original Plato Academy was more like an exclusive club than a school, men gathered together to solve problems – sounds like an office to me).

In the late nineteenth century corporate support focussed on charities that would benefit the workers directly, such as supporting the local town libraries and schools.  Not until the mid twentieth century was corporate social responsibility highlighted with several changes in US law to simplify the legality of financial donations. It is harder where the company has a responsibility to investors or shareholders as well as to the social environment within which it operates on a day to day basis.

Is it a good idea? 

I am going to risk being controversial here  – I am not convinced that it is necessarily the best way of giving to any particular charity. Before you all jump out of your seats in protest, consider this: last year a certain company closed the office and spent the day painting walls for a small charity, 10 people with variable levels of skill in home decorating armed with brushes (one of them was me and those who recall my attempts at painting my consulting room bright orange or trying out a patchwork tile effect in my bathroom ….)

Would we not have been more charitable to donate one day of combined office salary to a local skilled painter and decorator who would have at least left a professional finish?

Yes, yes, I can hear your defence – team building – but isn’t a day of golf or geocaching more cohesive?  I agree it is an individual choice and I do admire the people who throw themselves into such things and if I hadn’t been off-island on the day I would certainly have been with the Canopius team to clean windows, suppressing my polemical thoughts.

Corporate giving is just one aspect of corporate social responsibility, and would in my opinion be most effective if it is aligned with the overall company strategy.  One obvious way to do this would be to link the nature of the charitable work with the nature of the company, though a computer company giving computers to charity doesn’t somehow seem so worthy.  Lloyds recently held an abseiling event on their iconic building to raise money for disaster relief, that seems well aligned. Canopius head office is in the Lloyds building, were any of their staff brave enough to join the abseiling?

Benefits

Philanthropic companies are well respected  – Business Insider produces a top ten each year, though they rank on amount given rather than percentage of profit.  Credibility and authenticity are enhanced by a perception of generosity.

But then there is a tax benefit but only if they give actual money it seems – both US and UK enable companies to reduce tax payable on charitable donations, as can individuals.  I cannot find whether donation of a day’s work can be tax beneficial to a company, though the Americans can claim expenses of transport to the charity and any uniform required  (excluding t shirts with company logo).

Bermuda has many charities – 361 as of June 2014. Choosing a charity to support is always going to be an individual decision, and the choices aren’t always predictable – I will laugh out loud at funny cat pictures but probably won’t donate to cat charities. Companies with many employees are not going to reach a consensus in a short space of time.  Employee volunteer programs might answer that dilemma: allow staff paid hours on a regular basis to do charity work in company time, for example spending an hour a week listening to children read at a local school, though maybe an insurance company should spend time helping with Maths instead!

Links:

Royal Gazette

Centre on Philanthropy

HMRC Corporate Charitable Donations in UK

Charitable Giving in US

Canopius

Charities in Bermuda

 

Digging up the past in Bermuda

One of my favourite TV programmes when back in UK is Timeteam – Tony Robinson (Baldrick) talks through a 3-day targeted dig somewhere in Britain and you learn small fragments of history while wishing you had considered archaeology as a degree instead of whatever.  It is one of the things I have missed since being in Bermuda, the familiarity of his voice as a background to Saturday afternoons as we watched back-to-back episodes on Channel 4.
Bermuda TIme Team

Bermuda TIme Team

I did did not take much persuading therefore to join a National Trust Visit to the Smith’s Island Archaeology Dig last Sunday afternoon.

 

Smith's Island (picture from Prof Jarvis's blogspot)

Smith’s Island (picture from Prof Jarvis’s blogspot)

Smith’s Island sits in St George’s Harbour, 60 acres, unconnected to the main islands, a few houses in the middle section but mainly undeveloped and very overgrown.  It is important historically because way back in 1610 some of the first settlers made this island their home for a while.  The story goes that three men, Christopher Carter, Edward Waters and Edward Chard, declined to return to England with other survivors of the Sea Venture expedition and they remained to establish themselves in the hope of growing tobacco and perhaps other crops which might make them rich when traders next called in on Bermuda.  I am not quite sure why but they are sometimes referred to as the Three Kings, though they were just ordinary sailors and not noble or rich, I guess they were the effective kings of Bermuda for a couple of years.

Sir Thomas Smith, after whom the island is named, was one of the Adventurers of the Virginia Company (later Somer’s Isles Company) – I don’t think he ever lived there, owned it or even landed there himself.

In 1612 when the first intentional colonists came over from England they stayed to begin with on this island, moving later to St George, most likely because they realised they would need more space.  A few families set up farms on the island, during the 17th and 18th centuries the Pitcher, Asser and Sharp families were known to live here. 1786 saw a Dr George Forbes build himself a substantial home and he is also ought to have set up a building for temporary housing smallpox victims. The darker aspects of the island continued when a whaling station was established there in 1920.  However the Bermuda National Trust now own one third of the island and the government have set up a reserve on another third.

The only way to get there

The only way to get there

Twenty or so of us boarded the BIOS boat across the harbour to Smith’s island.  It was hot and humid so the breeze and spray was welcome, the barrel of ice cold water even more so (thanks to Peter for realising none of us would bring sufficient for our needs and carrying the barrel)

Pretty much overgrown

Pretty much overgrown

The Dig

Professor Michael Jarvis, a modern version of Indiana Jones, leads a group of students from University of Rochester; for them it’s a credit-bearing five weeks of hard work, not cheap either – $4000 plus air fares – but they aren’t all history or archaeology majors, one I spoke to was doing business studies and her friend was a psychology major.  Then there are volunteers, both Bermudian and from elsewhere.  It began in 2010 and will probably continue until 2018, always the last week of May and the month of June so quite hot for digging.  But if you fancy five weeks on Bermuda ….

 

The group blog about their excavations on http://www.smithsislandarchaeology.blogspot.com and if you go to that site you can see images of some of the finds and a lot more technical detail.

To date they have looked at one site that probably had a wooden framed house on it, another they hope will be the home of Christopher Carter, a cave site where there is evidence of people living at some point and a small building near a bay the map refers to as Smallpox Bay.  Some of the artefacts include a military button and an animal bone, cherts from non-local stone and pieces of glass.  I realised that an awful lot of digging, brushing and sweeping goes on for every small piece of evidence and came to the conclusion that neither my knees nor my patience would cope with this sort of work.

This was probably the last visit to the site for 2014 but if you get a chance to take this trip next June I would strongly recommend it.  It was a very pleasant if dusty afternoon!

The images below are my own photographs.

 

Under a blue tarpaulin

Under a blue tarpaulin

Wall of smallpox hut with possible GR inscription carved into wall (look very carefully for that!)

Wall of smallpox hut with possible GR inscription carved into wall (look very carefully for that!)

An oven, possibly at the site of the home of Christopher Carter

An oven, possibly at the site of the home of Christopher Carter

image

Buses in Bermuda

Pink Buses

Pink Buses

This morning I caught a bus!
Yes, the statement does deserve an exclamation mark: in a little over one year I had yet to experience the delights of bus travel.

Although buses, as opposed to horse-drawn carriages, were familiar in England from 1889 it was not until 1946 that the Bermuda government agreed to purchase 6 buses.  There had been two previous attempts to establish buses but the train obviated the need.  The first buses were green and carried 21 passengers, but they were left-hand drive which meant people got on and off in the middle of the road.  There was a mixed reception: news reports used words such as ‘resplendent’ or ‘shoddy’, opinion was divided.

Today the bus companies continue to feed disagreement on the island – on Monday an impromptu drivers strike left many stranded though it turns out the plumbing issue over which they were making a stand has been ongoing for several years and has become another political weapon between the two main parties.  The first bus strike on the island was in 1955 over pay.  Some things don’t change.

Anyhow, I needed to be at St George’s and my husband needed the car so it seemed an opportunity.

I am thus prompted to write my version of “A guide to Bermuda bus travel”

Timetable and map available from Visitor Centres

Timetable and map available from Visitor Centres

Step 1:
Locate a timetable. The Visitor Information Centres (VIC) will have them – they are in Dockyard and Hamilton near the ferry terminals and at St George in King’s Square. I have taken photos to help you out in case you are not in the vicinity of a VIC.

Routes and fares

Routes and fares

The most helpful image is the map – routes are colour coded and each black dot represents a bus stop.

Bus route map

Bus route map

Step 2:
You will either need to buy a ticket in advance or have the exact change for the fare.
Books of tickets can be bought at the bus station in Hamilton. You may need either a 3-zone ticket or a 14-zone ticket. That probably needs some explaining, when I bought my tickets a year ago the 3 or 14 question confused me utterly. On the map the zones are demarcated by red dash-dot lines, there are 14 in total, each about two miles. The basic fare permits you to travel up to three zones, and yes you correctly reasoned the higher fare permits up to 14 zones.
3-zone tickets cost $2.50 bought in advance, $3 if paying cash.
14-zone tickets cost $4.00 in advance, $4.50 on the bus.

Book of tickets

Book of tickets

Step 3:
Check the times. When my children were at school in UK they had at least one whole lesson devoted to reading bus timetables! This one gives the time the bus leaves either Hamilton, Dockyard or St George and then underneath lists a few average running times. For example, today I caught a bus from near Flatts going Eastwards. I had to work backwards, in one of those “think of a number” type of puzzle: ETA 9:45, take away total journey time Hamilton to St George, add in average journey time Hamilton to Flatts, add in two short stops worth of time …. Actually writing it down like that makes it seem a lot simpler than it felt when I tried to work it out it earlier.

Bus timetable

Bus timetable

 

Step 4:
Find the bus stop. In most cases these are just simple poles by the roadside. One or two have shelters nearby, some painted imaginatively. The poles are either pink or blue – pink means going towards Hamilton, blue going away from Hamilton. This does require you to know where you are approximately in relation to the city.

Pink bus stop

Pink bus stop

Back in 1946 there were no stops – passengers were dropped off on request, but in time stops were added according to passenger habits.

Step 5:
Wait.
During the day buses come every 15-30 minutes, depending on the route. If you have to wait longer than this it means one of two things

  • a) a random bus strike or
  • b) you are in the wrong place (aka “should have gone to Specsavers” )

Step 6:
Bus etiquette. Unlike London buses these have just one door that is an exit and entrance. Now I knew that but it didn’t stop me from appearing rude and impatient as I absentmindedly started to climb the steps onto the bus before letting others get off. I received a ticking off from the bus driver, loud enough for everyone to hear and for me to turn a shade of pink deeper than the pink bus. My embarrassment was lessened slightly when the same happened at the next three bus stops, it wasn’t just me!

Steps 7-10:
This is what is forbidden on buses: food or drink, pushchairs or buggies, luggage and bathing suits. While the bus does stop at the airport for locals who work there, passengers with luggage will not be allowed to board, they will be directed to the taxi rank. Small carry-on bags may be allowed but it is at the drivers discretion. Dress code is strict all over the island and beach-wear is frowned upon anywhere other than a beach so cover up and wear shoes if you want to use a bus.

Thus suitably prepared I set off from home in good time…. I fell at the first hurdle of finding a bus stop, a pink one at the end of my road but I couldn’t see a blue one. So I walked eastwards along the railway trail (see previous post) and almost missed the next stop! After my etiquette failure I tried to keep a low profile, but having sat on a sideways-facing seat with nothing to hold onto as we turned corners I was in danger of becoming the morning entertainment.

The stops are request stops, push the bell at least 150 yards before the stop to alert the driver, but do not stand up before the bus has stopped – to do so will bring a stern reprimand from the driver as one poor tourist discovered.  Accustomed to the new London buses that have an electronic sign informing you of the next stop I had to concentrate hard on what the driver was calling out.  Even so I got off one stop too early and found myself walking down the hill into the town for the last part.  I would recommend that you tell the driver where you want to go and ask him to tell you when to get off.

Success 🙂
But I find myself slightly anxious, I have still to go home!

Post script: 

The homeward journey, as some of my friends will have heard, was far from simple but entirely my own fault – I boarded the wrong bus. 😦   As I finished at The Globe a bus passed me so I ran up the slight incline to the stop only to reach it as the bus pulled away.  A helpful person walking past reassured me that another would come along in 15 minutes so when one did just that I got now without checking the number.  As the bus turned towards Crystal Caves I realised my mistake, but clearly not thinking straight instead of walking back to the turning and getting the correct bus I walked onwards and eventually found myself in previously unexplored territory (for me).  It could have been a long walk home, had my husband not rescued me after a pathetic text!

If I have a conclusion, there is nothing actually wrong with the buses, but maybe I am not a good passenger.

Snoopy-Comic-Strip-peanuts-256343_500_358

 

What’s all this about PINK?

P1120047

How kind of our landlord to provide me with a pink kayak to go with my pink bike!

I wasn’t one of those little girls always to be found in pink princess outfits, with pink ballet shoes  or dolls clothed in every shade of pink.  My preference for pink is something that crept up on me with age, like wrinkles and middle-aged spread. In fact I can date it to the mid 2000s when I chose a baby-pink bicycle over the British-racing-green ( I liked both so persuaded my husband to buy the green one ostensibly for himself).  Pink represents a feminine aspect that the tomboy child in me never wanted to acknowledge, something soft, and yes, pretty.

A lot of Bermuda is pink, from houses to buses, sand and sometimes even clouds.  The man-made pink seems to have been a 19th century introduction, the earlier homes mostly as white as their rooves, not the assorted pastels found today.  The pink became a status symbol, the wealthy having their external walls painted with lime mixed with oyster shells and iron oxide for pigment – conch-pink walls with white quoins and sage green shutters.

When I was 11, as part of the entrance exam for my school, we were interviewed in groups of four and near the beginning of that very scary day we were asked to read aloud from Gerald Durrell’s “My Family and Other Animals”. My passage included the description of his family home in Corfu:

“…nestled a small strawberry pink villa, like some exotic fruit lying in the greenery … the villa was small and square, standing in its tiny garden with an air of pink-faced-determination.”

The image was alien to my 11 year old self brought up in Reading with Victorian red brick and 1970s concrete.  Internet and photographs meant it was less of a surprise when I landed on Bermuda some 40 years later and now pink buildings are part of the background of island life.  It’s a background that contributes to a sense of softness, a marshmallow quality to my life out here.

A pink Church in Hamilton

A pink Church in Hamilton

I have talked about pink sand before (see Coral), red foraminfera that grow around corals and get crushed with skeletons of other marine organisms; some days it is pinker than others, it depends on the light.  You can buy small glass jars of this pink sand for just $3 and one Bermudian jeweller has created some very pretty earrings and necklaces from compacted sand in silver surrounds.   I don’t suggest you take your own sand off the beaches though – it is illegal to do so (remind me I need to hoover the car, it’s full of sand)

Bermuda is using pink to reignite a tourist industry – Morepink.bda – and had a random campaign last summer where things pink just appeared:

Pink umbrellas

Pink umbrellas

IMG_0010

Might need a little more than this to rekindle some of the gift shops!

Naturally pink - gravestones at Dockyard

Naturally pink – gravestones at Dockyard

Flamingoes... so pretty ...

Flamingoes… so pretty …

I am old enough to recall the The Pink Panther, Pink Floyd, Pink Elephants.  A Pink Lady is either a gin and grenadine cocktail or a mixture of xylocaine and antacid – one of those needs a prescription!   Now I am on a roll ….”the very pink of perfection” (from She Stoops to Conquer by Oliver Goldsmith, another schoolday memory, I believe this applied to a rather obnoxious son the mother wished to get married off )…..”I am the very pink of courtesy” Romeo and Juliet (can’t explain that one, it sounds like made-up-Shakespeare)……and this one made me smile – in Monsters Inc. faced with a pile of pink papers, “the pink copies go to Accounting, the fuscia ones …”

What is it about pink?

I like it. 🙂 

 

Bermuda Railway

It seemed a strange coincidence that as I was writing a piece about the old Bermuda Railway a news article should appear today on redeveloping part of the railway trail to make it accessible.

From the end of our road you can access the Railway Trail – just cross the road and down a few steps – so last Sunday before the sun made walking uncomfortable, we walked along part of the trail from East to West, reaching Flatts and the old Aquarium Station. Apparently once this building held a museum which would have told us all about the railway. It is closed now, which is sad. I am not sure when it closed because some of the tourist sites still mention it and the boards along the trail too.

Bermuda had a railway for 17 years, from 1931 until 1948.

 

When I heard this I imagined a narrow guage track with miniature steam trains, but this one was a full sized standard guage track with gasoline locomotives, Pullman carriages and 42 stations.

What happened to it? It would perhaps have been a solution to the overcrowding on the roads, a way of avoiding the rush hour and an income generator from tourist use. Sadly it seems to have declined in the post war years, and when cars were finally permitted on the island the railway could not compete.

In terms of cost per mile of track the Bermuda Railway surpasses any other – in actual money it cost over £1,000,000, which translated to current values is about $2million per mile. The track was 21.76 miles, almost end to end with a loop midway into the city of Hamilton. For the most part it was single track with 14 passing loops. Entry to each section was controlled by a key system, the driver removed a key at the start of the section and replaced it at the end, keys only being released if the counterpart was firmly located at the other end.

 

Why did they build it?
In the early 1900s tourism was becoming a major source of income for the island, taking over from ship building, competing alongside agriculture and predating the Bermudian finance and insurance industry. Cruise ships came from the States, people stayed on the island to escape from winter in US or Canada, a contrast with current tourism that peaks in the sunnier months. In 1908 the Motor Car Act banned all but a few essential vehicles so limiting residents and tourists alike to carriages or bicycles. Even so, serious consideration of a railway was several years later and then, once approved it took a whole ten years to complete. I may have said this already, things can happen quite slowly in paradise. Eventually the company Balfour Beatty were brought in to complete the task and before even they opened the line they were undertaking repairs and rebuilding of the original work. Investors must have had an anxious few years – curiously nearly all the money was raised from overseas, non- Bermudian investment.

From a Bermuda postcard

Geeky stuff
Most of this I didn’t know until I started reading; it caught my interest but feel free to skip this section.
What exactly is a Pullman Carriage? I feel I ought to have known this, at least two relatives worked for British Rail (which might not exist any more) – George Pullman was an American engineer who designed the eponymous luxury carriage, initially a sleeper car, famous for carrying Abraham Lincoln’s body from Washington to Springfield. So the name became synonymous with luxury and first class – Bermuda Railway had more Pullman Carriages than it did the cheaper “Toastracks”. I have seen two descriptions of the latter – one suggested they were so named because the seats flipped over so passengers were always facing forwards and the other said they had no corridors or aisles, had upright seats and open sides – both of course could be correct, I have not managed to find a detailed photograph.

What is the difference between narrow and standard guage? I expected this to be a simple answer – standard guage is 4 foot 8 and a half inches between tracks so narrow guage is probably smaller. Apparently there are many different gauges – for example in Ireland the distance is 5’3″, in India 5’6″.
The story is reminiscent of the VHS/Betamax or Bluray/HD battle: back in England in 1825, Stephenson, of Rocket fame, built the Stockton and Darlington Railway, using an inter-rail distance of 4’8″ (plus a little bit); then along came Brunel (the chap with such an amazing name, Isembard Kingdom) and he built the Great Western Railway using a broader gauge of 7′ ¼”. For fifty years the British railways were run like this – different sizes of track and rolling stock in different regions? Clearly this impaired any national service and so finally by 1892, Brunel had lost the battle and English tracks were standardized at 4’8 ½ “. Both Stephenson and Brunel had died by this time, of pleurisy and a stroke respectively (of course those bits are going to interest me!) It actually doesn’t make much sense that the broader gauge wasn’t implemented – it is more comfortable, more stable and gives more carrying capacity, but government decisions don’t always make sense.

Tickets
I am old enough to remember conductors on buses and trains who had a cris cross of straps across their chest as they carried a ticket machine on the left and a money pouch on their right side. The ones I recall wound a handle and a newly printed ticket was issued, pink or green sugar paper, about 2 inches long, that went soggy in my sticky hands (I was only little).

 

However there was a system predating even this antiquity – the Bell Punch System – preprinted tickets of different values were punched by the machine so the front side the hole covered the stage at which you got on the train and on the reverse side the hole fell on the name of the station where you should get off (the same company produced the first desktop calculators – my husband collects calculating machines and we have one which I learned today is called ANITA – A New Inspiration To Accounting, developed by the Bell Punch Company)

 

I am digressing, as happens, but if I don’t move on I won’t have time to talk about the Railway Trail – which is what exists now, 18 miles, much of it along the coastline, a protected trail for walking, cycling, running. The trestles have long been dismantled and the trail diverts inland rather than crossing the bays, but you can almost walk the length of the island. According to Trip Advisor the trail is ranked no 34 out of 185 attractions in Bermuda (are there really that many?) and there are only two negative reviews there over the last three years. I am not quite sure how many stars I would give it – some parts are beautiful with pretty views and interesting plants, but there is nowhere you can park a car along the track and once you have walked one way the only way back is to retrace your steps. I prefer circular walks, which is probably why it has taken me so long to start exploring the trail. Now I can reach it on foot or cycle I have no excuse not to go further along, so next time I shall walk East.

20140522-170445.jpg

 

The rail line was finally closed on May 1st 1948 and the rolling stock was sold to British Guiana, the original investors never receiving a single dividend. It wasn’t until 1984 that the trail was opened up for the public. In that time most stations were dismantled, a couple put to other uses, and along the track the most prominent remains are the concrete bases for the trestles, like giant’s stepping stones.

Ref:
Bermuda Railway
by Colin Pomeroy, ISBN 0952129809,
Bermuda Railway website by Simon Horn

Realtor Realities: Bermuda Estate Agents

New home!

New home!

In England we call them Estate Agents but the Americans have the term REALTOR, a term which they invented in 1916 and trademarked in 1949.
Real estate refers to immovable property, realty in American language.
Then the suffix “or” is the more prestigious variation of “er” – the site where I found this nugget used the illustration “author” being superior to “writer” so
should teachers henceforth be teachors? Is that why there are “doctors”? Perhaps we could use this device to differentiate between Docters of Philosophy and Doctors of Medicine. 😉

I am moved (pun intended) to talk about Bermuda Realtors at this precise point in time because this week we are moving home and again I want to say a huge thank you to one particular agent who has found us another lovely place to live. Earlier this year she drove us around the island in atrocious weather (occasionally it does rain in Paradise) to property after property. Having lived on the island for a year now we felt ready for a more traditional Bermudian style home and particularly wanted to be near the water. Yes, I know, with just 21 square miles then practically everywhere is near the water, but our new home has direct access onto Harrington Sound.

As we wandered into closets large enough to sleep in and stood in the middle of empty rooms imagining our very few pieces of furniture in situ, D. patiently waited our decisions. For those of you who don’t know, I have to say it feels as if we have been moving home constantly for the last four years in UK and we have established an understanding between us: say little, look, stand and listen. We must be a nightmare for realtors, how do they interpret our silence into a list of preferences?

In our married life we have lived in a number of homes, owned, rented, permanent, temporary and each one has added in some way to our current “requirements”. There was the house where the next-door kept a horse in their garage, another with bats in the loft, downstairs neighbours who called to each other in the early hours, the cellared lodgings during house jobs where we wished we could hover above the bed and feared the scuffling in the dark, one above a supermarket, another next door to a robot-lawnmower-machine that enjoyed two hours of unrestrained wandering each Saturday morning regardless of any late Friday we might have experienced. So we have some ideas of what works for us, and lots of ideas of what doesn’t. Our tolerant realtor coped with all that and came up with “a little place that you might just like” – and we do.

I shan’t be telling you where it is, but in time will find some photographs.

How did we find an estate agent? Some have windowed-offices in town while others rely on a web presence. There seem to be two sites that showcase several different agents properties: My Bermuda House and Property Skipper. They are helpful but don’t expect Rightmove or Zoopla – floor plans and maps may pop up but here you really do need to go to see the property in person. The websites won’t tell you the kitchen is dingy or a streetlight is outside the bedroom window, and the phrase “water views” has many interpretations.

Here is a list of the REALTORS or agents that deal with property on Bermuda:

and the following papers and websites have property sections:

The * indicate sites which list multiple agent’s properties – the Bermuda equivalent to Rightmove.

More than 25 agents on 21 Square miles? Apparently so. One per square mile.  I understand the market has been more active in the past and it has had a quiet period but is reportedly picking up  – so the papers say.

In the UK, perhaps because we had quite a wide search area, the process was to look at Rightmove, spot a possible property and contact the agent directly.  Here we ended up seeing far more properties, leaving it to the agent to select suitable places after we gave a few clues as to what might work.  To be honest the first time we didn’t really know what was available for the budget or whether we preferred traditional or new.  As I said a year ago, we chose a modern apartment in a new development with full mod cons and air conditioning and an amazing view across to the horizon from our living room and from the bed!  A huge thanks to R for being a great landperson (never sure what to call a female version – landlady conjures up images from The Ladykillers, definitely doesn’t fit this instance). This time round we have selected a more traditional style, built around early 1900s at a guess, more quirky in the layout, with a beautiful garden leading down to the water. Yesterday we floated about in the early evening as the sun began to cast shadows and felt as if we were on holiday 🙂

Thank you J and J for taking us as tenants and thank you D for an excellent choice. 🙂

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On my doorstep this morning

Ornamental

Bufo marinarus

I thought it was an ornament, that the landlord had been round in the night adding to the inventory.

This is Bermuda’s only toad (as in only species):  Rhinella marinara, after Linnaeus in 1758 – commonly called a cane toad, but also known as :

  • Bufo agua Clark 1916
  • Bufo marinus Mertens 1969
  • Bufo marinus Schneider 1799
  • Bufo marinus marinus Mertens 1972
  • Bufo strumosus Court 1858
  • Chaunus marinus Frost et al. 2006
  • Bufo marinis Barbour 1916
  • or: bufo toad, giant American toad, giant toad, marine Toad, Suriname toad, crapaud, kwapp, maco pempen, Maco toro, Aga-Kröte

They were brought onto the island by Captain Nathaniel Vesey.

Captain Nathaniel Vesey

Captain Nathaniel Vesey

The Conservation Bermuda website confidently states that he imported 24 toads from Guyana in 1885, but it may not have been so precise as all that – this is an extract from a book written in 1917 by the Bermuda Biological Station for Research:

Interview with Captain Vesey reported in Science, 1900

Interview with Captain Vesey reported in Science, 1900

It is a direct quote from Science N8  Vol XIII No 322 p 342 which notes that a survey undertaken in 1884 on Bermuda found no amphibians at all on the island. Frederic Clayton Waite wrote the article in Science and he was a Harvard trained Professor of Zoology at Ohio State University.  I found some of his other work of particular interest – way back in 1908 he argued for less didactic teaching in the medical student curriculum and more hands-on experience, though he favoured anatomy and histology experience and I might favour patient experience.  He advocated the dissection of cats, dogs or rabbits as a precursor to human anatomy  (not to be encouraged at home).

Frederick Clayton Waite, Professor of Zoology (with ideas on medical education)

Back to the toad. Where was I?

Over time several species of flora and fauna have been introduced into Bermuda, usually well-intentioned, but sometimes with less than ideal outcomes (Ladybirds to eat aphids that necessitated Jamaican anoles to eat the ladybirds, then Kiskadees to eat the lizards etc. I think I mentioned this back in July last year when talking about ants and cockroaches)  Well the introduction of toads seems to have been successful – with voracious and opportunistic appetites they eat all sorts of insects and roaches, crickets, millipedes and snails. It could have gone terribly wrong because there are no natural predators above the toads on the island.  In fact worldwide they are considered tasty morsels by very few species – maybe one or two snakes eat them if they have to.  Probably because the toads secrete a poison from their parotid glands when squeezed and this not only tastes foul (I am told) but can actually cause death if ingested by dogs or cats.  The Invasive Species Compendium database informs that:   The toxin causes extreme pain if rubbed into the eyes  – who would even test that hypothesis? 

Captain Vesey was probably before his time since now there are many instances of these toads being introduced to control crop pests.  He was a member of the colonial parliament representing Devonshire Parish.  The ships that the master mariner sailed includes: Eliza Barss 1857, a barque W P Chandler c1860, the Sir George F Seymour,  Atlantic, a clipper called Ceylon of Boston, a brigantine Lady of the Lake and an appropriately named brigantine Devonshire.
It does seem however that what Google remembers him for is bringing toads to Bermuda!

Now this toad has one more interesting fact  – it was once used for pregnancy testing!

Sources disagree on the process – the Invasive Species compendium describes injecting a woman’s urine subcutaneously into the toad then if she is pregnant the toad will produce sperm in its own urine.   While the Welcome Institute states that African clawed frogs (Xenopus) were used,  and the procedure was to inject the woman’s urine into the leg muscle of a female who then was induced to lay eggs if the woman was pregnant. The former was called a Bufo test but the latter called a Hogben test.  Britannica supports the Xenopus frog while Wikipedia the Bufo toads.  After googling for ages I have found a 1948 article in Nature  where using the male Bufinus toad is described – with the benefit that you can reuse the toad in as little as five days.  The research is interesting – after establishing the theory worked using the isolated hormone hCG, then they used 60 pregnant women and all 60 had positive tests using this method,  which would seem to make it more accurate than todays pharmacy tests – but the paper omits details such as how pregnant the women were and whether controls were used.

It is tea time now, not that I have been writing this all day, but it did keep me entertained on an unusually rainy Sunday afternoon.  We will not be eating Toad in the Hole, nor playing it, nor watching it.  🙂

 

Bermuda Onions

The story goes that Governor Daniel Tucker had onions brought to Bermuda in the ship Edwin in 1616 because he was an enthusiastic farmer.  This fact appears in  lots of places:  Bermuda-attractions, Tuckers Point and news articles. But is it true?

  • Daniel Tucker was Governor of Bermuda in 1616-1619….. √
  • Daniel Tucker was a planter in Virginia when called to be Governor… √
  • He came to Bermuda aboard the ship George…..√
  • There was a ship “Edwin”  in 1616….√
  • Edwin sailed from England to Bermuda, then to West Indies and back to Bermuda….√

The next sentence is complicated:

  • Virginia Bernhard, in her book Slaves and Slaveholders in Bermuda, 1616-1782,
  • wrote that 
  • Governor John Henry Lefroy, in his book Historye of the Bermudas or Somers Islands
  • wrote that
  • Nathaniel Butler in a manuscript now in the British Museum (Sloane MSS750)
  • wrote that
  • the ship Edwin brought to Bermuda “One Indian and one Negroe”

……….  but nothing about onions!
True, he mentions   “plantans, suger canes, figges, pines, and the like,”  so maybe some onions were in the mix.

Bermuda Onions, Botanical Gardens

Bermuda Onions, Botanical Gardens

 

It probably isn’t possible to find out exactly so we will have to believe the current version of history: onions arrived on Bermuda very early on.  It is true that by the mid 19th century onions were a significant crop for the island: in 1844 some 332,735 lbs were exported.  By 1875 the figure was around 4000 tons.  The merchant seamen were nicknamed “Onions” and Bermuda itself “The Onion Patch”.  

You might be wondering why they are so popular and its to do with the mild but sweet taste, probably the combination of soil, sun and water, but I have found three journalist articles saying there is “some magic in the soil”.  A gardening website said to grow onions one should use lots of potash and water and if you harvest at 50 days you get Spring onion-style onions with green tips, but leaving for 120 days gives you larger bulb keeping onions.  It also suggested sowing onions in between rows of other vegetables because they protect from aphids and carrot flies  (after googling for an image of a carrot fly I am not sure I will eat carrots for a while)

Naturally the medical aspects of onions interests me – I didn’t know that freshly cut onion has 10 minutes of antibacterial action so has in the past been used for grazes, wounds, beestings, boils and bruises – note for any junior doctors reading this: probably not approved by the GMC!   In India and China onion has been used to treat cholera and dysentery – 30g onion with 7-10 black peppers ground together and given every few hours.  Onion contains potassium, vitamins A and C and sugar without fat so it might just work on any gastroenteritis.  There are also some interesting studies ongoing in Texas on whether onion can inhibit colon cancer.  The best study I found (in terms of I like the conclusion not that I have analysed the technical aspects of the study) is from Queen Elizabeth College, London, that has found adding fried onions to steak and chips reduces platelet clumping and so could be good for cardiovascular problems!

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This book was written years ago and you will have to come to Bermuda to get a copy – $12 at the Trustworthy Shop – has every onion recipe under the sun, or so it seems.  How about strawberries, onions, toasted almonds with lettuce and yoghurt poppy seed dressing?  Or an onion egg sandwich: 1 chopped Bermuda onion, hard boiled egg and 1 cup mayonnaise with chopped parsley, salt and pepper on decrusted bread.  For the National Trust researchers meetings Margie brings the most delicious egg sandwiches and I am wondering if this is the secret!

So I have covered history, medical and cookery – which leaves onion art?  This will make one of my daughters smile – onions are one of the few things I can draw.

 

The Globe Hotel

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This is where I am today – it is nothing to do with Shakespeare and isn’t a hotel either despite the name. This is the building that holds the National Trust Confederate Museum, which in plain English, is all about what Bermuda got up to during the American Civil War.

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1861, Bermuda was a quiet island with about 11,000 people, British territory. Queen Victoria called the American Civil War a ” conflict of belligerents” and declared that Britain would remain neutral. And so we did – officially.

In a nutshell, the northern states were highly industrialized and more populated while the southern states remained agricultural with a heavy reliance on slavery. Since slaves did not vote the northern states were over-represented politically and the southern states felt that the Unionist government no longer protected their ideologies and values. So in 1860 South Carolina seceded from the Union, claiming its rights as a sovereign state (sounds a bit too much like Scotland and England). The north responded by blockading the southern ports, hoping to cripple the southern economy. This would have a knock on effect for Europe and specifically England.

At that time, England obtained most of its cotton from the southern states, so had an interest in maintaining trade. This led to the need for ships that could get past the union blockades: blockade runners. (BBC did a good programme on the Robert E Lee ship in their series Clydebuilt)

So this is where the Globe Hotel comes in – it was a hotel back in 1861 and in one of the rooms the Confederate Agents set up their headquarters for the blockade running activities.

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So I have found myself a gentle volunteer role manning the admissions and the Trustworthy Shop on Thursdays between 10 and 4.

It is blustery out today so lots of people have stepped inside for a moment’s respite. The 2014 calendars on special offer have almost all gone. Some visitors have been upstairs into the display rooms, one a Bermudian who said she had no idea the museum was here – I guess it takes time for the news to get around and the Trust has only been here since 1961. So if you are on the island and are wondering what to do, take a trip to St George’s and drop in. I won’t be here next Thursday, we are moving home, but someone will be here and it is really interesting.

With tuppence for paper and strings …

On Good Friday in Bermuda people fly kites.

Let's go fly a kite

Let’s go fly a kite

You will just have to trust me, in that picture there are some kites.

A traditional Bermuda kite is a geometric shape using flat sticks and tissue paper with string threaded around the ends of the sticks and then onto a much longer stick – easier to show you one than describe it:

Bermuda kites

Bermuda kites

If you go to the website mybestkite.com you can find instructions for making one.  And on Bermuda Yellow Pages they have short videos of Good Friday kite-flying

Why on Good Friday? 

There are two stories attached to this – one that a teacher was using a kite as imagery to describe Jesus going up to heaven and another that a minister wanted to boost his congregation so held the service outside with kites as an attraction.  I have also heard that the cross shape of the sticks are representative of the cross on which Jesus died.  There seem to be many such stories all embellished with local flavours and Easter kite flying is common in Caribbean islands and Guyana.

Where to see them? 

Experienced Bermudians told us to go along to Horseshoe Bay, so we did. Not wanting to have a problem parking the car we stopped in a roadside parking area opposite Warwick Camp entrance and walked first backwards a little to Jobson’s Cove and then along the dunes to Horseshoe Bay.  It is a beautiful day, sunny, breezy and warm.

South Shore from the dunes

South Shore from the dunes

The white specks in the photo above may be kites, or maybe Longtails – both were flying today.

A beautiful day

A beautiful day

If you are planning on walking in the dunes you need a hat and sunscreen and water.  We didn’t walk that far but it was hot enough for me to have a small strop on the uphill part going back to the car (just a small one).  Horseshoe Bay was pretty crowded. Earlier in the day there had been competitions for the biggest, smallest, highest, kite.

Horseshoe Bay on Good Friday

Horseshoe Bay on Good Friday

The kites are easier to see in that picture but the sky looks cloudy which it most definitely wasn’t.  You can also spot people in the sea – what happened to the claim that Bermudians don’t go in until 24th May?

Kites apparently began in China, reached Europe with Marco Polo and were in America at least by 1750 when Benjamin Franklin suggested using them to catch lightning to prove it was electrical energy.

We spotted lots more flying on the drive back home; it was by then after 3pm which is when traditionalists say kite flying should commence.  Across the road from the Botanic Gardens one kite had entangled with the telegraph wires – perhaps a budding scientist testing Franklin’s theory.

I feel I should confess that I have never successfully flown a kite. 😦 When the children were small we tried many a time on Farnham Park but the wind never seemed inclined to pick our kite up and the closest we got was one of us running along throwing this poor kite in the air while the children pulled hopefully on the strings. Of course we kept the kite, just in case, and only threw it out on moving last year – you always find a use for what you have recently thrown out.

Maybe next year I should have kite-flying lessons!

If you cannot get to Bermuda for next Good Friday then there are all sorts of kite festivals elsewhere: Portsmouth, Bristol, Cape Town, Washington State, Jamaica, and at least 25 more.

If you are on Bermuda and have a better photo of Bermudian kites flying please feel free to add it in the comments!

Let’s Go Fly a Kite
From “Mary Poppins”
Composed by Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman

With tuppence for paper and strings
You can have your own set of wings
With your feet on the ground
You’re a bird in flight
With your fist holding tight
To the string of your kite

Oh, oh, oh
Let’s go fly a kite
Up to the highest height
Let’s go fly a kite
And send it soaring
Up through the atmosphere
Up where the air is clear
Oh, let’s go fly a kite

Let’s go fly a kite
Up to the highest height
Let’s go fly a kite
And send it soaring
Up through the atmosphere
Up where the air is clear
Oh, let’s go fly a kite

When you send it flying up there
All at once you’re lighter than air
You can dance on the breeze over houses and trees
With your fist holding tight
To the string of your kite

Oh, oh, oh
Let’s go fly a kite
Up to the highest height
Let’s go fly a kite
And send it soaring
Up through the atmosphere
Up where the air is clear
Oh, let’s go fly a kite!

We ate hot cross buns after our walk, without the salted cod fishcakes – but that’s another post!

Is the water safe?

Well of course we’re going to throw poo at ‘im! If you have any poo, fling it now.  (Madagascar)

Do we swim in that?

There certainly seems to be  a s***storm about sewage going on in Bermuda this week. If you haven’t read the local papers, in summary, the US Consulate here on island issued a warning to tourists that swimming off the south shore beaches of Bermuda could be a health hazard. I first saw it on April 1st and so perhaps unsurprisingly thought it was an April Fool.  Then today I received an email that originated with the Bermuda Tourism Authority.

No prizes for guessing what they were going to say – an emphatic

 our waters continue to be safe and beautiful for swimming

It is hard to find the truth, but have you seen the water? It is crystal clear, shades of turquoise and very hard to resist.  Yes I know that bacteria can’t be seen swimming along by the naked eye, but I would rather swim here than off Brighton beach any day. (sorry Brighton, I could have said Tenby or Swansea but the Welsh might get upset)

Sometimes reading other blogs is amusing, not that I am encouraging you to read them instead of mine, and one from the Washington Post reports one person who felt he had ear infections from Bermudian sewage (more likely to be fungal and common in swimmers, sewage or not) and anther who attributes cancer to regular swimming in radioactive sludge which apparently also comes out of this pipe.Really?

Actually most of Bermudian poop goes into cesspits under our homes, they have to be suitably lined and professionally cleaned from time to time, so I am told. I expect property owners will know far more than I do on this – how often and how much?  So the waste that everyone is so energised about is a single pipe that ends about ¾ mile off Hungry Bay.  This carries sewage from the city of Hamilton (for my UK friends, this city is nothing like a UK city, more like a very small town or even a large village) and it has the pretty name of Seabright Outfall. 

Tourism activists (good term that, I think it means people who moan about things with good intentions) are saying that this is Bermuda-time-bomb, hepatitis, enteritis and typhoid lurk in the bay for the unwary swimmer.  The Bermuda Tourism Authority – this replaced the short-lived Bermuda Tourism Board – points out that not only is the pipe 100 fathoms deep  but also that the prevalent currents will almost always pull the effluent eastwards out into the Atlantic ocean.  Almost always is a bit worrying – when does it not?

So I went back to the scientific research that the US Consulate claims underlay its statement, which turns out to be just the results for 2013 water testing off Bermuda beaches.

 

Some maths coming up

Some maths coming up (from Bermuda Government DOH)

To help:

  • Enteroccoci are bugs
  • cfu = colony forming unit
  • safe limits are 35cfu /100mls
  • EPA = Environmental Protection Agency
  • mean = average (shame they don’t give the range)

So, at Hungry Bay 25 samples were taken between April and November 2013.  About 4% of these were over the upper safety limit for the bug count . And here’s the maths: 4% of 25 is 1 isn’t it? I checked this with my husband (he has a maths degree so might be up to this ) and I have run it through my brain several times – what I think it means is that one sample was over the limit in 2013.  I am not sure that will convince many people to change their behaviour.

More maths – some claim the waste appears in golf-ball sized globules while others say they are marble-sized.  The volume of a golf ball is about 40cc (wikipedia, you don’t think I know that sort of stuff do you?) but that of a marble is around 2cc, so a 20 fold difference. I admit neither would be particularly pleasant.

It seems it all depends on what you read:  BM-Online paints a gloomy picture that hasn’t improved over the years; Trip Advisor had a forum discussion on exactly this issue back in 2006; Tony Brannon, a tourist activist who once was a member of the Bermuda Tourism Board (thats an interesting read dubbed Brannongate by a 2011 blogger) has been quoted as saying Bermuda government should approach the issue with a degree of urgency. All three online Bermuda papers have something to say about it. The two Bermudians I asked about it today both smiled and shrugged, and that is probably the approach I am going to take. Well, come on, have you seen the water?

The Atlantic Sea – and a boat

Shore

At least you can sea where to put your feet

Ribs and terrors in the whale

I have just started reading Moby Dick – and yes we went whale-watching at the weekend.

Why did this book not find a place in my library years ago? In my mind it is filed with Gullivers Travels, Treasure Island and Robinson Crusoe  – the probably-should-have-read-maybe-know-enough-to-blag classics. I once tried Robinson Crusoe – it is so dull, endlessly boring like the TV series; was it really only 13 episodes?  (I keep clicking on that link just to hear the music)

Maybe it is the underlying theme of insanity that has caught my attention so late in life, or maybe such texts only become good reads secure in the knowledge that nobody expects you to write an analytical essay  (why is school so successful in eradicating sparks of interest?)

Herman Melville visited Bermuda in March 1888, arriving on the Orinoco and staying in The Hamilton Hotel.  His whale story had been completed over 30 years before, receiving unfavourable reviews: the ravings and reveries of a madman.  He died in 1891, an absolutely forgotten man according to the obituary in The New York Times (not quite forgotten then).

Back to whale-watching:

 

We took a trip with the Bermuda Zoological Society costing $85 each for just over 5 hours.

Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo
Tel: 441 293 2727 | Email: info.bzs@gov.bm
www.bamz.org

Fantasea Diving and Watersports
Tel: 441 236 1300 | Email: info@fantasea.bm
http://www.fantasea.bm/

Blue Water Divers & Watersports
Tel: 441 234 1034, 441 232 2909
www.divebermuda.com

BUEI (Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute)
Tel: 441 292 7219 | Email: info@buei.org
www.buei.org 

Island Tour Centre
Tel: 441 236 1300 | Email info@islandtourcentre.com
www.islandtourcentre.com

They all cost much the same and all practice “responsible whale-watching”.  In Bermuda the season is late March to April as the whales travel North.  Some trips may be unlucky with either no sightings or poor weather, it is unpredictable.  We saw a whale breach early on in the day and then several tails and fins as they rolled.  For a short time there were two whales swimming alongside at about 30 feet from the boat between us and a fishing boat – they appeared turquoise in the sunlight and beautiful clear water. For the most part I was too busy watching to take photos, and I caught the sun on my forehead, not having the sense to have taken a hat.  None of the websites I looked up beforehand told me what to wear, so I will tell you: lightweight trousers that dry quickly as the spray is wet, t shirt for the start but a warm fleece with long sleeves for when the sun hides, a waterproof jacket which hopefully will stay in your bag, trainers or sturdy sandals, not flip-flops or your best office shoes, and of course a hat, one that ties under the chin!

Bermuda whales are Humpbacks, non-toothed filter-feeders who eat krill and plankton (one of the few words I have trouble spelling, often adding a c as in Planck’s Constant, which is 6.62 x 10 to the power -34 and probably not at all relevant here).  Seeing their fins or tails above the surface doesn’t give me a feel of how large they actually are, some 36,000 kg, but the fact that they have been evolving over 50 million years is just astounding. You can read everything you could possibly want to know about them on the website http://www.whalesbermuda.com/home

I recall in 1970s whale song was a fashionable accompaniment to massage and flotation tanks, the prelude to swimming with dolphins on a doctors prescription.  I have tried to discover the supposed health benefits, let down by wikipedia, even Google Scholar fails to provide.  Some new-age sites proclaim whale song as a sonic filter for consciousness or a way to access planetary memories.  I can understand why people should wish to study the sounds whales make, but it is not to my musical taste.

Whale poetry, on the other hand, is:

The ribs and terrors in the whale, Arched over me a dismal gloom, While all God’s sun-lit waves rolled by, And lift me deepening down to doom.

I saw the opening maw of hell, With endless pains and sorrows there; Which none but they that feel can tell- Oh, I was plunging to despair.

In black distress, I called my God, When I could scarce believe him mine, He bowed his ear to my complaints- No more the whale did me confine.

With speed he flew to my relief, As on a radiant dolphin borne; Awful, yet bright, as lightning shone The face of my Deliverer God.

My song for ever shall record That terrible, that joyful hour; I give the glory to my God, His all the mercy and the power.
That is an extract from Chapter 9 in Moby Dick, hymn or poem, however classified, it is certainly powerful imagery. 

I like Things to Do in the Belly of a Whale , for when life is tough.  So I have come back round to literary whales and I am going to leave it there.

 

Bermuda International Airport… to be renamed?

In April 2013 Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, suggested that the new London airport be named after Margaret Thatcher.  I might have been bemused, failing to see the connection, a battleship perhaps, but an airport?  As it was I was too busy with packing and preparations to come out to Bermuda so paid little attention. It seems that politicians have commonly given their names to airports – well, their colleagues have, presumably with an unspoken expectation that they too will be similarly honored in time. So we have McCarran Airport in Las Vegas after a US senator, Dulles Airport, Washington after a US Secretary of State, and slightly closer an ex-PM of St Kitt’s: Robert Bradshaw Airport. 

And LF Wade Airport, Bermuda.

Bermuda Airport

Bermuda Airport

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leonard Frederick Wade (1939-1996) 

You will have surmised that he was a politician, one time leader of the Progressive Labour Party of Bermuda, though they were never actually the party in power during his lifetime.  I wonder if it is something to do with being left wing that leads to eponymous airports – Grantley Herbert Adams (Barbados Airport) and Norman Washington Manley (Kingston Airport, Jamaica) were both labour politicians. Or is it an island thing – Terrance Lettsome (British Virgin Islands Airport), Lynden Pidling (Nassau Airport).

LF Wade entered politics in 1968 when segregation and property-based franchise were prominent in Bermuda? He was black. The PLP took up a socialist rhetoric and walked a wobbly path between rejection of racial oppression and anti-white sentiment. This was the start of party politics reflecting Westminster, but was probably inevitably linked to racial arguments given the 60/40 racial split in the population and the fact that historically black people had been emphatically excluded from government on the island.

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Image on the left

 There is no doubt that LF Wade was a noteworthy character: he was trained as both a teacher and a lawyer, a family man (3 wives and 6 children) and played clarinet in a band.  The naming of the airport after him in 2007 was noisily controversial.  The PLP were in power in 2007 (they are not now) and I find myself agreeing with the opposition of the time who accused them of making decisions that were not theirs to make – the naming an airport should be a democratic process. The PLP responded that their election platform had included promoting naming of streets and public buildings – they probably had a long list of members they planned to honour.

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The earlier sign

 

Bermuda Airport of old

Bermuda Airport of old

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Evening

Evening

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Before the land reclamation

 

Field Kindley was an American WWI pilot

 

 

 

 

What is the purpose of naming buildings, streets or airports in this way?  I can understand the instances or promoting culture – Hungary have a Franz Liszt Airport, New Orleans has Louis Armstrong Airport; honoring really famous nationals also makes sense – Alexander The Great  and Aristotle both have airports in Greece, and Pisa has Galileo Gallilei. But it seems that using partisan names creates an unbalanced version of history, socially excluding those who hold alternative views. I wonder if the conservative Bermudians might justly feel aggrieved at the promotion of political statements at their national airport.

All the rage

It turns out that airport names are in the news all over the place this month:

  • Humberside Airport wants to rename itself after John Harrison, the local clockmaker who invented a tool for measuring longitude.
  • Wichita has renamed their airport Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower Airport – lack of consultation providing the controversy
  • Beijing is choosing between Daxing (meaning Big Prosperity) and Lixian (courtesy and virtue)

The Philippines have rules about all this – only dead people and a strict hierarchy so a local official will only ever name a tertiary road but a president might give his name to a motorway. In Uzbekistan they forbid naming any place after any person.

I see John Major has had a Spanish street named after him, not a motorway.  Why? He went there on holiday.

A Major Event

A Major Event

 

 

 

 

 

UK Airports

Bermuda flights leave UK from Gatwick.  The name was that of a goat farm on, or probably now under, the northern runway. Beware the websites telling you Gatwick was a small hamlet – there is one such, but it’s in Surrey.

Heathrow was located on a hamlet of that name and Stanstead by a village with the pretty name Stanstead Mountfitchet.

We might be accused of misleading by the naming of London Oxford International Airport, but it follows the pattern of London Heathrow and London Gatwick, and is arguably closer, at 60 miles, than London Ashford at 73 miles from Downing Street.

Is it a good thing that we have not yet succumbed to sponsorship of airports?  Philadelphia has a subway station named AT&T. I like the sound of MacDonald’s International Airport of Independent Scotland.

Other Airports

Can be eponymous:

  • O Hare at Chicago after naval pilot
  • Logan International in Boston after WWI veteran and senator
  • Shuttlesworth in Alabama for a flying preacher
  • Dallas Love Field in memory of a pilot who crashed (painful memory)
  • La Guardia, NY after the mayor

Or after Saints:

  • St Paul The Apostle in Macedonia
  • St John’s, Canada

Curiously none after St Joseph of Cupertino who is apparently a patron saint of flying.

Or some that are just Silly:

  • Tsilli Tsilli, Papua New Guinea
  • Raspberry Strait, US

 

Pitfalls  

I refer back to the Daily Mail, where Boris Johnson states that naming an airport would create “a permanent and lasting tribute” to his teenage hero.  Saddam International Airport in Baghdad was neither while Sydney Airport has been called Kingford Smith and before that Mascot. If airports will so easily switch allegiances then surely it is best to stick with a geographical identifier, maybe just naming the waiting areas or the baggage reclamation after locally honourable people.

Lending your name to buildings, structures, streets, parks…

But poor Emilia Clarke, better known as the beautiful mother of dragons from Game of Thrones, has had a slug named after her: Tritonia khaleesi

 

 

Interactive Dining – a Bermuda Board Dinner

This morning I was going to complete my post on the airport but I have been sidetracked again –    I had such a wonderful evening last night that I am compelled to share the event.  You may have to forgive any grammatical errors that creep into this non-prefabricated post as I am really quite tired – we did not get home until after 1am.  It was possibly the best evening I have spent on Bermuda thus far 🙂

I don’t usually attend my husband’s company board dinners, so was planning an evening with Netflix. The late invitation (no criticism intended)  was therefore a surprise, giving me no time for what-shall-I-wear-try-on-all-my clothes-panic and I parked the car just in time to meet my husband without really knowing what it was I was attending.

What I had been told was It’s in a kitchen in a shop …. 

What I hadn’t been told was …a really exciting I want one of those type of shop  – 

I have walked past International Imports at the bottom of Par-la-ville road several times, drooling over the window display where I could see more than ten different types of cheese graters for sale, including ones that leave no evidence which is sorely needed in my family of cheese nibblers.  Now I have been inside, well the bank balance might not be so discrete about evidence as the aforementioned cheese grater.

Deep within they have a kitchen with a large bestooled table and ingenious sloping ceiling mirror that enables a birds-eye view of the food preparation.  Now the second element of this amazing evening was the Chef: Keith De Shields is an executive chef at Cambridge Beaches   – I haven’t yet been there, but one couple I met spend a few days there each year even though they live on Bermuda just a few miles away so clearly it will be worth a visit.

Keith prepared for us a taster-menu that began with

My first ever taste of octopus

My first ever taste of octopus

Stupidly I didn’t bring home a copy of the menu and memory refuses to provide details, maybe I can get hold of a copy later.  You are beginning to wish you were there aren’t you?

Each plate was perfect, mingled flavours attractively displayed on well-suited crockery. I cannot stress enough how really really tasty this was.

Yellow beetroot, apple salsa, truffle

Yellow beetroot, apple salsa, truffle

The whole process was interactive – Keith skilfully controlled the process so not a single burnt offering or sliced digit – so the CEO prepared goats cheese wrapped in pistachio crust, someone else helped with Indonesian-peppered steaklets and so on.  We had chef’s hats and aprons specially embroidered with the company logo: it was excellent fun.

Board dinner with a difference

Board dinner with a difference

The third, or is it fourth, element was the wine – my participation here was limited (someone has to get husband home and ensure he is up in good time for the actual board meeting the next day) but for once not drinking did not in any way detract from the experience. Don’t misinterpret, I don’t drink lots  – of course thats what all patients tell their doctor, but it has to be true when the doctor says it – but yesterday I didn’t need to. Yes I tasted the wines on offer, a Goslings selection probably from the top racks that my bank balance doesn’t reach very often, and I listened to those more knowledgable as they swirled and sipped but most definitely did not spit.

I need to thank Keith, Sheena, Reeve and Canopius for a truly lovely evening.  Now I need a cup of coffee and I am going to read a book.

Chef and Hosts

Chef and Hosts

 

The Weekly Shop

I do not miss the self-checkout loudly announcing “Unexpected item in bagging area”, whereupon everyone in the shop glares at you, clearly an apprentice-shoplifter.  I have not come across a self-checkout in Bermuda supermarkets.

Last week's shop

Last week’s shop

Prices in $, 1$ =60p approx.

Meat  slightly +++

Vegetables ++

Sliced bread ++++

Chocolate +++++

Bill total : $250 approx.

 

 

There is an excellent website: Bermuda4U that gives a brief line on each of the main supermarkets on Bermuda and contact details with addresses are to be found at Bermuda.com.  In summary there are around 20 small independent variety stores and then 6 larger businesses  – Lindo’s, Marketplace, Supermart, Miles Market, Arnolds and Harrington Hundreds.  While I have given you links to websites, don’t get your hopes up ….. there is no online grocery shopping and no home delivery for your weekly shop. 😦

If I am honest I probably do miss that aspect

 

 

My first experience in a Bermuda supermarket was akin to an attack of social anxiety – I didn’t know the rules, didn’t recognise the labels, and some items I didn’t even recognise as foods (these I later discovered are Christophenes, PawPaws and Cassava roots). In an English-speaking country how could it be so different?

  • you don’t need coins or tokens for the trolleys
  • but you do need coins for tipping the bag packer ($1-2)
  • bag packers are a wonderful luxury
  • blue plastic bags are for recycling (see previous post)
  • paper bags will be doubled up, they don’t always have handles 
    should I tip this one?

    should I tip this one?

     

  • best to take your own re-usable bags – 3or 4 for one week’s shop
  • wine has to go into a brown paper bag inside a bigger brown paper bag
  • meat and veg go into small clear plastic bags first
  • produce is seasonal
  • buy two of things you like, it might not be there next week

For a British colony (Overseas Territory for the pedantic) I was surprised at the predominance of American products: Nestle, Heinz, Kraft, Kellogs.  It did not take me long, however, to find that Supermart stocks a limited range of Waitrose products – I go there if I feel a little homesick, or is it the other way round, hard to say, I have already confessed I am overwhelmed by some supermarket trips.  It’s the choice that seems so paralysing, being faced with even just two varieties of laundry detergent can be so hard if neither is a familiar name. Some names actually parachute me into my childhood memories – Tide, for example (some of my older readers will be certain it is still on the UK shelves – just checked, not in Ocado at any rate).

My Bermuda trolley looks quite different from my UK trolley but gradually it has become my “usual” weekly shop.

Frozen peas in boxes

Frozen peas in boxes

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I have discovered I like spaghetti (after 50 years), that UK bacon is so much nicer, even if it does come from Denmark, that black-eyed peas taste better then the music, that cassava pie is not to my taste, and that I really really miss Cadbury’s chocolate (available but would require a bank loan)

The grocery scene may be changing here though – when we first arrived which was not every long ago really, nothing much opened on Sunday but now MarketPlace are open 9-7 and some of the smaller places are open in the afternoon.  Harrington Hundreds has just announced it will open on Sunday mornings rather than the afternoon as apparently thats what its customers prefer.  The biggest change appeared in January this year, to an almost silent fanfare – alcohol can now be sold on Sundays, thanks to the Liquor Licence Amendment Act 2013, but not after 9pm on any day of the week.  Still you will not find Tesco, Sainsbury’s or Wallmart on Bermuda because only locally owned companies can set up a business.  But then what is the point of living abroad if I insist on English bread and butter?