Category Archives: Random

Ideas, concerns and expectations

The new adventures of KT

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

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

pinkbikegreengrass.wordpress.com 

KT

 

Walking Bermuda

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

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

Bermuda PKD Walk 2015

Bermuda PKD Walk 2015

Halfway point for PKD walk

Halfway point for PKD walk

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

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

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

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Looking back towards St David’s from Coopers Island

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

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

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

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

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Military cemetery for the Queen’s Royals, 1864

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

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

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

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

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That yellow thing on the rocks looks rather like a Minion

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Lovers Lake

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

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Railway Trail

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The lime kiln is very overgrown

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

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In case you cannot recall your O level chemistry

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

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

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

Tipu’s Tiger

Tipu's Tiger

Tipu’s Tiger

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

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

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

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

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Why am I telling you this story?

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

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

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

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eMoo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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?

The Lemon Drizzle Cake Saga

Taster

Taster

It began with my neighbour inviting me round for coffee, where she served up the most delicious lemon drizzle cake. “It’s just a simple madeira sponge” she said, the assumption being I would have some idea as to what that meant. The trouble is, I had no idea – a shocking confession for a woman of my age: I cannot bake a cake!

I am old enough to have had cookery lessons at school before they morphed through “home economics” to “food technology”. If any of my schoolfriends remember what I was supposed to have learnt feel free to enlighten me. I think I stopped paying attention on “scones” and managed to achieve acceptable grades by judicious choice of seating such that I could copy the actions of one of the more competent cooks in the class – did you never wonder why my dishes were always last out of the oven? I was always exactly one step behind you.

After 2 slices of the simple-madeira-sponge I was drugged into the possibly delusional state that I might be able to make one myself. So, “Lemon Drizzle Cake” became my next project.

How hard can it be?

Plan 1 entailed just 3 steps – find recipe, buy ingredients, bake cake.
After reading more than a dozen different recipes I had reached the answer – too hard.

Extreme disparities and ingredients I have never heard of (polenta?) relegated the project to the “oh, well, it was a thought” category. Nothing here met the criterion “simple”.

The next day my neighbour gave me her recipe:

  • 175g caster sugar
  • 125g butter
  • 175g self raising flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 lemons

Mentally I wasn’t planning on doing anything with this, but the discovery of a food mixer in the corner kitchen cupboard kindled my Masterchef genes. If it sounds odd that I didn’t know I had a food mixer, it really isn’t – the landlord has kindly left us all sorts of extras for our use, but I had classed the corner cupboard contents as “really-nice-but-I’m-no cook” along the same lines as the garden tools.

So, having added the ingredients to my trolley I was all set. Except I had no cake tin. I may regret my decision to keep-it-cheap with a $10 tin (range $10-$35) – from dipping into the fora on BBC’s Good Food website I now understand that thicker heavier tins result in more even heat distribution and thus are more likely to produce a competition standard cake.

If you are observant you will have noticed 2 words that give away an element of my character – Masterchef and competition: I am very competitive! This may be in part due to academic schooling but is more likely my innate character. I once took an evening class in English literature twice (obviously not a grammar course as how can you once do something twice?) but I declined to sit the exams at the end because I was not sure I would get an A grade. On another occasion I turned the London to Brighton bike “ride” not an almost “race” because I so much wanted to get ahead of my co-riding friend. Due to unforeseen fitness differences I failed.

Anyway, back to the cake. Somewhere along the line my competitive nature had been triggered. My children are all excellent cooks and I was by now imagining a women’s-institute-quality lemon drizzle cake that would outclass their creations.

But my excitement was short-lived, falling at the next hurdle “line the tin”. “Greaseproof paper” doesn’t seem to exist on Bermuda, nor is “waxed paper” a suitable alternative; two supermarkets later I found “Reynolds Genuine Parchment Paper” an upmarket version of English greaseproof.

On the shelf beside the baking ingredients were some plastic boxes, but none fitting the dimensions of my project. I love buying boxes and storage containers, even more sorting things to put in them. Was it Winnie-the-Pooh who gave Eeyore a “Useful Pot to keep Things in” – my idea of a perfect birthday present. So I enjoyed my trip to Masters to buy a cake container and was mightily distracted into buying several others to keep Things in. But as I browsed the aisles I discovered several other necessary cake-making tools: kitchen scales, spatula, testing skewer, sieve, cooling rack. This was becoming an expensive cake.

I arrived home laden with exciting purchases and cleared the kitchen surfaces for my baking.

I shan’t be entering my first cake into any county shows. Do they have those on Bermuda? Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a disaster, in fact it hasn’t lasted very long in the cake container, but it wouldn’t be grade A.

I have learned a few things –

  • grating lemons with a basic cheese grater is not a good substitute for a fine mesh grating surface (did you know the cheese grater was invented in 1540?)
  • squeezing lemons by hand is hard
  • my oven is calibrated in Fahrenheit, 180F is not hot enough to bake a cake
  • every celebrity chef has their own recipe for lemon drizzle cake

Adding the costs, I reached an approximate total of $88 for this project, about $8.80 per slice. At first glance home baking does not look to be cost-effective. Waitrose (UK) sell a whole lemon cake for £2.69, which would translate into $8 Bermuda prices once duties have been added on. But look at their list of ingredients:

Sugar, FORTIFIED WHEAT FLOUR (wheat flour, calcium carbonate, iron, niacin, thiamin), pasteurised free range egg, rapeseed oil, lemon juice, full cream milk, humectant vegetable glycerol, unsalted butter (milk), cornflour, lemon zest, maize glucose syrup, lemon comminute, raising agents diphosphates and sodium carbonate, lemon oil,emulsifier mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids, salt, preservative potassium sorbate, citric acid 

Mine has just 6 ingredients, none sound so gross as “humectant vegetable glycerol”.

I have been told I need to make more cake for this project to achieve economic viability.

Therefore I need to eat more cake.

This, I have decided, is a good thing.

My Lemon Drizzle Cake

My Lemon Drizzle Cake

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

A rendezvous in Monte Carlo

Monte Carlo
Mention September and Monte Carlo in the same sentence, you are probably talking about the Reinsurance Rendezvous. On that Saturday morning, if you work in the industry, you will probably know a good 50% of the people waiting in the BA lounge at Gatwick. There are few empty seats and the chatter-levels are high. A fair proportion with tickets to Nice will have arrived on the overnight flight from Bermuda – reinsurance is big in Bermuda, really big. Something to do with tax efficiency, which is not the same as tax avoidance.

MC must benefit to the tune of millions of euros by this annual get-together. Even at an agreed reduced-event-rate, the hotels are charging upwards of €600 per night and there don’t appear to be any cheap hotels or B&Bs in Monaco. I am not complaining – it is really very pleasant: bathrooms the size of living rooms, Flatscreen TV bigger than your own at home, sheets and towels renewed daily – white of course, and that totally excessive “turn-down service” ( not “tuck-in service” which is something else entirely, not for company expenses) Maybe not at all surprising that this is a popular event for CPE.

So what do you actually do here? I asked my husband. Meetings. The in-phrase seems to be “back-to-back meetings” implying an impossible degree of busyness. Then after these presumably exhausting espresso-fuelled conversations the best-of-the-best will move on to working-the crowd at back-to-back cocktail parties, finding a brief window for a five course dinner and a networking bottle of wine.

I am wrong though. It is actually a form of multitasking, an efficient way of cramming in multiple discussions and decisions into 24 hours. Contrast a normal day in the office with perhaps a few filtered phone calls, maybe a conference call with PowerPoint croissants and dozens of unfiltered emails. A Monte Carlo day can be an exhilarating achievement.

For me, a plus-one of the traditional type, it is a few days of unadulterated people-watching. A bench in the park behind sunglasses with bottle of water and ipad. What could be more pleasant?

Then we arrive at the last night, the board dinner. Though partners are not generally included there are enough of us in MC to inspire a generous invitation and the evening does not disappoint. A restaurant that includes on-the-vine tomatoes in its floral displays; a greenhouse ambience belies indescribable foods and for dessert they hand out tambourines with hats; we eat, sing and drink until the taxi carries us away.

Until next year.

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BA 2232

I can’t help but notice, as we skim across the Atlantic clouds that some people are incredibly neat sleepers. Blanket-cocooned question marks. I on the other hand am a restless hippo, exposing in turn bare feet, bare midriff or both in a simultaneous loss of decorum. When I wake in the morning my blanket has crawled across the aisle offering allegiance to someone else. Of course it isn’t actually morning; we find ourselves in an artificial time zone of compressed hours, each a fragment shorter than the last, delineated by the rattle of a food trolley. My internal clock refuses to accept the reality of time travel and my eyelids actually feel heavy.

In the rush-half-hour queues for the toilet I forget my little bag of refreshing creams and potions so am forced to dry clean my teeth once back in my seat, the toothpaste thickly refusing to spread. Then I make the error of sampling the other goodies in my pale blue flight pack: the pro-collagen marine cream is now moisturising my creased linen trousers which never do work on an overnight flight. There is nowhere to put the used apricot facial wipe and my fingers all slippery in their marine makeover cannot open the lip salve.

Living abroad has taken some of the gloss off international flights and what once gave me a Cheshire-cat grin (free champagne, serviettes and real plates) is now almost resistible. But I lack the willpower to decline supper completely like some frequent flyers; a glass of red wine will always win. So while they caught an extra ninety minutes of sleep I fidgeted and played with the remote control. Mahi-mahi, sometimes called dolphin but not related, with wilted spinach, which is a good thing by the way though it maybe doesn’t sound so; yes worth sacrificing extra shut-eye when I was that side of the Atlantic, but right now I wish I had slept instead – by some measures the flight is really too short.

Background moments cause brief flashes of familiarity in my memory – the BA music in the safety video, the inrush of cold air on my feet as I flush the toilet, the unmannerly crush to get off the plane first. Then the long walk to passport check and baggage claim. My old style passport lacks an electronic code so I queue for the human check, smile pasted on top of my non-interactive morning self.

The baggage carousel dances and finally ejects our matching wheeled backpacks. We actually have lots of these, it’s one of our joint shopping weaknesses to buy neat versatile luggage and of course, like the middle-aged couple in the old UK TV series Ever Decreasing Circles, we choose to coordinate, though maybe not our clothes these days. Practice runs in packing determine which size we choose and, as usual, my inability to leave out just-in-case-clothes means the smaller bags rarely enjoy vacations.

So, as you surmised, I am off island for a trip. As we left a storm was building up in the Caribbean and this morning has earned a name: Edouard, on track for the Bermuda bypass.

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!”

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

Bed and… maybe not breakfast …please.

I have just been on holiday and, yes, I had a lovely time thank you, the weather was good and the company almost perfect – my husband was the perfect part, other people the almost!

We did a clockwise drive around Nova Scotia, staying in mid-range-priced hotels/motels/lodges and B&Bs, a different place each night. The experiences were so varied that no conclusions can be made, even if we add them together with all our previous vacational-nights ever, but I am left wondering a little bit if it is possible for an introverted couple to stay at a bed-and-breakfast.

The B&Bs I am talking about are where you stay in a room in somebody’s home, a building originally designed for family life but now (probably coinciding with their teenagers moving out) adapted so provide en-suite rooms for a few discerning couples. So not the seedy-looking places near town-centre train stations with a “DSS accepted” notice given pride of place.

One we stayed in was like an elegant museum: polished wooden floors, Farrow-and-Ball painted walls with matching prints of four-masted sailing ships, lace inserts on the bedside tables, satin-upholstered Chippendale chairs and a mock-four-poster Queen-sized bed. It was a beautiful room. Another had a modern pastel flavour in pink and green, co-ordinated towels (oh I forgot to mention the last one had red/white/blue towels to fit with the nautical theme) and more cushions than we could count. You probably can’t see what I am fussing about.

It’s not the rooms per se, assuming you can cope with the not-so-modern soundproofing between them. Maybe I should be generous here as Nova Scotia is mainly wooden framed homes and some of them clearly created before even a bathroom was integral to a home, let alone an en-suite shower. All the rooms had attractive features, individual and for the most part tasteful (I am discounting the strange one in Wales with fairy lights around a four poster bed in a 10 foot square room, a bunk bed obstructing the door to the bathroom and so much clutter on the dressing table you wondered if the previous occupants were still staying there). Nor is it the generally very soft beds, some with an even softer memory foam topper – have you tried sleeping on your front on (or in) a memory foam mattress?

What we found oh so difficult was breakfast.

Maybe it is because I’m a Londoner (Hubert Gregg, 1947) but most B&Bs I have encountered in UK have dining rooms with several small tables spread around the edges, usually set for two (I have just this moment recalled a long-back hotel where we were asked to move mid-order because we were occupying a table set for four which then remained empty for the duration). Not so it seems on the other side of the Atlantic. With one exception, the B&Bs all had one large catholic-sized dining table with place settings for exactly the number of guests. Only in the first one we didn’t know this until the appointed hour.

8:10 am, down the stairs, Kindles in hand, vocal cords as yet untried ….

“AAAH, HERE YOU ARE!” with Frankish overtones, clearly we were “late”.

Realisation dawning, a feeble attempt to rescue ourselves “Where would you like us to sit?” There were only two empty spaces, my husband slid into the innermost, chivalry allowing me the possibly protected end space. Not so: the barrage of “Where are you from?” “Oh I was there once” “Are you on holiday?” “You brought the rain with you” “Where are you going to today?” “Have you seen….”

Please, it’s not even nine o’clock.  😦

Resigned to being in the group which the host describes as “Some guests are just difficult” we parried with answers just slightly less rude than “Somewhere else” and “None of your business” and escaped as soon as the coffee cooled down enough to drink.

That reminds me, the most upsetting distinction between a motel and B&B was that the former generally provide coffee-making facilities in the room, the latter …. And you expect me to be sociable before caffeine?

The second B&B we were prepared, scouted the facilities beforehand and left by the back door as discretely as an honest middle-aged couple can be – after all we did have to settle up before driving off. They were oh so kind and gave us take-away breakfast: yoghurt and cinnamon buns. Sadly, for him, my husband likes neither, so guess who ate well that day! Another occasion had us breakfasting at Tim Horton’s with Truckers and local workers (TH seems to be as ubiquitous as Starbucks in London or McDonalds in the Home Counties, just not quite so nice, though I accept its down to personal taste). One place did actually have separate tables, and was, like all the other establishments, a very pleasant place, but I didn’t have a clue what “strada” was or whether I wanted hollandaise sauce or blueberry salsa with it.

Is it a Canadian thing to have apple crumble for breakfast, muffins or pastries?

In the normal run of things breakfast is my favourite meal of the day, the one I most look forward to: solitude in a mug of coffee, where it doesn’t matter if I cant here you because I am crunching or chewing (at my age bone conduction is better than air) because you aren’t talking to me – 30 years together and we know that we aren’t good with being sociable at this time of day.

We have friends who run a B&B and I can hear them now suggesting we make an effort, like at a summer camp where “we should all work very hard to be outgoing”. But that’s the thing – I don’t want to win friends and influence people at breakfast time, to turn the meal into a group assignment, I like being quiet, I like reading with my toast. And if, as one website declares, “one of the treats of a B&B is meeting and eating with all sorts of people” then I am happy to forgo that sociable event and go for an introverted “Bed without breakfast” please.

“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”

“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”

“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully. “It’s the same thing,” he said.”
― A.A. Milne

Would you mind awfully giving me a little privacy while I eat breakfast?

Would you mind awfully giving me a little privacy while I eat breakfast?

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

 

Gators and Books

With two days notice I found myself taking a short trip to Gainesville, Florida. I had to look it up on the map – Central Florida, about two hours north of Orlando. In order to arrive here at a reasonable time of day the route entailed Bermuda / New York / Orlando by plane then straight up along the route I 74 so we left Bermuda at 9am and arrived in time for dinner.

Delta at JFK

Delta at JFK

This is the home of the University of Florida, a town-sized campus with around 55,000 students – real ones, that figure excludes the distance learning online courses. You don’t need to be smart to work out they have a University team called “Gators” – clothing, artwork, shops all proud in their support. “Which sport?” turned out to be a daft question – football, baseball, basketball, etc, all teams are “Gators”. It might have been easier to call the town Gatorsville.

Our hotel is on the edge of the campus. Armed with a map I spotted the University Bookstore and set off. Three steps outside, away from the air conditioned climate I realised walking there was not going to be at all comfortable. No problem, we had a car …. BIG problem …. I have never before driven in America (or even Europe for that matter) and as you must know, they drive on the wrong side of the road. Anticipatory panic set in rapidly, that was not just the heat making my hands clammy, I felt ill. Perhaps I need to go inside to sit down. Lie down. Maybe coffee. Yes, I’d spend the day at the hotel. Oh, man up KT, you can drive (and have two licences to prove it), even teenagers do it over here, how hard can it be?

Oscillating between raw confidence and fulminating anxiety I unlocked the car and sat in – the passenger side – even my toes were prickling as the obvious LEFT hand drive factor hit home. I was talking to myself by now, “You can do it” “I think I can” “no problem” vs “Oh s***, Oh s***”

This car has a problem with bleeping – open the door, put key in ignition etc all accompanied by bleeps, which stop when you fasten the seat belt, but doing so was somehow a commitment by me that I was going to do this, just one mile along then turn left, another mile and it is on the left. Simple.

With a background of “See one, Do one, Teach one” (medicine in the old days) I have “seen” my husband drive, I can “do” a practice around the car park, and off I go, talking myself through this with encouragement and positive comments.

“YOU STUPID IDIOT!!!!”
Unfortunately that was not just me saying that, long hoots on several car horns reinforced the exclamation.
When a big yellow school bus stops then all the traffic must stop too. A big red sign pops out both sides to tell you this. The road was wide, two lanes either side, the bus was the other side of the road. I saw the sign, read it, but somehow the message that this meant me too did not get processed by my brain quickly enough and by the time I did stop (a sort of hesitant slow down type of stop ) everyone around was looking at me angrily. I am really sorry, not just acutely embarrassed, and I will never make this mistake again.

There are some quirky things about US roads –

  • When you see a road name on a sign above you it doesn’t mean that’s the road you are on, it means that’s the road you are crossing or passing – in UK if you pass by a sign that says “A43” then you are on the A43
  • You may turn right even when the lights are red – of course only if it is safe, but this left me with annoyed lines of cars behind me when I failed to do so
  • Roads are wide and people overtake on both sides, not sure if they are meant to but they do
  • Cyclists go in both directions on the cycle path which is disconcerting when it is separated from the road by just a white line
  • Bill boards are huge, demanding your attention, while speed limit signs are most discrete

Eventually I found myself pulling into a car park at the University Bookstore, coped with the “pay-but-don’t-display” ticket machine and followed the sole student up into the store. I had to check I was in the right place – racks and rails of Gator clothing, but books? No books?

NO BOOKS?

This was the most disappointing university book shop I have ever ever been in 😦
Think Foyles, Blackwells, even Waterstones ….
I had imagined shelves packed with exciting medical texts, books with pages that smell better than Chanel, random sorting that made me long to create order by alphabet or colour or height; I had imagined books.
The shelves were empty, not just sparsely filled, but unlabelled expanses of bareness. Why? It’s vacation, summer, “we will have new books next semester, you should come back then”

I purchased a lead to charge my iPad, a pink one. I walked back to the car, realised I had wasted $5 parking in an all-day section, and drove uneventfully back to the hotel where I ordered morning coffee for ten am and downloaded a “book” onto my Kindle.

 

Florida Orange Cake

Florida Orange Cake

 

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. 🙂 

 

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.  🙂

 

If you can dream it you can do it! (Walt Disney)

I have no idea what it's all about

I have no idea what it’s all about

I am utterly worn out, happily so, though if I don’t see another ride for a while that’s fine with me. Orlando 15 years on is arguably more fun than the first time –

  • the children are now too big to carry
  • if an alligator eats them it’s not my fault
  • everyone likes burgers

Six parks in as many days with mini golf and American breakfast to round it all off – and round I certainly am after all that food.  It was great.

Going there has nothing to do with life in Bermuda, other than it is slightly closer, 4 hours to Orlando rather than the 8 from Gatwick. I was relying on a dose of Bermuda – sun to ward off the post-holiday-blues, but yesterday when I spoke with my son it was the same temperature here as in Bristol, both significantly less than Florida last week 😦

I think it was a good time of year to go, just missed Spring break and Easter holidays so parks not over-full and weather not over-hot.  Last time we went in November, before the days of fines for taking children out of school during term time; it was very hot then. Our flight to Miami from Bermuda was less than half-full so I am jolly glad we didn’t spend the money on first class seats – 2-economy > 1-first class.  Miami to Orlando busier but that one is less than an hour.

We hired a car large enough for our 3 adult offspring and us, but even so it was one of the smaller vehicles on the roads. We hadn’t been off island for three months so driving along the freeway was as scary as any ride: fast, wide and on the wrong side.  Previously we had downloaded the iPad App “GPS Navigation SatNav by skobbler” and I must say, were impressed. It doesn’t work too well on Bermuda as it doesn’t recognise the traffic lights or roundabouts or even the junctions (!) but in Florida she performed well, confusing us once or twice with “slight right” meaning straight on but not left, but able to adapt to our mis-turns promptly.  Talking of apps I would also recommend the ones that give you latest queuing times for the rides – there are several, all seemed pretty accurate and helped with decision making in the parks.

Of course we went to Universal Islands of Adventure for the Harry Potter Experience  – the Hogwarts ride is amazing (no spoilers) – be prepared for a 90 minute queue and leave your bags in the lockers by the train, don’t wait till the queue reaches the lockers for this ride: after patiently waddling single file for miles of zig-zag sudden pandemonium as you get to the locker area – I can only presume they did not expect the queues to be so long and the lockers were supposed to be the start of the line, not half way round. This was my only grouse all day and a glass of Butterbeer brought back a smile. Not sure just what is in Butterbeer, it is non-alcoholic of course, it does have stimulant effect on the susceptible akin to chocolate and coke (cola) in one glass.

My favourite rides?

  • Minions in Universal Studios – 3D simulator, no idea what the storyline was
  • Space cadet ride in Epcot – I did the gentler option but the family did the other one, twice!
  • Harry Potter (of course) – don’t wear flip-flops
  • Dumbo – this one overwhelmed my 37 year old self, maybe over 50 = adventurous
  • Teacups (Mad Hatter) in Magic Kingdom – who doesn’t like spinning round and round

Hints and tips?

  • Take or buy a waterproof poncho – $8 from any park
  • Stay for the fireworks at Magic Kingdom – 10pm approx
  • Accept you will have a week without vegetables on your plate
  • IHOP does large breakfasts
  • For a family of 5 renting a house is probably cheaper than the Disney resorts
  • Actually, cheap does not apply, try not to worry about it.

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….Blowing in the wind

A fresh breeze is supposed to blow the cobwebs away, yet this morning’s trip into Hamilton suggests some odd or even stupid behaviour has blown in on yesterdays gusts:

:0  First a car overtakes us on Watlington Road West so close to the junction with Middle Road that it was in effect pushing in front of us in the queue.  :0 The next incident elicited some unusual language from my husband, as we approached a pedestrian in the road with no sidewalk/pavement not one but two motorbikes overtook us at the same time, well across the central line, darted in front of us to avoid oncoming traffic and came to a sudden slowdown as the truck in front stopped to let traffic out at the top of Tee Street – our choice was almost hit pedestrian or bike  – we did neither but only because my husband was wide awake, as was I after his exclamation.

Locals will be following our journey by now, so the next :0 will be no surprise: Happy Valley Road and one of those enormous Jeeps, apparently driven by a very short person – she could barely be seen over the steering wheel, straddling the yellow line at 40+kph determined to test her Cherokee’s bulldozing powers  – discretion pulled us into the Oleander on the left.

My journey home was fortunately more pleasant though equally strange –

  • >:0  pedestrians wearing motor cycle helmets as they walked along the street with no bike to be seen, do they know something about this wind?
  • >:0  An electronic road sign on South Road that has three phrases programmed in, together they make the sentence     South Road  ….. Pavement works …… begin March 17…..      but each is on display for 30 seconds and the usual speed of traffic at that point determines one has to pass by that spot at least 3 times in order to get the whole message, or else just stop in the middle of the road and wait (which may be what one is supposed to do, I put nothing past Bermudian logic)

So I sit down to read the paper

Third article under most popular is about a new business – HOP as in Hip Old Person  – set up to provide social functions and events for the elderly …. wait, no,  “we are targeting those born before 1964″  .… thats me…. elderly?

Instead of rejection and fast clicking to the next page I find myself adding fuel to my indignance:  they offer talks on how to look your best as you grow old from a plastic surgeon, on male pattern baldness and getting rid of mildew – I feel patronised, diminished and sadly a little bit old.   Ha! got them: an evening event between 5:30 and 8:30 on March 27th that “ends early so people don’t have to drive home in the dark” …. a quick check on time and date sunset in Bermuda on 27th March is 7:30pm. I feel as if I have won a goldfish at the fair.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_1121

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

 

Who was LF …… what the heck?.. No, scrap that.. um, airport carpet?

As I type I am not yet certain how to entitle this post – it began with a question:

Bermuda’s airport is called LF Wade International Airport, who was LF Wade? 

And after several hours I am in a position to tell you just who he was, but have been sidetracked by a website dedicated to airport carpets.  Before you go there, turn the volume down – you will see why (or hear).

As is the way when browsing, I reached this site in several random leaps including the following article in a 2011 Royal Gazette  – I had to go back to it after visiting the carpet site, because it appears that the Gazette article has not quite grasped that the website is a joke – you do think so too don’t you, or have I just taken a step further to insanity?

This is the carpet:

"You stand on me," it seems to say, "Why?"

“You stand on me,” it seems to say, “Why?” Photo from the Royal Gazette

Described on the site as.. well it won’t permit me to copy and paste so I am afraid you have to look for yourself – Bermuda by the way is just off the Eastern seaboard of North America, a little red blob on the map all by itself, not amongst the mass of red dots in the Caribbean – you have to know some geography to use this site.

And as you look at the slowly spinning earth up in the right hand corner is a very small almost imperceptible flashing point – if brave enough to press this you will see the carpet planned for the Alpha Centauri Space Station…. I somehow feel if the journalist had really looked at the website then he/she (not attributed) might have written a very different article – or maybe it is me missing the point!

So who was LF Wade? I guess that will have to wait for another article.

Bermuda Fish Chowder

Fish Chowder with Sherry Peppers and Rum

Fish Chowder with Sherry Peppers and Rum

The first time I ate Bermuda fish chowder was when we came over here on an exploratory visit in March 2013, at the Royal Palms Hotel  (the hotel just voted by TripAdvisor as the best in the Bermuda and best in Caribbean – though Bermuda isn’t actually a Caribbean island). It was a Sunday evening, quite late as our plane had been delayed, and officially they had finished serving food – but kindly they made us two large bowls of fish chowder, so far still the best I have tasted on the island. (As an aside, this degree of hospitality was shown throughout our stay and we used the hotel as our first base on island while we were finding a home – they will store your luggage, order taxis, advise on anything, offer laundry service and at 5:30 every evening open a bottle or two of wine for happy hour)

Anyhow, back to fish chowder. This is nothing like the clam chowder served in New England or the Irish seafood chowder with prawns, though I am sure they taste very nice,  – expect more a thick dark red-brown spicy meal enhanced by a large dash of sherry peppers and rum.  I suppose it is the fish version of Brown Windsor Soup, but that particular soup lost any popularity from being the staple starter offered by Fawlty Towers, the 70’s British sit-com with John Cleese as incompetent proprietor of a hotel where you’d only stay once.

Bermuda fish chowder is delicious!

First I will give you the recipe:

Outerbridge’s Bermuda Fish Chowder

Ingredients (makes lots – probably enough for 10)

4 Quarts water
1 ½ Pounds white fish fillets
Salt
Spices: thyme, bay leaves, peppercorns, ground cloves
2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons oil
3 Large onions, chopped
8 Stalks celery, chopped
1 Garlic clove, minced
2 Green peppers, chopped
1 Can (28 oz, 794g) whole tomatoes, chopped
1 Can (10 oz, 285g) beef consomme
1 Cup catsup (ketchup)
½ Cup chopped parsley
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
2 Teaspoons lemon juice
2 Pounds potatoes, peeled and diced
6 Carrots, diced
1 Jigger (2 ounces) Gosling’s Black Seal Rum 
4 Tablespoons Outerbridge’s Original Sherry Peppers Sauce
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions
1. In a large pot, put water, fish fillets, salt and spices. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and let simmer for 30 – 45 minutes.
2. In a frying pan, melt butter and oil and briefly sauté onions, celery, garlic and green peppers. Then add tomatoes and consommé and simmer covered for 30 minutes.
3. Transfer this mixture to the fish stock and add remaining ingredients. Simmer partially covered for 2 hours. Adjust seasoning.

Serve soup piping hot and pass around Outerbridge’s Original Sherry Peppers Sauce and Gosling’s Black Seal rum   

wahoo_2
onion_bermuda_2Tomato_2

 

 

 

Gosling’s Rum Bermuda Fish Chowder

Ingredients ( makes enough for a large family)

4 qts water
2 lbs fish fillets (Rockfish, Sea Bass) or 5 lbs Grouper heads
1 tbs fresh thyme
6 bay leaves
20 peppercorns
¼ tsp ground cloves
2 tbs butter
2 tbs olive oil
3 large Bermuda onions, chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 stalk of celery, chopped
2 green bell peppers
28 oz can of chopped tomatoes
1½ cup good chicken broth
1 cup catsup (ketchup)
½ cup parsley, chopped
2 tbs Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 lbs potatoes peeled, small dice
6 large carrots peeled, small dice
freshly ground pepper to taste
2 oz Gosling’s Black Seal Rum
4 tbs sherry peppers

Directions
1. In a large pot bring the water to a boil and put in the fish fillets, salt and spices. Lower flame and simmer for 45 minutes.

2. In an another cauldron large enough to contain all of the ingredients melt the butter and oil together and sauté the onions and garlic until just golden. Add the celery and green peppers and sauté another few minutes. Add the tomatoes and broth and simmer for 30 minutes.
3. Strain the fish stock into the cauldron. Pick out the fish and add it to the pot as well, discard the spices. Add the remaining vegetables to the pot and simmer partially covered for two hours.

The soup should be thickened, but not thick and be a dark reddish-brown and very aromatic.  At the end of the cooking time add the sherry peppers sauce and Black Seal Rum. 

You will probably notice the two important ingredients :  Sherry Peppers and Rum

Sherry peppers are pimentos marinated in sherry for several months.  They appear to have originated from sailing ships who used them to mask the taste of dubious food and since nineteenth century Bermuda was a mix of maritime and agriculture it was a small step to start producing this on island.  Outerbridge’s is, I believe, the only commercial producer on the island and possibly the only anywhere.  Their website gives a detailed history and tells you there are 17 extra herbs and spices in the mix.

51158-outerbridges-sherry-rum-pepper-sauce-original_2

If you don’t want to pay $7 for a 5oz bottle then you could try making your own – I found one recipe using sherry, grated ginger and Scotch bonnet peppers that you marinate for 2 weeks, then add 1 cinnamon stick and 10 peppercorns for another 2 weeks before finally adding 25 cloves and 1 whole crushed nutmeg for the final 2 weeks.  For me it seems easiest to buy the bottle. It can be used for other things, in bloody mary’s I am told.

The other local ingredient is Gosling’s rum. The Gosling family have been in Bermuda since 1806, so not as long as the Outerbridge family who arrived in 1620, shortly after the colony started.  But long enough to establish a most profitable business in wines and liquors.  Black Seal Rum gets its name from the black sealing wax (when I was a child I thought his was ceiling wax and wondered how candle wax got onto the ceiling in the first place) that they used to stopper the bottles.  Incidentally, mix Black Seal Rum with ginger beer (also made by Goslings) and you have a Dark’n’Stormy – a very good rum cocktail, so my daughter informs me.

goslings-black-seal-rum_2

Obviously the other main ingredient is fish – wahoo is recommended but I don’t know how easy it is to get that in England if thats where you are  (Update: it is available, from frozenfishdirect.co.uk but its not cheap).   I watched a cookery demonstration and she recommended any meaty fish. One of the above recipes calls for grouper heads – not exactly something I have to hand.  (extra note – the demonstrator cook’s advice was to add the bay leaves towards the end and fish them out before serving)

You will also see above they call for Bermuda onions – thats a whole other post so you will have to wait for the rundown on those.

I looked up the origin of the word chowder, expecting perhaps an Indian origin and was surprised to read that it probably comes from the French term chaudier for stewpot. The word cauldron is linked.  The OED suggests caldaria, Latin for a place for warming things.  Another site informed me that a chowder is differentiated from a bisque by potato rather than cream as it’s thickening agent.

The oldest documented chowder recipe seems to have been in 1751 from the Boston Evening Post, but I expect that was a New England clam chowder – Bermuda fish chowder never has clams or shellfish in it.  In the nineteenth century recipes began to appear in cookery books:

  • 1828 The Virginia Housewife by Mary Randolph
  • 1832 The American Frugal Housewife by Lydia Child
  • 1841 The Good Housekeeper by Sarah Hale

Aren’t they brilliant names – reminds me of the Good Housekeeping Cookbook that my Mother gave me when I got married.  Might have been used more if given to my husband.

You might be asking where you should go to get Bermuda fish chowder, but I have to say I have not tried all possible sources so it would be wrong of me to claim I know the answer. I am still enjoying researching this and to date have not had a bad experience anywhere. Most restaurants on the island will serve it, for around $8-$10.  Do say yes when offered Sherry Peppers and Rum.  Or of you plan on trying out the above recipes then please feel free to ask me round to taste the result, I will be honest!

1257178290bermuda-fish-chowder-cutting-board

Verdmont days and the cat lady

Where most English would start a conversation with a comment about the weather, Bermudians, almost without exception, will start with “Good morning” Don’t the English do that too? of course, some will, but it seems less universal now than it probably was a century or so ago. The correct response to a Bermudian greeting is to repeat “Good morning!” And to look up with a smile. They often add “and how are you today?” – and seem genuinely interested in your response. This is probably the basis for the Bermudian reputation for friendliness.

I have become so accustomed to the greeting, that I was flummoxed by one visitor to Verdmont who opened with
“Can I take a picture of your cat?
I said “Of course” before my next thoughts – I don’t have a cat / is there a cat? / should I be feeding a cat? / I haven’t seen a cat
And (retrospectively somewhat embarrassingly) – is this lady alright?
The next ten minutes saw us both herding the cat (yes, there is one) into a photogenic position in the sun. The resulting photograph was very good and I wish I had had the presence of mind to ask for a copy as a reminder.
Come to think of it, I have not seen the cat again; she wouldn’t have taken it with her would she?
Is there a cat?

Last week visitors were mostly American, off the cruise ship at Dockyard. It is an enormous boat, the Norwegian Breakaway
Arriving on a Wednesday with 5000 passengers it stays until Friday when it returns to New York. In years past cruise ships came all the way into The Great Sound and moored alongside Hamilton Front Street. Now they are mostly too big. We have seen a sail-training vessel and a navy ship in Hamilton this Summer but most of the cruise ship passengers now come into Hamilton by the ferry, which, incidentally, is a really pleasant way to see the islands and to approach the city.

Years of medicine, practice and teaching, have taught me to avoid stereotypes, but these visitors challenged me greatly on that front – they were enthusiastic, earnest, loudly interested, and by the time they left I knew their names, occupations, family history and, for one lady, her blood pressure medications (I guess I am prone to make enquiries about such things but at no point did she know of my background!)
It’s refreshing, and interesting.
Afterall, my favorite occupation is people-watching. 🙂

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Glass – sea glass and window glass

Disambiguity: For the IT nerds who have landed on this page I know nothing about “Google Glass” the new wearable computer, but feel free to read the blog anyhow!

The topic came up when a visitor to Verdmont asked if the glass in the windows was made in Bermuda …..
My attempt to answer this question has led through several hundred years and from sand to bottle banks.

Google can sometimes produce random results and search terms “Bermuda + glass” did not disappoint – in the randomness that is, it didn’t answer my question. So result no. 3
“Pyramids of Glass found in the Bermuda Triangle”

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Impressive, apparently 2000m deep, it is a smooth glass pyramid 200m tall with two spouts on the top that create a giant vortex: the answer to the Bermuda Triangle, of course, it’s obvious if you think about it. Thinking is not high on the list of the many websites that have copied and pasted the quotes from “renowned scientist Dr Verlag Meyer” – he doesn’t exist, his name just means “Meyer Publishing House”. They do exist – publishing car magazines, so probably not related to this “power plant focussing cosmic rays” or “ancient supply warehouse for Atlantis” . This hoax has popped up repeatedly since 1991 when it was a newspaper article (newspapers are black and white paper versions of the Internet) and despite this pyramid being “larger than Cheops” and that the scientists have “high resolution computerized data”, there is not a shred of real evidence – underwater glass pyramids do not exist!

Back to my search page and I land on
Bermuda’s best sea glass locations

 

Sea Glass Beach (HCL)

Sea Glass Beach (HCL)

Sea glass is the result of years of tumbling in waves and sand, the original fragments of bottles and broken glass are smoothed and frosted. People collect it, for decoration, jewellery, or mosaics. So last weekend I dragged my husband off to one of the recommended beaches for sea glass – now I have a bowl of fragments in green, brown and white and have lots of creative ideas. To my family: guess what you are getting for Christmas!

The beaches, by the way, are at Alexandra’s Battery in the east end of the island and Convicts Cemetery Beach (note to self: must explore that name) at Dockyard in the west. Check before you go to Dockyard because developers have bought Alberts Row, the Victorian buildings that stand in front of Convicts Beach and access may be restricted while they build.

While we are down at that end of the island and thinking of glass I have to mention the Dockyard Glassworks, where you can watch the very skilled artisans make sculptures, flame worked pieces and blown glass. It is hot inside the warehouse but they provide stools and seats and at the other end of the building you can buy Bermuda Rum Cake which, according to their advertising, lasts 3 months – cake lasting that long? Not in my house!

So far we have glass sculptures, sea glass and a dubious glass pyramid, but no answer to my question about window glass.

I changed my search terms:

Windows + glass = stained glass windows

With all the churches on Bermuda (see archives) you would expect some to have stained glass windows – they do:
The Anglican cathedral in Hamilton has the “Angel Window” by a local artist – I will have to make a trip there as there are no google images of the actual window. This is where it gets a little muddled – the cathedral is called “The Most Holy Trinity” and it stands in The City of Hamilton but there is also a “Holy Trinity Church” that is in the parish of Hamilton. With me so far? Now both have remarkable stained glass windows, both claim “the most beautiful in Bermuda”.

Sir Edward Burne-Jones was a pre-raphaelite artist who designed for William Morris and Company, who produced stained glass windows in the late 1800s. He designed over 100 stained glass windows, including the set of five in Holy Trinity Church, Bermuda.

While I can find lots of images of his work, I haven’t yet found one from either Holy Trinity – you will have to visit for yourself.

The windows at Verdmont are not stained glass! they are very simple:

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They are 18th century sash windows with relatively small panes fitted into wide muntins – you can see the layers of putty and paint on the outside that keep the glass in place. In a pattern of “twelve over twelve” with cedar frames, recessed in the wall – the white surrounds are mainly decorative as opposed to protection for the wood.

In England at the time this house was built (early 1700s) there was a window tax. This tax continued until 1851, just before the erection of Crystal Palace – just as well I guess. In 1746 a glass tax was introduced as well, based on the weight of glass used – effectively a double tax on windows. Cheaper glass was used in public buildings – the thick small panes like bottle bottoms common in pubs were considered defective so the tax levied was much less. Fortunately Bermuda didn’t have a window or glass tax, but even so Verdmont had larger windows than many homes of the time.

Plate glass production (a French development) was expensive because the plates had to cool slowly over days and then required many hours of polishing. Sheet glass came into production in 1838, requiring less time to cool and less polishing. But neither process would have been undertaken in Bermuda.

So I had arrived at an answer – No, the glass was not made in Bermuda.

It was brought in from England, for all 25 windows in Verdmont main house! some 600 small panes, then extra for the doors – a significant shipment.
What has happened to the windows of Verdmont over time does not seem to be known. It is unlikely that any panes are original, though some clearly are older than others. A few are cracked, not at all surprising given that the window shutters are on the inside of the building – unusual for Bermuda and a risk in hurricane season.

On an island with so much sand and limestone it seems strange that glass making did not take place. If anyone can demonstrate it did I would love to hear from you.

 

Beach with sea glass (HCL)

Beach with sea glass (HCL)

PS I haven’t forgotten about the bottle banks – “Bermuda recycles” will have to be another post!

Verdmont

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Today is my second day as a National Trust docent at Verdmont. I have just opened up and am eagerly awaiting visitors. On Monday there were just two, and, despite that having no bearing whatsoever on today’s expectations, I am rather hoping for a few more.

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Now I am not going to bore you with the whole docent speech, but you need to know a little about Verdmont. If you are English I suspect you will have in mind some magnificent edifice – the likes of Chatsworth or Hatfield – scale it down significantly, even smaller than Sissinghurst, paint it pink ( Bermudian-salmon-pink ) and place it on a hill overlooking the south shore, add a pleasant sunny day with a gentle breeze and now you know why I chose to volunteer here specifically.

Built in the final decade of the seventeenth century it is a Georgian style house, the first of its kind in Bermuda, two storeys with four rooms on each floor. Older houses were generally just one room deep, or built in a cross-like shape so this one shouts about the wealth of its owner – in this case from privateering (licensed piracy).
And the reason it is special is that structurally it has been unaltered for 300 years and even though there was a lady living here until 1952, there is no plumbing or electricity and no modern gadgetry of any sort.

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I had to break off then – visitors 🙂
And they were from England (just a small twinge of homesickness)
Although I suffer from the English reticence when it comes to asking for money I managed to sell them a guide book.

So now I am sitting outside in my portable camping chair (after Monday when I fidgeted between uncomfortable chair and garden bench I resolved to bring my own) drinking coffee from my thermos. The weather is just perfect, less humid than a month ago but still a bright blue sky and about 27C. There is a cockerel making a racket somewhere distant down the hill and a Kiskadee has twittered at me a few times, but that’s all I can hear – close to perfect.

So where was I?
I will leave you to look up details of Georgian architecture – basically pleasingly symmetrical with large sash windows, in this case painted white and dark green, traditional for Bermuda windows. If you are really observant you will see in the picture that the back door is offset from the centre – this accommodates a beautiful if creaky, cedar staircase. Bermuda cedar is actually a juniper tree, native to the island, it makes for attractive golden brown furnishings of which there are some priceless examples at Verdmont. A blight in the early twentieth century has decimated the numbers of trees but there are several in the grounds here.

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What little I knew of furniture before coming here was garnered from Sunday evening Antique Roadshow programmes. Now I can recognize a “split-splat chair” and marching legs but not yet spot a fake Chippendale. One of the visitors today (it is much later by the way, lunchtime was marked by a stream of people and no lunch), was a curator for a museum collection in Boston and he waxed lyrical about the intricacies of the dovetail joints in the cedar chests. I learnt more from him than he did from me showing him around. The pattern of dovetailing was used as a signature to the carpentry – I have just checked and there are at least four different patterns on the chests here. I am not sure if that was a characteristic specific to Bermuda as he said the chests in his collection were more uniform in style.

Cedar chest

Cedar chest

Dovetailing

Dovetailing

Well, it is time to close up now, a process that takes forever: the windows have internal shutters which are kept in place with bolts and horizontal bars and then the sill protected by a towel to collect condensation or rain. The lack of any form of lighting makes this all feel rather creepy and although in theory I know ghosts don’t exist, I can’t help feeling a little spooked. I have brought my torch today – the solid heavy one that suggests more protection than just the light it emits.

I shall post this when I get home (no Internet here of course) and tell you more about the national trust here in a later blog.
Where is the torch?

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Verdmont, Bermuda

Verdmont, Bermuda

Travels

So where am I?
I have to admit it was with not great prescience that I left the island last Friday before Tropical Storm Gabrielle picked up strength, flights were already booked. Perhaps a good thing we didn’t have to either queue for limited flights, decide where to go or pay the tripling in fares that probably occur in the anticipation of a hurricane. We have travelled East, a pre-planned trip to Monte Carlo – it’s all work, honest!
But even this far away, early this morning we received our EMO text on the Bermuda cellphone (how Americanised I have become). I understand this is the first year they have used this system for island wide warnings – it works. My apps were a little later in passing on the information, but then maybe they are confused by my current location.
I understand that the storm will pass to the North West of the island, about 25 miles away and with winds about 45 knots.
I confess to being a little sad that I won’t be there, only a little.
I am relieved that we had the forethought to take our garden chairs indoors before we left. (Spent both time and too many $ on two bright blue Adirondack chairs as a treat to myself 🙂 )

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Yes we took in the sun umbrella too.

I also had the forethought to use up most of the freezer contents just in case there is a power cut – all that’s left is half a tub of ice cream and some frozen peas! Which does mean we may have to eat out when we get home, what a shame.

Why Monte Carlo?
Insurance – they have a get together here each year, though this is the first year I have been. Outside the famous Casino, lined up in a fan shaped parking lot are Porsches, Lamborghinis, Bentleys, Aston Martins etc. How I would love to drive up in a Smart car and park in the space between two of those!
I had expected to perhaps feel a little dwarfed by the fashion and expense here, but I notice this afternoon that most of the people wandering around don’t have glamorous high heels or pearl studded clothes, most have flat, sensible sandals and brightly colored but simple dresses – I actually feel quite comfortable. The shops are another matter, but window shopping is as free
here as anywhere.

One of my husband’s colleagues asked me which I preferred, Bermuda or Monaco – it is actually an easy choice, despite the humidity and any other gripes I may have made, Bermuda is far prettier, softer, cleaner, friendlier, and lots of other similar words. I suspect when I return there it will be the first time it truly feels like home!

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Snails

West Indian Top Shell (Citterium pica)

Native snail and protected. I found this one in Devonshire Bay. It is probably only a baby as they grow up to 4″ across – its about 2″.

Formica

I woke to freshly brewed “proper” coffee and the question “Where’s the baby powder?”
Post-dream disorientation took me back 25+ years: babies, nappies, feeding, changing… let me go back to sleep, please. But now we keep baby powder for the ants.

The ants have found their way into the kitchen. 20130702-115541.jpg

This isn’t actually my kitchen, the kitchen ants are not photogenic, these ones are to be found on the path outside, every day running back an forth along an invisible scented line.

They are quite small, well of course ants are, but to me they appear smaller then the UK ants. Pheidole megacephala – big-headed brown house ant. Like the English ants it is a member of the Formica family (nothing to do with laminate worktops) but the Bermudan ants seem to have two-segment waists while UK ones have single segment middles (petioles).

Until today I had no idea there are so many different ants:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ants_of_Great_Britain

The “bigheads” were first found in Mauritius and its a long way to Bermuda so I guess they travel well; in fact it is listed in the top 100 most invasive species. There are two types of worker ants in this species: Soldier ants with the biggest heads, about 4mm long, and Minor worker ants that are half the size and whose heads are relatively smaller. I think the ones in my photo above must be minor workers as none of them seem to have large heads. They feed on dead insects – I have been advised that they will congregate around dead cockroaches but that I should first trace the line of ants back to their nest before moving the cockroach and then spray the nest.

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Wellcome Images

I am told you can still buy DDT in Bermuda; banned in US in 1970s and UK in 1984, but still manufactured in India and still used to fumigate homes in some places in the world.
For the medical audience, it works by opening sodium channels in neurons, which for the ants means spasms and death. The toxic effects on humans include endocrine effects, it is an anti-androgen, and direct effects on the genes, hence is a carcinogen. The DDT story is as much political as it is science and the ban is as controversial as its continued use in some countries. Paul Mueller, a Swiss biochemist, received a Nobel prize in 1948 for his work on DDT and it did prevent millions of deaths from Malaria.

The following have all been recommended to me to get rid of ants:

Mint leaves…. apparently they dont like the smell
Cayenne pepper….the capsaicin in cayenne pepper is an irritant to ants
Baby powder….the cornstarch in baby powder is irritant
Cornmeal …makes ants explode: they take the grains home, eat them and then presumably drink some water so grains expand inside the ant, and then they go pop – but might take an awful lot of cornstarch to feed a whole colony
Cinnamon ….but some people dont like the smell any more than the ants
Bay leaves … not very tidy
Vodka. …. 3:1 ratio of vodka to water, sprayed liberally, but might give visitors the wrong impression
Washing-up liquid and water mix ….works for a while but then they come back when it has dried

We have settled on baby powder, as you have surmised from my wake-up call. I have no idea where the houseproud urges came from as I never had them in UK, but I am resisting the inclination to hoover it all up as soon as the ants take a break. The smell brings back some of the nicer memories of having children, it is relatively cheap and so far I haven’t heard any suggestion that it is carcinogenic….

Update on that: baby powder does contain talc which a recent meta-analysis suggests is linked to ovarian cancer

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2343974/Women-regularly-use-talcum-powder-increase-risk-ovarian-cancer-24.html#

(Daily Mail version)

http://cancerpreventionresearch.aacrjournals.org/content/early/2013/06/12/1940-6207.CAPR-13-0037.abstract

(Academic link)

OK so keep it well away from “intimate personal hygiene”, probably still safe for ant prevention.

I mentioned cockroaches earlier, the Periplaneta americana.

 

After fruitless search for one to photograph I have resorted to that well-known w…pedia for a picture. They eat anything that is not alive and are common in basements – guess who isn’t going to unpack the cardboard boxes when it is time to return to UK! I havent actually seen a living one out here yet, I am assured it is only a matter of time, and I rather wish it would happen so I can get over it as the apprehension at meeting one in the bathroom at night grows with every night I escape unscathed. I like the friendly name given to them here: Palmetto bugs.

On my search just now I did find this:

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It think it is a June Bug (Lygyrus cuniculus ) which apparently fly drunkenly at night in June (obviously), but it doesnt look exactly like the one in my field guide book so I might be wrong. Any suggestions?

There are many prettier and less annoying insects and bugs, butterflies, millipedes and snails, but none of these are threatening my kitchen so not priority no1.

A strange experience

I turned into the road which wound steeply up the hill and as the engine struggled (it’s only a little Kia) I was confronted by a woman standing in the middle of the road waving both hands at me. Was I going the wrong way on a one-way street (easy to do as they don’t seem to have many road signs telling you things like that) or had there been an accident up ahead? Neither, she wanted a lift up to the hospital at the top of the road!

The Mid Atlantic Wellness Institute (MAWI) is a psychiatric hospital, established as St Brendan’s Hospital in 1846. The building is an encouraging bright turquoise color. It is a far cry from the Victorian edifices that house many of UK psychiatric units. In 1848 there were just 8 patients, now it has 89 inpatient beds and provides over 10,000 outpatient appointments.

There are currently 4 Psychiatric Consultants and 4 training posts. In 2011 a new mental health plan was implemented, but even so one of the psychiatrists has openly stated that Bermuda is 40 years behind the developed world when it comes to psychiatry. The focus is only gradually changing to community management of mental illness but they struggle to cope with the many “revolving door” patients due to the lack of services outside. Stigma flourishes in the dark, as I realised during a conversation which was muted to a whisper for the phrase “she suffers from bipolar disorder you know, lots of issues”
It wasn’t referring to me, but for the fight against stigma I should say it could have been me.

So what should I do about this lady standing in the road? I felt apprehensive but for no good reason – she had no bag, no weapons, and when she spoke I could see she had few teeth. Her mouth betrayed the prolonged use of antipsychotic drugs – she had tardive dyskinesia and slurred speech. In the event I had little choice as she was by then climbing into my passenger seat. I felt guilty for immediately sitting on my purse and mobile phone, there was really no basis for my anxiety.

In our first week here we were warned about gun crimes and from the number of people mentioning it I presumed it was a big problem. The figures for 2012 showed that 5 people were shot dead and another 7 injured by guns. Equivalent figures for London are 89 deaths and for US over 30,000 gun or knife deaths. Ok so these are not fair comparisons, but overall crimes against the person in Bermuda are uncommon and are decreasing.

“It’s a hot day” I made polite conversation.
“This your car?”
A vague affirmation and “in Devonshire” as to where I lived.
Then, blow me down, just round the corner a man is waving me down, does he too want a lift to the hospital? It is within view, just 200 yards, so I decide he is just being friendly. Bermudians are very friendly. I have been instructed that Good Morning or Good Afternoon should precede any attempt at conversation and the correct response to this greeting is to make eye contact, smile and repeat. There have been times in my life when I avoid eye contact, not through any sense of guilt, rather because I prefer my own company or am feeling somewhat depressed, so I am deliberately looking up and smiling in case I am perceived as rude. Not sure if it is the weather or the friendliness, but my mood is certainly comfortably happy. My passenger too seems pleased with life and starts humming.

I don’t get to hear the whole hymn she is singing as we have arrived at the brightly optimistic turquoise building. I am sad in a way that I don’t get the chance to ask her about herself, about her medication, her life and her battle with mental health issues – yes, once a doctor, always a doctor, or maybe I am just plain nosy.

I drive on and find The Barn -effectively an enormous charity shop on behalf of the Bermuda Hospitals. I buy two books, one on brain surgery and the other on Bermuda wildlife.

Relatively Speaking

Our first visitor has just returned to UK and I think I’d be right in saying we are all tired, but happily tired 🙂

Given my relatives, I wasn’t too surprised that immigration took them aside into a separate room… the problem? That she didn’t know our address and so the blank immigration form was rejected. Lesson learned : make sure visitors have your address and warn them about free alcohol on the plane. I have a feeling the second element will need relearning.

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The airport here is small – one of those where you walk down the steps onto the runway straight into the elemental weather, which is usually windy.
Therefore the idea of a plane queuing to land seems odd, but they are apparently updating the radar which means a plane may have to circle several times before coming in, so much so that a few planes recently have arrived without passenger luggage – it was booted off to allow extra fuel for this process. The green/red channels of customs have only just been introduced, along with automated duty machines – the queues here are evidence of the fact that Bermuda depends upon its duties for income, you will pay 25% of the value if it is going to remain on the island – presents up to $30 are allowed, so that still allows you to bring me quite a bit of Cadbury’s chocolate.

So, having retrieved my relative, we drove (slowly of course) back home.
“Why are they beeping at you?”
” Are you going too slow?”
The car horn has many uses in Bermuda:
To say hi to your friends, in cars or pedestrians
To say thank you – for anything and everything
As you pull away from a junction
Taxis beep other taxis
Mopeds beep other mopeds
Trucks beep other trucks
Actually, you are a car, why not beep other cars
In short, the “toot” is a word with many meanings
And I have no idea why they are beeping me!

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The beach is an obvious destination and we visited 6 (the are more than 30)
And I learnt to snorkel – I am quite proud of that as I hate putting my head under water even though I like swimming, and I am not too keen on being out of my depth – snorkeling requires both. It is worth the initial panics though.
The water is clear and the sand white/pink so it is easy to see the fish and there are lots of them. Doctor fish are similar to but not the same as Surgeon fish – different spots and stripes – those are obviously the common names. I can’t recall the proper names – clearly I need to visit the aquarium again. When I googled “doctor fish” it came up with something completely different – those fish you find in health spas which nibble at your feet.

Bermuda has two cave systems open to the public, at a price that sets slightly unrealistic expectations, Crystal Cave and Fantasy Cave. They are impressive, but it is the story of their discovery that is most interesting – two boys playing cricket lost the ball and decided to follow it down the cleft behind the hedge with a paraffin lamp that gave out, leaving them in the dark for over an hour. The usual lesson on stalagmites and stalactites, please don’t touch, and the inevitable turning off the torch – it was fun, more so because we had arrived early before the cruise ship passengers, and so we had a private tour!
Don’t risk the cafe here though, the prices are not justified and the burgers slightly dubious.

So far we have sampled several of the island eating places, some $$ and some $$$, (I don’t think they do $)
I have uploaded my reviews onto Trip Adviser, as I have found it quite a useful site for holiday planning – and according to Facebook notifications so do lots of other people.
Fish is a menu staple, and they offer far more than the standard UK options (where salmon is now an ordinary fish and choosing cod makes you feel guilty)
I like Wahoo – probably best described as a meet eater’s fish.
Rockfish is good too, but be aware there are many different fish with that name so it won’t always have the same texture or flavor even in the same restaurant.
You have to taste the fish chowder – again each place makes it slightly differently and so far the first I ever tasted was the best, but that may have more to do with the situation than the soup. Say yes to the Sherry Peppers and Rum – they go in the soup.

So we reached the end of the relative’s holiday, add on a plane delay and a faulty boarding pass (you might now be able to guess which of my relatives it was) and I have returned home to some housework – afraid it still has to be done, even in Paradise.

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