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