2:30 (or finding a dentist in Bermuda)

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

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

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

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

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

RING King Edward Memorial Hospital on 239 2009

Ask for the phone number of the duty dentist on call

Ring that number!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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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

A Puzzle … and half an answer ….

In the corner of the Library at Verdmont, the historic house belonging to Bermuda National Trust, there is a framed print:

The framed print from the Library at Verdmont. Photo courtesy of Bermuda National Trust.

The framed print from the Library at Verdmont. Photo courtesy of Bermuda National Trust.

There is a green folder in each room that informs the docent or the enquiring visitor just what each item on display is and where it comes from. But with this picture I came unstuck – the description given just didn’t quite fit. And so I have been puzzling over this intermittently for a few months now, am a little closer to an answer but haven’t quite got there. I am now handing it over to .. well, to anyone who can help!

What I have discovered so far:

The style of the image
It appears to be a bookplate or similar, a print from an engraving commonly found inside books from the late 17th and 18th century.

Richard Blome (1635-1705)
Blome was a prolific publisher of cartographic and heraldic material in the second half of the seventeenth century. He was a pioneer of the subscription method to finance his productions: by paying in advance a subscriber was rewarded by his coat of arms being placed within the work. This page was dedicated by Richard Blome to Robert Clayton.

An early publication by Blome was a book of maps entitled “Brittania” which was criticised for plagiarism from similar maps by Camden and Speed. Then in 1667 he had a new series of maps engraved for “A Geographical Description of the Four Parts of the World”. These were engraved by Francis Lamb, Thomas Burnford and Wenceslaus Holler.

in 1680s Blome moved away from maps and published “The Gentlemans Recreation”, part encyclopaedia and part treatise in gentlemanly sports of the day. It was printed in 1686 and contained 85 engraved plates, many of which are dedicated to specific gentlemen. “The History of the Old Testament”, another by Blome, consisted of 2 volumes with 238 engraved plates done by Johannes Kip.

Could this plate be from one of these books? There IS one plate in an edition of “The Gentleman’s Recreation” dedicated to Sir Robert Clayton but the image is called “Pomona” and is of apple picking – definitely not the one I am looking for.

It was common to change the dedications in subsequent editions of a publication, using the same picture but substituting the new subscribers details.

Sir Robert Clayton (1629-1707)
Sir Robert Clayton came from a poor background but his successes in life include being instrumental in establishing deposit banks in England. He became Lord Mayor of London in 1680 – referred to in this engraving. As Lord Mayor he was known for extravagant entertaining and his cedar dining room was reportedly decorated with classical scenes painted by an English artist Robert Streater. The facade of Clayton’s London home in the Old Jewry was the subject of engravings in 1679, copies are held in The British Museum.

Clayton was also a major benefactor to St Thomas’s Hospital and Christ’s Hospital.

Sir Robert Clayton by John Smith. Image courtesy of National Picture Gallery.

Sir Robert Clayton by John Smith. Image courtesy of National Picture Gallery.

He owned an estate, Marden, in Surrey and was MP for Bletchingley in Surrey from 1690 until his death in 1707. A monument in Bletchingley Church depicting him and his wife was erected during his lifetime and subsequently both were buried there.

He married Martha Trott in 1659. She was the daughter of Perient Trott. Their wedding gift or dowry was one share of Trott’s stock in the Somer’s Island Company. They had one son who sadly died shortly after birth on 16 August 1665. At this time the Claytons fled the plague in London to stay with Robert Vyner in Middlesex.

Perient Trott (died after 1670)
Perient Trott was a London merchant in Vine Court. His unusual first name came from his Mother’s surname “Perient”. His father was Martin Trott and mother Anne Perient.

In 1658 Trott purchased 20 shares of land on Bermuda from Robert Rich, the Earl of Warwick. He never visited Bermuda himself but mixed in the circles of merchants who traded with Bermuda and further afield in South Carolina and the West Indies. But Trott was sometimes controversial – once being censured for illicit tobacco trading and another time protesting against the Bermuda Company who were restricting trading ships to the island. However, by 1671 his wealth had increased substantially and he had taken warehouses in St Botolph Without at Bishopsgate. He now owned land on Bermuda in parishes of Hamilton, Pembroke, Paget and Warwick.

He had two sons, Samuel and Perient Junior, as well as his daughter Martha. Both of his sons spent some time living in Bermuda. The Christian name “Perient” was passed down through the family for several generations. Between 1726 and 1739 one Perient Trott was Speaker of the House of Assembly in Bermuda.
Samuel’s son, Nicholas Trott, became a renowned 18th century judge in South Carolina.

The Coat of Arms
The engraving bears a coat of arms, the left side depicting the arms for Sir Robert Clayton and on the right side are the vertical stripes of the Trott family.

Banner
Towards the top of the image is a banner that reads: Book1 Part 10 Chap 34

This could be the chapter heading of the book in which the engraving sat or it could be a description of the picture itself. It is a classical drawing and there are several classical works that run to ten parts and 34 chapters but after browsing some such as Julius Caesar’s Gallic Wars and Livy’s History of Rome the text doesn’t fit the picture. Plato’s Republic has a Book 1 that deals with justice and one of the figures seems to represent Justice but, since it is not an obvious link, I am more inclined to think the banner refers to the book published by Blome.

I have found similar images on an auction website, with an accompanying description suggesting they might come from “The Gentleman’s Recreation” since they are of similar size and format.

The Figures
One seated, three standing. The one to the left of the throne appears to be a depiction of Justice with balancing scales and a sword. Could they depict the four cardinal virtues – Prudence, Justice, Fortitude and Temperance? One is sewing, another holds a wreath and seems to have fruits on her shoulder while the seated figure has no distinguishing features apart from looking sternly at the figure of the young black boy who seems to be presenting himself, cap in hand and hand on chest. The boy has a collar around his neck perhaps indicating he is a slave although he seems well shod.

Another possibility for the figures is that they represent Roman Goddesses – for example the aforementioned Pomona was often drawn with fruit,

The signature
At the bottom of the engraved image appear two names – one to the left and one the right side. The one on the right is similar to that of Johannes Kip, a Dutch engraver who arrived in England in 1688. He was known for engravings of country mansions.
The left hand signature I cannot make out. Kip sometimes did engravings after work by Leonard Knyff but although the first initial looks like an ‘L’ the second name seems to start with an ‘I’.

Conclusion
The connection to Verdmont is through the Trott family, a descendant, Samuel Trott, owned the house from 1803, and his son after him. It is an engraving typical of those that would have decorated homes around that time period and so may actually just be representative of this, without any particular significance to the place or even to Bermuda. My search for the origin of the image has led in many directions but not yet to an answer!

Suggestions welcome …..

Further Information:

Sir Robert Clayton

British History

Bermuda Settlers of the Seventeenth Century Julia Mercer

 

POSTSCRIPT

Blow me down with a feather, but just as I am about to post this on the blog, checking through the references and …. there it is:

Well, this is a screenshot

Well, this is a screenshot

 

Not exact, but the image is the same with just the banner at the top and the dedication section that differ.

The book is entitled : The History of Nature in Two Parts
Apparently published in 1720 which is after the apparent dedication date of 1680 and after the deaths of Clayton, Blome and Trott. This makes it seem that maybe this book was not the original for the image, just using it again!

You can see the whole book on the Open Library website, the book reference is
OL23304780M

The picture is entitled “Duties of Masters and Servants” and the writing beneath is one possible explanation for the figures portrayed.
Open Library: The History of Nature in Two Parts

 

I am left with some unknowns still –

Who drew the original picture from which Jan Kip made his engraving?
In which book did the dedication to Robert Clayton appear with this image?
How did the picture find its way to Verdmont?

The Sea Venture

The Sea Venture

The Sea Venture

May 15th 1609, Woolwich, London:
A flotilla of 7 ships set off from Woolwich, the Third Supply heading for Jamestown, Virginia.
The Swallow – Capt. Moone and Master Somers
The Diamond – Capt. John Ratcliffe and Capt King
The Unitie – Capt. Wood and Paster Pett
The Falcon – Capt. John Martin and Master Francis Nelson
The Lion – Capt Webb
The Blessing – Capt Gabriel Archer and Capt. Adams
and the flagship:
The Sea Venture – Capt. Christopher Newport

The Sea Venture carried Sir Thomas Gates, who was to be Governor of Virginia. Woolwich was one of 6 Royal Naval dockyards of the time, about 5 miles East of the City of London.

Woolwich Shipyard by Nicholas Pocock

Woolwich Shipyard by Nicholas Pocock

June 2nd 1609, Plymouth, England:
Two more ships joined the fleet
The Virginia – Capt. Davis and Master Davis
The Catch – Master Matthew Fitch
Admiral Sir George Somers joined the Sea Venture at Plymouth. His plans were to remain in Virginia in charge of the new colony’s fleet of ships.

June 2nd-8th 1609, Falmouth, England:
Strong winds forced the ships to stop at Falmouth.

June 14th 1609, off the coast of Cornwall:
Admiral Somers decided to use the shorter northern route, supplies would last and they wouldn’t meet the Spanish. The more usual southern route was down from the Canary Islands to the West Indies and then up to Virginia on the east coast.

June, 1609, Somewhere in the Atlantic:
Sickness broke out on several of the ships, perhaps yellow fever or plague, 32 people were thrown overboard (presumably after they died).
The small pinnace in the fleet could not keep up so it was towed by the Sea Venture.

July 23rd 1609, mid-Atlantic:
Crews were struggling, it was hot, and after 8 weeks at sea they were tired.

July 24th 1609, mid-Atlantic:
Caught in bad weather. Pinnacle cast adrift. Sails furled.

July 25th 1609, 30 º N:
With hurricane-strength winds the Sea Venture began to leak having lost caulking from between the planks as the ship was tossed about. The water in the hold was rising.
St Elmo’s Fire, a glowing ball of light was seen through the rigging, the sailors were scared.
Crew and passengers were divided into 3 groups, one hour shifts, watching, bailing, lightening the load. The starboard guns were jettisoned.
The ships were separated, The Sea Venture was on it’s own.

“For four-and-twenty hours the storm in a restless tumult had blown so exceedingly as we could not apprehend in our imaginations any possibility of greater violence; yet did we still find it not only more terrible but more constant, fury added to fury… Winds and seas were as mad as fury and rage could make them … I had been in some storms before … Yet all that I had ever suffered gathered together might not hold comparison with this: there was not a moment in which the sudden splitting or instant oversetting of the ship was not expected.”  William Strachey

“Our ship became so shaken, torn, and leaked that she received so much water as covered two tier of hogsheads above the ballast.” Silvester Jourdain

July 28th 1609, 32.30 º N 64.78 º W:
Land ahoy!
Bermuda. The Isle of Devils. Or, as Strachey (1625) described it :
“the dangerous and dreaded island, or rather islands, of the Bermuda”

The reef was difficult to navigate and the ship fast sinking so Admiral Somers ordered Captain Newport to ground the ship on rocks just off the eastern end of the island, in sight of land. About ¾ mile offshore, they were at least safe from the storms. The ship, however, was in a bad state, not at all seaworthy, so they abandoned the ruins and took what they could.

150 people and 1 dog* (reportedly – see below) came ashore.

The Ship
Most accounts describe the Sea Venture as built at Aldeburgh, Suffolk in 1608 but a book published in 2013 by JR Adams, “A Maritime Archaeology of Ships”, concludes there is no evidence to support this. Certainly a ship “Seaventure”, a cloth-trading ship in the lowlands, was built in 1603 and the name was not all that common at the time. Perhaps it was this ship that was commissioned by the Virginia Company.

A 300 ton vessel with a broad beam well suited to carry passengers and supplies. She was bigger than the more famous Mayflower. She was armed with 20 cannons, and four handheld firearms like muskets.

Sadly for people who like to build model ships from kits, there is no kit for building The Sea Venture.

A model of Sea Venture in Bermuda Maritime Museum

A model of Sea Venture in Bermuda Maritime Museum

On Board
Sir Thomas Gates, Governor for Virginia
Sir George Somers, Admiral of the flotilla
Sir George Yeardley, another Captain, veteran of Dutch wars
Robert Rich, a shareholder, steward of family interests, returned to Bermuda later.
Rev Richard Bucke, chaplain
William Strachey, Secretary-elect of Virginia, wrote account, from which story is known
Silvester Jourdain, wrote account of the storm
Thomas Powell, cook
Robert Walsingham, cockswain
Robert Frobisher, shipwright, has a bay named after him on Bermuda
Nicholas Bennit, carpenter
Henry Ravens, master mate; believed lost at sea when he sailed for help
Thomas Whittingham, believed lost at sea along with Ravens.
Edward Eason and his wife – baby boy born on Bermuda
John Rolfe and his wife – his 2nd wife was Pocahontas
Christopher Carter – sailor from Buckingham, England; Bermuda’s first long term resident
Robert Waters – stayed on Bermuda (deserted the main group)
Edward Chard – stayed on Bermuda (deserted the main group)

There is no complete list of the people on board, others not listed did not return to the island. Some, including Jeffrey Briars, Henry Paine and Richard Lewis, are reported to have died on Bermuda – they may have been in the group that sailed for help in the long boat. One Elizabeth Persons married Thomas Powell while stranded on the island.

Apart from the last 3, the survivors subsequently sailed onto Virginia, a tale of 2 much smaller ships, mutiny, murder and desertion.

The Wreck
But that wasn’t the end of the Sea Venture, as in 1958 Ned Downing found the wreck off St George’s island. He was guided in where to look by William Strachey’s first hand account of the voyage that had been published in 1625: “within a mile under the southeast point of the land”. The discovery came fortuitously one year before the 350th anniversary. Teddy Ticker was commissioned to excavate the wreck. There was some argument about whether this actually was the correct wreck, not laid to rest until 1978 by Allan Wingood.

The treasure was sparse – much of the usable timber and furnishings had been ferried ashore by the original crew in 1609 and then later 2 cannons were hauled ashore to provide defences when they returned and settled the island. Confirmation seems to have come from a pewter spoon, a German stoneware jug and a single 4-pounder gun. There were some puzzling issues such as the amount of cast iron shot found seemed too little for a ship of this size but maybe this was jettisoned during the storm.

The Tempest
Then there is the debate about Shakespeare’s play The Tempest – was it based on the story of the Sea Venture or not?

The Tempest was written probably in 1610/1611 since the first performance was 1st November 1611. The news about the Sea Venture reached England in late 1610, first with an account by Silvester Jourdain, A Discovery of the Barmudas. Strachey’s A True Reportery was not published until 1625, after his death, but it was dated July 15 1610 and some argue that, as a friend of members of the Virginia Company, Shakespeare would have had earlier access to this account. Having just read through the play (the things I do for this blog) it seems that the only connection is the storm and I am quite happy to accept that Shakespeare could have got the ideas from accounts of the Sea Venture and used poetic licence to write the rest of the story. But people have written their dissertations on this and it has triggered a degree of academic mud-slinging:
Yes he did
No he didn’t

*The dog?
When I first looked at this, the only place a dog was mentioned was wikipedia, which immediately cast some doubts. But The Mary Rose had a ship’s dog – the skeleton is on display at Portsmouth, so why not the Sea Venture? Ships had cats since Egyptian times, until the Royal Navy banned them in 1975 (health and safety of course). So why didn’t the ships cat survive? And what about the ship’s chicken? A few hours and several web pages later:
“…our people would go hunting with our ship dog…” Strachey

So it is true – 150 people and a dog!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Further Information:
A Maritime Archaeology of Ships by Jonathan Adams
Sea Venture: The Downing Wreck Revisited by A Mardis Jr 1981
Royal Museums Greenwich 
A True Reportory by William Strachey, 1625

5 minutes over

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

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

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

The Expired Meter covering parking and other driving offences in Chicago

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further Information:
Parking in Hamilton

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

Bermuda laws

Bermuda Police Service

Easy Park

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?

The Great Seal of the Confederate States of America

The story of the Great Seal would probably make a good film, with spies, secrets and deceits. You might wonder why it is part of a display in The Globe Museum, St George’s, Bermuda. The museum houses a replica of the seal and a screw press of the age, though the actual press is on Bermuda in the hands of a private collector. So what is it doing there?

IMG_0037

Setting: late 19th, early 20th century, the story commences in 1864, a couple of years into the American Civil War

Background: In 1861 South Carolina seceded from the Union because they believed it no longer represented the ideology of the Southern states, they had joined by choice and so were free to leave. Soon after, 11 other states followed and thus the Southern Confederate States were set against the Northern Unionist States. The South was greatly outnumbered, 9,000,000 people, over 3 million of which were slaves) against 22,000,000 from the industrial North, that held all the cards – transport links, foreign trade, a trained army, a navy. The Unionists placed blockades along the Southern ports, to stop them trading. Bermuda, sitting in the mid-Atlantic and British, was officially neutral, but found a rewarding role enabling blockade-running i.e. it was a convenient port from which to deliver goods to Confederates, though not without risks.

Characters:

JAMES MASON, Confederacy Diplomat in London. He was a central figure in the Trent Affair, another story entirely but one that almost brought GB and US into full blown war in 1861. If Wikipedia links are anything to go by he was well-connected: no less than 15 of his relatives have Wiki pages. I was disappointed to see his picture – nothing like the homonymous actor.

James Mason (1798-1871)

James Mason (1798-1871)

James Mason was requested by the Confederate Government to source a die-engraver in Britain

JOSEPH S WYON, Chief Engraver of Seals, whose previous work included a seal for Queen Victoria. He inscribed the margin of the seal with his name and address (287 Regent St London – now a newsagents)
JS Wyon engraved the seal in silver. The cost was £122.10.00

Invoice

Invoice

Lt ROBERT T CHAPMAN, of the Confederate Navy, of the CSS Sumter then CSS Alabama, both of which ended up stuck in European waters, which is how he happened to be in England at just the right time.

Lt Chapman was tasked with carrying the seal and press to Richmond, Virginia. He travelled first to Halifax, Nova Scotia, on the Cunard Liner Africa, where he then boarded a steamer Alpha bound for Bermuda. He was told in no uncertain terms that this item could not be captured and was prepared even to throw it overboard. It is said that he abandoned the presentation box and fine leather satchel and carried it instead in his pocket. Chapman was held up in Bermuda for some time, three failed attempts to leave the island, so it wasn’t until September 1864 that the Great Seal arrived in Richmond, Virginia. The press, however, did not reach Virginia at all, too bulky and probably a dead give-away to what Chapman was carrying.

Why did the press never get shipped off Bermuda?

Why did the press never get shipped off Bermuda?

The Seal was in Confederate hands for 8 months until April 1865 when the war ended.

WILLIAM J BROMWELL was the state department clerk charged with moving the departmental records and storing them when the Confederate offices were cleared.

 

Bromwell kept many of these records with him when he moved to Washington DC in 1866. Mrs Bromwell reported carrying the Seal in her bustle out of Richmond when the Union forces took possession!

JOHN T PICKETT, Lawyer in Washington DC.

Bromwell qualified and practiced law in Pickett’s firm. Realising the risk of possessing the Seal -Bromwell had after all in effect stolen it – Pickett acted as agent in an attempt to sell the Seal either to the government or to interested southerners, he was asking $75,000.

Lt THOMAS O SELFRIDGE, an inspector requested by the state department to confirm that the Seal was genuine.

In 1872 the US Government paid $75,000 for the Confederate Seal.

BUT

Selfridge kept the Seal, and for many years it’s whereabouts was unknown.

At some point Pickett borrowed it temporarily in order to have copies made.

SAMUEL H BLACK, an expert in electrotyping (electroplating), pledged to secrecy under a masonic oath.

In 1885 1000 copies in bronze, silver or gold colour and housed in handsome cases were sold to raise money for Southern widows and orphans.

Copy of Seal

Copy of Seal

Browell died in 1875 and Pickett in 1884; for the next 20 years nothing was heard of the original Seal.

In 1905 the Confederate Museum of Richmond commenced a search for the Seal. It is unclear who actually discovered it again, reports give both a MISS LT MUNFORD and a Judge WALTER A MONTGOMERY, but it was not until 1910 that Selfridge, now and Admiral, was proven to hold the Seal.

Selfridge was demanding $1,000 for the Seal – curious amount given the Government had valued it at $75,000 some 40 years before. Nobody seems to have been much concerned that Selfridge did not actually own the seal himself. I don’t wish to upset any descendants, but maybe it had something to do with him being an Admiral?

THOMAS P BRYAN, EPPA HUNT Jr and WILLIAM H WHITE were three wealthy Richmond residents who each contributed $1,000 to purchase the Seal from Selfridge.

In May 1915 the Great Confederate Seal was displayed at the Confederate Museum of Richmond, the loan converted to a gift in 1943.

Deo Vindice:
The image on the Seal is of George Washington astride a horse, copied from the statue in Richmond. Equestrian figures had appeared on royal seals from the time of Edward The Confessor.

The surrounding wreath was planned to include the major crops from the Southern states: cotton, corn, sugar, wheat, rice and tobacco. James Mason actually altered the design to omit wheat and corn, both grown also in the North.

The adoption of a motto provided lengthy debate: Deo Duce vincemus (under the leadership of God we will conquer) was thought to imply that the state of war would be permanent and use of the future tense added uncertainty; Deo vindice majores aemulator (under the guidance and protection of God we endeavour to equal and even excel our ancestors) was thought just too much of a mouthful. In the end it was a Mr THOMAS J SEMMES, Senator for South Carolina, who chose the simple phrase Deo vindice (God will judge – sometimes translated as God is our Defender – I defer to my classically educated friends)

Visit the museum to get your own imprint!

Visit the museum to get your own imprint!

Did the Confederate Government ever use the Seal?
With the press remaining in Bermuda and the short length of time for the administration then it was long thought that the seal was unused in any official capacity. However the US National Archives reportedly hold a document signed by President Jefferson Davis dated February 7th 1865 that bears the impression of the Seal. I say reportedly because I cannot track it down on their online archives (more than willing to go in person should Bermuda National Trust consider funding a discovery!)

The press and seal (copies) at The Globe, Bermuda National Trust Museum, St George's.

The press and seal (copies) at The Globe, Bermuda National Trust Museum, St George’s.

Thinking of Bermuda

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

http://thinkingofbermuda.com

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

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

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

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Charity days

Canopius is in the National Newspaper today:)

staff training?

staff training? (picture from Royal Gazette, Bermuda)

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

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

How far back does it go? 

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

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

Is it a good idea? 

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

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

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

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

Benefits

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

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

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

Links:

Royal Gazette

Centre on Philanthropy

HMRC Corporate Charitable Donations in UK

Charitable Giving in US

Canopius

Charities in Bermuda

 

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

 

Digging up the past in Bermuda

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

Bermuda TIme Team

Bermuda TIme Team

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

The only way to get there

The only way to get there

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

Pretty much overgrown

Pretty much overgrown

The Dig

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

 

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

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

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

The images below are my own photographs.

 

Under a blue tarpaulin

Under a blue tarpaulin

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

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

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

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

image

Buses in Bermuda

Pink Buses

Pink Buses

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

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

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

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

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

Timetable and map available from Visitor Centres

Timetable and map available from Visitor Centres

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

Routes and fares

Routes and fares

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

Bus route map

Bus route map

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

Book of tickets

Book of tickets

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

Bus timetable

Bus timetable

 

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

Pink bus stop

Pink bus stop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Post script: 

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

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

Snoopy-Comic-Strip-peanuts-256343_500_358

 

What’s all this about PINK?

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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

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

Naturally pink - gravestones at Dockyard

Naturally pink – gravestones at Dockyard

Flamingoes... so pretty ...

Flamingoes… so pretty …

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

What is it about pink?

I like it. 🙂 

 

Bermuda Railway

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

From a Bermuda postcard

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

Realtor Realities: Bermuda Estate Agents

New home!

New home!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and the following papers and websites have property sections:

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

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

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

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

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On my doorstep this morning

Ornamental

Bufo marinarus

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

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

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

They were brought onto the island by Captain Nathaniel Vesey.

Captain Nathaniel Vesey

Captain Nathaniel Vesey

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

Interview with Captain Vesey reported in Science, 1900

Interview with Captain Vesey reported in Science, 1900

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

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

Back to the toad. Where was I?

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

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

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

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

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

 

Bermuda Onions

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

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

The next sentence is complicated:

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

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

Bermuda Onions, Botanical Gardens

Bermuda Onions, Botanical Gardens

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Globe Hotel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With tuppence for paper and strings …

On Good Friday in Bermuda people fly kites.

Let's go fly a kite

Let’s go fly a kite

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

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

Bermuda kites

Bermuda kites

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

Why on Good Friday? 

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

Where to see them? 

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

South Shore from the dunes

South Shore from the dunes

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

A beautiful day

A beautiful day

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

Horseshoe Bay on Good Friday

Horseshoe Bay on Good Friday

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

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

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

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

Maybe next year I should have kite-flying lessons!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is the water safe?

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

Do we swim in that?

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

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

 our waters continue to be safe and beautiful for swimming

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

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

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

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

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

 

Some maths coming up

Some maths coming up (from Bermuda Government DOH)

To help:

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

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

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

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

The Atlantic Sea – and a boat

Shore

At least you can sea where to put your feet

Bermuda Samples

Almost hidden away on the top shelf of the Bermuda reference section of the library is a small book that one might easily overlook – just 5 inches tall in mid-blue cloth-covered hardboard with various stamps inside indicating it once occupied a shelf in Somerset Library and was for 14 day loan only. Sadly it is now never borrowed and possibly rarely read, “Bermuda Samples” by William Zuill sits between a volume of island-inspired poetry on one side and a large “Bermuda Development Plan for 2000” on the other.

William Zuill put this book together in 1937, selecting extracts from the Gazette (was Bermuda, now Royal) between 1815 and 1845.  His choice suggests an eclectic mind and definitely a sense of humour:

  • From November,1816 a warning to women wearing low-cut dresses that an “elderly gentleman of venerable appearance and correct manners” was imprinting their bare shoulders or backs with a “stain similar to that from lunar caustic” the words NAKED BUT NOT ASHAMED; washing would not remove it so the ladies were forced to cover it up with more respectable clothes.  [Lunar caustic is silver nitrate, used in the past to treat warts and in photographic developing, it darkens on exposure to light. My thoughts on reading that were that the elderly gent was not so correct in his manners.]
  • From June 1818, a letter to the editor bemoans latecomers to church services, for lying in bed on Sundays was “un-Christian-like“. The writer continues to comment on lowering of standards that permitted “ladies at the breakfast table in night or dressing gown” and “men with chins like a pigs back”.  [which I took to mean unshaven but was less clear as to whether this was lamentable at breakfast time or in church]

The selections that caught my eye were cures or remedies for various illnesses.

  • March 31, 1829, Cure for Consumption:  In the month of May gather flowers from the thorn bush and boil two bunches of blossoms in half a pint of milk. Let it stand until it is about as warm as milk from a cow. Drink it first thing in the morning and take a walk immediately afterwards, if the weather is favourable, and a cure will soon be effected. [Maythorn or hawthorn has its main effects on the heart and is unlikely to do much to help TB, but it might be beneficial to cholesterol levels] 
  • July 19, 1823, To remove pins and bones: Any person who may swallow a pin or the bone of a fish will find almost instant relief by taking four grains of tartar emetic dissolved in warm water and immediately afterwards the white of six eggs. So effectual is this remedy, that it has been known to remove no less than twenty-four pins at once. [who would swallow 24 pins?] [tartar emetic is antimony potassium tartrate, nasty stuff once used for treating alcohol intoxication, known as an emetic since the middle ages. The egg white protein would protect the patient to a degree from poisoning by binding with the antimony. ]
  • July 3, 1832, Recipe for Cholera: 1oz of cinnamon water, 35 drops of tincture of opium, 1 drachm spirits of lavender, 2 drachms tincture of rhubarb.  [1 drachm or dram = ⅛ fluid ounce or approximately one teaspoonful.  If it is a solid measure then 1 drachm = 3 scruples or 60 grains, almost 4grams. I rather suspect the opium might slow the diarrhoea but the rest is just to make it taste pleasant. ]
  • April 1, 1834, Simple Cure for Consumption: this distressing complaint which carries of so many of our valuable young men annually has been cured by a very simple remedy, viz:- the inhaling of the gaseous perfume of chloride of lime. [ Consumption = TB. Chloride of lime is calcium hypochlorite and was used then to bleach laundry, now for swimming pools; the gas given off would be chlorine but is not going to cure TB] 
  • April 21, 1835, Cure for the whooping cough: Take one fourth of a pint of sweet or olive oil, the same quantity of common leeks, cut them fine and simmer them moderately two or three hours; add honey to make it palatable; half a teaspoon full a portion for an adult if taken four or fibre times, it will in a few days remove this distressing disorder. [Cabbage water was also a well-known remedy for coughs] 

The final sample that caught my attention was a report from December 1840 documenting the occurrence of ice “a full quarter inch thick” on the low lying ground in the central parishes of Bermuda. Unbelievable?

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.

P1000521

 

 

Ribs and terrors in the whale

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

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

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

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

Back to whale-watching:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whale poetry, on the other hand, is:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

….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.

IMG_2619

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.

62651575

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.

The Weekly Shop

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

Last week's shop

Last week’s shop

Prices in $, 1$ =60p approx.

Meat  slightly +++

Vegetables ++

Sliced bread ++++

Chocolate +++++

Bill total : $250 approx.

 

 

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

If I am honest I probably do miss that aspect

 

 

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

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

    should I tip this one?

    should I tip this one?

     

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

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

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

Frozen peas in boxes

Frozen peas in boxes

IMG_1080

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

Tribe Matters: Devonshire

The Tribes of Bermuda

The Tribes of Bermuda

Tribe:  a social division of people defined by a common characteristic

Early on in the colonial history Bermuda was divided into tribes which were further subdivided into shares.  The painstaking work that this entailed fell to Richard Norwood, a teacher from England.  Each tribe was 1,250 acres and each share was 25 acres – the divisions in straight lines across from North shore to South shore making plots of land of varying width but crucially each with access to a portion of coast. There were 8 tribes divided in this way, with St George’s and several other discrete islands remaining as company land. The tribe was then named after the Adventurer who had purchased most share within that tribe.

Thus the tribes were named:

  • Sandys – Sir Edwyn Sandys
  • Southampton – Henry Wrothesley, Earl of Southampton
  • Mansil’s – Robert Mansell aka Mansfleid (who later sold his shares to Earl of Warwick)
  • Paget – William Paget, Fourth Lord Paget
  • Pembroke – William Herbert, Third Earl of Pembroke
  • Cavendish – William Cavendish who became First Earl of Devonshire
  • Smith’s – Sir Thomas Smith
  • Bedford’s – Lady Lucy Harrington, Countess of Bedford (later sold to James Hamilton)

They were referred to as Tribes up to 1684, presumably as churches were established within them. The remnants of the earlier naming is seen in the multiple “Tribe Roads” that dissect the island perpendicular to the long roads.  To call them roads is somewhat ambitious – some only wide enough to roll a barrel.

I have focussed first on Devonshire because that’s where I am living.

William Cavendish is, I have discovered, a common name – the one in question was born 1552 and died 1626 and was the First Earl of Devonshire, but research is complicated by unimaginative naming of children, all William, with the occasional Henry thrown in randomly.

William Cavendish must have had a large extended family – his father had three wives and his Mother married four times, dissatisfaction as much as death prompting the changes.  Anyhow, he was the second son of (predictably) William Cavendish and Bess of Hardwick.  Second son? Yes, Henry was an embarrassment to his Mother who disowned him so William became her favourite.

William Cavendish, First Earl of Devonshire. (1552-1626)

William Cavendish, First Earl of Devonshire. (1552-1626)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of my English readers will recognise the “Devonshire ” and correctly link him to Chatsworth House (in Derbyshire, just to confuse everyone).  This now enormous estate was originally purchased by William’s father for £600; his money came from land he had amassed in his name during the dissolution of the monasteries – he was Privy Councillor and Treasurer to Henry VIII.  Sadly William the elder lived only long enough to conceive three sons and spend just five years owning Chatsworth – maybe three wives is not such a good idea. So at the age of 5, our William was left fatherless, with two not-so-very-nice stepfathers to come.

He was educated at Eton, Cambridge and Gray’s Inn.  He didn’t inherit his vast estates until he was 56 when his mother died leaving him four impressive estates in the English Midlands.  William was a Member of Parliament for two years – first for Liverpool (1586) and then for Newport, Cornwall (1587).  It might seem odd that he represented areas so far from his family home, but explained by the acrimonious relationship with his stepfather George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury.  In 1605 William became Baron Cavendish, step one on the ladder to peerage. Debrett’s informs that he advanced to the dignity of Earl of Devonshire in 1618.

William married Anne Keighley, a fecund lady who gave birth to 6 children in 8 years; of course they named the eldest William. They hired Thomas Hobbes, later philosopher, as tutor to the young boy, a relationship lasting over 20 years and enabling Hobbes himself to invest in The Somers Island Company.  Inevitably this new William became Earl of Devonshire and so on almost ad infinitum (current incumbent is called Peregrine, and it’s a Dukedom now)

All that is preamble to explaining how he managed to own 10 shares of land in the parish of (now) Devonshire.  fellow parishioners included Pennistone, Dike, Barnard, West, Lukin, Ditchfield, Nicholls, Fletcher, Delaune, Roger, Palmer and Rich.  Of course, it is unlikely that many if any of them actually came to Bermuda, preferring absentee landlord status – the rules are tighter these days.

It has been hard to find anything pertaining to the character of  William Cavendish. One small extract from “History of The Virginia Company” by Edward Duffield Neill describes how Cavendish quarrelled with Earl of Warwick, each calling the other a liar over a matter not detailed.  It is said that he challenged Warwick to a duel and that the Privy Council subsequently blocked the ports of England to prevent them reaching the continent (were duels perhaps banned in England ?)  Cavendish was apprehended at Shoreham, Essex , but Warwick reached Ghent.  The whole incident contributed to the Virginia Company Charter being declared null and void in 1624. It is said that their wives remained friends throughout.

Devonshire has for its coat of arms that of the Cavendish Family.

Bermuda stamp

Bermuda stamp

Sable (black) shield

3 stags heads caboshed (cut of behind the ears)

coronet of an Earl – silver balls on points with gold strawberry leaves between

Cavendish green serpent

2 rampant stag supporters

 

 

This is the sign along South Road approaching Devonshire from Smiths (needs a soapy brush)IMG_2062

Out and About

Who would give you a car wash for your birthday?

Who would give you a car wash for your birthday?

 

I had the car washed this morning – one of those that pulls you through which is always a scary experience. As a new customer I was given this leaflet and I must say I had never thought of buying someone a carwash as a birthday present.  I have to thank Chuck because I have inherited his unused points and points can be exchanged for soapsuds 🙂

 

 

 

 

Camouflaged zebra

Camouflaged zebra

 

Outside my husband’s office they have resurfaced the road and this is how they have reinstated the pedestrian crossing!

 

 

 

 

 

Car park round the back

Car park round the back 

 

Just up from here, I think it might be called Park Road, there is the junction where you fail a driving test: coming from Wesley Street you turn right into what looks like a one way street but for about 15 feet it is two-way and if you don’t pull over to the left, well, sorry, you have just failed.

😦

 

 

 

 

From a tourist guide book 1952

From a tourist guide book 1952

 

or get her a pink bike?

 

Bus stop

  Bus stop

Maybe not suited for wheelchairs

Maybe not suited for wheelchairs

 

North Shore Road, outside a primary school – double buggy not such a good idea!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chainlink

Chainlink

Airbrick

Airbrick

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why do the guns point inland?      Alexandra Battery

Why do the guns point inland? Alexandra Battery

Old fire hydrant

Old fire hydrant

New fire hydrant

New fire hydrant

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leaking tree

Leaking tree

 

Paget Marsh is a boardwalk through dense vegetation, a nature reserve run by the Bermuda National Trust.

 

 

 

Aerial roots

Aerial roots

 

 

 

 

 

 

No door

No door

Locks?

Locks?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No self-respecting girl...

No self-respecting girl…

Clothes to pack 1952 Travel Guide to Bermuda

Clothes to pack

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kiskadee

Kiskadee

Abbot’s Cliff

From North Shore Road

From North Shore Road

If I were writing a travel guide then it would read:  A gentle uphill stroll with rewarding views across Harrington Sound.  I suspect you won’t be satisfied with that, so, having made the steep climb last weekend I have done a little research.  The one piece of information frustrating my search is Who was Abbot?  I am clearly not the only person to wonder – the Bermuda-online website has left it as Abbott (sic) is an old Bermudian family name.  (Both spellings are to be found on printed information and websites but I am using the one given on the road sign.)

Morris Abbot, 1565-1642, was an investor in the Virginia Company – that sponsored the fleet of ships including the Sea Venture that was grounded on the Bermuda reef and so laid claim to the island for England. Could he have been related to the eponymous cliff?  Wikipedia and some genealogical pages make more of his role in the Virginia company than is perhaps warranted since it seems from more detailed biography that he was more involved with the East India Company and with his life as an MP for Hull. I can find no mention of him even having travelled as far as Bermuda but two shares in Pembroke are allocated to a Morris Abbot in Norwood’s map of 1622. Locals will be pointing out to me that Abbot’s Cliff is in Hamilton Parish, not Pembroke.

Geologically  Abbot’s Cliff is a wall of limestone between My Lord’s Bay and Church Bay. According to Geoview it is 22 metres above sea level.

I chose to walk up the path from the other side.

The park is about 18 acres that was adopted as a nature reserve in the 1980s. It appears on maps as a green patch as far back as the Thomas Jeffery’s map of 1775. Certainly today it is dense with vegetation and the path in some parts was a find-it-yourself-and-step-carefully type.

IMG_2541

 

You begin on North Shore Road opposite Francis Patton School.  The road soon becomes dirt track and winds around a field of banana trees (field here means small patch of land, not the vast expanses farming in UK brings to mind)

 

I suggest a water bottle is worth carrying. The view, once you have reached the top, is amazing.

IMG_2538

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back in 1993 the conservationist David Wingate listed Abbot’s Cliff as a site at risk since many such escarpments have been quarried for building stone. There is another story regarding his cliff-related-activities: In 2002 he led a group to remove Casuarinas from the area, enthusiastically extending their clearance to Cockroach Island at the foot of the cliff only to discover later that the island was actually privately owned with its landscape previously carefully managed by the owner!  The non-infested-island above is the result of cliff-fall rubble thousands of years ago.  Future falls are inevitable for the cliff has significant undercutting below the water level due to bioerosion – rock eaten away by organisms, with the wonderful name of Boring Pelecypods.  I learnt that this can be distinguished from tidal erosion by its flat roof and position below the inter-tidal range.

In 2005 Abbot’s Cliff was the site of the gruesome find of two murdered young men.  A sad reminder that Bermuda is just like the rest of the world, inhabited by humans.

My first Google searches resulted in many pages on Abbot’s Cliff in England – near Folkestone, the site of an old concrete sound mirror a military leftover. Some days I am easily sidetracked: You will be pleased I was not distracted by the naturist beach at the base of that cliff.

 

A breeze at the top

A breeze at the top

 

HMS Bermuda Floating Dock

When you first explore Spanish Point you may be forgiven for wanting to go home and contact Greenpeace about dumping at sea. For, sitting in the mouth of Stoves Bay is a rusty hulk, which, if not quite of Brobdingnagian proportions, dominates the view across to Dockyard.  If it wasn’t there you could see past Long Point to Cobblers Island, Lapstone, Nets Rock and beyond Hogfish Beacon across the Great Sound Ledge to Pepperpot Beacon and Cockburn’s Cut. It is from across the water that this sad skeletal shell originated. Once, tidily tucked behind the safety of the South Breakwater, it was HMS Bermuda Floating Dock.

Installation at Dockyard 1869

Installation at Dockyard 1869

 

If you think of Bermuda as a giant fish-hook then Ireland island is the tip of the hook, the far end of Middle Road, the last of the rocky outcrops connected by short bridges, reaching out into the deeper waters of the oddly named Grassy Bay.  Ferry across the Great Sound is the quickest route.

 

 

 

 

A patient explanation from my husband told me that while small boats can be careened (nautical jargon for tilted) to one side for repairs and cleaning, larger ships require some form of dry-docking. Bermuda limestone is too soft and porous for a water-tight dry dock construction (which is also the explanation of occasional wet walls indoors in old Bermuda homes) so an alternative solution was necessary.

The floating dock was proposed by Lord Clarence Paget in 1866:

The only further work connected with this Vote relates to the proposed dock at Bermuda, We propose to construct a great iron floating dock, and there have been various plans before us for the execution of this work. One of these is quite of a novel and ingenious character. I do not venture to describe it, but I intend to lay a model of it in the Library, that hon. Members may see it for themselves. The plan, although it is one of a hydraulic first-class dock, dispenses almost altogether with any steam machinery; and, what is still more remarkable, the inventor proposes to build it here and to go out in it. (from Hansard, Commons Sittings)

The model mentioned in the above paragraph is kept at the Science Museum, London.  The design was patented by James Campbell and construction began at Woolwich in 1866.

The dock was 381 feet long by 123 feet wide and 74 feet deep. This was big enough to take ships of the Bellerophon class.

HMS Bellerophon 1866

HMS Bellerophon 1866

The building was completed by 1868.  It cost  £247,589 5s. 7d. to build. (Hansard)

Two steam-sail ironclads, HMS Agincourt and HMS Northumberland towed the dock as far as Madeira, then HMS Warrior and HMS Black Prince, the most powerful ironclads of the fleet, took it across the Atlantic.  A sail was placed inside the U-shaped dock to make use of following winds and HMS Terrible guided the stern for the whole journey.

35-day Atlantic journey, 1869

35-day Atlantic journey, 1869

 

July 4th 1869 as they left Ponto Santo

(National Maritime Museum)

 

 

 

 

There is a picture of HMS Warrior resting inside the floating dock with the dock in an elevated position – this is taken from an engraving by Thomas Dutton, but is historically inaccurate – it never happened – more a product of his imagination.

Thomas Dutton Engraving

Thomas Dutton Engraving

The dock was used through until 1906; more than 78 lifts are documented in the Dockyard records.

Intrepid in bermuda Dock  ? date  from Battleships-cruisers.co.uk

Intrepid in Bermuda Dock (?date)
from Battleships-cruisers.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But after 40 years service she was no longer big enough to manage the Royal Navy Dreadnought class of the early 1900s. (Confusingly the navy re-use ship names so the famous Flagship HMS Dreadnought of 1906 was actually the sixth ship of that name)

Careening

Careening

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next part of the story, how the dock ended up ay Spanish Point, has two versions and I have not been able to unravel the truth.  Two Bermudian experts, Edward Harris and Richard Gould, have tried before me.  The former describes the arrival of the floating dock at

http://www.bermudarentals.com/wp-content/uploads/HMAFDBda.pdf 

But it is Richard Gould who provides detail of the dismantling process and proposes a story to explain how it becomes abandoned. In 1996 Gould and Souza published results of an archeological exploration of the wreck  – History and Archaeology of HM Floating Dock Bermuda, International Journal of Nautical Archaeology 1996 25,1:4 20. They quote from an unpublished diary of a dock worker at the time, D Barrit, who described the arrival of German ship-breakers in January 1907. It took over a year to remove the copper, bronze and brass which was done in-situ at the dockyard, then in March 1908 tugs hauled the remains to the opposite shore and secured it with anchors and hawsers.  Subsequently it seems the hulk broke free of the restraints during storms and drifted to block the mouth of the bay.

In April 1908 a Certificate of Abandonment was issued.

The wreck of the floating dock

The wreck of the floating dock

In the mid twentieth century attempts were made to reduce the wreckage with dynamite. It was partially successful and opened up a channel through for small boats, but the remains are still clearly visible. When we were there this weekend a heron was using the elevation to find its lunch, but I wasn’t quick enough with the camera.

Does it fall under UNESCO’s underwater heritage protection rules?

Is it heritage or an eyesore?

 

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

Dr Luke Blackburn

lukepryorblackburn1

Munificent or Malefactor?

It was 1864 and Bermuda faced an epidemic of yellow fever.  Not for the first time, more than five outbreaks had devastated the islanders, in 1817 it had taken 213 people from St George’s town alone.  They had tried refusing landing to ships that carried disease and buried the victims in separate cemeteries, but they were no closer to a solution.

The illness began with fever, aching and weakness. Then briefly you might feel slightly better, but the short-lived reprieve was followed by jaundice and bleeding with progressive liver failure.   Vomited blood is customarily black as coffee-grounds and the stools become loose, tar like and offensive.  Few recovered from this point, kidney failure following rapidly and death usually within 10 days. Altogether pretty unpleasant.

Man with yellow fever Image from Wellcome Library

Man with yellow fever
Image from Wellcome Library

Pages from Nineteenth Century Textbook

Pages from Nineteenth Century Textbook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was all going on during the American Civil War and although Bermuda was officially neutral it did play an important role in blockade running to enable trade with Southern states (for more on this you should visit The Globe National Trust Museum).  Amidst all the politics and fast ships, along came Dr Luke Pryor Blackburn.

You need some background in order to judge him fairly, he features on many websites, some clearly written to support the guilty verdict. I mean to be balanced but as I began to write that I realised I wanted to show him to be innocent.  Misguided physicians allegiance or hindsight that  what he did would not have worked?

Luke Blackburn was born in 1816, in Woodford County, Kentucky.  He was one of 13 children, born into a Presbyterian family strongly involved in politics. Apprenticed at 15 to his physician uncle, Churchill Jones Blackburn, he gained his degree in medicine at the age of 19 in 1835, which seems young by todays standards but was probably not that unusual at the time. Maybe he was primed to develop an interest in what would today be the field of Infectious Diseases – he witnessed cholera and yellow fever as it swept across the southern states.  His finals dissertation was on cholera:

Dr Luke Blackburn's Dissertation

Dr Luke Blackburn’s Dissertation

He married shortly after becoming a doctor, and had a child within a year (a son who later went into medicine) and for a while he cultivated his political interests.  His CV would have either been impressive with its variety of roles in working life or showed lack of sticking power to any one thing.  It was enough to impress the mayor of New York in 1854 who called upon Dr Blackburn to treat yellow fever patients – this seemed to be in exchange for a New York medical apprenticeship for his son so maybe not completely altruistic.

Kentucky was one of the border states during the civil war, while trading heavily in slaves for the southern states and being officially represented by the central star on the Confederate flag, they diplomatically tried to remain neutral. But Luke Blackburn was open for his support of the Confederates.

How he turned up in Bermuda is not exactly clear – some sources have the Canadian authorities sending him as a Confederal Agent, others claim he volunteered and had already devised his wicked scheme.  They report that he refused payment for his medical services, but far from intending to boost his credentials in generosity it is written as if to underline his evil intent.

Perhaps my favourite source is “The Biography of a Colonial Town” by Sister Jean de Chantal Kennedy, 1961. Not for its unbiased writing, but for the element of storytelling she manages to incorporate.  Luke is described as having “subdued an outbreak of yellow fever” and ‘stemming the onslaught” of cholera.

So, on arrival he took quarters in The Hamilton Hotel where the local medical men asked him to address their meeting.  One took offence at the suggestion that he used the “application of onion with tobacco to the stomach” as a remedy for yellow fever.  Luke Blackburn impressed upon them the need for strict quarantine procedures, a reasonable idea even if it would not have reduced the mosquito carriers of the disease. He began treating the fevered patients and again is noted for not charging a fee.

V0010538 A girl suffering from yellow fever. Watercolour.

A girl suffering from yellow fever. Watercolour. From Wellcome Institute.

 

 

 

V0011984 A parodic cosmological diagram showing opposing aspects of t

Fever!

 

 

 

 

 

 

What happened next may or may not be true.

Dr Blackburn reportedly (the nurse and the barman were witnesses) took the bedding and clothes from those who had just died of yellow fever and packed them into his trunks. In one instance he is supposed to have sent the relatives out to arrange burial while he himself laid out the deceased in an unknown nightgown, the patients own clothes “mysteriously” disappeared.  According to other sources he was in league with an Edward Swan whose role in this was to ship the trunks of (possibly) infected clothing to the northern states, to New York and Unionist ports.     It is even suggested that Blackburn himself selected particular fine shirts from amongst the dead persons’ clothing which he addressed to the President.

Note I have moved from referring to him as Luke, through Dr Blackburn and now Blackburn – and so they did on Bermuda as he fell from grace.  A man who might have been a federal agent or a double agent or a Unionist spy, Mr Fred Buckstaff, tracked the trunks and on finding them awaiting shipment challenged Edward Swan, who soon squealed.  Then another came forward , Godfrey Hyams, claiming he had been involved and had received shipments of infected clothing in Boston, Philadelphia and other ports, that the intent was a “cunning plan” to spread the contaminated clothes amongst the Unionists and so bring the Northern war effort to its knees.

The doctor’s supporters dwindled as the evidence seemed to mount against him.  It didn’t help that this was shortly followed by President Lincoln’s assassination so talk of conspiracy plots dominated the headlines.

No one seems to know quite how, but Dr Luke Blackburn left Bermuda and found himself in Canada. Here he was actually charged, but not with germ warfare or the equivalent of the time, but with damaging Canada’s neutrality.  His defence was reputed to be:  “it is too preposterous for intelligent gentleman to conceive”  The charges were dropped.

One might expect a guilty man to lay low, so perhaps it speaks well of him that he soon after travelled to the southern states when yellow fever took a hold in New Orleans.

I found one source that explains some of the research that was undertaken with respect to epidemics of fever – it appears that throwing cats from a height was involved …IMG_1044

So for the next ten years or so Dr Luke Blackburn seemed to have been an itinerant medic treating fevers of all descriptions with no little success – Memphis outbreak in 1873 and Florida in 1877.  Until he found himself back in Kentucky in 1879 and running in the election for Governor.   Some of his opponents tried to blacken his name with tales of “Dr Blackvomit” and reporting controversial statements of apparent evidence on a daily basis in the papers, but it seems his good deeds overshadowed any hint of malicious activity and he was selected as the Democrat candidate with a resounding majority of 935 votes to 22 and later on that year he was elected Governor of Kentucky with 56% of the votes.

He remained a controversial figure in this new role, granting pardons to criminals to avoid overcrowding in the prison, capping payments to state officials, reducing the number of jurors. After a tempestuous four years in post he withdrew from public life, set up a sanitarium where he worked until his death from an unknown illness in 1887.

The state of Kentucky erected a granite monument over his grave in Frankfurt (Kentucky town not German) which depicts the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

So what do you think? There is both information and misinformation on websites and it is probably impossible to get to the truth of the matter.  What I conclude is that no trunks were actually shipped from Bermuda with infected clothing; that it would have been a reasonable assumption that yellow fever was infectious and spread by contaminated bedding and clothes so it is logical to remove those items to prevent spread of disease;  that from all accounts it was a busy, scary period of time and fanciful stories tend to spread rapidly when tinged with the element of fear.

The link between mosquitoes and yellow fever was not far away – first proposed in 1881 but not confirmed until 1900.  The virus was isolated in 1927 and a vaccine developed by 1937, for which the South African Max Theiler won the Nobel Prize (1951). The same vaccine is used today and in 2013 WHO announced that one injection will confer lifelong immunity.  You don’t need one to come to Bermuda though 🙂

Postcard from DPLA  (US archives)

Postcard from DPLA
(US archives)

Does Technology Work on Bermuda?

When we first arrived on the island we were warned that the internet disappears when it rains – I am gullible, but this did seem a little far-fetched.  I don’t spend $$ on fast cars, designer handbags, gourmet dining, but I do like to have the latest technology so internet and its accompanying gadgetry is high on my personal triangle of needs (Maslow)

I have in the past been frequently disappointed – our flat in SW London struggles to reach speeds of 1Mbit/s and subsequently if you ask the Smart TV or computer to stream the latest Sherlock Holmes the response is a resounding ‘I don’t think so’ – a wheel of dots as it tries to buffer something out of the ether, a rainbow of inactivity before it understands the impossibility of your request and concludes: ‘Computer says No‘ (Little Britain) . This particular technology-hates-me-situation is inexplicable – across the road they have an Infinity of options  – somehow our building, despite being almost new, adjacent to a major rail station, and most definitely within the M25, sits in a ditch of no reception, is wired to the wrong cabinet and lacks the necessary cabling.  I keep hoping things will improve but it is nearly four years now and even the local MP has failed to make connections.

I suppose if London cannot manage fast broadband then a remote island in the Atlantic might struggle. Sadly, it does, and while not all technology falls into the Bermuda Triangle, some does and so we have had to be inventive in finding solutions.

The services providing broadband are Bermuda Telephone Company, Cable Vision,  Digicell and TeleBermuda and Logic Communications.  It is complicated though and we currently have the broadband cabling by Cable Vision with the broadband supply from Logic (or is it the other way round?)  This two-company provision leads to each blaming the other for any problem, what in medicine would be called Collusion of Anonymity after Balint.  I experienced this in the first few weeks – the problem was no internet: Cable Vision claimed that as we had TV it was not on their side while Logic claimed their signal was reaching our home so it was not their problem … several phone calls, trips to exchange equipment, waiting in queues, visiting technology departments in out-of-the-way places … in the end it was actually both of them, we had the wrong modem from CableVision and the wrong service from Logic.  One day later, all sorted. So far so good.

There is a whole shelf of gadgets that comes with this  – the cable plugs into a modem that connects to a router (you rent the modem but need your own router – and when you go to buy one remember it is called a ROWTER not a ROOTER) and the TV needs to be connected via a  box called Explorer 8300HD, a DVR that you rent from Cable Vision for $55 per month. 

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We have added to this: a region 1 DVD player for US DVDs, a region 2 Bluray player for UK DVDs, a PAL-NTSC converter to ensure the region 2 DVD player can communicate with the American Plasma TV, HDMI leads and an HDMI switch because our TV only has one HDMI input, a Soundbar for better music quality and another switch because the laptop and Blu Ray player have to connect separately to the speaker and most recently (as in this week) we have bought a neat little box to stream films (note these are called movies). We probably need a cooling cabinet for all this kit!

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It might sound as if I know what I am talking about – the reality is I have a son “in IT” and he has endless patience with my stupid questions.  I think even he began to get grumpy when I asked him to solve the issue of no Netflix on the WDTV streamer – I forget the 4 hour time difference and sometimes that he has a job of his own.

So far you probably cannot see the problem of technology in Bermuda – it sounds as if we have it all sorted.  This has taken almost 9 months to get this far – acquiring the kit is not easy when Amazon only ship books to Bermuda and there are only one or two shops selling the hardware. When my husband needed a new laptop he had the choice of just one, or a wait of maybe a few weeks and pay import duties and shipping. By shipping they do actually mean on a ship – these arrive on a regular basis but container contents are somewhat random.

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There are four shops in Hamilton that sell computing stuff: The Complete Office (don’t judge them by the website, they are great help in the shop, but maybe web-design not their strength), PTech, run by the Phoenix group,  AF Smith (mainly accessories) or iClick, the authorised Apple reseller.  There are some places further out of town that I haven’t been to – one in Bakery Lane called RedLaser and another I have driven past on the way to the wine wholesale place.  The main four are all to be found at the lower end of Reid Street, useful that they are close, but it doesn’t mean you have the degree of choice that say Currys PC World can offer. I treated myself to a new iMac so   the retail outlet was obvious, but they only had one model of the size I was interested in and only one in stock!  That is the relevant word – stock – it is difficult for the shops to carry stock, old models may not sell and cannot easily be returned to manufacturer so while they will always order an IT item for you they are most unlikely to have what you want in the store room when you want it. There is an outlet called PriceRight in Pembroke Parish where they stock just out of fashion models of TVs, DVD players etc. but you will need research the particular models yourself and their stock is totally random.

Having purchased enough kit to put a significant drain on the electricity grid (and remember you need transformers for any British equipment brought over here as the voltage is 110 not 240) you then have to decide what services you want.  Before we really understood what American TV is like we had set up the full Monty when it came to channels and programme options – now we know a little better and really all we actually wanted was HD and Movie channels without adverts.  The wonderful thing about the Explorer 8300HD is that it will pause play, so I can top up my glass of wine without missing the film, and record films when we are watching something else.  With that we have managed 9 months of films, many we have not before seen and some we will not watch again, but it has worked well. I can’t say I have grown used to American TV, I find myself opting for BBC America for the comfort of familiarity.

Our latest trial (in all its meanings) has been Netflix – introduced when my daughter visited and after much nagging from my son.  So I paid for a subscription and my computer is happy to access the limited selection available on the island  – Netflix seem to think we are part of South America  – subtitle options just Brazilian Portugese or Spanish!  But then my husband brought home the new pet, a WDTV box that is to replace my ever-so-old-and-slow laptop and Netflix won’t talk to this box 😦

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We have found a solution that involves iTunes, conversion software and memory sticks and now for around $400 we have succeeded in watching a whole episode from Firefly – we are happy:)

To answer your question – yes it works, but you need some creative thinking and will end up with a lot of remotes.

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Bermuda Recycles!

Sometime last year I said I would write about bottle banks ( Yes, I can see why it slipped your memory)  so, when we came back through the airport where they proudly and loudly announce:

“Bermuda Recycles” 

I was reminded to look it up.

Incidentally, when I listened to this affirmative statement at the airport on returning to Bermuda after Christmas it actually made me feel like I was returning home – so its taken 8 months,  now Bermuda is home (for the time being) 🙂

Bermuda does indeed recycle, and it even has a page on Facebook to tell you all about it!

https://www.facebook.com/RecycleBermuda

But I come from UK and over the years have spend many hours at the “dump” (recycling facility) carefully sorting my rubbish into the appropriate containers, so when I saw that Bermuda is talking about “just” tin, aluminium and glass (TAG) I was initially underwhelmed. Reading around the topic has informed me that recycling on a tiny island in the Atlantic is not altogether that simple and I am actually quite impressed with what they have achieved.

Prior to 1991 everything went into landfill at the Marsh Folly Site in Pembroke – 80,000 tonnes of rubbish per year during the late 1980s.

 

The landfill site is now awaiting reformation into an amenity and a waste management facility was installed at Tyne’s Bay, Devonshire.

 

Now they still incinerate non-recyclable waste and try to extract energy from it to feed into the power grid. This system is capable of providing about 2.5% of the islands energy requirements.

Recycling began in 1991 and received a boost in 2007 when the government built a new recycling facility that is capable of processing 25 tons of tin, aluminium and glass daily. It is also set up to process other recycling such as electronic waste, but not, as yet, plastics.

What happens to it? 

The tin and aluminium are crushed into bales and taken by container ship to US

 

Glass is crushed and mixed with concrete, then used for reclaiming land, roads, building etc.

Are there any bottle banks? 

I thought bottle banks in supermarket carparks had been around forever, but was surprised to discover they only appeared on the scene in 1977.  While there are over 50,000 in UK, I am not sure there are any in Bermuda – if you can find one please send me a photo and I will …. ( no, not eat my hat)

However, we have curb side collections of TAG – put yours in a blue plastic bag on a Thursday (west end) or Friday (east end) and they (hopefully) will be gone by the time you get home from work.

During our second week on the island I innocently asked a local

“Where can I get some more blue plastic bags?”

The response was a surprised “At the supermarket” (duh).

So I looked – absolutely nothing on the shelves bar the usual white, transparent or black plastic bags. Maybe it was a particular supermarket – so I went to the one on Front Street (the one I call Waitrose because it sells some of Waitrose basics range which makes me feel at home) …. No blue plastic bags. Maybe Marketplace has them …. Neither they nor Miles Market (the really expensive one by the Hamilton Princess Hotel) had any packs of blue plastic bags. I gave up.

Then, later that week (on Wednesday because you get a discount on Wednesday if you pay in cash) I happily spent an hour wandering around Lindo’s (the big one on Brighton Hill Road) and realised at the checkout I had only brought one re-usable (hessian with ladybird) bag with me …

I needn’t have worried, because there they were – free, blue and obvious – plastic bags for recycling, they put your shopping in them at the till ……

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That’s my recycling, not my shopping!

Waste websites

 

There is a waste management page on the gov.bm website – it could do with some updates as the data is three years old.  But the essence is that 109 containers of recycled stuff was shipped off-island during 2010. ( http://www.gov.bm )

Keep Bermuda Beautiful  ( http://www.kbb.bm ) is an environmental charity who organise monthly clean-ups of specific areas  – essentially litter-picking but also repainting of graffiti or re-graffitiing artistically. 

Greenrock ( greenrock.org ) focusses on sustainable solutions and one of the noteworthy events last year was an island-wide “Earth Hour” when everyone is encouraged to switch off the lights for an hour – this year it is Saturday March 29th at 8:30pm.  This is a worldwide event so we can do it together (though maybe it would go against the essence of the event if we skyped at the same time to share the moment 😦 )

Tynes Bay Waste Facility  ( http://rossgo.com/Tynes%20Bay/Incinerator.html ) has it’s own website with a basic but informative PowerPoint presentation  – the best slides are the cut-away diagrams of the machinery.  They will give tours to small groups – maybe I could persuade my husband’s office it would be a community-minded thing to do.

Burial Grounds 

It is after all vaguely related, to waste management, if not recycling.

A website on sustainable development in Bermuda (http://www.sdbermuda.bm ) extrapolates from a 2007 UK study on graveyards that by 2037 Bermuda’s burial grounds will be full. But there is no crematorium here so the options are limited.

The Bermuda National Trust lists 7 cemeteries of historical interest, my favourite so far being The Royal Naval Cemetery in the west end of the island – the inscriptions describe yellow fever, infections and accidents.

The graveyards attached to the Churches seem to have many whitewashed tombs neatly rising from the grassy slopes, most oblong but one or two shaped more poignantly.  I am told these belong to families and new coffins are added as required.

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I suppose it surprised me that burial at sea or cremation is not a feature of island life.

The Airport Dump

For all the flights I have made into and out of Bermuda this last year I have not actually seen the airport waste facility that, according to Bermuda-online ( www.bermuda-online.org ), is visible on the approach to land. It is a land and sea-fill site for cars, bulky goods, TVs, rubble and many other things that have not been recycled.  It has been a waste site for over 40 years, though reports indicate that less is dumped here of recent times.  Contamination of the water must be an issue and it is perhaps surprising that we dont hear more about this on a regular basis.

 

Hospital Waste

King Edward VII Memorial Hospital disposes of solid waste with a bio-oxidizing process. It  produces gases which heat the hospital’s boiler, water and laundry, to save on energy costs.

http://www.oxid-tech.com/bermuda/bermuda.html.

It crosses my mind that if this facility exists then could it’s use not be extended to cremation as well?

Back to the future

After researching about waste management and recycling I am enthused about the three R’s:

  • Reduce,
  • Reuse,
  • Recycle. 

So this morning I have bought some sticky-backed plastic ( that Blue Peter influence again) and am going to make my old coffee cans into “really-useful-tins” 🙂

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Advent 4, Christmas is coming and the goose is getting fat ….

Christmas is coming,
The geese are getting fat,
Please put a penny
In the old man’s hat.
If you haven’t got a penny,
A ha’penny will do,
If you haven’t got a ha’penny,
Then God bless you.

It was a nursery rhyme, first put to music by Edith Nesbit, the author of The Treasure seekers and The Railway Children. Then John Denver added to the lyrics and sang it with The Muppets. Manhattan Transfer brought it to the forefront when they included a version on their album, The Christmas Album in 1992. You will probably have heard that even if you don’t think you have: it includes
“Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!”
“Santa Claus Is Coming to Town”
“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”

Currently playing on repeat in several of the Hamilton shops.
What I haven’t heard yet this year is Slade’s “So here it is, Merry Christmas, Everybody’s having fun” – maybe it is too raucous for the calypso-orientated audience here in Bermuda.

So today we are packing a small bag each for a flying visit to UK, hoping there will be a turkey left somewhere in England for late shoppers. Just as in the UK, turkey, usually the cheapest of meats, triples in price at this time of year – an oven ready bird to feed five will set you back around $100.

It is absolutely glorious sunshine here today and maybe I am a little sorry to be flying off-island but am really looking forward to seeing family and perhaps even some frost or cold weather.

So have a merry Christmas and happy new year!
A couple of Christmas photos, the last from Bermuda in 2013:

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Devonshire View

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That is what the view usually looks like – for 20th December it’s pretty good!

Advent calendar 3

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We had a family visitor this week, and this is what I learnt to make.
Bermuda National Trust held a workshop on a very rainy Thursday morning on folding paper stars and as it continued to rain all day we took over the dining table with Christmas-themed creations, some better than others! The last time I did that must have been around 20 years ago.

The weather here in December has been changeable – Monday and Saturday was warm enough to swim in the sea ( and we did), yesterday was windy and stormy but Friday we had a picnic on a beach in the sun. Today in the space of 30 minutes my view transformed:

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Bermuda advent seems to be a thorough mix of British and American cultures – real trees are popular despite the problems with importing them, candy canes and bows form the decorative mainstay; seasonal carols have a Caribbean flavour and tempo and the Bermudian pipe band (bagpipes) has performed in places all across the island; inflatable trees, Santa and random Disney characters sit alongside each other in shop windows and at the airport; and of course people decorate their houses with an excess of lights here as much as they do at home.

On Monday we took a tour of Sessions House, the equivalent of House of Commons but much smaller. There is a two-party system and the processes of government run broadly along English lines. This was followed by a Skirling ceremony at Fort Hamilton:

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We stayed on after that for a cookery demonstration on how to make Fish Chowder – that will have to wait for another post – we were given a whole bowlful each, truly delicious.

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Tuesday was snorkelling at Tobacco Bay

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Wednesday we visited Crystal Caves

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Thursday – craft day

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Friday: St George’s, shopping, more craft, collect husband from airport and take-out for tea ……Texas barbecue pork ribs are really tasty!

 

Advent Calendar 2

1st December

We boldly explored the western end of the island and in a place called Scaur Fort found this weather stone:

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 Instructions for use: 

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On the way back we also saw a somewhat hideous garden-Christmas-illuminated-ghost on someone’s front lawn, afraid I was too creased up with laughing to take a photo! It was left over from Halloween but to make it seasonal had a red santa-hat on.  

 

 

2nd December 

Husband’s office has two giant real Christmas trees, copious ribbons and pine cones and every surface has a potted poinsietta (poinsettia?) What have they used to make it smell so good? 

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It needs some presents don’t you think. 
 

3rd December

The journey into work wouldn’t be complete without a car stopping right in front of us alongside the central yellow line to drop off a passenger, no signals of course. 
 

4th December: 

Since I was not needed at Verdmont today I spent time on the layout of the room guides.  Had lots of fun playing with a new software programme that extracts objects from their background and another that straightens and corrects for perspective.  So far I am best with portraits or where there is contrast against a background.  The actual process feels akin to coloring books or tracings – therapeutic. 
 

5th December: 

I am at The Globe today, it is a museum and small gift shop run by the National Trust and it is only my second day which probably is obvious as I enter 500 dollars on the till instead of 5 – for a fridge magnet and two postcards that’s steep even by Bermuda prices. Today’s visitors are “stocking-shopping” and none for the museum which is a shame because the Hibiscus Society have been here all morning creating amazing decorations out of shrubbery to highlight the displays.  
In the Square outside (at St George’s) a choir is practicing carols and other Christmas music, I cannot see them but have left the windows ajar so that I can hear. It is actually quite hard to feel Christmassy when it is so warm and sunny  – still T shirt weather! 
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The Trustworthy Shop
 

6th December

Already it’s Friday, but today I have a day for myself so I am sitting with iMac looking out onto the blue sea (almost Brandeis blue but also like Bleu de France) which is calm today, no boilers visible – a boiler is due to a rock formation on the reef near the surface where it is hollowed out but has openings underwater so the waves push up inside and on the surface look like a boiling pot, they are seen off the south shore of Bermuda when it gets a little wild.  I actually went swimming in the sea earlier this week – refreshing would be the best word – no locals in the water so that should have alerted me to the fact that a wetsuit might be advisable. 
Tonight the National Trust put on festivities in St George’s with a walkabout and carol singing.  
Almost every hotel and restaurant have a Happy Hour tonight – and it appears every weekday evening this month! Tomorrow night there is the harbour boat parade in Hamilton – look back next week for pictures. 🙂 
 
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Advent calendar 1

In the day between Black Friday and Advent I have been thinking about how to format the family Christmas letter. This year presents two specific problems:
Firstly most of you now know what we have been up to this year so it isn’t really news and secondly, our “children” have morphed through “offspring” into adults (amazing given the studied neglect under which they grew up) and so it would be rude and presumptuous of me to write about them.

(A side thought there – should the point of adulthood be defined as when you send your own Christmas cards?)

So I come round to wondering what the purpose of a Christmas round-robin is once you exclude boasting about your children’s achievements? There are plenty of people, maybe you know some, who hate these annual A4 pages with faded-ink photos of handsome offsprung who look nothing like their geeky parents that you remember from school or university – amazing what Photoshop can do! (Don’t you?)
Some years I find myself almost disappointed when the card has no enclosures, the “season’s greetings” unembellished – well they may have been signed, but be honest, you knew who the sender was from the postmark didn’t you?! I admit I do find it helpful if you remind me of the names of your children – remembering my own is hard enough.

If you have already sent me a functional card unadorned with interesting gossip then you may have time to send another more informative missive and I will never know, but to be honest I am not expecting cards as I don’t think even our children know our Bermuda address.

So the question posed by any lazy advent journalism is whether email greetings are an acceptable, or even a preferable alternative –

The telegraph was commenting on it a month ago:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/retailandconsumer/10425198/E-cards-are-killing-the-Christmas-spirit-says-Bishop.html
The BBC website archives have several similar articles across the last five years or so – you can depend upon at least one bishop to bring the topic up each year, as if cards are somehow more religious and proper than email greetings. I expect someone has argued somewhere that Jesus sent Christmas cards.

I have just found a whole website (in version one I posted the URL here but it is such an awful site it doesn’t warrant advertising) that sells email Christmas cards for companies – for nearly £300 you can send 500 email cards of absolutely-dull-corporate-non-festive-art to your clients and yes you may upload your company logo inside the card – they are hideous, but I suspect many gullible companies will fall for it. Search for the term “email Christmas cards” and there are a staggering 335,000,000 results.

I am not going to argue the email vs real card, I have friends who feel it takes away some Christmas fun and others who say it saves trees – you will never all agree. Circumstance and laziness have conspired to mean this year everything will be done by email – I have missed the dates for overseas posting.

There are therefore, several reasons why you won’t be getting a piece of A4 paper inside your Christmas card from this part of the Law family, not least that Bermuda uses American-sized paper not A4. (It has taken my printer long enough to learn that and my new computer has only just embarked on the steep learning curve)

But I still want to comply with the essence of the custom.

Coming up with a different format is a challenge (some will remember The Christmas Quiz, The 12 days of … , the impossible crossword, etc. )
And if I am not to breach any family privacies then funny items might be thin on the ground – I can’t remind you all when X was taken aside by Immigration and almost put back on the plane immediately, or how Y sent accompanying luggage to New York just so that I would buy a whole new wardrobe of Y-sized-clothes, or that Z seems to have been lost in the Bermuda Triangle, Z has not yet arrived on these shores.

I have five hours left until the start of advent, and that has determined the format for this year – A Law e-vent calendar.

So if you check back each day ….
No, daily comments would be too much, for me and you, so let’s agree to weekly posts, like the Blue Peter Advent candles carefully balanced on a wire coat hanger wrapped in tinsel. (With apologies to my non-UK readers – It was a children’s BBC programme that in the lead up to Christmas made gifts out of tinsel and sticky-backed plastic and collected used stamps for charity)

Hmmm, no chocolate surprises, didn’t think this one through did I, how to persuade you?
Anticipation, charm, e-chocolate!

 

Coral Reef

This post was triggered by two events – one was a talk about coral reefs at a recent International Womens Club lunch (yes, I have become a woman who does lunch) and the other a wander along the coastal section of a nature reserve to the east of the island that was littered with huge chunks of old and rusted metal, possibly from metal barrels or vehicles.  So yesterday I listened to two lectures on iTunesU about coral reefs (iBioSeminars, Dr Knowlton from the Smithsonian Institute).

Bermuda is the northernmost coral reef at 32 degrees north, sitting on top of a very very old volcano.  The sea mountain itself is basalt but it is topped with limestone made by organisms that fix calcium carbonate from the water such as corals.

 

 

What exactly are corals? 

Definitely animal, and the individual in the colony is called a polyp.

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One I prepared earlier!

 

The polyp is effectively a column with a mouth at the top, it is radially symmetrical.

They all have nematocysts – harpoons of sting cells to catch prey.

Inside the coral is a community of algae, bacteria, archaea, fungi and viruses, which are essential for the health of the coral.

 

Zooxanthellae are algae that live in corals  – under the microscope they look like small green balls. They use sunlight to make sugars that the corals can use to grow.

 

 

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Coral animals are hard to classify – even for the experts.

They all belong to the Phylum Cnidaria

Not all of them will make rock, some serve as anchors or to attract fish.

There are different kinds and four groups make stony skeletons:

True corals, Blue corals, Organ pipe corals, Fire corals (this one hurts lots)

Fire Coral: Millepora alcicornis

Then there are sea fans and soft corals which don’t build rocky skeletons.

They grow in complex shapes and one family can make several different shape colonies.

Corals do actually reproduce sexually, releasing eggs and sperm in a mass spawning event that occurs a set time after the full moon – the timing is down to a specific hour after sunset and studies have shown for example that one species will spawn at two hours after sunset and then another species on the same night but four hours after sunset.  Such tightly controlled reproductive life would be something of a bind for humans.

This next bit is important: 

Coral reefs face risks as great as that for the rain forests  

The risks come from:

  • Pollution
  • Overfishing
  • Rising sea temperatures
  • Coral diseases 

All of these lead to a process called coral bleaching.

Coral bleaching is destroying the coral reefs around the world.

It is named “bleaching” because the corals lose their colors.

It occurs when the algae get stressed and stop photo synthesizing.

They are stressed when it is too hot, too sunny, or the water is too acidic.

So the algae die and the coral spits them out – so instead of seeing the algae inside you can see through the polyps to the stony skeleton which is white.

Without the algae the coral cannot build skeletons so cannot grow.

 

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Bleaching of coral. Photo from The Royal Gazette

The coral in the right side is bleached.

One cause of bleaching I had not fully appreciated is sun tan lotion where the ultraviolet filtering chemicals dissolve in the water in as short a time as fifteen minutes.  Biodegradable sunscreens are apparently available (Badger; Caribbean Solutions) so will be on my shopping list for next summer.

Corals also suffer from diseases, with unimaginative names such as “white band disease” and “black band disease”.  But as yet it isn’t known which bacteria or viruses might cause the diseases because they don’t yet know the normal microbiological life in coral. There are over 6000 identified species of coral bacteria!

One of the theories of coral disease is linked to seaweeds producing sugars that get absorbed into the coral which cannot handle them – diabetic coral if you like.  It is a problem because of seaweed overgrowth where weed-eating fish have been decimated by overfishing.  They have documented coral reef destruction with increasing density of seaweeds in the reef area.  Seaweed grows much faster than coral and so tends to take over pretty quickly.

 

Coral reefs are being lost at a rate of 1-2% per year.

Why does it matter? 

For Bermuda,

  • The reef protects the island from the force of tropical storms – without it each hurricane could be as damaging as Fabian was in 2005.  
  • The reef provides a habitat for commercially important fish 
  • Recently there has been pharmaceutical interest – some species of cone snails that live on the reefs can produce analgesics. 
  • Being the most northerly coral reef, thousands come to the island to see the reefs and fish. So loss of the reef would seriously damage  Bermudian economy. 
  • The reef is a natural boundary that protects the shoreline from the power of the waves – inside the reef the waves will be typically several feet lower and so less coastal erosion occurs.

For other places such as the Phillipines some areas are highly dependent on the reef for food and employment, so their economies would be seriously affected by loss of the reefs.

What can I do?

  • Take only pictures, leave only bubbles.
  • Choose my seafood wisely – only sustainable fish
  • Don’t buy coral jewellery
  • Reduce, reuse and recycle
  • Plant a tree – trees reduce run off into the oceans
  • Take away my own rubbish, but also pick up a piece of other rubbish each time I visit a beach
  • Stay informed and spread the word …

 

Birthday

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Today is my birthday. I shan’t tell you how old I am, old enough. I don’t think the weather has ever been this good on my birthday – I am sitting outside, a breeze is blowing up from the sea, the clouds look soft and are drifting ever so slowly. I can hear Kiskadees and sparrows with an occasional cockerel that is about six hours slow.

On the horizon is a container ship skirting around the island well away from the reef and closer in a small boat has just puttered across my view.

Later I am going out for lunch. It is lobster season, so maybe a lobster salad.

My husband gave me a very pretty cedar wood paperweight with a hog coin embedded in the top. It smells wonderful, like warm Christmas and juniper berries.

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He also finished his model ship last night which is so wonderfully detailed. I am deciding where to display it best.

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Yes I know that photo with the IT background does not do it justice, it is a temporary location. I am thinking of getting him a kit for a Bermuda Sloop for Christmas. How we transport them back home when we finish our stint out here I have yet to fathom, carefully I guess.

The weekend has crept up on us again and this week there are a host of activities going on – Nothing to do in Bermuda, useful site.

Sunday we plan to join the guided walk on Coopers Island, hopefully see some birds, maybe even a cahow. It is an endangered species and I overheard a description of them as ” they were extinct until the 1950s” which I think was meant to be “thought extinct” . You can be sure if I see one I shall tell you all.

Absurd

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From this morning’s paper via Facebook:

Good Morning #Bermuda ! Its #Wednesday , #humpday November 20, 2013! Today is Absurdity Day! We spend so much time trying to comprehend things that by the end of the day our brains practically need a massage . Why not embrace absurdity for once? Wear a weird hat on your elbow, host a dinner party with food-shaped stress balls on everybodys plate instead of real food then give them plenty of chocolate as consolation afterward, walk a lobster around on the street. Read your book upside down on the bus home. Stop making sense!

Some things you might experience on this island are quite ridiculous, I don’t think they have to try hard to “embrace absurdity”.  I am not complaining, well not out loud anyhow, but here is my

Top Ten of Bermuda Absurd: 

  • 10. The car in front of you stops in the middle of the road, not pulling across to the kerb, not indicating, no warning – the passengers want to get out, so the car just stops. It doesn’t matter that there may be a queue of traffic behind, that it is a main road, or even if there was a police car following, it just stops. (This happened for the umpteenth time to us on the way into Hamilton this morning – the passengers were children being dropped off at a bus-stop, the driver gave an odd hand signal which we might have interpreted as “please pass me” but in fact meant “wait, my children will cross the road in front of me” – we waited!)
  • 9. A moped with golf clubs carried cross-wise, so overtaking it means an ending in the rough. For “golf clubs” read also broom, beach umbrella, boat paddles, open umbrella, and gardening tools
  • 8. A 2 inch cockroach from Riddell’s Bay lost out to an even larger one from Japan in the “Combat Quest for the World’s Largest Cockroach”.  He was found drowned in a pool, surrounded by empty liquor bottles – not sure whether that was before or after the contest. (Bermuda Shorts by T.C. Sobey)
  •  7. Camping out on Bermuda is only permitted for residents and then only between the first Saturday in May and the third Sunday in September.  The fees are upwards of $12 per night – advanced registration with The Department of Parks – and proper tents must be used.
  • 6. Bermuda buses will not take people with luggage, golf clubs, buggies, or wearing wet clothes. If it is raining and you are flying off-island for a golfing holiday … taxi!
  • 5. If you fly a foreign flag on Bermuda then you must also fly a British flag which must be larger, in better condition and be uppermost on the flagpole.
  • 4. Airlines serving Bermuda don’t fly to the Caribbean, even though it is only 900 miles away.
  • 3. A man arrested for being drunk on a horse was advised by the Magistrate to change his plea to not guilty because a horse is an animal, not a vehicle. He was allowed to walk free.
  • 2. It is an offence to swear or use indecent words over the telephone (Summary Offences Act 1926, revised 1989)
  • 1. Bermuda doesn’t use wind power or wave power and very little solar power – what do we have a lot of – yes, wind, waves and sun!

International Rugby in Bermuda

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Last night we attended the World Rugby Classic, Bermuda. I learnt one or two facts:

1. The weather has turned decidedly cold

2. I am actually not very good at photography

3. It isn’t really about rugby at all

and to illustrate point 2:

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The ones in pink knee socks are the British Classic Lions who, after a good first half and a three point lead (score 3:0) lost to Argentina.

For the details (and some decent photos) look up  http://www.worldrugby.bm

In a nutshell, the teams are retired international players over the age of 35 who come to enjoy a week of Bermuda’s famous hospitality and an opportunity to renew old friendships  (phrase taken from advertising pamphlet probably written by a Bermudian).

The hospitality we enjoyed was good – free bar, food, free bar.  Thank you to my husbands company for the table – I know that wasn’t free.

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You might think from my pictures that I only watched one match – maybe, but one whole match more than many other people there – as I said, it isn’t necessarily about rugby, corporate entertaining props up foundations.  I really enjoyed the rugby, though the person beside me shouting or maybe screaming encouragement might have thought I was a little underwhelmed. I also discovered that I have a patriotic streak as I really really wanted the Classic Lions to win.  Somehow I sense that the reporter who wrote the Royal Gazette article on last night’s matches wanted that too as his condemnation of the Lions was muted into the phrase “slightly one dimentional”  ( http://www.royalgazette.com/article/20131115/SPORT10/131119838 )

Maybe things will look up when Johnny Wilkinson reaches 35 🙂

Spittal Pond

Saturday saw us walking around Spittal Pond, a nature reserve on the South Shore in Smith’s Parish.

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As you can see from the map, it is a Ramsar site, which means it is a wetland of international importance.  The Ramsar convention, named after the place in Iran where the first meeting was held, was agreed by 18 countries in 1971 to conserve and sustain wetland areas across the globe.  Now there are 168 country members and a over 2000 designated sites. Bermuda has 7 Ramsar sites of which Spittal Pond is the largest. 

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Why “Spittal”? 

Variations of the English word have been used since the Middle Ages and seems to be a diminutive form of hospital – these were referred to in Middle English as Spitals or Spittles.  For example, Spitalfields, in London, was an area around St Mary’s Spital, a priory hospital (not the exclusive group that run psychiatric resorts).  There are several places in England and Scotland with a form of Spittal in the name.  Someone has tentatively linked the name of this pond with a nearby farm they held sick cattle – seems a bit far fetched, though we did see the farm and some very healthy looking cows. 

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It has not always had this name – in the earliest maps it was labelled as Brackish Pond and in some Peniston’s Pond after a one-time owner. 

Brackish is an apt description – the mud-flat-lagoon is frequently inundated with seawater during storms and so although it doesn’t have a permanent connection to the sea it has a variable salinity, becoming almost freshwater after rain.  There is a wealth of information on the plants to be found around the pond on the Bermuda Conservation website: 

http://www.conservation.Bermuda

A long time ago, when I did biology at school, I recall disliking plants and botany – animal biology and eventually human biology seemed so much more interesting.  Maybe it is a sign of getting old, but I quite enjoy identifying and photographing plants now. 

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Ok, so maybe not the best specimen or the best photo, but it is one of my own! 

The rocks and the sea

This is my favourite part of the reserve, where the waves pound upon the slopes of rock, foaming across the flat limestone.  Image

 

Then as you climb up the hill along a barely marked track you reach Portugese Rock (aka Spanish Rock).  Here, in 1539, a Portugese sailor carved initials RP into a rock, with a cross depicting the Portugese Order of Christ.  The actual rock has been removed and replaced with a bronze copy – now with additional initials carved by unknowns on and around the plaque.  That was 70 years before Bermuda was settled by the English, how do we know it was a sailor and what he was doing here? We do know the Spanish arrived first, in 1505 Juan de Bermudez is reported to have discovered the islands.  That ubiquitous reference Wiki…… claims he never landed, but someone must have done at some point – witness the rock and also the vast numbers of pigs found here when the English did eventually arrive (hogs left by Spanish ships in earlier years, clearly they found the land plentiful for pig production). 

March is said to be the best time to visit Spittal Pond as migrating birds stop over, sometimes flamingos – I would love to see them in the wild (They have some very noisy ones at the Bermuda Aquarium and Zoo).  Whales can also be spotted from the shore during Spring. 

We did see a green heron, coots, ducks on the pond and in the sea crabs and large bright blue fish that are possibly Blue Tang or Parrotfish.  There are some large West Indian Topshell Snails and hundreds of West Indian Chitons – you can find all of these on the Bermuda Conservation pages. 

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It isn’t a long walk, the area is just over 60 acres. You do need sensible shoes and be prepared to clamber over rocks and wade through long grass.  It is a Bermuda National Trust property, entry is free and it is open from dawn to dusk. 

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Pleasantries

Today feels like a lovely day.
On the way into Hamilton, taking my husband to work – it’s just like the school run only with an adult passenger, who isn’t too appreciative of me pretending to be in a spacecraft – a car stopped for us to let us out of our road. Maybe a very small thing to do, but it started the day off in a pleasant mood.

I dropped into Lindo’s, the supermarket, on the way back and the lady at the till was humming. She handed me my receipt with
“Have a nice day Miss X…(she used my actual name – it must pop up on the till, since you swipe the card yourself)
The packing lady (oh so civilized having someone to pack your bags) seeing I had forgotten to bring my own bags offered
“Would you like to borrow a used bag?”
They give you a reusable bag, trusting that you will return it for someone else to use when you go back next time.

“The Lord has chosen to give us another lovely day, so you enjoy it now! ” They both smiled. It is impossible not to smile back.

The till lady continued humming.

Bermudians are so very friendly.

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Pregnant in Bermuda

I am not, but the wife of one of my husband’s colleagues has just had a baby, which led me to thinking about how antenatal care and childbirth is managed here on the island.

 

The Queen visited in 1953 and was introduced to  Bermuda triplets. The paper reported that they were the first in over 200 years but the Outerbridge family had triplet boys born at a home on the North Shore Road in 1927. I tried to look up how common triplet births might be here but the search term triplet births in Bermuda led me to a page on raising goats!
( http://www.weedemandreap.com/2013/01/a-simple-guide-to-raising-milking-goats.html )

Although Bermuda is a British Protectorate the medical system is more akin to that in the States. So the bulk of maternity services are private and financed through insurance which is compulsory (the company has to organise health cover for employees).
The Bermuda Hospitals Board lists 9 Obstetricians on the island, (http://www.bermudahospitals.bm/bhb/find-physician/index.asp )
though the September 2013 Healthcare Directory states there are 7 (issuu.com/bermudasun/docs/health_care_part_3_-_july_2013 )
and there are around 600 births per year. In 2009 there were around 840 births annually, the drop probably reflects the reduction in population and loss of expat-workers during the last 5 years.

Unlike in UK where midwives are the primary carers during most normal pregnancies, here the obstetrician model of care persists. It is common to be delivered by your obstetrician and, perhaps not unrelated, the instrumental deliveries are higher than one might expect.
It seems to have taken a great deal of pressure and effort by concerned groups of midwives to enable them to practice as independent professionals and to offer the option of home births.

Antenatal medical checks are apparently more frequent than in UK and the tests include things such as cervical smear in early pregnancy, which in current UK practice is usually not done. (on the basis that the hormonal changes will affect the cervical cells so diagnosing pre-malignant change is inaccurate during pregnancy). It is difficult not to think that this is driven by the way healthcare is funded, but thats another issue and one it seems that even caused trouble for President Obama so I will avoid it! However you will have all the usual screening: Quadruple test for assessing Downs risk, ultrasound, Foetal heart rate monitoring, usual blood tests, glucose test, and if you should need it they have facilities for chorionic villous sampling in early pregnancy or amniocentesis in mid pregnancy to detect genetic abnormalities. If anything you will be seen more often and tested more often than if experiencing UK antenatal care and you will have access to a midwife and an obstetrician for all of this care – GPs do not tend to take on anything but the most routine antenatal checks.

Back in July of this year two Bermudian doctors (Dr Alton Trott and Dr Yusef Wade) set up a new and modern OB-GYN service at offices close to the hospital. They are both American trained but decided to return to Bermuda once they started their own families. Both can trace their families back hundreds of years on the island. The reporter who interviewed them was impressed by the comfortable clinic room “lined with bookshelves and with a fire place”. They have a website: http://contemporaryobgynbermuda.com

Prenatal classes are offered at the hospital, on Tuesday evenings, a four-week programme. You are permitted one birth coach (they were called husbands when I did this).

Baby Showers are customary
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Gibbons stock absolutely everything you might need and many baby gadgets you don’t. There is no Mothercare or Early Learning Centre and the M&S only stocks a small selection of baby clothes. An overseas trip might be recommended for variety and to avoid turning up at a coffee morning with babies in identical outfits!

What are your options for delivery?
There have been 42 home births, some of them water births – but this is in the last 9 years, so clearly not widely available yet. If you are contemplating this you should speak with Sophia Cannonier, who was Bermuda’s first doula, or look up http://www.consciousbirthbermuda.com/ConsciousBirth/Welcome.html

The maternity unit has four delivery suites, each painted attractively, but the process is likely to be quite traditional. I don’t think they do six-hour discharges over here. Visiting times are strict and siblings can only come between 4pm and 6pm. The wards are locked and have a security guard – it sounds severe to write that but I suspect this is in fact reassuring.

There is a neonatal unit, but I cannot find out how many incubators or cots it has. They do send babies with more complex needs across to Halifax, Nova Scotia
http://www.iwk.nshealth.ca
No direct flights that I can find, a cost of around $300 each way and a journey time of at least 6 hours. My daughter, currently working in neonates in UK, told me of a poor mother in labour recently who had to be taken to another hospital to deliver because all of their neonatal beds were in use – I don’t think that would be a wise move from Bermuda. That does mean that if you have any difficulties with your pregnancy or the baby needs extra monitoring then you might need to consider being abroad for periods of time.

What about working in Bermuda as a doctor? Both UK and US have accredited training posts here for their programmes in most areas of medicine, including O&G. The issue of malpractice insurance needs to be looked at closely. Obstetricians tend to expect to pay more for this cover than some other specialties, in part because the child has until they are 21 to sue for problems that may have occurred during the pregnancy or delivery. So the premium on Bermuda for an obstetrician has risen in the last few years – around $200,000. The birth rate on the island is too low to compensate for this. The solution reached just last year was for the obstetricians to become employees of the hospital (King Edward VII Memorial Hospital) and receive cover under the umbrella of the local insurer. This allowed maintaining a threatened obstetric service on the island.

Once you have had the baby – it is a wonderful place to bring up children!:)

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