Tag Archives: Bermuda culture

Dress Codes

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

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

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

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

Too short?

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

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

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

Therein I found:

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

(a) …….

(b) openly exposes his person; or….

which seems to cover it (or not)

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

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

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

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:



 Instructions for use: 



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? 

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! 
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. 🙂 

Language issues

Yesterday, as I payed for a pair of trousers, I was asked “Are you privileged?”
I was confused, but privileged?
Religious greetings are common “May you have a blessed day!” “God sure does like Bermuda today!” “Peace and Joy!” “Have a blessed one!”
So was this question along the same lines?

Bermuda has many churches of many varieties. Jamaica is reportedly the country with the highest number of churches, about 3 per square mile.
I have just counted 120 separate churches listed in the Bermuda yellow pages, at 21 square miles that makes over 5 per square mile or one church for every 541 people.
I am not a statistician but that looks to me as if Bermuda has more than Jamaica.

In 1612 when Bermuda was fist settled, James I was on the English throne, an adopted Anglican. As the child King of Scotland he had a strict Scottish Presbyterian upbringing which skewed his views of Presbyterians so as the English King he sat between the Catholics and Puritans. So not surprising that the first church built in Bermuda was Anglican : a wooden structure with palmetto leaves as a roof, sadly did not survive the storms. Built on the same site, St Peter’s Church in the town of St George is beautiful: a cedar interior, altar built in 1615, a three-tiered pulpit.



There are 12 Anglican churches in Bermuda, 13 African Methodist Episcopal, 11 Seventh Day Adventists, 8 Methodist, 8 Pentecostal, 6 Catholic, 4 Jehovah’s Witness, 1 Mormon and other individual churches too numerous to mention. Some services are broadcast on local television every day, and the Seventh Day Adventists have their own broadcasting station. Non-Christian religions exist here in smaller numbers – Muslims and Jews have listings in yellow pages but I cannot find Hindu or Buddhist places of worship.

Back to the question – Am I privileged?
In the end, nothing to do with religion at all, she was asking if I was a privileged customer and hence entitled to a discount! I confess that I am, a confession because one has to spend over a certain amount to become one and clearly that means I have been shopping here rather a lot.

It isn’t the first time I have been muddled by Bermudian language. In part it is the accent, a soft mix of American, British and West Indian. I came across a book entitled  “Bermewjan vurds”  – certainly not a joke, commonly the v is used in place of w, which apparently was also common in South West England in the 18th century.  I wonder if some of the accent came with the original adventurers?

Some of the variations are familiar (I worked in Tooting after all)
Axe for ask
De for the
Gotchyew for I understand
Innit for was that not so

Others are harder to work out
vansadee – midweek, also known as humpday
Tite – too bad, tough luck
Sweets me – I like it
Ohgly – more than just ugly, really ugly
Gribble – irritable, disagreeable

Then some just hurt my ears
Horspittle – hospital
Iggrunt – stupid
Lyeberry – a place with lots of books in it

I am sure I will return to UK with a lot of new words – here I put my shopping in a cart, use gas in my petrol tank, have a flashlight for emergencies, get crisps if I ask for chips, use steps instead of the elevator, and most important, order a take-out, not a take-away!


Public Holidays

Public Holidays

Bermuda has 10 public holidays each year. In addition to New Year’s Day, Good Friday, Christmas and Boxing Day are

Bermuda Day – May 24th
National Heroes Day – mid June
Emancipation Day and Sommer’s Day (Thursday and Friday preceding the first Monday in August)
Labour Day – first Monday in September
Remembrance Day – 11th November


Then if you are very lucky your company might permit Independence Day (4th July) and Thanksgiving Day ( fourth Thursday in November) in recognition of American roots or links.

Long way to go to match Cambodia’s 20 official public holidays!

So currently (2nd August) the WHOLE island is on holiday – I do mean everything, not just banks – to do business on a public holiday requires a special licence so nearly all shops, restaurants, garages, attractions etc. are closed. But this is a special holiday : it’s the Cup Match between St George’s and Somerset – a cricket match. I have been told that years ago when the two days were normal working days then people took “sick” leave to watch the match so eventually the days were made into a public holiday!

The beaches are crowded and locals are camping out in all and every grassy free space. Even if you have never watched a cricket match you cannot fail to be caught up in the atmosphere.
Choose your team:
Somerset the western end of the island, is blue and red
St George in the east, is dark blue with light blue
I chose St George, but at end of play yesterday they didn’t seem to be doing so well.

The history of Cup Match is given on the sponsors page – HSBC, one of the two main banks in Bermuda.


It marks Emancipation Day, August 1st 1834, as recognised by countries once in the Bristish Empire. I believe American emancipation was some 30 years later and is marked on different days in the various states.
Bermuda was not as dependent upon slaves as some other West Indian islands or the southern states. Many of those that arrived on the island were captured by Privateers (licensed pirating) while others were indentured for periods of time to pay back their passage on ships. They included Native American and Irish as well as Africans. The initial period for indenture was 7 years, but in a blatant move the Governors of the time changed it to 99 years for blacks, so freedom was impossible.

In 2001, Bermuda Department of Tourism and the international body African Diaspora created a trail tracing the legacy of slavery in Bermuda. Certain places are marked by bronze plaques and at the Commissioner’s House at Dockyard there is an exhibit documenting some features of everyday lives of slaves on the island.


There are several books on slavery in Bermuda:

Chained on the Rock by Cyril Outerbridge Packwood
ISBN 0883031752
Slaves and Slaveholders in Bermuda by Virginia Bernhard
ISBN 0826212271
Bermuda Settlers of the Seventeenth Century by Julia Mercer
ISBN 0806309873
The History of Mary Prince by Mary Prince
ISBN 97801404374

Looks like I have some reading!

So how’s the cricket match going?

As of 5.18pm of Day #2: Somerset 370/6 [Declared] – St. George’s 1st Innings 191, 2nd Innings 54/3


(Post weekend note: a draw)

I forgot to mention that this public holiday is the only time that gambling of any sort is permitted in Bermuda. It is also restricted to the game “Crown and Anchor” which appears to be an almost certain way to loose money.


The next public holiday is Labour Day – that probably deserves a page to itself and I am going to have to research local politics to understand it.
If you google “Labour Day Bermuda” one of the top pages is the following


It reminds me of my first week here: we arrived a few days before the End-to-End walk/run and our ever so friendly realtor suggested that next year I could join in ….. It is 21+ miles….. I really don’t want to disappoint her, but the longest I have ever walked is 13 miles along the River Thames (ie flat) … Maybe I should persuade my husband’s office to do it next year – I will be the support bike.


From painting to art


I have just read about an artist called Bryan Saunders who paints a self portrait every day, including a series that were created after taking doses of psychoactive drugs (http://bryanlewissaunders.org ) . His story forms a chapter of Jon Ronson’s book “Lost at Sea” and is interesting reading if you have the time.

Perhaps more conservative art is to be found here on Bermuda. But there is lots, not at all surprising given the scenery and light. My first exploration was to Masterworks museum in the Botanical Gardens (http://bermudamasterworks.com ). By chance I visited on a day when they were offering a free guided tour, so got to see not just the display but also in the temperature-controlled vault where they store the permanent collection when not on display. That was good because the current exhibition is photography which held less of interest to me at the time, knowing neither the places nor the people in the photographs. But down in the cool basement they have some beautiful canvases.

I realised how Eurocentric my art education has been – I can recognize Van Gogh, Monet, Canaletto etc. but have never heard of Winslow Homer or Charles Demuth.
(Excuse, I am apparently a scientist, and tended to do badly in art exams )

My last post managed to be a Winslow Homer painting, all on its own as I am still learning to use the software. The gallery has 3 out of his Bermuda series of 7, kept wrapped in tissue in a drawer, handled with white gloves!
Masterworks only collects art either of or inspired by Bermuda, but has amassed a collection of 1500 pieces. I would like to see them on display so will probably go back. The cafe serves American- Danish pastries ie very large ones, and decent coffee.

There is a National Art Gallery which I have yet to visit, saving it for a rainy day. I was thinking of bringing out some art stuff and doing some painting of my own – is the creativity in the water, the air, or the person? I wonder if I could paint something and claim it is the influence of my medication and get famous like Bryan Saunders?

Thinking about art reminds me of the PBL (problem- based – learning) case at med school where the patient was named after the child artist Marla Olmsted. I wonder if the students ever noticed that half of that module had patients named after artists? Marla was supposedly a child prodigy abstract painter at the age of 4 – I remain sceptical but it seems she now has a Facebook page (I thought you had to be 14 to get one – she was born in 2000) and is still painting.
The PBL case by the way was nothing about art, the eventual diagnosis was meningitis (whoops, spoiler for future MBBS students) with an assortment of learning objectives (LOBs) none of which explored abstract art, unfortunately.

It is supper time now, trying out Jamaican Curry Spices today – no I am not cooking, that, along with painting, is not my forte.

Charity and Philanthropy

“Nourishing, developing, enhancing”
That’s the meaning of philanthropy (interesting etymological history on Wikipedia)
While charity is “the voluntary giving of help to those in need” (faith, hope and love come into it somewhere, but I never did concentrate at Sundayschool)

So, today I am joining my husbands office (def: a local centre of a large organization or a set of buildings – Ok so maybe I mean the people from the office) in a charity event: decorating at a local children’s charity, The Sunshine League.


It would probably make sense to volunteer to do something that uses your skills – as my family will testify, my decorating skills are not particularly good – remember the multicolored tiles in the bathroom? the orange walls in my office? – so quite why I am doing this is a mystery.

Volunteering on the island is a huge thing


As is philanthropy


I found as soon as I had landed I was being asked what/when/how I was planning to volunteer.
My advice he would be to take your time before committing, unless it is for a one-off event such as washing rubber ducks (serious, there is a rubber duck race for the hospice and the ducks need cleaning and sorting afterwards!)
So what am I volunteering?
I have signed up to be a guide at the local National Trust, specifically for Verdmont House


Haven’t you always wanted to be one of those people entitled to sit on the corner chairs in historic houses, quietly contemplating life and people-watching, creating stories in your head about the house or the visitors, offering small chunks of information and pointing out the Elizabethan cornices, dressing up in costumes (maybe not as a cook or gardener, but definitely the lady of the house), taking the challenge to keep a party of school children interested etc.
Maybe not your thing, but I have for several years had the ambition of being a National Trust Guide so why not!

I have to do a couple of shadowing sessions and then am on my own. It is a small house, relatively speaking if compared with places like Chatsworth or Blenheim, 300 years old and structurally mostly unchanged in all that time. Built in Georgian style before even George was on the throne, it has a pleasing symmetrical design and is situated on a hill overlooking the sea where a pleasant breeze takes the ferocity out of the heat. I am looking forward to working there.

I am not exactly sure I am looking forward to today’s charity! I didn’t bring any decorating clothes out here, it’s a very hot day, and I am not sure my creativity will be appreciated, so maybe I will be chief camera and document the day photographically (watch this spot).
Anyhow, it is time to go now, the others have paintbrushes in hand ….