My parents ended up in Bermuda sort of accidentally. They are both from Belfast, and had left Northern Ireland to go and live in Canada. On the way they stopped for a holiday in Bermuda, at which point my mother took one look at the pink sand beaches and turquoise sea and basically told my father to "Get a job dear, I like it here!"
I'm very glad she did, because it was a fantastic place to grow up. Small and beautiful with great weather and no income tax. And cocktails. Lots and lots of cocktails. Shame I was a bit young to enjoy those, however my parents have told stories of my toddler-tendancies towards mine-sweeping cocktails at adult gatherings (and yes, I am still known to indulge in this).
First I think I should dispell a few myths:
1. Yes, Bermuda is one corner of the Bermuda Triangle, and no, I have no idea what it's all about. We don't sit around cauldrons in Bermuda concocting potions to draw down airplanes out of the sky, or lure sailing vessels to a watery death.
2. Bermuda and the Bahamas and Barbados are three entirely different islands, located miles and miles apart. The names cannot be used interchangeably.
3. Bermuda is not actually in the Caribbean. It is in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, and is kept warm by the Gulf Stream. Let's hope it stays that way.
4. Bermuda is a British colony, and desperately proud of that fact.
5. No, we did not wear grass skirts and coconut shell bikini tops to school. (I kid you not, I lost count of how many times I was asked this)
At the time I lived there Bermuda had a population of around 53,000 and a total size of 21 square miles, which actually is made up of 140 separate islands, the largest of which are connected by bridges.
OK, them's the facts, now as this is not a history or geography lesson, I just wanted to share a few of my favourite memories (all of which are a bit hazy, as I left there in 1982 and haven't been back since).
My mother used to take my sister and I to this beach pretty much any time the weather permitted it. Behind the actual beach were miles of sand dune trails, which we would spend entire days exploring. A small cove off to one side had a fantastic cliff for jumping off (into the water, of course) and the little cafe made seriously yummy chips!
Either this was the safest place on Earth, or in the 1970's my parents were supremely confident of my ability to look after myself. From a very young age I remember having total freedom of the outdoors to play and explore. Whether exploring the cliffs and tractor-graveyards near the house, the trails behind the beach, heading out to the nearest jetty armed with stale bread and hand fishing lines or building an illicit "fort" in the bushes with the other neighbourhood kids, we were generally out of the house from daylight to dusk on non-schooldays.
In these WAY-pre mobile phone days, there was no way for parents to contact us, and, to be honest, they wouldn't have wanted to anyway! We could be relied on to come home when we got hungry enough, or when it was too dark to play.
Looking now at my own kids' freedoms, I realise that they are truly missing out. I suppose part of that is because we now live in a city, rather than on a small island, and the news and www fill us with our daily dose of fear of what-can-happen-to-kids these days. It's still so sad, though, to know that they have missed out on what was a truly treasured part of my own childhood.
Culture and History
Bermuda has a very colourful past, having been settled in the 1600's and also having played a big part in several wars. There is no shortage of historical sites to visit, including Fort Hamilton, which was a favourite with us kids to head off to on our bikes, squashed sandwiches on board, to explore for the day. The dungeons, in particular, were a great place to accidently misplace our younger siblings. Yes. We were evil.
Bermuda is also colourful in another way - the literal one. As the island has no groundwater, households rely on rainwater collected on whitewashed limestone roofs. The houses themselves tend to be a rainbow of pastels, with contrasting wooden shutters, and surrounded by plenty of green. I haven't seen anywhere as pretty anywhere else.
There are so many things I loved about growing up in Bermuda, but I don't want to bore you to death, so will leave it at that. I do miss it, and hope one day to be able to take my kids there on holiday.
And maybe show them the dungeons...