What’s been the most defining time – or place – in your life?
Marriage? The birth of your first child? When Michael Thomas scored that last minute goal against Liverpool to win the title for Arsenal in 1989? Or when the school bully smashed your head against the climbing frame in the last week of summer term?
For me, it was the 7 years or so I spent in Bermuda in the 1980s.
Not that there haven’t been other equally significant moments – passing my professional exams; marrying my lovely wife Gillian; taking 8-14 to tie the nail-biting cricket match for my school against our local rivals. But the relatively short time I spent on the tiny island in the Atlantic Ocean has had a disproportionately important part to play in my 58 year life story.
Why? Probably because of age and circumstances. As a newly qualified 24 year-old bean-counter, jumping on a plane to a strange place where I didn’t know anybody, was – with hindsight, at least – quite a brave thing to do.
We’ve just returned from a holiday to the island – our first time back in Bermuda since 2000 – and it has only reinforced what a special, beautiful place it is and how it will always be deposited right at the front of my ageing memory bank.
The pink, sandy beaches are still unspoiled, empty and inviting. The golf courses are as challenging and photogenic as ever. The fish chowder at the Lobster Pot restaurant still tastes as good as in 1982….laced with rum and Outerbridge’s sherry peppers, of course. Hiring a scooter is still the best way to see the island. As long as you don’t fall asleep on one as I did, feeling tired and emotional after a long, hard day playing hockey.
Scratch the Bermudian surface now, however, and you’ll see some differences compared with 3 decades ago: the population is declining; the economy is mired in debt; there are perpetual immigration challenges; there is unemployment for the first time in decades; and gang warfare has resulted in occasional shootings.
But for the resident and tourist alike, this place is still pretty close to Paradise. If you like idyllic beaches, turquoise water, any water or land-based sport, a temperate climate, good food, Gosling’s Black Seal rum and a party, it’s hard to think of anywhere else that’s much better.
From a personal perspective though, the clincher is people. Of those who I first met over 30 years ago, some are now spread around the world, some are native Bermudians and some are long-term residents. But all are kindred spirits.
It’s as though time has stood still. We share a mutual passion for wonderful Bermuda, and I will always count my blessings for the time I spent there and for the friends I have made through being there.
I know that when I’m dribbling into my cornflakes at the nursing home, I’ll still be able to conjure up a rejuvenating image of drinking Amstels at the Robin Hood on a Friday night, strains of “Don’t You Want Me Baby” leaking into the humid night as we hatch plans for tomorrow’s sporting activities and party location.