On my usual Sunday morning head-clearing walk, the contact and conversation, as so much does in Bermuda, began with:
“It’s a beautiful spring morning isn’t it?”
“Aye. It is. Ah’m feeling quite warm in this tracksuit top….are you related to David Dyer, the dentist?”
“No. Why do you ask?”
“You look like him.”
“Is that a Scottish accent that I hear?”
“Aye. Ah’m from Scotland.”
That thirty-second early morning contact between two people captures so much about our Bermudian culture. It shows the influences and the people that have been absorbed into and has given our culture its unique blend. As short as it was, the conversation displays the easy human relationship that actually exists amongst ordinary Bermudians of both races.
It’s the kind of conversation that wouldn’t happen at all in New York or London or Toronto or….. But in our Bermuda – certainly the Bermuda that I live in – it is normal. Refreshingly Bermudianly normal. May it remain so.
“WHAT’S IT WORTH?”
Got a five dollar bill in your pocket? Take it out. Look at it. This is what that fiver buys nowadays.
Pack of cigarettes? Not enough. Need at least another 50c. Maybe even $1.25.
Loaf of bread? Yup, and 90c change.
Gallon of gas? Need $1.96 more.
Paying $1,500 a month rent? $5 pays for 2 hours 25 minutes out of a 24hr day. Rent $3,650 a month? $5 pays for just one hour out of a 24hr day.
You can buy three dozen imported eggs that have been floating around for ten days, and get 83c change. Or, buy one dozen of Tom Wadson’s fresh Bermuda eggs and get 41c change. Codfish for your Sunday morning breakfast? $4.99 on special. Save up and buy the potatoes next week.
Building a house? Five dollars gets you a piece of house about two inches by two inches. (The area covered by an actual five-dollar bill folded in third). Need land to build that house? A bargain! In a non-pitbull area, gets you a piece of land about two and a half by five and a half inches. (The area covered by a full five-dollar bill).
Movie ticket? Nope. Need another couple of bucks. Five’s the minimum in an AME collection plate – a blue just won’t do. One litre of two-stroke oil for your bike? Sorry. Gotta’ add 85c.
Bowl of fish chowder? Green Lantern will give you a dollar change; fifty cents change at Robin Hood. Most everywhere else, you need to add another 25c or more – or stay hungry.
But, take heart dear friend, take heart. You can still get THREE bottles of ice-cold Coor’s Lite beer. You’ll even get 50c change! Chingas! The shopkeeper might not break up a six-pack and might not sell you three! Aaah…fat!
So, what does that $5 bill really buy?
As a good Bermudian you probably went to the ‘Ag Show’ that they’re trying to rename the ‘Annual Exhibition’. If you did, you may have seen the Bermuda Regiment Band close the show.
If you did, you saw the complete display, musically and visually, in one place in one event, of all of Bermuda’s rich heritage.
The Regiment Band’s style of uniform, marching, and playing shows the heritage that comes from the connection with the crown of England, and the hundreds of British soldiers and sailors who passed through Bermuda and who helped colour our society.
The Bermuda Isles Pipe Band, in kilts and blowing bagpipes, connected to the common people of the British Isles. Robert Symonds, the steel pan player, showed the rich contribution from the peoples of the Caribbean. The Gombey’s energy and different beat reached deep into Bermuda’s past and gave life to Bermuda’s slave heritage and connections to Africa.
When the Band, the Pipers, and the pan player – with the Gombeys jiggling in the background – played that traditional calypso tune “Mary Ann”; all of our rich skeins of culture and history, of custom and tradition, of people and past, came together.
Then the Band, Pipes, and pan segued into the Gombey beat in a smooth musical and visual transition. Those transitions from first, the regular British marching tune, then to “Mary Ann”, then to the Gombeys, then back to a regular military beat, showed in their seamlessness, all the rich and wonderful changes that have taken place in Bermuda.
A beautiful and unique display. I hope you saw and felt it all – as I did.