Rum thing, the reputation of Bermuda

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The Independent Online

The Bermudan Minister for Tourism looked on in astonishment as I received my award for "sorest bum on the island". He was informed that this was because of an epic six-hour moped ride around Bermuda as opposed to anything more nefarious. I have just come back from a golf tournament there and the prize-giving was the last official part of the festivities. I was playing in the Hackers' Cup for a celebrity team under the captaincy of Sir Steve Redgrave against "the finest group of journalists ever assembled at short notice", as their captain, Peter Corrigan put it.

Bermuda is a curious and rather genteel island with the feel of the UK in the late 1950s but with added sunshine. "Bermuda has more churches per capita than any other country in the world – and 10 per cent of the island is golf course," said one of our hosts. There is a curious sense of conservatism to the island that distinguishes it from the "reeelax mon" attitudes of islands in the West Indies further south. Indeed, the day after I arrived, all the Union flags were lowered to half-mast as the news of Maggie Thatcher's death reached Britain's largest remaining colony. I lost count of the number of locals who, when discovering that I was English, offered me their condolences. I managed to mumble something about how "I was coping OK" before returning to my Dark and Stormy, the island's drink of rum and ginger beer.

Every expat on the island appears to be working in insurance or reinsurance, or re-reinsurance. I couldn't really make head or tail of what they all did and rapidly lost interest when I bumped into a rotund bore on arrival in the airport who informed me that we were at school together and that he would take me out for a drink in Hamilton, the island's tranquil capital.

I thought back to school, all those years ago and suddenly I remembered this fat little jerk who was already a paid-up member of the Young Conservatives, deeply unpleasant and seemed to have an issue with my then vegetarianism. I longed to tell him exactly what I thought of him and where he could put his beer, but instead I was all British about it as were standing under a large portrait of the Queen and mumbled something noncommittal and moved quickly on.

Back in the golf reception, the Minister for Tourism told me that he really hoped that we would return to the UK and tell people about his island home. "Bermuda is a bit of a mystery to the UK, I think?"

This might be true. When we hear the word Bermuda, we instantly think about shorts and triangles and a gentle world of pastel colours – all of which is true, and I'd like to keep it that way. Bermuda is my new discovery. A little slice of heaven, lost in the ocean. You stay away.