Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Classic Lions, Scottish birds and whistling tree frogs

“All Inclusive” happily also involves free bus and ferry travel on Bermuda which is a good job because the taxis aren’t cheap and we were staying in the very North Eastern corner of the island, close to the airport. The bus stop was right by our hotel and getting on the number 11 was clearly meant to be as it showed up straight away and we were quickly careering down to the capital, Hamilton, for a bit of a shufty round. The American was feeling decidedly woozy and it was sweet relief when we reached the bus station. I didn’t fancy a lap full of technicolour yawn, particularly as she had only been pan exploring the day before. A short walk down to Front Road later and we were already considering drinks because frankly it was a bit quiet and we needed a livener. A brief touristy walk followed (incorporating photographs of several seemingly important buildings) and we were in The Hogpenny, one of Bermuda’s oldest bars. It is the pub that “Cheers” in Boston was based on (allegedly)

The Hogpenny - where seemingly nobody knows your name...
but I am sad to inform that absolutely nobody knew our names. An uninteresting pint later and we were back on the streets  in search of gifts. Every time I go away I buy my mum a spoon* with the name of the place I’ve been to on it and I had failed to find a single item before we descended on gift shop number five thousand and I clocked a porcelain one at exactly the same time that an old Bermudian man clocked my short-brimmed pork pie hat (Made of 85% bamboo). What happened next is a bit of a blur but he gave me an incredibly high pitched squawk and said something incomprehensible to the effect that he couldn’t believe it was back in fashion. Bemused, I left the shop, spoon in hand, only to run into two more old men on the street who said something similar and in a similarly incomprehensible manner.

Freaked out by the sudden attention, we hot-footed it back to the bus station and got on a number 10 back to Grotto Bay (Where we were staying). The American was feeling much better so after a brief discussion we ended up staying on to St. Georges (The town at the very tip of the island). At one point the bus driver went the wrong way and some of the passengers guffawed. He did not take it well. When we went past Grotto Bay he made a point of looking at us and saying “Grotto Bay”. He hadn’t done that to anyone else. We stayed on to St George’s anyway. It was barely worth it as we didn’t get there until 5pm and everything was closing. It’s a nice enough place though and has an awful lot of signs saying “No Loitering” which would suggest to me that Bermudians are a right bunch of loiterers. We loitered by the bus stop for a bit and then came back to the resort. There’s pretty much only one bus in and out of St Georges and we went back the way we came, missed our stop (No-one said “Grotto Bay”) and got off at The Swizzle Inn, Bermuda’s oldest pub and a right bobby dazzler. There were Canadian flags all over the front of it for no apparent reason but we went in anyway. Canadians don’t perturb US!

We had been in The Swizzle Inn before but this time we got a really cool Glaswegian waitress who informed us that the reason for the flags was the impending arrival of the “Classic Canadian” rugby team, who were playing in the Bermuda Rugby World Classic on Sunday. They were to be playing a Veteran British Lions team called “The Classic Lions”. Nobody tells me anything on this island.Well that was Sunday sorted then. That we had accidentally come to Bermuda the same week as its annual international rugby tournament is of no surprise to me. A few years back a last minute holiday alteration from Fuerteventura to Tunisia, a decision to take a two-day trip into the desert to see Troglodytes (Real ones! They made me bread! I have had Troglodyte bread!), a near civil war in Algeria and a bus driver in cahoots with a cafe/shack on a salt flat at the very edge of The Sahara desert had led to me sipping a cup of mint tea as The Paris-Dakar rally zoomed past me without me realising until it had passed in a cloud of dust. The American lobbed a couple of Pina Coladas down herself and I scooped up a couple of watery Guinnesses, the like of which you only get in and around the American sub-continent, to be sure, to be sure. Then it was back to the hotel for another four-courser, before a return to The Swizzle Inn to meet Dennis the friendly barman. We sat outside because there was an entertainer described as “Crazy” performing comedy songs and gurning in there. I know! That’ll never catch on! The fool! The American drank pina coladas at a quite alarming rate and I sipped amber ale in disgust. I have never approved of heavy drinking...

Sunday showed up and so did the sunshine. This was a relief as we’d had a few cloudy days and my mission to “finally come back from a holiday with a bit of colour this year” had been looking increasingly unlikely. We were by the pool by eleven, I was burnt to a crisp by one and we had consumed lunch and a couple of rum & cokes by two, when we got the bus to Hamilton. I’d seen the Rugby signposted on the route in before so assumed we would get to the same spot.

Quack Quack Oops.

The bus we got on took us on a tour of the South coast of the island and brought us in to Hamilton by the back door so we had to get a cab out to the rugby which was about the same price as it would have been to have got a cab from the hotel and we missed most of the first half of The Classic Lions v The Classic Canadians. We got beers and stood on the front row. An angry old Welsh bloke told me to move as I was “In his line of sight” and I gave him a Paddington stare (Well I’d just had a can of Stella so I was in the mood for a scrap). The second half was great and The Classic Lions romped home 52 – 5. It was an annihilation and to add to the Canadians chagrin the Lions were in particularly fetching pink shirts so they appeared to have been destroyed by a team full of fat, balding old fairies. I tried in vain to explain the rules to The American and eventually settled on just saying “Look, NFL is essentially Rugby for girls”. She then reminded me of the pink shirts and I shut up for a bit. The next game was USA Eagles v South Africa Legends. The Yanks made a surprisingly good account for themselves in the first half and when they went into a 14 – 7 lead she started chanting “U – S – A , U – S – A” under her breath, because she couldn’t stop herself. 

The Classic Lions, skipping to victory
In the second half the Springboks remembered how to play Rugby, however and won by thirty points. Everything was exorbitantly expensive so we left, I said “The bus stop is this way” and we marched headlong into what appeared to be Bermuda’s biggest ghetto. A very friendly young man standing on a bridge told us (Without prompting) that we were walking the wrong way and there wouldn’t be another bus for an hour anyway so we went back to the ground and got a cab. “All Inclusive” had turned into “Very Expensive” incredibly quickly. The taxi driver solved a mystery for us. There is an incredible noise in Bermuda at night. It’s a very distinct and high pitched warble with an odd echo to it and a strangely metallic ring and it scared the bejesus out of us the first time we heard it, particularly as it went on for so long. Anyway – it turns out (Our driver told us) that it’s the noise of tiny little male tree frogs whistling to their women. The little fellas can fit on your thumbnail but by God can those amphibians squeal.

We decided against the opportunity to go and laugh at The Canadians in The Swizzle Inn and instead retired to the safety of our own (free, well, it felt like it was free) bar where we got stuck in to all manner of drinks (including a Baileys coffee, of all things) and saw the bus driver from the day before (Who apparently I had got drunk with on Thursday night and we had both forgotten all about it). He explained that he had gone wrong because his ex-wife (He left her after she stabbed his hands in a kitchen fight) had texted him to say she was on her way to his house. He also said we really freaked him out because he thought we were the people he had got drunk with on Thursday night but when we got out at St. Georges rather than Grotto Bay (Despite his reminder) he decided we just had doppelgangers and then when we had shown up again, well, you get the idea.

The plan on Monday (The last full day of the trip) was to do some proper sightseeing and visit the huge swathes of the island we had until then successfully avoided. The weather was however completely pants and Bermuda had turned into Brrrr-muda so we stayed around the hotel all day and I read a book that’s a comedic re-working of King Lear with an awful amount of lewd Olde Englishe sayings that I absolutely love. I have never before read so many different euphemisms for semen in such a short space of time, my particular favourite being “Git Fluid”. Well done Christopher Moore for your excellent book "The Fool". We had lunch at the poolside bar (As usual) despite the rain and actually drank tea with it. This was the first time on the trip that the first meal of the day hadn’t been riotously boozy but we just weren’t in the mood.

I rather childishly decided that my last meal in “The Hib” should involve everything that was most expensive on the menu. The justification for this was that I had failed to make breakfast even once and so felt I was “owed” on the all-inclusive deal. Hence I had a Caesar Salad with shrimp for starters, some crab cakes for an appetiser and then an artisan loin of lamb with potato rosti, wild mushrooms and asparagus tips for my entree. This was washed down with a decent Cabernet Sauvignon and followed by chocolate layer cake,  a Remy Martin and an espresso. Then we piled into the bar and got near-mortally leathered with some of the local rowdies from Thursday night. They included: Mackie the sliced up bus-driver, old Petey who insisted on calling the American “Mary” because she was with Peter and Paul (And was old enough to tell me my hat was back in fashion), Dennis who refused to let my drink ever be empty, The Glaswegian waitress from The Swizzle who had showed up “For a late one” and her Russian co-worker, Oxy, who spoke little English really but was very good at smiling. The Glaswegian (Caroline) and I discovered we had mutual friends in the comedy business as a result of her formerly running Blackfriars Comedy Club in the city for five years. Blackfriars was my first ever gig in Scotland (Almost two decades ago). She made a point of reminding me that she was only eight then. Even seemingly-friendly Glaswegian waitresses can turn, it would seem. The only absentee from Thursday had been Rick (Not Nick, Doh!) the opinionated and revolutionary lawyer of significant proportions whose feet were so big he appeared to be wearing clown shoes). I don’t remember going to bed.

*My dad also tried in vain to jump on the spoon buying train but was comically removed after he came back from a golf trip to Northern Ireland with a spoon headed by a “Red Hand Of Ulster” Motif. Every time Mum asked him if he wanted sugar in his tea I would shout “Ulster says NO!” before he had time to reply.


  1. Oh, I followed the rugby just fine up until the part when they started doing ballet lifts.

  2. Thank you for thinking I am only 28. Also, I haven't heard about "paddington stares" for a loooong time. Made me smile. Finally, I love pork pie hats. They always remind me of "Desmonds", that sitcom that was on Channel 4. See, I am older than I look! - Caroline (Glaswegian Waitress) xx

  3. Oh it's all a bit cloudy... I liked the show that Desmond's was spawned from called "No Problem" but hardly anyone I know remembers it. My apologies if I got any of the information above wrong - I drink a lot.


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