Our first night in Bermuda was everything I feared it might be. Watching the election results come in on our apartment’s TV, the realization grew that the more qualified and experienced candidate would lose and our next President would be a man who, among other things, has mocked the disabled, bragged about sexually assaulting women, denied the existence of climate change and has no experience in governing whatsoever. Of course a sleepless, anxiety filled night ensued.
My go-to antidote for anxiety is a good walk, and when it’s done in warm sunshine and its end point is a beautiful beach, it must surely be completely effective. The following morning we put it to the test. As it turned out, even that failed to completely dispel the gloom, but it did lighten it and make it more tolerable.
We’re staying in St. George’s, the small town that’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and, having been settled in 1612, is reputedly the oldest continuously inhabited English town in the New World. It’s a charming little hamlet but there are signs it is currently experiencing an economic downturn. Today most of Bermuda’s tourist action takes place at the opposite end of the islands, in the area surrounding the Royal Naval Dockyards, a commercial district catering mainly to tourists from the massive cruise ships which regularly berth there.
Our apartment, high on a hill overlooking St. George’s Harbor, is in the last building of a cul-de-sac, at the end of which are two flights of stairs leading down to a narrow, straight road traversing St. George’s Island. This road is called Khyber Pass and we know it takes us in the general direction of Tobacco Bay, the beach which is our destination.
The only similarity Khyber Pass has to its original namesake is that it cuts through the high point of the island and, although close to the town, has an air of remoteness about it. The name conjures up visions of red-coated British troops fighting off marauding Afghan tribesmen. And to me it brings back memories of one of the old English comedy films from the Carry On series: Carry on up the Khyber, the cast including Sid James who plays Sir Sidney Ruff-Diamond, Charles Hawtrey who’s Private Widdle, and Bernard Breslaw playing Bungdit Din. What great names! But for us no laughs to be had today, nor any threat from prowling bandits. Just the occasional passing car, the drivers of which, more often than not, give us a friendly wave.
Once we clear the cutting the road opens out onto the abandoned St. George’s Golf course, no longer used or maintained but now gone to seed. On Tripadvisor I’d read comments referring to it as an eye-sore. But I don’t see it that way. Rather than an artificial landscape, containing beautifully manicured fairways and smooth carpet-like greens, it has become a natural parkland with many interesting trails, formerly golf cart paths, going off in all directions.
We leave the road and make our way down on to the grass which slopes away below us, offering us a glimpse of the brilliant blue sea in the distance.
Following the trails, many of which are blocked with fallen trees and strewn with displaced branches, all as a result of Hurricane Nicole which, a few weeks before, wreaked havoc on the island. All we encounter as we wind our way through the parkland is nature’s handiwork, formed on a man-made foundation.
My thoughts turn to the President-elect who lives in a rarefied world of gleaming towers, grandly pretentious hotels and expensively exclusive golf courses, all catering to the rich and influential, a created fantasy world inaccessible to the little guy, the so-called “losers,” those he has seduced into thinking that he is their champion. These creations impose a false and harmful order on the natural world with their squandered energy and poisonous pesticides. The neglected old golf course of St. George’s once belonged to that synthetic world. But not now. Not today. It’s accessible to anyone regardless of class or income level, to everyone who takes pleasure in a countryside walk and who seeks the benefits of fresh air. Ironically, economic necessity has brought about a kind socialization of the landscape.
Having skirted a smattering of brightly colored Bermuda cottages scattered around the periphery of the course, we finally come out onto Government Hill Road which leads us down to Tobacco Bay and its attractive little beach.
And here we settle to spend the balance of the day enjoying the sea air and the views out across the bay. We may face an alarmingly uncertain future, but we live in the moment and in this moment we feel blessed.
But come January, we’ll all be up the Khyber Pass. The marauding bandits will be in the White House…