Monday, April 30, 2007

The Bonzos in Bermuda

Given the depressing news to be found in the earlier posts below, the Bonzos have decided to write about a more cheerful subject, a trip taken during BigU's euphemistically named Spring Break. [Full disclosure: the usual readers may not be interested in this post.]

A Winter Escape from ColdState

The Bonzos in the Bermuthies

The Bonzos have gone to Bermuda previously (2000). They waited until the day after the famous Y2K fiasco. Up in New Brighton they were told not to go anywhere on New Years Eve as well as to know the locations of emergency food and water. It was rumored that planes in the sky at the stroke of midnight might somehow plunge into the ocean.

Being poor academics, for the previous trip they stayed in a B&B and groused about the high cost of food. But Bermuda was to their taste. The B&B proprietress served grapefruit from her garden every morning. The place is quiet, not too hot, very English, and historic.

It is cold in ColdState. Yesterday was Good Friday and it was colder here than it has been since 1939. So the Bonzos decided to take a real winter vacation this season. They took it during BigU’s so-called spring break. This turned out great because Mr. B. did not have to feel guilty about not being available to the undergrads in his lab - they, too, were on break. [Actually Mr. B’s undergrads are very hard working and they used the break to get their ducks in a row, course wise.] No computers were taken on the trip.

There is also a Shakespeare connection to Bermuda via the Tempest.

“ The Tempest, Shakespeare borrowed from a manuscript by William Strachey that detailed an actual shipwreck of the Virginia-bound 17th-century English sailing vessel Sea Venture in 1609 on the islands of Bermuda.”

Wikipedia - Archetypes in Literature

Quoting Wikepedia is not 'pc' anymore but it still a very useful reference. As with all things bardly there is dissent concerning the Strachey connection. If you are interested in authorship debates an introduction is given in David Kathman’s Dating the Tempest. [Full disclosure: Mr. B. once wrote a paper assigning the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays to someone else. He doesn’t remember the name of the lucky person. He no longer cares.]

There is also a Mark Twain connection to Bermuda. Mrs. Bonzo discovered a wonderful book that she brought along and enjoyed very much, as did Mr. B. - highly recommended. It is: 'Mark Twain in Paradise, His Voyages to Bermuda' by Donald Hoffman, published by the University of Missouri Press in 2006. There are many fascinating things about the book and Mr. B., who is a scientist, did not realize what a depressive, cynical, old curmudgeon MT turned into in his old age. Two good quotes, though:

“The task of tracking Mark Twain in Bermuda proved the wisdom of what Richard P. Feynman so happily called ‘the pleasure of finding things out.’ "

“You go to heaven if you want to,” he [Twain] wrote from the islands in his last days.
"I’d ruther stay here.”

But back to the main narrative. Mrs. B. did some research and located a place to stay that was quite reasonable. It was the lower level of a house built for the cowboy writer Zane Grey in the 1920s. The picture at the beginning of the post is from the patio outside the apartment where we stayed. It had kitchen facilities which allowed us to eat some meals at home. It was also an easy walk to the bus connection as well as the ferry connection, so we could get just about anywhere on the island. Public transportation is good and a ticket to ride both bus and ferry for a week is a good deal. There was also an outstanding grocery store within walking distance. And the rental rate was quite modest.

The weather was perfect - cool at night (excellent sleeping weather) & warm during the day but not 'stinky hot.' On the first day Mr. Bonzo hunkered down and refused to do anything but read; this counted as "decompression day." Thereafter we slept late, ate breakfast at home, and then set out to explore - the Botanic Garden, the city of St. George w/ the oldest church in continuous use in the Western hemisphere (it had a Breeches Bible dated 1594), the Bermuda National Gallery, a tiny church from the 17th century where Gregorian chant is sung daily, pristine beaches almost completely empty, historic houses, a Victorian tea-room, etc., etc. In the evenings we ate dinner at home or went to one of Bermuda's fabulous (& pricey) restaurants.

One highlight was a performance by a group of Bermuda's indigenous Gombay Dancers. This has been a tradition since slavery days, when travelling groups of dancers, masked and wearing brightly colored capes and headdresses and accompanied by energetic drumming, performed for money on their 'days off.' Today boys (no girls - sorry) start training around the age of three and Gombay groups perform all over the world. The group we saw was about to travel to Jamestown, Virginia, to help celebrate the 400th anniversary of settlement there. Mrs. Bonzo noted dryly that joining a Gombay group might be a good way to get into Harvard.

But mostly it was just wonderful to be there and be outside in the sunshine. The entire island is a tropical garden, with profusely blooming begonias and geraniums, palm trees and lush tropical vegetation everywhere you look. It was so relaxing to read, wander & do what we wanted with no schedule or requirements of any kind. We plan to go back next year. And the next year. And the next year...

The Bonzos

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