And then there was one

18 March 2013
Ben Pentreath

Do you remember holidays as a child, which seemed to stretch for an eternity? Time is a weird thing, I find. How is it that days and nights move so slowly or so fast, for no apparent reason? Do you, like me, have moments when you think ‘how could that have possibly only happened yesterday – it seems weeks ago?’, time moving simultaneously so quickly and so slowly. And other times, the hours and days shift as if nothing is happening all day.

So it has been in Habour Island. I’m writing at the end of a perfect week, but suddenly I realise, waking up this morning – there’s only one day left. This time tomorrow, we’ll be boarding the little water taxi at Government Dock, back to Eleuthera, Miami, and back to freezing New York City.

I remember reading recently, perhaps in the brilliant Patrick Melrose novels that my friend Alison gave me a while ago (or perhaps it was somewhere else), about the life of a young growing child, and how each year was packed with half a lifetime’s worth of experience, so brief was the life to date, and how the summers and winters seem so long as a child because they are your first or second or third summer or winter. When they are your 41st, the perspective is different: each merges one into the other. We measure our lives in decades now. In a couple of weeks, when I’m back home, I’m off with my family to celebrate my Dad’s 80th birthday, and my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary – quite an achievement at any level…and 80 years puts a lot of things into perspective.

And so it is, in reverse, I think, with holidays. When we arrived, a week seemed a long time. Each day on the beautiful, soft Caribbean beach seemed to merge with the next. Now today is our last day, and everything is seen for one last time through a sharply focussed crystal clear lens. Today is the day we notice the tiny details. Each experience is the last of the holiday, and the richer for it.

That, for me, is the pleasure of holidays. Getting away, stopping, lying still, sleeping for hours, spending days and evenings with your best friend: these things really do change your mind, and your relationship with time. For a brief moment: the world stops, and at no time is that clearer than when there was one day left.

Immigration Bahamas style.

Home for the week, at the quiet, perfectly put-together Landing hotel.

New friends and first sunset on the balcony.

Beautiful, deserted Governor’s House… which I would like to know more about…

Inside the Wesleyan Chapel…

Perfect Brisland style. We later met the fun and fantastic Jem Clarke, an English architect who’s moved full time out here and is making it his lifework to do up the old houses like this one without wrecking them. Trickier than it sounds, and he does a fantastic job.

Jem’s next project.

My romantic side has to confess, I prefer the buildings before anyone has touched them!

Colonial perfection at the Landing. You can’t really go wrong with porches and screens and white gloss paint.

Heaven has to be close to a second gin and a game of Articulate and a sunset over the Bay, on the balcony of The Landing.

Followed by grilled lobster at Queen Conch and beers and rum at Harry Os,

and evil drunken ping pong moves from Valentina at the Vic Hum club…

…time for Church. I would say I’ve counted about 10 on the Island.

It might be true to say that the St John’s Anglican Church fete made a bit more noise than it merited (the block party went on for precisely… half a block)

Shelves at the Piggly Wiggly. I am tempted to start importing Bahamian tomatoes for sale in the shop.

The best golf carts on Brisland by far.

The elusive Valentina, who refuses ever to be photographed. She has sanctioned publication of her shadow.

And in fairness, I think the last word must go to the Ocean. Which is where, in fairness, I’m heading right now. Happy Holidays… while they last.

10 comments on this post

Have you ever read “A High Wind in Jamaica”? It’s a book that occupied my thoughts non-stop during the time I was reading it and made me research the author and the book’s history after I put it down – both very interesting. As I saw your images of abandoned colonial houses, it brought the book back to me. It’s not for the faint of heart, but actually as I type this, I think I might pick it up again myself and re-read it.

Cornelia harrietsays:

This reminds me of a picture viewer i brought as a child from a jumble sale with lots of slides of exotic colourful sunny places, boats and cruise ships of the seventies. Those sunbleached colours that cannot be replicated, although I do put my green cushions to gently fade by the sun in the window. A very similiar green to the shutters at the landing the upstairs ones.

Alison Ssays:

Reading this while sitting in our drafty kitchen on the first day of spring (hah) I couldn’t feel more jealous. As usual though a beautifully written post with DREAMY images (love those colonial houses). So pleased the Melrose books hit the spot.

Hi Ben,

The Landing is one of the loveliest places on earth, and its owners two of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. I’m flying over there for a few days next month. We’re going to publish a book on the hotel, the restaurant, the famous cellar with its rums and wines, which have won so many awards (did you see the incredible cellar hidden under the rock wall and huge tree roots?),the island itself and the family who created the magic of The Landing. So many people love this hotel.

So glad you had a great time! Best wishes, Janelle

Royce Fraziersays:

I have been enjoying your blog for several months and was delighted to hear of your trip to Eleuthera. We spend two weeks there every April and are impatiently counting the days (18) until our arrival. It is my favorite gorgeous, peaceful spot. Your photos made me smile accompanied by a big-sigh-. Thank you.

Loved the photos. I really want to visit sit on that chair watch the sun slip down and drink that Gin and Tonic now …and its 10,00 in the morning. Thank you . Susan Farrar


I don’t like to tell you that we are expecting an inch or two of snow today in New York City — but it will all disappear in the rain tomorrow.
What is the book event?


Dear Shep – oh! It’s just a little party at my old bosses house in the village. I’m afraid we’re a bit limited for space hence my reluctance to open it up to the whole of the blogosphere!! I hope that sounds okay… All best, B

Deby (in Canada)says:

Oh Ben, if that handsome man in your post Christmas pictures at Greenwich is turning 80 it bodes well for you!
There is always such truth and enthusiasm in what you say… it perfectly captures how I feel about my much anticipated vacation trips to England. The tomato cans are bliss as is any shop called Piggly Wiggly….
If New York is as cold as Port Hope the next few days you will be advised to find a cosy bar… enjoy your book event. Cheers, Deby

It all looks very relaxed and serene – I enjoyed your explanation of time passing – I had not thought in terms of a child’s experience of life being so brief and that is why the summers seemed to last forever.

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