What makes Bermuda?
When Jackie Stevenson arrived in Bermuda, she was expecting little more than sun and sand. What she found, instead, was a vibrant place filled with culture, history and natural beauty.
“I don’t think I really had any questions about Bermuda before I came,” said Ms Stevenson, who first visited in the 1980s to see her parents, William and Glenys. “You tend to think, ‘Well, it is an island. It will be straightforward.’ But Bermuda is very layered. What is amazing about Bermuda is that it’s a country squished into a small space and there is loads going on here.
Ms Stevenson continued: “The island had a lot more depth and sophistication than I first realised on arrival; hardly surprising given her long history and strategic location in the North Atlantic.”
Then a broadcast journalist in Hong Kong, one of the things that particularly fascinated her was the island’s development of the salt trade in Turks & Caicos in the 1700s.
“Bermuda had quite a corner on the market on that,” the 66-year-old said. “It just shows how innovative the island has been at recreating itself, constantly changing and moving and adapting.
“Bermuda had the corner on the market of Easter lilies and Bermuda onions as well.
“They were sending them overseas in droves until people overseas started growing their own flowers and onions.”
She was thrilled when she spotted an advertisement for a post at broadcaster ZFB.
“I had always dreamt about living on a subtropical island and could not believe my good fortune when I got the job and I moved to my dream island,” said Ms Stevenson, who married Bermudian Jay Kempe and went on to work for VSB, This Week in Bermuda and Preview Magazine.
The thought of writing a guide book always appealed to her but, for many years, the project sat as an idea at the back of her mind. While recovering from an operation this year, she found the necessary time to focus.
“I started writing a bit here and there in October,” she said. “I really started focusing on it after my hip surgery in February. Then I really got fevered about it.”
Although sometimes distracted, she was determined to complete Bermuda Unwrapped.
Her idea was to make it full of Bermuda flavour, but not so encyclopaedic that it bored her target audience, visitors and Bermudian children.
“What I would like is for maybe Bermuda kids to pick it up and it just gives them a basic understanding on Bermuda and various aspects of Bermuda,” she said. “I do think some Bermudians need more educating about their home, and to be proud of it. It is a pretty impressive island.
“It was really fun putting it together. The history part was a little more difficult. I really had to bone up on Bermuda history. I wanted to be accurate.”
Bermuda Unwrapped is full of interesting titbits; the illustrations are hand-drawn.
There is no practical information such as bus timetables or restaurant locations, but it offers details on Bermuda’s plants, animals, architecture, culture and history. The book also answers questions frequently asked by tourists such as why businessmen wear Bermuda shorts.
Answer: British military officers stationed on the island found long trousers too hot, so they cut them above the knee.
“It is an overview of what makes Bermuda, Bermuda, in soundbite proportions,” Ms Stevenson said, adding that she shied away from writing in her younger days because so much of her family was involved in it.
Her late father was a journalist who authored the bestselling biography, A Man Called Intrepid; a brother, Andrew, has written several books; her late brother, Kevin, was president of the Bermudian Publishing Company and before that the assistant editor at The Royal Gazette.
“But I do enjoy it,” she said. “I think writing Bermuda Unwrapped has been a great entrée into writing because I have been able to use my art to get into it.”
• Copies of Bermuda Unwrapped are available for $20 at The Bermuda Bookstore, The Book Mart at Brown & Co and Riihiluoma’s Flying Colours