The calm blue of Bermuda and the vast, tranquil sea

  • State control: on May 1, 1978, millions of people in the USSR, including Nina London, took to the streets chanting slogans praising the triumph of communism

    State control: on May 1, 1978, millions of people in the USSR, including Nina London, took to the streets chanting slogans praising the triumph of communism


Spring with its warmth and bright sunshine has finally come to Bermuda. Mother Nature awakes and the island is transformed with colour. Bright-pink oleanders nod in a vibrant-blue sky, snow-white lilies blossom under red hibiscus and white jasmine stars shine happily in the glossy green of our garden.

May 1 turned out to be gloriously sunny without a breath of wind. The ocean lay in a blue canvas without wrinkles. My husband, Bill, and I looked at each other and said simultaneously, “Blue Hole!”, then burst out laughing. This is our favourite reef to snorkel, five miles off the West End near the edge of the Bermuda platform.

These absolutely still days can be counted on one hand during a season. When they come, we drop everything. I pack up, and Bill kayaks out to our little centre console, Gekko, and brings her in to our dock.

We raced across the turquoise blue waters, skating on a glassy sheet stretching to the horizon.

I began to daydream, lulled by the drone of the outboard and the even vibration of the hull. I kept looking back at the wake from our engine breaking perfectly into white, frothy waves. It was reminiscent of a path through fresh snow. I closed my eyes and travelled far into my past.

Irkutsk, Siberia, May 1, 1978. It was the Day of the International Solidarity of Workers and one of the most important holidays in the Soviet Union. Only Victory Day marking the end of the Second World War was celebrated on a larger scale.

On May 1, millions of people throughout every village, town and city in the USSR took to the streets chanting slogans praising the triumph of communism and the rise of the working class.

People began to prepare for this day far in advance. They painted posters, inflated balloons, made huge flowers of corrugated paper and printed photographs of famous political figures and the foremost workers.

The official colour of the holiday was bright red and the emblematic flower was the red carnation. People fastened red bows to the lapels of their coats and raincoats. Girls tied red ribbons into pigtails.

I remember walking slowly with my friends, shoulder to shoulder, in a column miles long. We proudly waved red flags and tightly held the strings of balloons. We laughed and chanted: “Peace! Work! May!” and “Long live May 1!”

The loudspeaker announced our school and listed its honoured teachers and famous graduates.

It was a striking and unforgettable scene; columns of thousands filled all the central streets of the city amid the echo of loud music and the reverberation of slogans. Red balloons were drifting slowly into the sky. Everywhere was a sea of red banners emblazoned with the hammer and sickle, and a moving forest of happy, shouting children.

The main parade was held in Moscow and ended in Red Square where the leaders of the Communist Party stood and reviewed the festivities from the tribunal platform just above Lenin’s mausoleum.

It was broadcast live, and in almost every house the TV was turned on at full volume. Tables of food lay in preparation for the guests’ arrival after the demonstration.

Back then, marching along with thousands of Russians, I felt pride in my country and an indescribable feeling of unity and cohesion. At that time, I did not understand that participation in the demonstration was a mandatory act. There was a list of people who were expected to be there and then a designated worker noted who came and who did not. If you did not participate it was recorded and the consequences were a reprimand on your official record.

But for me, it was a time when I was just happy to be with my school friends. We were having a blast and anticipating the party afterwards. After walking and screaming for two or three hours we all were hungry and ready to have a feast.

On this day, a short and dense snowfall began. The city fell under a magical spell as white snowflakes slowly settled on the red flags. It was like fairy dust, and the crowds dissolved in a dreamy cloud.

We caught the snowflakes in our palms, then gently blew them away. The heavy flakes stuck to our eyelashes and we saw rainbow prisms as the sun broke through in shafts of light.

We laughed and assured each other with optimism that this was definitely the last snow of the year and that spring was actually here.

I opened my eyes and saw the tall tower at Eastern Blue Cut hovering in the blue infinity between the ocean and the sky. Bermuda sat quiet and distant behind the white wake of our boat.

I smiled, thinking about how my life has changed. I thought that my colour on this day would be not revolutionary red, but a calm blue. Instead of snow, I would feel the hot sun and my only “comrade” was Bill. I would not march in a crowded column. Instead, I would swim in a vast and tranquil sea accompanied by a school of big, but friendly, Bermuda chubs.

I shouted my own slogan: “Spring! Love! Ocean! Long life!”

Nina London is a certified wellness and weight-management coach. Her mission is to support and inspire mature women to make positive changes in their body and mind. Share your inspirational stories with her at ninalondon.com

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Published May 9, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated May 9, 2019 at 7:45 am)

The calm blue of Bermuda and the vast, tranquil sea

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