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Bermuda’s bugs inspire first-time novelist

Writer Marjie Smith and her dog Cadbury (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

Having visited Bermuda for more than 30 years, Marjie Smith thought she knew the island.

On moving here in April, however, the “wildlife” was a huge surprise.

At breakfast one morning, Mrs Smith was shocked to see her oatmeal moving.

“You know that line on your recipe card with your gram’s handwriting that says ‘sift dry ingredients’? I found out what that means,” the 70-year-old said. “Apparently, weevils can get through the Fort Knox of storage tins.”

The number of cockroaches in their Paget home was another unpleasant surprise.

The bugs quickly became fodder for her Facebook page where, for the past two years, she has written snippets about her life.

This week Mrs Smith released Mind Off-Leash, Social Media Posts During the Pandemic. The book was published through Covenant Books, a self-publishing house in South Carolina.

In March 2020, Mrs Smith was living in Tallahassee, Florida, where her husband Jerry was the minister at Holy Comforter Episcopal Church.

During the long days of lockdown, Mrs Smith occupied herself by walking around the neighbourhood “stalking” hawks with her camera and raising monarch butterflies.

“There was nothing to think about,” she said. “I did not have my usual responsibilities – preparing my music for choir practice, for example.”

Like a lot of people, she took to social media out of boredom.

“At first, I had no intention of publishing a book,” she said. “I was just writing for the heck of it. It was only when friends started urging me to publish, that I thought about it.”

Some of her posts reflect the anxiety of the period: “Today, little wavelets of sadness were flittering by like the departing breath of someone’s soul. I can, today, feel the fear, the grief, that is out there but not yet right here. There are no sirens. But they will come. Our shrunken lives are going on like becoming invisible will prevent us from being affected.”

Of Zoom she wrote more lightheartedly: “Thou shalt not have your computer below your head. I already see my own double chin more often than I would like. If I wanted to see everyone else’s I would have become a cosmetic surgeon. My favourite view is the guillotine, where the chair is lower than the table and all you see on screen is this talking head. The body is, apparently, still back in bed.”

Other posts recalled happier times, such as the couple’s visits to Bermuda.

In one piece, she wrote about the time her husband, whom she jokingly calls “His Collarship”, accidentally won them a new friend on the golf course.

“He hit the shot of his life but unfortunately, almost hit the lady on the next hole.”

Mrs Smith apologised for her husband’s aim; the other golfer turned out to be Marlene Landy, the late radio host.

“We chatted and she invited us to dinner, and then invited us on to her radio programme. It was an interesting way to meet someone.”

Originally from Canada, Mr and Mrs Smith met while students at the University of Western Ontario.

“We met through an intervarsity Christian fellowship on campus,” said Mrs Smith, who was studying towards an English degree. “It was a whirlwind courtship. We were married eight months after we met. We were 21 and back then people married younger.”

While the family travelled a lot for Mr Smith’s ministry, Mrs Smith worked as a freelance journalist for CBC Radio, The Toronto Star and North Bay Nugget.

“I did some feature writing and covered small town politics, which I hated,” she said. “I also did a lot of entertainment writing. It was in the heyday of newspapers when everyone read them. There was a big news hole to fill. Now there is only a small hole and people are advertising differently, and getting their news differently.”

The couple started coming to Bermuda in the 1990s so that Mr Smith could teach Bible studies at Willowbank Resort & Conference Centre.

Mrs Smith, who was then the director of communications at Nipissing University, was thrilled that she could bring her work with her.

In 2001, the Smiths moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and then on to Nashville, Tennessee, before ending up in Florida.

Tallahassee was supposed to be the last stop before Mr Smith retired and they went back to Canada.

“But we liked it so much and got along so well that it was very hard to leave there,” Mrs Smith said.

Last year, the Right Reverend Nicholas Dill, the Anglican Bishop of Bermuda, suggested Mr Smith put off retirement and come to Bermuda on a three-year contract; he could not resist saying yes.

The couple found the island changed by the pandemic. Parishioners were only just getting back into the habit of going to church again and it was clear that some people had been hit hard economically.

“There are more people asking you for money and food downtown,” Mrs Smith said. “I watch the tourists being hit up. A lot of folks are hungry and there are folks trying to help them out. St Mark’s and St John’s have food programmes.”

Mrs Smith has continued to write Facebook posts while here. She also paints and enjoys spending time with their dog, Cadbury.

The book is available on Amazon.com and she hopes to sell it through local bookstores soon.

“I have children’s stories and plays that can be converted to children’s books that I’ve written and done nothing with,” she said. “Or I could publish a collection of humour columns I have written over the years, but I have probably waited too long for that.”

Mr and Mrs Smith have three children and seven grandchildren.

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Published November 16, 2022 at 8:07 am (Updated November 17, 2022 at 7:55 am)

Bermuda’s bugs inspire first-time novelist

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