Thursday, August 6, 2015

Rum and Coca Cola (Bahamas)

The first thing Linda and I had to do after our travels was replenish our bank accounts. We'd travelled very much on the cheap through the Middle East and Eastern Europe, but the money had to run out eventually. Linda’s sister lived in Canada, so it made sense for her to go over there.

So she did that, and became the chef of a hospital in Barrie. My old employers in London arranged a transfer to their Toronto office as an auditor. First, I drove my Mum around England and Scotland, at her expense, then hit her for the airfare across to the new job.

Canada wasn’t my first choice, actually, but its immigration line was shorter than the US’s - a story told in The Turning Point in January 2014. Linda and I were on our (separate) ways home to Australia; Canada was just a place to save money so as not to go back broke. Linda met me off the plane, which was nice…

That was in 1965. Eventually, she lost patience with my reluctance to commit, and headed back to Melbourne to make a new life for herself. By the time I finally did commit, by phone, and in writing (as demanded...!), our logistics were all skewiff, and I was out of town when she arrived.

Touche’s office down in the Bahamas had asked Toronto to lend them three or four young and single audit clerks for a few weeks in December. Rum and Coca Cola on a tropical beach instead of hot coffee in a cold motel room in Windsor, Ontario, seemed like a good deal, and I jumped at the chance.

Linda reckons she landed with only $30 on her, which in all the confusion she left behind in a phone booth at the airport. Poor Linda! Poor Jon, my flatmate, who had to stake her to the airfare down to Nassau – plus $30 pocket-money, I guess. The details are fuzzy, after all these years.

So we got an early honeymoon in the old Royal Victoria Hotel, and wondered if we might come back to live in Nassau one day. But Touche didn’t want me, except for the few weeks; and the trust company I’d been auditing chose somebody else for the job they had advertised. Bummer.

Sigh. As a second-best, I persuaded Touche Toronto to recommend me to its office in Kingston, Jamaica. A few months after our wedding, we signed up with an agency that delivered snowbirds’ cars to them in Florida. A leisurely drive down to Orlando took five days, staying at motels along the way.

Jamaica ahoy! But - never say die, eh? Our personal schedule left us two weeks to knock on doors in Nassau, and we landed jobs halfway through the second week. Linda began teaching at a government school, me at the trust company I'd audited before. The chap who had beaten me for the job had failed to turn up. 

A warehouse in Miami had let us park our belongings with them until we sent for them – to Nassau if we got lucky, or to Kingston if we didn’t. We phoned and sent a cheque, and all our suitcases and boxes came on the next boat. No problem. Imagine making an arrangement like that these days! Our gear would be blown up by Big Brother the first day. Simpler times, back then.

Our first house and car in Nassau were provided by Tim, who also worked for the trust company. He was off the Island with his family on “long leave”, and didn’t find out about the deal until he got back. That was par for the course, apparently. 

“Long leave” was a carry-over from the Good Old Days when the sun never set on the British Empire, in which anywhere in the tropics was a “hardship post”. Two weeks in the hill stations of India or Kenya or anywhere else were a refreshing break from the stinking heat of the population centres, but it needed three months in Blighty every two years to prevent the chaps from “going native”. Mad dogs and Englishmen, and all that.

By the time Tim and Mrs Tim and the little Tims came back, we had our own accommodation and car. We blew all our savings on the car  - as reported in  Me and Miss Ohio, in April 2013. 

We finally made it to Jamaica for the Easter of ’68 – a second honeymoon, or a third, or a fourth. We loved it, and did all the usual tourist things – Dunn River Falls, rafting on the Rio Grande, the hot spa at Milk River, rum and Coca Cola on the beaches… Those were good years for expats in Jamaica as well as Nassau.

But the latter was a tax-haven, and by gosh didn't we flourish in the absence of Income Tax! When the time came to move on, we looked for another tax-haven.