Magazine article The Spectator

THE BAHAMAS - A Butler on the Beach

Magazine article The Spectator

THE BAHAMAS - A Butler on the Beach

Article excerpt

Jeremy Clarke samples the ultimate in relaxation

At Sandals Emerald Bay, on the island of Great Exuma, Bahamas, the term all-inclusive includes the services of a butler. On arrival, each couple (Emerald Bay is couples only) is given a mobile-phone with their butler's number on speed dial, from which he can be summoned on the flimsiest of pretexts. If, for example, you need the lounger taking down a notch, or the sunshade repositioned, or just a bit more ice in your drink, the only effort required at Sandals Emerald Bay, apart from the energy involved in actually noticing and thinking about such matters, involves flexing a forefinger and jabbing a phone key.

Mine was called Harris. Harris seemed perfectly calm when he introduced himself to me in the shade of the coral-pink grand entrance as I sucked greedily at my welcome cocktail. He was wearing a collar and tie under a stripy butler's waistcoat and he was a head taller than me. The faintest hint of a smirk suggested that experience had taught him early that your average British holidaymaker, when confronted by their own butler, often struggles not to burst out laughing.

I pressed the designated speed-dial button only once during my visit to Sandals Emerald Bay. I was relaxing on a lounger at the remotest end of the beach with a bumper crossword book. About 20 minutes after I'd called, I spotted this lone figure shimmering in the heat haze, trudging determinedly towards me across the soft white sand. Finally he arrived. 'Yes, sir?' he said. 'Harris, ' I said, 'do you happen to know what the capital of Burkina Faso is?'

He stood deep in thought, perhaps considering whether or not he'd heard me correctly. 'No, sir, ' he said. Then, brightening:

'But I can ask.' Twenty minutes later he was back beside the lounger, perspiration dripping from his face, and handing me a neatly folded sheet of headed hotel notepaper, on which was written the single word 'Ouagadougou'. 'Thank you, Harris, ' I said. 'It is a pleasure, sir, ' he beamed. And then he set off again on the return leg of his arduous trek back to civilisation.

The Bahamas are mostly flat and not especially verdant. But the beaches and the pellucid seas surrounding them are something to see. I was reminded of Graham Greene's description of Evelyn Waugh's prose: that it was like the Mediterranean before the war - you could see right down to the bottom. The sea around the Bahamas is clear like that. The clarity never ceases to amaze.

Two days running, the owner of Sandals, the Jamaican-born, patoisspeaking, self-made multi-millionaire businessman Gordon 'Butch' Stewart, took us out fishing in his motor yacht. …

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