A Royal Visit
My family considers itself to be the custodians of the Hermitage, and when our guests come to visit we know we are the guides and not the attraction. This house has been here near 400 years, growing its own charm and letting history gather around it, like the Spanish Moss that gathers in the trees, like the white lichen that grows on the stone walls. Visitors and interest validate our efforts to look after it.
While all our guests deserve a warm welcome and are noteworthy in his or her own way, some guests do come with pomp and circumstance. A few weeks ago, a call from Government House informed me of Her Royal Highness, the Duchess of Cornwall’s interest in the Hermitage. With the ever-present discretion of an innkeeper, I could not speak of it. Indeed, as it was the future queen of England that would come to visit, I immediately assumed there was a double O agent watching me, hiding in the bushes, probably not far from where the Rastafarian gardeners were also in the bushes, for other reasons.
I thought how best to prepare for a royal patronage; polish the brass, paint the trim, edge the long grass on the walkways. I thought of how to behave, how to speak, what to say and what I would tell the Rastafarian gardeners in the bushes.
In the first protocol meeting with the premier’s ministry I suggested I’d offer HRH a rum punch at the bar as an authentic gesture of hospitality and this began a debate; some thought it would be inappropriate and others thought she would politely decline. Since her private security did not forbid it, I made a bet with my family that on my suggestion, Her Royal Highness would indeed stop at the bar and have a drink.
The Duchess thought it was delicious. “Very good, pretty alcoholic,” she said. On leaving she commented that her husband would love it and accepted the offer of a bottle, with our compliments, for the future king.
As the convoy drove off, with sirens blaring and flags waving, we all gave a cheer and toasted the Queen and crown at the bar. We could now relax, put the china back in the cupboard, the silver back in the cabinet and remove our shoes. We could put back on display the knick-knacks, toys and tools we’d hidden and wave the all clear to the Rastafarian gardeners in the bushes.
Later, when asked why we thought Her Royal Highness had chosen to visit the Hermitage I could only echo her sentiments about our rum punch and reply that if one only has a short time on Nevis to celebrate the heritage of the island then the Hermitage is very good, pretty and alcoholic.
After all, if you haven’t been to Hermitage, you haven’t been to Nevis.