ISSUE 9, April 2004

The Duke of Wellington: A Brother in arms
Quarterly Communication: Address of the Grand Master and Report of the Board of General Purposes
Life with the Stars: Masons and famous people
Hall Stone Jewel: Cyril Spackman, designer
Travel: Jamaica
Grand Charity: Annual Report and Accounts
Masonic stamps: Masonry on stamps
Library & Museum of Freemasonry: Antients and Moderns go on-line
Masonic education: Events for Freemasons
Masonic charities: The continuing work
Bowel cancer: How the Grand Charity is helping
Royal Arch: Russia and Eastern Europe
Richard Eve: A former Grand Treasurer
Book reviews

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As its name suggests, there is a large variety of sporting activities, although participation is entirely up to you. I felt like a kiddie in a toy shop. That is, there is so much choice, that you don’t know what to do first.
      Apart from the many sports on offer, it boasts the Caribbean’s largest outdoor rock climbing wall. There is also a programme of exercise classes, and another of activities you can participate in at various times throughout the day. As my priority was to take advantage of the free golf lessons, I made sure that these were booked in for every day of my stay. As the climate is tropical, it rained several times while I was there, although not for long, so there is a lot of greenery despite the hot weather.
      Golf is not on-site, but at what is considered one of the most scenic courses on the island, the Sandals Golf & Country Club in Ocho Rios, 750 ft up in the hills. Used by all the Sandals and Beaches resorts in the area, it is an 18-hole, par-71 course covering 6,311 yds. Transportation is provided to and from the Club about a ..-minute drive away. An added bonus is the complimentary green fees, although you do have to pay for a caddie and cart, which you are obliged to use.
      I had also hoped to take advantage of the deep sea diving lessons, but just didn’t have the time as you are not allowed to dive until 24 hours after arriving, or before departure. You then need two days together – half a day to learn to use the apparatus, with time spent in the special scuba-certification pool – as well as filling in a medical questionnaire.

The Beaches Grande Sport is an adults-only resort

© Beaches / Sandals

          You are then allowed to dive the following day, but only nearby. However, this is not a problem, as the coral reef is incredibly close to the beach. Nor did I participate in the snorkelling to see some of the beautiful marine life, as you need to book, as with most activities, at least one day in advance.
      On the day I booked the weather was overcast, and the sea wasn’t clear enough, while on the subsequent day I was suffering from a hangover. This is one of the hazards of being in a place where they have a never-ending list of cocktails, and where a shot of rum is the common staple drink, all free, and available at five different locations doted around the resort. The main swimming pool even has its own swim-up bar!
      One of the things I did make time for was a visit to the spa. While the steam room, saunas and hot and cold plunge pools are all free, the massage and beauty treatments have to be paid for. I took advantage of their ‘golf widow’s package’ which included a body scrub, massage and facial.
      Prices are in American dollars, and although when I was there the pound was very strong, the prices did appear rather steep. As there are a lot of people who come in couples, they also offer treatments where the two of you can have a massage together in the same room, or even more romantically, in a special secluded spot on the beach.
      With so much going on, and only being there for seven days, I made sure that I saw some of the island before returning home. Fortunately at the resort, one of the evenings was designated as a Jamaican night, with an area dedicated to local vendors selling souvenirs of handcrafted wooden sculptures, hand-painted pottery, vivid coloured clothing, and jewellery.
      Many local dishes were included in the buffet, held in a large marquee in the grounds. Although a band entertained us while we were eating, I was amazed that in an area known for its reggae music, Bob Marley had grown up and is buried nearby, this type of music wasn’t played.
      On my trip from Ocho Rios to Montego Bay, we were able to make a detour through Fern Gully, a dried-up river bed with over 500 species of ferns growing along the side of the road.
      As well as there being several craft markets locally, with prices much cheaper than those at Grande Sport, there is also a duty-free shopping area. Prices here, I was reliably informed, are cheaper than those at the airport for such items as perfume, expensive jewellery and watches.
      I stopped at Shaw Park Gardens, a botanical paradise created by Englishman Bernard Shaw as the gardens of a hotel which was burnt down in 1964. Covering 25 acres, the grounds include a magnificent waterfall, and swimming pool which is still in use.