cover image The Last Pink Bits: Travels Through the Remnants of the British Empire

The Last Pink Bits: Travels Through the Remnants of the British Empire

Harry Ritchie. Hodder & Stoughton, $13.99 (231pp) ISBN 978-0-340-66683-8

Travel buffs and Anglophiles alike will enjoy this unique tour of seven colonies that are among the 1000 or so territories still part of the British Empire. The title derives from the custom of rendering the British Empire in pink on maps. A former literary editor of the Sunday Times, Ritchie (Success Stories) proves a witty and informative guide to Bermuda, Ascension Island, the Falklands, Gibraltar, Tristan da Cunha, St. Helena, and Turks and Caicos Islands. He found Bermuda, a vacation paradise for the rich, almost too beautiful to be true with economic prosperity and little crime. By contrast, he discovered that residents of St. Helena, where Napoleon was imprisoned from 1815 to 1821, suffer from poverty and unemployment, which, according to the author, results partially from Great Britain's cutbacks in public service and a flawed aid package. Ritchie provides many humorous anecdotes, such as a frustrating and blurry scuba diving experience on Salt Cay (no clothes, no glasses), and vivid descriptions of local personalities. His political observations include a condemnation of Margaret Thatcher for her lack of concern for the inhabitants of the Falklands during the 1982 war and an overview of the complex government of Gibraltar, where much of the citizenry feels abandoned by the British. Ritchie writes with a smooth blend of irony and a faint hint of regret for the Empire's lost grandeur, but he's also serious about one central point: if Britain is to hold on to the remaining pink bits, it has a responsibility to manage them better. (Mar.)