Gombey House is full of interesting features, like this cylindrical aquarium in the foyer. Photo by Nigel Regan
Gombey House is full of interesting features, like this cylindrical aquarium in the foyer. Photo by Nigel Regan
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Dr. Ewart Brown, a man known for his sartorial elegance, cuts a different figure when he answers the door in his leisure suit. "I've just been sorting out the dog," he explains, ushering us inside, offering a drink.

Gombey House, which is situated just behind the Collector's Hill Apothecary in Smith's, is Ewart Brown's castle. He's poured his heart and soul into it, which is one of the reasons he's decided to stay here instead of moving into Clifton, the Premier's official residence, on Middle Road, Devonshire, a few doors down from the U.S. Consul.

"This house was built in 2001 and it was constructed out of non-traditional materials," he says. Despite some initial concerns by the planning department, it stood up to Hurricane Fabian in 2003, which is more than can be said for some of the neighbouring properties. "If you notice, there's no damp in here either," he says.

To enter the large, sky-blue house you have to be buzzed in through an electric gate. One's first impression is how sparse it is. Tiled floors throughout, white walls and sectional areas seem to lack coziness, but after about five minutes, you get into the groove.

It's simply a very modern house. There are artifacts, including paintings by his favourite Bermudian artist Robert Bassett and sculptures dotted about the rooms. There are gombey hats in the foyer, but the main attraction is a large cylindrical aquarium built into a column to the right of a grand staircase.

Dr. Brown takes credit for the décor. " I would have to humbly accept it was my design. I spent a year travelling to Florida and California buying furniture," he said.

The back of the house looks out onto the ocean. There's a small infinity pool; the Premier's dog, Diamond, a good looking red pit-bull cross, stares through the window, courting her master's attention.

In reference to Clifton, he says: "I'm already at home. At this point in my life [he's 60] I don't need to move into another house and if in the equation the taxpayer can benefit, then it's all good."

Clifton, we should note, is being assessed by Works and Engineering before being put out to rent.

Dr. Brown has been Premier for three months now, but he's been a Cabinet Minister for eight years. The big difference he says is: "Now the buck stops at me.

"I'm responsible for ensuring that all ministers are taking care of business. It's enjoyable, but I'm still wrestling with time management."

Dr. Brown is up at 6.30am. He's in the gym at least two mornings a week "45 minutes of cardio and weights" and tries to be in bed by midnight. "Sometimes that's the only time I can see what is happening in the other world, so I watch news and sports until I fall asleep," he said.

It's different from when he was just a minister, he says: "I used to be able to go to bed knowing that every piece of work put in front of me had been done, and now I have to defer some matters to another time."

The principle of "never going to lunch without answering calls that came in the morning or going to dinner without answering calls that came in the afternoon" simply doesn't work anymore. "It's never ending," he said.

Dr. Brown has the weight of the country on his shoulders, but you'd never think it by looking or listening to him. So what's his secret?

"Well, now and then there are things that I worry about, but worrying for me is not the norm. I would rather resolve than worry. Involuntarily, some things will bother me and I can't sleep well. Sometimes I have gotten up at 3am or 4am and worked out the resolution to the problem, then I sleep much better," he said.

We ask Dr. Brown whether he thinks we appreciate where we live, and to what part he thinks the media plays in accentuating the negatives. His answers offer a telling glimpse into why he always seems so calm.

He said: "For the most part, Bermudians and visitors appreciate the quality of life and the beauty of the natural surroundings that we can enjoy free of charge every day."

If there is a cloud, he says: "It probably results from a combination of things.

"First, we are spoilt and because we are spoilt we sometimes look for the cloud outside the silver lining."

Second, he says, is the media.

"I think the media in Bermuda becomes less objective and less happy when they become crusaders for a political cause."

Competition, he says, is the only way we'll get a more balanced picture of life here. That competition includes the new Government TV channel, which starts broadcasting this year.

And then there are the inevitable aspects of living on a small island.

"I've been around long enough to know that people who live in a small community and who know politicians personally tend to personalize politics," he said.

"Overall though, I have found Bermudians to be positive and optimistic since I have been in this job."

If reality is governed by perception, then Dr. Brown appears to have arrived at a very good place. By mixing in different groups and listening to real people, instead of wildly spun stories, he's confident he's got the balance right: He knows how to read his country.