So a day later I set off along the cracked island roads, perhaps the same paths that British pioneers trod alongside soldiers (although I doubt they had the option, as I do, to sidetrack to a beachside bar for some calypso and piña coladas). At Cane Garden Bay I pull into the Callwood Rum Distillery. A British family founded it in the 1700s, so I expect to see a Union Jack and white-gloved pourers. Instead, I find a stone barn covered in moss and exuding the scent of burnt cane. I walk inside. A teenage girl with braids serves rum samples, assisted by her 7-year-old sister. She explains that the family still crushes cane in a hand-operated press, then ages it for 10 years in oak barrels, which look like they were left behind by Blackbeard. I ask if she feels the tug of the Mother Country.
"Mother Country?" she repeats.
So I translate. "Are you British at heart?"
"Oh, I've never been to Britain," the teen shrugs, measuring another rum tot. "But I want to go to New York someday. You should go to Road Town to find that old-time British stuff."
Turns out that Road Town, the capital city, does have its historic charm. Main Street is so narrow and crooked it defies all traffic but pedestrians, goats and chickens. Faded relics of the colonial age stand out — a boarded-up jail with stone walls, a Victorian post office with peeling white paint. I hike to Old Government House, where the elderly lady attendant seems astonished to see a visitor with a question.
"You won't find anything more British than this," she says. In a room laden with crystal and silver, photographs of the Queen beam down beatifically from the walls. The attendant tells me that on her majesty's last visit in 1977, while she was touring in a battered Lincoln Continental, an empty beer bottle rolled from under the seat onto her foot.