Carol Carvalho loves to shop but has a rule: for every item that she buys, another has to go.

The monthly car boot sale at Peace Lutheran Church in Paget is where she drops many of them off.

“I hate clutter,” said the 75-year-old, who has organised the boot sale for the past four years and is one of 20 vendors who regularly take part.

“The church asked me to do it. It is very popular. I usually set up at about 6am and there are people waiting at that time. We also get a lot of people stopping by on their way to work at [King Edward VII Memorial Hospital].”

The event was shuttered for months by Covid-19. People, who have been calling “non-stop” to find out when it would start again, were thrilled to hear it would reopen on August 22.

“I think everyone is cleaning out their closets right now,” Ms Carvalho said.

She is no exception. Among the “treasures” waiting in her spare room for a new home are an old clock, clothes with tags still on them and a mint condition Sir Elton John T-shirt from his Red Piano residency at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada 11 years ago.

She grew up in Harrow on the Hill, in London, the only child of Joyce and Geoffrey West. Their community neighboured was Pinner, where the now famous singer grew up.

Just after graduating from secretarial school, she did some typing for a music producer in the area. As payment he arranged for Bluesology, Elton John’s first professional band, to play at her 21st birthday party.

“I’d never heard of him,” she said. “It was 1966 and he was only just becoming known. I got this phone call. A voice said: ‘This is Elton John. My real name is Reg Dwight.’ He asked if £60 would be OK. That was nothing in those days, the equivalent of $80 today. He asked if the band could take two 20-minute breaks. I said that was fine. They were fantastic.”

Not long after, her mother suggested she apply for a job in Bermuda.

“I was looking for a change of venue,” she said. “My mother was in the travel business. A couple of people in her office had just come back from Bermuda. They said: ‘Bermuda is looking for staff.’”

Hoteliers Warren Hallamore and George Wardman of the Horizons Group just happened to be in London at that time, looking for staff.

“Within 48 hours of interviewing with them I had a job offer,” she said.

She arrived on the island in January 1967 to work on the reception desk at Newstead.

“It was beautiful when I first came to Bermuda, but it was totally different,” she said.

“The hotels were jam-packed then. If you wanted a booking in a hotel you’d have to book months in advance. And it was all repeat business. There were so many nightclubs on the island and they were packed every night.”

She started dating Jose Carvalho, a “news reader and a DJ” for ZBM but, missing her family, she went home at Christmas.

Her plan had been to only stay for two weeks but she instead married an old boyfriend and remained in England.

She found work with an American company that represented hotels in Bermuda and Spain and made a name for herself organising golf tours and events in Marbella.

“I helped to put the place on the map,” she said.

After nine years she divorced and, in 1979, returned to Bermuda to be with Mr Carvalho.

They were married in July of the following year. Only a short time later, doctors found a tumour between Mr Carvalho’s ribs. He died two weeks short of their second wedding anniversary.

She thinks if his cancer had been discovered today, doctors would have been able to treat it better.

“He was the love of my life,” she said.

“I have never married again. They broke the mould when he died.”

Not liking the greyness of London, she stayed in Bermuda and opened a staff recruitment agency with Sharon Greenslade, Executemps Ltd.

“After a few years, Sharon wanted to retire and I was on my own,” she said.

“It was an ideal opportunity for me to be a solo business.

“It worked very well. It was also a secretarial service as well. I used to do a lot of permanent placements but I stopped doing that about 15 years ago because by that time most companies had their own human resources department because there were a lot of agencies charging high fees.”

In March, she sold the business to Michelle White, and is now retired.

“I’d like to keep travelling,” she said.

One of her favourite destinations is San Diego, California.

“About 20 years ago I went to New Zealand,” she said.

“I had a choice of coming back through Los Angeles or San Diego. I hate Los Angeles but I heard there was a great zoo in San Diego.”

She fell in love with the city and now tries to go at least four times a year; the shops are of huge appeal.

She also loves decorating her home and, in her twenties, took a course in interior design.

The Royal Gazette