I didn’t and don’t expect the current pace of my updates to continue, but at the present time there is a continuation of new things to speak of and discoveries to be made such that I cannot help but feel obligated to continue writing with the same celerity.
We have just finished our second week on “Our Island” (as Charlie continues to call it), and we are already establishing that weekends and the activities thereof are the reason we have taken this move.
Our weekends start early on Fridays at Donny’s bar on the waterfront. A friendly bar frequented in early evening by families and ex pats. Our ship mates also take the opportunity to meet up and discuss their week’s, share stories’ and exchange information on discoveries of new shops, the availability of fresh fruit or vegetables and new parts of the Islands yet to be explored. Although I am yet to witness it myself the opportunity to observe a breaching Humpback Whales whilst enjoying a beer certainly adds to the attraction.
Food is served at the local takeaway where we are rapidly learning the Saints propensity for shortening time and that 15 minutes is usually more akin to 45, and subsequently that tomorrow or “soon” generally means at some point in the future.
Following that, weekends have been spent with a morning outing followed by a social nicety of one sort or another. Our first weekend introduced us to the huge diversity and fascinating world of St Helena flora. During a walk through the grounds of Plantation House, the Governors Island residence, we encountered endemic flowers, lush green carpets of moss thick enough to bounce on, Eucalyptus trees and stands of Bamboo 12 inches thick and 15m high. After a time of exploration and further research I shall no doubt dedicate several pages and numerous images to the Islands fascinating fauna and flora.
Upon leaving the grounds of Plantation house we met a local Saint, who, with the customary combination of friendliness and intrigue took the time to say hello and engage us is conversation. To our own amusement the lady enquired if we knew of the gentleman from the UK her daughter had married, given that his surname was Wright it was expected that we may know him. We didn’t have the heart to tell her that on a somewhat larger Island of 60 or so million people its unlikely that we knew him just from his surname.
Evening was spent enjoying a home cooked dinner of Tuna steak and Barrracuda, or Wahoo as it is known locally, with enough fish to feed four of us for less than £3. Some things are undoubtedly more expensive, others are considerably cheaper!
This weekend has been even more enjoyable. Saturday morning was spent at an altitude of 750m in a cloud forest at High Peak, volunteering with a community conservation scheme. The children relishing the opportunity to become caked in mud whilst pulling up the invasive Ginger Root, planting native trees and shrubs and building paths. This also gave me the opportunity to speak with a resident expert on Island flora and start to add names to the amazing array of plant species we have encountered.
After a hard working three hours we were rewarded with our first sample of local cuisine, a Paella type dish known locally as Pillau, and bloody lovely it was too! Lunch provided the experience of conversing with bug man Dave. Dave is a true geek in the best possible sense, and a fountain of knowledge when it comes to local fauna. During his time on Island he has discovered several new species of endemic insects, declared two extinct and is now in the process of listing 200 further species of insects on the IUCN Redlist.
The rest of the day was spent enjoying an afternoon Tea at Patsy’s house. This was enjoyable for so many reasons; firstly we visited Harlyn, a house of 186 years and the reference point of our own address, Near Harlyn! Of greater importance was the delightful time spent with one of the Islands most loved people. On Saint Helena it seems some people are held in great Esteem and respect. As a former head teacher, landlady of one of the Islands oldest houses, mother to the Captain of the RMS St Helena, charity fundraiser, coffee morning host and much more besides Patsy falls within that category. A wonderful lunch of home-made breads and cakes was followed with a tour of her fascinating house and long conversation about her family’s history on the Island and the encyclopaedic knowledge of the Island’s people and of bygone times.
Today (Sunday as I write) we spent the morning aboard a whale/dolphin watching trip. Alas, and against all expectations and prior enunciations we saw nothing, not a whale, dolphin or even Masked Booby! But the trip was still thoroughly enjoyable and afforded further opportunity to meet various people and, in true Saint tradition, find out what they do and how they may be useful to our stay on the Island.
Our afternoon was spent with the aforementioned Days family, Andy, Lucy and their two children Toby and Lawrence. A constant source of help and support aboard the RMS and during our feet finding first days on the Island, this afternoon was about developing friendship. We could not of had a more enjoyable afternoon with roast Chicken, walking, and construction of essential additions to a jungle tree house. When adding in superb roast potatoes to top off enjoyable conversation in lovely company, the day left both Bev and I feeling warm and fuzzy about making new friends and the good time to be had ahead of us.
It seems that beyond the spectacular landscape, the fascinating flora and fauna, the challenges to overcome and opportunities to be had, this trip is about people. It may yet turn me into a gregarious human being instead of the socially awkward and positively miserable git that I currently am.
Finally, if the weekend could not get any better our scooter has arrived having passed its MOT, Oliver, following in his fathers footsteps with his new found love of photography saw fit to take some photos of my first, somewhat wobbly, steps on our new Island toy. I must add by the end of the weekend I was heading off at close to 40mph (downhill of course)
Oh, and we may also be buying a boat!