At the end of our second full week on the Island we are adjusting to our new life. We are already facing turbulent times, but reflection (and blog writing) permits me to put things into perspective and to contemplate these challenges in a way we seldom permit time for in our real lives.
Charlie is slowly settling into school, but appears to spend most of his time with the teacher and not so with the other young boys and girls in his class. His early years, have been surrounded by older children and its clear he finds it much easier to play with and, in reality copy, children some years his senior. The move however, and indeed starting school, does not seem to of given him any great cause for concern and he is apparently handling things far better than his parents and sibling.
I think the biggest and most important part of Charlie’s life has always been his older brother. Whilst fighting and arguing with Oliver, like all siblings, he simply idolises his older brother, copying his every move and hanging on his every word. In effect the important elements of Charlie’s world have not been altered, Mum and Dad are still Mum and Dad, and Oliver is still by his side.
Oliver on the other hand is finding change difficult, like many young children and in fact his Dad, he finds making friends a challenge and his school days are filled up ups and downs. Happy whilst in class learning and discovering new things, but we suspect sad and a little lonely when play time comes round.
Along with making his parents very sad, this is bringing with it a serious downturn in his normal good behaviour and kindly thoughts and at times this week he has pushed Bev and I to our limits. Time, support and cuddles will no doubt see him through this difficult period. A few humpback whales to watch, scorpions to unearth and rock-pooling at the weekends we help will help too.
Bev is settling into work and getting to grips with new, and often inadequate resources and systems . Prince Andrews School is one full of friendly people and dedicated staff, but still very much in development and a period of betterment. With results improving year on year, and investment in good teachers such as Bev and her new colleagues there is no doubt that the challenges the school faces can be overcome with time.
Bev’s greatest trial of our new life is that of a change in family dynamic, with my new role as “primary care giver” and Bev’s reduced contact with the boys. In reality this change is, I believe, more perceived than reality and once we settle into our new way of life I hope Bev will see her importance and central role in the boys life has, and will not change. Working an additional day a week is made up for with real quality time with the family when not glued to lesson planning and book marking. Despite my extra contact with the boys, thus far at least, it is still their wonderful Mum that they undoubtedly long for in her absence and turn to in their need.
As of for me, my days are filled with shopping, cooking, cleaning, household DIY and other such things. Finding my way round town I am becoming more experienced when it comes to shopping, and familiar with what to find where and when. I remain however some way of achieving my full qualifications in Saint Helena foraging. I am enjoying a return to a previous passion and today’s culinary delights consisted of reasonable Leek and Potato and the best Carrot and Coriander soup I ever did taste.
My own adjustment to life is, as I expected, undramatic but not without its own bumps and occasional downturns. I often find myself feeling strangely inadequate in my “retirement”, searching for a greater contribution to this small island, a sense of my place, and a feeling of greater self-perceived importance. My adjustments to being the Dad I think I should be is still far from complete.
It would be easy to blame our move for these difficulties, and to question the choices we have made, especially when concerning our children and the adjustments we are asking them to make. But is anything I have described above unique to our life on St Helena, are they issues we have not come across before? Is finding the right family balance, of parental roles, work life balance, and growing pains of children something that is not familiar to all the parents back at home reading this blog? I suspect not, and I take comfort in the relative normality and familiarity of our tribulations on this otherwise remote Island. The problems we must overcome are not ones of change of culture, wealth, health or other misfortune, but are commensurate with those faced by all families irrelevant of where they live.
A final thought on the subject of change and our necessary adjustments is the perception of time. It seems to me incredible that this is the end of only our second week. Having prepared and travelled for such a period as to put two weeks into near irrelevance, it should be clear that two weeks alone is no time for Bev, nor I and certainly not our children to have adjusted to our new life. And yet somehow it feels as though we have already been here a lifetime, and what was once a search on google earth and images, is now just our normality.
One final aim and challenge for myself is to improve my level of fitness. To that end I have joined the local “veterans” five a side team, commence badminton next week, and twice weekly I near kill myself upon the steps of Jacobs Ladder.
Constructed in 1829 to haul manure up the steep slopes of James Town valley , the 699 steps rise 640ft at a 1:1 incline. My aim is to complete this gruelling trial twice a week and see how close I can get to the current record time of 5 minutes 16 seconds set in 2013. With an initial time of 10 minutes 26 seconds and a near heart attack upon completion I have some way to go, but I have two years to accomplish my challenge.