…….Or should I say how long have we got, because our time here continues to be simply brilliant and quite frankly I wish it would never end. Normally family ups and downs aside, when I sit back and think about the times we are having it becomes a little astonishing. Tonight’s blog entry is no exception and my ability to keep our stories to a reasonable length will be tested such is the diversity and frequency of good times we are accumulating .
For the past two weekends have started with a morning walk, nothing exceptional there of course. However the walk is along a section of the central ridge, with stunning views down to the Atlantic Ocean on either side, this walk is not a normal walk, when you then factor in the fact that we are walking, or should I more correctly say being walked by Donkeys, then we see that nothing in St Helena is normal, and few things are less than exceptional.
The island of St Helena, given its extreme topography, had relied for many years on the use of donkeys to haul goods, food, water, fish and lots of flax around the island and up and down extreme cliffs, mountain paths and just about anywhere they were needed. As little as twenty years ago it seems that donkeys were still in very regular use across the Island. Thankfully with improved roads and more significantly, improved cars and trucks, the donkeys are largely surplus to requirements and a good number of them have now found refuge in the St Helena Donkey Sanctuary. Set up some four or five years ago to provide a restful retirement for these lovely animals and providing, each Saturday, the opportunity for the public to take them for a walk.
This is one of the unique things about St Helena, a large group of people, locals and expats alike, and from all walks of life, gathers to enjoy the simple pleasure of walking a donkey.
I was lucky enough to walk Prince, a grand old boy, weak in the knees, almost blind, and absolutely lovely. One of the few donkeys to of still been working as little as a few months ago he is now enjoying his leisurely life in the sanctuary, Prince and I bonded well.
We also took in our first post box walk as a family. Across the Island there are numerous walks, and a few years back attempts were made to open up some of the walks, at varying difficulties to make them accessible to tourists and locals alike. Each is finished at a small post which contains a stamp with which the accompanying guide book can then be marked upon successful completion of the walk. We took on one of the easy walks up High Peak, one of the highest peaks on the Island but little distance from the nearby road. Taking a route through steep slopes of thick flax some 2m or more high, the boys felt like explorers cutting through a thick jungle. Past a spring full of tadpoles and eventually up onto a high ridge with extraordinary views of Sandy Bay.
As we passed through the flax jungle, Charlie started to scratch his backside, nothing as it happens of any particular surprise when Charlie is concerned. After a while I told him to leave himself alone and he exclaimed, “but I have something in my bum!” . Somewhat dismissively I agree to check and sure enough, reaching into his shorts I pulled out a small round shiny object, a Trolley Pound! How on earth a trolley pound found its way into Charlie shorts on an Island that does not even have trollies I will never know!! Reaching the summit we saw our first endemic St Helena Tree ferns. These ferns are prehistoric and although only in isolated stands on High Peak they still take you back to another time or world.
The morning of the 9th of November, was spent, like many others paying our respects to those who gave their lives for the freedom of all, and somehow even this was different on St Helena. Held at the island’s cenotaph on the water front a large crowd had gather to pay respects and watch the ceremony led by acting Governor Burns. The sound of waves crashing behind us added to the atmosphere and the boy’s impeccable behaviour helped to make the morning an enjoyable and somehow appropriate one.
The afternoon was spent in the sunshine in James Bay, rock pooling and testing out my new wetsuit with a little snorkelling in the bay. Bev and I have now passed our diving theory course, the pool is almost full and we can expect our practical lessons to commence in the next couple of weeks. Given the quality of snorkelling just yards from the town centre I simply cannot wait to don my cylinders and step out into deeper water and the numerous shipwrecks around the Island.
Friday night saw our regular evening at Donny’s bar watching the sun go down. This Friday however took a new turn and I stayed out late, drinking Gunpowders (Spice Rum, Lime and Lemonade) and treating the crowd to my karaoke talents, friends at home will know how I love a bit of karaoke. Along with ex-pats and Saints alike we all partied into the night and after much singing, dancing and many many drinks a great night out Saint style was had by all. It is a long time that evenings have been warm enough in the UK to be out under the stars till past 1am, but I suspect it will not be an uncommon occurrence on St Helena!
Oliver has joined in with one of the local junior football teams on a Thursday night. Lack of numbers on Island and the season coming to a close means he currently is the youngest player amongst a group of players up to twelve years in age. After a tentative start he thoroughly enjoys going up against “the big boys” and I hope it will help him learn and develop and increase his confidence. I am also enjoying the opportunity to coach again, (I coached an under 6 team back in the UK, one of the things I miss most) helping out with the local coach of all sports here on the island.
Finally I am especially pleased to report that I have started work with the St Helena National Trust. Although the post is unpaid due to the limited budget of the trust I will be working part time as Director of Communications. The St Helena National Trust, like that of the UK and other nations is a non-government organisation, a charity, established for the protection of the Islands built, natural and cultural heritage. The work they do and plan to do is vital to the Island and I am very proud to be a part of it. A fantastic opportunity for me to develop many of the skills I had already established in previous roles I will be responsible for company branding, internal and external communications, developing interpretive material for historic and natural sites on the Island and will have the enviable opportunity to work on the production of a guide book and photo book, featuring my own work. If I am able to leave the Island with a book I produced to help others gain the enjoyment I am, then I will be very happy indeed. Keep your eyes peeled here for how you can help with this exciting and important project.
So another two weeks has passed by, and once again I have the opportunity to sit and recount the story of my family on St Helena. Writing a blog has become very important to me for many reasons, to reflect and realise the wonderful opportunities we are lucky enough to be enjoying is, I think, the most important of those and I can scarcely believe .that three months into our adventure I still have so much to talk about.