I sit, five months on from our arrival on St Helena and I still have to pinch myself that we are here. We have just enjoyed a family dinner, Tuna steak and fresh salad, on the veranda as we watch the sun go down over the great expanse of ocean before us. The sky becomes a beautiful gradient of colour from deep orange to purple and through to dark blue, a solitary star we know to be Venus shines down on us. It happens less often nowadays, but I still have regular moments of disbelief. For such a long time, both Bev and I had an itch, a need or longing to do something else, live somewhere different and experience new things. After applying for jobs in the US, and looking at options elsewhere in this world, it is here, on this tiny remote Island that we have found our adventure.
Returning inside, Oliver sits with Mum at the table completing the homework that is due in tomorrow, finishing at the last minute just like his Dad used to do! Charlie, wanting to be involved is sat with them, colouring. I look over and have another moment of disbelief, not only am I living in St Helena, but I’m a Dad, how on earth did that happen? I know the technicalities, but I never thought I would be, and yes Oliver is six, I’m not saying I have only just realised I have children, believe me they let me know minute by minute and have done since they arrived. But, like my moment of how did we arrive on St Helena, I still have the occasional, how did I arrive here in life, a Dad, with two boys whom I’m responsible for. I feel no different in myself to when I was at university and yet I have these two little people, complete and individual in every way, lives in my hands to guide and direct. I hope I do and can do them justice.
Moving on from the un-pleasantries of my last blog life continues as per normal on St Helena. When I say as per normal, life on St Helena is never normal. It of course involves passing your open water diving qualification, snorkelling in the bay and at Lemon Valley, photographing the brightest starriest sky I have thus far ever witnessed, birthday parties,hunting for treasure, Sundowners at Donny’s and delivering my first photography course with customers including the acting Governor of the Island. All normal life on this tiny spec in the middle of the Ocean.
Bev has of course returned to teaching with the new school term in full flow. This new term however has at last seen Bev start her Marine Biology work. Not quite delivering, but planning and preparing, speaking to local fishermen and boat operators and planning for an adult learning taster session. Although her work load is still as high as ever, at least now Bev can start the job she was brought here to do thanks to the arrival of a new Chemistry teacher to further strengthen the science department.
Charlie has turned four, four years old! Like many things I can hardly believe it. His birthday, landing on a school day was a quiet affair, opening some presents before school was unavoidable as he headed off with number four badge on his shirt I think looking forward to his day in school awaiting the customary attention and singing from teachers and class mate. Saturday saw his main party. After much deliberation we, (we as in Bev, Charlie and I) decided that the best place for his first Island party would be at Belinda’s (his child minder) which gives me great opportunity to showcase the best child-minder venues in the World. Stunning views and fantastic play for little ones with outdoor space, toys, games and fun galore. In normal style the party went play, eat, party games, eat, play, eat then home! One of the highlights of the afternoon was the cake, a magnificent Pirate cake fit for any young rapscallion and beautifully crafted by our talented friend Julie David (thank you Julie), the cake not only looked amazing but tasted brilliant as the ring of chocolate around my mouth as I type is testament!
The Friday evening prior had seen the real start of Charlie’s birthday, our normal evening at Donny’s was interrupted by screaming children and Charlie delightfully informing us that he had found a treasure map! Carefully planted by good friends Lucy and Andy and their boys, Charlie had found a treasure map inside a bottle that had “washed up” on the rocks at the wharf. With a full weekend the treasure hunting itself would have to wait until Sunday afternoon when we enlisted the help of local guides, Toby and Lawrence, fourteen and eleven to guide us around Plantation wood following the map until we eventually stumbled across “X marks the spot” and a an arrow leading to a tree house. Following the arrow we came across a fortress in the trees heavily guarded and protected by a series of traps and pitfalls. Spotting the potentially dangerous trip wire, Lawrence released one of the traps and to our complete astonishment and surprise a heavy bucket fell to the ground, the treasure had been found. The inflatable boat and oddly for the period an inflatable dinosaur had survived well for over a hundred years in that tree house, and I’m sure the museum will be keen to hear the story of how Charlie battled through thick forest and booby traps to find his treasure. Thank you to the Days for giving Charlie a really wonderful adventure it was fantastic fun.
I continue to be extremely busy, despite my retirement. New projects for the National Trust have allowed me to feel more at home and involved, and I have started to deliver my photography courses, which, so far have been well received. I have on going works for the Tourist office and finally have business cards printed! Life is undoubtedly very full on St Helena, and when not working we are generally enjoying the outdoors. And so it was that, having now passed my Open Water Diving qualification that I went on my first dive without having to take off my mask, prove my neutral buoyancy, or tow a tired diver! It was in fact a very strange feeling, just being permitted to swim and enjoy the sites, not having a pre-determined set of instructions and to just, swim around at leisure. Strange, but wonderful, back on the Papanui and with freedom to explore.
With an outburst of joy and pride when breaking the surface Bev also passed her open water diving last week. At one stage, before setting foot in the water Bev was genuinely unsure as to whether she would indeed complete the course, but in true determined and stubborn style refused to be beaten by her anxiety and took each step as it came. I can’t wait now to share new experiences together and start to discover a new part of St Helena under the waves. It seemed even more fitting that Bev should pass her open water on her birthday and it was a fitting celebration of both her birthday and passing the course that with a large group of our new friends we enjoyed a meal at Tasty bites and a few celebratory drinks.
With the weather now pretty much consistently wonderful it seems the perfect time to have passed our open water diving. Where else in the world can you finish work at 4pm and be diving on a wreck by 5pm, and for less than £20. With the improved weather, water has become a very prominent place of leisure, with three or four trips to the swimming pool a week making our boys more and more competent in the water and another trip to Lemon valley providing more snorkelling and, on this occasion the chance for some fun in the waves as they crashed up on the beach to the delight of jumping children, and indeed adults alike.
And so another month has passed by, an ever present in the back of our minds is just how quick time is passing on St Helena. Our hectic and wonderfully full lives here have the consequence of ensuring days, weeks and months pass quickly by. With some new friends already having been and gone, and some very good friends shortly to leave too, one is always aware of the transient nature of our time here, we will continue to ensure we fill every second of it.