Life

So we are now exactly 17 months into our journey and we have most definitely passed into a place where St Helena feels like home, and this feels like normal life. This time last year we had just experienced six months of whale watching, exploring our new home, walking, swimming diving and snorkelling with whale Sharks, in what felt like a working holiday, one of those volunteer type placements that students do in their gap year! But this year things are distinctly different, but no less brilliant. Life is more “normal” this summer. In fact we are still waiting for summer to arrive, it has been a very long and slow burn with St Helena’s wet, misty mild winter clinging on well past Christmas and into the New Year. The odd day of glorious sunshine arrives, heralding the start of months of sun, only to be wiped out by the evening by the next wave of fog rolling in from the Atlantic.

This has had its effect on our leisure activities, the usual snorkelling and sea swimming has been reduced, and I didn’t start diving until well into December this year as sea temperatures have been slow to rise apparently a result of the large El Nino effect this year. This has also had an effect on the Whale Sharks this year as we await our first swim with them. They have been around St Helena for some time, but only recently have they moved to the North Western, leeward side of the Island where swimming is safe.

Despite the weather we did manage a walk to Cox’s Battery under the magnificent gaze of the Barn.

This has all led us to think and appreciate the other elements to our life here, the general day to day living, the friendly meet and greet in the street and work, which, as far as work can ever be, is pretty great.

Bev introduced a new Marine O’level qualification ten months ago, not only was this a first for St Helena, it’s such a new qualification that it’s only the second year it’s been available anywhere in the World. It is great testament to Bev, and the students therefore that the recently released results read 100% pass, with 1 A*, 1B and 4 C’s. Fantastic result and if teachers are to be blamed when things go bad, there should damn well be some credit when things go well. Im so very proud of the positive impact Bev has made and continues to make on the Island and at Prince Andrew School.

As for me, my working days continue to be varied and interesting. Take last Friday, my day started with two hours of preparation for an online Air Traffic Control exam, the first step in a long process of my next potential dream career. My current dream career of professional photographer was next on the list as I spent a very enjoyable few hours at Rosemary Plain Coffee Plantation where one of the World’s rarest, best and most expensive coffees are grown. I have a new job toSt Helena Coffee produce photos that will potentially be used for point of sale imagery in Harrods, London! I then came home and did further work on some tourist interpretive signage that will soon be erected around the Island. This has been a fantastic job incorporating my photography, my design and much of my text and research that will hopefully be enjoyed by tourists long after I have left St Helena.

Next up was domestic duties as I prepared home-made Carrot and Coriander soup for Bev, nothing better than home cooked dinner when you get home from work as I do my best to juggle my almost full time work with being domestic Dad. This was followed by building another den for the boys who were looking forward to having a friend for a sleep over that night. I feel generally quite proud with how I balance things, there is no doubt that since I have picked up more and more work, the house is less and less clean and tidy, and granted I still struggle with the children and finding enough time for them, but overall Im doing ok at it all.

 

We were very proud of Oliver last weekend as he embarked on his first camping trip with the Local Beavers and Scouts. And what a weekend it was, as we drove to the campsite across the Islands central ridge, the journey to the end of the World sprang to mind as we drive through fog so thick I could barely see the end of the car, never mind the road. As we descended from the ridge the fog thinned and visibility increased to a positively clear 20m or so. We arrived at the camp site, an area called Thompson wood, which, under different circumstances I imagine very beautiful, but today it reminded me of summer holidays in the Lake District. Wet, cold muddy and really not inviting. Oliver was undeterred and although nervous he ran off with his friends, leaving me and Charlie to try and get the car out of the quagmire! Oliver spent two nights on camp, sleeping in a sleeping bag on the floor, eating food they had made and cooked on a log fire, running around a muddy field and playing with friends. He came home in the same clothes I left him in, having not changed out of them even once, he smelt bad and his hair was disgusting, but he absolutely loved it! Considering we were over four thousand miles from the UK, this was camping UK style, in a way that only Brits can, or would even consider doing!

This last weekend has seen a return to the life we remembered from last summer on St Helena. On Saturday we celebrated Charlie’s 5th Birthday with a barbeque, swimming and water sports fun in Ruperts Valley. Charlie, having had his first taste on Jet Ski’s a few weeks ago at Lemon Valley was desperate for another go, so we agreed to hire one of the local providers, Oceano Extreme. Jet Ski’s, knee boarding, banana boat rides and speed boats were the order of the day and fun was had by all. Back in the UK I’ve no doubt that Charlies 5th birthday would have been a party at soft play, or maybe at home with a bouncy castle, the fact that we can have a barbeque by the sea, swim and enjoy jet skis is just one of the normalities, and huge bonuses of life here.

Sunday started as a beautiful sunny day, and despite all being tired and feeling rather lazy we decided to clear off the hangover with a swim and snorkel in James Bay. As the waters have now warmed up a bit we plunged in and enjoyed the site of hundreds of butterfly fish, curious puffers and the ever present five fingers!

 

Despite all the positives, life on St Helena was brought into stark reality last week, as a baby, born prematurely needed to be medevacked off the Island. An incredible joint effort and community driven machine suddenly rolled into action. The RMS, on its way back from Ascension Island was hurried to arrive in port some 12 hours early. Containers were unloaded and loaded through the night, and travellers, due to depart on the 17th January were contacted and rushed to prepare for departure a full 24 hours early.  Tourists cut short their holidays, crew cut short their shore leave and volunteers and staff at the hospital worked tirelessly through the night and early morning to ensure that the young child was on board with all the necessary life support equipment for the journey.

It is with huge sadness that I tell you the poor boy did not make the journey and passed away on route to Walvis Bay, Namibia. I cannot begin to imagine the suffering of the poor parents, one of whom travelled whilst the other waited anxiously at home. There are many sides to the airport story on St Helena and whether it will bring improvements, and prosperity to the Island, or destroy a way of life and community, but I feel the community on St Helena is more than strong enough to survive a few more tourists and when events occur as they did last week it highlights the desperate need to be able to get patients to medical care quicker than is currently possible. The hospital here is undergoing a multi-million pound upgrade, the staff are nothing short of incredible, but it is a stark reality that a population of four thousand people can never have all of the specialist care and experience that a medical team in a major city hospital will have, and there will always be a need to get people to that care as quickly as possible. We wait with bated breath to hear when indeed that airport will be open and quicker passage is possible.

I leave today’s blog with the words of Lisa Rhodes, Hospital Senior Nursing Officer, all round incredible woman, and Im proud to say good friend. I recall a message from Lisa before she arrived here, the strictly London City girl incredibly nervous about how she would cope on such a small Island and close community, everyone knowing each other’s business. Lisa travelled with the patient to Walvis bay and was integral in the effort to get him there, she wrote to the local paper whilst on route to Walvis bay and here is what she had to say. For all the ups and downs on St Helena, the problems people face and the wonderful experiences we have had, this is what St Helena is all about, and anyone who has had the privilege of living and working here, experiencing life here will know this all too well.

“ I am sitting on the RMS at a bit of a loss for words with the events of the last week. Everyone involved in this situation is truly devastated and our hearts are breaking for two wonderful parents and their beautiful brave little boy.

In the midst of all this I feel I have a need to say thank you.

Thank you to all of the staff in the hospital, who, when faced with an emergency ensured that everything kept running smoothly. It is a testament to your knowledge and skill. This allowed those who were needed to be able to focus on the job in hand. I am so very proud of the amazing team we have become; Cleaners, Nursing Assistants, Nurses, Doctors, Kitchen staff, Admin staff, Pharmacy, Laboratory,…..the list goes on. We were faced with a situation that no one wanted to be in, but together we dealt with it. In a time of negativity and bad press towards the services, it needed to be highlighted that an outstanding job was done by all.

I need to thank all of those who stayed late and came in early to help organise the medivac effort. We could not have done this without the hard work and support of our Director and Assistant Director. A huge number of hours were put in across SHG to try and get a solution. To the guys who were at the hospital at 5am to help us move the huge amount of equipment needed for our journey, thank you for your patience and care with our equipment and our very precious cargo.

To the RMS and shipping for their help in getting into St Helena early, and allowing us to leave earlier than scheduled. The Captain and crew have been no less than outstanding throughout. To all the passengers who had to leave a day early, thank you. Thank you for accepting this change of plan with such grace and compassion and for being so supportive towards us all on this trip. To the staff on the wharf loading and unloading passengers at unusual hours so we could get away early….thank you.

It is once again a testament to the Island that in times of crisis and need, everyone steps up and stands together regardless of whether they are Saint, British, South African or from elsewhere on the globe. The team work that I witnessed throughout could not be matched anywhere in the World and I am so privileged to be part of this team and this Island.

No number of thank you’s will ever be enough to convey my gratitude”.

Lisa Rhodes. Hospital Nursing Officer.

Studio Photoshoot

Ok, so I realise my last and this blog have little to do with St Helena, but they are part of my life here and as this is my life in pictures it constitutes part of my life on St Helena.

I have done a few studio shoots now, but this was my first that involved a model, just one person, a very beautiful young model, and as it happen baby sitter to Oliver and Charlie, who asked me to do a studio shoot with her.

Given that this was my first attempt at anything like this Im thrilled with the result, not much more to say, but please enjoy the photos._MG_0994-Edit_MG_1021-Edit_MG_0918-Edit_MG_0941-Edit_MG_0950-Edit_MG_0984-Edit_MG_0994-Edit-2_MG_0984-Edit-2_MG_0998-Edit_MG_0931-Edit_MG_0950-Edit-2_MG_1005-Edit_MG_0957-Edit_MG_1012-Edit_MG_0998-Edit-2_MG_1005-Edit-2_MG_0957-Edit-2_MG_1013-Edit_MG_0968-Edit_MG_0974-Edit

Miss St Helena Photoshoot

Just before Christmas I had the privilege of a photo-shoot with Sinead Green, non other than Miss St Helena. This was an opportunity for me to practice and enter a place I had not done before, fashion photography. Sinead is not a professional, but she has had some experience of photo-shoots before, and in her role of Miss St Helena is comfortable in front of a camera.

We went up to High Knoll Fort and arriving early I set up my lighting and waited nervously. I needn’t of been nervous at all, Sinead was fantastic and put me at ease. I explained to her that I was no pro, and that if I spent half my time fumbling around not really knowing what I was doing, that was because I didnt really know what I was doing, this was a whole new ball game._MG_8633-Edit-2

_MG_8658-Edit_MG_8599-Edit_MG_8609-Edit-EditThe shoot went well in the more shaded parts of the Fort, with easy, subtle ambient lighting, but I wanted to challenge myself and shoot directly into the setting sunlight. This proved to be difficult, and full or errors. At the time I did not know what I was doing wrong, but the shoot served its purpose after I went away and figured things out, where I went wrong and what to change next time.

Still, at the end of the day the point of photography is to take some nice pictures, and I think I accomplished that. I went away and tried a bit of editing, with some new techniques and with an attempt to experiment with different styles, colours and moods. They are not without fault, and I have a long way to go, but for my first ever fashion type shoot, I could not be more pleased. 2015 High Knoll Fort,  St Helena, 2016… London, Paris, Milan, or maybe Ill just stay here for now!!!

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Not a usual pose or shot but I wanted to try something different with a bit of drama!

 

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This was just a test shot, to check my lights were working,  hence the crop isnt great, but I loved it.

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So many technical errors, but I think it works??

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Blown out highlights and not enough light on the subject, but it looks nice!

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1960’s postcard?

Christmas 2015!

So it’s New Year’s Day, the first day of 2016, and I sit with tired eyes following my 3.30am finish last night, Old Years Night as it is fondly know on St Helena. I look back on 2015 with huge joy and pleasure, what an incredible year, a brief look back through my blog titles shows just how packed with everything it has been. And as I look forward to 2016 I can only hope it comes close to the year just gone.

Despite the unseasonably poor weather we have had some fantastic sunny days during the holidays.

Christmas has been lovely once more. It started with the festival of lights, and culminated on Christmas day with twenty seven people under gazeebo’s on our lawn. We organised a Christmas themed bring a share, a regular tradition on St Helena where everyone brings a few dishes to share amongst the guests, it certainly takes the hard work out of feeding that many people. We had food of all types and although generally themed around a Traditional Turkey dinner the vegetarian options and Baked Sweet Potato with Marshmallow added definite variety and interest!

Christmas on St Helena is, like anywhere else in the World a time for family, and as such, it can be difficult for the Ex-pat families here, missing loved ones back in the UK. With Saints celebrating with their own families, Ex-Pats band together in groups of variable sizes on Christmas days itself, and our group was simply the best, what great friends we have made here with a true sense of companionship. Christmas last year was spent with the David’s, they were missed this year, but like everything else time moves on and I looked arou8nd to see so many new friends that have arrived in the last year.

This year I missed my family more than last, everything was new last year and in many ways I was still on holiday, but this year, Bev and I both had thoughts of home with us as Christmas approached. Our huge extended family on St Helena made the Christmas holiday such wonderful fun, filled with warmth and laughter that it helps to ease the pain of missing loved ones.

Boxing Day was, as per usual filled with Turkey Sandwich, sitting down, and lots and lots of football, a typical boxing day for me. What has not been typical however is the unseasonably poor weather, days filled with cloud and drizzle when it should be tropical sunshine. Sympathetic to the blight of many people in the UK right now, I don’t wish to bemoan the weather too greatly, but we are all waiting for the summer to truly break here. That being said it’s not many a year that I am able to continue to wear shorts, have Christmas Dinner on the lawn and spend days splashing and swimming in the Sea.

Rupert’s Valley is not by any stretch of the imagination a beautiful tropical beach, however, it is a beach, and the only easily accessible beach, that you can safely swim from on the Island. Rupert’s valley is the site of the new Wharf under construction, and of the main fuel storage on St Helena, as such it is an industrialised area, but it is not without its own charm, and in warm weather Islanders flock here in numbers to enjoy a barbeque, swim and sand castles. Following Old Years Night, Rupert’s is the premier spot for washing off the hangover on New Year’s Day and we were no exception. The boys love it here, jumping into the waves as they roll and crash. You will often hear that there are no safe swimming beaches on St Helena, this is, as you can see, un-0ture, but this may be a new phenomenon as we are told that Rupert’s Valley, just two years ago did not have a permanent beach. The construction of the Wharf appears to of changed that and sand is building up rapidly such that we have noticed a huge difference in the short time we have been on this ever enchanting Island.

Despite being called the Christmas holidays, I have never been busier, and in fact If I recall correctly, Christmas Days itself is the only day thus far that I have not been working. Suddenly, and out of no-where I have been getting requests for studio photoshoots, people seemingly wishing to give photos as Christmas gifts. My first was back at the beginning of December, a paper advert and Facebook promotion later and things took off in a big way and I’m delighted to be using my new studio equipment and developing a brand new arm to my photography. It genuinely boggles my mind that I am doing this, me, a photographer, earning a living from taking photos, it is amazing how the World can change around you. Not that I haven’t worked hard for it mind and December has seen regular 15 hour days of editing to get photos ready for gifts in time for Christmas. It has of course been a lovely way to meet new people and I hope it continues into 2016.

This time last night Bev and I had just returned home from a lovely party, and put the children to bed. We opened a bottle of bubbly and saw in the New Year just the two of us, it was lovely. Sometimes, on an Island so full of people, parties and get togethers, it’s nice to be alone with the one you love. We kissed, and wished each other all the best for 2016. What will it bring, I do not know, but you can be dam sure it will not be dull, and I simply can’t wait to find out. Thank You St Helena, thank you 2015, you have been bloody brilliant.