The Leaving of St Helena

In just four short months our time on St Helena will come to a close as we board the RMS one last time, and look behind us to see our wonderful home disappear into the distance. Coming out here was difficult, but we always knew it would be temporary and we would soon see the faces of the people we love again. Leaving St Helena is far far harder, and will seem very permanent.

At least, it would be if we were actually leaving, but Im thrilled to say, Bev has been offered an extension to her contract, and we have an additional year here. And a bloody good job too, whilst I know this news is difficult to hear for our loved ones back at home (don’t worry, this isn’t the way they have found out, we did tell our family first) the prospect of leaving now is just plain wrong, in so many ways it feels as though we have only just arrived. St Helena is strange, you very quickly feel at home and get settled, and yet 18months on it feels as though we just took our first steps onto the wharf. Its been 6 months since we returned from our mid-term break in the UK, 6 months, how can that be, Im still trying to lose the wait I put on drinking all that real ale!!

Despite the fact we are not leaving, it has brought the prospect firmly into our heads. Coming to St Helena, it turns out, was very strait forward. The government found us a house, enrolled our children in school, put the first months wages into our St Helena Bank account, which took the filling of one form to set up. We were met at the Wharf and driven to our new home. Our belongings were collected at the wharf and brought to our house, and unloaded for us. Although it seemed like a gigantic momentous thing to be doing, it was largely stress free and uneventful, everything was done for us and we just had to turn up at Heathrow Airport on time.

Leaving on the other hand is a much bigger job. We have to find work, and get that work without being able to interview, we don’t know where will be living and no-one is going to find a house for us. We need to enrol the boys in school, and do so months in advance without actually knowing what part of the country we will be living in. We will not be met at the airport and taken to a nice new house, and our belongings will not empty themselves from storage and magically find themselves at our new home. Quite frankly the logistics of going home are too big to contemplate so for now, Ill concentrate on Whale sharks and diving and leave my feable mind alone.

The past few weeks have been some of my most difficult on the Island. From day one I have had ups and downs, the ups due to St Helena, the downs due to me, and my role here. The last few weeks have been particularly difficult. Those who read the post a few weeks back will recall I was applying for a position on the Air Traffic Control training course, a long lengthy process that would result in a job for life when we get home. I fell at the second hurdle, despite having put everything I could into it (most of which it turns out was irrelavent). I failed, and not even a long way into the process, but at the second step, a relatively simple online test stage. I was devastated, in my head I was already on the course, and I had pinned so much of our future on it, and so much of my thoughts, efforts and time had gone into preparation it left me feeling empty and worthless. I have always done well academically, getting more out that the effort I had put in, but this was different. I had worked as hard at this as anything I have ever been tested in, and failed. It felt like a hammer blow, and has left me wondering what I will do in the UK, and more importantly what I actually can do. The combination of my qualifications and experience only leave me good for work in aquariums, and good ones are few and far between with vacancies a rarity and wages poor.

For the first time in my life I feel pretty useless, at pretty much everything. I had been working so hard on test preparation that I hadn’t noticed the photography work dropping off. There was suddenly a big gap and I went from being over worked to having nothing to do. Day after day felt like a pile of washing and endless cleaning, broken by scrolling through pages and pages of facebook trash and status updates. So much of my time was spent cleaning that when Bev and the boys got home I resented them being here, brining messy shoes and dropping bags on the floor of my nice clean floor. One day I spent a full 8 hours cleaning, the house was spotless, you could of licked the floor behind the washing machine, and dishwasher, and fridge, and freezer and, well you get the idea, it was clean. Within minutes of the boys getting home a trail of mud ran from the door the lounge and I wanted to cry. Mum, Im sorry for all those times I didn’t understand, I truly am.

It has all been affecting me much more than it should, hours have been spent worrying about what it is Im actually capable of doing when we get home. I always knew coming to St Helena would change something, and I knew being house husband would be a challenge, but I didn’t expect it to fundamentally change how I view myself. Once full of ego and my own ability I feel lost in a pit of self-doubt right now. I always promised that my blog would reflect how I feel and live this adventure, people tell me it’s what makes my blog different,  so although this is uncomfortable to write, I shouldn’t now shy away from it.

This journey was meant, more than anything, to bring me closer to the boys, to make me a better Dad, and I feel farther from that goal now than at any point. When I reflect honestly, and without a heavy heart I recognise that I do spent more time with them, I do play with them more, but the past few weeks have been so hard. I have failed in every sense to be the Dad I want to be. I have failed to see any good in my own children, hating their presence in my clean house, and their noise disturbing me from my facebook stories. It has been quite unhealthy.

Excuse after excuse has been given as to why I have not resumed my swimming and my days have been a mix of chocolate and tinned ham sandwiches, whilst my evenings have been about beer. Two nights ago as I write, Bev and I watched Love Actually, now this is perhaps the hardest thing to admit of all, but Im a sucker for a romantic comedy. This probably does not come as a great surprise to my Mum who has seen me grow up as an awkward teenager hopelessly moving from one unrequited love to the next. As we watched I thought to myself, why can’t my boys be as lovely as that one, why can’t they bond with me like that, and respond to me like that? Only that morning the magic wands that I ordered months ago had arrived, and I left them on the floor so that Oliver and Charlie got home they would find them. Their reaction was to thank Mum, not me. Why can’t my children like me and look at me the way he does on Love actually.

It was then that it dawned on me, it was not the boy in the film that was any better than my own, it was the way his Dad looked upon him that was better, instead of wanting my boys to be different, I need to look at them through different eyes. Again when I reflect honestly, I know there have been good portions of time here that I have done, that this has been a low time, and I need to remember that, but the cloud hanging over me has made it very difficult to see past the fog.

I hear you all screaming at me and I have now built myself a ladder upon which I am going to climb out of my hole. This morning I went swimming, exercise they tell me is good for the soul. I spent some spare hours with my camera, taking photos, just for the pleasure of taking photos. It has been so long since my camera was used for its own joy and not work, that I had forgotten how I used to spend my time, studying and documenting this beautiful place I call home. I sat for two hours, in the rain photographing waves crashing into Jamestown wharf (more photos to follow). It was liberating and reminded me that I don’t have to spend hours cleaning. In fact, I haven’t cleaned for two days, and you know what, the house is still hygienic, and the trail of mud from the door to the lounge did not bother me today. Ill clean it tomorrow. I took the boys to play football before collecting Bev. I haven’t done that for several weeks, it was more important to see the next status on facebook whilst pushing away the children for disturbing me. I don’t believe Facebook to be bad, I think it’s a wonderful tool for sharing across the world, and I have many friends that I would simply not be in touch with were it not for facebook. But like anything when not used correctly it can become unhealthy. Next month our internet allowance is being cut (by us), facebook will be a ten minute in the evening thing, not a ten hour a day thing. So we played football in the rain, we laughed as Oliver fell on his bum, more than once and we got wet through to our socks. Charlie came home, changed his socks, went back outside and got them wet again. It didn’t matter, it doesn’t matter, it won’t matter again.

If our adventure to St Helena was going to change things maybe it is the negatives, the down times, that will change me the most. I don’t know what I will do when I get home, I don’t know what I am able to do, and worry about whether I am able to make our families dreams come true in the way that I always just assumed I would be capable of doing. But I do know I have to change, I have to evaluate myself, and look at how well I do my most important job, being a Dad. For now I don’t have to think about what I might do back in the UK, it is the here and now that counts. We now leave in the (UK) summer of 2017 and up until that point I need to remember the privilege I have, to be able to be a real Dad, and how many fathers would die for the chance I have been given.

Am I out of my hole? no. Am I a brilliant Dad? no. But I have a ladder now, I have a foot on it, and I want to climb it. This is not the first time I have promised myself to be a better Dad, I hope it will be my last.

As a little side note, I have to give a mention to someone at home. Those of you with me from the beginning will know the Bridgewaters; Jenna, Paul and their son Myles. They came, they went, and they came back again. Only this time there is more of them as Scousers take over St Helena and Pauls Brother, Jamie and his family arrive on Island. Its my understanding that Jamie’s  wife, Hayley has a father, and that he has been reading my blog with interest. Well hello Mr Haley’s Dad, I hope reading my blog allows you to feel closer to Hayley and the family, and I promise to feature photos and stories as they settle into their own new adventure.

28 thoughts on “The Leaving of St Helena

    • Thanks Gordon. As I said Ive always been determined to write how Im feeling even if its not easy, especially knowing that family are reading but if I want a true account of my time here then it has to be there.

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  1. I’m so happy you are staying another year because frankly I’ve been worried about you guys leaving in a few months. I love reading your blog and hearing about the magical St. Helena. It takes me to an exotic local that I now dream of coming to but in reality, I probably never will. Thank you for sticking with this and I’m sorry you’re feeling a bit blue but I’m sure that will change soon. And you do have a job – – you write this blog and document it with pictures and I think that’s pretty great! Thank you.

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  2. The shows a level of self awareness and honesty that very few people have. I think all of us have resented loved ones for the most ridicuous reasons in the past but to work out that the problem lies with you, and then take immediate action to change it, is truly admirable. When we come to visit we going to need a committed tour guide so don’t get too busy 🙂 Take care of yourself Tyson.

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  3. Paul I read the first four line and was in tears felt really emotional knowing how I felt when I left home . Then I read you are staying another year. Awesome . I felt quite emotional as I continue to read your blog Also had a little giggle. About the boys and the mud ( the dreaded mud )) Sod the cleaning. Let them run around with no socks Ha ha . I hope you have taken another step on that ladder and feeling more positive day by day . I’m sure you will find your dream job. Take care look forward to you next blog. Shirley

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  4. Thanks for your honesty Paul. Another good article. Listen, now and for the next few weeks only, is the peak time for seeing both the miraculous egg laying and frenzied hatching and scurrying of the Green turtles on Ascension island. Head out there pronto with your eyes and your camera. If you cannot, plan for the same time next year. I understand that there is some turtle activity on St Helena but to a much lesser extent, owing to the absence of suitable, long stretches of beach. Check out that one.
    Best Wishes
    Roy Dean, ( stayed with the lovely Ivy Yon at the Wellington House Hotel in November 2011 )
    Blackwell,
    Worcestershire

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    • Hi Roy. We will be on Ascension in July which sadly is not Turtle Season. This may be our only time there though unfortunately as it will be our last trip on the RMS. : ( Turtles laid successfully for the first time in decades last year on St Helena, lets hope they continue to do so.

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      • Thank you for that information Paul. Make sure you take the family to the English beach on Ascension……excellent for snorkelling and swimming. You will be able to show your children the excavations made by the female turtles and the empty egg shells on Long beach.

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  5. A moving and honest post. I’m delighted you are staying another year though, not least because I know my family (Frankie, Dean, Katie and Louis) would miss you a lot. More strength to your elbow, Paul!
    Benj

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  6. You’ll always be my hero honey, I don’t know anyone who is more clever or more capable of turning his hand to anything. The boys and I love you more than anything (even if you do shout at us for getting the floor dirty!). I’m proud of you for writing this and I hope you realise how much people admire what you have achieved since being here. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

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    • Wow, thank you babe. I was a little worried that you wouldnt like me baring my soul to the world. I love you too and if I have achieved anything its only because of your support and you bringing me here in the first place. But please keep my floor clean!! xxxx

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  7. Hi Paul, Do hope your well, I am just enquiring as to what your are charging for the beautiful picture of Jamestown that you shared with us on your November 2015 post. I am interested in buying a copy, not sure how to go about it. I live in Swindon.I would like to add that I am thoroughly enjoying reading your blog and the stunning photographs. I would like to assume that you are happy, really busy and that you are no longer feeling the unjustified useless. You have so much to offer. Look forward to hearing from you, Best RegardsSandi. Date: Wed, 23 Mar 2016 23:27:42 +0000 To: sandiknipe@hotmail.co.uk

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    • Hi Sandra,

      Your easiest bet to get prints of any of my photos is through my photo box site. http://www.photoboxgallery.com/4075444

      There are numerous photos there which you can get printed in various sizes and print type. If you see something on my blog which isnt there I can put it on for you, just let me know. Hope that helps. If you want a digital copy then contact me direct via the “contact me” page and we can discuss.

      All the best

      Paul

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  8. Hey Paul. Thanks for the name-check. It’s little scouser Hayley’s dad. Sorry to hear that the job fell through. That’s life I guess and I often think that these things often happen for a reason and looking at your photographic work I can’t help but think that you would be like a caged bird sat in front of a monitor , guiding planes from one dot to another on a soul less computer screen . I think you are in the right time , at the right place and at the right age and although you had your heart set on the job and I can understand your insecurity , to me , and I know it’s easy for me to say ,,but as an interested observer on the outside it looks like you have been given a break,, As for you fretting about the kids and being a dad,, stop thinking too deep, If one day you feel they don’t love you , so what ? Just grind on ,grit your teeth and carry on. Kids pick up vibes , they know when they are being loved and even if they don’t show it now,trust me mate ,it’s in the bank. Good luck ,keep up the great blog .

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    • Hi Gerry, Wow, thank you for the lovely message. Given that you dont even know me its lovely that you can care enough to put your thoughts down. And given how Hayley turned out I think you know a thing or two about it. Its been a pleasure gettign to know a part of your family the last few weeks, hope we get to meet back in the UK when were hall home.

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      • Thanks for the reply Paul. May even meet up with you on the island if the airports up and running and the prices of the flights aren’t too steep, guess they will be looking to recoup as much of that outlay as possible so I’m not feeling too optimistic about that .Keep up the great blog and pictures. Incidentally my late uncle was a pro photographer and iv got a couple of antique cameras , one is a Kodak pocket camera which would give you a laugh as its about the size of a small laptop , the other is one of those where you see the photographer with a cover over his head .they aren’t worth much as they were mass produced but theyr kind of interesting and really show how far photography has advanced in a relatively short time, not so long ago it was all f numbers , shutter speeds and light meters,then a trip to the dark room. Having said that though I have still got some of his old photos and the results would hold their own against today’s digital results.. Anyway…guess he would have loved snapping away on such a picturesque beautiful island as St Helena. Take care.

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      • Flights will be around £1000 return whether you go direct or via J’berg. And incidently its still about f numbers, shutter speeds and light meters, but less about the dark rooms, we call that adobe now!!

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      • The Atlantic star direct flight is £1300 return but as yet there’s no details about the service they will run after the initial 2 flights.
        BA is about £1000 return and there doesn’t seem to be any prices yet on the Comair site for the Joburg St Helena bit. You can fly KLM from Heathrow to Joburg for £650 with a stop in Amsterdam or £750 via Paris with Air France’..
        A word of warning on the Atlantic Start flight is that it’s a 737 which is a small aircraft for a long flight; it’s 5 hours, then an hour refuelling stop in Brinjal where you stay on the plane, and then another 5 down to St Helena.

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      • Looks like Comair will be £500/£600 return so direct from Luton will be the best way provided the service is running. They don’t plan to operate a full service (details as yet unannounced) until the St Helenian summer.

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