So May was going to be the biggest Month in St Helena’s history, the opening of St Helena Airport, Prince Edward was booked and St Helena day, normally celebrated on the 21st, was moved to the 20th to accommodate the grand opening. As those of you who follow St Helena news outside of my blog will know, it didn’t happen. Apparently wind shear, only discoverable with real world data from a landing aircraft, that could not have been predicted in advance of this, (hhmmm) has been discovered at the runway. Essentially this means that as things stands it is dangerous to land a large Boeing type aircraft on runway 20, I am yet to figure out how an airport with one runway becomes runway number 20!). It is not for me to comment on this, everyone on the Island is currently an aircraft expert and have suddenly finished their degrees in meteorology, so Im not going to add to this with my own ill-educated opinion on things here.
Despite the setback for me personally I’m not too concerned, my hope is a sufficient delay in the opening will allow me one final journey on the RMS St Helena, and maybe another stop over in Cape Town, as you may of gathered I love Cape Town! And it is not as though May became dearth of celebration and event.
Earlier in the month, Prince Andrew School hall was once again full to see thirteen of Saint Helena’s young ladies compete for the title of Miss St Helena 2016. Two weeks prior I had nothing to do with this. I was then asked if I could do some photography for the event, to which I of course agreed. Then, a week before I was asked to put together a graphical presentation to display above the stage and introduce the contestants, again I agreed, although someone else would have to manage the presentation as I was to be taking photos, right?
Finally, just four days before the event itself, and having heard me sing at the New Horizons concert I was asked to provide, along with two others, some entertainment whilst the judges went off to deliberate. Hhhmmm, no rehearsal time, no band behind me for comfort, a poor quality backing track, “Im not sure about this one” I said! However, never one to shirk the opportunity to be in the lime light I agreed. In hindsight, I wish I hadn’t.
The show itself was fantastic, if a little longer than necessary. As compare John Wallocot declared the shows’ cat walk to be the one and only open runway on St Helena to the amusement of the crowd, we eventually saw 13 girls, through a series of questions and costume changes, whittled down to the winner. What a fantastic time to be Miss St Helena, no doubt at the front of many exciting opening ceremonies and events over the next two years. As for me, well, unfortunately there was no one else to make the changes on the graphic presentation during the show, meaning I had to give up my privileged photographer’s position and settle for a balcony view point. My musical performance was, for me, horrible. I stood on my own, on the cat walk with the backing music far to quiet feeling very vulnerable and although people told me afterwards that I had done well, this was no New Horizons Concert for me.
Not to be outdone the younger generation of Saint Girls took part in the Annual May Queen celebrations. Like many people I have mixed feelings about the beauty pageant type show, but this was somehow more innocent, just some young people wanting their opportunity to feel important and to play a part in the upcoming St Helena Day celebrations. Before the May Queen contest Pilling Primary school, Oliver and Charlie’s school held their May Day fate. Bev and I ran two stalls all to help raise money for the Pilling Parent Teachers Association. It was a great turn out and everyone had fun taking part in the various stalls, games and activities. Including our new Governor who turned up to see what was going on and watch the May Queen Contest. Watched eagerly by the 1st, 2nd and 3rd placed Miss St Helena ladies, the young contestants did their best to show their style and answer questions thoughtfully and intelligently. They all did very well and we were very pleased that Katie Gonsalves, daughter of good friends Frankie and Dean came an admirable second place.
With May still just two thirds through, it was time for the Islands next big event as St Helena Day was declared open.
Each year on or near the 21st May, the Island celebrates the anniversary of its discovery, music, sports, games, fireworks and more music, washed down with copious beer and good spirit it was a day to remember. All of the Tyson clan were involved, Bev kicked off with a mini Marathon.
A gruelling run up hill, in searing heat before a knee jerking descent back to town. Although it was a small line-up this year Bev did well, and looking somewhat exhausted claimed her gold medal as the fastest lady. Next up were Bev and the boys in the annual fun sports, as series of team events such as egg and spoon, four legged races (yes four) tug o war and lots of water. The boys in particular loved this but alas, the team did not claim a medal this year, the honours going to teams less predominated by people under ten years old!
Next was my turn, having organised a bunch of friends into a makeshift five a side football team. Wearing all white, the” whites in white” dubiously found our way to the final by way of a dodgy headed goal. My own contribution to the team effort started badly, scoring a classic own goal with my first touch of the ball, but, moving forward for the last two games I managed to score the goal in the final to take us to penalties. We faced a team from the merchant navy ship, RFA Gold Rover, visiting the Island on its last tour of duty. As is traditional for visiting Navy ships we were presented with a crest of the ship and a flag, and as captain of the team I’m pleased to say I got to keep them, another memento of our time on the Island. Unfortunately the final did not go to plan, and although we made it to penalties we lost out to the cool heads of the Navy team. A silver medal was mine though and a thoroughly enjoyable three hours of football was had.
Next up was Oliver and Charlies turn to win themselves a medal by taking on the Jacobs Ladder time. The turnout was excellent for this popular St Helena day challenge. Contestants set off one by one, Bev volunteering to help the young ones up. Overall winner was Rhys, a local doctor, who turned up stating “well I might give it a go” and in flips flops climbed the 699 steps in a staggering 7 minutes 50 seconds. Now, barring in mind this winning time, both Charlie and Oliver managed less than 10 minutes 30seconds, pretty impressive. However, due to the fairly wide entry bands of “Primary School” Charlie 5, and Oliver 7 found themselves competing against 11 year olds and did not finish in the top three. After a bit of persuasion, and a look at two very sad looking faces, the judge was willing to present them a medal for taking part and we all went away happy.
Unfortunately, due to a mix up with my camera, my car, and my spare batteries I missed out on photographing much of the middle portion of the day, including the suburb float that paraded through town. The appropriately themed, travel through the ages clearly inspiring the contestants with some remarkable floats on show. It never ceases to amaze me how much effort and resourcefulness goes into these events.
As the sun went down, a fantastic firework display, featuring a reported £11,000 of explosions lit up James Bay. As the reds, greens, purples and blue reflected off the sea, and wizzes and bangs echoed of the valley walls it felt light the perfect setting for such a display.
As the last firework died, and the sparklers burnt out it was time to head home, but not before one last event for the day.Our car started fine, but soon, the clutch pedal was stuck to the floor, and the car was stranded, perpendicular to the road, blocking the streams of traffic leaving town! Lifting the pedal with my hand, I managed to engage first gear and turn the car round to roll it in neutral down a hill to a thankfully convenient parking space, where, a week later it still sits. As is expected on St Helena a kindly soul soon picked us up and took us home. One of the benefits of living in a small community is that is never long before someone you know passes by.
Before the month has finished we had time for one last evening of fun as we welcomed twenty two people for a thirteen dish Chinese banquet. As we approach the end of our second year on the Island there are a number of people who have played a huge part in our lives here, that will soon be departing these shores. We will miss them greatly and wanted to do something to say thank you for your friendship and goodbye, for now. And so it was that I started chopping and preparing at 10am, cooking everything from Asian Seared Tuna to Smoky Bacon Chicken, from Chilli Mushroom Beef to Sweet and Sour Wahoo. It was well received and declared to be much better that the Orange Tree, the local Chinese, I even received a round of applause. Most importantly though was the lovely night that was had as we sat chatted well into the night and the children, (and Matt Durkin), settled in to watch Greece on the big screen.
And so that was May, another jam packed eventful month. It still amazes me that nearly two years on there is still so much to do, and so many wonderful memories to be made on this tiny Rock. But even now, the story of May isn’t quite over, as next time I describe the best dive experience, I , and many people here have ever had.