A Hard Stexit – My Final Blog Entry

It’s been nearly five months since I left St Helena, and it is time to draw this story and my blog to a close. Leaving St Helena has undoubtedly been the hardest long term thing I have ever had to do. Still now, I have days where my heart aches like I have lost a loved one. Moving back to the UK has proved difficult to say the least, although when I paint a picture of things to myself, never mind others, I can’t help feeling I sound like a spoilt brat such is the relatively mild nature of my hardships compared with many in the world.

Since my last entry, Bev has found a job, working as a Science teaching in a local school, this is only temporary however but at least it enabled us to all move back together and reunite our family. In August we came to move empty our storage container in North Wales and move all of our stuff down to the South West. When we left three years ago the majority of our belongings, clothes, furniture, and personal things were put into storage for the duration. We hired two large transit vans and made the long drive to North Wales. With great sadness however, we discovered that due to a leak, the majority of our belongings were ruined, found to be riddled with mould and fit only for throwing away. We couldn’t  take anything straight to a refuse site and had to proceed in bringing all of our stuff back to the South West for sorting and disposing of. It was heartbreaking, clothes and furniture I could deal with, but throwing away photos and the boy’s first school work and paintings was particularly tough. The mould was so bad in places that it made me ill, a theme that would continue for weeks.

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It seems, since not having experienced a UK autumn for several years that I have no immune system and I have contracted bug after bug falling ill over and over again, this in itself has been somewhat miserable.

I then discovered that my credit rating was somehow through the floor and that I had a county court judgement against me. For those who don’t know, in the UK the county court is often used for cases of debt, where bills or fines have not been paid. After a couple of weeks of agonising I discover that the culprit was Npower, who, whilst I was out of the country took me to court, and in my absence found me guilty of not paying a bill, that they had never even issued, oh and they didn’t even bother to tell me I was going to court!!! After some seriously long phone calls, the judgement was rescinded, and the battle for compensation has ensued!!

At the end of August, with Bev about to start work, and the boys going back to school we decided a family break was in order and we spent three lovely nights in North Devon in the coastal town of Woolacombe. It was just perfect and exactly what I needed to draw my thoughts away from St Helena. Oliver had surfing lessons and we all enjoyed four days of glorious sunshine, walking, beaches fun and a few beers.

The beautiful North Devon Coast.
Oliver’s surfing lessons were a highlight.
Not to be outdone Charlie had a go a wave boarding.

There has been lots of fun, of course, the National Fireworks championships are held every year in Plymouth which was quite a treat, and my job has begun to throw up some highlights as I’ve got to grips with things.

But time and time again my thoughts wander back to St Helena. Over September I finally got back to my photography as I set about editing the photos from my good friend’s, Lisa and Johan’s, wedding. This was really difficult, seeing some of the people we have grown to love and whom we miss greatly in my photos was hard going, it’s still too soon just look back with fond memories and the pain is very real.

On St Helena, we saw our friends not just daily but often several times a day, every day. Back in the UK, our friends are spread about so far and wide, and people live such busy lives that meeting up is difficult and sporadic.

Oliver and I enjoyed some father-son time and learnt to fly falcons for my birthday.

We have begun to form some sort of routine, the boys have found themselves a football club, and have had coaching in school. Charlie has embraced everything from the choir and recorder to the schools xfactor competition, which of course he won!  Oliver has been away for two nights on a school camp and has become enthralled with the Second World War which he is studying in school.

Our first venture onto Dartmoor.

I, however, have been thoroughly upset with myself as the stress and upset of the move and adjustments to the pace of life, have pushed me back towards the intolerant shouting father I was before I left for St Helena, and in my first few months there. When I greet the boys from school, all too often is it accompanied with my moaning and nagging about the things they have forgotten or the mud on their newly washed school uniform. My expectations of Charlie I know are too high, he is only six, and I know he will not be thinking about getting the washing dry when he is playing football with his friends. Yet when I see him with mud all over his trousers and I contemplate the three days it took to get his uniform dry at the end of last week it fills me with rage. I’m so desperate to not fall into a hole and return to the days when I would really did rather the children were not in my life. I have come to love and appreciate them so much more in the past two years and the recent months in particular, that I cry to think that I can once again be so cross with them.

As we fall into the swing of things it will get easier I’m sure, and I know deep down my relationship with the boys is better than it ever was, I love them with all my heart, and appreciate the joys they bring to my life. When I reflect on the month I spent without them I know all too well the pain it caused to not have them around. And bit by bit things do settle and improve. My work has had some progress as I and the team settle into my role and what the new team structure is about, and how we all fit together.

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Me, professionally wrestling a spotted eagle ray for an ultrasound to confirm her pregancy! All in a days work.

 

Bev has found returning to full time teaching in the UK to be incredibly hard. Teaching is in something of a crisis in the UK, teachers are leaving in droves as the balance between teaching and paperwork falls all too far on side of the paperwork. Targets and observations, pressures and no time to teach, take their toll. 6 nights a week Bev’s spends planning and marking, it is draining for her, and all of us. Finish school, sort out the boys, do homework with them, tidy the house or cook dinner and then, when the boys are in bed and we should be sat relaxing, Bev is tied to her work, often till 10pm before going to bed to start it all again the next day. This article in the Times explains exactly how Bev, and so many teachers are feeling in the UK. https://www.tes.com/us/news/breaking-views/i-cannot-be-both-a-good-mother-and-a-good-teacher

Removing St Helena from our thoughts has become more difficult in recent weeks as we have edged towards a momentous day in the history of the Island, the commencement of commercial flights. Saturday, the 14th October 2017 will forever be a part of St Helena history as the first, SA Airlink flight with paying customers touched down. As part of the infrastructure to this, Mantis, a South African based boutique hotel and eco-retreat firm have built the Islands newest hotel. For my part, I had the privilege of selling my photos to the hotel which are now proudly on display in the hotel’s bedrooms, lounges and lobby’s. I am enormously proud that my work has been valued and honoured in such a way. I have become good friends with the builds project manager and his wonderful wife, and they are both thrilled with the impact my photos have had to the hotel. It is a truly amazing feeling to know that the first of St Helena’s airline tourists may be sleeping with one of my photos above their heads. Without doubt, this is my greatest photography achievement and a wonderful honour to know I have left something of myself behind on the Island for others to enjoy.

It is five months since I left St Helena and it is now time to draw my blog to a close. I went to St Helena not knowing what I would do or discover. I would not, in a million years have been able to guess at the extraordinarily wonderful experience we have had, the skills I have learnt, the people I have met and the friends I have made.

St Helena is and always will be a part of me now, although my life, for the time being, will move forward in the UK, a part of me will always be left behind on my Island home.

As for my blog, since August 2014 my blog has been read over 160,000 times. It has been seen in 175 countries of the World, my photographs through the blog, the facebook page and various media outlets I am confident have been seen millions of times by people around the World. I have had the most touching comments from people who have been travelling to St Helena, who once lived or worked on the Island, and for those whose memories I have re-kindled. It has been a privilege to write for you all and I hope I have touched a few people on the way. For now, I bid you farewell, but perhaps, one day I will turn this into a book, and who knows it might be available in an Airport just a few thousand miles away!

 

 

 

36 thoughts on “A Hard Stexit – My Final Blog Entry

  1. Thanks for sharing your family’s adventure…i have enjoyed reading every new chapter and feel quite sad that this is your last entry and choose to believe that maybe….just maybe…………. someday, there will be one more

    …. Hope your future’s shine, Microbius

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    • Hi Mate, Well never say never I guess. Ive just got to the point where Im no longer writing about St Helena other than to express my sadness, which will soon get boring, so its time to stop and move on. But look out for two years on the South Coast, you never know!!

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  2. Hi Paul: I’ve never met you, and likely never will, but I appreciate you sharing this incredible journey with us. I found the blog by accident and have read every entry since. You’re truly a gifted writer and the photographs are a genuine work of art. I understand perhaps somewhat how you miss St. Helena because those of us who were able to “visit” via your generosity have been exiled as well.
    Much success in all future endeavors. If and when you ever decide to share your thoughts or your incredible photography with us again, we’ll be here…waiting.
    Again, thank you.

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    • Wow, thank you for such kinds words, I never had any intention or idea of being a gifted writier I just thought it would be a nice thing for my friends and family, its amazing that people like yourself have been so interested. Thank you again. And you never know, maybe I could just write about being a Dad, it certainly fills my thoughts!

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  3. Hi Paul: I’ve never met you, and likely never will, but I appreciate you sharing this incredible journey with us. I found the blog by accident and have read every entry since. You’re truly a gifted writer and the photographs are a genuine work of art. I understand perhaps somewhat how you miss St. Helena because those of us who were able to “visit” via your generosity have been exiled as well.
    Much success in all future endeavors. If and when you ever decide to share your thoughts or your incredible photography with us again, we’ll be here…waiting.
    Again, thank you.

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  4. Our very best wishes, Paul. It has been a real pleasure following your experiences as an expat on St Helena. I have a feeling you will all fly back for a visit one day. Maybe also you will find an outlet for your photographic skills in the UK, in addition to your marine biologist profession. Bronwyn and David Street, Mt Martha, Australia

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Browyn, thank you again for your support, and I’m so glad we got to meet. Im certainly going to keep the wedding photography going and no doubt once Im settled Ill re find my passion and start photographing the South West, maybe a new blog! All the best to you and David.

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  5. Paul, many thanks for keeping so many of us entertained with your wonderful postings – for many us (and I am one of them), the stories of your time on the Island evoked many memories! Best wishes for all your and the family’s endeavours!

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  6. Thank you so much for your blog. Through it I got to know about life in a far away island.
    I wish all the best for you and your family and I envy you for the boldness of this adventure.
    bye!!

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  7. Thanks Paul, for your blogs. Fascinating to read and full of honesty. Great photographs. I wish you all good fortune. Teaching is tough! My wife was in the profession and now my daughter and son in law. Still, they have jobs, and safety……compare with so many crazy countries. Roy Dean. I shall be in Woolacombe next week! Gorgeous beach!

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    • Roy you have been one of my greatest supporters and your regular positive comments have been a huge help in keeping it going. Enjoy Woolacombe, where do you live Roy? I hope one day we get to meet. All the best, Paul

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  8. What a beautiful but heartbreaking story. Weve been in the UK for a couple of months on a break and equally money gets haemorrhaged here whether its the £360 i just spent on fixing my hob, which isnt fixed so I have to buy a new one, to the £400+ Ive just spent on a fence.. nothing compared to replacing belongings but it never ends. Totally middle class problems but the point is, unless you make an effort not to care about it at all, it tightens you up in stress and then its easy to lash out at close ones. Making friends willing to give and recieve so freely like in st helena is also tough, there seems to be a barrier of mistrust here. But chipping away and making the effort seems to work, it just takes longer ive found, having moved to a new place 6 months before moving to St Helena. Best of luck, hundreds of us have been or will be where you are standing right now so know that you arent alone.

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    • Hey Nicole. thank you, always nice to hear the thoughts of someone who is following the same journey. I hope you love your next 12 months on the Island as much as we did. And congratulations again by the way. x

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  9. Hi PAUL

    I am sitting here reading your final blog feeling massively homesick.
    I’ve been following your blog since you started and Wow.
    Your story’s and beautiful pictures makes me proud to be St Helenian.
    It makes me realise that material things in life cannot substitute what we take for granted back home, and it’s edging me closer to finally returning home after nearly 20 years of rat racing here in the UK. Its time I let my young son grow up on this beautiful Island which you has shown the world is pure bliss.
    I wish you and your family all the best for the future and I hope that you can return again sometime to the place you called home from home.

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    • You should be proud, its a wonderful place, I fear all to often some saints dont realise what they have. I hope you do return home, its the perfect time to start a new life there with new opportunities opening up, and they are desperate for Saints to return home. Your son will love it, the sea, the outdoors the freedom, just do it.

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    • Hi Judith, thank you, but I fear if I carry on writing it will become self indulgent and Ill just end up repeating how much I miss St Helena. But who knows I may try my hand at turning this into a book, but may also start a new blog on life for a anquarist in the South West.

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  10. Aww Paul …. we only been on the island for a week’s visit …. also feels like I left my soul there …I really loved and enjoyed your blog … waiting in anticipation for each new review and news …. sad to see you go and not nice to read about your “uk” life… Hope everything turns out better, hope you get well again …. I still want to go back … ( forever 🙂 ) Leoni ( Centurion, South Africa )

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  11. Thank you Paul for sharing your St Helena experience and your stunning photography. Wishing you all everything of the best for the future and if you start another photographic blog know for sure we’ll enjoy it immensely😊

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    • Hi There, thank you for your lovely comment. Given the amazing support I may well think about another blog, I just need to find the right angle. But keep your eyes peeled. All the best, Paul

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  12. I loved following your blog as I applied for and was the successful applicant to work on this wonderful island of St. Helena. No wonder you miss it.
    I gleaned lots of useful information, was mesmerised by your photography and had a few giggles at your antics. Now I live here for 2 years. I brought my boys up just outside Plymouth – yours will love the football scene and the beaches I’m sure. Have a great time. And thanks for your fabulous blog. Maybe see you in Plymouth in two years time.

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    • Hi Nova, Ive just tracked you down on facebook and see you are very new to the Island. Im sure you will love it, its a wonderful place but its the people who really make it. Im glad you enjoyed my blog and I hope it gave you some preparation. It must be strange working with some of the people who you already knew through the blog. All the best, Paul

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  13. I found your blog several years ago after watching a Globetrekker TV program that they did about St. Helena. I was so curious about a place I had never heard of or knew anything about. How fortunate I was to find your blog just about the time you and your family were moving there. I’ve read each installment with relish and really have learned so much about what seems like a magical place that I truly hope to visit one day. I will really miss reading your blogs and hope you and your family find your way to living happily in your new life in the UK soon. Give yourself a break, you need time to readjust. Be well and all the best. And thank you!

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    • Hi Shelly, thankyou so much for your kind words, its amazing to know that people have had such enjoyment out of something Ive been writing about. We will continue to miss St Helena but as you say with time we will readjust I’m sure. All the best. Paul

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  14. Hey Paul,

    Just wanted you to know that you’re not alone in your longing for St Helena! Readjusting to life outside the South Atlantic has not been straightforward for us either and there are definitely days when I just want to pack up and head back for a dive, a fish roll from the Amphibian and some fresh guavas … and everything else the island has to offer of course!

    We met up with Lindsey in Toronto a couple of months back and it felt a bit like that scene at the end of The Beach when Leonardo Di Caprio is sitting in an internet cafe back in the real world after making contact with somebody who had been part of the whole experience. Being able to sit down with someone for a coffee and talk about the tiny little island we loved and called home while in the middle of a major city was a bit surreal but also therapeutic.

    St Helena can’t help but have a profound effect on people and we were all so lucky to have had our experience there. Just focus on the wide availability of fresh fruit and veg, cheap internet, neverending craft beer choices and the lack of poisonous centipedes and it may take the edge off the pain of being home!

    Regards to the family,
    Kevin, Aoife, Sìomha and our new arrival Tuiren

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    • Hey Kevin (and family) Thank you for your comment. I understand what you mean we have managed to meet up with Andy and Debbie Parkinson and it really was lovely to speak with someone who has shared the experience. I hope you guys are settled in Canada and enjoying it there. Im envious I have to say, I loved Canada. Take care of yourself and everyone, Paul

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  15. Thank you for your blog. I have followed it since 2014 after stumbling upon it while doing a Google Search. I’ve been fascinated by St Helena for years and reading your blog has only increased my fascination. Thank you for giving me and others a look at life on that island. Thank you for letting us in on your journey and allowing us to see life in St Helena through your eyes and your photos. It has been a joy to follow your journey! I will definitely miss your posts!

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    • Hi Chris, Another amazing comment from someone who has never met me, its really incredible to know that people have enjoyed what Ive been rambling on about! I will miss writing but its time to draw to an end, for this adventure anyway. All the best, Paul

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