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.

The Light Fantastic.

Christmas must be round the corner because once again St Helena took to the street for the annual Festival of Lights. This relatively new event has become the highlight of the Christmas event calendar as half of St Helena’s population take to the streets to watch and participate in a parade through Jamestown . With the town dressed up like a huge moving Christmas tree the precision winds its way slowly down through the centre of town with floats, cars, bike, people, prams and pushchairs all kitted out with fairy lights.

This time last year we turned up with a pair of glow sticks each, in what turned out to be an embarrassingly poor show. This year we would not make that mistake again. I wore a total of 100 fairy lights, spiralled around my body from tip to toe. Bev donned blue lights around her boots and skirt, cleverly held in place with clothes pegs. And the boys had fairy lights around their heads and enjoyed their “light saber” flashing glow sticks.

As we strolled slowly through town, dancing to Christmas tunes played loudly from the backs of the floats we had Christmas snow fall on and around us as we watched the statue of liberty, and Air Traffic Control Tower and the RMS St Helena pass us by.

Saints community spirit embrace these events like no other and what is achieved on an Island where stuff is hard to get hold of is remarkable. A truly brilliant and inspiring night of fun, frolics and festivities. I can’t wait for the next one.

Football, Football, Football

I love football, it has its detractors, and for good reason, there are hooligans and trouble makers who use the sport as an excuse for violence, and of course the money involved is obscene and the commercialisation of the sport is unsavoury, but despite its faults, I love it.

There are few things in life, quite as un-important as football that can raise emotions in the way it does, that can have billions of people around the world all watching the same thing at the same time. What other un-important thing makes people cry and cheer in equal measure, what other utterly pointless pastime is played and watched by countless millions and millions of people every weekend, from your local park to Anfield (sorry I am a Liverpool supporter after all), in the back streets of Brazil’s favela’s with a tin can, to the Nou Camp in front of 105,000 people.

And on St Helena it is no different, our lives have involved a lot of football recently. With the excitement of Jurgen Klopp’s arrival at Liverpool the optimism has reached the far flung places of the World and even here people have been discussing the enigmatic German. Ive had friends over to watch games on the big screen and passers-by make conversation on the prospects of Liverpool, the fate of Louis Van Gaal, the joyous downfall of Chelsea or the positivity surrounding Arsenal.

But more importantly than the English Premiership, is the local St Helena leagues, which, from 5 years olds to veterans has reached its pinnacle in the past few weeks. Sundays have been taken over by junior football in the morning, and my own games in the afternoon, followed by watching Liverpool!  With The league season coming to an end and the cup competitions taking place the junior leagues played their final few games. This involved their own respective cup finals, and friendly games for those already out in the earlier rounds. My team, Jungle Rangers, being one of the youngest in the cup structure, went out in an earlier round and were therefore left to play a friendly with the Longwood Dynamites. It seems that there exists a strong rivalry between different districts on St Helena, this is played out through the various sports teams. Jungle Ranger representing the Jamestown district, and Longwood Dynamites representing…. Well you can figure that one out.

Following the junior football, the big game arrived, the St Helena FA Cup. The Rovers, narrowly beaten to this year’s league title by Hearts, played the Chop Shop Boys. There are some real players on St Helena despite a poor playing surface and uneven ground.  Id love to see some of these boys play on a half descent pitch. But despite the testing conditions a fantastic, entertaining game of football was played out, the Rovers running out eventual winners.

 

At the end of the day, Trophies were held aloft by all ages. All junior players, winners or not, received a trophy. It’s a funny thing, and people will tell you that football doesn’t matter, but try telling that to the kids who played their heart out. Try telling them that their efforts do not matter and football is silly as they walk up those steps to collect their first ever sports trophy.

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Jungle Rangers

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Oliver played a few games with the next age group.

Oliver now sports three trophies on his shelf, bringing back fond memories of my own junior football days. I recall receiving most improved player, and defender of the season, presented to me by non-other than former Everton Goal Keeper Neville Southall. Do I still have the trophies, of course I do, they meant something then, and actually they still do today. They represent good things, my childhood, my friends. They represent rainy days on a frozen pitch, hoping the changing rooms might be unlocked. They represent my Mum and Dad, tirelessly supporting me, driving me to games and standing in said rain shouting me on. But most of all they represent a dream, a dream I once had, and the same dream that Oliver now has. That same dream that he enacts in our back garden as he runs away from goal, his arms aloft in celebration as he sticks one past his Dad, dreaming that one day he will be running out at Anfield.

I love football, it represents dreams, and there surely cant be much wrong with that.

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Cup Runners Up Chop Shop Boys

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Cup Winners Rovers

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League Winners Hearts

I Dont Have to Buy a New Shirt

So its been a long time since my last update, this has been down to several reasons, not least of which I have been waiting for a new computer to arrive. Our laptop broke a more than a month and a half ago, and as is life on St Helena it has taken a long time to get a new one. When I say it broke, I of course mean, I broke it, dropping on the floor and causing irreparable damage!! However the event gave me the chance to buy a purpose built computer designed to allow me to process and edit photos and graphics much more efficiently than a mid-range laptop ever could.

Although the wait was annoying it did allow me time to look at things and find a way to raise myself out of the down patch that I was experiencing. I was going to re-focus on my photography and design work put out some adverts and get back on track………or I was going to be CEO of South Atlantic Media Services. Which brings me round to the second and main reason I hadn’t provided an update recently. South Atlantic Media Services provides Newspaper, Radio and TV news to St Helena and the current CEO is leaving the Island in the New Year. With great excitement I accepted the interview I was offered, and turned a few surprised looking heads in town as I headed to the studios all suited and booted.

The interview went well but after an agonising week and half wait, I received the doomed phone call telling me I was unsuccessful. I was genuinely gutted and took a real knock for a while. This was going to be my opportunity to make a difference, to leave my mark on the Island. But it wasn’t to be, I suspect in part due to the temporary nature of our stay on the Island, the job, probably rightly going to someone of Saint descent who could be here indefinitely. Good luck to Stuart George, I wish him well.

And so Im back to the photography and design work, which actually, is fine. I have a big new contract to deliver interpretative panels for various tourist spots on the Island, allowing me to leave my mark in some way. I have a few private contracts for product photography and will be doing some family and maternity portrait shoots. It seems my work is still in demand

I have also, with the arrival of my new computer finally had the chance to finish a night scape of Jamestown, a photo which is now on its third incarnation, and has taken literally hours and hours of work. The image is composed of around 46 photos, taken in two batches, one at sun set, one three hours later at night to capture the lights and cars of Jamestown. This meant perching myself precariously on a loose scree slop above the town for around four hours as I waited for the right lighting conditions to take the two set of shots I wanted.

Back on the computer hours have been spent aligning and carefully merging and blending the two sets of shots, and then blending in further images which showed cars moving through the town.

The result is a huge photo, over a meter across which I hope to sell on line on in print on the Island. With the arrival of a new professional quality printer I can now produce these at A3, and it looks great even if I do say so myself.

Jamestown Nightscape 3 watermarked

Sorry for the heavy water mark but as this photo will be for sale I need to protect its copy write!

Aside from work, I have re-started my football career, playing an initial twenty minutes in my first games, and culminating in a full ninety minutes for the last games of the league, my team, finishing in a respectable fifth place. Unfortunately the season has ended all too soon, and an early exit from the cup at the hands of the league winners means that I will have to wait more than six months to play my next match. But still, I am pleased to be playing again and even more pleased my groin has held up and seems to be on the mend.

Summer is now trying to make a comeback, although winter is doing its best to hold it off. Days of bright sunshine and high temperatures and interspersed by periods of cloud and drizzle. Oliver and Charlie took part in the schools harvest festival. One would expect this to be carried out in the autumn, but in keeping with British tradition we still celebrate in October. It is not too out of place though, as spring on St Helena is full of beauty and change. Sunsets are taking on a greater intensity and trees and plants all over the Island are bursting into flower. Colours are popping up everywhere. Sadly I haven’t had the opportunity to get out and photograph much of this beauty yet, but keep your eyes open and I’ll do my best to bring this to you in due course.

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Watching the boys at the Harvest Festival shows me how well they have settled, and what a lovely group of friends they have. It was of course a huge worry coming out here, how would they adapt, would they miss home too much, will they make friends? But looking back at how much the boys have changed and grown we can never have any regrets, it has been brilliant for them. I often have pinch myself moments, and this was one of them. 24 months ago I had not heard of St Helena, and yet here we are, watching Charlie sing “Juicy Fruits” with his classmates. in the middle of the South Atlantic on an Island we call home. Temporary home it may be, but home none the less. Although I have had my ups and downs and testing times personally, I am still filled with excitement when I step back and look at what we have done, what we are doing,

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Oliver and Charlie in their den. I think I had more fun building this than they did!!

and that we are even here at all. To the people who live here it is normal, just life, but this is an adventure that people dream of, and we are getting to live it. I hope the boys grow up and look back with fondness and appreciate the experience. I hope they remember, the Harry Potter nights and building dens, the football, the whale sharks, the freedom the friends they have made and the fantastic times they are having.

As summer arrives, St Helena gears up to Christmas, yes, weird I know. Oliver is playing the role of one of the Wisemen in the school nativity play and the shops are filled up with gifts, chocolates, lights and decorations, which makes me wonder what there will be a shortage of in the coming months, there is only finite space on the RMS after all. This year we will ensure that we are fully kitted up for the festival of lights, and I look forward to the festive season kicking in, with more Christmas songs on the radio such as Santa Arrived in a Pick Up Truck!

On Sunday the 8th of November St Helena joined the rest of the World in paying respects to those who have lost their lives in the tragedy of war. The service on St Helena involves various churches, Scouts and Guide groups, police and armed forces on the Island, and brings together Saint and Ex-pat communities from all over the Island. This year, Oliver, who has just joined the Beavers had a small role to play, walking with the rest of his group in the precession through town to the Centotaph. Oliver was beautifully behaved and look very proud to be doing his bit, even if he didn’t quite understand the point of it all. I looked around the water front and compared the faces to those that stood next to me 12 months pervious. Many of them have changed, new ex-pats arrive on the Island all the time and new friends have been made in the process. But the most significant thing that stuck me looking around that morning, was not how many people had left, but how many people I knew, Saints whom I now call friends, who say hello as we pass in the street, who know who we are, what we do and whom I hope consider us to be a good addition to the Island. Looking back 12 months I feel established on the Island, but I realise now that it takes more than three months and a few friendly faces to be established here. Maybe I will make a difference and leave a mark here after all.

The sun came out for the ceremony, just as it did last year. As the sun shone down, the heat was too much for some and , in my shirt and tie with sweat patches on my back, realised that it is probably a good thing I didn’t get the job after all, at least this way I don’t have to buy a new shirt.

 

 

 

 

Two Hundred Years and Ten Months

Two hundred years ago today, Napoleon Bonaparte stepped foot on St Helena following his transportation and exile under British capture on the HMS Northumberland. Little did he, nor his Grand Marshal General Count Hanri–Gatien Bertrand know that two hundred years later people would be celebrating that fact with events, markets, re-enactments and all manner of things on this tiny little Island. The Bi-centenary celebrations are in full swing and much of the Island is involved one way or another.

For my part I have been pretty much a bye stander and observer, that is on-the-tracks-of-napoleonexcept of course for the very proud moment when I saw a printed copy of the book, “In Napoleons Footsteps on St Helena”. The book details the places of importance to Napoleons exile and how they stand today, featuring text by Michel Dancoisne-Martineau, French Consul to St Helena, and exclusive photography by none other than yours truly. Had you told me 14 months ago that my photos would be featuring in a new book celebrating the time of Napoleon on St Helena Id of thought you were mad, and yet I have it here with me as I type.

Even the boys have been getting involved, learning all manner of Napoleon related facts and figures and teaching their Mum and Dad a thing or two. By co-incidence these celebrations have coincided with Cancer awareness week, and Scott Kelby’s World Wide Photowalk. Once again Oliver and I wanted to take part in the walk, it seem crazy that it was just 12 months ago we took our first walk up High Knoll Fort to take part in 2014’s walk, and yet there we were walking in less than ideal conditions around Longwood and the boundary walls of Napoleons captivity. Sadly, for me, neither the walk nor the weather held much photographic inspiration. As we were accompanied by several other children, including Charlie, and who, like Charlie, had no interest in taking photos much of the walk was more a matter of childcare than checking my exposure and concentrating on the rule of thirds.

Visiting the Island as part of the celebrations are the Royal Navy crew of the HMS Lancaster, which is moored up in James Bay for a week whilst on a tour of duty. Cocktail parties aboard the ship, football matches, tree planting, and a host of other activities and events have been arranged for and by the crew. Sadly, the cocktail party on board HMS Lancaster, undoubtedly the highlight of the weeks proceedings was invite only, and I, being a lowly unemployed person had more chance of an invite to Plantation House than getting on that ship. When one of the boat operator who ferried the crew, dignitaries and councillors back and forth from the ship does not get invited for a look around, there is, in my opinion, something wrong. That being said, I feel far more honoured and pleased to of have an invite with one of said local boat operators for a trip round James Bay and close up view of the war ship, a spectacular sight alongside the RMS St Helena with the sun setting beyond.

RMS St Helena HMS Lancaster in James Bay St Helena

On Wednesday lunchtime I journeyed to Prince Andrew School to start photography classes with three Duke of Edinburgh award students. Upon arrival a large crowd of pupils and public had gathered around the school’s football pitches to watch International Football as a St Helena All Star Eleven took on the British Royal Navy crew. The students were determined to watch the football rather than take a photography class I protested very little and allowed the pupils to enjoy their lunch break as I settled down to watch the game myself. During the match the Royal Navy Helicopter did several fly pasts, much to the delight of the on-looking Prince Andrew School pupils. Airplane and Helicopter in the space of a few weeks, whatever next, mobile phones!!!

Speaking of which, mobile phones have reached the Island and the network was turned on at the end of September. I can fully understand the excitement amongst young Saints, and some older generations and the consistent ques outside the offices of Sure St Helena, the mobile providers, are testament to how much this services is wanted on the Island. But for me this is a sad day, one of the appeals of moving here was a lack of mobile phones, and I have already been passed by in the street by people who would normally stop and say hello as their heads have been buried into their new mobile technology.

Despite all and sundry seemingly going on around me I have found myself down in the dumps these past few weeks. Photography commissions have slowed, and, although I still have a couple of jobs on, I feel, as I did twelve months ago, unsure of my place and purpose here. Far from the chaos of the period from December to August when I felt as though I didn’t have time to breathe, I have instead found myself contemplating which cleaning job I should tackle today, or whether I should go shopping to get the milk we need. Once again St Helena’s ability to exaggerate life has come into play, as I feel as those all those around me are busily getting on with making positive changes on the Island, being invited to cocktail parties on board big boats, sorting out the small matter of a new airport and generally being important. Meanwhile my biggest daily decision to make is whether I should clean the car today, which, incidentally I still haven’t done.

Im sure this feeling will pass, September it seems always brings a flurry of new recruits to the Island, and I find myself re-explaining why we are here, or at least my lack of defined reasons for being here. I am also sure that work will pick up as the weather steadily improves, I have a new computer and new photography studio equipment arriving at the end of the month and Im sure round the corner will be a nice new project for me to embark upon. In the meantime though, I do really need to clean the car.

I have however created some positivity to the new found time on my hands and have been getting fit, swimming a kilometre three times a week, with my time reducing with each session. To my great pleasure my waist line has reduced back to its pre-midterm break size, and, if Im not mistaken my upper body is a little more defined. This was especially a good thing when, in fulfilment of a promise to Bev’s friends I served food at her ladies poker night wearing nothing but a small pair of boxer shorts and Charlies Gruffalo apron. The apron being the closest thing we had to the pinny that was promised. Having under gone physio in July I have been carrying out the exercises I was instructed to do to strengthen my injured groin, and I have been playing badminton for the past three weeks. On Saturday I hope to make my footballing comeback. Although the season here is drawing to a close, I hope that there is still time for me to find a team in need of a decrepit veteran and that I can still hold my own.

A recent facebook post had me deep in thought last week as Lisa Rhodes, Senior nursing manager announced her departure for a mid-term break after her first ten months on the Island. How on earth it is ten months already for her, Lisa is new, finding her feet, she hasn’t been here five minutes. Of course that is not true, Lisa has firmly found her feet and has not just set about, but completed the implementation of a great many positive changes to the Hospital and community nursing on the Island. It is just that, 11 months ago I had been talking with her on facebook, telling her to stick with her provided accommodation for now, until she gets here and decides where she would like to settle. Lisa had found my blog and I, having already been here fully two months, and by that time knowing the Island like the back of my hand, was dispensing sound advice to this potential new comer.

Although I felt I did at the time, I didn’t really at that stage know the Island at all, and like a great many things in life the more you get to know something, the more you realise how little you know. I recall vividly meeting Lisa on her first day, sat in Donny’s bar having spoken for several weeks across the World Wide Web. It doesn’t seem like five minutes ago, and I felt at the time as though I had been here for a great many years.

For Bev and I we have ten months left. It feels like a cross roads, still long enough to have plenty to look forward to and enjoy on St Helena, and yet no time at all in the grand scheme of things. Do I wish it were longer, yes, but above all I wish that the ten months ahead of me are as amazing as the ten months that are behind me

I Was There

I was there, I can tell my Grandchildren that on the 15th September, 2015 I shared in a piece of history. It is a remarkable co-incidence that on the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, one of the most important days in aviation history of the British Empire, that another, far flung out post of the Empire should join the rest of the World and take its first step in its own aviation history.

At 13:47 GMT (according to my watch) a small, Beachcraft King Air 200 aircraft touched down on St Helena. Years of planning, and thousands of man hours have brought us to this point where St Helena is no-longer one of the most isolated places on earth. And as the plane touched down I was there, stood alongside other members of St Helena’s photography and media community, just 100yrds from the runway.

There is much written about the airport, its construction, and planning, incredible feats of engineering so I will not go into it here, but instead hope to convey what it feels like to be here during this momentous and historic occasion. I am of course incredibly fortunate, not only to of been granted ringside seats today, but to even be here on this little Island in the first place. From my initial few months of self-doubt and worry, I have worked very hard to establish myself here, an ex-pat without a contract, trying to gain peoples trust and confidence in my work and to spread the word of what I hope I can deliver for the Island and its people. It was therefore incredibly disappointing when I was, at first, turned down from my opportunity to photograph this great event. But, as a testament to, “if you don’t ask you don’t get” I contacted Basil Read directly and to my great surprise I was granted access, alongside the Islands media photographers, to get within touching distance of the runway.

With insider information on the exact time of arrival I met the others at Basil Reads offices in Longwood and found a busy gathering of media, Island dignitaries, Councillors and others who, like me, had convinced someone to allow them special access. I was, to say the least, feeling a little over whelmed and perhaps out of place, after all why did I deserve to be here amongst such company when many many hundreds of others, some would argue more deserving than myself, were left to watch from distant vantage points across the South East corner of the Island.

The media and photographers were ferried by shuttle bus to three pre-designated sites along the runway. Having been myself for a preview of the sites I knew the location I wanted to be at, but had no idea if I would get my choice. As chance happened I did, and by just after 12.30 myself, representatives from South Atlantic Media Services and the Independent, Basil Reads HR officer and his daughter (a photographer) were each selecting our own little spot on our vantage point and chattering away about what would happen next, which direction the plane would come from, who would get the best photo etc.

With radio communication we knew that touch down would be very close to 13:35 so with an hour to go we settled down to wait. Prosperous Bay plain, the site of the airport is an incredible landscape, moon like sands and rocks of purple and red dominate, the desert landscape now punctuated by the pale concrete runway and rather Isolated and lonely looking terminal building. The wind, though light by St Helena standards, whipped up the occasional swirl of dust, and I sat watching the run way wind sock anxious that the weather didn’t deteriorate.

Having ignored the advice I give my children on going to the toilet before leaving the house, I became increasingly desperate to relieve myself. As time ticked by I knew that holding on could result in me missing the big event, and so I wandered off to find myself a little boys room behind a rock. As time went by I noticed that at least two others in our party did the same and I began to realise the nerves that we all felt. Was it nerves that we would miss the big photo, that something would go wrong, of the enormous change that the next ten minutes would signify, I don’t know, but we were definitely nervous.

We had a radio call stating that the Beachcraft was now just 100 nautical miles away, approximately 20 minutes by our calculations, and would approach from the North East, right over the imposing black rocks of the Barn, dominating our view. Silence fell upon us, we sat listening for the sound of propellers, the silence broken only by the odd nervous joke about shooting right past and missing the Island altogether.

And then, in the distance, a flash of sunlight on metal first caught my eye and then a black dot appeared. Very shortly after we could hear crowds on the distance slopes, the many hundreds of people watching shouting cries of “there it is” in unison. The airport brings about mixed feelings and emotions for the locals here, but undoubtedly today has shown me that along with concerns there is huge excitement and support for the airport and the changes it may bring.

The plane moved in closer, following the line of the runway as it made its first fly past. A twin engine propeller plane, it was larger than I expected and I found that even at normal flying speed I was able to pan and follow the flight path with my camera, much to everyone’s relief.

The first fly past with the Barn on the Right and Flagstaff protruding to the left.

The first fly past with the Barn on the Right and Flagstaff protruding to the left.

Another fly past and finally, the moment of truth, from past the Barn to my right I followed the plane in as it dropped and glided along the runway, touching down several hundred yards from where we had expected. I had picked the wrong spot and new instantly that the money shot of tyres screeching belonged to someone else.

Beach King Air 200 comes in to Land at St Helena Airport.

Beach King Air 200 comes in to Land at St Helena Airport.

And then it was done, a moment of silence returned as we all looked at each other, as if it were important to remember who we were stood with at that moment in time. The airport was interesting but insignificant to me just thirteen months ago, now, as I stood looking around it brings about all sorts of emotions and feelings. It is different here now, and there is no going back.

Sequence shot of the final touch down showing the moon like setting and terminal building still under construction.

Sequence shot of the final touch down showing the moon like setting and terminal building still under construction.

We waited to be collected by our shuttle bus and we bemoaned our choice of positioning, cursing those who had taken the “secondary” spots and joked that the pilots should have known better and perhaps could even do the whole thing again.

Before long we were ferried off to the parking area and had our opportunity to photograph the plane up close, its crew, and even have our own photographs next to the first airplane ever to land on St Helena. A joyous occasion it was also a little chaotic, reporters, photographers, staff and dignitaries all wanting their own photos, interviews, their own moments of history. A few quick photos and I stood back to allow the “more important” people to get on with things.

Since returning home I have felt something of a come down, strange given that I didn’t know I was on an “up”. But being part of something so huge gives you a high. Social media has gone crazy this afternoon as everyone rushed to get the first or best photos out there for the world to see. As I speak my own photos on facebook have just hit 20,000 views, in seven hours!!! Collectively between the different sources and social media avenues I guess that photos of this Beechcraft King Air 200 landing on St Helena have probably been viewed around 100,000 times since touch down.

What the future holds now we don’t know, in many respects that is up to the Saints and whether they embrace the changes that are about to occur. Time will tell, but for now, today history was made, and I was there.

Two Years in Shorts!

So, after a huge amount of hard work, with support from my family and friends, and through some difficult time I have done it, 365 days wearing shorts!!! Having survived a British summer still with shorts on each day I now aim for two years in shorts, and as the sun shines through my window I am confident of achieving this goal.

We are back on St Helena, after a mere eight days of travelling we reached home two weeks ago. Not that we traveled every single day as we enjoyed a wonderful two night stop over in Cape Town. Cape Town remains, second time round one of my most favorite places I have visited.

A city full of life, colour, sound, history and culture. A place of welcoming people good food and spectacular natural history. I was lucky enough this time to full fill a long held ambition and ascend Table Mountain. Not, as I would of liked, on foot, but via the famous cable car that ferried throngs of tourists up the mountain each year. Although undoubtedly less of a place of wonder as a result of the tourists lie myself, Table Mountain still holds a prehistoric feel to it, and a short walk takes you away from the crowds and out on your own across the huge rocky plateau. The views are truly spectacular as we looked out to the Cape of Good Hope and across to Table Bay. As we gazed the wonderful sight of the RMS St Helena coming into port greeted us, as we contemplated our third and likely our last voyage across the Atlantic. By the time we leave in 12months, the RMS will be no more an aeroplane will be our rather more boring mode of transport off the Island.

In may also be our last time in Cape Town and as such we were determined to enjoy it, we could not of been happier to watch a thunderstorm blow through Cape Town as we sat upon our balcony sipping Cape wine and taking in the sights and sounds of Cape Towns night life below.

The view from our balcony at night.

The view from our balcony at night.

Boarding the RMS was a strange experience. 12 months ago we past through immigration and port control, and climbed the ramp up to the RMS with great excitement, and a fair amount of fear and trepidation at the unknown world we were heading to. This time however the RMS provided a huge amount of security, a welcoming and familiar vessel to transport us not to the unknown, but to what is, for now at least, undoubtedly home.

Our crossing was smooth, fast and pleasant, a hugely appreciated upgrade ensured we enjoyed one of the larger cabins and the extra space was very welcome having spent five weeks in each others pockets. The conditions were a far cry from the rough seas we had encountered five weeks earlier and the journey was incredibly smooth and, as a result very quick, as quick as crossing the Atlantic can ever be.

It was a particular pleasure meeting new arrivals on St Helena, tourists and our new Doctor, full of questions, which we were now in a position to answer. Travel on the RMS St Helena is a wonderful experience. I allows new comers to the Island to form friendships and meet people before the set foot ashore, providing rea-assurance and dinner invites, particularly useful when arriving on a bank holiday weekend when all the shops will be shut for two days.

On early morning of our fifth day St Helena filled the view from our port hole, filling my heart with a warm sense of joy. The sun was shining and we were all looking forward to stepping on land. The sun shone for our first two or three days on the Island, before taking a turn for the worse, after all we are still just emerging from winter, but the days of are punctuated nicely by days of glories tropical sun.IMG_4056 IMG_4055 IMG_4048 IMG_4044 IMG_4039

Our first weekend back however reminded us of why we love the place so much. A walk up flagstaff to enjoy the spectacular views across the Island, a lovely dinner at a friends house, with a huge slab of T-bone steak, and a party on another night.

Our weekends have been instantly filled with good company, good fun and wonderful scenery. This weekend has been no different. A return to Sundowners drinks at Donny’s bar, a walk to Fairy Land, aptly named this time of year as you can see and swimming in the pool under baking tropical sun.

I have undertaken something of a fitness regime, climbing Jacobs ladder twice a week, and at present, swimming a kilometer twice a week before 9am!! This is, as my friends will testify, most unlike me. However 6 weeks of pure indulgence, drinking and eating takes an inevitable toll which was confirmed to me as we walked to the coffee shop following our disembarkation from the ship to be greeted with “you’ve put on weight” from one of our friends. Before we left the Uk 12 months ago I was determined, having reached my “middle age” that I would have something of a change of life style and eat better and exercise more. My good intentions were thwarted following my groin injury (plus complete lack of will power and a liking for beer) but I return more determined to keep fit and look the part for my gorgeous wife.

Life has been hectic, in one day I found myself climbing Jacobs Ladder, shopping, photographing ladies under wear, plumbing in part of a fish tank and writing a husbandry guide for colleagues back in the UK. All in a day’s work over here. At this point many of you will of thought “photographing ladies underwear”??? And yes, I have a contract with a new business who is importing sexy, Anne Summers underwear to the Island. At this stage I am just taking product shots for the website, however when my studio equipment arrives at the end of the month a model shoot will take place. Totally out of my comfort zone I am both excited and extremely nervous at my first actual photoshoot with models, and in skimpy underwear no less. OF course this has gone down well with my male friends and I have already signed up several police officers as security and at least seven people holding a flash for me!!

After six weeks in each other pockets the Wednesday the boys started back at school was a joyous day for us all. Charlie has now started full time schooling and seems to be relishing in this new, “big boy” environment, part of the main school and not within the annexed nursery building. Oliver on the other hand has struggled to settle back in and reform the friendships that he left behind eight weeks ago. However, two weeks in, and with the help of taking a football to school it seems to be improving for him. Of course both boys now have a warped perspective of our life in the UK. Having spent the past month being spoilt by grandparents, having days out at the zoo, park and generally living a life of riley, they are now convinced that our lives in the Uk are one great big party with grandparent. Convincing them of the realities of our previous life in the UK being different from the holiday we just enjoyed has taken some doing, and Charlie is still not convinced. However a boat trip with dolphins, swimming, football, friends and sunshine has convinced them that another year here will be ok!!

Leaving the UK was difficult for everyone this time, but particularly for Bev, who’s sister was induced into labour the day before we left the UK. Knowing that our new niece would be born as we were travelling, and that she would be twelve months old before we get to meet us is of course hard. It reminds us of the precious things we have left behind. But I would not change it for the World. We are on a countdown now, 12 months to go, 11 months, 10 months etc, and yet we return feeling at home. I am no longer searching for my place here, desperately fighting for some feeling of importance and worth. I am slotting back into my place here and the sacrifices we make are more than worth it.

As we reach mid-September St Helena is about to enter a whole new age, and history is being made. The very first mobiles phones were sold on the Island on the 1st of the month, the network due to be operational before the month end. And, on Tuesday 15th of September 2015, St Helena will no longer be an isolated Island in the Atlantic, as the very first Aeroplane lands here. With it come mixed emotions for Saints and Ex-pats alike. What will this new age herald for the Island as it undertakes the most significant change since its discovery in 1502? Time will tell, and I will hold comment and judgement until such time as I could give a balanced and informed comment. Until then the island undoubtedly excited to welcome its first test flights next week, and no doubt huge crowds will be in place to witness the event. Whatever the long term future for the Island it is a privilege to be part of life here at this momentous time, and we could not be happier to be back.

Back in Blighty

So we have been back in the UK for almost four weeks now, in two days we will be flying back to Cape Town for our return journey on the RMS.

It has been a strange interlude in our time on St Helena, a period of reflection on the past year, on life in the UK and how it compares to St Helena, and thoughts have also turned to 12 months from now, when our return to the UK will be more permanent in nature.

As we travelled to Saint Helena a year ago we were told by another mid termer that their holiday had left them feeling in limbo. Never quite feeling that St Helena is home, knowing full well that their time on the Island is always to be limited, but equally feeling like they will never quite belong back in the hustle and bustle of life in the UK. I share that feeling.

The past few weeks have allowed time to think and realise that there are things that I miss about the UK, but there are things that I am happy to leave behind.

I miss good food, cheese, a choice of restaurants and of beer. Ahh beer, a wide selection of ales and European lager. Don’t get me wrong, Windhoek is fine, but when it is one of just two beers on offer, for a full eleven months the taste of a Fursty Ferret, or Green King IPA is most welcome indeed. In fact, I have put on half a stone since leaving St Helena after five weeks of unadulterated gluttony, at one stage having eaten a cooked breakfast for ten out of fourteen days! Depsite my appreciation of the choice and quality of food and beer, I have not enjoyed the prices, my first real shock coming when I paid over £6 for a pint of pale ale and a tub of nuts!!! The bar man actually apologised, as if he had just realised for the first time exactly what he had done.

I absolutely don’t miss the traffic. The past four weeks has been sheer hard work. As we left Heathrow I expected to be a relaxed driver, a new me, less concerned with the inadequacies of other drivers around me. Within five minutes I was yelling at the middle lane drivers, I was saddened that no one had waved at me, and despite driving 20mph faster than I had done for 11 months, I was infuriated by the 50mph restrictions due to road works!! Road works, every where we drove the journey was blighted by men in hi-vis jackets stood around doing nothing, absolutely nothing!! Most stretches of the motorway in the UK is now lined with orange cones, such is the frequency of their use it seems to me that they are just left at the side of the road ready for the next time some inexplicable road works are put in place!

Above: A lovely few days away with Bevs family in beautiful Dorset and seaside town of Charmouth.

I have missed the rolling country side of Dorset, although truth be told it’s a long time since I lived there. But the green hills, coastal towns, sand stone cliffs and beaches full of fossils brought back wonderful memories and reminded me that parts of the UK are simply stunningly beautiful. Likewise our visit to Menai Bridge and subsequent drive through Snowdonia took my breath away. This wonderful corner of North Wales has always felt like home being my university home land for five years or more. Despite everything that has transpired since I left a decade ago as I drove along the coast, and Puffin Island came into view a part of my soul felt at peace.

Above: A Trip to the Welsh Mountain Zoo with friends.

We saw equally beautiful scenery on a camping trip to Mid Wales. Set in a glorious valley near Bwlth Wells we enjoyed a lovely and relaxing few days eating barbecued food, swimming in lakes, watching stars and eating bacon and eggs for breakfast. All in the comfort of a lovely Bell Tent, this was camping, but not as I knew it, I believe its called Glamping!!

Above: Lovely holiday at Forest Fields Camp site in Mid-Wales.

We were lucky during our camping trip that the clouds parted and afforded us at least a few days of sunshine, but on the whole the weather, in August may I remind you, was unseasonably wet and cold. It was two weeks before we saw the sun at all and it reminded me of another thing I don’t miss, the UK weather. At its best, the sun shining in the UK, or a crisp winters days with blue skies and frost touching the green grass cannot be bettered. But all too frequently our days are cold, wet damp and grey, I do not miss that at all.

Wandering around the UK felt strangely lonely, there are people everywhere, but we don’t consider each other anymore. No one stops to say hello, no one waves across the street. It felt strange not knowing everyone as we went about our business. No doubt the small communities in the UK still hold onto the precious thing of human kindness, but for me it felt sadly lacking. I saw more people in one supermarket than I would see in 6 months on the Island, and yet not a single face did I recognise.

Above: Red Kites at a Feeding Station in Mid-Wales.

Before coming back to the UK I thought I had missed choice, choice of food , ingredients, going to a supermarket and finding a whole range of fresh food and ingredients from around the world. Others told me the choice would be daunting, but I felt neither daunted nor excited. Instead I felt it unnecessary. I did not require a choice of 15 cold cuts hams, I just needed one. I didn’t need to choose from Olives stuffed with anything you could imagine stuffing into an Olive, I just wanted some Olives. The choice wasn’t over whelming, I just didn’t want to have to make it. It turns out that shopping in St Helena is simple and effective. There are times when Id love to find that missing ingredient, but on the whole I just don’t want for more, its only when presented with such a choice of things do we long for it. Take the choice and opportunity away and we just get on with it.

Did I mention I hate the traffic, I have not missed the traffic?

It transpires I have really missed watching football in pubs. I have not found yet that St Helena is a big football in pub type place. The atmosphere of men shouting, the banter the laughter, cries of joy and of despair, all washed down with some good beer and a packet of crisps. However, I do not miss the cost of watching football in the UK, it seems now to watch football from your own doorstep you have to sign up to sky sports, BT sports and a number of others and it costs an arm and a leg. 24 hour a day, live premiership action from South African SS sports will do me thank you.

On St Helena I miss convenient communication, I miss texting to send a quick message, I do not miss carrying the internet around with me 24 hours a day. And yet I have fallen strait back into the trap, having resurrected my mobile phone, of checking facebook at every opportunity, checking my e-mails whilst sitting on the toilet, or checking the latest football gossip transfer gossip whilst standing in a que. The power of convenience is amazing, its in my pocket so why not take a quick look. When we get back to St Helena, the Island first mobile phone service should, I believe, be operational. Although it will be some time before it is affordable Im sure, I will not be signing up. Freeing myself from the constant temptation of the internet is a good thing for me, and I will be grateful to leave it behind me for another year.

For anything I miss in the UK whilst on St Helena, there are a catalogue of things I miss from the Island when I am back in Blighty. Most of all miss me. I am a nicer, better person on St Helena. I stop and talk to people, I enjoy the company of others and I am less stressed. As we return to St Helena we know we are on a count down. Month by month our time will be running out. I have already started to worry about what we will do on our return, will I find work, where will we live, and will St Helena have made fundamental changes to our lives, or just fade to a pleasant memory. Of all the things I do and learn on the Island I hope most of all that the changes I have seen in myself in the past 12 months, become embedded over the next twelve, so that I return to the UK and keep the spirit of St Helena within me. I have not prepared myself for being in the UK this time round, next time I shall have to prepare for leaving St Helena behind, and I think that preparation will start just as soon as we board the RMS, for one last time.

Wednesday

So its Wednesday afternoon and I sit, still on board the RMS, it has been a very long week, and the longest day maybe of my life, watching a clock tick by hoping that at some time soon Captain Rodney will announce that the winds have dropped sufficiently to allow us into Cape Town Port. Since Monday, and my last blog, the waves picked up considerably, slowing our journey and making our arrival in Cape Town very late. Immigration was closed, and we were told that an extra night on board the RMS would be the result. Bad news got worse as we were then told that high winds had closed the port to all traffic, and that, looking at the forecast it would be sometime around midday that we would be able to get onto dry land.

Alas even that claim was optimistic, and so it is that I sit, at 4.30pm, still doing circles out in Table Bay. Our flight will be missed, and it wont be until Friday, two days late, that we will eventually take our flights to London. The RMS is a long journey at the best of time, mentally an extra day feels like an eternity and the day has been a mix of long drawn out periods staring blankly, games of cards, and a good deal of TV. At one stage, two of our fellow travellers were engaged in a game of Guess Who, and, such was the boredom on board, were watched intently by five adults, awaiting the result of the hotly fort contest.

We are lucky to have on board Colin Owen, Financial Secretary for St Helena who has been in touch with St Helena Governments HR to re-arrange our flights. Others, have not been so lucky, missing flights, connections and starts of holidays. The Days now need an expensive taxi journey to catch up with holiday companions. Although the journey has been long, our spirits have been lifted by the ever staggering sight of Cape Town, sat under Table Mountain with its table cloth of white cloud flowing down the slopes. We are saddened that our time at home has been cut short, but must make the most of the circumstances and enjoy an extra night and day in the wonderful city of Cape Town.

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Robin Island, Table Bay at Sunset

Oliver and Charlie have behaved impeccably, I have been astounded at how well they have played and entertained themselves. The children have all provided each other with entertainment and companionship and have found an endless array of games to play and ways to keep themselves amused.

After spending the night in the bay, we woke to see Cable Mountain, clocked in its white table cloth. Cape Town really is a stunning city.

After spending the night in the bay, we woke to see Cable Mountain, cloaked in its white table cloth. Cape Town really is a stunning city. Click on the image to zoom in and see it in full detail.

As I type, the piolet has just boarded the vessel to take us into Port. I am reliably informed we have around an hours journey time left, a welcome relief that our seven day journey is nearly at an end. The journey has not all been bad, I have cemented old friendships, and made new. We shared our journey and dining table with a Sailor of World renowned, and heard tales of round the World Trips and trans-Atlantic rowing from a man who holds once held a World Record for rowing the Atlantic single handedly. Both Oliver and Charlie are now set on being sailors when they grow up.