RMS St Helena Part Two!

So we are back where it all began, on board the RMS St Helena, only this time we travel South East, across the Atlantic Ocean for five nights heading to Cape Town. The RMS has not changed, but the journey has. We sit not full of excitement and trepidation, but instead contentment and a little sadness at leaving our Island home, albeit for just a few weeks. The ship does not chatter with talk of St Helena and what lies ahead, there is no advice to be given from experienced hands, but instead there are good friends, comfortable in each other’s company having built strong relationships for the past 10 months.

Passing through customs at the Wharf we had to board a bus to travel 100yrds which are now very familiar to us. It seems ridiculous that we cant walk down the wharf considering the number of hours we have spent down there swimming off it. We stand on deck looking back at Jamestown for a significant delay in departure. This gave those people leaving the Island for good the opportunity for one last look at their soon to be former home. We were also treated to our first Humpback Whale sighting of the year, jumping and leaping and breaching over and over. A really special moment before we leave.

On board with us are twenty eight children, making life easier for parents given company and play friends, but I suspect distinctly less comfortable for the other adults on board. Our Captain is once again Rodney Young, an affable Saint who has been crossing the Atlantic for many years. His manor makes one feel assured and taken care of, and he has a knack of remembering faces and people. Captain Cocktails in the lounge provided me the rare opportunity to don my suit and tie, although it didn’t last long. Rodney tells me he has been reading my blog, and recommending it to passengers, high praise indeed.

The RMS remains a wonderful experience, a throwback to bye gone days, only this time round it is even more appreciated, the exuberance of food and drink being particularly welcome given the relative lack of variety on St Helena. I have drank my first pint of beer in ten months, and although not top of my list of beers a refreshing Heineken has been very welcome, as has the selection of cheeses!! As I write I look forward to the final night aboard, to include an afternoon nap, (making up for my 3am poker game last night) and the final round of the on board quiz, where our team, “What do points make” sit in a comfortable position just off the leaders.

Will I be sad to leave the ship? Less so than before would be the answer although once more I feel as though an extended family has been created on board, and I have enjoyed the company of old and new friends and learnt once more that people should be given a chance, and that quick judgement should never be made. It is wonderful also to see the children playing together and forming their own friendships. Saint, South African, Brit and Swedes, there is no thought to colour or creed, just to fun and friendship. Oliver and Charlie have grown enormously over the past ten months, able to make friends and socially comfortable. During our last journey, Oliver had to be pressed to take part in anything, and most of the activities found him watching from the sidelines. This past week however has seen him first in line to sign up for anything, competing against his peers in everything from deck quoites to tug o war

The crossing has, in the main, been reasonably smooth at the time of writing, although our first afternoon was pretty rough leading to a que of people outside of the ships doctor all looking for a bum numbing injection to calm the sea sickness. I was one of the lucky ones, seemingly not suffering. Although since that afternoon the crossing has been easy going, the predicted change in sea conditions has now arrived and as I write the ship is being buffeted by large waves and has entered into a washing machine movement rotating left and right, up and down like a corkscrew. Having been largely lucky to avoid any sea sickness until now, I can feel my stomach churning, the combination of movement and four days of over indulgence of rich food and beer now taking its toll.

Our last day aboard also turns my attention to island friends who are travelling on the RMS for the last time. Having waved god bye to several lovely people and families already, the departing of the Days from St Helena is difficult for us, we will miss them greatly, as will Oliver and Charlie. But at the same time we look forward to our return in a few weeks, meeting the next wave of people who will come to St Helena to start their own adventures.

The RMS is important; of course it provides the vital life line, supplying the Island with everything from water to food. But it also provides a transition period, five days to leave St Helena and prepare oneself for the change of Worlds, which ever direction you are travelling. To leave or arrive on St Helena on a plane, whilst undoubtedly convenient, almost seems daunting, leaving the peace and comfort of the Island to arrive in London in less than eleven hours. The countdown has begun for the RMS, a clock shows the number of days until her decommission, which currently shows 361, just under a year from now the last remaining Royal Mail Ship will be no more. What will become of here? No one yet knows, a floating hotel has been one suggestion although this seems to present more challenges than solutions. The RMS serves a unique function, carrying both passengers and cargo and it is difficult to see where else this exacting requirement lies. She does not carry enough passengers to become a passenger cruise ship, and nor is her cargo capacity able to match a dedicated cargo ship, making her an expensive option to transport goods.

There is a strong will to find this wonderful ship a permanent home, but whether that will can be married with a practical and cost effective solution is, in my view, unlikely and sadly I can see here being consigned to a considerable scrap value. It is with great pride that I am able to say I travelled on board the RMS St Helena, the last of her kind.

All Change

Winter has arrived in earnest here on St Helena, for what seemed like a biblical time span the Island was soaked with continual misty rain and low hanging cloud. Much to the delight of our utilities supplier, Connect, the solid downpours have raised water levels and averted a water shortage. The Island took on a different atmosphere for a while, cloud hung to the peaks and ridges forming a permanent barrier to the sun. The acclimatised Saint in me is cold, the Brit in me is still wearing shorts and determined that 15C is still warm weather and nothing to whine about. When we arrive on St Helena in August last year we arrived to similar temperatures, and I was ashamed at the ex-pats who were complaining about the cold weather, having got used to months of 26C plus however, this sudden drop in temperature has come as a surprise. It has been compounded by our house move, as we have once again uprooted and moved house. Oliver, at seven years of age is now on his eight home as we packed up and moved across the Island to the wonderfully named, Alarm Forest. We have also moved up in the world, and our home sits around 500m altitude, and is on the cold side of St Helena. This move coupled with the cooler weather has meant a drop in temperature in the evenings of around 10C and we sit wrapped in blankets on our new and distinctly chilly leather sofa’s.

I insist on wearing shorts and have now set myself the goal of going a full 12months wearing shorts every day, something that will no doubt be put to the test as we return to the UK in a few days time. We had decided to hold Oliver’s Birthday party in our new home, it is well suited with a large garden and huge front room that is not less than 42ft long. This had forced us to empty boxes and sort the house out in double quick time and just three days after moving we were all settled in.

Our new home is lovely, and old Saint house, possibly over a hundred years old, made of stone walls some 2ft thick. A large grass lawn opens out to simply stunning views across the North of the Island, Jamestown, Ruperts Valley and the peaks of Flagstaff are all clearly visible, as is St Helena first airport beacon, a red light sat high on the Barn as a symbol of the change that is about to hit all of St Helena. Although a little colder now, it promises to be an ideal place for most of the year and I cant wait to enter into Spring and Summer in a few weeks time.IMG_1877-Pano IMG_1870-Pano IMG_1868

Of course winter also brings the football season, and Oliver and I now have a team, as I was in the UK I am now coaching my own little group of Steven Gerrards. Oliver is loving his first taste of competitive football, and by all accounts is doing ok, scoring a few goals in his first few games and with a good sense of positioning and space for a seven year old. Our first match was reminiscent of British football, cold grey and wet, with parents huddled into their thick jackets hurling instructions and encouragement to their bewildered looking children. Bev, previously critical of such competitive behaviour found herself admitting, “you just cant help but get excited and shout at them”.

With the change in seasons comes a change in the Wildlife as the Humpback Whales return to ST Helena to calve and feed their young. We caught our first glimpse of these majestic animals whilst at the beach at Ruperts Bay, the weather having taken a turn for the better in the last week or so. This spotting prompted our first boat trip of the season and although we didn’t see the whales, we were treated to a large pod of Dolphins.

James Bay itself is busy at the moment as ships from the Ministry of Defence arrive in town to extract oil from the sunken wreck the Darkdale. It was Torpedoed off St Helena on the 22nd October 1941 and now lies as a top diving attraction some 30meters below the waves. Ceri Samson writes about the history of the ship here, and there are plenty of other sites with historical information on the ship formally known as Empire Oil,  so I wont go into it on my pages, but suffice to say the bay is busy and the MoD diving crew has caused something of a stir with the ladies during their stay on St Helena, like I said, St Helena has a way of making celebrities out of people.

 

James bay pnorama-2

Please click on this photo and zoom in to see the detail and the ships in James Bay

We rapidly approach the end of our first year on St Helena, and on Thursday this week we will board the RMS St Helena for our five day journey across the Atlantic to Cape Town. I approach this journey with mixed emotions, joy of course at seeing family and old friends, but tempered by the fact this journey heralds the half way point, we count down from here. It feels all the more poignant as the Days, a wonderful family and friend who featured heavily in our story will travel with us on the RMS for the last time. We met the Days on board the RMS last as they returned from their own mid-term break, it seems fitting that we journey with them as we reach half way and their own St Helena story comes to an end. I wonder who will be aboard the RMS when we return in August, who will we introduce to the Island, I wonder if they will have read my blog.

 

I wonder too what I will be doing upon our return. Charlie starts main school for the first time, giving me full days to fill. There is lots of opportunities on the horizon for me, but none are yet certain it is a time of unknowns.

 

It is also a time to look back, on our first 12 months living on St Helena. What have I learnt, what have I achieved, have I changed?

 

I have changed, I have changed for the better, I am more sociable, and it turns out Ive learned to like people, and that conversation with others is to be cherished and enjoyed, and not seen as an inconvenience. I have learnt to appreciate things in life, to enjoy simple pleasures, and although we are by no means deprived, I have learnt that there are many material goods in this world we simply don’t need. Have I become more patient? in some ways yes, I don’t expect my goods to arrive from Amazon the next day, and waiting an hour for food in a restaurant is to be expected and in some regards enjoyed, but I still loath waiting in queue and have not quite got used to sitting in my car waiting for other drivers to finish their conversation in the road!

 

I have learnt not to judge, on appearances, on rumours, or on first impressions. I have learnt that people should be given a chance, and that first impressions are almost always wrong, I have discovered good friends in people that I wouldn’t have given the time to get to know in my past. I have learnt to say hello, to speak to people, and to listen (although I still can’t remember names).

 

I have accomplished a great deal, from starting out feeling lost, with no purpose or meaning to my time here, I have developed a successful photography and design business. I have built the business up through word of mouth and good service. I have learnt to dive, and will soon start my rescue divers course. I have learnt things about myself, some good, some bad. I have learnt that I am more needy than I realised, and yet I have learnt that I overcome dark times and low emotions and come out stronger.

 

Am I closer to Charlie and Oliver, yes, although it has not come as easily as I had hoped. I have come to admire them, and be proud of their achievements. They have taken everything in their strides, made friends and adapted so very well to their new lives, better than perhaps their Dad when we first arrived.  Have I become a house husband, no, I have learnt that I simply could not be. But I have learnt also that there is a balance to be found, and that having the love and admiration of my children, is more important than the love and admiration of anyone else, apart from my wife, who continues to hold me up when Im weak and push me further when Im strong.  I have learnt also the things I still need to work on, the things I need to improve to be a better father, to provide Charlie and Oliver with good guidance and not just firm guidance. Maybe the next twelve months can help me get there.

 

As I sit here now, I cannot picture myself in the UK, it seems a strange and alien place and as far away from St Helena as the journey we are about to take suggests. St Helena is in me, it is part of me now and I hope that I am part of it. And yet I fear that once we get back to the UK, it will be all too familiar.  We will arrive at Heathrow and drive for four hours, when my longest drive for 11 months has been twenty minutes. There will be more people in the airport than I have seen for nearly a year and I will be annoyed with most of them. They will not wave at me, nor say hello, just because Im a fellow human being. Most will not even give me a glance. I will wave at people as we drive and they will think I am strange. I will have more options of food and drink than I will know what to do with, but I am  looking forward to a choice of beer!!!

 

 

You Don’t Know the Davids?

On St Helena, more so than I have encountered elsewhere, families, and, ex-pat families in particular, are referred to collectively by their surnames. We, of course, are The Tyson’s, there are the Day’s, The Durkin’s, The Grahams, The Hannah’s and so on and so forth. Couples however do not get that treatment, they are referred to by first name, but always together, Sam and Paul, Ian and Tina, and of course there are the individuals, Jon, Christine, Lisa and Heidi, and many many others.

And so it was that on Friday we headed down to the Coffee Shop, the waterfront venue for a weekly wake of sorts, where people gather to say their goodbyes to friends, families and loved ones leaving the Island. We went to say good bye to Lisa and Keith, Heidi, Christine, Felix and the Hannah’s. It is a strange affair which, for many Saints, is a very very sad moment, saying goodbye to family members as they move abroad, to Ascension, Falklands or the UK to find work, often not returning for many years. For others it is an opportunity to show respect, for a work colleague who has completed their contract, who has made a difference and a positive change to the Island, one who will be missed professionally as well as personally.

For me, the regular goodbyes at the St Helena coffee shop mark an odd passing of time. They are sad and sombre affairs that force one to reflect on the limited amount of time we have here, the finite nature of our new life, one that does not sit within the realms of reality, but instead is a precious dream, that we will wake up from all too soon. Friday’s Coffee Shop breakfast was important for a number of reasons, saying goodbye to Heidi, a nurse who was on a short-term contract and who has touched many people in her time here. Making huge changes in the Hospital in terms of staff training and moral, but also touching people with her kind nature and good heart. Heidi has a way of making you feel like part of an extended family, like we have known her for years, she will be missed.

It was also important as we said a temporary goodbye to the Hannah’s, and her Ladyship, Christine. Those of you who have stuck with me from the start will know that Christine and the Hannah’s travelled to St Helena with us, on the same voyage aboard the RMS St Helena. They are now returning to the UK for their mid-term break, something that we will be doing in just three weeks’ time. How we have reached the halfway mark already I have no idea. I look back with great fondness at our first meeting at Cape Town Airport. Other St Helena bound people were easy to spot once we had passed through customs, looking tired, bewildered, and with the same “I wonder if they are going to St Helena” look about them. The people I met then, are not the friends I have now, it’s like we were different people, tentatively approaching each other, asking who, how and why type questions and building the first bricks of friendship.

Also on the RMS with us were the David’s. They were a step ahead of us, and, along with the Day’s, were returning to the Island following their own mid-term breaks. They proved to be a fountain of knowledge and great friends, we shared our Christmas with them, and many happy memories, but alas like others before the David’s had to leave. For me, St Helena is not the same without them but for others, it is no different, for others, the David’s mean nothing, they did not have the privilege of spending time on the Island with them. The Lockley’s bought a trampoline from “someone called the David’s?”, Heidi, whom we said goodbye to this week, does not even know them. How can you not know the David’s? The Day’s leave in three weeks, we are lucky to be sharing their final journey on the RMS with them, a time will come when we return in September where we will meet people who never met the Day’s, and so it will be that the Tyson’s will also disappear from the memories, the radio shows, the newspaper pages and the world of St Helena.

St Helena has a way of making celebrities out of people. People with influential jobs, big personalities, or who involve themselves with everything, quickly become known, become talked about. But they will pass, they will become another ex-pat who came and went, that will be talked about no more. But of course, there are those who are not transient, the Saints. For Saints this is not an adventure, it is not an experience something to add to their life CV. It is not a fantastic dream that they will wake up from, it is life. We make efforts to make friends with Saints, and by all accounts, we are doing ok, but it is important to remember that they have friends, and families, they don’t need us in the way that we need them. Making friends with Saints here is part of the experience, to get to know the true nature of a place you must get to know its people. That is not to say the friendships are not genuine, we have met some lovely people whom I undoubtedly class as friends, but the Saints have seen it all before. They have seen people like me come and go, time and time again. They somehow, in the face of it all, remain friendly, and in the main their affections are genuine, their smiles and waves carry meaning. But we will never be “one of them” how can we be. All Saints know that sooner or later, we will leave. For some, the hurt of losing good friends over and over causes them to hold something back, not friendship, but perhaps love. And who can blame them, we may make friends, but we are unlikely to become loved ones.

And so as I looked around at the Coffee shop, I wondered who would be there to say good bye to the Tyson’s in twelve months. Would people think fondly of us, will we of made a difference. Will people on Saint Helena remember us when we are gone, will we leave behind friends or even loved ones, and will there be anybody left at the Coffee shop, in July 2016 as we say our goodbyes, who will even know the David’s?

To keep their memory alive and well here is my little photo montage of our good friends, the David’s

 

The Best Yet

I pointed my torch upwards, my hand above my head as I watched the bubbles dance and flash in the beam of light. We broke the surface to the sound of gasps, a short silence was quickly broken by chattering’s of delight after what was, to all of us, an amazing experience. As I look at a solitary star breaking the cloud we head back to shore, the excited conversation fuelled by our shared experience and a degree of cold chattering.

Night diving is a unique experience, the lack of sound, tunnel vision and inability to communicate makes diving a very insular personal experience at the best of times. As you descend into complete darkness, the sound of your own breathing is all you can hear, the flash of torches around you all you can see, night diving is on a whole new level of alone in your own thoughts.

A group of eight descended together at Long Ledge, a slowly descending wall of rock running perpendicular from St Helena, and home to one of the most diverse dive sites on the Island. Only my second night dive I could feel my rapid breathing, as I keep a very close eye on my dive buddy, and for today, dive leader Ross. The advanced dive book tells me it is important to keep in close contact with your buddy on a night dive, but in reality, the light from a torch, in complete blackness can be seen from a long way away. Nevertheless I maintained eye contact as we descended slowly, the bottom of the ocean only revealed as my torch beam moved across the blackness like a search light looking into a night sky.

Once at the depth of our dive, the group re-convened before moving off. Following our pre-dive briefing and having dived the site before, I knew we were heading towards a cave. The experience is surreal; you concentrate on the small circle of light from your dive torch, black all around with the exception of the other search lights moving like a disco glitter ball all around you. Like a moth I am drawn to my own beam of light, drifting off into my own world I forget about the world around me, my breathing disappears into my sub conscious and all that exists in the world is the flash of colourful fish, or ghostly elongated worms that sway in the swell. My dream state is broken by the waving of light in front of my eyes, my buddy checking I am ok and still with the world I give the typical “ok” hand signal before we move on together into the mouth of the cave.

At the mouth of the cave the bright white light of my buddy’s torch lands upon a huge red octopus, startled by our appearance his colour and texture flash and change as he decides his next action, take off and jet propel away, or camouflage and slowly slink off into the gloom. Wracked with indecision he sits, motionless, waiting for his new and unexpected adversary to make its move.

As we move into the cave it is narrower than I remember, the spot light of my torch brings the walls and ceiling in around me. I’m very conscious of my breathing now, knowing that a deep inhale will result in my head crashing into the delicate and beautiful sun corals clinging to the roof of the cave, whilst a sudden exhale will result in my stirring up the silt and mud on the cave floor, reducing visibility to zero. Crayfish are now all around us, the bright orange back drop of coral broken only by armies of crayfish, moving backwards and sideways but always with a gaze fixed upon us.

My dive buddy has bright yellow fins, a good job as otherwise I am clueless as to which light in the dark I should be staying in contact with, but the experienced leader knows where I am, and gives reassuring checks whenever he can get my attention. We move out of the cave and along the wall of Long Ledge. I have been here before, many times, but today the wall is bigger, it grows upwards and disappears into the haze. Now at 19m my torch will not reach the top of the wall, it goes on forever into the gloom. Its crevices and cracks are populated with black feather stars, twisting turning and waving their spider like arms in the current catching particles of plankton drifting in shore. Fish, startled by our lights dash from hole to hole, the sleep disturbed by these inconsiderate light bearers.

As I look closely at the wall, I see two small lights shining right back at me. Tiny and insignificant I am drawn towards these lights, until the twinkling becomes the reflective eyes of bright red dancing shrimp. Slipper Lobster are now dashing across the sand bed at the base of the wall, and a giant crayfish feeds obliviously on a nearby rock. I approach cautiously, resting my arms on the sea bed just behind the distracted armoured soldier. His foot long antennae brushes my arm and the crayfish realises he is not alone. With a flick of his tail he shoots backwards and is gone.

Following Ross’s lead we turn back, retracing our fin strokes back along the wall, when suddenly our path is veering off, into the black, featureless sand beds nearby. I look around, and others are following, so I trust that we are going the right way and after what seems like forever, time having been lost along with the sunlight, we stop. With some confusion I find myself turning off my torch, clearly the instruction Ross is giving. As they arrive others do the same, albeit with a good degree of “what on earth” going through people’s minds. Then, with a large swish of his arm we understand in an instant what we are doing sat in the dark. As we all start to flail our limbs frantically we see bioluminescent bacteria all around us. The absolute black is broken only by the twinkling of glitter all around. I wave my arms like a small child, mesmerised and delighted with a feeling of shear exhilaration. I imagine myself in a snow globe, a black one. I know of nothing around me, I feel claustrophobic but giddy; I am in a dream world. I do not know where any of my dive group are, I do not know which way I am facing, and only the sand at my feet gives away my orientation. I know that at some point a bright blinding torch light will come on, and my snow globe will be shattered, but for now I am alone, all around me is indescribable flashes of glitter and light and time passes beyond meaning.

Inevitably a light is turned on, and the group follows, I take comfort that I hadn’t just been left alone in the darkness and we set off back towards Long Ledge. I have no idea which way to go, but I follow the light and yellow fins of my buddy, trusting he knows more than me. As we journey back to our start I see more octopus, twirling ghostly worms, slipper lobster and armies of crayfish. Checking my air I start to think we must be reaching our ascent point. I suddenly see the light of Ross’s torch frantically waving in my eye line. As I turn round a huge white ghost appears out of the distant gloom. Slowly, and purposefully the ghost becomes reality as I realise that a huge green turtle is swimming purposefully, determinedly, toward me. My heart stops as he swims close by, his colours lost as he appears white in our torch lights. By now the group is all around, lights all fixed on the turtle as is slowly twists and turns around us. As it passes by my, I could touch, but I don’t. I remind myself of what I learnt in my theory course. You do not touch the marine life, I think about what the rest of the group will think should I stretch out my arm, just to see, just to touch.

After several minutes he swims upwards and away, a few of us swim alongside for a while. His scale now becomes apparent as a grown man swims alongside and looks small, insignificant compared to our ghostly companion. I have seen Green Turtles before, but this was huge. The largest Green Turtle recorded was 5ft long, but I’m convinced this was longer, its huge shell carried upon his back.  As he swims we lose touch, unable to keep up, but like a petulant child attempting to make us play by his rules, he instantly misses the companionship and turns heal right back toward the group.

Before deciding to take a rest on one of the dive group’s knees, the turtle swims toward me once more. This time I have no choice, he swims right into me, his huge fin pushing down against my side as if to play with me. As I reach out my arm and stroke the length of his smooth shell I think about what the others might think, and then I think, “I just touched a Sea Turtle” who cares!!!

As quickly as he arrived our new friend has gone. Looking at our now depleted air we start our ascent. After a safety stop I point my torch upwards, my hand above my head as I watched the bubbles dance and flash in the beam of light. We broke the surface to the sound of gasps, a short silence was quickly broken by chattering’s of delight after what was to all of us an amazing experience. As I look at a solitary star breaking the cloud we head back to shore, the excited conversation fuelled by our shared experience and a degree of cold chattering.

We sip soup as we return to James Bay, grateful to be warming up. But my heart is already warm. They say that happiness is based on collecting experiences, not material goods. This was an experience, this will live with me forever, this, makes me very happy indeed.

Gravity Rush 2015

SHAPE (St Helena Active Participation in Enterprise) is a charitable organisation of St Helena who work tirelessly to provide opportunities and activities for St Helena’s disabled people. Providing work and activities cantered around crafts and business SHAPE recycle everyday materials to produce craft goods of surprising quality from soap to necklaces made of reused magazines! With the appropriate mantra “Enabled no Disabled” SHAPE receives government funding for its activities, but must make up a 30% shortfall each year and does this through sales of its products and, more recently in its annual find raising event, Gravity Rush.

For the past three years, SHAPE has invited people to hurtle themselves down a hill through Jamestown on homemade go karts with no short measure of thrills, spills and crashes the event proves to be a popular and lucrative day. Having donned my “official” high vis jacket to allow me close access without being questioned I was more than excited to take up residents near the finishing line with my new camera and “big” lens and snap away. Sadly a few spectators did get injured, although this appeared to be due to those people not standing behind the appropriate barriers, but, despite the obvious concern it did not dampen spirits as spectators cheered on the contestants as they hurtled down the hill. Thankfully no -one was seriously hurt, and the event was a huge success, with no shortage of drama, crashes, clowns, water balloons and even two front wheel falling of one kart, the thirteen teams became one winner.

My take home memory of the day is that of community. Where else would we attend a public fun day like this, and know virtually everyone involved. As I look through the crowd there is scarcely a face that I don’t at least recognise. The stewards, the contestants, the clowns, the police, the press, the commentator, and all those in between I knew by name. Gravity Rush 2015 would be a great event for anyone to attend, but when your here, and you are part of this Island, you are part of everything the Island does, and it is a true privilege to look around and see friendly faces at every turn.

Its Life Jim, But Not As We Know It

Ive concluded that my life on St Helena is in no way what I expected, not that I really knew what to expect, but I did not expect this.

I am, to all intense and purpose, running my own business in photography and design. How on earth has that come about? Granted there has been a lot of hard work and now, money, gone into the photography, and Ive always dabbled in producing posters and playing with adobe software, but when I left the UK I was a Marine Biologist/aquarist, since then I have become a communications manager, a business owner, and, photographer (I still find it difficult to say that as I feel very much an amateur and suspect I will be again on returning to the UK)

In recent weeks I have been somewhat overloaded with work, whilst this is obviously a good thing, the house looks like a tip as my house husband duties have been somewhat neglected and regrettably I have had to relinquish my duties at the National Trust. I simply haven’t had time to devote to Trust work and do not wish for people to be relying on me when I cannot deliver. I have much unfinished work at the Trust and who knows if my business does not continue to thrive I may be back there.

My work has been extremely interesting; a contract to photograph sites connecting to Napoleons exile on the Island has been very exciting. My work will be the sole photographic contribution to a new guide book for the Island. More recently I have been photographing sites across the Island for a development portfolio and I am in the midst of a big project for the Environment and Natural Recourses Directorate, providing a stock of images of the various activities and work that fall under their umbrella. This has been a fantastic opportunity for me, visiting sites I would not normally have access to. Watching large trees being felled has been the highlight thus far but lined up for me is a trip with the rock guards, brave men who abseil down cliffs to create controlled rock falls, trips with the Peaks conservation teams, visits to farms sites around the Island and lots more. It’s a large project but I cannot wait to get out there and stuck in.

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The other side of my business has recently taken off with a contract to Saint Travelproduce the logos for a new start-up company,Saint Travel. This local firm are hoping to take advantage of a new era of tourism for the Island when the airport opens. From what I know of the business owners it will be a huge success Im sure, and any of you thinking of travelling to St Helena when the airport opens should look out for them once they become operational.

Back to the photography and I have started a new line of products for the St Helena youth, photographing and retouching cars. Many young Saints take a huge amount of pride in their vehicles, and I hope this will prove a success. Some of my photos will soon be on sale in the local arts and crafts store, and one of my first photos on the Island is to feature in a new St Helena calendar. With another photography course under way I am indeed kept very busy at the moment.

Before photo supplied by the client.

Before photo supplied by the client.

After photo with some re-touching, replacing the sky, playing with the colour tone.

After photo with some re-touching, replacing the sky, playing with the colour tone.

Not that my time is restricted to work. I have now completed my advanced diving certification and will soon start my rescue diver course. Thursday evenings are very busy as I continue to train junior football and finally as winter sets in the new football season starts on St Helena and Oliver and his team mates will have the opportunity to compete in competitive football with three other junior teams on the Island. New Horizons, a youth development organisation on the Island are fantastic, and the team there, managed by Nicky and Tina Stevens, work tirelessly to provide opportunities for St Helena’s young people. The fact that the various ages of the Junior leagues will have 90 players competing this year, (on an Island of 4000 people remember) is incredible and just goes to show how hard the team there work. As a side note, one of my team, whilst walking down to the pitched explained to me that “some people believe that the World is God’s House”, I agreed that, although not my personal belief, yes, some people do believe that to be the case. With a short pause for thought, the young man mused, “I don’t, I think he lives in the Consulate hotel”!!  a fine recommendation for a hotel if ever there was one.

Sadly I fear my own football days are behind me. Somewhat unbelievably I am still having problems with my groin, more than five months after it last ruptured. Under pressure from Bev I finally conceded that I need to see a doctor, the appointment has been made. Unfortunately, such is the way of things here, whilst the doctors and nurses cannot be faulted, the waiting times can, and despite phoning on the 24th May, I could not get an appointment until the 12th of June. Ill let you know then if Im still available for Brenden Rogers to sign.

I am, as you can see rather busy, but I am not the only one. With the Marine Conservation Team starting their bird tagging again, Bev had a rather wet night on Egg Island. Starting at 4pm and going through till 1am the idea is to catch nesting Storm Petrels as they return from feeding trips to Tag and record their vitals before releasing. It is hoped this work will provide information on their population trends, and interestingly, whether two species, one potentially an endemic species actually exist on the Island. Bev is also now teaching Marine Biology O’level classes two evenings a week, (between the two of us we now do not have one mid-week evening where we are not out doing something in the community) preparing resources, lesson plans and materials for the new Marine Biology A’level which will start next year, carrying out her normal teaching duties and, most recently teaching science at a local primary school suffering from a major staffing crisis. I don’t mind telling you that despite claims from the government of the importance of Education on the Island, teacher wages are appalling. A Saint can currently earn more baking bread, or working the checkout, than they can educating the children of St Helena. This terrible situation has led to serious recruitment and retention problems. On an Island where unemployment is at virtually 100% it is people, not jobs that are in short supply, and if people aren’t rewarded sufficiently for what is a very difficult and highly skilled job, they simply go elsewhere and who can blame them. There are rumours abound that indeed this may change and that the teacher pay and benefits structure is being looked at and revised, I hope for the future of the Island that they get it right.

In other goings on it turns out I am allergic to Sea Water!!! Not a great situation for a Marine Biologist (if indeed I am still one of them) nor for someone with ambitions of achieving a Dive Master status. It dawned on Bev and I that I had had sinus problems for weeks and months, indeed, when we thought carefully, those problems have persisted since I started to dive. If I miss a couple of weeks of diving  its starts to clear up. I have now taken to Anti-histamines before a dive, which seems to be helping alleviate the problem. Diving over the past two weeks has taken a considerable turn to the cold side, with seawater temperatures dropping to around 22C, enough to make a difference. What makes more difference however is the turn in the weather making the return journey a chilly one as winds have swept in and what feels like a continuous blanket of cloud has shrouded the Island for two or three weeks now.

A long dry summer has given way to winter, and I do not like it. A few weeks ago Connect, our local, and only utility provider issued stark warnings over the levels of water supply on the Island, insisting that if people did not severely limit their use then we could run out of water by July. It seems the weather gods heard their plea and promptly switched on the rain, and it has not stopped since. Despite the huge amount of rainfall we have had, water restrictions have been legally imposed on the Island this week, much to the bemusement of everyone concerned. The problem it seems lies not with the amount of rainfall, but with capturing and retaining that rainfall (see Ceri Samson’s blog for a great write up on how works to the natural environment can help this situation). Broken pipes and reservoirs empty for repairs don’t help, but in all honestly the situation is ridiculous and Connect frankly need to get a grip of things. I believe problems of aging reservoirs and leaks have been inherited by the current directors but being told we may run out of water as rain lashes down around us is bemusing at best and downright incompetent at worst.

The strange goings on do not stop there, after the announcement of the final voyages of the RMS ST Helena, and a string of “special” voyages were announced and tickets went on sale on a first come first served basis to those living on the Island. Such is the regard that this ship is held in that people queued outside the Solomon’s shipping offices from 4am, with even those at the front of the queue not being served until 9.30am. They say the British like to form an orderly queue and it seems that has rubbed of on Saint Helenians. Im am convinced however that waiting five hours before the offices even opened was not the sensible approach, and turning up at 9am most likely would of seen you getting your tickets an hour or two later.

IMG_0608-Edit-2 IMG_0608-EditMy final story of this strange world we call home is that of the Prince Andrew School Annual Dinner Dance, a very posh black tie affair………or so we were told. After getting ready in our best attire (I don’t have much other than shorts and T-shirt on St Helena), my wife looked quite simply incredible and was sure to be turning heads. We turned up at the dubiously named Godfarther’s Rockclub which had been turned over to the school for a night of glitz and glamor. Sure enough as we arrived the ladies were dressed in their best gowns and the men looked suitably smart in black ties. The venue looked superb and the elegant table cloths suitably hid the plastic garden furniture underneath. However, this is where the façade fell down as we were called to collect our food from the buffet. A Buffet! I thought this was a posh dinner dance, I was expecting table service at least. Once at the buffet table the menu was bizarre to say the least, Beef Curry, Chips, cold ham and pork slices, breaded chicken pieces, and salad leaves. A weird combination at the best of times (Bev’s Mum and Dad would of loved this strange mix) and even stranger when being served as a buffet at a black tie event. Still, I went back for a second plate, and enjoyed the jelly and ice cream desert too! Despite the comical nature of it all we had a fantastic night with good company, music and dancing to my favourite band of all time, the Big Easy.

When I look back to our first two months on the Island I recall a time of confusion and feeling lost. Climbing Jacobs Ladder provided my goals for the week, and my blog was everything to me at that time. I was lost, not knowing why I had come to St Helena and what it was I was supposed to do here. It turns out I am still lost, still unsure of what I am supposed to do here, and it’s wonderful. I could not be busier and still have no idea what I will be doing next. Somehow I am running a business, which even saying still sounds bizarre, and even more bizarre is that I am a photographer. In a few weeks’ time we will be moving house, what will come my way then I have no idea but I cant wait to find out.

A little bit of everything!

My morning started with an early dive, to a new site called Devils Eyes, although the water temperatures have started to drop it was still a pleasant dive and we soon warmed up on the boat trip back to James Bay in glorious sunshine. After

Captain Charlie on a recent trip to Lemon Valley

Captain Charlie on a recent trip to Lemon Valley

rinsing our gear, we all took to the wharf for a barbeque and beer, sat in tropical sunshine for lunch. Shortly afterwards, Bev and the boys met me and we spent the afternoon swimming, snorkelling and buildings sand castles at Rupert’s Bay. After a day like that, one has to consider what we would be doing in the UK on a given Sunday, for a total cost of £20, and after giving that some thought it makes me consider whether indeed we would want to return. Now I don’t wish to upset my family, and of course we will return home, but it will be very hard, it is more daunting a prospect that coming to St Helena in the first place was. Although I have not had chance to update my blog all too regularly, that is not due to lack of content, and now I have the job of trying to catch up with all the goings on. It seems to me to be the season for events, just today we have returned home from Prince Andrews School 25th Anniversary Fun Day, after once again diving this morning. Two weeks ago saw a night of music as local talent took to the stage for an Abba and Beetles night. I was pleased to be asked to take photos for the event and I was happy to support anything that raises money for New Horizons. The night was a great success, the singing was ……mixed, but everyone had a fantastic night in what was another sell out event. The lack of cinema, theatre and other evening entertainment plus the obvious community support means evening events are almost always well supported and this was no exception. The highlight of the night saw the re-union of a group of ladies who last performed together for the school some twenty odd years ago; it was the performance of the night and met with rapturous applause.

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Thursday saw the annual St Helena day festivals, each year, on the anniversary of the discovery of St Helena the whole Island celebrates. Many have their own family traditions to celebrate this Bank Holiday, trips to Lemon Valley, fishing, etc. but for many, Jamestown becomes the centre of celebrations as the town is turned over to New Horizons to organise the celebrations. New Horizons is a fantastic local organisation providing sports, music, leisure and other opportunities to the Islands young people, it is a vital and under appreciated pillar of the St Helena community. St Helena Day has become their main fundraising day and what a day it is. When St Helena celebrates it is something special the sense of community and getting together is wonderful and infectious, when half of the Islands population gathers in one place it cannot help but be a great occasion. The day opened with a service to give thanks to everything the Island gives before turning itself to various sports events. Bev took part and came third in a gruelling 5km run, 2.5km of which is up the steep relentless side path road, rising from sea level 300 meters or so in an unforgiving and continuous 20 degree incline before a knee jerking quick descent back into Jamestown. Bev performed magnificently, finishing third just behind the two winners, not just for women, but overall.  She may well have finished second were it not for the unplanned water stop. Had Bev known in advance that the woman taking an age to find a bottle of water from a bag in the foot well of her car, was not in fact anything to do with the race, she may not of wasted five minutes waiting for her. But third it was and better still she was presented with a Gold Medal, we presume because she came in first out of the women, and not just because they had no bronze medals. 10622806_824249727651168_488433836947194784_n Our sporting achievement continued as we, and our team, No Expectations, came in third overall in the Islands Fun Games, a collection of high quality Athletic events from throwing water balloons to wheelbarrow races. Reaching the final of the Tug-O-War event propelled us to third overall and Bev and I both came away proudly with our medals. We shall have to change the team name next year to Great Expectations!!

The afternoon concluded with a parade of wonderful floats including some truly fantastic efforts, the highlights of which were undoubtedly the New Horizons Pirate Ship, complete with smoking cannons, and model of Johnathan the Tortoise, complete with the ability to rise up on his legs and stick out his neck.

As afternoon turned to evening fireworks, beer and music rounded off a wonderful day and one which for me brought a realisation that we are really becoming part of this community. All day long was a continuous stream of welcoming conversation, greetings and hellos. A party of two thousand people, where everyone knows each other, at very least to wave and say hello to, and many many of which we now call friends.

Although we have been welcomed from the start, it has been a sudden realisation just how many people we now know here on St Helena. A walk through town is a constant stop start of hello and how are you, of friendly faces and welcoming smiles. Had I been in the UK and found myself interrupted a thousand times on my way through town, Id of hated it, but here it is an inescapable way of life and the only way to be. It has rubbed off on me and I am a changed man because of it, all for the better.

Whilst we are happy to be making friends of course, like everything there is always another side to things, and on St Helena, that other side is losing friends as they leave the Island. Many Saints leave their families and friends to find work or make a new life on Ascension, the Falklands or the UK, and of course families’ from the UK must leave as their contracts expire. It’s hard, and undoubtedly affects some Saints more than others. Some adapt well to the transitional way of life, others have admitted to me that they find it hard to let ex-pats into their lives, to make close friends in the knowledge that those friends will soon leave the Island. It is a sad story but is the way of life on this remote Island. Thankfully we are being welcomed in, and not just in the day to day friendly and welcoming nature of Saints, but something more real, we are making genuine friends and I’m sure now that what is starting a first family meal together, or an evening drinks in the bar, will turn into friendships that will be very hard to leave behind. The weather has been wonderful the past few weeks, and despite taking a definite turn this week we have been treated to glorious sunshine and the most stunning breath-taking sunsets I have ever seen. Night after night oranges turn to red, and reds to purples and the dipping sun paints a masterpiece across the sky. The extended summer however has not been without its pitfalls as the Island is gripped in a serious water shortage. Threats of cutting water supplies off have been issued by Connect (local utilities) in an attempt to avoid the drought that hit the Island two years ago. Thank fully this week has seen a lot of rain and hopefully severe control measures should be avoided. The problem on St Helena is not one of lack of rain, but of poor distribution, poor storage and most of all a lack of ability to capture and retain the water that falls. If successful a capital project should improve this situation, and it is imperative it is solved before the first flights arrive next year. Sunset St Helena Island Sunset St Helena Island Sunset St Helena Island On the subject of flights we were lucky enough to have a private, guided tour of the airport site by Basil Reads quality assurance manager. It was a real privilege and the work that has been carried is phenomenal. The whole idea of an airport is controversial, and although a referendum voted in favour of its construction it is still met with great scepticism and fear, only natural for a people who have been isolated from the world for so many generations. But whatever people views on the value of an airport, it is undeniable the fantastic job that is being done. Let me paint a picture of the enormity the project.

180 degree view from the controltower

180 degree view from the control tower

Build and airport on St Helena they say. Ok but where, there is no flat land where will the runway go? Over here, this valley will do, we could fill it in and make some flat land.

Ok, where will we get the rock to fill in this valley? Over there, those hills, we will flatten them and use that for the rock. The land will also provide the space for the accessory buildings. Right, but if we fill in this valley, where will the water go from the stream? No problem cut a new valley over there and divert the stream.

Great, but, what about all the machinery and equipment we will need, St Helena doesn’t have a dock, no ship is able to land here? So build a new dock of course, simple. We will build a temporary one at first so we can start construction, then we will replace it with a new permanent wharf so that container ships can still bring goods to the Island.

Ok, that’s all well and good, but your dock is five miles from the airport, how will our trucks get from the wharf to the airport? Come one, that won’t stop us, we will build a new road, up that huge steep sided valley wall over there.

One last thing, the airport will need fuel? Ok, so we’ll install a new bulk fuel installation that will supply the airport and rest of the Island’s needs.

And that is what they have done, nearly! It’s highly impressive and it was real privilege to see all this close up and personal.

To me, the uneducated, Basil Read have done and continue to do a fantastic job, considerate of the local environment, the Island and its people and working on time and as far as I know, on budget. So it is with the thought of the airport that I leave you. What will it bring to the Island? Prosperity maybe, change definitely. Will it be a good thing, I honestly don’t know, I do know that as thoughts turn to our midterm break and our next voyage on the RMS St Helena, that I am sad that our eventual end to the adventure will be on a plane, and not, after two years being intimately connected to sea, on board a ship.

Milky Way

Well, first I must apologise that I have not had the opportunity to add an entry for a couple of weeks, and second, I must apologise that I still haven’t got time to update you all now. I have in short been extremely busy working, taking photos and working on some new graphic design projects.

But just to keep everyone interested I did manage to go out and take some of my most successful night time imagery yet, here are the results.

Church at Sandy Bay. This image is the result of 12 photos stitched together. The foreground is illuminated using a technique called light painting, whereby a torch is used to gently  light the subject during a long exposure.

Church at Sandy Bay. This image is the result of 12 photos stitched together. The foreground is illuminated using a technique called light painting, whereby a torch is used to gently light the subject during a long exposure.

Another shot of our neighbours. This time an 16 shot panorama with a double exposure for the car.

Another shot of our neighbours. This time an 16 shot panorama with a double exposure for the car.

Our house, a tiny spec in the endless galaxy.

Our house, a tiny spec in the endless galaxy.

View from the back garden!!

View from the back garden!!

The night skies the past two weeks have been breathtaking. For the shot below I left home around 10.30pm and drove to Sandy Bay. I knew it would be magical as I drove down the narrow steep rode that leads to the bay. The smell of flowers were heavy on the air. Leaving the car I walked, in absolute darkness down to the bay. Above me, a million billion stars in an endless sky, the milky way clearly visible stretching across the sky and marking the entrance to the bay. I lay motionless, listening to the sound of the waves, and frogs ribbiting in the back ground. The air was still, not the slightest breeze. I was alone, on planet earth, but one could not help thinking something, or someone else must be out there in the countless planets that surround us. It was magical.

This complicated photo involved a lot of work and is by no means perfect. The foreground requires a lot of light to be cast on it, so during a 20 second exposure, two off camera flashes are fired twice each to through some light on the foreground and distant rocks. Second exposures are then used to captre the skies. Finally a third set of images were needed to get the very nearby rocks in foucs against the distant stars. All in, 22 photos are then layered and stitched into this large panorama.

This complicated photo involved a lot of work and is by no means perfect. The foreground requires a lot of light to be cast on it, so during a 20 second exposure, two, off camera flashes are fired twice each to throw some light on the foreground and distant rocks. Second exposures are then used to capture the sky. Finally a third set of images were needed to get the very nearby rocks in focus against the distant stars. All in, 22 photos are then layered and stitched into this large panorama.

Jamestown

The capital of St Helena, home of government, banking, retail, and a bustling metropolis, relatively speaking. Like all major capitals Jamestown is a congested, convoluted, disorganised and densely populated sort of place. Snaking up a narrow strip at the base of a steep sided valley, the buildings push and shove each other for space, leaning on one another and spill out onto the divergent estuary of roads which split from the main road at the top of the town into several smaller tributaries as the tarmac flows towards the sea.

Jamestown snakes its way to the sea

Jamestown snakes its way to the sea

Jametowsn Rooftops

Streets and junctions are marked with these wonderful wooden signs.

Streets and junctions are marked with these wonderful wooden signs.

Jamestown is hot, dusty and dry most of the year, it has a distinctly topical climate and is the one part of the Island that truly betrays the Tropical latitude, sat as we are at 15.95 degrees South. The volcanic valley walls rise high and steep, rock falls were a constant danger and hence wire mesh and strategic fences scar across the valley sides. St Helena is a particularly unstable place in general, hard igneous rock sandwiched by soft pyroclastic muds and sands do not make for firm foundations and the Island as a whole has been pretty much on a steady slide into the sea ever since its creation some fourteen million years ago.

At the top of the Valley sits St Helena’s Hospital, a lovely looking building, surrounded by tropical flowers and a pleasant atmosphere. Moving down the road the sapphire blue Sea at the foot of the Valley dominates the eye line, as Mediterranean looking buildings line the road, the odd shop and a fridge repair centre start to reveal the commercial nature of the town.

Looking down Market Street towards the Bridge

Looking down Market Street towards the Bridge

Barrack square arrives on the right, the first sense of the history of the town, being once a home for Island Soldiers, and now for Island residents. Further down the road Pilling Primary school, also a former Barracks, is the daytime home for Oliver and Charlie. A delightful building, which seems very much a military design on the outside, but very much a school as you pass through the old wooden doors.

Pilling Primary School and Former Barracks.

Pilling Primary School and Former Barracks.

Olivers Yr 2 classroom

Pilling school and upper Jamestown as the mist rolls descends from the central peaks.

Pilling school and upper Jamestown as the mist rolls descends from the central peaks.

Founded in 1659 by The East India Trading Company, Jamestown, named after King James II is full of history, the buildings vary in style, age and condition, but all in Jamestown are old, and most well over one hundred years in age. Most are built out of volcanic rock and many are of World importance as examples of Georgian Colonial Architecture.

Moving down the aptly named Market Street and the hustle and bustle of the Islands only real shopping district (that consists of more than two shops together) becomes evident. Thorpes Grocery store, one of the oldest and most established retailers on the Island, sit alongside The Queen Mary and Queen Victoria Stores, one a former pub, the other once a cinema. Tinkers provides sliced cold meets and across the way the Hive, selling a variety of goods from Diving regulators to chocolate willies with some stationary in between.

We now approach the bridge, not obvious but in fact, an actual bridge as the Jamestown “Run” flows beneath the road here. The Run is a small stream running the length of Jamestown that was constructed to bring freshwater to the residents, and after serious flooding was widened in an attempt to provide an efficient run off for heavy rains. The bridge does not appear to be a bridge, and is instead a wide square section of road, bordered by the market selling fresh fish and veg daily, and meats on Thursday mornings, and by the towns main Pubs, the Standard and the White Horse. Jamestown apparently (so I’m told) once had more pubs and houses of Ill repute per capita than anywhere else on earth, but (sadly) only these two remain. Very traditional, one can imagine sitting here a hundred and fifty years ago mulling over the failings of the Governor, taxation, British rule or the price of beer just as today.

Around the corner Market street meets Napoleon Street, which has wound its way down the west side of the valley and

View down Napoleon Street looking across Jamestown to Ladder Hill Road

View down Napoleon Street looking across Jamestown to Ladder Hill Road

ultimately leads to Longwood and the Briars, no doubt Napoleon was led to his temporary home in the Briars up this road when he first arrived, just as many visitors do now. Where Napoleon and Market Streets merge, they become Main Street, a wide concourse and the very essence of Jamestown. The grand Consulate Hotel, like something dropped right out of Colonial times inside and out takes pride of place. On the left, the post office is a major hub of town. St Helena does not have a postal service, and as such mail must be collected from the post office, along with administration of almost all licenses and records on the Island, car taxation, and pensions and benefits the post office plays an essential role in everyday life on St Helena.

The Canister, now the Tourist office and craft centre.

The Canister, now the Tourist office and craft centre.

The Post Office.

The Post Office.

The Consulate Hotel on the right looking down Main street

The Consulate Hotel on the right looking down Main street

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The Consulate Hotel

The Consulate Hotel

The Star is one of the main, and most modern grocery stores on the Island, and reminds me of the old Co-op local store in my home town. Mum you will remember it well, I used to sit outside with Shep whilst you proceeded to fill what seemed like in the region of 300 bags of shopping!  It is owned by Solomons, a company which traces itself back to Saul Solomon who was put ashore in 1790, gravely ill, from a merchant ship on its way to India; he recovered, decided there was money to be made in St Helena, and persuaded his brothers Benjamin and Joseph to come from England to join him.  He is also reputed to have tried to help Napoleon escape, which I guess would have been an opportunity to make serious money in St Helena.  The shops are a small part of Solomons’ operations on the island which include banking, insurance, agent for the shipping line and, a lot of outsourced work from government.


Moving down the Main street it becomes wider still, 2 on Main currently houses one of the best restaurants on the Island, this training restaurant will soon make way for a brand new hotel, comprising this building and its appropriately named neighbours, 1 and 3 on Main. Next door sits Harris’s Guest House and nearby, the Wellington Guest House. As the street widens it becomes the parade, and the seat of St Helena Government, the Castle, sits alongside the road adjacent to the town walls.

The Castle.

The Castle.

The Castle was originally, in 1860, a Wooden Fort, but was reconstructed in 1710 as the original construction had become rotten with termites. Part of this 1710 construction is still present, but numerous additions and alterations have been made since. Alongside the Castle sits the castle gardens, a small but perfectly formed park. The grounds man does a superb job ensuring a variety of colour and flowers year round, making the Gardens a lovely spot for lunch and to pass the time of day.

Jamestown ends or begins at the Castle Gates, an arch in the substantial Town Walls that once stood as a fortress to protect the town from invasion. St Helena is (or was) one of the most fortified places on Earth, and the remnants of the fortifications and Barracks can be seen everywhere. From the water front in Jamestown, one can see High Knoll Fort, Ladder Hill Fort, Mudens Battery, and a further two gun battery’s, as well as the numerous gun ports that line the Main Town walls themselves. The waterfront retains the historic feel that all of Jamestown does, a walk along the wharf revealing old warehouses and storage buildings. The wharf is now the main entrance and exit to the Island. When the RMS is in the bay, the Wharf busts into life as a frenzy of containers are loaded and unloaded, retailers and individuals excitedly collecting new goods, presents, and all manner of things.

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Like much on St Helena the wharf runs on the Darwin Principle, that if you are stupid enough to stand under a 20 tonne container, it’s your own fault. Refreshingly and somewhat  surprisingly for a UK resident one can walk amongst the cranes and containers, the fork lift trucks and good lorries. Funnily enough, no one dies, and it’s very refreshing to be treated as an adult in such matters. Not that everything on the Wharf makes sense. Understandably swimming from the wharf is restricted when the RMS is in the bay, but it is also restricted if some goods have been left in the loading area. But swimming is permissible when other boats and vessels are back and forth from the wharf, so long as no goods are resting on the concrete, I will never understand it, but do as Im told!

On a weekend evening the wharf and waterfront come to life. The Wharf becomes a magnet for young men and their cars, like something out of Fast and Furious (old people may need to look that one up!) all manner of supped up cars with large noisy exhausts and lights in strange places pump music out whilst their owners gather to discuss the latest in sub woofers (or something like that). Meanwhile, families have a rare treat and fill up the two waterfront bars, Donny’s and the Mule Yard, enjoying a drink from the bar and food from the local take aways whilst watching the sunset, knowing children are safe to play nearby. As early evening turns to late evening the families go home and the towns beautiful people (well, most of them)  take over, music drink and dancing in the warm tropical air tale over until the early hours.

Donny's Bar-2 542544_307174759360337_2082701812_n _MG_4501 _MG_4472

Jamestown is hot and dry, its overcrowded and parking is a night mare, but it is also fascinating, bustling, full of history and atmosphere and its people are wonderful I love it.