Fourth Time, Third Time, Second Time, First Time.

 

I have so much to catch up on, my blog will, as a consequence brush over many things and not in any way get across how full the past few weeks have been.

Our time on St Helena is measured by events, I don’t imagine Saints see things like this, but for us the past few weeks have heralded our third, of lot lots of things. Our third Harvest, third boys day out, festival, third cancer awareness event, third Halloween, third World Wide Photo walk, Third Cruise ship season, the list goes on.

The event and social merry go round is non-stop on St Helena, there are times when I’d like to jump off, and have a breather, but then someone will phone and ask “what are you doing on Saturday” and with a fear of missing out, then we are there.

The month started with my third World Wide Photowalk, a day when photographers all over the world go, and walk and take photos. This year’s location, decided upon by the tourist office was Peak Dale, a delightful walk through flax slopes, grass lands, deciduous forest and pine trees. Becoming more popular year on year, over thirty people turned up, on what started as a cloudy blustery day to play their part, enjoy a nice walk and hopefully capture some photos. It soon became very clear that some people were not really in it for the photography, as one group, of avid photographers, myself included, were quickly left behind, each of us hoping to be the first to spot and bag “the shot”. I decided to try something more abstract this year, and looked for form, texture and shape in objects, rather than the wide sweeping landscape views. It was an interesting challenge and I was pleased with my results.

 

Whilst on the subject of walking Bev and I tackled a new post box walk this month, to Lot! Lot is an oddly named large pillar of volcanic, phonolithic rock. It was formed some 7 1/2 million years ago, when the major eruptions of St Helena had subsided and the Island had formed. Later eruptions forced magma up through gaps and fissures in the existing rock, but never quite broke through the surface. Surrounded by an insulating layer this larva cooled much more slowly than the rock laid down in earlier eruptions, and hence formed more solid, resistant rock. As St Helena’s soft volcanic slopes have washed away over time these phonolithic rocks are left to stand proud over their surroundings._mg_4419-pano

The walk itself was a challenge for sure, much of it down perilous slopes, with electrical wire in place to hold on to!! But it was great fun, and made even more pleasurable by the impromptu nature of thing. It was half term, and Bev and I had booked a day off work to spend with the boys. At short notice they were both invited to a birthday party for the day and as such, Bev and I enjoyed our first day alone together for months. It was bliss.

October also saw several charity events, and it seems I have become the go to photographer for doing things for free. “Paul, you know it’s the carnival, do you think maybe you could do some photos”? And my answer is always, yes I’d love to. And I mean it I do love it, I love being asked to help and contribute in some way, but it does mean I have spent most nights on the computer editing and sorting through reams of photos.

And so it is that the past three weeks have contained our Third SHAPE fund raising event, a Masquerade Ball at Plantation House, closely followed by New Horizons Children version, in Halloween costume. The Ball was spectacular in its entertainment as it was in its costume, as all 140 people attendees slowly slipped, sipped, danced and drank into one of the best parties this Island has seen. Over £2000 was raised for one of St Helena’s most important and valuable charities, and everyone had a thoroughly good night. Although I was happy to play my part, I was more than a little envious of having to work when surrounded by such joviality.

It’s not often on St Helena, that I am surprised anymore, but an hour into the night, I was somewhat taken a back as a masked man approached the door and asked me if I was Paul Tyson, “Ummm yes” I replied, “Did you go to Rhyl High School?” “ummm yes” I replied, “Do you recognise me”, “Ummm take off your mask”! And there he was, Mr Cottle, a former design tech teacher in my old school, he, on the door step of Plantation House, on St Helena, I could not believe it. There may not be an airline service yet, but I’m sure there’s a bloody bus that comes here three times a week!

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Mr Cottle on the right, former teacher at Rhyl High School with family.

The arrival of flight TZ 1XS, an Arvo RJ100 jet plane was, for a time the most talked about thing on the Island. The flight, operated by Tronos Aviation Leasing was on its way, in a very convoluted path to Chile were it was being sold, but thanks to the efforts of Atlantic Star is came to St Helena on route to fly some test flights, gather more wind shear data, and test the suitability of this aircraft for ST Helena. Atlantic Star have been a prominent player in the Airport SAGA, insisting from very early on that they will be able to operate a direct service from the UK to St Helena. To their credit they have no wavered from this standpoint,  and, although this particular aircraft type does not have the capacity to reach the UK, it is seen as an option in the short term for the Island due to its particular profile and ability to land in poor conditions and in short distances. Atlantic Star jumped at the chance to test the theory and worked with Tronos to enable the flight to arrive at its destination via St Helena.

From an untrained eye it was a huge success, lucky enough I was to be on my fourth trip to photograph aircraft, I watched and immaculate landing, right on the money, without a hint of wobble, and stopping well short of the vertical cliff that greats a plane that overshoots!

Will it be the answer? Well, no, not in the long term, with the modifications needed to carry additional fuel, this aircraft could only fly to St Helena with around 40 passengers, not enough to build a tourist industry on, but what this flight has done is raise moral, provide some positivity surrounding the airport, and may, just may, provide a short term solution to getting things off the ground as it were. Here’s hoping.

The airport on St Helena has received some terrible press in the UK and worldwide, the most expensive cock up in history, the airport with no air planes, £300mil of wasted UK tax money are the normal headlines. My photos of the airport have subsequently popped up all over the world in everything from aircraft magazines to tourism websites. It was no surprise therefore when some large newspapers came knocking. It was something of a surprise however when I received a phone call from the photo editor at the Times Newspaper. Asking for photos of the airport I enquired what was the article about, already of course knowing the answer. Knowing the article was not going to be a positive one I was torn, do I want my photos used to provide negative press to the Island I love? After some thought I figured, my photos are already over lots of press articles slagging off the airport, what difference does one more make, and at least I was going to get paid, and credited. And so it is that two and a half years after picking up a camera I can now claim to be a professional photo journalist. Well ok, that might be pushing it, but not many people can say their photos have been published in the Times newspaper!!TysonPic.jpg

On to more concerning news and for the second time in just 4 years the Island is experiencing a drought, this time, a severe one. We have had no significant rain fall for months, months and months. The normal winter rains came and went with nothing more than some low lying mist and the situation is now quite serious. We will still have drinking water, even if we rely on bottled water, but without drastic measures, or some serious rain the Island is rumoured to run out of any significant and usable water in a matter of days. Whether it will come to that I don’t know, water is currently being tankered from a bore hole, once used by Basil Read during airport construction, to keep reservoirs marginally topped up, but they are all looking very empty, some with just puddles of muddy water in the bottom. Please and warnings have been offered by all and sundry to reduce consumption, and the Tyson household is playing the, if its yellow, let it mellow rule. I’m also doing my bit by drinking beer instead of water!!

And so it was that against a back drop of drought and prayer for water that St Helena experienced what is, so it seems, a once in a life time event, an electrical storm, or thunder and lightning to you and me. As I sat, in my usual evening position at the computer, I heard a rumble, knowing that St Helena never gets thunder storms I shook my head, told myself it couldn’t be and continued with my work. Even the flash of light outside, did not trigger any thought process that it could be lightning. The second rumble however really got my attention as it rattled the roof above our head. Opening the door to the lounge I said to Bev, “did you hear that? I think its thunder and lightning”. Really!!!

It was, and for the next 6 hours you could find me outside, like a small child enjoying the spectacle. For the first hour I told myself it was passing over, it was not worth getting my camera out. As I realised I was wrong I hurriedly rummaged for my tripod and trigger and headed outside. For the next five hours, until 1.30am I watched and listened with giddy excitement, dancing for joy when I knew a fork of lightening had been within the view finder of my camera. I started shooting out at sea, as the storm passed over and beyond us, but as the night went on pockets of the storm opened up all over, until I was provided the ideal shot, with lightening forking behind High Knoll Fort. Photography conditions were tricky, with low lying cloud surrounding me, forcing me to wait for the occasional breaks. But it was well worth it. I was aware that this was potentially the first storm on the Island for many years (I’ve heard anything from 40 to 10) and that maybe, just maybe I was getting THE photographs to record it. As I uploaded the images to Facebook that night I could not believe the response. Three days later and over 16000 have viewed, clicked, liked, loved and shared these photos. What an amazing experience, and amazing night, and amazing response, and one which I will never forget.

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High Knoll Fort St Helena, Silhouetted against the fork of lightning.

Unfortunately the storm did not bring with it the rains, and after threatening to pour down the storm provided virtually no rain at all.

I guess I shall have to carry on drinking beer!!!

Two Years and a Carnival!

Two years ago it was Carnival, 2014, a bi-annual event held to raise money and awareness of Cancer on the Island. We hadn’t been on St Helena all that long, and, as this extract from my blog at time will show you, it wasn’t, for us, all it was cracked up to be….

“Apparently carnival would be an afternoon of colour, music and celebration as hundreds of clowns, fairies, queens, kings and other exuberant costumes or scantily clad ladies parade down main street of James Town. Gathered crowds cheer and take photos before all of St Helena enjoy an evening of food, music and celebration, all in the aid of cancer awareness. That at least, is how it was supposed to be. Our morning started in much the same way as many other’s, preparing our costumes. Bev and I were sorted, with grass skirts, Hawaiian Leis and for me, a fetching bow tie to accompany my Hawaiian shirt. The boys wanted to be pirates and as such Bev was busy sewing material into pirate waistcoats. This is where it went downhill, a tantrum initiated over the availability of just one pirate hat quickly descended into a full on end of the world level of disparity. When eventually we left the house, having once again decided that our own day shouldn’t be ruined in punishment of Charlie’s behaviour, we missed the procession and arrived at town feeling stupid in our costumes (at least I did), with two miserable children, and hungry. Although cup-cakes helped to break the mood for a short time we had arrived so late that waiting times for real food were by now so long we decided to cut our losses and returned home after having a thoroughly miserable afternoon!”

 Two years on, and it was Carnival time again, and it felt like a real marker of just how far we have come. Looking back we already felt settled in 2014, we had been on Island all of two months and felt we knew the score, but Carnival 2016 was a whole different ball game. Although Charlie threatened to set the day off in the same manner as two years ago, he failed, we arrived on time, and in good spirits to be met by hundreds of fairies as this year’s theme, Take Flight, was clearly on show.

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Two years ago we didn’t really know anyone, and those we did were generally ex pats, this year was very different, we knew almost everybody as we paraded down through Historic Jamestown, dancing to music and soaking up the wonderful atmosphere. The sun shone brightly and as we reached the Waterfront cold beer was on hand to help quench the thirst.

We have now seen lots of people parading down through town for one event or another, it’s a regular and enjoyed part of St Helena culture, and somehow this was different. Perhaps it is because Carnival is only two years, maybe it is the costumes and colour, but I think it’s the cause. Cancer affects everybody on St Helena. In such a small, close-nit community, there is no one that hasn’t in some way been affected by cancer, and the passion of the organisers, carnival goes and spectators reflected that.

Carnival 2016 was fantastic, the costumes and exuberance of it all was brilliant, was it Rio, or New Orleans, no, but in its own, very special St Helena way, it was every bit as much fun.

The Most Beautiful City in the World?

I was filled with excitement to be heading back to Cape Town, man I love Cape Town. This time, fearing it may be our last time we had booked two extra nights giving us three in total. Which, as ever, just was not enough.

Our mini break did not start well and we watched the luggage conveyor belt at the airport spin round and round with no sign of the boys big bright red suitcase. Eventually we were told “there are no more bags to come off”, and the reality that one of our suitcases was missing hit home. We logged a missing bag report and would have to wait and see where it was but for the time being, the boys had nothing but the clothes they were standing in!

Determined not to let this ruin our time here, we left and met the ever lovely Julian, waiting outside to transfer us to our hotel. Having previously stayed in the tourist trap water front, and in the city centre, this time we opted for a beach side suburb of Cape Town called Camps Bay._MG_3356 Our hotel, Place on the Bay was lovely, and what it lacked in finishing touches in made up for in location, sat as it was just across the road from white sand beach, rolling Atlantic waves and the palm tree lined promenade of one of Cape Towns most beautiful districts.

Our time in Cape Town was amazing, we played on the beaches, paddled in the sea, shopped in local markets and went exploring in the rock pools. The highlight however was our day trip safari to Inverdoon Game Reserve. Reliably informed that the reserve was a two and a half hour drive away we set out to arrive at 10am, by leaving at 8 am, not as you will notice, on time! Traffic leaving cape Town was slow, and the whole of South Africa was, it seemed, covered in a thick blanket of fog. Despite having directions to the reserve, we did the usual thing and plugged our destination into the Sat Nav, and blindly followed it despite it taking a different route than that which was recommended. It wasn’t long before, in terms of time, we realised this was a mistake and we climbed higher and higher through steep mountains up into Bains Klooff Pass. Late we may have been, but speed was not an option as we travelled through stunning scenery of forest and cliffs with shear 400ft drops to the side of us.

Its hard to express just how incredible the landscape was, and unfortunately, already now very late for our safari I had no time to stop and photograph the area, but I was breath taken at its beauty. As a troop of baboon crossed the road ahead of us we reached the summit of the pass, and looked down the valley ahead of us, the twisted layers of rock, lush green trees and rivers cutting its way down hill as waterfalls either side of the valley crashed down to meet it.

Leaving the pass behind us we reached Cares, a medium sized town and the first in South Africa we had seen that felt like Africa, the shop signs were largely in Afrikaans and white man was all but absent. As we passed through, there seemed to be a protest of some sort going on, a large gathering of people and two or three police cars made us a little wary as we slowly drove through the crowds. We needn’t of worried it was all very peaceful, and we do not really know what the commotion was all about, but as we left town and came across another of South Africa’s shanty towns it was a stark reminder that behind the sheer beauty of the country and friendliness of it people there is still a troubled country. Thirty years after apartheid has ended the country is still divided by class and race and the ruling, majority black ANC party have some way to go before this country is at peace with itself and there is anything approaching equality in this beautiful land.

Leaving Cares was my opportunity to make up some time, as the most wonderful, strait road opened up for miles ahead on the flat, wide, river valley floor. High mountains boarded us and my foot hit the floor with the speed gauge hitting 150kph it was exhilarating to scream through the valley on the empty road in my little Hyundai! If we arrived at Safari past 10.30am there was a chance they would leave without us, it was now looking to be impossible to make up the time and as the tarmac road ended, and a gravel track lay out ahead of us our only hope was that the group was small and kind and that they would be gracious enough to have held off and waited for us.

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Long Strait Roads, paved in gravel made for exciting driving!

With clouds of dust behind me, and stones flying about I took the little car to its limits across the gravel, only slowing down when we came across the most wonderful road sign, “Caution, SLOW, Tortoise in road!!! Turning into the safari reserve we saw our first wild African animals, Springbok, the national animal of South Africa, grazing peacefully in fields adjacent to the gravel road. We were welcomed at the reserve and quickly hopped onto a safari 4×4 which shot across the African bush, shaking and bouncing us to catch up with the main tour group had already departed.

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Springbok are very common.

A wonderful three hours was then spent out on the reserve catching a privileged look of Elephants, Giraffes, Lions, Buffalo, Zebra and the delightful tortoise crossing the road, before the highlight in the Cheetah reserve.  A game reserve is not 100% wild, it is a managed environment, many of the animals have been rescued from hardship or exploitation, and the animals are fed during times of drought, but they are free to roam, to hunt and live an all but wild existence on the 15000 hectare estate. The flat valley floor and grassy plains stretched for mile upon mile bordered by a circle of mountains on the far horizon, it was a true privilege to be there and a day we will all remember, a big thanks to Gran Mitch for the gift that allowed us to do it.

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Relaxing by the pool. If the boys look cold, its because they were, the water was icy and Bev and I were going no where near it!

All too soon our time was done and we headed back to Cape Town. Surrounded by the 2000+m mountains of the Matroosberg Range, and following the wide flat Breede River valley through vineyards and mountains past lakes and streams the drive back was as stunning as the drive there, only this time I stopped to take some photos. This area is simply stunning and left me dreaming of returning one day for a more extensive exploration.  Returning to Cape Town we felt strangely at home in this foreign land, like we were somehow returning home from a day out, rather than returning to a hotel following a day on safari.

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Matroosberg mountains

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Vineyards of the Breede River Valley

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View from the car as we wound along the Breede Valley. (No I didnt take the photo whilst driving!)

 

Our last days in Cape Town went too quickly, more beach, more rockpools, more sun and more good food. Before long we were back in the now very familiar Seamans Mission, passing our luggage over to the handling crew, and waiting to once more board the RMS St Helena. We had been a little apprehensive about our new final year in St Helena. Many good friends had left the Island whilst we had been away, and I was due to start a new job. Just before leaving St Helena some 8 weeks ago I had interviewed for and been offered a post with the Airport Landscape and Ecology Mitigation Program as a Team Leader, supervising staff in the field, managing various outsourced contracts and assisting with the project management of the Islands largest ever conservation project. What would this last year hold for us, many changes in store, two parents working full time, Charlie starting in year 1 (proper school) and friends leaving the Island. Boarding the RMS is always special, but this time held even greater significance for us, as, just like two years ago, we stepped into something of the unknown.

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One of my favourite photos of all time. Taken with a self timer on a stunning beach in Clifton. I sometimes have to pinch myself at how lucky we are, and how lucky I am. Moments of peace and beauty allow one to remember the good things in life, I will never forget this moment.

As always the RMS has a calming influence and before long we had met new friends heading to St Helena for the first time, and old friends heading back following periods of leave or medical. The nervous and excited questions of our new friends helped to re-assure us, we were the old hands, and although changes were afoot, no doubt St Helena will be the same place, and as Cape Town disappeared into the sea mist a feeling of contentment came over me. St Helena we are coming home.

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Six weeks, and hundreds of Miles

We touched down in Brize Norton, near Oxford, and, following some confusion at the public entrance gate, we met up with Bev’s Mum and Dad who were there to welcome us and take us to Bradley Stoke, Bevs family home just outside of Bristol. Whilst it was lovely to see family, the suburbia of Bristol filled me with horror. Traffic is almost without exception terrible. The M5 is a car park and it seems that those roadworks that were present 12 months ago are still not finished, and yet new ones have sprung up everywhere, clearly UK highways have money to burn as they seem to have erected cones and 50 mph speed limits on every section of every motor way we travelled on. We spent two days shopping and spending money like it was going out of fashion. Now I quite enjoy spending money, but I don’t enjoy shopping, and find myself scowling at hundreds of people, strangers, whom I have a preconditioned dislike for in the jungle of Cribs Causeway retail park.

My mind turns to our final return to the UK and I don’t like it, I don’t like the row upon row of red brick housing, the people in the street whom ignore you as you pass them, or the weather, the world renowned British weather. As I hear tales of the continued Indian summer back on the Island, I check the weather forecast and hear the bemoaning’s on social media of people questioning where the British summer has gone.

After a few days with Bev’s parent we travel to North Wales to see my folks. This is something I was dreading, not of course seeing my parents, whom I of course miss greatly. But I dread the drive ahead, having not driven more than 20 minutes on the Island I now have to tackle 4 hours of British motorways. Quite how more people don’t die on our roads is beyond me, the tail gating and under cutting is terrible. Maybe I have become soft, maybe it has got worse, but I genuinely felt nervous for much of the journey, as BMW after Audi took a fancy to my rear end and felt the need to drive within a few feet of me. Roadworks, roadworks, and roadworks, full of speed restrictions and cones and yet noticeably devoid of anyone actually working. Perhaps we should just re-name them roads, as there never seems to be any works taking place.

Ok, so as you can probably tell my first week or so in the UK did not fill me full of joy for our eventual return in twelve months, but it did get better. We spent a lovely week in the Llyn Peninsular, a week in Yorkshire and the East Yorkshire coast, ate in nice restaurants, and had lovely days out. The weather improved, considerably, and the British summer reared its head, basking us in 32 degrees of lovely sunshine. We caught up with some wonderful friends, friends whom reminded us that there are people, aside from family, whom we miss greatly and who will always, no matter where in the world we live, or how long the intervals we see each other, be our best of friends. And of course we felt the love of our families, it is so clear just how much we are missed and how much the boys being away leaves a gap in our parents’ lives. It was wonderful to see how well they played with their cousins, and how quickly and easily the chaos ensued.

A lovely week spent on the Llyn Peninsular in North wales, lots of time on the beach, crazy golf, swimming, football and even sunshine.

 

Chester Zoo, always a must for us when we are in the UK, and one of the best zoo’s in the country if not Europe.

 For my birthday we spent the day in the seaside town of Llandudno, exploring the oldest copper mines in Europe, fascinating and fun.

Off to Yorkshire to visit my brother and his family, more sunshine and more fun.

North East Yorkshire with Bev’s sister and family. A wonderful part of the country that I had not visited before. Stunning views, lovely people, country parks and seaside villages. A real gem in the British Isles.

Air Trail, a high rise playground of ropes and Ariel challenges. Great fun, although a little tame for me!

Having travelled many miles, through dales and coast, hills and fields I found myself thinking “ I could live here, this is nice, and maybe coming home wouldn’t be so bad.” Within three weeks of being back in the UK St Helena starts to seem a million miles away, we discuss what jobs we might like to do, and Bev insists that we will move to the Isle of White. We settle in, Bev moans about the amount of dog poo on the streets, I become grumpy again, and get annoyed if the cash machine takes more than 30 seconds to dish out my money. Normal service is resumed.

I could list the days out and places we went, but filling the pages of my blog with eight weeks worth of, “we went here, we saw that, we did this” would not make good reading, (and the photos tell the story anyway) but suffice to say we all had a lovely trip home, it went quicker that I expected, and was more enjoyable than expected. There are some beautiful places in the UK, and if we can manage to move to one of them, maybe living back in the UK wont be so bad after all.

The highlight of our trip was a visit to Warner Brother’s Harry Potter studio tour. A chance to walk around the actual sets used in the films, see the costumes and models. We spent a fascinating five hours here and I could of stayed a lot longer. I’m not a particular fan of Harry Potter but to see how these films are made and walk in the footsteps of Dumbledore was an amazing experience. Wonderful fun for kids and grown ups.

HMS Ascension

So its been a while, many of you have perhaps thought I have given up on the writing, but in truth I have plenty to tell you, only I have been away from a computer for eight weeks, and only now, as I sit on the RMS starting our journey back to St Helena do I have time to really sit down and think about another passing of time. Eight weeks ago we were on the RMS heading towards Ascension Island. We had thought our time aboard this wonderful ship had come to an end, but with continued delays to the airport we had this, and at least one more trip across the Atlantic Ocean. This time however we headed North West, across the relatively short 700 miles to Ascension Island. Bev and I love Cape Town, but I have to say we were very pleased to have the opportunity to visit and explore this other remote Atlantic Island.

Leaving St Helena was strange, our original two years are up, and, many others who started their journeys with us, would be gone from the Island by the time we get back. I have been to many leaving breakfasts at the coffee shop, but this time it was the Tyson’s saying goodbye, not to the Island, but to people who have been close friends and family all rolled in to one, who have been laughs and smiles and support for our time here. I can honestly say it was a very difficult morning as we hugged and cuddled and tried to hold back the tears.

But soon we were on the RMS, with its uplifting atmosphere and family feel, saying hello to crew whom by now we have become very familiar with and feel like friends.

We travelled towards the equator, the temperature rising with each passing day as we left the cold Benguela current and headed into the South Equatorial current bringing with it warmer air. As we approached Ascension on our third and final day it struck me how much bigger the Island was than I expected, next I noticed the size of the waves crashing its shores on this relatively calm day. We had been warned about the treacherous swimming on most of the Islands coast, with only two of the many glorious beaches safe to swim in, and even then only on good days. The 20ft waves bouncing of the barren rock indicated why!

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Ascension comes into view

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Ascension Island Panorama. Click to open and see in full resolution.

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RMS at Ascension. The view as we waiting to be processed through immigration.

Ascension is, like St Helena a volcanic Island, formed some million or so years ago by huge eruptions from an undersea volcano. Eventually, after maybe hundreds of years of eruptions, sufficient rock built up to break the surface of the water, and a new Island was born. Its highest point, Green Mountain now stands at 2817 feet high, perhaps just half of the height it was before nearly a million years of weather and erosion have taken their toll. Looking at the Island, it is unmistakably volcanic, its most recent eruption was just a blink of a geological eye ago, some 600 to 1000 years, and as such not only is the Island still classed as potentially active, it has also limited the amount of time that vegetation has had to establish itself. Its remoteness makes it difficult for plants to reach the Island naturally, and its searing temperatures and lack of soil, prevent those plants that do arrive from establishing themselves.

Much of Ascension Island is barren, with black basalt rock from recent eruptions, and mountains of ash, and volcanic craters dominating the sky line

As we sail round from the South approach to the Island capital, George Town on the North Western flank, we see towering hills of barren red and black sands and rock, craters left from recent eruptions. The only area of green lies atop Green Mountain, a cloud forest created by man following decades of plant introductions to establish a more permanent water supply to the Island. The few remaining endemic plants and ferns cling to existence on the damp slopes of this high point, almost permanently shrouded in its moisture giving cloud. The rest of the Island is barren, from a distance completely devoid of life. The Island was first discovered in 1501, by the same chap as discovered St Helena, Admiral Joao de Nova, but such is the foreboding nature of the Island that both he and several other captains since, decided not to even step ashore. It was not until 300 years later in 1815 with the arrival of Napoleon on St Helena that Ascension Island became inhabited. Rear-Admiral Cockburn, charged with ensuring the captivity of Napoleon, ordered a garrison to be stationed on Ascension to dissuade the French from launching a rescue mission from this “nearby” land.

Ascension Island is actually named, HMS Ascension and bizarrely is classed as a stone frigate, a title bestowed on the Island by the British Navy in order to instil a greater level of discipline on the troops stationed there.

Throughout Ascension’s History it has been a working Island, and, up until 2014 it was not even possible to set foot on her soil without a work permit or forward travel. Even if you are born on Ascension, without continued work beyond the age of 18 you are removed and required to live elsewhere! As such the Island is strange to say the least, its inhabitants all serve to serve each other, each has a specific role and the comings and goings are dictated by the particular service the Island can provide at any given time. For many years of course it was a military outpost, non-more so than during the World Wars through which time the US built an air strip for launching campaigns into Northern Africa. Later, and to this day, the Island acts as a telecommunications relay point, the BBC, amongst others, using the network of radio antennae and other metal works of art to bounce the BBC World service across the Atlantic and on to South America and Africa.

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Arriving on St Helena is even more treacherous than arriving on St Helena, transferring to a small boat we were then transported to the landing steps. Built in 1823 they are worn, slippery, sloping and narrow. It is a leap of faith in good conditions as the ship lines up its exit doorway with the steps, and three men stand waiting to grab your arms and pull you ashore when the right waves lifts you up and in, rather than down and out!

After a long wait through customs we were delighted to be met on the other side by no less than two families who had travelled to see us arrive. One, a Saint family who’s children have appeared often in my blog, moved to Ascension from St Helena some months before, the Bennets. Oliver being best friends with their eldest, Blaine and Charlie having already declared his engagement of marriage to both of their twin daughters, Bethany and Georgia, largely because he cant tell them apart! It was lovely to see them there and great to see how at ease the children were with each other after some time apart. We would see the Bennett’s twice more during our time on Ascension and enjoyed time at the beach and swimming pool with them. I really hope we see them again and our friendship can continue over the years.

At customs we were also met by the Gonsalves’s, Frankie, Dean and their troublesome twosome. They were returning to St Helena at the end of their mid-term break.They were by now, old hands at this Ascension game, and were able to take us to the hotel and point us in the direction of various useful shops and amenities. The very short drive from customs to our hotel, the Obsidian, took us through the centre of George Town, a strange, empty “capitol” of the Island where one expects to see tumble weed and one does see donkeys wandering the streets in greater numbers than people.  Virtually everyone on Ascension are working during the day, so the streets are devoid of children, whom are in school, or pensioners, who don’t exist, or the jobless or shift workers with time during the day to spare, everyone is working, and so no one is around! The town itself is a mix of buildings built by successive military garrisons for one purpose or another, the area is tarmac in the main, with wide roads, almost to the point where road, car park, pavement and garden all merge to form a large car park with buildings sat on top at random intervals.

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The view of George town shows the tarmac landscape with buildings built upon it.

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Like St Helena, Ascension is fortified with canons, in this case protecting Georgetown from possible invasion!

Despite having been forewarned of the short comings of our home for the next four nights we were pleasantly surprised by our accommodation in the Obsidian hotel, air conditioned, large, comfortable with good food, a nice atmosphere, a good selection of beer and friendly staff. I’m not sure what all of the noise surrounding this place had been for, we found it very pleasant indeed.

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Dinner at the Obsidian

 

Returning to the UK always gives a perspective to the things we like most about our Island home, and a particular occurance on Ascension helps to hammer home some of the differences. We hired a car whilst on Ascension, it was fine, nothing fancy but it went and got us where we wanted to go. I collected it from a pleasant man who personally came to meet us at customs on arrival. He took no deposit, explained the cars quirks, and handed over the keys. In order to pay for the hire of this vehicle we had to go to the Islands only fuel station, where, on our last day we filled up the car, and paid for its hire. But we continued to use the car after this time, with the polite request that for any further mileage we do, we leave 20p per mile in the car. We were permitted to leave it at the airport when we flew and someone would collect it from there later. As a service this is second to none, met at arrival, leave the vehicle at departure and leave some small change in the car to cover petrol, fantastic.

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Our military flight home to take us to Brize Norton

There is much to be impressed with on Ascension Island. The presence of US and UK military helps to bring in funds which would otherwise not exists. On the evening of our departure we eat on the American Airbase, a place which wants for nothing or so it seems, a baseball arena, basketball courts and swimming pool surrounded the bar and restaurant complex we stopped at. An all American bar serving beer at 75p a bottle and showing sports from around the world on its numerous wide screen TV’s. This was an entirely modern and up to date world we had stepped into. So, where were you when Wales played in the Semi-finals of the European Championships? I was watching nervously in an American Bar, on a US airbase, on Ascension Island!

Ascensions wildlife is as unique as it is beautiful. The sea is warm and stunningly clear. Frigate birds patrol the skies and giant land crabs forage in the wild mango forests. Oliver turned his hand to fishing. But not the normal kind. He had a knack for literally reaching out and grabbing black trigger fish from the huge shoals that gather in shallow waters.

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We spent four nights on Ascension and I really wanted more, I loved it. We spent time on glorious tropical white sand beaches, surrounded by tracks of young turtles whom had made their way to the sea the night before. We swam in the clearest waters I have ever encountered and were surrounded by marine life of all kinds. We swam in one of three pools on the Island, drank in numerous bars which are open throughout the day ( a pleasant change after the experience of St Helena) and marvelled at the landscape of larva rock and red sands, jagged alien formations of sharp pinnacles littered with ever present radio wires and communications dotted about the Island. Up until our last day the weather remained beautiful and it is fair to say we were all sad to leave, but grateful for the opportunity to visit somewhere that almost nobody in the World has been lucky enough to visit.

The beaches on Ascension are stunning, even if a little odd with their backdrop of telecommunications everywhere. Comfortless cove is so called as it was used as a quarantine station for sailors with disease. Apparently once called comfort cove to hide the conditions here. A small cemetery is testament to the men who died here through the years in the barren, cove.

 

I hope for the continued extension of the RMS, from an entirely selfish point of view and not withstanding the obvious benefits to St Helena, I for one am grateful for the continued delays to the airport opening. Travelling on the RMS and opportunity to visit such marvels as Cape Town and Ascension Island, are, for us, once in a life time stuff, and the longer the ship continues to service the Island the more of these once in a life time opportunities we can enjoy.

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High up on the slopes of the aptly named green mountain the permanent cloud provides enough moisture for the landscape to become greener

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Indian Summer

So winter has set in on St Helena, the Winter Solstice arrived and was accompanied by wind and rain and cloudy skies, but other than that one day, the weather has been exceptionally wonderful. Day times have seen clear blue skies, warm sunshine and blue waters, whilst evening shave been pleasant and cool. We waited a long time for summer to arrive this year but it is without doubt hanging on in for us as we count down to the end of our second year on the Island.

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The Sunsets in June have been spectacular.

I wasn’t sure how to tone title this blog entry, and in some ways I feel things are becoming a bit repetitive as week by week and month by month we continue to have an incredible time here on our little Island. The past three weeks are no different, and it was only a conversation with a friend back home in the UK that made me think about how wonderful “normal” everyday life here is.

I was asked, “so are you enjoying it there, what do you get up to”? To which my response was, well the weather is normally great, we go diving once a week, walking through stunning landscapes, see friends for dinner or parties, drink beer watching fantastic sunsets, play football, swimming, snorkelling, swim with whale sharks, watch dolphins dance in the waves the list is endless. It sounds like the world’s best holiday, only it is our normal life here.

We took advantage of the continued summer by taking a walk to Sandy Bay Barn. A spectacular walk that takes you through green grass and conifer trees, out to a barren, mars like landscape with its fair share of climbing and hairy moments, and no shortage of breath-taking views looking along the coastline and back in towards the lush green interior of Diana Peak. I have to admit though I was reluctant to do the walk, having planned it a week before I had not accounted for twisting both my ankles playing football the day before.

 

It was my first start of the St Helena Football season as my team, The Bell Boys took on the Wolves. In a more competitive game than the final score suggests we ran out 4-0 winners as I put in a man of the match performance and scored my first goal for the team, a lovely 25 yard volley over the stranded goal keeper. Having a job that requires weekend work back in the UK, I haven’t had the opportunity for eleven a side football for many years before arriving here, and I thoroughly enjoy it. The enjoyment made all the more when you read your name and exploits on the back pages of the papers, and your name on the radio sports section.

Not that I am the only Tyson to be grabbing the headlines. Charlie has now started his first steps in competitive football, joining the beginner’s league on the Island with one of two teams I coach and manage, aptly named the mini BellBoys. Charlie and his friends thoroughly enjoyed their first game in a hard fought 2-2 finish. Meanwhile, Oliver’s team has taken the step up from the beginners league to the primary league, and are the youngest team of a very widely split age group. Jungle Rangers, made up of year 3 children will find themselves on the end of a big defeat most weeks as they take on children three years older than them. But in their first game, against Skull Fire they gave an incredible account of themselves. Oliver took on the role of the most experienced player on our team and stepped up to the plate in outstanding fashion scoring a goal, earning man of the match and driving his team on like a young Steve Gerrard. There was a time when I wasn’t sure if Oliver had it in him to be a descent football but as he stood out there facing children twice his size he showed skill, drive, determination and leadership and I was bursting with pride at the final whistle, genuinely holding back tears as I congratulated his and all the teams performance.

We leave for our midterm break in a few days, and Oliver is currently quite sad to be leaving and missing his football. Of course it will be wonderful to see our friends and family back home, but the timing is something of a blow as we are all set to miss eight weeks in the middle of the season.

As the weather holds up I continue to dive regularly, the most spectacular of recent dives being a warm sunny morning at Sugar Loaf Point. The dive itself follows an underwater valley packed full of life from fish to crayfish, from starfish to Devil Rays. As we look towards our next break we will travel to Ascension Island, a place not on the regular travel and tourists routes, thanks to some friends made on St Helena I hope I get chance to dive in new waters and see more and new unique endemic species.

 

And so we came to Oliver’s 8th Birthday, and by all accounts we had planned very little and had a fairly normal weekend in store. It is only when you then look back and recount that weekend that you realise how special our time here is. Oliver’s Birthday weekend started with Donkey Walking.  Those of you who have followed from the start will recall our regular donkey walks. We haven’t been for a while and it was lovely to get back out there and see the weekly event well supported with lots of new faces. The walking itself is a gentle walk along the central ridge of the Island, with spectacular views to Sandy Bay to the South and Thompson’s wood to the North. The Donkeys are a lovely added extra and provide good company as we amble along the road chatting and taking in the views, and the children love it.

For the afternoon it was a hastily arranged barbecue fun at Rupert’s Beach with two other birthday boys. Sun, sea, sand and food, what more could you want. I took a snorkel round the bay and enjoyed a prolonged swim with a curious Green Turtle, the boy’s dug a hole and everyone was happy!

 

On Sunday there was more football to be played, and an afternoon spent filling our bellies at St Helena first ever Rib Off. Four chefs, (three amateurs and one professional) battles to provide the 140 or so guests with the best, stickiest, tastiest ribs they could. At a pricey £20 a head, everyone was determined to get their fill of the food and drink, and with over £3200 raised for local charities it was a great day. Winner of course was Mike Harper, professional chef, closely followed by Colin Owen, Financial Secretary and Paul McGinnety, Assistant Chief Secretary. Sadly, coming in last place was the competitions only Saint representative, Councillor Eddy Duff with a somewhat embarrassing result as the only contestant with no votes on the day. But it was not about the competition it was about the day, and as the sun shone once more everyone went home with bellies full of food and a smile on their face after a thoroughly enjoyable in what is hoped to be the of what will becomes an annual event.

The last event for Oliver’s, now somewhat drawn out, Birthday was his highlight, and something he had been looking forward to for many weeks, a trial scuba dive in the pool with his school friends. Known as the Bubble Maker, this allows children to try out scuba gear and swim underwater in the pool. Oliver and his three friends were clearly nervous to start, the gear feeling heavy and cumbersome to them. But they all soon got the hang of things and before long were swimming underwater like fish in the sea doing laps around the pool and playing search and recovery games. We finished the evening with a fantastic Whale cake by one of our friends on Island, Tina Johnson. If you need any cakes making on St Helena she is your lady.

 

As we come to the end of our second year on Island it amazes me how fast time has flown. With just six days until we board the RMS once more it is unfathomable to think that we may have been heading back to the UK for good at this stage, how has two years go by so quickly?

The contents of this blog entry contains just three weeks’ worth of stuff. It does not include the walk and bike ride we had today, the other birthday barbecue at Rupert’s Beach,  nor the other two games of football we enjoyed. Nor does it include the regular cards nights I have every other Thursday, the drinks and food with friends watching the progression of England and Wales in the Euro’s; my photography work; Bevs full time teaching during the High Schools GCSE period; or the boys school trips to the fire station or forest school. It does not include anything of the stag do I went on touring round the Islands pubs by bus, nor the leaving party Bev went to, the two other dives I have done or the afternoon at the Island first pop up cinema. It does not speak of the Governor coming round for a few drinks with Bev and some of her friends, or the wonderful night I had listening to the big easy at the Mule Yard or the brilliant night out we had last night, as 150 people gathered for a joint 60th and 50th Birthday party bringing saints and ex-pats together for drinks and the big easy band.

So, why is it that time flies here on St Helena? Well that is why, the endless list of fun that we have here, packing so much in to such a short space of time, and best of all, it’s just a normal month in the middle of winter.

The end of two years on St Helena brings with it some sadness. People who travelled with us on the RMS to start our adventure together all those months ago are about to leave, and for some, unlike us, they will not be coming back. We are about to lose some truly wonderful friends from our lives that have been bedrocks of support friendship and laughter and who have shared every step of this incredible journey with us. Living on the Island they probably won’t read this, but if when you are home you take a nosey at my blog, then I say goodbye to Jon Lambdon, The Parkinsons, half of the Grahams, The Durkins, half the Hathways, and one more of the Hannahs. I will miss you all immensely and life here will really not be quite the same without you. Twelve months ago we closed the first chapter on our time here, as one set of friends departed, this week marks the close of the second chapter. But we are, in my view, the lucky ones. We get to open a new chapter, probably our last one on St Helena. We return to the UK looking forward to seeing friends and family, but with our first weekend back on St Helena already planned. I cant wait for it.

Black and White Sharks

It was the 8th of May, and I was about to embark on my first double dive, two dive sites, one trip. The first was my second dive onto the Darkdale Wreck. The Darkdale, formally called the Empire Oil was a 1st Dale Class Freighting tanker that was torpedoed in James Bay with the loss of 41 lives. On the morning of 21 October 1941 a U-boat was sighted but it was not taken seriously nor reported to the Master of the Darkdale. On 22nd October RFA Darkdale was torpedoed by German submarine U68, it was the first ship to be sunk south of the equator in WWII

She now sits in two pieces in 45m of water, and presents St Helena’s deepest commonly visited dive site. As a war grave the dive carries with it a certain restraint, a respect for those who lost their lives and whose bodies are left in the ship. As a isolated feature on an otherwise barren area of sand she offers sanctuary to a great array and number of fish species.

We explored the wreck and I reached my personal depth record and open water dive limit of 40m. There is something different about deep diving, it feels the same, and carries with it the same tools and techniques, but descending to a depth where you cannot see what is below, or when at that depth, what is above is strange, slightly eerie and exciting. At this depth mistakes can be fatal, there is no rushing to the surface if you panic, or something goes wrong, and although only more experienced divers venture this deep, there is still a feeling of trepidation.

 

 

The dive itself was great the highlight being a shoal of Wahoo (Barracuda) that stalked us during our 5m safety stop. Looking into their eyes one could not help but feel they were deciding if we were dinner or not.

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Wahoo (barracuda) watching closely.

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The dive was also an opportunity to test my camera case, rated as it is to 40m I was taking it too its limit. Although the case did not leak, the shutter button struggled to release under the pressure of 40m of water above, and the camera fired off useless shots rapidly. I resorted in the end to turning the camera off and on to take a photo. I wasn’t to realise the full consequence of this problem until later.

All back on board the dive boat we headed to our next site, Torm Ledge, another deep dive, a rock wall rising out of 35m of sand and ending in a pinnacle reaching all the way to the surface. Again the feature attracting fish of all shapes and sizes, and covered in encrusting algae, soft corals and feather stars. It has become something of a running joke that I have not yet seen a Devil Ray, despite their very regular sightings around St Helena, and having racked up 60 odd dives, they remained elusive to me. Having waited an hour before our second dive, we started to kit up when dive leader Anthony from Sub Tropic Adventures, already in the water shouted “No Devil Rays, but there is a Whale Shark here!!”. Abandoning all protocol and safety checks we rushed into the water, some people with fins in hand and not on feet.

Quickly descending to around 5m we watched as the huge 12m female shark decided not to stick around and fairly quickly disappeared into the waters away from us.

We continued our dive and much to my amazement a Devil Ray came into view. It may have only been fleeting, but it was a Devil Ray, I had seen one and was elated. Apart from anything I was no longer jinx. Now already pretty pleased with my morning, wrecks, Barracuda, Whale Sharks and Devil Rays, not too bad. But not a patch on what happened next. Had I not been wearing goggles I would of rubbed my eyes in disbelief as our Whale Shark return, with Devil Ray following on its tail just feet behind.

Devil Ray and Whale shark not just on the same dive, but in the same view, astonishing. Devil Rays are big, very big, over 6ft across the wing tips, but it looked tiny as it followed closely behind our Whale Shark.

At this point I return to my previous problems with the camera, firing off multiple shots. Catastrophically my battery had died, my camera would not turn on for love nor money. I was witnessing a once in a life time thing, that so few people in the World have seen and I couldn’t turn on my bloody camera!!

We then spent around 20 minutes at 15m of open water as Devil Ray and Whale shark swam around in circles, often coming within feet of us as we hung in mid water, astonished at what we were witnessing. Words, nor pictures can ever do this justice, it’s just not possible, but thankfully, I was not the only one with a camera and I have to thank Karl Thrower for these shots. Not that he can take all the credit, taken with a Go-Pro, which, despite common belief is very poor at taking photos underwater, they were rescued with some clever processing by myself and I think the black and white toning helps to capture the magical feeling that we felt as these incredible animals graced us with their time and presence.

After  a time that was all too quick and as air ran low we returned to the surface to chatter excitedly about what we had seen. And returning to the boat we took of our dive equipment and prepared to head for James Bay. But the Whale Shark is seems had not had enough of us, rising to the surface waters to entice us in to spend a further 10 minutes snorkelling in its company before finally, losing interest and descending to the depths.

Was this the best dive ever? It was certainly mine, and maybe the best dive I will ever have. I will treasure the memories and the feelings of the day forever. St Helena continues to amaze and enthral me and I bloody love it here!

 

 

 

May Celebrations

So May was going to be the biggest Month in St Helena’s history, the opening of St Helena Airport, Prince Edward was booked and St Helena day, normally celebrated on the 21st, was moved to the 20th to accommodate the grand opening. As those of you who follow St Helena news outside of my blog will know, it didn’t happen. Apparently wind shear, only discoverable with real world data from a landing aircraft, that could not have been predicted in advance of this,  (hhmmm) has been discovered at the runway.  Essentially this means that as things stands it is dangerous to land a large Boeing type aircraft on runway 20, I am yet to figure out how an airport with one runway becomes runway number 20!). It is not for me to comment on this, everyone on the Island is currently an aircraft expert and have suddenly finished their degrees in meteorology, so Im not going to add to this with my own ill-educated opinion on things here.

Despite the setback for me personally I’m not too concerned, my hope is a sufficient delay in the opening will allow me one final journey on the RMS St Helena, and maybe another stop over in Cape Town, as you may of gathered I love Cape Town! And it is not as though May became dearth of celebration and event.

Earlier in the month, Prince Andrew School hall was once again full to see thirteen of Saint Helena’s young ladies compete for the title of Miss St Helena 2016. Two weeks prior I had nothing to do with this. I was then asked if I could do some photography for the event, to which I of course agreed. Then, a week before I was asked to put together a graphical presentation to display above the stage and introduce the contestants, again I agreed, although someone else would have to manage the presentation as I was to be taking photos, right?

Finally, just four days before the event itself, and having heard me sing at the New Horizons concert I was asked to provide, along with two others, some entertainment whilst the judges went off to deliberate. Hhhmmm, no rehearsal time, no band behind me for comfort, a poor quality backing track, “Im not sure about this one” I said! However, never one to shirk the opportunity to be in the lime light I agreed. In hindsight, I wish I hadn’t.

The show itself was fantastic, if a little longer than necessary. As compare John Wallocot declared the shows’ cat walk to be the one and only open runway on St Helena to the amusement of the crowd, we eventually saw 13 girls, through a series of questions and costume changes, whittled down to the winner. What a fantastic time to be Miss St Helena, no doubt at the front of many exciting opening ceremonies and events over the next two years. As for me, well, unfortunately there was no one else to make the changes on the graphic presentation during the show, meaning I had to give up my privileged photographer’s position and settle for a balcony view point. My musical performance was, for me, horrible. I stood on my own, on the cat walk with the backing music far to quiet feeling very vulnerable and although people told me afterwards that I had done well, this was no New Horizons Concert for me.

Not to be outdone the younger generation of Saint Girls took part in the Annual May Queen celebrations. Like many people I have mixed feelings about the beauty pageant type show, but this was somehow more innocent, just some young people wanting their opportunity to feel important and to play a part in the upcoming St Helena Day celebrations. Before the May Queen contest Pilling Primary school, Oliver and Charlie’s school held their May Day fate. Bev and I ran two stalls all to help raise money for the Pilling Parent Teachers Association. It was a great turn out and everyone had fun taking part in the various stalls, games and activities. Including our new Governor who turned up to see what was going on and watch the May Queen Contest. Watched eagerly by the 1st, 2nd and 3rd placed Miss St Helena ladies, the young contestants did their best to show their style and answer questions thoughtfully and intelligently. They all did very well and we were very pleased that Katie Gonsalves, daughter of good friends Frankie and Dean came an admirable second place.

With May still just two thirds through, it was time for the Islands next big event as St Helena Day was declared open.

Each year on or near the 21st May, the Island celebrates the anniversary of its discovery, music, sports, games, fireworks and more music, washed down with copious beer and good spirit it was a day to remember. All of the Tyson clan were involved, Bev kicked off with a mini Marathon.

A gruelling run up hill, in searing heat before a knee jerking descent back to town. Although it was a small line-up this year Bev did well, and looking somewhat exhausted claimed her gold medal as the fastest lady. Next up were Bev and the boys in the annual fun sports, as series of team events such as egg and spoon, four legged races (yes four) tug o war and lots of water. The boys in particular loved this but alas, the team did not claim a medal this year, the honours going to teams less predominated by people under ten years old!

Next was my turn, having organised a bunch of friends into a makeshift five a side football team. Wearing all white, the” whites in white” dubiously found our way to the final by way of a dodgy headed goal. My own contribution to the team effort started badly, scoring a classic own goal with my first touch of the ball, but, moving forward for the last two games I managed to score the goal in the final to take us to penalties. We faced a team from the merchant navy ship, RFA Gold Rover, visiting the Island on its last tour of duty. _MG_0019_MG_0016As is traditional for visiting Navy ships we were presented with a crest of the ship and a flag, and as captain of the team I’m pleased to say I got to keep them, another memento of our time on the Island. Unfortunately the final did not go to plan, and although we made it to penalties we lost out to the cool heads of the Navy team. A silver medal was mine though and a thoroughly enjoyable three hours of football was had.

Next up was Oliver and Charlies turn to win themselves a medal by taking on the Jacobs Ladder time. The turnout was excellent for this popular St Helena day challenge. Contestants set off one by one, Bev volunteering to help the young ones up. Overall winner was Rhys, a local doctor, who turned up stating “well I might give it a go” and in flips flops climbed the 699 steps in a staggering 7 minutes 50 seconds. Now, barring in mind this winning time, both Charlie and Oliver managed less than 10 minutes 30seconds, pretty impressive. However, due to the fairly wide entry bands of “Primary School” Charlie 5, and Oliver 7 found themselves competing against 11 year olds and did not finish in the top three. After a bit of persuasion, and a look at two very sad looking faces, the judge was willing to present them a medal for taking part and we all went away happy.

Unfortunately, due to a mix up with my camera, my car, and my spare batteries I missed out on photographing much of the middle portion of the day, including the suburb float that paraded through town. The appropriately themed, travel through the ages clearly inspiring the contestants with some remarkable floats on show. It never ceases to amaze me how much effort and resourcefulness goes into these events.

As the sun went down, a fantastic firework display, featuring a reported £11,000 of explosions lit up James Bay. As the reds, greens, purples and blue reflected off the sea, and wizzes and bangs echoed of the valley walls it felt light the perfect setting for such a display.