Weddings, who’d of though it

We left the UK on a new adventure just over two years and four months ago. Although Bev had work and would be teaching (albeit in very different circumstance), I was stepping into the complete unknown, no job, no plan, no clue. I knew I would have some time on the Island, and I had always wanted to take up photography as a hobby, so, equipped with an amazon kindle book, and a £500 second hand canon with kit lens I started learning what all the buttons did.

Some of my earliest shots before I left the UK

I had no idea that it would take me anywhere. Shortly after we arrived on the Island I secured my first job with the tourism office, taking photos of the local restaurants and B&Bs etc. I had to get a work permit and register my business, Paul Tyson Photography (creative eh!?!) .

Photos of mixed standards of tourism establishments required creative thinking when it came to angles and lighting. Now I know why those glossy hotel brochures always look better than the real thing!

My landscape work was already quite well known and established by then, it seems I arrived at a  good time when excellent professional photographer Darrin Henry was busy travelling the world, and there were no other commercial photographers on the Island. Realising there was a gap in the market I promoted my new business, I remember Bev telling me, that “Any money I made from photography, I could spend on photography, but “(quite understandably) I wasn’t to spend any of the money she was earning!

Early St Helena Landscapes

Fair enough, but this provided me all the motivation I needed, the more money I make, the more toys I can buy. Inspired, and slightly jealous of friend David Higgins and his big lens for photographing St Helena’s wildlife, I bought a 120 – 300mm f2.8 Sigma lens. It was one of those ones that people look at and think “he must be making up for something” or simply, “what a tosser”!

My new f2.8 300mm lens allowed me to take these shots.

But I loved it and I could afford it, largely because of a new contract, and one I was most proud of, a commission from French Consul to St Helena to take exclusive photographs for a new guide book to Napoleonic sites on St Helena.

Photos and book cover from “On the Tracks of Napoleon” my first published images.

Next came night skies, we finally started to see the odd clear night sky and it was breathtaking, I simply had to get the gear to capture it on camera, another lens beckoned.

Some of my first Milky Way shots over our house in Half Tree Hollow.

In the mean time I was getting enquiries for studio type photo shoots, so thought I should pursue this and get some more gear. Backdrops, flash stands, wireless triggers and shoot through umbrellas followed. I think by now Bev may of been starting to regret telling me  I could spend anything I earnt on photography!!

The studio work didn’t automatically follow though, the requests continued, but, having set what I considered to be very reasonable prices given the outlay I had made, bookings did not come my way. My first studio shoot eventually came at the end of November 2015, it went well, very well, largely because of the gorgeous little girl I was photographing, and once the photos hit facebook the bookings came in.

My first studio shoot with the most gorgeous, smiling, happy young baby ever!

I soon began to realise that studio photo shoots, and portraits was a whole new ball game, not only did I have to know how to work a camera, and lighting, I had to know how to work a person! When amateurs come to you expecting to look like a super model you need to learn how to position and pose them, how to make them feel comfortable and relaxed with you, as a male photographer I think this is particularly challenging! Once again I took to you tube, and added to my 120GB of photography tutorials!

I started to feel the need to buy more gear. This time, it was a brand new camera, my first full frame, entry level professional camera. Wow what a difference, it allowed me to push the boundaries of what I could do, particularly in low light photography. Following on from basic studio work I was asked for more complex fashion type shoots, and my first real maternity shoot.

Some of my more accomplished studio work. Many were no where like this, over processed and overdone in many cases, but all part of the learning curve.

Again it was a new commission that helped pay for the new camera. I was commissioned to photograph all of the work that falls under St Helena Government’s Environment and Natural Resources directorate. This was a fantastic job, allowing me to see the workings of everything from the forestry team to the abattoir, from renewable energy to waste management. It was a mammoth job but again thoroughly enjoyable as I got to meet Saints from all walks of life.

From pigs in the butchery to people planting endemic seedlings, ENRD does it all.

In September 2015 the airport project started to hot up, as first flight after first flight landed in succession. First ever plane to land, first jet powered plane, first airliner. By now I had grown in confidence as a photographer and on the Island in general and I was pushy enough to speak to the important people and get myself runway access alongside the Islands media representatives. The results of this have been amazing, and my airport photographs can now been seen around the World as St Helena became the new hot tourism destination. My shots our the Islands wonderful landscapes started to appear in prestigious travel sites such as Conde Nast.  Of course we all know that the airport did not open, but in terms of World media, the wind sheer disaster was now an even bigger story and I had contacts from major newspapers and media outlets around the world. My photos of the airport and various planes landing can now been seen globally on sites ranging from the Times, the Independent and the BBC in the UK to USA today. Shots of the first commercial plane to land were quickly put on my facebook page and received over 100,000 views, astounding!

The first landing and first commercial jet liner to land on St Helena

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One of my images as it appeared in the Time Newspaper.

Not only were my photos appearing in media outlets, I was now to be featured in World famous London store Harrods, as I was commissioned to produce point of sale images for St Helena coffee!_mg_2620-edit

Fancy a coffee? I have to admit this is one of my favorite photos, taken on a log in my lounge! The steam isn’t even real!

Photo shoots became a mainstay but a new and interesting job came up with Enterprise St Helena to produce interpretation panels for tourist spots around the Island. This was a brilliant new challenge, combining photography with graphic design and writing, as well as proving a fascinating journey through St Helena historical archives and old photos. Learning more about the history of the Island and getting paid was great, but more importantly its wonderful to know that when I leave St Helena there will be something I produced, left behind for others to enjoy.

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One of 14 interpretation panels soon to be erected across St Helena.

As an aside I was also able to use my graphic skills when I was commissioned to produce the Governors official Christmas card. This was a test in itself, as the request was for a card featuring Lisa Phillips, her lovely black Labrador, dusty, and all twelve of Dusty’s new puppies!! Over 140 photos were taken to produce this card, mostly consisting of dogs bums and tails. But it was a huge pleasure, and the puppies were just lovely.

Colourful bokeh of Christmas lights with a bauble

Governor Lisa Phillips and her adorable Labrador pups. As a thank you for this job the boys were able to go and meet the puppies and spent over an hour cuddling and playing with them. They are fabulous.

Another “first” hit St Helena in October 2016 as an electrical storm shot lightening bolt after lightening bolt down upon us. thunder and lightening is a rare occurrence on St Helena, with some reports stating its over twenty years since the last one, making this storm the first ever to be photographed and shared around the World from St Helena.

These shots received over 20,000 views on facebook!

And so in December and January 2016/17 I find myself as a wedding photographer, with four bookings in as many weeks. Not my first I have done a few here and there, but as I have improved along with my gear these have been the first that I have charged sensibly for (relative to the amount of work) and that I feel accomplished in my work. I am enormously proud of the photos I have taken during wedding season. It is certainly a challenge, working fast, adjusting to rapidly changing light conditions, the photography is a challenge in itself, but its only now that I realise a wedding photographer is also the wedding director, and is looked upon to direct people from venue to venue, into groups, and to help ensure the day runs smoothly. It is daunting, hard work, but immensely rewarding.

If you’d of told me back in July 2014, as we packed our bags for the unknown that I would be a professional wedding photographer before I left St Helena Id of laughed at you, but as the New Year arrives and I look back on my time here I have come a long way. I am building both experience and a portfolio, and who knows where this may take me.

My readers can help me out here, have you recently got married in the UK, or been a close part of a wedding? How much did you pay the photographer, and please, how do my images compare to this. Id love to hear some open honest critique so I can better gauge exactly where I am.

 

 

 

 

The Goose got fat, and was eaten…

Well its been our third Christmas on St Helena, and once again it was new faces but the same fun. We have gotten used to St Helena traditions, and although the warm weather and sunshine always prevents us from gaining that warm Christmas build up feeling, we never the less enjoy our time here. Christmas in St Helena is less complicated than in the UK, there is no shopping rush for example, in fact, if you haven’t ordered it by mid October, then it aint coming for Christmas. No mad rushing round town on Christmas eve for me. And whilst we always miss our families enormously this time of year, not having the pressure of which family will miss out on our company is a relief.

We do miss home more than any other time of year though but the constant trickle of Christmas themed events help to stave this off. The traditional Pilling Primary School Christmas service is a welcome treat. This year our boys had prominent roles, Oliver, a rowdy local berating the presence of Roman Forces, and Charlie, the Star of the show, well, yes, actually the star of the show.

 

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For me this year was extra special, with having no permanent job on St Helena, I have always struggled with those close relationships with the locals, I know lots, say hello to lots, but rarely am I thought of or included in local dinner invites, parties or other traditions. And as such it was lovely this year to be invited to the New Horizons Christmas dinner. I have been volunteering with New Horizons for as long as I have been on the Island, providing photographs of their regular youth sporting events, and coaching two junior footballs teams and refereeing games on Sundays through a very long season. It was lovely to feel that I have been accepted by this dedicated group of people. As is traditional at Christmas parties on St Helena a Secret Santa was in force, this time a naughty one, and my gifts of fluffy handcuffs compliment nicely the mistletoe adorned boxer shorts I received at my actual works do. Bev also had her own works Secret Santa to provide for and creatively came up with this shortbread portrait of the recipient.dsc01606

Oliver this year was chosen for the schools traditional Christmas carol singing service, held outside of the Canister (Tourist office) in town each year. Oliver it seems has begun to follow in his Dads footsteps in developing a love for performing in public, something about the crowds and applause seems to tick some boxes for the both of us. It was lovely to see and hear him enjoying himself with some of his close school friends.

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Events and parades are the number one thing in what St Helena refers to as festival season. The highlight of these for me and for many is the festival of lights. Primary schools on the Island are very competitive and all strive to provide the biggest and best shows on the Island, but I think with Festival of Lights Pilling Primary school takes the accolade as biggest and best, with hundreds of people, cars and vehicles dressed from metaphorical head to toe in Christmas lights, parade through town with music and fake snow aplenty. Its a sight to behold and the hundreds of spectators were treated once again to a wonderful Christmas sight.

I was thrilled this year to be invited by Governor Lisa Phillips to photograph her and Rusty, her lovely Labrador for the official Christmas Card, and, Rusty’s twelve tiny black puppies, what a joy. I had such fun although over 140 photographs were needed to create this one card, I had a lot of photos of bums and tails and precious few of puppies sat still facing the camera.

Colourful bokeh of Christmas lights with a bauble

The Governor provided a wonderful Christmas address this year, which, I was very pleased to hear thanked the partners of TC offices for their contribution to the Island. We are often berated by locals for “taking Saint jobs” and the like, but the truth us us forgotten partners contribute and awful lot to St Helena in the way of volunteering for projects and charities.

Christmas eve was very different to that in the UK as I took part in the annual Christmas dive with Sub-Tropic adventures, a dive in Christmas hats presenting its own challenges!

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The afternoon was spent with good company playing games in the Sun on Rosemary Plain. A tradition started by our friends the Days and Davids and which we have tried to carry on, hoping that others will take this up when we leave. It certainly makes for a different Christmas when tropical sun shine is the theme. That evening we enjoyed a more traditional time, as we settled down, just the family, to watch The BFG, a wonderful film, highly recommended. After reading “A Night Before Christmas” a tradition in my family since I was a small boy, the boys went to bed and, with the fear of Father Christmas going home if they were still awake, fell asleep very quickly. Bev and I then nervously wrapped and placed the presents in their stockings.

The next morning was Christmas like many others, presents, mess and pancakes for breakfast! The boys opened their presents, Oliver in a considered, taking his time manor, Charlie with a more youthful, rip it open and move to the next one approach. Santa brought them their requests for desks, not perhaps the most normal requests for 8 and 5 year old’s, but they loved them non the less. Grandparents from afar were well remembered with toys and gifts a plenty under the tree, all of which were gratefully received by the boys and ourselves. Thank you.

And so on to the afternoon, and this year, we were not hosting, but instead joining 18 others for a bring and share Christmas in the sun. Our contribution pushed my culinary skills, with Paxo stuffing and pigs in blankets! Although I also made some Whisky glazed roast carrots, Parsnips and spiced red cabbage, whilst Bev provided the traditional Yule Log. All arrived at the party on time and before long a feast fit for a king was unwrapped from its silver lining and we all dug in. Lots of food and drink fueled a party which lasted into the night and caused me to miss my boxing day dive the next morning. But boy was it worth it.

Boxing day was another get together, this time with the Bridgewaters for another full on Christmas dinner, followed by an early night! I was exhausted. And so that was our quiet St Helena Christmas for 2016. I still cant quite believe its our third on the Island, time has flown. When we arrived in September 2014 we would never of guessed what lay ahead. As Summer settles in we look forward to the New Year, and we await to see what the next three Christmas’s will bring

 

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.

Back on St Helena

We’ve been back on St Helena now for three weeks, and it feels as though we never left. Despite a huge change in our circumstance we settle right back into things and pick up where we left off. I’ve also had two weeks to settle into my new job, as Team Leader with the Landscape and Ecology Mitigation Program. The LEMP, as it is known is a large project to undo some of the environmental damage of the airport project, rabbit proof fencing, irrigating and then planting large areas of dry desert like environment. Im becoming familiar with my own role in the team and it is essentially one of people management, setting work schedules, carrying out appraisals and the like, but is also, in a large part, one of logistics, ensuring materials are readily available, managing external contracts, and making sure the work flows sensibly and sequentially between the different field teams and local stakeholders.

After two years of photography, spending large amounts of time on my own, it is a real pleasure to be working with a team of people again, and, working with Saints, something that has been missing from my first two years on the Island. It is not without challenges though, one of which is the personal motivation required to do a job that I don’t have to do. It’s the first time in my life that Im doing a job purely for the sake of working and occupying time, challenging myself, and not because we need the money. Its very privileged to be in this position but when waking up early and sorting the boys for school and myself for work I find it necessary to remind myself that this was my choice.

The other pleasure of the job is working, when Im not in the office, in some of St Helena’s beautiful landscapes. Much of the work is in an area known as Prosperous Bay, a wide expanse of desert, a stark and striking landscape of orange red and purple sands punctuated by cacti. As I travelled through I realised I have not really taken in this area in before and certainly haven’t been out with my camera. Photography of my beautiful surroundings, has for some time now, taken a back burner. The more studio work I have been doing the less inclined I have been to enjoy photography as a hobby. I’m sure that my new job will help rekindle this, as I do less in the way of family portraits I have already developed a burning desire to get back out with my camera and photograph this wonderful Island we live in, and I realise just how much of it I still haven’t explored as normal life has taken over.

Our first three weeks back have been a little up and down. I received the news that my Mum has fallen and badly damaged her knee, leaving her immobile, in a huge cast and with the prospect of a knee replacement. It is particularly difficult being away from family when you feel that people need you and your support and I feel helpless to be able to do anything. Injury has befallen me once more and put a premature end to my football season once again. I’ve torn my groin several times, my ankles and this time, my Hamstring. It seems I am unable to play more than three games in a row before picking up a new injury, and its left me feeling old and more than a little fed up. Today I sit on my own having missed out on spear fishing this morning and a walk with friends this afternoon. 1st world problems I know, but when our time on St Helena is limited I hate missing out on things.

Still, being sat on my own gives time to reflect on things. History tells me that this is not good for me, and is one of the reasons I have sought out a full time job. But reflect I have, where are we, how far have we come, what are the important things and who am I. One of the goals of coming here was to improve my relationship with the children, and despite times when I felt it would never get better I find myself two years in with undoubtedly a better relationship with them. I shout less, and loose my temper less, and I genuinely enjoy being with them more. I have grown very proud of the people they are and have learnt to see the good things they bring to my life and not just focus on the restrictions they naturally impose. Oliver took part in the Island first Airport dash. As planes continue to be noticeable in their absence, other community uses are being found for the runway as 140 people took part in a 3km run up the runway and back. Bev, despite telling me she would not do well, placed second in the women’s category, and Oliver second in the primary school ages. Oliver’s achievement is particularly impressive given that many of his competitors were three years older. In fact, in a field of 140 Oliver finished around 15th overall and made his Mum and Dad very proud indeed.

So if I have made strides in becoming a better Dad, how do I feel about myself, have I changed, bettered myself. Right from the start I have longed to have a more important place on the Island, ridding myself of the self-doubt that I have often felt. Are things better now I have found work, I don’t know, not yet. When I look at myself I still see doubt and fear and I am no closer to knowing who I am and being comfortable in my own skin. Some former colleagues and friends back in the UK are currently out in Vancouver, for an international aquarium conference. Its crazy sitting here on St Helena, but I am filled with jealousy and feel a longing to belong to the industry I left behind. A friend once said, not long after we arrived on St Helena that she feels in limbo, not quite belonging to St Helena, but sufficiently changed so that she will never quite feel like she belongs in the UK. Two years on I understand where she is coming from. I have always wished and looked for a sense of belonging, to something important, to be a part of something greater and of significance. Maybe having a job on St Helena will help that, maybe not. I remain hugely ambitious but I have come to wonder if that is a good thing, are you ever satisfied with yourself, when you are always ambitious for more, ambitious to achieve something greater.

Most of all I worry about whether people like me, sad I know, you may argue why should I care, take me as I am if you don’t like me, it’s not my problem. Maybe I will always carry this, a need to be better, be more, be recognised and to feel important and liked. Maybe it’s just the Island that brings these feelings out in me, it’s certainly played more a part of my life here than at any other time. Work undoubtedly gives me less time to think, but when I do, I still tie myself in knots and struggle to understand how I feel and why I do. Maybe I need to stop figuring things out, and just run with it.

If I haven’t changed, things on St Helena have changed whilst we’ve been gone, good friends have left and social circles have shifted somewhat. As I sat down last night I updated our phone list, gone are the Grahams, the Hannahs, the Hathways, the Parkinsons, the Durkins and the Lambdon, great friends now gone from St Helena. Our first year on the Island seems a long time ago, and only a handful of friends remain who even know the important people in our lives from 2014. The Days, the David’s and others were very much our early time on the Island, and I feel fiercely protective of those memories we shared. Increasingly we find ourselves talking about people, events and times that others have no knowledge of, as we feel more and more like the old timers on the Island. Of course this is ridiculous, we have only been here two years, but on an Island so transitional this is longer than many. But this year it is all change again, we have made new friends on the ship and others who arrived during the eight weeks we were away. Despite the change in personal, the story remains unchanged, weekends are spent at barbecues and parties, walking with friends, Sunday football and donkeys.

Being away from the Island and then returning, highlights just how things have improved here since we first arrived. My lunch today was a lovely BLT, with locally produced bread, lettuce, tomatoes and smoked bacon, the only import being Hellman’s mayonnaise. Dinner tonight was delicious (even if I say so myself) Pork tenderloin with a tarragon and white wine sauce, carrots and broccoli (no Mum I didn’t have broccoli) again all locally produced or grown, the wine included. It’s a far cry from the endless cabbage and cauliflower that greeted us two years ago. Our fridge is stocked with fruit from our regular order, and a large piece if fillet steak awaits for tomorrow night. Now working full time, shopping has become a quick and daily occurrence, popping out at lunch and nipping round a few shops. As I pass by the Wellington store I am shouted at by a voice through the window, “Paul, when are you collecting your fruit bag” being the normal cry. Like most things, shopping is very social with an endless meet and greet as you move from shop to shop. Its this friendliness and community that really makes St Helena and makes our time here special. As I reflect on our first few weeks back on the Island, at the start of probably our last year on the Island it is clear that this is what we will miss most. Whale sharks, diving and stunning scenery are a joy, but it is the everyday people and the everyday life we have here that, when the time comes, we will miss most. I hope my hamstring heals quickly so I can spend less time thinking and reflecting, and more time enjoying and doing.

 

Footnote – We’ve actually been back more like six weeks at the time of posting this so before this is uploaded an update is due. Ive settled back into things, settled into work and have some exciting prospects on the horizon. Look out for another update with photos, days out and dolphins coming very soon.

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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