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.

_MG_0073-Edit text logoAs the last firework died, and the sparklers burnt out it was time to head home, but not before one last event for the day.Our car started fine, but soon, the clutch pedal was stuck to the floor, and the car was stranded, perpendicular to the road, blocking the streams of traffic leaving town! Lifting the pedal with my hand, I managed to engage first gear and turn the car round to roll it in neutral down a hill to a thankfully convenient parking space, where, a week later it still sits. As is expected on St Helena a kindly soul soon picked us up and took us home. One of the benefits of living in a small community is that is never long before someone you know passes by.

Before the month has finished we had time for one last evening of fun as we welcomed twenty two people for a thirteen dish Chinese banquet. As we approach the end of our second year on the Island there are a number of people who have played a huge part in our lives here, that will soon be departing these shores. We will miss them greatly and wanted to do something to say thank you for your friendship and goodbye, for now. And so it was that I started chopping and preparing at 10am, cooking everything from Asian Seared Tuna to Smoky Bacon Chicken, from Chilli Mushroom Beef to Sweet and Sour Wahoo. It was well received and declared to be much better that the Orange Tree, the local Chinese, I even received a round of applause. Most importantly though was the lovely night that was had as we sat chatted well into the night and the children, (and Matt Durkin), settled in to watch Greece on the big screen._MG_0111

And so that was May, another jam packed eventful month. It still amazes me that nearly two years on there is still so much to do, and so many wonderful memories to be made on this tiny Rock. But even now, the story of May isn’t quite over, as next time I describe the best dive experience, I , and many people here have ever had.

















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

Jamestown snakes its way to the sea

Jamestown snakes its way to the sea

Jametowsn Rooftops

Streets and junctions are marked with these wonderful wooden signs.

Streets and junctions are marked with these wonderful wooden signs.

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

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

Looking down Market Street towards the Bridge

Looking down Market Street towards the Bridge

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

Pilling Primary School and Former Barracks.

Pilling Primary School and Former Barracks.

Olivers Yr 2 classroom

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

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

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

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

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

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

View down Napoleon Street looking across Jamestown to Ladder Hill Road

View down Napoleon Street looking across Jamestown to Ladder Hill Road

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

The Canister, now the Tourist office and craft centre.

The Canister, now the Tourist office and craft centre.

The Post Office.

The Post Office.

The Consulate Hotel on the right looking down Main street

The Consulate Hotel on the right looking down Main street


The Consulate Hotel

The Consulate Hotel

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

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

The Castle.

The Castle.

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

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

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

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

Donny's Bar-2 542544_307174759360337_2082701812_n _MG_4501 _MG_4472

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

A Saintly Life

Having lived on this incredible Island for a full three weeks  and  feeling as though I have been a resident for an age, I am now,  of course, an authority on the Island and its people!  With this in mind I thought it appropriate to dispel some myths, or at least misrepresentations, that I encountered before we travelled from the UK.

The Island is, without question dependant on financial grant in aid from the UK government, from UK tax payers. This is often portrayed as though the local Saints are reliant on hand-outs, in the same way that many people back home are reliant on our welfare system. You will read that the Island has no natural resources to speak of, no agriculture or productivity and that it is dependent on the UK taxpayer to “keep” people on the Island. I have even encountered comments to the effect that people should not be permitted to live here if they cant “fend for themselves” and should be deported from the Island. The extreme end of these views angered me in their narrow mindedness before I left the UK, and now leave me bewildered by the inaccuracy of portrayal and authority in which they are given with little or no regard to actual research of the truth.

Upon our arrival in Jamestown we came across this sign in the local gardens. Feeling perplexed as to why exactly one could not sit, or wander and generally linger doing nothing, in what seems like an obvious place for such behaviour. As it happens the locals agreed entirely and after a series of complaints this inexplicable sign has been removed!

Upon our arrival in Jamestown we came across this sign in the local gardens. Feeling perplexed as to why exactly one could not sit, or wander and generally linger doing nothing, in what seems like an obvious place for such behaviour. As it happens the locals agreed entirely and after a series of complaints this inexplicable sign has been removed!

Saint Helena is a UK Dependant Territory, arguments can be made as to what this means but essentially, it is, and has for most of its long history been part of the United Kingdom. The East India Trading company and later the UK government directly, stationed people on the Island. They brought African slaves, Chinese labours and other ethnic peoples from their homes and forced them to this isolated outpost of the empire. After generations on Saint Helena the people here are proud to be part of that United Kingdom (poignant given the pending referendum across the Scottish border), and yet in 2014 we should then abandon the Island and absolve ourselves of responsibility because the Island costs us money. Should we equally absolve ourselves of the burden of the unemployed, disabled, or infirm!

The people of the Island do not rely on hand-outs, they work, and dammed hard. Most Islanders have at least two jobs, unemployment is very low on St Helena but so are wages. Unfortunately though there is little export and much to import, therefore UK government grant in aid is provided to maintain government services, education, welfare etc. In order to generate capital, an Island, community or country must have something that others wish to buy and simultaneously must reduce its need to purchase goods from elsewhere, hence bringing money into the economy in greater quantities than it leaves.

The two exports remain tourism and fisheries, both of which are historically very small in scale. Recently, huge efforts are being put into expanding both of these commercial areas as well as developing  in new areas such as extremely successful enterprises in coffee production and products from the Islands unique distillery.  Agriculture is also being advanced and has increased by 355% since 2010/11, reducing the need to import foodstuffs from abroad. The private sector economy as a whole is on the rise, and, combined with localised food production helps to recycle capital brought to the island and reduces the leakage of wealth back to the UK or South Africa. Many of the Islanders have great entrepreneurial spirit and St Helena certainly provides opportunities a plenty for those prepared to invest time and money to fill the numerous niches that are available.

The Island suffers from lack of a competition in its service sector, only one supplier of water and electricity exists, ditto for communications and media. Whilst providing an excellent service, the result is artificially high prices, but attracting a competitor to supply, for example, electricity, to a customer base of little over four thousand people (approx 2000 homes) is neigh on impossible, and would in all likelihood require a foreign Service provider and hence increase money leakage to overseas shores.

Low wages, coupled with a lack of corporate or council tax largely due (as far as I can tell), to a historical lack of central service provision, results in very low income generation for local government. A cash economy exacerbates the problem with hidden or absent paper trails for those earning more than the tax threshold. Change is required with increased rates and new taxation required, but vicissitude of this kind is always painful and is sure to be met with resistance if indeed it is proposed.

Our weekend walks continue. This time to the beginning of the ridge of Mount Eternity although sense prevailed and we did not attempt it with a three year old in tow!

Our weekend walks continue. This time to the beginning of the ridge of Mount Eternity although sense prevailed and we did not attempt it with a three year old in tow!

I continue my slide toward domestication, today getting excited at finding a hessian shopping bag, and even venturing to a friend’s house for tea and “a chat” this week. Those of you who know me well will appreciate the only time I arrive for a chat is if it is preceded by a pint or two. Caroline, my host for the morning, is an adopted Scottish woman, who left her home in California twenty years ago to start a new life in Scotland. In her own words Scotland has only just caught up to where California was twenty years ago, and now she and her lovely family have stepped back in time a further twenty years to start a new life on St Helena.

My life on the Island has settled to a routine of taxiing, shopping, coffee, household chores and an undue amount of plumbing thanks to the requirements of a new dishwasher and the accident prone feet of my youngest.

It seems my awkward demands of one and a half sugars in my coffee, have led to a quick transition from new comer to regular, at the St Helena coffee shop, where one of  the world’s most expensive coffees, (excluding those defecated from various animals) is prepared for me before my arrival at the counter.My FamilyFor the first time in my life I have a pocket notebook, necessary for planning my foraging trips, recording names and numbers, and for penning memory jogging notes on subjects ranging from where to purchase sandals for Bev to Christmas presents for the boys. On Christmas I am gobsmacked to find myself thinking of the subject in early September, in stark contrast to my usual Christmas Eve panic. However with last postal orders to be made by mid-October, present procurement is something we must start to think about. Unlike us mere mortals Farther Christmas is not limited by the availability of the RMS! For any family reading this, my own Christmas list is short this year and consists simply of a Go Pro camera, or money for thereof.

The coffee house provides a regular spot to read the two local newspapers. On this small Island newspapers and the two local radio stations are vital sources of information for both saint and expat alike. And on the subject of radio I have become an avid follower of the BBC World Service, which I am certain places me on an equal echelon to those listeners of Radio Four! I shall be listening eagerly tomorrow as the results of the momentous vote in Scotland come in.

My polite waving reached a new peak this week when I found myself giving a casual, but friendly wave, to a cat!! This has made me reassess the sincerity of my automated hand twitching and I am beginning to discover that, although still very friendly and partial to a wave, it was myself as opposed to the locals who instigated said waving during each passing of a car, pedestrian or feline. Under the suspicion that some Islanders are perhaps a little fed up of the stupid British man who keeps waving at people they don’t know I have decided to hold fire in future until I see the first and instigating hints of movement from the hand of those passing by!

My wife continues to impress me, and I have become in

The My Nemeis Jacobs Ladder as seen at night. Bev shattered my time by a full two minutes and has left me questioning my manliness! I must beat her before we leave the Island!

The Descent down my Nemeis Jacobs Ladder as seen at night. Bev shattered my time by a full two minutes and has left me questioning my manliness! I must beat her before we leave the Island!

awe of her ability to developed her professional aptitude, instigate positive change in her department, dedicate herself to the care of her pupils and yet still maintain her position as number one Mum, the apple of her children’s eyes and the glue that holds the household and family together. Bev is now being asked to help raise standards and implement change in the Science department, and she seems to be happy with the challenge of this role, although we are both mindful of her main objectives of introducing Marine Biology to the school curriculum and hope that the opportunity to do this is forthcoming in the new year. Add to the above the fact that my wife tackled Jacobs Ladder, not just beating my time but knocking a full 2 minutes off my attempt with an unbelievable time of eight minutes eight seconds and a picture of a pretty incredible woman who fills me with pride emerges.

Exploring the Island further continues to leave me fascinated and often without words to describe the stunning scenery, diversity of landscape, fauna and climate. A sense of history pervades every turn, road, building and view point. Whether it be centuries old canons from shipwrecks washed up upon the shoreline, my gruelling walk up Jacobs ladder, World War Two gun garrisons or the long succession  of historical statesmen  to of trodden the old wooden floors of the Consulate Hotel, this settlement in the South Atlantic has maintained its long and important links with the past. The sense of connection to the mariners and explorers, admirals and emperors, captains and scientific scholars of the past is a heady charm of this unique place.

A stunning sight at night anchored in James Bay

A stunning sight at night anchored in James Bay

Maintaining its own place in history is the RMS St Helena, arriving back in James Bay today following its latest trans-Atlantic journey to Cape Town. The Last Royal mail ship has a magical effect on the Island. A life line to the outside world it may be, but more importantly is the connections with virtually each and every person on the Island. Most of the people have travelled upon her and walked her decks. Many of us arrived on the Island aboard her and those who fall outside of those categories have seen friends, family and loved ones depart and alight on her. An unexplainable sense of completeness spans Jamestown when she is in port and I suspect I am not alone in feeling as though it is my ship back home when she anchors in James Bay.

Jamestown at Night. Showing Jacobs Ladder rising steeply to the left ad the RMS St Helena anchored in James Bay

Jamestown at Night. Showing Jacobs Ladder rising steeply to the left ad the RMS St Helena anchored in James Bay

Trials of Life

At the end of our second full week on the Island we are adjusting to our new life. We are already facing turbulent times, but reflection (and blog writing) permits me to put things into perspective and to contemplate these challenges in a way we seldom permit time for in our real lives.

Charlie finds one of the numerous Gecko's outside and occasionally inside our house. We love them

Charlie finds one of the numerous Gecko’s outside and occasionally inside our house. We love them

Charlie is slowly settling into school, but appears to spend most of his time with the teacher and not so with the other young boys and girls in his class. His early years, have been surrounded by older children and its clear he finds it much easier to play with and, in reality copy, children some years his senior. The move however, and indeed starting school, does not seem to of given him any great cause for concern and he is apparently handling things far better than his parents and sibling.

Charlie striking a pose outside of his nursery.

Charlie striking a pose outside of his nursery.

I think the biggest and most important part of Charlie’s life has always been his older brother. Whilst fighting and arguing with Oliver, like all siblings, he simply idolises his older brother, copying his every move and hanging on his every word. In effect the important elements of Charlie’s world have not been altered, Mum and Dad are still Mum and Dad, and Oliver is still by his side.

Oliver on the other hand is finding change difficult, like many young children and in fact his Dad, he finds making friends a challenge and his school days are filled up ups and downs. Happy whilst in class learning and discovering new things, but we suspect sad and a little lonely when play time comes round.

Oliver's Classroom.

Oliver’s Classroom.

Along with making his parents very sad, this is bringing with it a serious downturn in his normal good behaviour and kindly thoughts and at times this week he has pushed Bev and I to our limits. Time, support and cuddles will no doubt see him through this difficult period. A few humpback whales to watch, scorpions to unearth and rock-pooling at the weekends we help will help too.

Bev is settling into work and getting to grips with new, and often inadequate resources and systems . Prince Andrews School is one full of friendly people and dedicated staff, but still very much in development and a period of betterment.  With results improving year on year, and investment in good teachers such as Bev and her new colleagues there is no doubt that the challenges the school faces can be overcome with time.

Bev’s  greatest  trial of our new life is that of a change in family dynamic, with my new role as “primary care giver” and Bev’s reduced contact with the boys. In reality this change is, I believe, more perceived than reality and once we settle into our new way of life I hope Bev will see her importance and central role in the boys life has, and will not change. Working an additional day a week is made up for with real quality time with the family when not glued to lesson planning and book marking. Despite my extra contact with the boys, thus far at least, it is still their wonderful Mum that they undoubtedly long for in her absence and turn to in their need.

As of for me, my days are filled with shopping, cooking, cleaning, household DIY and other such things. Finding my way round town I am becoming more experienced when it comes to shopping, and familiar with what to find where and when. I remain however some way of achieving my full qualifications in Saint Helena foraging. I am enjoying a return to a previous passion and today’s culinary delights consisted of reasonable Leek and Potato and the best Carrot and Coriander soup I ever did taste.

My own adjustment to life is, as I expected, undramatic but not without its own bumps and occasional downturns. I often find myself feeling strangely inadequate in my “retirement”, searching for a greater contribution to this small island, a sense of my place, and a feeling of greater self-perceived importance.  My adjustments to being the Dad I think I should be is still far from complete.

It would be easy to blame our move for these difficulties, and to question the choices we have made, especially when concerning our children and the adjustments we are asking them to make. But is anything I have described above unique to our life on St Helena, are they issues we have not come across before? Is finding the right family balance, of parental roles, work life balance, and growing pains of children something that is not familiar to all the parents back at home reading this blog? I suspect not, and I take comfort in the relative normality and familiarity of our tribulations on this otherwise remote Island. The problems we must overcome are not ones of change of culture, wealth, health or other misfortune, but are commensurate with those faced by all families irrelevant of where they live.

A final thought on the subject of change and our necessary adjustments is the perception of time. It seems to me incredible that this is the end of only our second week. Having prepared and travelled for such a period as to put two weeks into near irrelevance, it should be clear that two weeks alone is no time for Bev, nor I and certainly not our children to have adjusted to our new life. And yet somehow it feels as though we have already been here a lifetime, and what was once a search on google earth and images, is now just our normality.

One final aim and challenge for myself  is to improve my level of fitness. To that end I have joined the local “veterans” five a side team, commence badminton next week, and twice weekly I near kill myself upon the steps of Jacobs Ladder.

Constructed in 1829 to haul manure up the steep slopes of James Town valley , the 699 steps rise 640ft at a 1:1 incline. My aim is to complete this gruelling trial twice a week and see how close I can get to the current record time of 5 minutes 16 seconds set in 2013. With an initial time of 10 minutes 26 seconds and a near heart attack upon completion I have some way to go, but I have two years to accomplish my challenge.

The gruelling and inspiring Jacobs Ladder. 200m of pain!

The gruelling and inspiring Jacobs Ladder. 200m of pain! The photo does not begin to give this justice!