Letting Go

Bev and the boys are finally back in the country. I have missed them desperately but at least they are not 6 days away from me. They are however, still not living with me. We made the decision hat until Bev finds work then she and the boys would live in Bristol, with her parents, two hours from my lonely flat. This is sensible for many reasons, without Bev having a job we don’t know exactly where we will live when she does have one. We cant afford to rent a family home on my salary alone, and we don’t want to be tied into a 6 month contract when we don’t yet know where we want to live. After the upheaval of leaving St Helena, we don’t want to disrupt the boys by placing them in a school only to have to move them again six months later. All in all, Bev temporarily living in Bristol is the sensible, if not difficult thing.

Of course I see them on my days off, but this has meant lots of driving and lots of tearful goodbyes, saying goodbye for another week becoming increasingly difficult each time I have to do it. Oliver too is finding the situation difficult and unsettling, he has always been an emotional sop just like his Dad!

My first few weeks as you know were very difficult, but as Bev pointed out, how can you let go of somewhere when your life is still there. As soon as my family were on the ship it felt easier. But there’s a part of me that doesn’t want to let go. I should do, or Ill never resettle., but letting go is admitting I don’t live there any more, that I’m not just on leave and wont be going back any time soon. I still follow the news and gossip coming out of the Island with great eagerness. The strangest thing is the sadness I feel when I hear of others who have left or are leaving St Helena now. Somehow it still hurts that friends have left, even though in most cases it means I get to see them sooner rather than later.

Im reminded of the transient nature of St Helena. Already I see facebook comments from people I don’t know, who have become friends with my friends and I feel rather indignant about it. I wonder how it felt for the friends I made who left St Helena a year or more ago, who watched my life on the Island move on without them, new friends and experiences which people whom I shared the first twelve moths with are absent from. As I’ve reflected on many occasions before, how long will it be until we are a distant memory. At the moment there enough people still on the Island whom we are good friends with, but before too long they will of left. The Saints of course remain, and I hope many of them will remember us and think fondly of us, but the every day presence will fade.

But my life here is becoming more normal. I’m settling back into the place and things are less daunting. My shopping trips are becoming more productive and I’ve managed to buy cereal and stuff to wash with, as well as beer. I still find the choice overwhelming and unnecessary. St Helena teaches you that you don’t need most of the things we often feel we couldn’t do without (although the Royster’s T-bone steak crisps I’ve just eaten were pretty damn good!) . In terms of letting go there are some things that I really don’t want to let go of, and the appreciation for what you have is one of those things. Too often in my life I dwell on negatives and this period has made me realise and be grateful for the many wonderful things I do have. My friends, my career, my family and above all my wife and children whom I have grown to love and appreciate more in the past four weeks than I have ever done before.

I’m settling too into life in work. Although some clarity is still needed, Im finding my place in the organisation and beginning to have an influence and be able to make some positive impact and changes. I’ve found a confidence in myself, in my knowledge, skills and experience. I made the move to Plymouth National Marine Aquarium to learn new skills, and have started to do so already, but Ive also had my previous knowledge solidified in a way that is very pleasing, turns out I do know some things.

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The view from outside the aquarium.

Ive started my first dives as a professional diver, carrying out maintainence and feeding on a large temperate marine exhibit, diving with large conger eels, rays and other species, feeding them by hand to the enjoyment of an audience. Perhaps the most challenging aspect of this is the audience itself. A hundred or so people watching you through the glass whilst you are effectively in training at something that is very new is daunting to say the least. The public expect to see professional divers, and as yet I don’t feel quite as polished and steady as my colleagues. But its all part of the learning curve and one the reasons why, for my career to progress, I had to find new challenges and gain new skills within the aquarium world. The salary is poor (and industry wide problem) and the work and hours can be challenging, but I have been reminded that I absolutely love it, and to work somewhere that others pay to come and visit is something of a privilege. Many of those who pass through our doors would the love the opportunities I have and I must remember that and be grateful for it.

Plymouth is proving to be a fantastic and beautiful city. I spent last Friday on the waterfront drinking a few beers, before catching the ferry across the bay to continue with a few more pints in the setting sun. The weather last week was tropical and has helped my transition. I’ve also got connected and have a mobile phone again for the first time in nearly three years. Whilst I enjoyed being out of contact on St Helena, they do have their advantages, and a camera with me at all times is one of them.

 

Strangely I have not wanted to pick up my camera much since getting back. Photography felt like something I did on St Helena, not in the UK, who would be interested in photos here? I lost all passion for it. But a trip to West Wales rekindled some of that. Camping with wonderful friends from my university days in a beautiful part of the country was a timely reminder that St Helena is not the only beautiful place in the world, and that we have many wonderful friends who are dotted all over the World. That being said it was quite a trip.

My days off work have been spent travelling to see Bev and the kids.

 

This latest trip involved 7 hours of driving each way to spend a few hours with them, without which I wouldn’t of seen them for a fortnight, needs must. Saying goodbye though continues to be hard, and is actually getting harder each time. A solid cuddle from Charlie was enough to make me shed a few more tears as I once again wished my family goodbye for another week.

 

You’ll recall my friends the Gonsalves’s who, after their horrific ordeal on Ascension Island were back in the UK recovering. The good news is they are recovering well, and in two weeks we are getting together for a weekend of camping and no doubt a lot of beer. I cant bloody wait, but I wonder how I will feel when I say goodbye to them, as they will shortly be heading back out to St Helena. I suspect a large part of me will be hugely jealous. Its hard to let go when you have friends still on the Island, even more so when good friends are about to head back out there. A time will come no doubt when St Helena is resided into that place where wonderful memories are kept, the part of your brain that just keeps holds of things in laughs, and recollections over a drunken reunion. But for now it is still too close, it is still too fresh, and if I’m honest I really don’t want to let go, not just yet, its too important and too soon for me.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Studio Photoshoot

Ok, so I realise my last and this blog have little to do with St Helena, but they are part of my life here and as this is my life in pictures it constitutes part of my life on St Helena.

I have done a few studio shoots now, but this was my first that involved a model, just one person, a very beautiful young model, and as it happen baby sitter to Oliver and Charlie, who asked me to do a studio shoot with her.

Given that this was my first attempt at anything like this Im thrilled with the result, not much more to say, but please enjoy the photos._MG_0994-Edit_MG_1021-Edit_MG_0918-Edit_MG_0941-Edit_MG_0950-Edit_MG_0984-Edit_MG_0994-Edit-2_MG_0984-Edit-2_MG_0998-Edit_MG_0931-Edit_MG_0950-Edit-2_MG_1005-Edit_MG_0957-Edit_MG_1012-Edit_MG_0998-Edit-2_MG_1005-Edit-2_MG_0957-Edit-2_MG_1013-Edit_MG_0968-Edit_MG_0974-Edit

Christmas 2015!

So it’s New Year’s Day, the first day of 2016, and I sit with tired eyes following my 3.30am finish last night, Old Years Night as it is fondly know on St Helena. I look back on 2015 with huge joy and pleasure, what an incredible year, a brief look back through my blog titles shows just how packed with everything it has been. And as I look forward to 2016 I can only hope it comes close to the year just gone.

Despite the unseasonably poor weather we have had some fantastic sunny days during the holidays.

Christmas has been lovely once more. It started with the festival of lights, and culminated on Christmas day with twenty seven people under gazeebo’s on our lawn. We organised a Christmas themed bring a share, a regular tradition on St Helena where everyone brings a few dishes to share amongst the guests, it certainly takes the hard work out of feeding that many people. We had food of all types and although generally themed around a Traditional Turkey dinner the vegetarian options and Baked Sweet Potato with Marshmallow added definite variety and interest!

Christmas on St Helena is, like anywhere else in the World a time for family, and as such, it can be difficult for the Ex-pat families here, missing loved ones back in the UK. With Saints celebrating with their own families, Ex-Pats band together in groups of variable sizes on Christmas days itself, and our group was simply the best, what great friends we have made here with a true sense of companionship. Christmas last year was spent with the David’s, they were missed this year, but like everything else time moves on and I looked arou8nd to see so many new friends that have arrived in the last year.

This year I missed my family more than last, everything was new last year and in many ways I was still on holiday, but this year, Bev and I both had thoughts of home with us as Christmas approached. Our huge extended family on St Helena made the Christmas holiday such wonderful fun, filled with warmth and laughter that it helps to ease the pain of missing loved ones.

Boxing Day was, as per usual filled with Turkey Sandwich, sitting down, and lots and lots of football, a typical boxing day for me. What has not been typical however is the unseasonably poor weather, days filled with cloud and drizzle when it should be tropical sunshine. Sympathetic to the blight of many people in the UK right now, I don’t wish to bemoan the weather too greatly, but we are all waiting for the summer to truly break here. That being said it’s not many a year that I am able to continue to wear shorts, have Christmas Dinner on the lawn and spend days splashing and swimming in the Sea.

Rupert’s Valley is not by any stretch of the imagination a beautiful tropical beach, however, it is a beach, and the only easily accessible beach, that you can safely swim from on the Island. Rupert’s valley is the site of the new Wharf under construction, and of the main fuel storage on St Helena, as such it is an industrialised area, but it is not without its own charm, and in warm weather Islanders flock here in numbers to enjoy a barbeque, swim and sand castles. Following Old Years Night, Rupert’s is the premier spot for washing off the hangover on New Year’s Day and we were no exception. The boys love it here, jumping into the waves as they roll and crash. You will often hear that there are no safe swimming beaches on St Helena, this is, as you can see, un-0ture, but this may be a new phenomenon as we are told that Rupert’s Valley, just two years ago did not have a permanent beach. The construction of the Wharf appears to of changed that and sand is building up rapidly such that we have noticed a huge difference in the short time we have been on this ever enchanting Island.

Despite being called the Christmas holidays, I have never been busier, and in fact If I recall correctly, Christmas Days itself is the only day thus far that I have not been working. Suddenly, and out of no-where I have been getting requests for studio photoshoots, people seemingly wishing to give photos as Christmas gifts. My first was back at the beginning of December, a paper advert and Facebook promotion later and things took off in a big way and I’m delighted to be using my new studio equipment and developing a brand new arm to my photography. It genuinely boggles my mind that I am doing this, me, a photographer, earning a living from taking photos, it is amazing how the World can change around you. Not that I haven’t worked hard for it mind and December has seen regular 15 hour days of editing to get photos ready for gifts in time for Christmas. It has of course been a lovely way to meet new people and I hope it continues into 2016.

This time last night Bev and I had just returned home from a lovely party, and put the children to bed. We opened a bottle of bubbly and saw in the New Year just the two of us, it was lovely. Sometimes, on an Island so full of people, parties and get togethers, it’s nice to be alone with the one you love. We kissed, and wished each other all the best for 2016. What will it bring, I do not know, but you can be dam sure it will not be dull, and I simply can’t wait to find out. Thank You St Helena, thank you 2015, you have been bloody brilliant.

Its Life Jim, But Not As We Know It

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

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

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

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

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

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

Before photo supplied by the client.

Before photo supplied by the client.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It Does Funny Things!

Whether the same applies to Saints, living here all their lives I do not know, but for me, and indeed many travelling ex pats, St Helena does funny things to you. Having arrived on St Helena retired, expecting a laid back life for two years, indulging in hobbies and reading, I find myself now worrying about everything I have taken on, whether I can fulfil my obligations and meet my own newly defined goals, make the most of my time here on St Helena and indeed be the family man I intended before we left the shores of the UK.

I look back a few weeks, to a time where, despite falling in love with St Helena, I was not in love with myself, unsure of my place, my future on the Island and unable to see a way out of a hole of cleaning and domestication.

The lack of cisual content to accompany this entry leads me to just post some pretty pictures. As the weather continues to improves the nights become clearer as this shot of Half Tree Hollow at night shows only too well.

The lack of visual content to accompany this entry leads me to just post some pretty pictures. As the weather continues to improves the nights become clearer as this shot of Half Tree Hollow at night shows only too well.

A recent conversation with a local left me pondering some things, to which I have not found an answer. The crux of my depression was in not having, what I regarded as a good answer when the inevitable question, “what are you doing here” came up. I would joke that I was retired, afraid of being judged by my profession, or lack thereof. But why is this, do I lack the confidence to just be myself, without the need to be something of importance? I don’t believe I judge people based on their profession, I have always strived to see the person and not the badge, so why do I assume others will judge me. I find myself playing up or down previous roles dependant on the profession of the person I am speaking to.  But then it seems to me that it is often the case that people will ask what you do, before they ask your name, and indeed St Helena is a funny place for ex-pats where humble retiree’s like myself rub shoulders with those holding seats of government, lawyers, Prison Officers, Chief of Police, Doctors, Deputy Governors and the like, if there was ever an environment to make one feel inadequate, this I suspect this is it.

I find myself now more and more at ease with things, I no longer feel

A little bit of abstract macro work on a walk around plantation wood.

A little bit of abstract macro work on a walk around plantation wood.

the need to joke to cover up my own self judgment, opportunities are presenting themselves, and along with those opportunities are choices to be made. St Helena does funny things to people, ex-pats arriving without work, supporting loved ones are presented with opportunities to take part in the most wonderful and varied things, I have even been offered my own radio show, something which Im afraid I simply don’t now have time to do. It seems, having bought a cheap camera a few months ago, am now a photographer, my work is being recognised and appreciated and it is difficult to place in words how wonderful that feels.

Last weekend I attended a craft fare, and sold a few of my photos, even being asked for some signed copies, and today I sit having spent

One of my first new ventures as Paul Tyson Photography. Little more than five months after first picking up a camera I am offering beginners courses!

One of my first new ventures as Paul Tyson Photography. Little more than five months after first picking up a camera I am offering beginners courses!

most of the day producing a collage of my work for the St Helena Government representatives in London, having been called upon directly from London to see if I could help. I pinch myself that I have completed the necessaries and await confirmation to see if I am able to register my new business, Paul Tyson Photography! Now who’d of thought that as we stepped onto the RMS St Helena three months ago.

St Helena creates friends; this funny melting pot of peoples in a strange situation brings about close and powerful friendships. We find ourselves spending time with people from all walks of life and all professions. Why is it that dive Instructors become friends with housing planners, that prison officers become friends with videographers, that lawyers become friends with teachers, what is it that breaks down the normal barriers and creates friendships that would be unlikely to form back home, what is it that binds us?  Ex pats on the Island all have one thing in common, and it seems so obvious as to almost not be worth stating, we all live in St Helena. It is not the living here however that brings a closeness, it is the spirit that brought us all here in the first place, a curiosity for the unknown and a sense of adventure for leaving the safety or normality at home and venturing out into something new, something exciting, something with huge potential to fail but huge potential for great reward.  I have learnt to look beyond first impressions; St Helena does that to you. In the knowledge that the size of St Helena makes it inevitable that you will bump into people regularly, that you will share a drink and spend time in the company of others, you are forced to bide your time, to form friendships with people whom at home you may pass up, turning away based on an inaccurate and fleeting first impression.  I hope I take this new found measured approach to people with me when I leave, just another in a long list of improvements I believe I am making.

IMG_9631 Friendships on St Helena are also transient, as fleeting as our time here. Already three fellow passengers on board the RMS have departed these shores, and families we have become close to will be leaving in the New Year.  Even those residents, the Saints themselves whom we are slowly making friends amongst, will remain when we depart. In the social bubble I find myself in, one remains ever aware of the RMS and the departure we and others will make.

Between my work with the National Trust, my burgeoning photography career, looking after the house and the boys I am clinging onto my time with the Marine Conversation team, just! This Monday had the huge pleasure of assisting in tagging Red Billed Tropic Birds on the aptly named Egg Island.  A small group of us headed out to this small rocky outcrop, some 300 yards from the shore, and accessible only by a leap of faith from the back of a boat onto a vertical cliff face, all the while judging the movement of the waves and hoping the next wave pushes you closer to your target and not further away. After a full twenty minutes of ups and downs back and fourths, the team of four were safely onto the Island. From a distance Egg island looks white, closer inspection reveals it is indeed, the rock stained white from centuries of guano. Stepping across the rocks and climbing to the Island’s peak at around 70m, tens upon thousands of Black Noddies and Sooty terms flew around us, angry and upset by our disturbance and sure to let us know about it, their powerful beaks and quick head height fly pasts a constant reminder that we were on their turf.

Egg Island, stained white with years of bird poo!!

Egg Island, stained white with years of bird poo!!

The valuable work on Egg Island is revealing the secrets of these sea birds, potential new species being revealed and population trends being followed, all essential if these birds, residents of the Island for thousands of years are to survive a thousand years into the future. Our journey was also in preparation for next week’s adventures when the trip will be repeated in the pitch black of night, lit up by the stunning nocturnal skyline as we turn our attention to the resident, nesting Storm Petrol population. The short climb back down the vertical cliff to leap back onto our waiting boat left me nervously excited about attempting the same feat at 1 o’clock in the morning!

Three months into our time here I am at something of a cross roads, determined to help out with the amazing marine conservation I have become involved with, proud of my work with the National Trust, desperate to develop a new career in photography, and without losing sight of the family we have ventured here to become. Writing this blog has, from the very start helped me to make sense of things, but St Helena does funny things to people, and for the time being even my writings are not helping  me to make sense in this sudden turn around. I am not quite sure how I make sense of all this and where I should go next. What I need is more time in the day, what I suspect I will end up doing is somehow just squeezing it all in, and seeing what pans out. What I do know is opportunities are coming my way, opportunities that would never of been afforded to me should I have stayed in the UK, what I do know is that St Helena does funny things to people, and I think I like it.

*Footnote. Please accept my apologies for the lack of updates for a week, I have been so busy with things it has simply not been possible. I will do my best to get back on track this week.