I Dont Have to Buy a New Shirt

So its been a long time since my last update, this has been down to several reasons, not least of which I have been waiting for a new computer to arrive. Our laptop broke a more than a month and a half ago, and as is life on St Helena it has taken a long time to get a new one. When I say it broke, I of course mean, I broke it, dropping on the floor and causing irreparable damage!! However the event gave me the chance to buy a purpose built computer designed to allow me to process and edit photos and graphics much more efficiently than a mid-range laptop ever could.

Although the wait was annoying it did allow me time to look at things and find a way to raise myself out of the down patch that I was experiencing. I was going to re-focus on my photography and design work put out some adverts and get back on track………or I was going to be CEO of South Atlantic Media Services. Which brings me round to the second and main reason I hadn’t provided an update recently. South Atlantic Media Services provides Newspaper, Radio and TV news to St Helena and the current CEO is leaving the Island in the New Year. With great excitement I accepted the interview I was offered, and turned a few surprised looking heads in town as I headed to the studios all suited and booted.

The interview went well but after an agonising week and half wait, I received the doomed phone call telling me I was unsuccessful. I was genuinely gutted and took a real knock for a while. This was going to be my opportunity to make a difference, to leave my mark on the Island. But it wasn’t to be, I suspect in part due to the temporary nature of our stay on the Island, the job, probably rightly going to someone of Saint descent who could be here indefinitely. Good luck to Stuart George, I wish him well.

And so Im back to the photography and design work, which actually, is fine. I have a big new contract to deliver interpretative panels for various tourist spots on the Island, allowing me to leave my mark in some way. I have a few private contracts for product photography and will be doing some family and maternity portrait shoots. It seems my work is still in demand

I have also, with the arrival of my new computer finally had the chance to finish a night scape of Jamestown, a photo which is now on its third incarnation, and has taken literally hours and hours of work. The image is composed of around 46 photos, taken in two batches, one at sun set, one three hours later at night to capture the lights and cars of Jamestown. This meant perching myself precariously on a loose scree slop above the town for around four hours as I waited for the right lighting conditions to take the two set of shots I wanted.

Back on the computer hours have been spent aligning and carefully merging and blending the two sets of shots, and then blending in further images which showed cars moving through the town.

The result is a huge photo, over a meter across which I hope to sell on line on in print on the Island. With the arrival of a new professional quality printer I can now produce these at A3, and it looks great even if I do say so myself.

Jamestown Nightscape 3 watermarked

Sorry for the heavy water mark but as this photo will be for sale I need to protect its copy write!

Aside from work, I have re-started my football career, playing an initial twenty minutes in my first games, and culminating in a full ninety minutes for the last games of the league, my team, finishing in a respectable fifth place. Unfortunately the season has ended all too soon, and an early exit from the cup at the hands of the league winners means that I will have to wait more than six months to play my next match. But still, I am pleased to be playing again and even more pleased my groin has held up and seems to be on the mend.

Summer is now trying to make a comeback, although winter is doing its best to hold it off. Days of bright sunshine and high temperatures and interspersed by periods of cloud and drizzle. Oliver and Charlie took part in the schools harvest festival. One would expect this to be carried out in the autumn, but in keeping with British tradition we still celebrate in October. It is not too out of place though, as spring on St Helena is full of beauty and change. Sunsets are taking on a greater intensity and trees and plants all over the Island are bursting into flower. Colours are popping up everywhere. Sadly I haven’t had the opportunity to get out and photograph much of this beauty yet, but keep your eyes open and I’ll do my best to bring this to you in due course.

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Watching the boys at the Harvest Festival shows me how well they have settled, and what a lovely group of friends they have. It was of course a huge worry coming out here, how would they adapt, would they miss home too much, will they make friends? But looking back at how much the boys have changed and grown we can never have any regrets, it has been brilliant for them. I often have pinch myself moments, and this was one of them. 24 months ago I had not heard of St Helena, and yet here we are, watching Charlie sing “Juicy Fruits” with his classmates. in the middle of the South Atlantic on an Island we call home. Temporary home it may be, but home none the less. Although I have had my ups and downs and testing times personally, I am still filled with excitement when I step back and look at what we have done, what we are doing,

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Oliver and Charlie in their den. I think I had more fun building this than they did!!

and that we are even here at all. To the people who live here it is normal, just life, but this is an adventure that people dream of, and we are getting to live it. I hope the boys grow up and look back with fondness and appreciate the experience. I hope they remember, the Harry Potter nights and building dens, the football, the whale sharks, the freedom the friends they have made and the fantastic times they are having.

As summer arrives, St Helena gears up to Christmas, yes, weird I know. Oliver is playing the role of one of the Wisemen in the school nativity play and the shops are filled up with gifts, chocolates, lights and decorations, which makes me wonder what there will be a shortage of in the coming months, there is only finite space on the RMS after all. This year we will ensure that we are fully kitted up for the festival of lights, and I look forward to the festive season kicking in, with more Christmas songs on the radio such as Santa Arrived in a Pick Up Truck!

On Sunday the 8th of November St Helena joined the rest of the World in paying respects to those who have lost their lives in the tragedy of war. The service on St Helena involves various churches, Scouts and Guide groups, police and armed forces on the Island, and brings together Saint and Ex-pat communities from all over the Island. This year, Oliver, who has just joined the Beavers had a small role to play, walking with the rest of his group in the precession through town to the Centotaph. Oliver was beautifully behaved and look very proud to be doing his bit, even if he didn’t quite understand the point of it all. I looked around the water front and compared the faces to those that stood next to me 12 months pervious. Many of them have changed, new ex-pats arrive on the Island all the time and new friends have been made in the process. But the most significant thing that stuck me looking around that morning, was not how many people had left, but how many people I knew, Saints whom I now call friends, who say hello as we pass in the street, who know who we are, what we do and whom I hope consider us to be a good addition to the Island. Looking back 12 months I feel established on the Island, but I realise now that it takes more than three months and a few friendly faces to be established here. Maybe I will make a difference and leave a mark here after all.

The sun came out for the ceremony, just as it did last year. As the sun shone down, the heat was too much for some and , in my shirt and tie with sweat patches on my back, realised that it is probably a good thing I didn’t get the job after all, at least this way I don’t have to buy a new shirt.

 

 

 

 

How long have you got?

…….Or should I say how long have we got, because our time here continues to be simply brilliant and quite frankly I wish it would never end. Normally family ups and downs aside, when I sit back and think about the times we are having it becomes a little astonishing. Tonight’s blog entry is no exception and my ability to keep our stories to a reasonable length will be tested such is the diversity and frequency of good times we are accumulating .

For the past two weekends have started with a morning walk, nothing exceptional there of course. However the walk is along a section of the central ridge, with stunning views down to the Atlantic Ocean on either side, this walk is not a normal walk, when you then factor in the fact that we are walking, or should I more correctly say being walked by Donkeys, then we see that nothing in St Helena is normal, and few things are less than exceptional.

You can tell by peoples clothes that the central ridge is almost always chilly due to the high winds.

You can tell by peoples clothes that the central ridge is almost always chilly due to the high winds.

The island of St Helena, given its extreme topography, had relied for many years on the use of donkeys to haul goods, food, water, fish and lots of flax around the island and up and down extreme cliffs, mountain paths and just about anywhere they were needed. As little as twenty years ago it seems that donkeys were still in very regular use across the Island. Thankfully with improved roads and more significantly, improved cars and trucks, the donkeys are largely surplus to requirements and a good number of them have now found refuge in the St Helena Donkey Sanctuary. Set up some four or five years ago to provide a restful retirement for these lovely animals and providing, each Saturday, the opportunity for the public  to take them for a walk.

Like me Oliver loved Prince.

Like me Oliver loved Prince.

This is one of the unique things about St Helena, a large group of people, locals and expats alike, and from all walks of life, gathers to enjoy the simple pleasure of walking a donkey.

I was lucky enough to walk Prince, a grand old boy, weak in the knees, almost blind, and absolutely lovely. One of the few donkeys to of still been working as little as a few months ago he is now enjoying his leisurely life in the sanctuary, Prince and I bonded well.

Prince did have his stubborn moments when he would just point blank refuse to move.

Prince did have his stubborn moments when he would just point blank refuse to move.

Wonderfully gentle animals.

Wonderfully gentle animals.

Donkey Sanctuary St Helena

We also took in our first post box walk as a family. Across the Island there are numerous walks, and a few years back attempts were made to open up some of the walks, at varying difficulties to make them accessible to tourists and locals alike. Each is finished at a small post which contains a stamp with which the accompanying guide book can then be marked upon successful completion of the walk. We took on one of the easy walks up High Peak, one of the highest peaks on the Island but little distance from the nearby road. Taking a route through steep slopes of thick flax some 2m or more high,  the boys felt like explorers cutting through a thick jungle. Past a spring full of tadpoles and eventually up onto a high ridge with extraordinary views of Sandy Bay.

As we passed through the flax jungle, Charlie started to scratch his backside, nothing as it happens of any particular surprise when Charlie is concerned. After a while I told him to leave himself alone and he exclaimed, “but I have something in my bum!” . Somewhat dismissively I agree to check and sure enough, reaching into his shorts I pulled out a  small round shiny object, a Trolley Pound! How on earth a trolley pound found its way into Charlie shorts on an Island that does not even have trollies I will never know!! Reaching the summit we saw our first endemic St Helena Tree ferns. These ferns are prehistoric and although only in isolated stands on High Peak they still take you back to another time or world.

High Peak. Marking the start of the walk.

High Peak. Marking the start of the walk.

Sandy Bay Amphitheatre and Arum Lilly

Looking down on Sandy Bay Amphitheatre from High Peak

Looking down on Sandy Bay Amphitheatre from High Peak

The morning of the 9th of November, was spent, like many others paying our respects to those who gave their lives for the freedom of all, and somehow even this was different on St Helena. Held at the island’s cenotaph on the water front a large crowd had gather to pay respects and watch the ceremony led by acting Governor Burns. The sound of waves crashing behind us added to the atmosphere and the boy’s impeccable behaviour helped to make the morning an enjoyable and somehow appropriate one.IMG_9984

Good friend John playing at the remembrance service.

Good friend John playing at the remembrance service.

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The afternoon was spent in the sunshine in James Bay, rock pooling and testing out my new wetsuit with a little snorkelling in the bay. Bev and I have now passed our diving theory course, the pool is almost full and we can expect our practical lessons to commence in the next couple of weeks. Given the quality of snorkelling just yards from the town centre I simply cannot wait to don my cylinders and step out into deeper water and the numerous shipwrecks around the Island.

Friday night saw our regular evening at Donny’s bar watching the sun go down. This Friday however took a new turn and I stayed out late, drinking Gunpowders (Spice Rum, Lime and Lemonade) and treating the crowd to my karaoke talents, friends at home will know how I love a bit of karaoke. Along with ex-pats and Saints alike we all partied into the night and after much singing, dancing and many many drinks a great night out Saint style was had by all. It is a long time that evenings have been warm enough in the UK to be out under the stars till past 1am, but I suspect it will not be an uncommon occurrence on St Helena!

Oliver has joined in with one of the local junior football teams on a Thursday night. Lack of numbers on Island  and the season coming to a close means he currently is the youngest player amongst a group of players up to twelve years in age. After a tentative start he thoroughly enjoys going up against “the big boys” and I hope it will help him learn and develop and increase his confidence. I am also enjoying the opportunity to coach again, (I coached an under 6 team back in the UK, one of the things I miss most) helping out with the local coach of all sports here on the island.

Finally I am especially pleased to report that I have started work with the St Helena National Trust. Although the post is unpaid due to the limited budget of the trust I will be working part time as Director of Communications. The St Helena National Trust, like that of the UK and other nations is a non-government organisation, a charity, established for the protection of the Islands built, natural and cultural heritage. The work they do and plan to do is vital to the Island and I am very proud to be a part of it. A fantastic opportunity for me to develop many of the skills I had already established in previous roles I will be responsible for company branding, internal and external communications, developing interpretive material for historic and natural sites on the Island and will have the enviable opportunity to work on the production of a guide book and photo book, featuring my own work. If I am able to leave the Island with a book I produced to help others gain the enjoyment I am, then I will be very happy indeed. Keep your eyes peeled here for how you can help with this exciting and important project.

So another two weeks has passed by, and once again I have the opportunity to sit and recount the story of my family on St Helena. Writing a blog has become very important to me for many reasons, to reflect and realise the wonderful opportunities we are lucky enough to be enjoying is, I think, the most important of those and I can scarcely believe .that three months into our adventure I still have so much to talk about.