Indian Summer

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

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The Sunsets in June have been spectacular.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Onwards and Upwards

Since my last post things have certainly returned to some sense of normality, at least, normal for us on St Helena. Out of no-where I am extremely busy again, and all of those little jobs that I really should of done when I had nothing to do, and didn’t, are now staring me in the face making me wonder when indeed I am going to do them!

Photos of the Jamesbay Waves I promised in the last blog.

The response to my last blog entry has been somewhat overwhelming. It seems I am not alone in my feelings of self-doubt and miss-direction and that many people have appreciated what I wrote, whilst others have offered sympathy and support. It is an odd thing barring your heart to the world, particularly to those who are in your day to day life, who then know how your feeling and, understandably want to help. But it turns out writing is easier than speaking, and my usual response has been “I’m fine” when someone asks if I’m ok. In reality I am a lot better than I was. I don’t suppose to think I have suddenly gotten over everything, but being busy helps immensely, as does having supportive family, good friends and good times. There is also a real therapy to writing down your thoughts. Confronting yourself and feelings, and attempting to apply a logic to them so that others can read and understand, helps to box them up and rationalise your feelings, you can then start to break down the problems and fix them.

The first thing I have to do in future is to recognise when I have less work on, and do productive things with the time that is freed up, for now however that is not a problem.

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Sunset Behind High Knoll Fort viewed from our garden!

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Sunset over JamesBay, Stunning.

 

In terms of photography out of the blue I had numerous photoshoots, I am resuming some product photography for a local jewellery designer and I finished editing the shots from my first wedding shoot. The wedding took place a few weeks ago. I was incredibly nervous, after all, when the day is over all that is left are the photos and memories, and I didn’t want to screw this up. I am thrilled with the results and the feedback has been fantastic. You can see for yourself here, and here. It was a wonderful experience, to be invited in to someone else’s special day, strangers to all intense and purpose is a true privilege. As the photographer you spend the whole day with the couple, you are the only one who does, you build a relationship with them and in many ways direct many elements of the day. I have a new found respect for wedding photographers, next time you see the cost of a wedding photographer, give some thought to the responsibility that lies on their shoulders. Plus the hours of work that will go into editing the shots once everyone else on the day has finished their work, I know I will never look at them in the same light again.

I have also been helping out on the Enchanted Isle, the stellar sightseeing boat on the Island, helping primary school groups on a dolphin watching trip, and with Bev’s Marine Biology A level class. Bev has signed up for a global project to test for plastics in the worlds oceans, taking water samples at depth with a special piece of kit called a niskin bottle. Great fun was had and the day was followed up with more swimming in the sea at Lemon Valley. This gave ma great opportunity to test my new underwater camera kit. Unfortunately the underwater flash (strobe) that I had purchased second hand showed its value in the bath the night before by leaking and breaking on me, but the camera is great and in better conditions and with some practice I’m hoping to get some good shots with it during dives around the Island.

The family and I have also enjoyed our first night at Banyan Cottage. Nestled in the bottom of the Valley of Sandy Bay, this 100 year plus cottage can be hired out for the princely sum of £20 for three nights. Those of you who have followed from the begging may remember a birthday party we attended there some 12 months or more ago, this time we were there for the night, and I don’t mind saying we were in fact dreading it. A stone cottage equipped with the basics, a few beds, pots and pans, running water and lots of nearby wood for fuel. With no electricity fire and candles are the order of the day. The children loved it, what an adventure and experience for them and despite our worries, Bev and I had the most wonderful night with great company and many laughs. Banyan cottage shows the diversity that exists on St Helena. Here I am on my computer typing away, editing photos and uploading my blog to the world on St Helena, whilst in other parts of this tiny Island, less than a few miles away, people still live in this subsistence manor. There are not many in 2016 without electricity, but I have no doubt there are some, and many more without electric ovens who rely on fire wood for cooking and heating and who’s way of life is from a simple, some would argue, nicer time.

Whatever the pros and cons of modern life, to escape from it entirely for a night is wonderful. We cooked food on a fire, roasted marshmallows and drank beer until the early hours of the morning. 3am to be precise, and with the sun waking us up before 7am there was little sleep to be had.

And so it was that I rushed off the next morning, barely awake to ensure that I arrived on time for another huge milestone in the life of St Helena, the first Jet Engine Airplane to Land here. Following a wonderful piece by fellow blogger, what the Saints did Next, I was inspired to contact Air Access to see if it were possible for me to gain access to the newly finished terminal building to take some shots to show you all. Unfortunately that request has been temporarily turned down I was invited to be part of a small group of media representatives to photograph the arrival of the Bombardier Challenger 300 as it arrived to complete further tests for the airport. With it arrived members of ASSI, the Air Safety Support International personal who are here to conduct final audits on the airport, and, with fingers crossed, give it the all clear for the commencement of commercial flights. Just saying that in quite extraordinary. I don’t wish to out a jinx on things, but we are so close now, within a few weeks people will be able to fly here. I will save my feelings on this until it happens, but to take a quick look at what has been achieved is valid right now.

In 2011 permission and funds from the UK government were provided to enable St Helena to build an airport, to open the Island up to tourism and to reduce its dependency on overseas aid. With that in mind, Basil Read, a South African company were announced as the successful bidders. £210 million was granted for construction. But there was a problem, there was no flat land, solution, dynamite a mountain and use the rock to fill in a valley to create the flat land, simples. But wait, the area ear-marked for this airport had no road, ok, so they built a road, up some of the most difficult and steepest terrain you can imagine. But before they could build a road, they needed to get equipment, supplies and the like onto the island, and there is nowhere for a ship to dock. No problem they said we will build a temporary wharf, allowing the first ship to actually dock on the island in its 500 years history, and eventually replace it with a permanent wharf to provide access for container shipping once the RMS is de-commissioned. And so they did, apparently on budget and on time, to the very day if the last tests are successful. For £210 million pound Basil Read have achieved the impossible, they have built a wharf (having never built one before) built an access road, built bulk fuel installations to supply the airport, built infrastructure to support the build (such as a garage, and workers accommodation), flattened a mountain and filled in a valley, built a runway, terminal building control tower and all navigation equipment ( all of which they hadn’t done before), they have built an airport on one of the most remote and challenging places on earth. They have done all this on time, on budget and with an Island full of cynicism and lack of belief behind them. Having been let down with many false dawns before few on the Island really ever thought they could do it, that this day would come, and no one thought it would be ready on time. By all accounts it will be, and we are now a tiny step away from something incredible, everyone involved should be incredibly proud regardless of the outcome of the tests this week.

We have witnessed so many firsts in our time here, first docking of a ship, first mobile phone service, first airplane to land, first jet plane to land, and before long first commercial flights to land. The rest of the World may take these things for granted, but being here makes you realise what an incredible thing it is, maybe it is good, maybe not, only time will tell. One thing is for sure, there is no going back, the Island is about to change forever, and it’s almost frighteningly close now.

 

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A Random Rainbow outside our house, stunning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Onwards and

 

 

 

Free Hot Water!

As Christmas passed to New Year the weather has taken a considerable turn for the better. An apparently long lasting mild winter gave way to a prolonged spring, wet with intermittent sunshine, and now, at last summer is here. Mornings, generally accompanied by early cloud give way to bright sunshine and high temperatures by midday, with afternoons in Half Tree Hollow becoming increasingly consistent at around 27-30°C. A cool breeze, dry heat, shade, and the ability to reach cooler parts of the Island if necessary make for a fantastic climate right now, not at all over bearing and great for our sun tans! Almost all properties on St Helena are serviced with electric hot water, supplemented by the use of solar panels. It is now the norm that our hot water is free, the solar panels heating water to scolding temperatures such that one has to be careful turning the tap on. Tributary water pipes run over ground to houses, a product of the barren, rock substrate that we live upon making underground pipes difficult to install. Such is the power of the sun on the Tropic of Capricorn that, whilst hot water is plentiful, cold water is harder to come by, turning the cold tap on any time after midday results in hot, then warm water for a good few minutes before anything resembling cool comes through.

Just before New Year I was pleased to be able to help out with St Helena’s new, monthly open air cinema. Like most of the amazing things here, this came about from an idea that a hard working individual wished to develop, not for personal gain but to provide something fun, new and unique to the Island. Andy Day, one of the most giving people I know was said hardworking individual. Six large white billboards had been erected side by side across the frontage of Pilling Primary School. Using PA equipment hooked to my blue-ray player over 100 people were able to enjoy Disney’s Maleficent sat in cars or seats in the open air. This turned out to be a quite magical experience, a trip to the cinema under the moon and stars, in short sleeves at the end of December.

The 29th of December, as some of you will know, was our anniversary, five years of Happy Marriage. We were lucky enough to celebrate this occasion, jointly with friend, Lucy Day’s Birthday. A evening “adults only” boat cruise aboard the Enchanted Isle was simply wonderful. Heading out around the Island we reached the Southwest point, and area of staggering cliffs and the even more staggering Sea Stacks of Speary Point. The main rock pinnacle rises vertically some 100m from the waves, towering above our boat as we passed by its base. Thousands of sea birds from boobies to Storm petrols, noddies to terns returning home from a days fishing fly circuits around the rock about our heads, chattering and screeching to each other.

Speary Point St Helena

Speary Point 2

Speary Point St Helena

Fascinating conversation was enjoyed with Graham Sim, whom we had met previously during our Booby Adventures. Graham pointed out some of the old sheep herding routes and fishermen paths across the seemingly vertical cliff faces that were used well within his lifetime, a stark reminder of how quickly this Island has changed in the past two decades. Further conversation with the boat owner and our captain Jonny Hern was, in hindsight dangerous as I learnt that in his younger days he and his friends would venture, somehow, to the summit of Speary point, using bamboo rods as makeshift scaffolding before cliff jumping into the deep some 100 meters below. So why would this be dangerous, well let’s just say a seed has been planted!

As we moved away from Speary point and headed back East we were treated to one of the most stunning sunsets I have ever witnessed. Dolphins cruised and splashed on the bow waves of the boat, with the sun dropping in the sky, purples and oranges rose across the canvas with the brightest stars punctuating the watercolours like bright diamonds. It was a truly magical experience and an anniversary we will remember for a long long time.

Sunset at Sea on St Helena Island

Sunset at Sea on St Helena Island 3

New Year in St Helena is a quieter affair than the UK, such monumental effort is put into Christmas and its associated parades that New Year’s takes something of a back seat. Not that it is forgotten by any means, partying in town and the waterfront for those considerably younger, or older, or more childless than myself went on into the late hours of New Years Day morning and pubs and social clubs across the Island held their own social gatherings. For the Tyson’s, an evening hosted by two of our RMS friends, Debbie and Andy Parkinson was enjoyed, in the company of other friends from the Island. With a family theme, games and a competitive quiz were the order of the day. For Charlie it was all too much, and by 10pm he fell asleep in the middle of the room!

The next morning saw Oliver’s organised walk. For some weeks, following the experience of various group walks organised by others on the Island Oliver has wished to organise his own. With some help from Mum he mustered a group of friends for a walk to the Heart Shaped Waterfall, and this time was pleased to find water in the waterfall. Sadly for Dad, the groin injury is restricting walking adventures at the moment and I was left behind spending my time cleaning, cooking and writing content for my photography course.

The course has proved very popular and I have 22 people signed up all wanting to learn more about photography and to take their expensive SLR camera’s out of automatic and release its full potential. I just hope I do them justice and meet their expectations.

As the St Helena “summer” Christmas holidays continue, time has been spent swimming in the pool, now warm under the midday sun and providing rest bite for parents as children splash and play in the safe water. Practicing swimming, jumping from the diving board and snorkelling the full length of the pool, Oliver’s confidence has grown wonderfully. As indeed has Charlie’s confidence, from clinging to Mum or Dad for dear life, to swimming independently and jumping in and out of the pool in just three short weeks.

Oliver’s new found confidence has led to growing desires to have another go at snorkelling in the sea. His first attempt, a few weeks ago was not the greatest success, cold and scared, having not really swam for months, a quick glance at the fish was all that was achieved before tears ensued. And so it was, with renewed enthusiasm and bravery that we made another attempt. Walking out from James Bay along a narrow stretch of black volcanic sands, the relatively calm waves still caused significant breakers. Oliver holding tightly onto my neck as we pushed through until out of our depth and started swimming, my wetsuit providing the buoyancy I needed to hold up a child tightly latched onto me. We adjusted our masks and snorkels and with a quick instruction put our heads down to peer through the waves and the wonderful life in James Bay.  After a half minute or so I pulled Oliver up to the surface to check he was ok and he nodded with great enthusiasm. A twenty minute swim round the bay saw Oliver off on his own, swimming and watching in wonder at fish of all colours and sizes, the highlight being the deadly stonefish, holding tightly onto an octopus, its tentacles still moving as they hung out of the giant mouth of its venomous captor. A very proud Dad and overjoyed son returned to tell Mum and Charlie all about our mini Ocean Odyssey.

This maritime breakthrough could not be better timed as on the 2nd of January another trip to Lemon Valley was booked. The children, enthused by their first experience and swimming confidence were both incredibly excited. A large group of us arrived at Lemon Valley at around 11am. An interesting contrast between Ex-pats and Saints once again presented itself as we arrived to the greeting of around 30 or so Saints, already in position in the Bay. For many Saints, a trip to Lemon Valley and its associated underwater fun is not the novelty that it is to us, therefore their day takes different priorities, normally centred around the social barbeque, in a large cave sat within the volcanic rock. Saints will leave the wharf early, often before 7am, to ensure the prime cooking and gathering spot is secured. For our, mainly ex-pat group, the priority during the holiday is a lie in, and whilst cooking is lower on the list swimming in crystal clear waters and rubbing shoulders with unique marine life takes priority and within minutes of arriving children and adults alike were splashing in the waves.

Charlie and Oliver both spent a good amount of time swimming and even Charlie took the chance to don a mask and snorkel and have a quick peep at the fish below. The snorkel proved less successful though, as despite being in his mouth, he failed to recognise that he could breathe, and held his breath when his face was in the water despite his father’s attempts to teach him otherwise. He still shouted with great excitement that he had seen some fish and another little milestone was met.

An interesting addition to this trip to the Valley was the accompaniment of Sea Kayaks, and despite my groin injury preventing my own participation everyone enjoyed a good paddle in the bay, jumping off here and there to try new snorkelling locations. Bev of course, not content at pottering around the bay, opted to canoe back to James Bay, and with friend and fellow teacher Jon Lambdon in tandem they headed off, ultimately beating us back to the Wharf, no mean feat against a steady wind and choppy waves.

With much self-congratulation, this week saw Bev and I complete our closed water dives, swimming underwater without a mask, removing and re-donning weights and gear underwater and hovering using buoyancy control,  just some of the essential skills required before we can head out to sea.  At the time of writing our first open water dive has actually also been completed, (next blog due shortly) and we are well on our way to passing our PADI Open Water diving course.

So, Christmas holidays are nearly at a close, it has been a truly wonderful, action packed, social partying basically incredible “summer” Christmas holidays, but little did we know that what we have experienced so far was to be simply dwarfed by the experiences we were about to accumulate over the 24 hours……….

Bike Riding St Helena Style!

Google Earth

Before moving to St Helena it had become a regular pastime of mine to use Google Earth, find the Island and zoom out, out and out and out until eventually another land mass came into view. I used to sit and wonder at what it would be to live on this spec in the ocean. I found great pleasure in this wonderment, enthusiastically showing friends and family that same remoteness. A few days ago , for the first time since our move, I repeated that routine,  only this time it is different, now I live here.  I do not have to wonder any more, at what it might be like to have the Atlantic Ocean dominate our views, what will the weather be like, what will the local people be like, how will we find food, how will we fare in the remoteness, will we make friends, what will I do with my time? I have the answers to all of those questions now. Has my childlike pleasure of finding St Helena on Google Earth, and zooming endlessly out diminished now we are here?

St Helena

We have been on the Island just over two months, I have of course had my downs, many of them, I have had days where I have felt lost and unsure of my purpose, but I have not once felt lost or unsure of the Island itself. My doubts have been related to my role in our family, the change of dynamic of my work or lack thereof, but I have utterly fallen in love with St Helena as a place, its peoples and environment. When I consider what we have done in those two months, we have been boating and seen dolphins and Humpback Whales with calves. We have climbed mountains and experienced a variety of climates and habitats fitting of a large continent. We have helped conserve endemic and rare plant species and witnessed numerous fish that few other people in the world will ever see, we have felt like David Attenborough whilst tagging Masked Boobies, started to learn to dive, felt and touched history that is alive around us. We have gazed at the Milky Way and witnessed so many stunning sunsets that we have come to expect them as the norm.  I have exclaimed “wow”, more times in the past few weeks than I had in half a lifetime previously. We have met people from all over the World, and spend our time with the most wonderful and varied people with rich histories. What will the next twenty two months bring?

Sunset over Half Tree Hollow.

Sunset over Half Tree Hollow.

For the first time since our arrival, our thoughts turned briefly to how it may feel to leave this enchanting place, expats come and go all the time on St Helena, but how will we feel when it is our turn. Leaving friends, family and loved ones at home was of course difficult, but it was done in the knowledge that two years will pass and we will return home, a reassuring inevitability of the end our adventure. But what about when we leave St Helena, will we ever return? The leaving will inevitably feel more real, more permanent. If you have experienced the holiday blues, that down time when an experience ends, when a time passes and inevitability and routine returns to your life following a joyous adventure, how it will feel after two years, the holiday blues to end all blues.

On Thursday I went shopping, food had not yet been unloaded from the RMS, so I instead sat down, and watched time pass by. Dreaming away, on the wharf, looking out at a rolling blue sea. A percussion orchestra of cascading pebbles, conducted by water falling back to the sea fills my ears and scuttling crabs playing games with the waves dance around me. I sat, I thought, I contemplated myself, have I changed, have things changed, am I different here, and if I am, why, what makes you different, what makes you change?

Contemplation.

Contemplation.

We adjust to life and the way of things here. Food availability is sporadic, Bananas for example have been difficult to impossible to find in the last week or two. They are of course still available to those in the know, but sadly, when it comes to Bananas, I am not yet in the know, and I cannot find any. In the UK I cannot imagine a scenario, where at any time day or night I could not find any food item I care to think about, but does this really matter, does it matter that I can’t buy a banana when I want it? Back in the UK I rarely ate bananas anyway, now, their elusiveness makes me appreciate the humble banana, I in fact appreciate almost all foods now more than I did two months ago, and seeing a ripe yellow Banana brings a joy that it never held before.

I went to the bank, and stood in line for a length of time, and I did not mind one jot. We wait for food, as one meal at a time is cooked in the local takeaways and eateries, a simple meal knowingly taking at least an hour from order to service. I waited a full fifteen minutes at the coffee shop for some cake (the best cake in the World by the way). But does any of this matter? Does it matter to me, well yes, I hate it! I hate waiting for things, or at least I did but on St Helena, quite simply I don’t, or at least I mind less, (I’m still British). If you know and expect life to take its time, there is no problem, why would you want to reduce your wait, when you may look out at to a blue ocean, with bright flowers and birds to occupy your mind and thoughts. If anything I could have wished for my wait, like the endless and timeless waves, to roll on forever

Arriving in town at nine o’clock the shops will be open, but time is often spent sitting, catching up with passing friends and watching the morning wake up. Shopping can wait, it can wait until the shelves are filled with the days produce with staff starting work at a respectable nine am and filling the shelves then, shopping therefore can start at ten.

In the UK of course low paid staff, are on the shop floor at seven am, ensuring the shelves are stacked before opening. I expect fresh bread, meats, milk, fruits, and vegetables to be available at nine am, in fact I expect it 24 hours a day, seven days I week. I expect all this and expect to pay less and less for it. My demands as a shopper having  been raised and pushed to extreme limits to be met by staff on minimum wage working hard to maximise efficient retail and profits for the corporation, the directors of which are still sat at home relaxing with their family watching the pennies and profits roll in.

There is a trust on the Island as a way of life, and we have begun to embrace it, or perhaps fall into it. Sometimes forgetting to lock the car, and often returning home, caring little to find our front door has been left ajar. At the wharf, a busy shipping area with the busy loading and unloading of containers, one can walk along, through the clamber of cranes to collect goods, or even just because. At home in the UK access would be forbidden, a panic of health and safety would ensue should a civilian walk outside of the designated yellow pathways. But on St Helena it is expected and judged that a grown adult has the ability to avoid a 40ft moving crane and will not amble along under its caterpillar tracks.

Forgetting my wallet and with no money, nor the number for our bank account I approached the counter of the bank and asked the young lady if she could provide me with the number for the Tyson account. With very little surprise on my behalf the lady, recognising who I was, not only provided the account number, but completed the cash slip for me, providing me with the money I required with a smile and no question that I might not be who I said I was, and no requirement for Id or a non-existent utility bill! It is a wonderfully refreshing experience to be treated as, adults, and an attitude and respect for each other that are dearly hope can be maintained in the future.

James Bay

James Bay

And so, has my childlike pleasure of finding St Helena on Google Earth, and zooming endlessly out diminished now we are here, now that I have the answers, no, not one little bit, I can’t believe it, we live on St Helena, ten months ago I had not heard of St Helena! Iit’s a maddening thing, a wonderfully crazy idea that we are living out. I look at that map, and then out of my window at the expansive ocean and I am giddy with pleasure and joy.

What a wonderful, wonderful feeling

Jamestown and Half Tree Hollow

Ok as promised some photos to accompany the last entry, not the best photos, the weather has been grey and overcast which hasn’t leant itself to stunning photos, but it gives you a good idea of where we live. Hope you enjoy.

In direct contrast to workmen in the UK, these guys work all day, and rest half hour for lunch. Friendly banter preceded this shot and I hope to catch them in the pub one night!

In direct contrast to workmen in the UK, these guys work all day, and rest half hour for lunch. Friendly banter preceded this shot and I hope to catch them in the pub one night!

Jamestown is simultaneously a bustling centre for shopping, services and work, and a restful place for sitting and chatting and passing the time of day.

Jamestown is simultaneously a bustling centre for shopping, services and work, and a restful place for sitting and chatting and passing the time of day.

The Sunsets from our house are already good. When we get a clear evening they will be spectacular.

The Sunsets from our house are already good. When we get a clear evening they will be spectacular.

The afore mentioned Post Office, a throw back to another era, and still a vital part of the Island. The post office also serves as the local car and driving licence and registration authority. Our car was registered as 4090, the 4090th car on the Island, the register of all vehicles is a hand written A4 book, held at the post office. Myself and a fellow ex-pat ran a short competition to find car number 1, we found it within two days, a Old Style Landrover!

The afore mentioned Post Office, a throw back to another era, and still a vital part of the Island. The post office also serves as the local car and driving licence and registration authority. Our car was registered as 4090, the 4090th car on the Island, the register of all vehicles is a hand written A4 book, held at the post office. Myself and a fellow ex-pat ran a short competition to find car number 1, we found it within two days, a Old Style Landrover!

The view from our small terrace. An amazing view over the South Atlantic Ocean.

The view from our small terrace. An amazing view over the South Atlantic Ocean.

Another view of our front "garden". The weather has not been inductive to good sunsets, but I know when we get a clear night this will be incredible.

Another view of our front “garden”. The weather has not been inductive to good sunsets, but I know when we get a clear night this will be incredible.

This is not superimposed.  The image is taken through two lobes of the same cacti. One which has died revealing its intricate network of capillaries which help to store masses of water.

This is not superimposed. The image is taken through two lobes of the same cacti. One which has died revealing its intricate network of capillaries which help to store masses of water.

The Capital Jamestown as viewed from Half Tree Hollow. A fascinating town running along a narrow valley. The centre of life on the Island

The Capital Jamestown as viewed from Half Tree Hollow. A fascinating town running along a narrow valley. The centre of life on the Island

This is a view from the top of Ladder Hill Road. An incredible steep, narrow road traversing up a cliff face linking Jamestown to its main suburb Half Tree Hollow. I love driving this road.

This is a view from the top of Ladder Hill Road. An incredible steep, narrow road traversing up a cliff face linking Jamestown to its main suburb Half Tree Hollow. I love driving this road.

The house sits near an old (1828) house called Harlyn. Our address therefore is simply, Near Harlyn, Half Tree Hollow. There is no number, no name, no street, its just near Harlyn, as are at least another 15 houses near by. The postman just has to know where you live!!!

The house sits near an old (1828) house called Harlyn. Our address therefore is simply, Near Harlyn, Half Tree Hollow. There is no number, no name, no street, its just near Harlyn, as are at least another 15 houses near by. The postman just has to know where you live!!!

This is the view from the back of our house. A small church perched on top of a hill of Cacti

This is the view from the back of our house. A small church perched on top of a hill of Cacti