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 a Funny Place After All

It’s a Funny Place After All.

Its been a funny couple of week aboard the Island. As usual my blog entry is late, I continue to have much to write about, but alas my time continues to be extraordinarily and unexpectedly busy. My retirement of fishing, swimming and relaxing is not going to plan!

The weather here these past two weeks has been particularly strange, lurching from 30C heat and blazing sunshine to a moderate 22C with cloudy skies and drizzly to heavy rain, and back again in the space of twenty minutes. There are two things to blame for the weather. One of course is that St Helena is a British Territory; if when it was discovered in 1502 the Portuguese had decided to keep hold of the place I’m sure we would be feeling the benefit of sustained sunshine now. The other reason the weather has taken a considerable turn for the worse is the hose pipe ban, issued by Connect St Helena which of course brought on days of rain! (the ban has now been lifted)

Despite my earlier blog suggesting I am content, I remain in some turmoil regarding what I should do here on the Island. Part of me wants a job, a defined role, filling my time and contributing to the Island, this would be the best thing for our futures beyond St Helena, adding to my CV and saving money. Part of me wishes to further explore my photography and design work, to see if, with a little promotion and some investment of time I could make more of it. And of course part of me wonders if I would regret not taking the opportunity to not work for two years, which will surely never present itself again.  There is also the children and Bev to think of, what is best for them now, and in the future. I switch from one reasoning to the other as quickly as rain turns to sun. I fear in reality I will continue in this vein for some time until something presents itself that just falls into place.

Bevs work has taken off in earnest this past fortnight. I am incredibly proud of her and the difference she is now making to _MG_0156people. Her adults Marine Biology O’level is in full swing, has attracted a good number of Saints and Ex-pats and has been extremely well received. This past fortnight has also seen the fruits of Bev’s labour with local children having the opportunity to take their place in the water swimming alongside whale sharks. Despite our now numerous encounters with the incredible Whale Sharks, the same experiences are not commonplace for St Helenians, being for many too expensive or for others too frightening. Bevs massive effort has seen young Saints witness first hand some of the amazing wildlife upon their doorsteps. We cannot expect future generations to care for our Oceans and the wonders therein if they do not have the opportunity to see them for themselves, and Bev has provided that.

Unfortunately however the next strange happening is the arrival of rough seas, common place in February but this year largely absent, until now. This has meant that some of the trips have had to be cancelled much to the disappointment of everyone concerned. The photos below speak for themselves as to why it has not been possible to take children onto the high seas. The waters do make for a fantastic exhilarating experience from the shore however, watching huge rolling waves some up to 15ft high pounding the breakwater in James Bay. Just watching them was a little over whelming for our sensitive Oliver who was nervous at the sight of them, Charlie however loved them, avoiding the splashes and screaming with delight, until of course the inevitable happened and he got wet, followed shortly by tears and tantrums and screams of delight replaced with cries of wishing to go home!

The relentless pounding of the sea helps to remind oneself of our situation, this tiny spot in a massive and powerful Ocean, which has been slowly grinding down the shorelines of this Island for millennia, returning it to rubble and the sea floor from whence it came. The past couple of weeks have also reminded us of our isolations from our family and loved ones, as illness and loss has sadly affected our families back home. There are times when travelling is hard, you have to sacrifice much to enjoy these experiences and whilst given the option I would do it again, it is hard to be so far away at times of need. It is particularly hard to know that you cannot be there to offer comfort, a shoulder to cry on and to support people, especially those people who have done so much to support us. You know who you are, we think of you always, we miss you and wish we could do more.

Life is also strange on St Helena in that I am finding I miss football games, and do not care! I spend my weekend doing things other than fretting about the form of Sterling, and whether Sturridge can get back to his best following a long lay-off. I still watch when I can and follow closely of course, and no doubt when I return home I will be as fanatical as ever, but I missed two games the past three weekends, and couldn’t give a dam! There are more rewarding things to be had and I shall continue to have them. One, less than rewarding afternoon however was spent plying my wares to the latest cruise ship to arrive. Feeling as though I had missed a trick last time a cruise ship, the MV Voyager was in town, I wanted to ensure I was there, at the market to sell my photos to wealthy and unsuspecting cruisers.

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My sale did not go to plan, it rained relentlessly for the seven or so hours that I sat in the parade in Jamestown, and I watched as passenger after passenger passed by my stall, preferring instead a key ring, mug, or rather to by pass the stalls all together to hurry back to the shelter of the ship. I sold four photos in total, three of which went to Islanders, and at a loss of £160 for the day my first attempt at selling my photos was not a great success, and I have to admit was a blow to the ego. Some would say a dent in my ego would not be a bad thing, although much has already occurred on St Helena to suppress any ego I may of left the UK with.

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MV Voyager in James Bay

Thankfully, before the waves took a significant upturn, the Island was able to host its annual Marine Awareness week. Organised by the Marine sector of the Environment Natural Recourses division this week of activities sees hundreds pf school children and adults engaged in education and conservation and all things fishy. It was one of my most enjoyable weeks on the Island as I stepped back into my comfort zone and set up a successful Marine Aquarium for the public to enjoy amd led several school session in touch pool and other education activities. I felt right at home and even enjoyed the inevitable leaking pipework and other unexpected aquarium eventualities. For my friends and colleagues in the aquarium world back home, remember, if you are ever setting up an aquarium on a volcanic Island, the sand it turns out is magnetic, and will easily stick to each and every pump impeller in the vicinity.  It will require a significant time investment to remove fine, wet magnetic sand from the surfaces.

The grand finally of Marine Awareness week saw several hundred people take to the Wharf to enjoy water sports, swimming and lots of other water based fun.

I have also become more accident prone in St Helena, and have had more injuries here in a few months than in several previous years. Now my Mum will no doubt tell you that I have always been accident prone, but then of course she would be mistaking me for my brother. But this week, in an entirely avoidable act of stupidity, whilst cutting the rind of some bacon I sliced through my finger, cutting deep into the side and cutting part of the nerves inside. Much blood, and a degree of panic ensured, all under the oblivious eyes of Charlie, whilst I ran round contemplating my best course of action to stop the blood, clean the floor, take care of Charlie and finish the Pilau (pronounced Plo) I was making. I did in the end achieve all four and after a trip to the Hospital the following morning had I confirmed that I had indeed severed my nerve hence the loss of feeling down one side of my finger, but I should be reassured that it would, in all likelihood, heal with no lasting effects. I have concluded that if indeed my finger remains numb in parts this would not be the end of the world as I remain able to type my blog at sufficient speed.

And finally, in sporting news Charlie is now swimming without armbands and Oliver is swimming a full 33m length of the pool and has been selected to compete in the Islands swimming Gala. We are so very proud of them both and the change is remarkable.

Charlie also took part in his first sports day.  For nursery children only, the morning was more chaos than sports, but it was none the less great fun. With humorous and able commentary from her Ladyship Christine it was strange to say the least to hear the comedic tones of a scouser blasting across a playing field in the centre of an Island in the middle  of the Atlantic ocean, but then it’s a funny place after all.

I also had the privilege of a photo-shoot with Jonathan, the oldest land vertebrate on the plant at over 182 years old!