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

 

 

 

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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!