Thursday, 7 April 2011

Hello to All

I had initially intended doing a daily blog, but time ran away with me and I suddenty realised I only had two weeks left.  I also now realise that I couldn't have done a 'daily' blog, because quite frankly, I didn't know enough about the place, the people or the politics!  

There are two 'months' showing, start with March but each 'topic' stands alone.  What I have hoped to do is let you see the Island.  It is truly fascinating on a geological, social and political scale.   To make the photos larger just click on them.

We leave here on 12 April - the time has flown by - and then we take a six day trip across the Atlantic to South Africa.  Hopefully, we'll see you all when we get back on 27th April.


Social Life

Donny's Bar - Friday night Sundowners
I had planned on writing a 'daily' blog but that just got too repetitive - shopping, teaching, shopping, walking, shopping, swimming, shopping, coffee, shopping chatting! Don't get the wrong idea though, the shopping was for food, so not much fun!

There's a very big ex-pat community here and it's difficult to go out of the apartment and not meet someone .  It all started on the boat - a fair number of ex-pats 'consultants' coming to work on social/pensions policy, finance, IT, psychiatry, estate management, police training, marine biology, conservation, NVQ assessment and EIA training - and we've met a lot more since – teachers, nurses, another social policy expert, tourism, auditor, engineers, doctors and others. 

On Friday nights, quite a few of us meet up at the waterfront - Donny's, for Sundowners - here are some of my favourites -

Allan, looking for a lemon to go in his gin
Allan, Ann and Giles
Ronny, Firearms Consultant - I haven't got a photo but I didn't want him to think I'd forgotten him!
Throughout the week  we can be found at the Consulate Hotel on the Main Street (no, not every night!). To be quite honest, it's like being a student again with your social life 'on tap'.

The upper balcony of the Consulate - Eileen and Kate - two Scottish nurses in the background, Allan and Nikki, Marine Biologist to the left of James, and I can't remember who those legs belong to.  This was Pancake Tuesday - when the local children race each other up and down the Main Street, tossing pancakes.
On Thursdays, prior to the great 'fruit and veg hunt' some of us meet at the Coffee Cafe for, well, coffee.  I've no photos but it's usually Jane, Steve, Iain, James and I.  Good for a chat.

Some of us meet there on Saturday mornings as well.   The Coffee Cafe turns into the 'Pink Flamingo' on a Friday and Saturday evening!  There's no photos really, because, well, you just forget!

Coffee time

Alison, teacher
Ann with her paddle

Obviously, we do have James with us, so if we are out and about, we feel it appropriate to give him the best education available - here's James's score at darts, and at pool where he's just about to beat me ....

James's social life has revolved around swimming - so no photos there, but it is really funny on a Friday when we go to the pool and one of the children will say 'hay James, are you going down to the Pink Flamingo later'.   Lots of children go there with their parents, they have something to eat and then run around chasing each other, jumping into the back of 4x4's on dragon hunts, etc, etc.  It's wonderful - and all tucked up in bed by 9pm!

On Sunday's the National Trust here have 'donkey walks' where the children have the opportunity of walking the donkeys!
David with the red hair, Charlotte at the back, James and Fatty in the middle
The donkeys were feral and are now being re-trained
And finally, the swimming pool - a Godsend!   James has been 'training' with the local children every Monday, Wednesday and Friday (prior to the Pink Flamingo!). They have just finished snorkelling training and will be heading off to Lemon Valley on Saturday to snorkel in the sea - so more to come.


Strangely enough, the creatures here are not so dissimilar to those in the UK - with the creepy crawlies being bigger.   Here are some pictures of what we've seen :

Praying Mantis doing his 'dance' - it was funny

Spider in her web - sorry !

Mynah Bird
Wirebird - endemic to the Island

Gecko - endemic to our external light fittings
 And here's what we haven't been able to get a photo of

Bottlenose Dolphin

Whale Shark

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

St Helena for Beginners

The Portuguese discovered the Island in 1502 but the English East India Company built the first settlement in 1659 and claimed it for England.  


It has had a few famous visitors, Captains Cook and Blyth, Wellington, Darwin, Edmund Halley and of course Napoleon.

The Island is made up of two extinct sea volcanoes.  It measures 6 miles by 12 miles with a total land mass of 47 square miles.  

Ariel view - thanks to NASA

Food and Drink

Well, let's just say that the week before the boat comes in - there isn't any - unless it comes from a tin!  Well there is cucumber, chilli, occasionally onions and bananas.  The last time I had a fresh tomato was about three weeks ago.

Here's my fruit and veg substitute recipes

Salsa - mango (tinned), cucumber and chilli - goes delicious with steak
Salsa - cucumber, green pepper (lucky find) and garlic - delicious with mackeral
Lentil soup - at least twice a week!

There is fresh bread on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.
There is a little market every day which is supplied by the local growers - the last time they had tomatoes a French woman who, with her husband and three children had stopped over on their sail somewhere else, got to the front of the queue and bought all the tomatoes - I think she left the town very quickly ...

The only tomato in town at the moment!
And the shops are full of Tesco tinned things - at Waitrose prices!

Diana's Peak

Diana's Peak National Park has the highest point on the Island at 820 metres above sea level. Endemic trees living amongst the tree ferns are descended from the trees of Africa from the Miocene age, more than ten million years ago.  There's also an endemic 'blushing snail' - how cute is that!  Haven't seen one though.

From Diana's Peak looking towards High Peak

On our way up and looking towards Flagstaff
Endemic Tree?
The long grassy struff is New Zealand Flax which was the basis of a huge industry here until the 60's
In the foreground is Lot, in the distance, the taller 'stone' is Lot's Wife (I guess the little ones are the babies?)

Flagstaff and the Barn in the distance.

King & Queen Rocks

The walk to King & Queen Rocks takes us over 'Prosperous Plain' which by amazing coincidence is the area where the airport is to be built - those 'planes' will make the Island 'prosperous'!  Then again, Brian says that if the airport doesn't go ahead they could then call it 'pre-Prosperous Plain'.  Its a hard life here...

King & Queen Rocks - from chess pieces I guess - but don't you think that looks like Buddha in the middle?
I'm hoping to show you the contrast here between the Prosperous Plain section of the Island - dry, flat-ish and barron and the lush greenery of the rest.  'There is a theory that the Plain was once the site of a mineral-rich lake. (Ashmoles (2000)).  This is Prosperous Plain

Are these two plain, prosperous or just mineral-rich?

  And here's the view from King & Queen Rocks

Looking west and Prosperous Bay

Looking inland towards Diana's Peak

Monday, 4 April 2011

South West Point

I don't feel I need to tell you where about on the Island this walk was - the pictures are fantastic though.

On our way up - Speery Island in the sea with the Gates of Chaos on the left and the Devil's Cap on the right!
Speery Island again

On our way up - looks cold and damp, and it was, but we all got sun-burned

It all looks very like Scotland and then you get the red earth - there's a sheer drop on the right

James Town, the capital of St H

We arrived at St Helena on Monday 28 February 2011 at about 07:30. To get off the ship you have to go down a gangplank and then wait until the ship and the shuttle are at the same level - then you step over – there can be a difference of about six feet at times, the ocean is so rough. It's the same getting off the shuttle and onto the jetty – a bit daunting when you're about to step off and suddenly a big wall is in front of you! 

James Town from the RMS on the morning we arrived
I have to admit that my first sighting of the Island did not fill me with excitement  - a bit grey and dull and small and ... "what have I done!", was more the sort of feeling that hit me.

Cannon at the Wharf
However, after passing through customs we were met on the jetty by both our landlady Serena and a work colleague of Brian's, Isabel. We couldn't get into the apartment until later as the boat was early and the flat was being cleaned, so Isabel took us for a walk around Jamestown, the capital of St Helena. Very small, but very interesting.  
James Bay and the Harbour area from the west - notice that lovely swimming pool. The line up the hill is Jacob's Ladder.

James Town main street - taken from Ladder Hill

The beautiful Castle Gardens - where you can pick the chilli's from the bushes
James Town is the hub of everything that happens on St Helena.  Government, shops, entertainment- it is all concentrated here.  That makes James Town quite a busy wee place, and we were very lucky to live right in the middle of it all.