5th October 2015
Obviously the big news was the
arrival of the very first aircraft to land at Saint Helena Airport.
Following a two legged trip from South Africa, the small aircraft (to be used
for calibration of the airport navigation system) was able to land at the first
time of asking and not delayed by low cloud or poor weather. The pilot
took two passes over the airfield and landed on the third, watched by a
significant population of the island. This itself required the
installation of a temporary one way system through the local village of
Longwood and onto the unfinished ‘haul road’, which will eventually link the
airport with the main town Jamestown. It was a little confusing one
afternoon to hear the buzz of the plane – the first such noise for nearly ten
months. The following day I was able to watch the take-off (from the 7th
tee of the golf course). There are some pictures posted in the gallery
and note the barren aprons – typical of that part of the island - and contrast
that with the lush interior and it gives you a feeling of the extra-ordinary
The islands athletes did not win
any medals at the Commonwealth Youth Games but did set a number of personal
bests. Quite an amazing adventure for them as getting to/from Somoa they
have circumnavigated the globe. On arrival back on Saint Helena a short
ceremony was held on the worth attended by the Governor, marking their
achievement and representation of Saint Helena on the world stage.
Our weather has now begun to
change with the end of winter and well into spring; temperatures are climbing
15c in the mornings and on sunny days back into the mid 20’s. The locals
still consider this ‘winter’ and for them quite cold and therefore I do get
several looks and comments about wearing just shorts and T-shirts when they are
in coats and woolly hats (I jest not). The days are also getting longer
with now dark about 6.30pm (remember even in summer its pitch black at 7.30pm).
Having a dog and being asked to
join the Society for Protection of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), one of the
highlights of the year was the annual quiz hosted at the Governor’s
Mansion. Ours was an eclectic team and thanks to a final picture round
worth as many points as the rounds previously, we won the evening by two points.
HMS Lancaster, one of the Royal
Navy’s Type 23 Frigates, and the tanker RFA Gold Rover, are expected to visit
St Helena from Tuesday 13 to Friday 16 October 2015 to take part in the bicentennial
anniversary of Napoleon’s arrival to the Island 200 years ago (aboard HMS
Northumberland). She will take part in the Napoleon anniversary commemorations,
and further strengthen existing ties with the Island.
One of the local landmarks and
past-times for tourists is to climb 'The Ladder'. It has quite a rise,
approximately 250-300 metres with 699 steps which takes you out of Jamestown
and up to Half Tree Hollow. The world record time is a little over 5 minutes, I
did it in a respectable 19 mins and 7 secs, having paced myself to the half way
point behind Gill (who had climbed it 7 times). The following day I
picked up the certificate and bought the T shirt!
Our latest fishing trip was
another enjoyable day out, although we did not catch any tuna or wahoo – its
main season is November to June - we did catch Grouper, Mackerel, Sea Bream,
Bullseye and Rock Fish. The later needed specialist local knowledge to
remove the poisonous spines and bones before the more adventurous volunteered
to take it home for tea!
We are preparing for our holiday,
which starts at the beginning of November with a five day ‘cruise’ to Cape
Town. So next months ‘Island Life’ will be the last for 2015. We’ve
just been informed that the next ship (beginning of October) will be the last
to ensure Christmas cards reach the UK via Cape Town! It might explain
why they have been in the shops since June!!
Hope you are all well
8th September 2015
The RMS Saint Helena was in fact
several days late leaving dry dock and commencing her onward journey.
This meant that the future schedule has been thrown out and won’t be on track
for 4-6 weeks. Already a longer period of time between trips it meant
that as part of catching up the only cargo off-loaded was the
perishables. Therefore there was further anticipation than normal as
another five days before the goods expected actually arrived – thankfully my wine
cellar had sufficient stock!
Will air travel be any more
reliable? During the ‘winter’ months it may well be very debatable, with
several days in the last couple of months where the cloud-base bloated out any
visibility less than 200m – I jest not! Hopefully, the light system
mentioned last time will be particularly effective. St Helena Airport’s
Calibration Flights are scheduled for mid-September. It is expected that
the calibration flights will generate a great deal of public interest, much
like the first runway light switch on last month, especially to see the first
landing. There are some rather enlightening images of the runway approach on
the Saint Helena government website - http://www.sainthelena.gov.sh
and a little background to the controversial airport logo – a final version is
in the gallery.
The island also has a new
Director of Tourism – whose role will be working with Enterprise St Helena and
the Tourist Office and build on the work already started in expanding,
developing and enhancing St Helena’s tourism industry.
An easy area for the
aforementioned Director of Tourism to review is the natural wildlife riches;
the several endemic species of plant and birds, visiting whale sharks in Dec to
Feb. and the Hump Back whales which are currently arriving. I had heard
them whilst diving, and saw the huge splash of a breeching whale whilst on a
boat trip but no sighting of the mammals so far. We had a great day out
watching the year round dolphins and taking a trip around the islands south
west point into the rougher seas towards Sperry Island – see photos.
On a more serious note you may
remember that Gill had a challenging role to fulfil and during the last few
weeks a great deal of work culminated in the charging of a local man with a
significant number of historical sexual offences relating to offending from the
late 1980’s through to the mid 1990’s. The local police team is also to
be bolstered by the arrival of officers who specialise in Historic Case
Reviews, re-examining closed cases and assessing whether further lines of
enquiry can be pursued. Unfortunately, like Gill, their home forces
failed to support their appointments either by secondment or career break.
The Wass Enquiry is also scheduled for publication in September and awaited
with special interest as to the recommendations and their impacts.
The island had a lovely weekend
for the Bank Holiday which made up for the previous poor weather and hopefully
signals the end of winter and the arrival of spring. It has been a little
odd watching the arrival of lams, kid goats and the blossoming of many of the
islands plants and trees. Temperatures are definitely climbing with the
morning drive to drop Gill off at 15c and reaching low 20’s during the day.
The 1st September also
saw a landmark in the islands development with the very first mobile call made
live on local radio. Whether the island will support the use of mobiles
remains to be seen with the packages extremely expensive and a number of ‘dark
spots’ on the island due to its terrain. Obviously sea coverage is not
part of the planned area and therefore we’ve been reminded the mobile is not a
replacement for marine radio systems.
You may recall a sponsored swim I
undertook in March – well the beneficiaries have just arrived at the
Commonwealth Youth Games in Samoa and are due to commence their participation
after a few days acclimation. I’ll keep you informed of their progress
All the best to everyone
4th August 2015
to ‘Scruffy August’ which is supposedly the wettest month of the year (July was
particularly wet as well). It is so named because in the past, allegedly
within the last two generations, when the population didn’t wear shoes the rain
would bounce off the surface throwing up the debris onto the backs of their
legs. It’s a good story for any passing non Saint or tourist. The
rain also means the hose pipe ban was lifted and the reservoirs are all now
filling up nicely and of course the Heart Shaped Waterfall actually becomes a
rain also caused some major headaches of keeping our new homes drive from
turning into a small patch of Glastonbury in the South Atlantic, with nearly
15cm depth of mud for us and the dog to negotiate. For several days in a
row the rain fell or, being at 500m above sea level, we were up in the
clouds. Eventually and following a quick word with the landlords local agent
two tonnes of 4cm gravel we have a lovely drive for us and everyone else to
use. We were also able to put in a rotary dryer to lessen our use of the
de-humidifier and two bar heater (remember there is no central heating here) –
first world problems eh?!
landlord is one of the many ‘Saints’ who work abroad – Ascension, Falklands and
large populations in areas of the UK such as Swindon(elena),Leicester and
Oxford. The former because that used to be the end of the railway line
and the later because the bus from Brize Norton finishes there. They
often work for many years sending money home to pay for their house to be built
before coming ‘home’. Therefore very few, if any, have mortgages and do
not expect or have a culture of borrowing money. Whilst this means they
usually have relatively high disposable incomes, when it comes to business the
thoughts of borrowing to expand or even purchase stock becomes an issue –
especially so when it comes to ensuring the shelves remain stocked with food
following a poor month of sales!
small team of Saints made the journey to the Natwest Island Games, held in
Jersey at the beginning of July. Competing against 700 competitors and 15
other islands the highlights were 2 bronze medals in the 50m Prone Smallbore
Rifle Women’s Team event and a silver medal in the 50m 3 Position Smallbore
Rifle Women’s Team event.
airport milestones keep on coming now. Recently strange twelve red lights
were seen in the sky but later found to be the remote operating lights for the
major obstructions on the approach to the runway. Secondly the final
concrete was poured for the runway – though it has to be scored for traction
and drainage. Finally, the big switch on of the runway lights. Lots
of activity but still another six months at the earliest before its open for
the last six weeks we have had a MoD team of mine clearance and salvage divers
working on a sunken Royal Navy Fleet Auxiliary ship, Darkdale, which was
torpedoed in James Bay during WW2. Three ships have been involved in
removing unexploded ordinance (taken further out to sea and sunk in two miles
of ocean) before extracting the heavy fuel oil. So far there has only
been a small oil leak from the process due to a valve failure.
a few days we are expecting RMS Saint Helena to arrive following her annual
visit into dry dock. As it’s the only link with the outside world the
extended period of isolation is quite noticeable with some items of food
becoming scarce (even more than normal) and the wait for post even
longer. It also means another group of ex-pats leaving for leave or
finishing their contracts as part of the regular ‘churn’ of faces on the
island. There is a lot of speculation on the RMS’s future beyond next
July when she is due to be de-commissioned and becomes the historical end of
the Royal Mail Ships. Rather belatedly a Facebook campaign has been
started to save her and she would make a rather interesting if quaint floating
hotel for the island? She is due to make one last voyage back to the UK,
arriving July, and be moored in the Thames so put the date in the diary and
feel free to pay her a visit.
Fantastic effort on the Auction of Promises and best of luck for the final
weeks of the season
7th July 2015
The ‘additional’ bank holiday on the 15th June was a great success, with the Sunday host to the annual charity Gravity Rush – home-made carts hurtling down the main street, raising funds for islands major charity Shape. (St. Helena’s Active Participation in Enterprise -is a Social Enterprise established to offer training, support and employment opportunities to disabled and vulnerable adults). There were 13 entries this year, which all ‘paraded’ in the main square before the races begin. Thankfully, the course is lined (most of it) with tyres to avoid injuries to the spectators and generally successful – there were only three visitors to the hospital this year. The winner, Skeleton, was crowned at the end of a thoroughly enjoyable and social day.
Whilst I have never been particularly interested in fishing I was convinced to organise a boat trip for a group of guys to seek out tuna and possibly the super-fast Wahoo. Setting out at day break, as there were no takers for the optional bait fishing at 4.30am, trailing lures but no such luck so early in the morning. After about 90 minutes we had our first bite and so began a couple of hours of landing tuna by game rods and eventually poles (literally a pole of bamboo with a length of string and a hook) off the back of the boat. Feeling pretty chuffed at our haul, but at the same time disappointed not to landed a Wahoo one of the trailing lures set off and moments later we had our first (of three Wahoo) – they could shift and put up a bit of fight. The days catch was divided up amongst us all and leaving a small amount for the captain not a fish was wasted and we have all enjoyed the freshest fish possible.
I celebrated my 50th birthday on the 19th June and had a lovely lazy day (more so than usual – before anyone points that out) with Gill taking the day off. Unfortunately the weather prevented us going on our picnic boat trip so we settled for breakfast overlooking the ocean and lunch in town. There were lots of messages from home (thanks everyone) but many cards didn’t coincide with the ships arrival on the 18th from Cape Town (but arrived on the shuttle run to/from ascension where most of our post is routed from). Similarly, our champagne was also quarantined until the boat departed – aarrghhhh! However, the evening was a delightful dinner with four friends at Farm Lodge Country Hotel - built in approximately 1670 as an East India Company Planters’ House, the hotel is set in it’s own grounds of 10 acres with lawns and lush tropical gardens. Like most venues the menu is mostly selected in advance but in this case several courses are the hosts own choice and a stunning crème brulee followed local fillet steaks to cap a wonderful day and one I’ll always look back on (my other landmark birthday, 21st, was spent in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois)
The ships arrival on the 18th signalled the last part of the jig-saw of settling on the island, as the day after my birthday I went on a five day round trip to collect our dog Saffi, who had made the 12 day journey from Southampton to Ascension Island, via the MoD supply ship. Having had five months with friends in the UK (an animal trainer and ex police dog handler) and a few days on the island I was a little apprehensive of whether she would remember me. After a moment’s hesitation Saffi leapt forward and lots of excitement let me know I had not been forgotten. A similar episode was repeated on arrival back on Saint Helena with Gill. The journey itself was a lovely break for me as the weather, heading back to the equator became very warm within a few hours and the boat provided a variety of food not seen on the island for five months (not all at once anyway). Also an opportunity to play cricket - well a version of it - at the 'right' time of the year, playing with a rope ball and nets to avoid losing a ball over the side.
So the ‘family’ are all settled and looking forward to another eighteen months on one of the most extra-ordinary islands in the world.
6 photos added to gallery.
10th June 2015
I finished the last instalment with a post script, regarding the weather, that the bank holiday brought a steady drizzle and hopefully an end to the mini drought. Well the following days have seen a number of days where drizzle became deluges, with several hours of heavy rain. But, as with authorities the world over, there doesn’t appear to be enough – we still have warnings of shortages. Some on the island who maintain the computerised weather stations you can buy are publishing their data (150mm in the last month alone) and putting a little pressure on the water company to explain its maintenance of the islands infrastructure. The island has introduced hose pipe and sprinkler bans, with accompanying fines of up to £2000 or potentially six months in prison. Given the average Saint earns £650/month it’s easy to see the likely outcome. With the rain comes cooler temperatures; somewhere between 17 and 24c but as no-one has heating or air conditioning we are starting to feel the chill in the air! I even had to resort to long trousers (after five months in shorts) and one of my many sweatshirts (you may recall Gill’s scathing of my packing abilities prior to us leaving).
As Airport accreditation and opening nears, the St Helena Sea Rescue Service continues to develop. This service will not only support Airport operations on flight days but will significantly enhance sea rescue operations for St Helena. Two new boats are being provided as part of the Airport contract. The boats will provide a fast response to marine emergencies and rescues. Recruitment is underway to identify both full-time and auxiliary staff to crew the boats, with extensive training planned for July and August to prepare the team for sea rescue operations. As you might expect, we cant use British expertise so the training will be provided by the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI), from South Africa.
International Nurses Day was recently celebrated, with an event held at the General Hospital. International Nurses Day is celebrated around the world on the anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth. This year we will see dramatic improvements made to the Hospital premises; including new operating theatre and diagnostic suites, with better health care provision for all residents of the island. I have taken part in a programme of triage training for the local staff (and become an expert hypochondriac in the process) and deeply appreciative of the improvements to come as we have no facilities for CT scans etc. that you take for granted in the U.K.
Personally, Gill and I are looking forward to the imminent arrival of the migrating whales, which are due to be with us anytime between now and September. The islands dolphins can also be seen on a regular basis on any boat trip you take and visible with a good pair of binoculars from many of the islands clifftop viewpoints of James Bay.
This week was the tenth week of my Rock Radio show (you can use Facebook to make a request or listen to rock from the sixties onward to the modern day – saintfmcommunityradio – Thursdays between 11am and 2pm). Feedback has been really good and I usually receive two or three requests a week. It is a pleasant change from the country and western, which is also really popular on the island, especially so on Sunday mornings when it’s combined with a gospel theme!
The weekend is our extra public holiday to the UK to celebrate the Queen’s birthday. We are moving house and I am off deep sea fishing with a group of fiends – hopefully to ‘land’ Wahoo (but will be quite happy with tuna).
2 photos added to the gallery
22nd May 2015
Living on an island in the middle of the South Atlantic, the phrase” water water everywhere but not a drop to drink” is currently very pertinent. With no significant rain since Easter, appeals from the utility provider for reduced usage, naming and shaming individual areas of the island have appeared in the press. At the current rates June could be the critical month where rationing and stand-pipes are brought into use. Questions are also being asked of the provider regarding their investment and capital programme to improve matters over the last three to four years. The immediate issue is on the farmers who are not allowed to irrigate and therefore some foodstuffs, particularly salads and vegetables are not coming to market. Never thought I would be looking forward to rain (though personally drinking water is not an issue as our area is served by an artesian well).
The cricket season came to an end recently with the knock out final preceding the end of season awards. The final, for the first time ever, was between the two Levelwood teams and turned out to be a very one sided affair; the Allstars scoring briskly to reach 210 in 25 overs. The Rebels just managed to get over the hundred before being bowled out. The awards were presented by the deputy Governor and we collected our league runners up trophies with some personal satisfaction for two of the team taking leading batsman and bowler (father and youngest son). It left the rest of us to ponder our collective team skills that we hadn’t won any of the competitions, apparently the first time in years. The photos sent show the final game, the position of the ground (the only bit of flat ground on the island) illustrating the long climb or descent to the pitch, the awards and the team bbq (echoed around the pavilion with each team having their own).
The 21st was St Helena Day, commemorating the founding of the island in 1502 (and so-named as it was the birthday of Saint Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great) when it was discovered by the Portuguese (it became a Dutch possession in 1633 and then a British possession (initially under the East India Company then the Crown) from 1659). For those wanting to know more the following link may be useful - http://sthelenatourism.com/the-island/history. Celebrating its history, it was our bank holiday in lieu of May Day and those with annual leave added Friday to make it the second very long weekend break (along with Easter) in successive months. It was a day celebration starting with a church service and parade; various water based options, five-a-side competition, float parade and rounding off the day fireworks and music via the islands favourite group The Big Easy. Obviously timings were ‘St Helena time’, so the parade was two hours late – though not helped by Napoleon falling off his float (then getting stuck under the entrance arch) and Jonathan the Tortoise being impaled on a street bollard.
Preparations for the airport opening next year continue, though this time it is the announcement of the final schedule for the mail ship. The new schedule includes; the RMS being anchored in Jamestown on the proposed official opening of the Airport on 21 May 2016, a final voyage to the UK and after disembarking her passengers RMS making a promotional trip up the river Thames and mooring alongside HMS Belfast near the Tower of London. The focus of these final voyages is to commemorate the life of the RMS over the last 25 years and its strong links to the local community.
Next year’s St Helena Day is a Saturday and has been announced as the official opening day for the airport. This years was marked by the announcement of a charter service, run by ex BA pilots Atlantic Star Airlines - http://www.atlanticstarairlines.com - to the island to compete with ComAir.
Post script: Being a bank holiday weekend it has started to rain, a lovely steady drizzle, but don't feel too sad its still 22c!
5th May 2015
Well my first season in the southern hemisphere ended without a ball played; as not being selected for the game – the first knock out - the Barracuda’s lost and the season ends from a playing perspective. However the season continues until the knockout final on the 18th May.
It’s great to see the First XI have got off to a flyer this season and congratulations Sam on your century. I know it’s early but hopefully a quick return to Division Six. Similarly, the Second’s and Third’s will have equally successful seasons?
So with no cricket I’ll get to play more golf and go diving more often. The golf course is only nine holes and you simply go around twice, visiting different tee positions for the ‘back nine’. The club’s logo features the, unique to St Helena, ‘Wirebird’, which run along the fairway as you approach and several holes have goats tethered providing free grass cutting. The fairways are rough and the greens not the best but with the right investment in equipment and a full time green-keeper it could be a lovely course – it must be one of the most picturesque I’ve played on. One advantage is that the bunkers are simply dirt traps and you just putt out of them (allowing for the jolt of the bunkers lip). Maybe once the tourists start arriving it might get the attention it needs?
The diving is incredible; as it feels like you are descending into an aquarium. Having snorkelled with Whale Sharks on arriving in January, to then have swum with Devil Rays on my first dives was quite an adventure. The steep slopes of the islands shelf provide homes for lots of wildlife and with boats going out most days there are ample opportunities. The water is crystal clear, giving visibility of about 12-15m, and at the moment a comfortable 26c. Thankfully, whilst Thresher, Mako and Hammerhead sharks have been seen they are very rare on the diving side of the island. I am also anticipating the arrival of Wright and Hump Back whales in August/September. As you might expect, the Dive Club is one of the most active clubs on the island (Facebook page – Saint Helena Dive Club) and hopefully the pictures uploaded give you an idea?
The end of April became a bit of balancing act with our internet usage. Remember we only have a data bank of 13.5gb each month (we are on the top Gold Plus package – at £240/month), after which it becomes 9p/mb, and so we scaled back the Skype calls home, use of Facebook and turned off all the updates. Thankfully we don’t seem to have missed much from the outside world – the election is still going on (and on) and we now have a new Princess. What we do miss is the May Day bank holiday – we get a different day off in the month – 21st May for Saint Helena Day (which I’ll comment on in the next instalment).
Another of my spare time hobbies is a DJ slot on the local community radio – Saint FM Community Radio – so if anyone would like a request, send me a post. Just remember it’s a rock show and actually not sure whether you can listen on the internet (Thursdays 11am to 2pm) but give it a go!
It might be surprising to some that currently the island does not use much solar generation, beyond the hot water collectors on most if not all houses. This is shortly to be rectified then the island’s first sun farm; a collection of photo voltaic panels that will generate up to 10% of the islands energy will come on stream. Located on the slopes above Jamestown it will be phase one of hopefully four, which will complement the current wind farm located across the island at Flagstaff.
21st April 2015 - Island Life, Part 3
Best wishes for St George’s Day and the start of the English cricket season! Being in the Southern Hemisphere we are now approaching the end of our summer and with the completion of the T20, the last competition of the season – a limited over knock out begins this weekend. Morning temperatures are now down to 18 or 19c and only occasionally breaking into the early 30’s in town. It’s a hard life?
The Easter weekend saw no cricket being played. In fact much of the island was closed. As the ‘Saints’ do not have the opportunity to leave the island due to both cost and time (it takes five days to get to South Africa), a large number go camping and whole households move from one side of the island to another.
The airports recent airline announcement was joined by the signing of the agreement to refurbish a set of buildings to become a 4* hotel (but don’t think European standards) with the Mantis hotel company winning the contract to run it. You can check out more details on their website – www.mantiscollection.com. The other announcement was of the refurbishment of the hospital, including the upgrade of much of the equipment.
Several cruise ships have visited in the last two weeks. Most are smaller vessels with about 200-300 people, plus a similar number of crew coming ashore. Many take organised tours to the island wide sights and take the opportunity to browse at the local stalls set up in the main square, during their day long stay. One exception to this was The World an exclusive ship where you require a recurring income of at least $10m per annum to be considered to purchase an apartment – which start at $900k up to $17m for the penthouse suite – www.aboardtheworld.com. The ship stayed for three days and again many toured the island but also spent time in the crystal waters of the bay snorkelling and diving. On their last evening, the ships house band – The Fabulous Fossils -joined the islands Big Easy for an afternoon and evening of music.
Many of you may recall our dog Saffi, who is still staying with friends, was due to sail on a MoD ship but as they have declared many ‘no pet’ voyages, she has been bumped several times to her new passage on the 5th June. This ‘bumping’ is often due to taking military dogs or cargo such as ammunition down to the Falklands (via Ascension Island) and because of tensions rising we are not confident this latest delay won’t be the last.
We are also moving shortly to a newer more European standard home. Houses are bungalows with simple layouts and usually a kitchen (where you also eat your meals), lounge and bedrooms. Unfortunately still no air conditioning! We will still have a great view and being out of town will be several degrees cooler.
After a final group game against local rivals Jamestown Zodiacs, which went to the final four balls of the game the Barracudas made it through to Finals Weekend. Our semi-final was against the Levelwood Allstars and played in the morning and were asked to chase down a decent 158. When our openers were dropped four times in the first few overs it did not look good and sure enough we fell short by six runs (after the opposition were fined six runs for a slow over rate). The final was therefore the Allstars versus St Matthews Lions – the later beating the Half Tree Hollow Dolphins. The final was an epic with the Lions chasing down 166 with three balls to spare despite being 55-4 at one point. Now onto the Knock Out.
Regards to all
See Gallery for photos.
6th April 2015 - Island Life Part 2
I trust you all had a pleasant Easter – chocolate eggs were available but at two or three times the UK price it’s an expensive luxury reserved for those with children. What was nice to see a slower more peaceful holiday time, with everything shut from Good Friday to the following Tuesday, the wharf was closed from Maundy Thursday. Time to just kick back, enjoy the weather and relax – unfortunately it rained for three of the four days! And being sub-tropical I mean rained!?!
In little over a year the island of St Helena will lose its title as one of the most remote British Territories in the world, as it can take up between one and three weeks to get here, and top 50 remotest islands in the world with the opening of an international airport. As yet un-named, favourites include Wirebird (after the islands endemic bird) and Longwood. Linking into the international hub of Johannesburg and the Comair (subsidiary of BA) Saturday flight to/from St Helena will be 4.5hours from the mainland and just a day from the UK.
So how do you get here? There are two routes via RAF Brize Norton to Ascension Island and a three day cruise or to Cape Town and a five day cruise on the Royal Mail Ship St Helena. The latest ship was launched into service in 1990 and is also a freight carrier (up to 92 containers) as well as able to carry up to 150 passengers. Ship life is quaint but well equipped to keep you from being bored with two lounges and a main dining room. Food is plentiful and a delight to sample items not regularly seen on the island. However, with the airport opening the ship is to be de-commissioned in July 2016, with one last UK sailing scheduled to complete the 12-15 day voyage.
And the food? Being an island it’s very much a fish based diet – though of the more meaty types. Fresh tuna is in the market every day, with Wahoo, Marlin and Cavelley depending on the success of the fishermen. The island produces lots of pork and some beef and chicken, but imports much from Cape Town. It’s a local frustration that the island cannot produce more, as it used to supply up to 1000 visiting ships a year. So it’s quite an event for the ship to come in and the teasing wait for the produce to make its way into the shops. The shops are small (think ‘express’ size) and lots of locals convert a garage to be the local hamlet shop for emergencies. However, it is not unusual for the island to be out of items; recently Diet Pepsi, any form of fruit cordial and lettuce!
One of the biggest bug bears, especially for the ex-pats., is the cost of using the internet. To be able to download 13.5Gb of data in a month it costs £190! The speed is also an issue with download speeds of only 1.5Mb/sec. The only concession is usage is free from midnight to 6am; so there are lots of timers in use. Hopefully as the island opens up greater competition will make its way to the island?
Back to cricket. The league season finished with a three way play off for the title and despite bowling out the opposition, in the crucial deciding game, for 114, the Barracudas choked and were all out for 91 (I wasn’t playing, but memories of the eight runs required and losing at St Osyth’s came flooding back). So the honours went to the Levelwood Allstars and better luck for next year’s league. So onto the T20 and unfortunately in the first match the hang-over from the defeat obvious, losing again, after posting 188. This time due to the Half Tree Hollow Dolphins able to field a South African Academy player, from within the airport builders workforce. Normal service was resumed the following week with a win over the Sandy Bay Pirates, in the 18th over.
All the best to everyone
23rd March 2015 - Island Life Part 1
Welcome to Saint Helena, a small island British territory in the South Atlantic. About 4500 miles from the UK, it is most well known as the exiled home of Napoleon and in fact it is the 200th anniversary this year – more of that to come as we head to the actual anniversary of his arrival in October.
The island itself is volcanic in origin and has a single main town Jamestown, in a short valley or ‘gut’, with the island rising quickly to heights of between 500 and 823m – the later Diana’s Peak the tallest point.
Let’s start with the British obsession the weather! Generally sub-tropical and in the southern hemisphere we are now in the mid-summer. Apparently this year has been a poor summer with day time temperatures in the main town in the early thirty centigrade. So far it has not dropped below 20c (this the early morning and night-time temp). In the sun over 50c has been recorded. Thankfully, with the altitude comes a slightly (3-5c) cooler climate in the interior of the island.
So to the cricket. There are ten teams across the island and recently changed from playing in whites to pyjama cricket and many of the sides adopting nicknames to the original district or village names. Hence, my own side went from Jamestown ‘B’ to the Jamestown Barracudas – as they wanted to retain the ‘B’ within the club. Others include the Jamestown Zodiacs, Half Tree Hollow Dolphins, St Matthews Lions, and Western B Warriors.
There is only one pitch, the local Prince Andrew School Francis Field and surprisingly the island is affiliated to the African Cricket Association rather than the ECB. St Helena is an international side, affiliated to the ICC and in 2012 competed in its first international tournament, the ICC Africa Division 3 T20 Tournament. It was held in South Africa where Saint Helena beat Mali, Gambia, Cameroon and Morocco. They finished in fifth place out of eight teams.
Locally, there is a league competition (earliest records are from 1903, though cricket recorded as long ago as 1844), followed by a 20/20 league and finally a knock out cup marking the end of the season in May, having started in early November. The league is 35 overs a side and takes 3-4 hours with two games each Saturday and Sunday – therefore there are regular fixture breaks so a little more family friendly than back in Worly.
Playing on a concrete strip the carpet surface doesn’t slow the ball much and the dry grass/scrub of the outfield means the ball whizzes along – though the locals often go ariel!
In the next instalment some of the frustrations of island life, the reliance on the venerable Royal Mail Ships and food foraging – though the island never runs out of beer!
If there are any particular aspects of life you would like to cover or suggestions feel free to ask