Saturday, 22 September 2012

Getting here...

We’re here. Saint Helena, South Atlantic. Home for the next two years.

We are here!
First impressions are overwhelmingly good. The people are friendly, welcoming, open and generally all the things you could hope for when moving to a new place. The place itself is stunningly beautiful. Very rocky round the edges, but that rock glistens in a way I can’t describe right now. The island is volcanic, each lobe of the island has different appearance. This week we’ve been to the desert, tropical forests, the moon, welsh countryside, the Mediterranean... and we haven’t seen most of the island yet!

I did intend to keep a running travelogue but haven’t. There was no internet access, we’ve been busy, the dog ate my homework...

Anyway, the journey went really well. From the lovely taxi driver who picked us up and dropped at Heathrow Terminal 5. Right through to the much appreciated welcoming committee waiting on the wharf in Jamestown.

If you (or any little people you know!) have an interest in airports then make a trip to Heathrow, T5. Outside gives you a fantastic view of the runway, the planes and all the activity that goes on around them. Inside is just as good. We got a prime seat in the restaurant (Giraffe!) right next to a window overlooking it all.
Guarding the bags!
Outside T5 watching planes land.

Having tea and more plane watching!

I was very excited to see the international Passenger Survey (IPS) in residence. We weren’t sampled but I did go and speak to them... which baffled Bob a bit, hopefully ONS colleagues understand the excitement, even if no-one else does. I said hello, told them how exciting it was to see them and explained how much we rely on the data they collect. I think I’ve passed one of the tests for being a classified stats geek.

Pip coped really well with the plane. Slept like a whirling dervish all night... so at least she was rested even if Bob and I were a little bruised in the morning. She also managed to watch a couple of films. She didn’t really get to grips with the idea that she had headphones and not everyone could hear- kept shouting at the screen. I found it cute and funny even if it was a little awkward at the time!

Cape Town was good too. A whirlwind tour on the big red bus, a dip in a very cold pool (it’s winter there you know), a walk along the waterfront and fish (calamari) and chips looking at the harbour. Saw a seal too.

Embarking on the RMS St Helena was a little nerve wracking. Had a feeling of no going back... not sure why it hadn’t kicked in before. Perhaps until this point we knew it would just take finances to sort out a change of mind, once the ship pulled away the isolation becomes far much more of an issue. There was also fear that Pip wouldn’t travel well. I was wrong- she was fine! It was a pretty calm crossing but I’m not sure Pip really took notice of movement of the ship. 
On the bridge.

Dining room.

Pip with Kiera, best ship friends!

All at sea.

The crew and passengers on board were lovely. Struggled a little with some of the “Saga adventures” gang... but good practise in dealing diplomatically with loud and frequently voiced and ill-informed opinions. There was an overwhelming majority of really interesting, pleseant people. Some returning Saints, some other TC (technical collaboration) post holders moving for a year or two, quite a few working for Basil Reed the airport contractor and an scattering of others going for work or pleasure for a couple of weeks (both the UK and SH meaning of “couple” applies here!).

As you might expect Bob and I spent five days chasing Pip around the ship. We had lots of fun though. Some fun activities to join in with- hat making, horse racing deck sports. The food was really good too. My only regret is not trying the beef tea- think it’s of the Bovril type rather than some of the horrors I read about.

Horse racing night!
Ship's pool. Small, salty and a bit cold.

Tug of war. Was glad of the front man!
Our little filly did very good counting!

Arriving in Jamestown is a lot easier than I feared. Life jacket on, down the walkway, onto the little boat, couple of minutes to the wharf, friendly face with big arms to carry Pip and a helping hand for Bob and I, up a few steps, onto the minibus and then milling around the customs shed as we wait for bags.

We were met by the team I’ll be working with and my line manager. Again, the wall of smiling faces made everything so much easier. All becomes a bit of a blur after that- I may not get seasick but I suffer when I get back on land. Took a few days for my head to stop swimming. But they wrapped us up in a whirl of logistics, formalities, familiarities and necessities- shop, bank, office, tea, cake and sandwiches!

The drive from town to house has taken some getting used to- single lane, steep and tight bends doesn’t convey just how narrow, steep the roads are, nor the fear of blind corners... Suffice to say I didn’t need much encouragement when asked to “blow off” on the corners (it means to toot the horn...).
Will stop here. Will say more about the island and the work ahead in separate entries. Last things to say for now is that we are really happy here and are settling in well. Hard to believe it’s only been a week, feel like we’ve been here forever! I promise future blogs will be less of a bombardment of holiday snaps!

Pip, house, car (with new plates!) and garage-
this is a very handy place for hanging up washing .

Hedge flower


  1. How exciting, love hearing all about it and LOVE the photos - don't stop putting them up. Miss you tons, but do feel as if you could just be down the road and we're all just too busy to meet up for coffee - I'll be keeping the pot warm for next summer, so make sure you get yourselves back here for a visit!
    Glad that everyone is friendly - how could they not be when meeting you guys though! and that you are all settling in well. You are going to have an amazing time.

  2. Hi, I used to live in a house very similar to the one you are living in but back in 1977-79 when I was 5, 6 and 7 years old. The place was opposite the golf course and we called The Compound. My dad used to work for Hanslope Park and helped set up the radio station there and there were quite a few families from the UK who would be posted there for a few years at a time. There was no TV (I spot a TV aerial on the house now!).

    I'm so jealous that you're there enjoying the wonderful island before the airport changes things (not too much I hope). Take fishing trips, go on the trek to Lot's Wife Ponds, collect the red thorn (torn) seeds and just generally enjoy the amazing lifestyle. Hope your little girl enjoys it as much as I did.

    All the best, Jacquie Green