Our first week of living on St Helena
After our first week of living on St Helena we had begun to get used to the local customs and finding our way around. Driving on St Helena is an experience in itself, as the roads are steep with twists and turns. As a general rule, if you are heading down a hill you give way to those coming up it which requires frequent reversing, up hill, around a bend whilst giving a customary wave!
Speeds are limited to 30mph or less, entirely appropriate given the frequent sharp bends, and steep roads. As a result of this, hitting fourth gear, heading slightly down hill on the only straight road we have yet encountered, was greeted by cheers from all those in the car. It is often said that the islands cars are a throwback to the 70s and 80, a time of Ford Cortina’s. Sadly whilst there are a few dotted around, the Island has caught up in that respect and is now dominated by Ford Focus or various 4X4s, including the popular “six pack” the local expression for a Toyota Hilux.
Jamestown is a bustling little town full of character. The town really is, barring the odd exception, a throwback to the past. It would not feel at all strange to see Darwin, King George, or Napoleon himself walking the streets searching out which shop had the freshest fruit. I think I like this age gone by. There are no ATM’s on the island, instead, you go to the bank and converse with an actual person.
The post office is wonderful, reminiscent of post offices in old Western films, with individual booths and iron bars separating you from the polite and friendly postal worker.
A particularly interesting quirk of the island is the ability to phone a company, and have them answer the phone. We do this without the need to navigate through a multitude of button options, repeat a security password to three different people in Bangladesh, and subject ones’ ears to an endless repeat of copyright free musical trash. They just answer the phone; we should look into such revolutionary out of the box thinking back in the UK.
Finding food and goods is more of a challenge than the UK, but is not the Ray Mears style expedition we had been led to believe. Shops are stocked with a wide range of dried goods from Tesco, Asda, and from South Africa. Fresh local produce of vegetables and meats are generally on hand. Although choice can be limited, we have eaten well and dined on home cooked fish, chicken and pork. Family meals have become the norm.
This island of just four thousand people has the facilities, and infrastructure that would serve a much larger community in the UK. Name me a village in the UK, of four thousand people, that has the tools and expertise to provide doctors, banks, garages, shops, fishermen, emergency services, conservation, builders and planners, policing, etc.
Yet this is achieved despite real difficulties in communication, lack of available resources, roads that are slow at best and impassable at worse, street names and house numbers are often not present, and many houses don’t actually have an address. The island works because everyone talks to each other, they find out what each other’s role is, what they can do and contribute, how they can work with each other.
While our first full week draws to a close I look forward to a Friday night at Donnies, known locally as Sundowners as locals and ex pats enjoy a drink at the Jamestown water front whilst watching the stunning sunset. We also wait, and with huge excitement, for our first boat trip to search out the resident Dolphins and breeding Humpback Whales and their Calves.
Read more about Paul’s adventures on St Helena on his blog Two Years in the Atlantic.
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