As Frank might have said

Oceans and Seas » Atlantic » Saint Helena
April 22nd 2012
Published: April 22nd 2012
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As Frank might have said

Or as my new friend Peter (isn’t it wonderful to be surprised even now that it is possible to think that, ‘I have a new friend’) might have put it ‘I’m working at living in the moment’. Pretty well taking all we can from the then and now, the pleasure of the sublime, the ordinariness of every day life. But being aware of these everyday things and heeding them, even if not taking pleasure.

Some of you will know that my literary hero is Frank Bascombe who is the narrator in Richard Ford’s wonderful trilogy of novels ‘The Sportswriter’, ‘Independence Day’ and ‘The Lay of the Land’, which I assume will be as satisfying as the previous two as I have read only the first 10 humorous and wise pages. In the second of these books, Frank reminds us that ‘as the poet says (typical Frank, he doesn’t say which poet!) the ways we miss our lives are life itself’. I take this to mean that this is what happens if we don’t try and live for the moment. The theme has already been re-approached in the first ten pages of the third novel in the trilogy when, jumping into the November Atlantic sea ‘as nickel-polished, clean surfaced and stilly cold as old Neptune’s heart’, Frank wants to be reminded ‘in the most sensate of ways that I was alive’.

Well, now that’s enough of Frank and literary references – although I am interested that my literary hero has changed from the physical and moral certainties of Robin Hood to the questioning and puzzled chap who is waving farewell to middle age. And I guess this takes me to the point (if there is one) of this blog entry.

I have been asked time and time again why have I come out to St Helena for this year’s exile from the family and home comforts and regularity at (and this is nearly always unspoken) ‘your time of life?’ There is, of course, a genuine list of answers – completing a job already started, money, a sense of adventure in working so far from anywhere else in the world, flattery at being asked to come here to do an important job. All of these are true, but not quite honest, answers. A close friend said to us all fairly recently is that ‘of course, at our age, we become invisible’. Now, perhaps he literally meant that that rather attractive young girl standing at the bar hadn’t in any real sense noticed us, but I felt it in a broader way. I have come to St Helena for all the reasons given above, but also as a challenge to that ‘invisibility’ that could envelope us of a certain age if we don’t challenge it.

So, have I been ‘living in the moment’ this week? Yes, but sometimes it has been a challenge because, strange as it might seem, living in St Helena can be as mundane and as ordinary as living anywhere else. Except for the almost constant backdrop of the sea. Actually it was on Thursday this week that my boss Colin (an admirable and charming colleague) and I were standing on the upper verandah of our office building (yes, already I can see you thinking ‘how wonderful, how strange to have a verandah at work’ – or something like it – and of course it is and we need to recognize it) when we saw a pod of dolphins leaping and bursting from the sea for, I suppose, their own pleasure as I can’t see that they would have known that Colin and I were standing there. Or perhaps they could!

Wednesday was one of those almost days – I have been asked if I might like to come along to the twice weekly skittles evening. Almost got there but was held up (in time, not by a gunman) in the Consulate Hotel. However, the following day I was contacted and, yes, I have secured a place in one of the teams. So, whilst Wenlock ‘B’ team (bowls) are languishing without a driver to take team-mates across the Shropshire country, I am embarking on a new sporting career – news of which I will inform you of later in the season.

Now, in many ways unchanging St Helena is going through a time of transformation on the back of economic and social regeneration demanded by the expenditure on a airport runway. Part of this transformation is reflected in changes within the media world. The government has appointed a public relations chief (another new friend, Ian, who has, only yesterday, purchased a lime green 400cc Kawasaki motorcycle – he will get some stick from us), the two existing newspapers closed and have been replaced by a new venture from the new SH media organization (with an advertising magazine also developing into a newspaper as well). In addition the current MW radio station is closing and being replaced by three – yes three – new FM stations adding to the independent FM station already in existence. All for a population of around 4000 folk! Thinking that there must be possibilities for enterprising media types – well, me, actually – I wrote to the editor in chief with my suggestion for a rambling, music programme based around the constancy of ‘Top Three’. I imagined the radio jock sitting there in the studio meandering on how the meaning of life can be described through Top Three decisions on best films, book, records, concerts, days of your life (but not Macdonalds, Paula) punctuated by suggestions from the audience, witty interchanges with the undoubted star of the programme (i.e. me) and a selection of good music reflecting mine (and sometimes, other’s) immaculate taste. The very next day – yes, the very next day – I received a response from the boss man himself. ‘Thank you for your interesting suggestion. We will bear it in mind when developing programmes for the new stations.’

Now some of you of a more jaundiced disposition might read this as being something of a put down and nothing will come of it. But look at the words ‘thank you’ and ‘interesting’ and ‘bear it in mind’ – I reckon that a new media career is in the offing – just you wait!


22nd April 2012

Hi mike, see you have settled in nicely again and glad that you have started your blog up again. This one made me really laugh, love the fact your getting more people involved in our top 3. We can have a top 3 who have played top 3 soon. Hope all is well just don't do any driving down small lanes. Speak soon Anthony
22nd April 2012

Fat Girl
Where is she with my pencil? No where to be seen
22nd April 2012

Top three
Well worth waiting for, Michael. I think there's a danger of you becoming overstretched, what with your horticultural endeavours, broadcasting ambitions, literary musings and, what was it? Oh yes, the job! Take care.
22nd April 2012

From an invisible man.
Perhaps you should offer (on a fee basis of course) to render via ukelele phone in callers top 3 tunes. But could you stand to KEEP playing Moodance without the fees properly due to you?
22nd April 2012

New top 3
Top 3 pencils She will be lurking somewhere, ready for the next abandoned pencil. Think u need to be careful out there now and getting friendly with the local copper or perhaps the immigration officer would be handy
23rd April 2012

Top 3
I'm really enjoying the prospect of the Top three hitting St Helena Radio - Your blog is making me rather nostalgic. Enjoy!

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