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Published: November 4th 2012
Sumer is a cumin in
Here on New Ground, three miles from, and a thousand feet higher, than Jamestown the weather is suggesting that a gloomy and damp spring is moving into summer. Plenty of high white cloud and the odd spattering of clear blue – enough to make a – I don’t recall the end of this saying – a sailor’s handkerchief, perhaps. Someone out there let me know – these small things can worry away!
Well, news from St Helena – last weekend was overfull with public celebration. On Friday the Halloween event moved to High Knoll Fort, a British fortification that looms over a large part of the island. ‘New Horizons’ – a very active group that organizes events and activities for youngsters had converted one of the tower areas of the fort into a scary castle – I had a very short look around the fort and there was an enormous queue of youngsters and oldsters looking for a traumatic session! I didn’t join the line for a long wait but photographs of the scary castle show that a brilliant job had been done to terrify all those with faint hearts! As always, there were plenty of opportunities for food and drink and I have come across more than a few who were unable to participate in Saturday’s events because of delicate dispositions. Needless to say, your correspondent showed more control and was able to enjoy the carnival of the next day.
However, one last consideration about using the Fort as a nighttime venue. Those of you who know the place will have not failed to notice a gaping hole in the curtain wall with an almost vertical drop of several hundred feet into the valley below. A bit of canvas, some police tape and a small group of stewards was thought sufficient to allow the event to go ahead. Of course there were no accidents, no fatal falls – everyone was aware of the gap and the drop and, despite the alcohol-fuelled evening, people took enough responsibility for the event to go ahead successfully. Doubtless, H&S intervention would not have allowed the event to take place in the UK!
Saturday was Cancer Awareness carnival day – well, less of a carnival, more of a procession of brightly dressed people dancing and walking down Market Street from the hospital, past Nose Gay Lane into Main Street and finally to Grand Parade, the central square in the town. Lots of noise, laughter and cheering followed by low-key entertainment that went on (probably) into the early hours of the morning. My highlight of a super day – a display on Pakistani Bangra Dancing given by a small group of white South African girls amongst an enthusiastic Saints on an island in the middle of the South Atlantic. What a wonderful example of unself-conscious multiculturalism. It was terrific.
The one carnival float was an amusing one put together by people working for basil Reed, the South African company building the airport. The director of the project ‘flew’ an aircraft down the street, raising his captain’s cap to all and sundry. Cheers and fun until we get to the temporary arched entrance into Grand Parade. All of us could see that the height of the plane would not allow a safe landing into the square. Lots of thought and chin rubbing before it was decided that the tail fin would have to be removed before a landing could be attempted. Said fin removed, access to the square allowed. One trusts that more careful measurements have been made before the first real aircraft comes into land at the new airport!
You will of course have been getting anxious about my personal exploits on the island. Firstly, the skittles. After an immaculate season in the league, the ‘Alcometers’ had to suffer the embarrassment of the knock out competition. Scoring an all-season low the team, needless to say, did not have to worry about the second round – a bit like Town and Country bowls, eh chaps! The team skipper then decided that time was right for the demise of the ‘Alcometers’ who are no more. Apparently, the team did win a match once but the subsequent withdrawal of the losing team from the league meant that points were forfeit – so, ‘nil point’ for the team’s entire history!
Tuesday night remains ‘Pop Goes Classic’ on St Helena Radio. Mike Dean, my lead co-presenter, is in the process of withdrawing from the DJ chair as he is shortly leaving the island. Jean, the ballroom teacher, has shifted into the vacant seat and thus the musical baton has been passed on. Good music into the darkness of the island evening for the next few weeks until the station shuts down on Christmas Day when a new venture and a new broadcasting future begins.
Summer evenings have meant summer walks.
Up the drive from my house, _I-player on and ear plugs in place. I turn right and New Ground is shortly left behind. A winding walk through the rugged land which links the dryness of the northern part of the island to the more tropical west and central areas, overlooking Cleugh’s Plain. The road takes me round an attractive and impressive bend with flax-laden cliffs to my left. To my right, of course, is the ever-present ocean. I walk past the group of chaps who always congregate outside the shop (as with many such shops, it faces away from the road with just a bare wall facing leaving one guessing as to the use made of the building) and onwards towards Guinea Grass. To my right it suddenly becomes tropical for I have reached the top end of Sarah’s Valley – one of many such valleys or guts that drop down towards the sea from the highland. The OS map shows there to be a stream but that may or may not exist as these guts are, effectively, dry valleys running through the volcanic rock land. However, a feature of almost all of these guts is the tropical growth that covers the head of the valley. Suddenly I am in the world of frog song and banana trees with their mighty seedpods hanging below the slowly ripening fruit. Deep in the undergrowth must be the source of local water.
Here the walk takes on a different set of dimensions! The winding road changes into an exceptionally steep incline of very tight bend, as close to 180 degrees as is possible. And, crikey, the steepness! I take frequent stops, as if to take in the views but, in reality, to take in some more oxygen. Upwards, upwards, round the hair-pin bends with curious figure-like rocks staring down at me from the cliffs. Finally, one last bend and I find myself on an ‘English village green’ – Rosemary Plain, time for a rest – do I chose the picnic area of the very secure looking bench – ah, for the disabled, that must include me with my special oxygen deficit! And there is the sign pointing up to the cliffs with the strangely shaped rocks – Mount Eternity. How wonderful to be so close to everlasting life with my heart beating so tremendously. No need for panic, the pulse settles and I continue my walk around the ‘village green’ and onwards towards Scotland, an area used mainly for Agricultural Development research. The road continues to wind and, curiously, always upwards. I feel like I’m in one of those impossible worlds drawn by Escher for my walk is entirely upwards. Less steep, still winding and quietly lovely. The occasional car but no fellow walkers – maybe they have discovered the ever-descending route!
Eventually I arrive at Scotland and find another curiosity – a roundabout at a slightly complicated junction that (in my experience) never has any vehicles waiting. Something must have featured in the planner’s thinking (or reminiscence of UK) that made it necessary to have such a road feature on such a quiet stretch of highway. Now, I have a choice as I can continue my walk down the country lane (still upwards) past St Paul’s Cathedral (yes, seriously) to White Gates or go across the parkland of Plantation, the house of HE the Governor. Choices – which route I miss tonight I’ll follow tomorrow evening.
Either route takes me to Plantation and I give a wave to either the Governor or Jonathan the giant tortoise – depending on which is doing an evening perambulation and onwards towards the Model Cottage close to Redhill.
Here the Escher puzzle is solved as Sapper Way, which takes me down to my house in New Ground, descends rather alarmingly past rather fine villas with their spectacular views over Half Tree Hollow.
A good evening’s walk taking in splendid views of the island with a short premature stop at the gates of Eternity. And on my I-player – Del Amitri have finished their songs of jealousy and suspicion on their curiously under-rated but superb album ‘Everything Changes’ and Bruce Springsteen is still singing about the routes to the pearly gates (strange coincidence) on his magnificent ‘Wrecking Ball’ (at present my all-time top album) as I enter my little house ready for a ‘shipwreck’ – spiced rum and coke to you. Cheers!
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