….. and all from the comfort of your own home.
November in St Helena has been warmer with some strong winds. Just as in England, the early summer starts with some beautiful weather – blue skies with high white cloud and good comfortable temperatures. This early summer promise though has been blown away with the south-easterly winds that seem to have anchored low cloud with rain over the island. The locals say that this has been the worst weather in living memory; some say it reflects a change in the climate. The success of the airport project hinges on wealthy and discerning tourists coming to the island. Some typical English summer weather is not what the doctor ordered.
One of the sunny days encouraged a walk to the highest point on the island, Diana’s Peak. At 820 metres (which I think is about 2,600’) Diana’s Peak is situated on the spine of the island, has a tropical vegetation cover and is frequently shrouded in high cloud – recently it has been invisible due to the weather. However, we chose just the right day – blue skies and lovely temperature made it a perfect day to walk to the Peak. The views are spectacular, with open views to most parts of the island. The moonscape around Sandy Bay contrasts surprisingly with the tree fern cover of the hills, whilst to the south flax is still the prevalent ground cover for the hills. There, way to the east beyond Longwood (Napoleon’s home) are the drylands of Prosperous Bay where the contractors are blasting away the rock to fill the dry gut (valley) where the airport will be built. A perfect walking day that gave us a chance to see so much that is lovely on this small island.
Remembrance Day was an opportunity for the island to show-off what it does so well – some very low key pageantry. Main Street in Jamestown was closed to allow all the uniformed branches (children and adults) to march (in their own different ways) down towards the Cenotaph on the sea front (right next to Donny’s Bar) where members of the government (‘high-ups’ not like your humble correspondent) stand suited and booted at their designated spots. Once the ensemble is gathered the traditional service is followed – it’s not easy to overstate how traditional and how patriotic (UK) the island is in many ways. The service was beautifully done and I know that the sound of the bugle playing ‘Last Post’ accompanied by the crash of the Atlantic waves resounding on this isolated bit of rock will live with me for ever.
The media career of your humble correspondent, of course, knows no bounds. My natural face for television has been a significant success on the local radio. We continue with our Tuesday evening radio show with an eclectic range of music. I informed our loyal audience that the rubbish sounds coming from the left hand speaker of their sterogram (very 1960s, anyone remember them?) will be Jean’s choice of music whilst the classy, interesting and classic music from the right hand speaker will reflect my superior selection. So far, the public response has been well in favour of Jean. It may take more than the 3 weeks remaining for the programme to alter the musical tastes of the Saints! We have introduced a new feature to the programme – invited guests talking about their Top3 whatever fascinates them accompanied by top 3 selection of tunes (some of you will recall my fascination (no, not obsession) with this notion. The first week went well with a good and short conversation (led with some style, I have to say, by yours truly) accompanied by a varied and interesting choice of music – it is surprising, despite the lowish audience figures, how seriously our guests plan and research their contributions to the show. The next Top 3 interview went less well. Our guest spoke fluently and interestingly on his Top 3 Shipwrecks (one of his careers has been as a naval diver) but his music failed to play on our fairly ancient system. He also decided to use a spot of language that isn’t often heard on the St Helena airwaves and was similar in expression to the on-air expletive used by my co-presenter when I suggested that her sun tan came from a spray can and was as natural as her blonde hair. Some people have a reduced sense of humour some times, don’t you find?
The Director of Education has instigated a review of the existing organization of schools on the island, accompanied by an examination of the state of the school buildings. Part of this review has been a series of radio and TV (now, control your excitement – more of this later) debates between professionals and parents. Of course, yours truly, with his broad and extensive career in the media has been used as a regular feature of the great debate. After a slowish start the debates have picked up on energy with this week, some informed and sparky contributions by the parents in particular. What is also surprising has been the number of Saints and ex-pats who have heard (or seen) the programmes and responded very positively. This has been a good use of local media opportunities.
Well, what stories from the island? The big story - which has yet to feed into the media frenzy that is the local press – is the re-forming of the ‘Alcometers’ for the 6-aside skittles season. But no, not really the Alcometers but a newly named and newly vamped team that will be seeking revenge on all who scoffed at our earlier efforts. Now you sporting readers should think of the renaissance of Manchester City in the world of football for a parallel. Just 3 members of the defunct team will remain and will be the spine of this newly formed unit, with 3 other potential stars of the Jamestown skittles community being invited to join this elite squad. Naturally, your correspondent has rebuffed all other offers (not yet received but probably lost in the post) and has accepted the offer to be part of this skittles series of revenge. Watch out for news of our successes in the New Year.
Christmas is here with a vengeance. From the beginning of November most of the music (except that played on your correspondent’s programme) has been festive in a way that is truly schmaltzy to my ears. Shops are garlanded with decorations and Santa has been busy in his grotto for several weeks already. ‘Christmas Country’ as a piece of music is already challenging ‘Norwegian Country’ as the worst song I have ever heard and there are still 32 days until Christmas – plenty of opportunities for repeated plays of this truly dreadful ditty!
Christmas time is, of course, Panto’ time on the island. I turned down offers to take part in the island’s offerings as, some of you will know, I have retired from thespian activities when opportunities to play juvenile leads inexplicably began to dry up. This year’s venture is ‘Sleeping Beauty’ and it has the added (and some might say topical and ironic twist) of the sleeping princess being played by a 15 year old girl and the Prince (who wakes the dormant Royal from her slumbers with a kiss) by a male star who will not be seeing his 55th
birthday again. My suggestion that he might wear accessories that would remind members of the audience of a deceased DJ who has featured in the news recently (think of a wig and a cigar) has not yet gone down well and have not been taken up. Maybe I retired too soon!
And finally, news of the revitalized TV service. Yours truly is now proudly in possession of the digitally revised, 15 channel television system. I now have 2 handsets and I can move quickly from cartoons, to beach volleyball, to Strictly Come Dancing (series 2 I think) to a range of films, not all sub-titled from the original Japanese. My first evening was spent using said new handset seeking programmes that might revive my jaded palette. Nothing, until I found the 2 local channels. The first was blank as it is reserved for blockbusters like replays of the great education debate. But the second is a most useful opportunity for those of us who have settled down in our armchairs and are not prepared to venture out into the unseasonable weather. A high definition, colour view of Main Street, Jamestown showing us who and what is going on – in live time. I have re-named this channel VSC – Virtual Stalkers Channel – as it allows me to follow who is doing what to whom and when all from the comfort of my own home. This being a Saturday morning I must leave you for a very busy session with my newly found and favourite TV channel.
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