Congratulations to our friend Richard who started his job as Senior Editor for the St Helena Broadcasting (guarantee) Corporation Ltd (SHBC) yesterday. You will notice the title ‘Senior’, not ‘Junior’ nor ‘Chief’ not even “foreign’ or ‘Sport’. ‘Senior’ sounds pretty impressive, a post of some status within a complex hierarchy of editors that might make up this arm of the ‘Corporation Ltd.’ I spoke with Richard today (off the record, of course) about his new post and it was a little disappointing to read that he might, in fact, be the only editor within the organization. On the other hand, his title extends beyond the world of newsprint and on-line journalism (I will of course be keeping up to date with the stories, fictions and reports that make up the weekly potpourris that makes up the news diet of the island when I leave for the UK in a few weeks) to the airwaves of the 3 FM radio stations that have yet to properly emerge following the closure of not only St Helena Radio but, alas, my burgeoning career at the turntable.
‘Saint FM’ Radio is still closed, notwithstanding the efforts of a group of enthusiasts wishing to oversee its phoenix-like rise as a community-based station. And in very many ways it is missed. ‘Saint FM’ was the direct link between St Helena and the diaspora of Saints worldwide who, presumably, wished to listen to the mix of domestic and US country and western music and the individualistic approach to local news and broadcasting of its Swedish owner Mike Olsen. Saint FM’s sister newspaper ‘The Independent’ is full of the complex and political intrigue of its relationship with St Helena Government that it is more than happy to draw upon. Such is the complexity of the political scene of this tiny island (population around 4,000) that it is difficult to discern quite what is real, what is imagined, what is political spin and what is simple reporting of events. Now whether The Independent’s view of the world is based on secure reporting or fictional intrigue it is impossible, for an outsider, to work out. What is clearly true is that it disappears off the shelf a lot quicker than the ‘Sentinel’ that sometimes has all the humour and interest that one might expect to find in a parish magazine.
I suggested to Richard only this lunchtime that as ‘Senior Editor’ he might like to make the Sentinel a little closer to the ‘cutting edge’ of journalism. Quite correctly he wasn’t going to be persuaded by a casual street conversation but I look forward with interest to this week’s edition. Will Richard be introducing the rather casual and cavalier approach to spelling and grammar featured on his Facebook page to the sharp edge of popular journalism?
Regarding the airwaves, it was suggested by the chief of SHBC that I would like to consider re-starting my radio career but, unfortunately, the short duration of my stay prevents that from happening – unless of course the ‘senior editor’ wishes to appoint a Foreign Correspondent to keep the residents of this wonderful island informed of all the machinations of Much Wenlock Town Council or, even, beyond. As we say in the newsprint industry ‘watch that space’!
Now, something of a media disappointment to report. Two of the attractions of the new 15 TV channel service were the additional channels (16 & 17) with fixed views of Main Street and The Bridge, both in Jamestown. Whether some unfortunate incident had been recorded and shown on Channel 16 one may not know but for the past couple of weeks the channel designed to illuminate the arm chair voyeur’s view of the metropolis has been blank. No more can one enjoy the flash of headlights as the Ford Cortina chugs its way out of the town and into (one imagines) the country.
Although the quality of the road surfaces on the island leaves something to be desired on occasion, the road system is one of the un-sung delights of the island. The roads meander and hair-pin their way between the volcanic blocks that make up the island in a most magical way. Obvious are the 2 exits from Jamestown to the interior – Ladder Hill towards the suburban Half Tree Hollow and the interior hamlets of Blue Hill and Sandy Bay and, secondly, Side Path taking the traveller via Seaview towards Longwood, Deadwood and Levelwood. Ladder Hill is the more interesting of the two as it winds its way, hugging the cliff side towards the top of Jacob’s Ladder. Going up or going down requires some planning – don’t go too soon or you will be faced with a bit of tricky maneuvering as 2 cars try to fit into the space for one and a half vehicles. Some tricky uphill reversing leading to scrapes on the side of the car could result.
More beautiful and less obvious are the charms of the ‘W Road’ between St Paul’s and ‘The Dungeon’ that opens up to beautiful and open views of the interior; uphill to ‘Bate’s Branch’ – left to High Point and Blue Hill – or straight on towards Sandy Bay open up glorious vistas made golden by the peculiar sun of this equatorial summer. These are the paths of my evening walks – what delight as every turn opens up pasture land, high cliff or moonscapes down towards the sea.
But recently driving has been something of a difficulty. Infrastructure work has led to the closure of roads for important work to be done. But the absence of coherent radio broadcasting (see above) has led to the receipt of information of road closures being something of a haphazard feature of life. Yesterday (Tuesday) I drove in comfort to an early morning meeting at Harford School in Longwood. The return trip was less comfortable – arriving in time at St Paul’s School was always going to be tight – firstly the Dungeon to Gordon’s Post had closed for roadworks (I found out later, for 8 weeks – I trust arrangements have been made for the cortege journey between St Matthew’s Church and the Dungeon graveyard)) and I needed to take a circular detour – a journey on the recently re-furbished road not without its attractions but not helpful for a quick trip. A few minutes later than planned I arrived at the foot of Pouncey’s (the steep track leading past my destination) to be met by a supercharged digger and a team of workmen. ‘How long will you be?’ was the query – ‘About an hour’ was my reply met with a shake of the head and the need to climb the steep hill to my destination. Overheated and not a little sticky (80+% humidity this week) I arrived more than a few minutes late. No one seemed to mind!
Jamestown this evening was another occasion for road closure – the centre of the capital was closed because it is Shrove Tuesday – a delightful occasion for old-fashioned pancake races and sales up Main Street. Quietly enthusiastic Saints cheered on the competitors in the various races the rules of which seemed to have been made up as the event went along. A charming and thoroughly enjoyable road closure but not one that I read about, Richard, in last week’s edition.
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