Farewell Governor Lisa Honan

Lisa Honan nee Phillips was St Helena’s first female Governor (not counting female deputies stepping up) and on the 4th May Lisa and her husband Dave stepped onto the SA Airlink flight and left the island.

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^Lisa at a Remembrance Service

Lisa isn’t one for cheesy and sentimental farewells, but is one for social media activity and could actually read this, so I would never embarrass her by gushing about what an inspiration she had been to any other female aspiring to break glass ceilings, or all of the good she influenced.

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^Lisa Christmas Eve 2016

She will probably be mostly known for opening up Plantation House to St Helenians. Stories of governors and their wives previous to Lisa talk about keeping the house closed. For some, Plantation House was only their residence and was a private place. For Lisa, she felt she was a tenant and the House belonged to the people of St Helena.

Lisa summarised what had been achieved over the last three years during her time in office, including:

  • More openness and transparency of SHG business through more open meetings and real time reporting, more papers published online, Councillors’ ‘Oath of Confidentiality’ overturned, more public engagement through Social Media and more access to the Governor including through a Facebook page
  • Start of the first scheduled commercial air service to St Helena on 14 October 2017
  • Seamless transition of airport operations from Basil Read to St Helena Airport Limited
  • Family Refuge opened and protection orders for women affected by domestic violence introduced
  • Voting age lowered to 17 years
  • Island’s marine resource protected forever in law along with strict environmental legislation to protect biodiversity
  • First same sex marriage following passage of legislation; weddings also permitted anywhere on the Island
  • Funding secured for fibre optic internet cable which will massively improve connectivity.

Lisa made it her mission to invite everyone living on St Helena for tea during the course of her contract. There were black tie balls, BBQs, charity events and even weddings held at the house.  In 2017, our team even hosted our Christmas party there and I have particular fond memories of rapping to Eminem in the dining room(!).

Lisa also opened up the house to visitors regularly on Tuesdays and often on Sundays particularly when cruise ships were in. Many other attractions don’t open on Sundays, cruise ship or no cruise ship, and she aimed to fill a gap in the market to ensure people could at least see Jonathan and the house. Lisa even did tours herself from time to time, if it wasn’t the Head of the House Debbie doing it.

At the end of 2017/beginning of 2018 Dave and Lisa started dating and were married within a year or two, with a small ceremony in Lisa’s Office at the castle (!) and a small reception at their house.

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^Lisa and Dave Christmas Eve 2016

Dusty, Lisa’s dog, caused tongues to wag as much as her tail. Dusty was set upon by the local lothario (think Lady and the Tramp) and had a litter of puppies now known as ‘the Governor’s puppies’. There was also the story of Dusty going after and harming a sheep whilst Dave was walking her, and that is what exposed their relationship to the public. Still, the story became a part of theirs- their wedding cake showed parts of their life and that so called ‘scandal’ was a feature.

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Lisa had a door open policy, continually wrote about issues using social media and really engaged with local people. She will be sorely missed. In a world where female leaders are often judged more harshly then men, where what they wear is often reported on more that what they do, and a world where society doesn’t celebrate female role models often enough; on St Helena, for a few years at least, little girls growing up have been shown that they too could be influential. They could even become a Governor one day.

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^Lisa Honan and I April 2019

 

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The French Navy are coming

Those words spark such fun! A boat full of young visitors arriving on St Helena, bringing with them new information, interest and uniforms.

They arrived during the Easter weekend, when most people were out in fields camping and the towns were, apart from Saturday night, almost deserted.

But not wanting them to feel let down standing alone whilst circular tumbleweed blew about their ankles, some members of the public, for example the ‘media mogul’ Mike Olsson,  as well as my friend Aine and I, saw it as a civic duty to ensure that the troop had fun whilst they visited.

Aine and I first met the Senior Officers thanks to an introduction via Lisa, the Governor, when we were all in Jamestown together. We invited the officers to attend Aine’s party the next evening.

As it happened, Aine had arranged a fancy dress party for Easter, with the theme ‘Dream Job’. As it also happened, a box had arrived from the UK which had some of my fancy dress wear in it. As it also happened, in that box was a naval outfit which was bought for me for my Hen do, but didn’t come in time and had never been worn.

Fast forward to 11.30pm on Saturday night and you have a girl in a Navy fancy dress outfit, dancing with an air hostess, builder, cyclist, gymnast, ballerina, male nurse and many real French Naval Officers dressed as civilians. The story goes on, including a very civil evening at Plantation House, but it would be unfair to blog any further details about our new French friends, so I shall leave the story there. Anyway I’m sure the reader is only interested in pictures. And with that, I shall oblige.

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Districts -where to live

Recently I’ve been talking to a few people moving out to St Helena and looking for rental property. The question is always ‘which area should I live in?’.

I don’t pretend to be an expert, but having just moved from Jamestown to High Knoll Fort area, the pros and cons of different areas have been on my mind.

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The first consideration of anyone is distance to place of work. Whilst the furthest journey is 40 minutes, you won’t have a long commute wherever you live, but it is convenient to pop home after work before going out to the evening without having to do a long drive.

If you’re working in Jamestown for example, alarm forest to the east and cleugh’s plain or rosemary plain to the west is probably the limit of convenience (15 mins from town). Sandy Bay, Levelwood and Longwood is too far.

Working at the school, Kingshurst, St Paul’s or Half Tree Hollow is particularly convenient. Working at the airport, you’re looking at Longwood.

Some people choose to live in Jamestown or Half Tree Hollow regardless as that is where the majority of night life is, and a walk or quick taxi home is easy.

The next is the weather.

Jamestown is the warmest place on island, although to be fair, the sun is hidden by the hillside from around 5pm and the town will cool down in the evening. Many people think Jamestown is too hot; I lived in a flat with thick walls and a tree shading the front windows; my back windows were secure and left open all the time and I found it fine. Mind you, now I’m up the top of Half Tree Hollow I do prefer being a touch cooler. Rupert’s Valley is just as hot.

Some people argue the Briars is by far the best place on island, temperature wise, not only as the Briars is slightly further up James Valley but it is relatively green. No wonder the Briars is the ‘beverley hills’ of St Helena, with it’s large houses and nice gardens. The only negative about the Briars is that the sun disappears around 5pm again so less comfortable unless you are a fan of shade.

Half Tree Hollow, Cleugh’s Plain and Alarm Forest are a degree or two cooler than town, and benefit from being slightly less sweaty in the height of summer, yet not plagued by the constant rains in other areas. The higher you go the more likely you will be sitting in a cloud; there is quite a clear line by At Paul’s and Napoleon’s Tomb where you step away from temperate conditions into colder and rainier climes. There is even a turning called ‘Button Up Corner’ in Alarm Forest/two gun saddle. Some call the wetter areas ‘the mould belt’.

The bottom of Sandy Bay also has beautiful weather, once you’ve negotiated the twisty turny road heading towards the beach, but being so far south, well that starts to take ‘remoteness’ to new levels.

If you like rain and damp clothing then Hutt’s Gate, and to an extent Longwood, is the place for you.

The next is views. I’d argue that the sunset is most important only because I’m never early enough for sunrise. I’ve hit the jackpot living under High Knoll, whilst the rest of Half Tree Hollow, Cleugh’s Plain, Sapper Way, Rosemary Plain, near Horse Point, Alarm Forest and Blue Hill have pretty stunning views.

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I mentioned the Briars being where the Hoi Polloi live; Sapper Way and Cleugh’s Plain also share this reputation, with each house being detached with a nice driveway, garden and without overlooking neighbours.

How to find a home? If you are being employed, your employer will help set you up in a home. Otherwise you can check out the Property Shop or Thorpe’s accomodation amongst other sources. Often it’s easier to arrive on island and ask about -word of mouth usually helps you find the most suitable place for you to live.

 

Peter Greenberg’s Travel Show

In December we moved to two flights a week and it seemed to be a call for more journalists to visit.

One such team included Peter Greenberg and his researchers, who created both a TV programme for CBS and a radio programme for his weekly travel series.

The team contacted me as a result of writing this blog and I was the third interviewee featured on the radio show, reflecting views of a expat living on St Helena. Other interviewees included local business people, tour guides and historians.

Check out the show here:

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/traveltoday-with-peter-greenberg/2019/01/09/travel-today-with-peter-greenberg-st-helena

 

Reflecting from afar

I’m currently sitting in a chalet in the French Alps, having eaten some baked Camembert after a long day of skiing. I’m about as far from St Helena as I could possibly be right now, and it gave a good opportunity for reflection.

This is the first ‘real winter’ I’ve experienced in 3 years and hence the extreme choice of hanging around in -8° weather, putting a pear of planks on my feet and gliding on some snow whilst my friends on St Helena are basking in 28° sunshine.

It’s interesting being back in Europe. Without hanging on the differences I have experienced in Europe, I wanted to share some of the positives which I love about St Helena which contrast so very much from the life I experienced before.

Top 5 things I love about St Helena:

1. People on the whole are genuinely friendly. Whether you arrive as a tourist or a new resident, people will bend over backwards to make sure you’re ok. The concern doesn’t come from a place of politeness, and they don’t expect you to decline out of politeness, the offer is genuine. If someone says ‘i’ll drive you round the island as you have no car’ or ‘why not come to mine for dinner’ then you can say yes without feeling like you owe anything. If someone is good to you, pass on the act of kindness.

2. Nothing is very far. I’ve spend hours travelling around Europe, but in St Helena your longest drive is 40 minutes from Jamestown to Sandy Bay. And instead of paying loads of cash to train/fly/bus/drive, in St Helena, travel costs are peanuts.

3. Queues rarely happen. Except for at the Bank (although the airport bank and bank at the wharf, open selected hours is a way to bypass the queues at the Market St Branch). I gawffed at having to queue for a drink at Rosie’s once. Seriously, in Europe I spend so much of my life in a queue feeling like another digit to be dealt with.

4. Natural beauty is everywhere. Seriously, even the dump is pretty. Even the industrial area, Rupert’s, is pretty clean and even has a decent bar and volcanic beach for BBQing and swimming. Industrial areas aside, wow, from the rolling hills to the dry desert areas, to the tropical banana tree plantation to the forests, St Helena is amazing. It is also a place for mindfulness and deep reflection.

5. Wildlife is all around. Swimming with whale sharks Dec-Apr, spotting whales in the bay Jun-Oct and swimming with devil rays. Constantly hearing the crow of birds, even the deaths head hawk moth is a beauty.

This list is short and doesnt even mention things like heritage, food, and weather which area are also big plus points. I have  travelled a lot in my relatively short life, seeing over 90 countries, with different cultures, languages and environments. And still I have never been to a place as extraordinary as the remote island of St Helena.

If you are reading this and are wondering what it would be like to visit or move to St Helena, do have a browse of some of the blogs I’ve written, and believe me, this will be one of the most unique places you will ever come to.

 

 

St Helena’s Festival of Running

Today was the kick off of another Festival of Running in St Helena – showcasing one of the hardest marathons on earth. (Have you seen the hills!?)

For a girl who thinks ‘fun’ and ‘run’ has nothing in common, apart from the rhyme, as I have been working on my fitness ever since I returned from my holidays, even I have decided this year to join in to support the event.

This morning, the Marathon and Half Marathon runners started off from Prince Andrew School / Francis Plain at 7am. Because of the aforementioned difficulty of the marathon on St Helena, we usually only have a handful of runners, although this year there was a few more vying for the place, including a Saint Helenian from Tourism, two expats from the Health Directorate, a British runner, Australian runner, and another runner crazy enough to be doing a marathon a month.

I did the 10k with colleagues; I stuck with Annie at her pace; she did impressively after having an operation on her knee a mere year or so ago. We power walked up hills and jogged down them; and apart from the two relatively tough parts up to white wall from the Francis Plain, and from Red Gate past High Knoll fort area, it was a really lovely journey, through the eucalyptus trees of Scotland and past the stunning views of Cleugh’s Plain.

 

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A few days later and I also competed in the Triathlon. Joachim and Jack volunteered to help; the former for the cycle and the latter for the run. The brief swimming training I did paid off, and the partners who put themselves forward were just so amazing.

The open water swim started and to my surprise, the whole group started to veer to the right of the direct line to the Papanui.  Thanks to my good orienteering I came in second, 6 minutes behind Colby Thomas who swims at the Commonwealth / island games. Not bad! Jo raced up to the hospital and back twice on the bike and managed to make up 4 minutes on the team in the lead. Jack, started only two minutes behind the other team. Jack is strong, and powered up the hill, passing the other team before Constitution Hill. Jack made up 4 minutes to get to the finish line, and my gosh, we had won it!
Not only had we won the team event, our team won the overall course record with 54 minutes and 36 seconds! The team record was held previously at 57 minutes and 47 seconds by Colby Thomas, Anthony Thomas and Martin Collins.
We were all buzzing, not least Jack, who had been trying to beat the Ladder Challenge record for a few years, and was pipped to the 3k record by a few seconds. A couple of weeks before leaving the island for good, he finally managed to become a record holder!
See you at next year’s event.

Carnival!!

This week I am celebrating 2 years working and living in St Helena!

When I first arrived I was sad to have just missed the two yearly Carnival in aid of St Helena’s Cancer Support & Awareness Charity, the theme that time was ‘wings’. This year’s theme was ‘spirit of the sea’ and linking to the promotion of new fisheries products, as well as the amount of research in the marine sector in St Helena over the last couple of years, the theme was nothing short of genius.

The usual parade occurred from the Hospital to the sea front, with people dressed in home made costumes; there were whale sharks, jelly fish, Nemos, Moanas, mermaids, and a whole lot of colour and [marine friendly] glitter.

Our £1 donation was taken at the sea front and we were entertained by St Helena’s young people doing practiced dances. Even the tiny tiny ones danced on a stage to ‘baby shark’, a rapturous catchy tune which has taken the island by storm, much to the annoyance to anyone who has had the song stuck in their mind for longer than a few hours.

The gem was the St Helena Fisheries Corporation stall, which with the Fisherman’s Association, had banded together to catch, process, make and serve free samples of sashimi and sushi, with wasabi and soy trimmings. It was absolutely marvellous and allowed everyone to taste St Helena’s premium tuna raw – raw tuna has not historically been in fashion on the island, despite being hugely popular overseas. I do wonder how I can ever eat fish in the UK again, when I’ve been so spoilt with the quality and freshness here.  I think I already mentioned in another blog how I didn’t eat tuna (and other species) before arriving onto the island.

With the bouncy castle, the dances and the entertainment, the kids had a fantastic time, and after the sun set over the ocean, the big kids danced and partied the night away.