Friday, February 25, 2005


Friday Night

If you work in the UK or America you will be used to going out for a few drinks after work on a Friday. It happens here too, but with a few differences.

So I will soon be heading off to Donny's Bar on the seafront (open air) for the usual Friday night after-work gathering. A wide variety of people will be there, including various members of the government and most probably the bishop. We will have a few drinks - some a few more than others - and probably some of Donny's excellent Wahoo & Chips (it's a sort of barracuda) or a Goat Curry.

However, unlike the UK and (as I remember it) America, my wife and kids will join us after their swim (large public open-air pool with an entrance fee of 40p per person), which means I won't have any music to face when I get home. The kids can play hapily with other kids on the seafront and will doubtless make a few new friends.

Sun interference

At this time of year, and again in October/November, all Internet and telephone traffic to and from St. Helena gets cut off for a few minutes every day, at around 1.30pm. This is not routine maintenance but because the sun is shining directly down the satellite antenna and swamps the signals. So if you can't get through ....

The shopping experience

Shopping here is quite an experience. Yes there are the inevitable out-of-stock-until-the-next-ship issues, but the attitude of the shop staff is worthy of note. Two examples:

Ten-out-of-ten for trust and customer service.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005


Family arrival

My family arrived on the ship on Sunday. The arrival was more complicated than usual because the ship docked in Ruperts Bay, the one next door to Jamestown. This meant that unloading the passengers took longer and that they were offloaded with hand-baggage only, with the rest of the luggage to follow the next day. This was all because the ship was carrying an urgent consignment of diesel fuel and they needed to offload it as quickly as possible, which is odd because it is definitely petrol we are short of. I'm sure, like most things here, it makes sense to somebody.....

I had the fun of watching my wife go to the checkout with something whose price she didn't know, look in her purse and, judging the likely level, get out a ten-pound note, to be charged only 86 pence.

The chap in the UK from whom I was waiting for the information had his day off on Friday and has now come back to me, so we now have working equipment. Did you know that you can't dial a UK 0800- number from abroad? We did, but apparently our suppliers did not.

Friday, February 18, 2005


Update on the fruit supply (2)

Got some apples at 2pm. No queue and plenty left on the shelf. I guess everyone had gone home exhausted. Staff were looking a little battered.

Update on the fruit supply

At 10:30 there were so many people in the supermarket it looked like Day 1 of the Harrods Sale.

Supplies supplies

On the radio last night it was announced that a particular 'supermarket' (for which, in UK terms, read 'largish corner shop') would have fresh fruit on sale this morning. According to the sign in the window, the shop opens at 9:00. I just walked past (09:10) and: 1) the shop is not yet open; and 2) about 50% of the population is standing in a huddle outside. So if you want to make a fortune in St. Helena, forget diamonds or gold - just get yourself a few kilos of apples ....

Petrol is on sale today with no restrictions, but (it has been announced) will not be on sale at all from Saturday until Tuesday. I don't know what time the petrol station in Jamestown opens (probably 9:00ish, like the supermarket) but by 07:45 the road was blocked by queuing cars.

Apparently there are now onions for sale.

Despite all of this I can't imagine anywhere else I would rather be right now. It's warm, sunny, the people are smiling (still) and the beer supply is not apparently in danger.

And in case anyone in the UK is getting smug about how efficient everything is there, we just tried to sort out a technical problem which necessitated a call to our UK supplier, and was told that the only person who could deal with it is on holiday today and please could we call back on Monday.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005



[I was asked: "Where you get your electricity from. Diesel generator? Wind turbine? Tidal barrage? Or does the boat also bring some very large Duracells?"]

Duracells might be more reliable: electricity on St. Helena is available 24/7 in theory.

There is a large diesel generator which suplies most of the island's needs most of the time. However we did have an unplanned power outage last week for which there was an interesting explanation: they decided that two Mynas had been sitting on adjacent power lines and had started a fight, thus shorting out the lines and popping the circuit breakers.

There are three wind turbines to add extra capacity. Sadly only one of the wind turbines actually works - the others are waiting for spare parts (since about 2003). The electricity men refuse to climb the towers (Health and Safety) so only the boss, goes up there, manfully waving his socket-set in the hope of achieving something. He got the one that does work going, before which there were all just expensive eyesores.

Wave/Tidal power would seem the obvious solution but nobody has tried it yet. Obvious solutions aren't popular in St. Helena. And as the biggest 'river' is less than 1 foot wide I think we can forget hydro-electric. So, on the whole, Duracells would seem to be a good plan. Can you send us about 2,000,000-a-week?

Give my love to the National Grid.

'You should write a book ...'

[suggestion from a friend, to which I replied]
I may do that ... all the ex-pats here claim to be writing a book but none ever seem to have appeared. I may include the following story:

We needed a new set of keys cut for the bank (for me). The one place that cuts keys is on the other side of the island, so Richard ['old bank manager'] rang him up and checked that he could cut the sort of keys we have and then drove over there to get the keys cut. "Have you brought the blanks?" he was asked. It appears that if you want keys cut you have to buy your own blanks (in Jamestown) then take them out to the key-cutter with your keys for him to cut them. The frightening thing is that they don't think that is in any way strange!

Possibly the reason why people never publish their books is that nobody would believe it ......

Visitors will always be welcome. Suitable gifts would include CDs featuring anything other than Country&Western, batteries that are not out-of-date and telephone answering machines that actually work. Life here can be tough .....

Wire Birds and other fauna

[in reply to an email asking if I had seen a Wire Bird yet]

No wire birds yet, just lots of mynahs, sweet-but-dim birds (some sort of dove) and ferral canaries of various colours.

The mynah that fell into the water-tank has been removed and I now only occasionally get feathers in the bathwater.

The newspaper reported my arrival with the headline "New bank manager turns up for work", from which I infer that this is an unusual occurrence.

Someone has tethered a donkey in my front garden and I came home the other afternoon to find her grooming it on my doorstep.

I seem to have been adopted by a ginger tomcat.

The RMS St. Helena was delayed leaving Capetown because the load of explosives for St. Helena that it was waiting for hadn't arrived in time. I hope the passengers were impressed with that news.

Rock and roll - Jamestown in crisis

... well not really. It is actually fairly deserted and most people are sitting around waiting and watching in case something interesting happens (for 'interesting' read 'someone or something gets squashed'). There's a bundle of rocks perched on the top of the valley which they are dislodging in a 'controlled manner'. As far as anyone can see that involves levering them with a crowbar and standing well back. Apparently last time this happened they spent ages building a protective barrier, then levered the rocks loose, which bounced neatly over the protective barrier and into someone's kitchen. Fortunately they always evacuate so nobody was hurt but I imagine she was a little miffed when she read in the newspaper that the rocks had been 'successfully dealt with'

All part of life in Jamestown ....

[written on 10 February 2005 @10:32. Two hours later we were ordered out of the bank because more unstable rocks had been discovered above us. In the ensuing operation a local cafe ("Anne's Place") and the associated house were badly damaged by 2-3 tonnes of falling rock. Nobody was injured. Another successful operation.]

Emails from abroad

I received several emails from outside St. Helena congratulating me on my arrival. One, from someone in Russia, who I do not know, contained the question:

"How much does it cost to trip on the island?"

I assume he was asking about travel to St. Helena, not the availability of illegal substances .....


I arrived on St. Helena just over two weeks ago. This place is unbelievable. If I wasn't here I might not believe it myself. However, what will follow in this weblog is not a travelogue ... it's a collection of notes, moslty extracted from emails I have sent to friends and ex-colleagues in the UK, which give some insight into island life.

If you want to more about the island itself from an official source try:

Although I work for the Bank of St. Helena (, these are my own comments and do not represent the official views of the bank.

John Turner (locally known as "New Bank Manager")

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