Tuesday, July 12, 2005


In the news

Local news here operates on a different scale to anywhere else I have lived. 4,500 people don't produce that much that's newsworthy so the mandatory four minutes needs to be filled with things that most editors wouldn't even consider for an 'and finally ...'

For example, we get details of every road accident. As every accident has to be reported to the police, even if nobody was injured and you only damaged your own car, there are more reports than you would expect. However, as most people here drive extremely cautiously (sometimes frustratingly so), there are relatively few accidents to report, even under these criteria.

Now and again the reports are amusing. The following was in the SaintFM news yesterday. If you know Side Path you will appreciate the significance of it. If you don’t, imagine a narrow road, attached to the side of a near-vertical incline, with a three-foot high ‘retaining wall’ between you and the precipitous drop to the valley floor, then read on:

Two vehicles collided on Side Path Road. There was only minor damage to the vehicles and no serious injuries were sustained.

One of the drivers decided to sit down on the retaining wall – fell over – and all rescue services were involved in rescuing the driver.

The driver was found to be over the limit of alcohol in his breath and will appear in Court in due course.

Friday, July 08, 2005



Ants can be a bit of a nuisance.

In the UK ants live in holes in the ground. If they invade the house, you follow the trail back to the hole and pour boiling water down it. End of problem.

In St. Helena, unfortunately, the ants nest in the roof . . .

Furry Friends

When we first arrived in Piccolo Hill we noticed that, in addition to the usual wildlife (being mostly Mynah birds and cockroaches) there was a collection of donkeys. We soon learned that Penny (locally known as “Donkey Lady”) tended to collect donkeys that were being mistreated - more precisely, ignored – by their owners, and bring them onto Piccolo Hill for feeding up.

OK, a donkey snorting just outside your bedroom window at 3am takes some getting used to, but we adjusted and these days they are part of the scenery.

However, Penny doesn’t confine herself to donkeys, and doesn’t keep them all to herself either.

Our new neighbours arrived from Namibia and soon found that their eight-year old daughter had fallen in love with a ‘cute puppy’ that Penny just happened to have been carrying past the house, and so were forced to adopt it.

Similarly, Catherine, plied with a reasonable quantity of alcohol, submitted to the charms of a manky flea-bitten moggy which the kids have optimistically christened “Ginger”, which I suppose approximates to the colour he would be if we could ever get him clean.

Penny is not the only one involved. Gillian went back to the UK after the end of her contract here and left us with three female cats to look after – a stray and her two kittens. They are half wild, so won’t come in the house, but are happy to eat food if we leave it out on the porch. Which is where the trouble starts . . .

Firstly, Ginger objects to us caring for any cats beyond himself. So he chases off the others if he sees them around. Fortunately, Ginger, being a true tomcat, is rarely home, and they do manage to all get fed, though a fight breaks out – as it did at 7am this morning – if he catches one of them at it.

Secondly, word has got around the local cat population that there is food out, and we are now also regularly feeding an unidentified black-and-white-cat.

We are also feeding next door’s dog, who turns up uninvited and just helps himself. As he has grown remarkably – being now the size of the average wolf and twice as hungry - he eats plenty. As do the Mynah birds, several pigeons and more cockroaches than you can count.

Keeping animals here is complex and expensive. The cost we can bear - it's the need to keep the whole thing under control that's defeating us. Perhaps we should just hurl bags of opened cat food out onto the grass and just leave them all to get on with it.

Friday, July 01, 2005


A Cat and mouse tale - continued

Somebody who read the previous posting ("A Cat and mouse tale") thought that when I wrote "If it can't be fixed with a screwdriver and a monkey wrench it's too technical for St. Helena" I was impugning the skills of the local mechanics.

Let me clarify.

It's not the quality of the mechanics that causes the problems, its the availability of technical equipment. There is an ongoing project to import proper electronic diagnostic kit onto the island, but like so many St. Helena projects, it is proceeding at a leisurely pace.

Actually, I have immense respect for the mechanics of St. Helena. It must take considerable skill to keep the island’s collection of antique cars roadworthy (even by St. Helenian standards), despite limited access to the necessary equipment and especially to spare parts. Does anyone still make spares for a Mark 1 Capri?

My guess is that it is all done by cannibalisation, and the quantity of mostly-stripped cars around the island seems to support this theory. I assume that, when something breaks, the group of people who own that sort of car get together and draw lots to see who’s vehicle gets stripped down for spare parts to keep everyone else’s on the road.

Anyway, I have immense respect for the mechanics of St. Helena and would not wish to appear to have said anything to offend them.

Now please can I have my spark plugs back …….?

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