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St Helena

Postal and courier services to St Helena – is it really that difficult

Recent discussions about the difficulty of receiving regular mail on St Helena in a reasonable time frame has left many recipients disappointed,  Air freight customers have also reported long delays even when using dedicated freight forwarding services to St Helena that attract a premium rate has not been totally satisfied. 

An investigation carried out by St Helena online into how the process of trying to get regular mail and goods couriered quickly to St Helena has resulted in the following..

We all know that logistically St Helena is a difficult place to get anything delivered to, whether it is a simple letter, a much needed spare part for an appliance or a replacement car part. 

Royal mail to St Helena. 

The question was raised with Royal Mail in the UK about the postal service connectivity to St Helena, Royal mail advised that specific items sent from the UK to St Helena is the aim is to be delivered within five to seven working days after posting.

When asked about what if mail or parcels get lost? According to the royal mail, an item being sent is only considered lost if it’s not delivered within 20 working days after that date it was due to be delivered. For an item going to the rest of the world, it’s 25 working days. If any items haven’t been delivered within these timescales, they advise the sender in the UK to complete a claim form for the loss of the items.   

Freight service agents view.

In speaking directly to some of the main St Helena air freight forwarding agents based in the UK the experience varied with the Air freight service that goes out via Joburg, some reported the odd delays whereas another was experiencing longer delays. In most cases St Helena air freight services in the UK relies on third party services to move air cargo to Joburg using the DHL transport service connecting the goods with Air links cargo services that will then fly the couriered items to St Helena. It was also noted that the best service to the Island was experienced via the previous direct Titan charter flights that was laid on by the St Helena Government during the pandemic.

Airlinks response to cargo delays.

When speaking directly to Airlink SA who is the service provider for both  passengers and cargo operations to the Island,  they explained that given the limited flights and available cargo capacity and the number of passengers and  luggage traveling to the Island,  it is rather unfortunate that they are unable to do great cargo uplifts from Jo-burg. This results in solicit guidance and assistance from the agent Solomons on the priority of the cargo and this in turn gets discussed with the St Helena Government  and a priority list is  given to work off. The priority list is pharmaceuticals, medication, diplomatic mail, DHL goods and perishables. It is hoped that with the introduction of weekly flights from the 8th October could minimize the extended offloads and stress this brings to all on the Island.

Jamestown post office

On St Helena, the Jamestown post office is operating business as usual with regular mail being distributed around the world to normal destinations such as the United Kingdom, all of the european countries including Italy, Portugal, Poland, Germany, Ukraine, Australia, Seychelles, USA, and as far as Japan and the rest of Asia. The post office on St Helena is also responsible for processing orders for stamp and currency collectors which continues to be successful.

Outgoing mail from St Helena is sent via Capetown on each call of the MV Helena, some letter and documentation is sent on the flight via Jo’burg, and also letters and packages can be sent on the Airlink flight via Ascension if there is space availability.

Lead times on mail sent via Ascension Island also depend on RAF flight availability, small parcels and mail is also dispatched on the MV Helena quarterly visits via Ascension. Incoming mail to St Helena is normally received via Capetown on the MV Helena or via the Ascension Island flights and the MV Helena when she sails from Ascension Island. 

Any one sending parcels to the Island that is over 2kgs should expect it to take longer to reach the Island as these are normally despatched via shipments and in most cases will go to South Africa before being sent to St Helena. It is highly recommended that written within the address to dispatch mail and parcels via Ascension Island, as this is proven to be the most reliable and faster route, it is also recommended to keep the parcel weight just under 2kg. If you are sending anything to St Helena remember to use the postcode STHL 1ZZ as the royal mail system is designed to route the mail correctly to St Helena Island on the South Atlantic.

Airlink St Helena

St Helena COVID-19 restrictions is lifted St Helena is open

St Helena’s quarantine restrictions were lifted today.

From today 8th of August 2022, no testing is required on arrival in St Helena and no Isolation periods are needed.

An application for a court injunction against the St Helena Government’s decision was submitted by Mrs Olive Brown on the weekend on the behalf of the anti Covid restriction supporters, the application received a response from the legal system but it was not supported with several valid statements identifying “that there is a process in place to tackle a community outbreak of COVID-19 and protocols have been followed, It was noted that there was a lack of detail written in the application.

Local media also reported that the Chief Justice said that there was no  part in his jurisdiction to decide on the merits of the policy to remove quarantine restrictions but only decide if the decision was unlawful.

Incidentally there were some international arrivals by sea today.

The MV Helena was scheduled to arrive AM today and also the regular fuel delivery tanker was also in Rupert’s bay.

When entering St Helena, vaccination status are not affected, some local organizations and businesses are introducing COVID free zones where as mask are required on entry such as the hospitals and some shops and stores, limited access is also in place at elderly care facilities including SHAPE in Sandy bay  and other vulnerable establishments, there are several local recommendations eg isolating if you have symptoms etc.

The next flight is due to arrive from Johansburg on Saturday the 13th August. 

St Helena is now open. 

More information on visiting and exploring St Helena is available from the St Helena Tourism Services website www.sthelenatourism.com  

You can fly to St Helena https://www.flyairlink.com/en/za/

You can get in touch with local tour operators or book bed and breakfasts here www.islandimages.co.sh 

Do you fancy diving in St Helena you can visit www.divesainthelena.com or https://www.stadventures.com/

Looking for self catering and bed and breakfast accommodation?

How about checking out the  property finder St Helena. www.propertyfindersthelena.com 

Get St Helena at your fingertips www.insidesthelena.com

Help us to raise funds to fund two TVs for clients of the CCC

All.

I saw an advert today, on St Helena.

The advert in summary said “help us to raise funds to fund two TVs for clients of the community care complex or what is known locally as the CCC.

For those who don’t know, the CCC is the complex where the elderly on St Helena are cared for when they need that extra care or when they can no longer be cared for at home.

It took a while to get my head around the advert as to why the clients of the CCC on St Helena cannot enjoy something simple in life that we take for granted every day.

Tonight, I decided to reach out to one of the organizers to try and understand the situation, 

Immediately one of the organizers responded with a voice call all the way from St Helena to explain and in short two TV’s will be ordered from the UK and will be shipped to the Island via the transhipping service. 

I have decided I need to work out a way to help in some way; for those who know me other than the person who pops up every now and then and also looks after St Helena Online, I am passionate about anything Island related and I want to make a difference, under normal circumstances I am a little too proud to openly ask for help, and I never seek recognition for anything I do for St Helena, On this occasion I just want to help and improve the quality of life and help the clients of the CCC.

I have a simple idea to share, however before I do I want to gauge your interest to include the over 4k members connected to this St Helena group  to see if you are willing to consider helping also?

Take a little time out, don’t be alarmed, it’s only going to be a small ask by way of a small donation of choice to go directly to the clients of the CCC. (I know times are tight)

If there is enough interest then WE YES WE TOGETHER can make a difference to change someone’s life.

I would also like to add that you might not have to use this service of the CCC on St Helena but you might have a friend or relative who will have to call on this service sometime in their life.

Share your thoughts and please share this post.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Johnny Clingham.

More info here on the Facebook group

St Helena protest

Why were Saints protesting in Jamestown

It’s not your normal buzz around Jamestown at 11 am on Saturday 23rd July but a damp morning with a slight drizzle of rain, However that wasn’t enough to dampen the views of a small crowd of protesters/demonstrators who are making their way down main street towards the Castle gate with a petition in their hand of 1301 signatures.  

The protest gathering was made up of residents from various districts around the Island who were also joined by backbenchers Cllr Dr Corinda Essex and Clle Ronald Coleman.

The main reason for the protest was to vent some Individual Island frustration in support of those who are not in favor of the decision that was made by the Islands executive council to lift all of the quarantine restrictions from Monday the 8th of August 2022.

The original petition.

“We call on our Ministers to review their decision of 21st June 2022, that with effect from Monday, 8 August 2022, quarantine will no longer be a legal requirement on St Helena”.

On the frontline a large banner stood out with the words “Different rules for you and me, we want our Island covid-free” Other banners amongst the crowd displayed messages and slogans expressing feelings of the decision.

Peter Young who originates from the Briars and is well known on St Helena for his creativity for paraded events, sign wrote on his pickup truck which read  “Remember Remember, that December twenty twenty” with images depicting images of some of the current ministers who were against home quarantine back in 2020.

Peter also held up a sign which read “test for lice, test for fleas test for COVID I beg you please”

On arrival at the Castle entrance, The ministers and several  backbenchers including the Chief Secretary met the protesters.

Councilor Ronald Coleman, who was part of the protest , opened his speech and spoke loudly by thanking  the crowd for the overwhelming support, Ronald said “people are not happy with the decision that the ministers had made in opening up of the Island, and he was there to support the protest as asked by the organizers,” Ronald also  spoke on a few documented subjects that was submitted prior but not included in the original reason for protesting.

The subjects summary.

  • “They were very disappointed with the ministerial system  that they were promised openness and transparency and they have got just the opposite they don’t expect changes to be over night but what they have seen so far is not what was promised, “
  • “They have doubts about the public health preparedness to cope with the outbreak of COVID in the community on the basis that the numbers of nursing staff, how did they calculate that for the long term and the additional staff to be available,”
  • “How many working ventilators are expected to be required? How many do they have and how many are working, how would they be maintained,”
  • “They wanted to know if the oxygen plant at bradleys now fully functional, can the island produce sufficient oxygen for a worse case scenario,”
  • “The Island has recently experience a shortage of medicine and what steps has been taken for the continuity of these supplies, including the antiviral and covid treatments”
  • “Has the ministers taken into consideration of the alarming news from the world health organization regarding the rapid spread of the new variant of covid, the forecast of the IMF, the effects of war in eastern europe ”

Ronald ended his speech by stating “those wishing to come to the island are very welcome but should be prepared to spend 5 days in lockdown as everything comes with a price.” This statement had the protesters in agreement .

Ronald then invited anybody to speak before a petition was to be handed over to Chief Minister Julie Thomas.

During the Chief Minister’s response she was interrupted many times by dissatisfied protesters who mentioned that she was repeating what they already knew or had been published in local media.

A lady told the Chief minister “All we are asking is one small thing and that’s to test people on arrival to St Helena”, protesters supported her by shouting yes.

Many other strong topics relating to the reopening of the Island were expressed and the Chief Minister did her utmost in answering but on many occasions was interrupted by other protesters before she could give a full explanation.

Another lady spoke loudly “We are down here like fools, nothing is going to change because you’ll be on that side for everything, did you come  first and ask us”. The Chief Minister tried to address the statement but again was interrupted by frustrated protestors arraying NO.

Tensions and frustrations ran high amongst the protestors, when questioned by the Chief Minister asking if they’d like for her to continue she was told to “Throw it in the bin”

It was also said from the crowd that ” You need to listen to the St Helena people as well” The Chief Minister replied “Remember this is a good crowd here and I thank them for coming but it’s not everybody in St Helena.”

Mrs Olive Brown presented the petition to the Chief Minister with what is believed to be over 1300 signatures which is around 25+% of the island’s population.

The Chief Minister made an attempt to conclude the protest by thanking everybody who attended but was ask “when can the community expect a reply” Chief minister thomas replied “I’ll send you what I was going to say and what I started to say” Some dissatisfied protesters shouted “the best thing you’ll do is resign.” 

Ministers and councilors returned to the Castle shortly after.

Updated.

Below is a response to the petition from the Cheif Minister

slaves

A review of a Story of Bones

The Film “A Story of Bones” and the subsequent media articles had me questioning everything, from my identity to my sanity.

I understood that the basis of the story line would be that the Liberated African remains removed from Rupert’s Upper Burial Ground during planned excavations in 2008 were still being stored in the Pipe store some 14 years later after a promise of reburial. I accept that. It is not a fact that I am proud of, but it is a fact. This part of our history is certainly something that we need to talk more about.

The film implies that nothing has been done over the 14 Years. It asks ‘so why has it taken so long? Is it colonialism? Is it racism? Is it unnecessary bureaucracy?’ However, disappointingly at no point does the film ask the question ‘is it the desire to do what is right as more information becomes available?’

If you looked no further than the film and the associated media you might not be aware that anything is being done at all. Yet there is a Liberated African Advisory Committee (the LAAC) that has worked in the background for some time to try to do what they believe is right…

The LAAC produced a Master Plan for reburial of the Liberated African Remains, setting out some of the recent history. From this we derive a timeline:

Event Timeline

1950s – 1970s.
Human remains were periodically disturbed in Rupert’s Valley, through housing construction and weather.
1985.
Construction of St Helena Island’s Power Station and Mid-Valley Fuel Farm disturbs large numbers of graves.
A Committee of Enquiry recommends that the remains be reinterred in Rupert’s Valley, and that the opening of the power station be accompanied by a multi-faith ceremony of blessing. Instead, the remains are reburied in land adjacent to St Paul’s Cathedral in the centre of the island 10 years later. St Helena Government subsequently apologises for its actions
2006.
Human remains are revealed in geotechnical test pits dug in Rupert’s Valley for the Airport Project (Atkins).
2007.
Archaeological evaluation in Rupert’s Valley reveals skeletons in the lower and upper graveyards. Environmental Statement for the Airport Project published.
Cultural Heritage, particularly around Rupert’s and the Liberated Africans, is a key part of the Environmental Statement. It was this research that led to the subsequent publications by Dr Andrew Pearson (Infernal Traffic 2011 A. Pearson, B.Jeffs, A. Witkin, H. MacQuarrie )
2008.
Airport Project planning documentation, including Environmental Statement, approved by Executive Council. Archaeological excavation is carried out in a part of the upper graveyard, to facilitate construction of the Airport Haul Road. 325 human skeletons are exhumed and placed in archival storage boxes in the Pipe Building, Jamestown. This work was led by Dr Andrew Pearson and his team. Community engagement and awareness raising took place throughout the excavation.
Initial agreement with International Slavery Museum in Liverpool for loan of artefacts.
(End 2008). Airport Project ‘paused’.’
Project Outline and Estimate’ Report prepared by Ben Jeffs and Dr Andrew Pearson, followed by outline ossuary design.
2009.
(Early 2009). Advice sought on how to meet the requirements of the Environmental Statement in light of the ‘Pause’.
Osteological Analysis of excavated remains commences, led by Dr Andrew Pearson.
Reinterment Options Paper prepared by Dr Andrew Pearson and Ben Jeffs.
Following discussions with the Executive Council, the Acting Governor advises preference for an Ossuary in Rupert’s December 2009.
2010.
(March 2010). Outline design proposal for an Ossuary endorsed by Executive Council.
2011.
Specifications for an Ossuary prepared by Dr Andrew Pearson and Ben Jeffs.
Planning application submitted for an Ossuary in November.
Planning application approved. Design, Build and Operate Contract signed for the Airport. Excavation monograph Infernal Traffic by Dr Andrew Pearson published.
2012.
Civil, Society, Tourism and Leisure Committee recommends reverting to original plans for reburial in Rupert’s, following lifting of the ‘Pause’ and approval of the Airport Project.
Air Access designated lead on Liberated African Remains (primarily due to having oversight of on-site environmental mitigation process).
Haul road construction commences in Rupert’s Valley.
Airport Project works in upper Rupert’s Valley, away from the haul road, disturbed the graves.
These are inspected by the Museum of St Helena before being re-covered. Spoil excavated in the upper valley, within the construction corridor for the new fuel farm, is also found to contain much comminute human bone: this material was up-cast derived from Power Station construction deposited there in 1985.
Samples from the human remains in the Pipe Building are taken, to facilitate stable isotope and DNA analyses (EuroTAST project).
2013.
Draft Rupert’s Development Plan recognises heritage considerations, including the African graveyards, as being of ‘material significance’ to planning decisions.
2014.
Stakeholder Group established, chaired by Director St Helena National Trust.
Dr Andrew Pearson contracted to advise on potential for relocation of the Liberated African Remains.
Liberty Bound exhibition opens at International Slavery Museum, Liverpool.
Haul Road construction completed. No human remains were encountered during its construction.
(August 2014). Possible relocation of human remains from the Pipe Building considered and rejected.
Rupert’s Valley Development Plan in the process of revision.
Human bone disinterred during Air Access works, on ground immediately above the 2008 excavation area (December).
2015.
Survey carried out on-island and amongst key stakeholders in the scientific community to consider options for reinternment of Liberated African Remains. Response largely in favor of reburial in Rupert’s.
2015/16.
Proposal for use of site near St Michael’s Church/Temporary Fuel Farm Area.
Call for ideas/designs for the reburial/memorial site.
Extensive discussion with the Executive Council around timing of reburial. Strong preference for this to take place following demobilisation of the Airport Project. Large construction works and heavy plant operations near to the proposed site in Rupert’s are not deemed ‘quiet and restful’ but it was noted that these construction works would be temporary.
2016.
Proposed site designated a burial ground – approval granted by Executive Council.
2017.
Executive Council mandate for LAAC.
Artefacts loaned to International Slavery Museum returned to St Helena.
2018.
LAAC Report on Reinterment Options endorsed by Executive Council.
Reburial continued to be a preferred option – options for an Ossuary ruled out.
Executive Council directed that the materials returned from the international Slavery Museum are displayed at the St Helena Museum until near the date for reburial to allow the local community to engage on this topic.
Executive Council further directed that the grave goods are then reburied with the human remains they were unearthed with.
2019.
2019/2020 LEMP team responsible for clearance of invasive species and completion of minor landscaping at both burial grounds in Rupert’s in advance of further funding for large-scale landscaping.
£20,000 Funding received from FCO for Project support to progress Reburial, Interpretation and Memorialisation.
Dec 2019 Project Co-ordinator and Archaeologist contracted to deliver on 8 specific work components, namely:

1. Determine the process for NCA designation and draft a Cultural Heritage Management Plan.
2. Produce proposal and EoI for Geophysics survey in Rupert’s Valley, commission work.
3. Produce business case and cost concept for interpretive signage, commission work.
4. Produce business case and cost concept for coffins.
5. Produce business case and cost concepts for artefact replicas.
6. Produce plan for Landscaping and Protection for known and newly identified burial grounds.
7. Produce Memorialisation and Reburial Plan.
8. Compile Terms of Reference for Design Consultant for Interpretive Centre, Memorial and Reburial sites.
2020.
Public information sessions held by LAAC in Rupert’s and Jamestown to inform the local community on 7 work deliverables conducted by Project Coordinator.
Project deliverables completed in end March 2020.
(March 2020).Limited travel opportunities due to COVID-19 Shipping and procurement delays.

The above timeline tells the modern history of the Liberated African graveyards in Rupert’s Valley. Not much of this appears in A Story of Bones. But it is important that you know this. The story of the Liberated African Remains deserves to be much more.

Most worrying is that A Story of Bones is classified as a documentary. I expected the film to also tell the significance of the story behind the bones and how they got there. To tell the whole story from the Vice Admiralty court set up here in June 1840. As an aside, Charles Hodson the Judge for the Court was the former owner of my 4 x Great Grandparents – James and Susannah (Susan) Lawrence and Charles and Mary Riley before they were emancipated in 1827. There are direct links from the Liberated African story with the wider story of slavery on St Helena that resonate today.

The original Depot receiving the captured vessels was in Lemon Valley where it was operational from 1840 -1844 after which it was moved to Ruperts. At Lemon Valley bodies were buried at Sea and near the buildings due to the narrowness of the valley (Infernal traffic). At Rupert’s there are two known graveyards, not one as suggested in the film. It makes me question why is only one shown? Why is one more significant than the others? If it matters how we chose to remember then surely we should remember them all?

I felt that only the part of the story that could be sensationalised has been told in the film with lots of subliminal messaging to push the colonial and colour element. The film says the Pipe Store is a wing of the prison. The Master Plan says it was a store for pipes and plumbing materials that was turned to a flax museum. The film says the burial at St Pauls is on the outskirts of the cemetery. If you live on St Helena you can visit St Paul’s cemetery and see that the burial took place in the area designated for non-Anglican faiths, a quiet, shady, restful spot. The scene with the gun, the scene chosen from a local drama Dottie Comes Home, the scene at the public meeting, even the scene showing the royal wedding being watched by a local household were all chosen to paint a picture of St Helena. This picture does not put these images into the context of the St Helena I know: no wonder the impression it gives is skewed. Even more disappointing, it bears no resemblance to the 2017 screening of the first cut of the film on-island. What changed?

Perhaps more so than the actual film are the inaccuracies in the media that surrounds it all that troubles me. In particular this quote from one of the filmmakers accusing the Government of gaslighting… “We did have some problems with not being allowed access to certain places and people of influence. The island is 77% run by the British Government so if they want to shut something down then that’s how it intends to work. The issues we found were more geared to closed doors and less with lack of communication. The government was very persistent in letting us know that there was nothing to worry about and that everything was just fine. So, there was definitely a lot of gaslighting going on. We do anticipate that this will get worse as this documentary starts to get more momentum at different film festivals and on the BBC Network, however it is a story that needs to be told and we intend to tell it,” said Curran. Source:https://thehollywoodtimes.today/first-time-filmmakers-make-stand-tribeca-2022/

Gaslighting? A pretty serious accusation when much of the historical footage was taken from the records produced by the St Helena Government and there is much in the public domain… Similarly, there seems to be a theme along the lines: Eager to stay on schedule, the Government ordered the excavation of 325 individuals and stored them in a wing of the island’s prison, where they have been boxed, in desperate conditions, since 2009. But as the contractors pushed on and bones kept surfacing, the responsibility was placed in Annina’s charge, as the project’s Environmental Officer. She poignantly confessed that ‘every time we find another piece of human remains, I can’t sleep that night.’ The repeated delays in reburying and memorializing these victims of slavery is compounded by Annina’s discovery of tapes revealing that the UK Government knowingly disturbed the burial grounds for decades. Outraged, Annina resigns and sets out to hold the Government accountable. Feeling increasingly isolated on the island, Annina looked to the outside world for help. There she found an ally in Peggy King Jorde, a renowned African American preservationist whose work – thirty years earlier – was born of a similar struggle, and produced New York’s African Burial Ground National Monument.

Source: https://goodpitch.org/project/a-story-of-bones/

Annina van Neel arrives from Namibia to help with the construction and is present when the remains of thousands of “freed slaves” are uncovered. Heeding her increasing discomfort with how the bones are handled, Nina campaigns tirelessly to honor their legacy and integrate them into the history of the island – their fate is, after all, intertwined with that of Napoleon’s.

Source: https://tribecafilm.com/films/story-of-bones-2022

As the Environmental Officer for Saint Helena’s doomed airport, Annina witnessed the unearthing of a terrible secret – a mass burial ground of 8,000 formerly enslaved Africans. Haunted by this injustice – and echoes of her childhood in Apartheid Namibia – she now fights for memorialisation of these forgotten victims. Source: http://film-directory.britishcouncil.org/a-story-of-bones It’s disappointing that these sources do not mention that the history of the Liberated African Remains has been known on-island and carried through our local stories since the original burials in the 1800s. The recent work through the Airport Environmental Statement and beyond has helped us to document this.

Having done my research my sanity is restored. As most of you will know, I worked on the Airport Project. I wasn’t directly involved in this element of the project but I did witness some of the work being done. It is documented, both on-island and via scientific texts, in documents such as the Environmental Statement, the Reinterment Options Paper, Infernal Traffic, the Eurotast study, the LAAC Options for Reburial, the LAAC Master Plan and others. I know I didn’t imagine it all.

Yes, it has been challenging. But very quietly, over a number of years, the local community has been making progress to reach the outcome it wants. The LAAC has co-ordinated with stakeholders to reach agreement on the burial site in Ruperts. Prince Andrew School and our students there have given up their time to construct caskets for the reburial. Our local Museum has served as custodian of the grave goods and told the story of the Liberated Africans to anyone willing to listen.

Led by the LAAC and with the assistance of local volunteers, from early 2022 the Liberated African remains now reside in Rupert’s. Each individual is being transferred into a casket and being readied for reburial. This did not happen through adverts in the local paper or through a Facebook appeal: hands were needed and the community quietly came together to use the limited funding available to get the best result possible.

It has been a long, often frustrating journey to get where we are but I’m comfortable with the fact that it has taken 14 years, simply because the outcome now will be much better than that proposed 14 years ago.

I know that the storyline behind A Story of Bones is chosen because it is one that will sell. I hope it isn’t to the detriment of our community and that it will actually help to fund the whole story being told. My favourite line from the film is… “It’s not an African story, it’s not a black story, it’s a human story”. And it is our story. It matters how we choose to remember…

Chef Roy

Chef Roy’s Kitchen – A Culinary Artist’s Lifestyle

Tomato and herbs smoulder in the pan as I arrive to experience an hour in Chef Roy’s kitchen at the Consulate Hotel, Main Street on 3rd August 2021. Crispy, soft cheese rolls are just being removed from the big ovens and set aside to cool for elevenses.

They are perfect.

You could mistake him for a ‘hairy biker’ or a heavy metal enthusiast. At the age of 17, Roy Richards decided that he wanted to go into the hospitality industry and become a chef. His Father and Mother both enjoy culinary competence, although he suggests his Dad is more adventurous when it comes to recipes.

He didn’t wait to complete his exams before enquiring about jobs and once exams were wound up, he was offered a job at Haute Cabriere in Franschhoek, South Africa. A fine dining establishment, so Roy’s training would be gruelling to meet the requirements.

In the early days, he worked with one of South Africa’s most famous chefs Matthew Gordon.

The team are heads down as there is much to do before the service bell goes for lunch at noon in the Consulate. I squeeze into the corner to avoid getting in anyone’s way as I enquire whether Roy runs a Gordon Ramsay style kitchen. Whilst things can get quite frenzied at times, especially for group bookings and Saturday brunch, the entire consulate doesn’t hear profanities being thrown around like noodles in a sizzling wok.

Roy removes one of his knives and chops onions expertly, no fuss. I think about my own onion chopping and the annoying moments when the onion splits and bits go hurtling to the floor. There are chefs and then there are chefs. Like any craft, the preparation of food also requires spirit for best creativity.

After working in various establishments, he joined the RMS St Helena in 2003. He was the second choice but got the job and there began his devotion for the Saints and the Island. With the odd bowl of soup being dropped twice before service (and he had to quickly rustle up another one from scratch) and a whole pot of lamb stew going on the floor just before lunch, disasters were rare. He talked about how well stocked the RMS always was, how he tried to re-use the ingredients which was never servedto limit wastage and how pleased Saint Helenians were with their island cuisine. Whilst first class dining was available, Saints were often just happy with their bit of curry, stew or pea soup.

As he stirs the tomato paste in the pan, we talk about the tastiness of such a simple recipe. It seems surprising that no one has bottled it up and sold it in masses yet. Or have they? Roy says that when he first heard about tomato paste he thought, “What’s so special about something that sounds like tomato puree?” Then he tasted it………

When the RMS sailed away for the last time, Roy secured a job working at the Mantis Hotel in Main Street. He talks about the logistical challenges of having the kitchen in the basement and how tiring it was for the waiters and waitresses. With no service lift, the work was exhausting.

At one point, Roy thought that he and his partner Michele might have had to leave the island when his time at The Mantis Hotel came to an end. Thankfully he found a bolthole in The Consulate Hotel and the food that he now serves is far more affordable and personalised, rejection is often redirection. He has good ventilation at the Consulate and this ‘Gentle Giant’ needs all the space he can get. He is extremely grateful to the owners, Hazel and Peter for their support in setting up shop.

Roy admits that he loves cooking so much that Michele has only ever cooked for him five times in the ten years they have been together. I’m sure many partners would quite appreciate this setup.  Lucky Michele!

Every afternoon, Roy wonders the shops to see what ingredients he can find. He never decides on a menu the day before (and we love that the menu is suitably-sized so that we are assured of fresh vibrant flavours every day). He only decides in the morning. He proudly shows me an island pepper which has been ripening nicely, his local supply chains is vital to the viability of the business. He doesn’t often go without the main ingredients because he honours his suppliers every week and uses the seasonal vegetables smartly. Maybe the world at large could learn something from those establishments that source locally and seasonally, maybe there wouldn’t be as much wastage. Unfortunately, the journey from food source to plate isn’t as economically or logistically simple as that, especially when the word profit pops up. 

Property rents and rates can at times be a kill-joy for businesses, hence why the customer ends up paying through the nose for good food (or not so good food) in nice venues. His favourite restaurant is a tiny little Portuguese cafe in Botriver, South Africa called Mannys. The food is affordable, well apportioned and truly tasty. Roy doesn’t like hiking prices when business costs slightly inflate. He understands customer loyalty and knows more than ever that every penny counts to a society which is ‘making ends meet’.

Stephen, Roy’s number two rolls the fishcakes perfectly, another delicacy of the island. Every country has their version of fishcakes but we are so fortunate to say our fishcakes are made with fresh, sustainably-sourced fish, packed tightly with herbs and fried beautifully. I often forget how fortunate we are to have access to prime tuna and wahoo and Roy suggests that he would like to work with a wider species of fish. On the odd occasion he cooks for vegans and always has vegetarian alternatives attached to his menus. He doesn’t advertise his menus through island media portals, customer satisfaction do the leg-work.

We laugh about how we islanders sometimes ‘cremate’ meat and fish, relinquishing the product of its natural flavours. Any chef will tell you that to hear a request for ‘very well done’ brokers a huge sigh. Roy loves cooking everything, there are no signature dishes, as long as the food is well received and brings people together to have fun.

Group bookings require a personal touch, so Roy will appear before and after the meal to show his appreciation for the experience. He gains as much satisfaction out of preparing the meal as the person who laps it up. Providing a service is so much more palatable when customers leave with a grateful heart. Although Roy is very glad of tourist trade, his focus is on local trade as it is the local market that has kept his business going through the challenges of Covid.

We didn’t realise this, but it is a year on this very day of my visit that Roy first opened his business in the Consulate Hotel. Roy is very keen to attract youngsters into the business and he suggests that he has offered to visit Prince Andrew School to raise awareness of how rewarding a career as a Chef can be (albeit a lot of hard work for sometimes small monetary rewards). Hopefully, he will get a response to his offer. He currently has Callum training as a chef. He has had a few people work with him over the years and really hope that more people (when they move on) will go and work in countries where their talents can be realised and they gain first-class experience with a variety of cuisines and establishments. We already have islanders working in top-class hospitality; could we see these folk coming back one day to start up their own businesses on the island?

Roy’s potential has not yet been fully realised on the island and he knows this as he suggests that in time, perhaps he could also immerse his business into food production for sale domestically and internationally. It is this lateral thinking which I believe will be the basis to a successful economy on the island in years to come. Roy doesn’t see his job as just a job, for him, its life, it’s the thing (bar Michelle we should highlight) that gets him up in the morning. I understand, I feel the same about writing these stories. Yet some days, I can’t find my ‘mojo’ and Roy doesn’t have that luxury with hungry mouths to feed.

I’ve written a few stories recently and every person that I have spoken to feels a deeper connection to what they do. Roy, like those other people that I have chanced to listen to is talented, humble, caring, generous, understated and innovative.

As Roy squeezes the cream out onto the pastries, the heavenly creamy smell mixed with the freshly baked aromas wafts right under my nose and I stand with an ‘Oliver the Twist’ expression on my face so that when Roy cuts the pastry in two, I’m a winner. Who needs other pleasures when you can have one of Roy’s delicious pastry extravaganzas?

Elevenses? “Yes please” or bookings via Tel: +290 22962

Wanda

The Wanda of you

Roads keep leading me back to crafts on Saint Helena, whether it is a painting, a song, a piece of furniture, an item of clothing.

On Tuesday 27th July 2021 I popped in to see Wanda who runs a small textile business at Forester’s Hall in Market Street, Jamestown. Wanda’s expertise spans many years and I can see by the organised chaos in her workroom that she is an extremely sought after service on this tiny island. There aren’t many now who ply the trade. I find this industry fascinating since I was absolutely useless at Textiles at school and I remind Miss Hazel who works in Needles and Pins that she tried her best in Pilling School to encourage me but the football always won.

Material of all shapes, textures and colours cover the tables, yet Wanda knows where to find everything. I didn’t know she also did upholstery, jewellery, table mats, bags etc. She unlocks the door to the little craft shop across the way, dust has gathered slightly where tourism has dipped. I reassure Wanda that her time will come again when tourists in larger numbers arrive to buy her wares. In a world where giant machines produce by the truck load, there is something authentic about her products.

On one side of the room sits the various machines which service her trade, one of them, I have seen the likeness of so many times in a huge sewing machine store on Portobello Road, London. The Singer. I can tell that this machine is more to Wanda than just a tool. There’s a special bond between all of the machines and Wanda, but this one, takes pride of place. Its metallic front plate is adorned with beautiful embossed patterns and similar decoration on the base plate. It is fascinating how so much detail has gone into a tool, yet when making this machine, the manufacturers must have also realised the benefits of beautiful creations for the end user.

Not only does Wanda provide beautiful creations, she also (when time allows) does group sessions and she suggests that it is here that she finds the real therapy in her job. Isn’t that wonderful that the purpose of sharing and passing on talent can be more satisfying? The only disappointment for Wanda is that much of these sessions are just for leisure and those who do take a real interest often leave the island and so the learning goes with them.

Her lacework is stunning. I ask her about a Ruby Cross which is so magnificently put together, the detail so rich, I would like to one day to gift a cross like this for a friend in London who is a Catholic and who I think may appreciate something like this.

There’s something about these tucked away workshops, wonderful energy persists within the four walls. Wanda is not about mass production or racing to get the job done. She wants to give the customer the best possible experience, so sometimes, with the demand, it takes time. Are we patient enough to wait? She can’t afford to employ people and there is the training which requires considerable time, time which would be lost in getting the work done, she has bills to pay like everyone. On occasions her family will offer her a hand and they have a giggle together at the same time.

Wanda likes her time alone, she enjoys people popping in and out but her lone working allows her peace to get on with the work, she only has her energy to navigate for the most part.

I like listening to Wanda. She speaks with so much passion. I ask her whether she has had any needlework disasters, like dropping bottles of liquid over particular fabric, she laughs. “There have been one or two jobs which have been tricky and I have had to fight with”, but no, generally, no disaster”, she confirms.

“I try to find a way, to get the job done to the customer’s request” she says. She speaks in second person as she says, “if the customer wants something then Wanda will try her utmost to get it done”. I gape when she adds mending sails for yachts to her list of jobs. That must take some heavy-duty needles and a lot of space.

Whilst Wanda has a Facebook page, she very rarely uses it as she is not completely comfortable with technology. There are so many of the older generation, especially in the wider world, who are being forced to embrace a system that they have long-since lived without. Their businesses rely on them knowing how to navigate the web.  Some do not have younger generations to assist.

Thankfully, here on Saint Helena, Wanda’s services are rendered mostly through word of mouth. She ‘beavers’ away in her little room whilst the rest of the world tackles the uncertainty of e-commerce. The only tool that really matters in that room is Wanda, without her expertise, the machines will not go, the fabric will not move locations, and sails will not flap about in the wind. She reminds me that a business can run for many years when we keep our expectations in check, when we respect our customer base and when we preserve our energy for the things that really matter.

Thank you Wanda for a truly spiritual experience.

You can contact Wanda here

Read more blog post from @Addie Thomas https://www.thegirlfromtherock.com/

Paramont-

The Tale of the Paramount Cinema main street

The tiny forecourt is now occupied with parked vehicles and pallets of milk. In the distance; the mascot of an Aram Lily on a small faded wooden plague denotes the property ownership as W.A Thorpe & Sons Ltd.

The many coloured bulbs which lit the old wooden signage saying “The Paramount Cinema” have long since been removed from the building’s facade, replaced by one single outdoor halogen lamp.

One could google information of The Paramount Cinema but this is a short account of what the cinema meant to many people and the memories that will never be lost to TV and Social Media.
Stacks of pallets block the view to where people once bought confectionary (some homemade) before taking their seat indoors. The marshmallows, homemade crisps, ice-lollies, ice creams, fudge etc. were a favourite, although many could just about afford the tickets, let alone extras.

It is suggested by Colin Corker, son of the late Cecil Corker (‘Sniffy’) that a seat in the upper echelons (balcony) of the cinema would have set a person back 50p whilst the centre 25p-30p and the ground floor; 20p.
The cinema had originally been set up by Mr Netto for silent movies and opened by Governor Pilling on 5th April 1940.
It is suggested by Colin that it was then sold to a Mr Broadway before the Corker family acquisition. Nostalgia seems to fill the room as I stop by Chad’s Shop on Main Street to talk about the lights, the signage boards and the memories. Even now, people still refer to the building as ‘The Cinema’. Some things change, not all things.
The property is now occupied by fridges and stacks of non-perishable goods. I am hoisted onto the fridge to get a closer look at the wonderful sombre paintings which run along the sides of the wall and it is suggested that a ‘Pa Jones’ was the artist and that his relatives still reside on the island, although I have not been able to locate them. The plaster is falling away in places but scenes of the seafront and harbour are still easily recognisable.
8mm, 16mm and 35mm reels would be hired from Cape Town. Cecil had to pay hire, freight, customs duty in Cape Town and on St Helena and entertainment and income tax before even a ticket was sold to a customer. The tickets would have been taken to the Castle and stamped as part of the entertainment tax payment. The cost to return them was the same minus the hire, income and entertainment tax.


Many might remember smokin’ guns and Clint Eastwood as a main feature. How smartly people would get dressed, often the main entertainment of the week. In speaking to a few ladies about their experiences, they giggled about the torch that Percy ‘Mullet’ or ’Sniffy’ would carry around and switch on to ensure that ‘date night’ didn’t extend to kissing in the back rows. Perhaps there would be a little touch of the knee, or a little peck on the cheek. One ‘Saint’ talked about how she and her siblings would be instructed by her Mum to take a nap in the afternoon in preparation for the big event, she had only once set on the balcony due to affordability. These days, the screens are so huge and the sound so pitch perfect that the quality of a movie is only ruined by mobile phones, voices and annoying digs from those sitting behind. I have had the odd leg thrown over a chair next to me with the shoe absorbing my vision, that’s when the services of ‘Mullet’ and ‘Sniffy’ would have been helpful

As the cinema industry (‘Talkies’) began to gain traction, the shows travelled to Apple Cottage in Longwood every Friday evening, every other Tuesday evening the Guinea Grass Community Centre would come alive and once a month Sandy Bay would also get a taste of the entertainment.
Before the films were rolled out to the public, the island censorship board would view them and if they felt that they could not be used, even though they had already been cleared for viewing in Cape Town, this would mean a heavy loss financial loss for the Corker family. This happened on a number of occasions and in the end, the business lost its viability as a result.
I wish I could remember much about my days of going to the Paramount Cinema behind Broadway House, but the memories are hazy, yet I remember being carried home on someone’s shoulder and the cartoon at the start of the main feature.
Whilst the international community have continued to enjoy cinema visits, St Helena has had to settle for outdoor viewings in bar venues. Yet, that was not the end to St Helena’s attachment to the big screen. I attended the premier of the BBC documentary ‘St Helena – An end to Isolation’ by Dieter Deswarte in Regent Street. I am sure the people on that documentary never anticipated whilst going to ‘The Talkies’ on a remote island in the South Atlantic, that they would one day be on a big screen in Regent Street, London!

As the cinema days drew to a close, the hall was used for children’s hops, adult dances and concerts. They say, “if these walls could speak what stories they would tell us?” In a world where we are so busy ‘doing’, our only way of ensuring that tales are never forgotten is to write them down, talk about them, laugh about them and most importantly, listen to them. How many of us spend hours, days, weeks, months, years looking for information which we could have put into a scrap book or in a short story or article for people to enjoy many years from now? Oh to preserve the historical fibres that hold our culture together under the umbrellas of ‘good times’?
If you have pictures that you can share to bolster our online bank of St Helenian Heritage, please feel free to send these by JPEG to us.

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