Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Living With The Saints

Crystal Blues In James Bay - Photo By Dianne Selkirk
After a week being tourists here in St Helena we're starting to relax - this is an unusually laid back and special place.

Thousands of miles from anywhere, with a population of just 4000 souls, visiting St. Helena is like a compact lesson in world history.

From slave ships to the Emperor Napoleon, every corner of the island has an amazing story to tell.

We've spent many days ashore exploring this beautiful and complex island, parts of which are virtual rainforest, while in other areas it's as dry as desert.

The locals are a gentle mix of the many races that have landed here in centuries past - English seamen and soldiers, Malay and Chinese workers, African slaves and many others.  They speak an "island English" that takes some learning, a fast and unique verbal music.

The capital of Jamestown is a compact and quaint village, laid out along a deep ravine that runs from James Bay up into the hinterland.

With no air services (yet), the island relies on regular visits from the RMS St. Helena, a mixed passenger / cargo ship that supplies St. Helena, Ascension and Tristen De Cahuna islands. The ship really is part of the life cycle of this place, the only means of travel off the island, and the source of all imported foods, machinery and general goods.

With no wharf or sheltered harbour, the ship anchors off the town and everything is landed by lighter barge and ferry boat, a complex process. Exports (typically frozen fish and tourists) travel the same way, along with local passengers - or "Saints" as the locals like to call themselves.

Every local can tell you when the RMS (Royal Mail Ship) will next arrive, how long she will stay and even what she might be carrying - supplies in the stores here move in and out like the tide, based on the cycle of the RMS St. Helena.

RMS St. Helena Departing For Ascension Island Last Saturday

Our friends Dianne, Evana and Maia on the catamaran Ceildyh have now been here over a month, and were able to give us an expert guided tour. Through them we also met many locals and expats who are living here temporarily - some for work, one writing a book and others producing a film - there are many stories to be told.

The locals include a talented range of musicians and singers, who alternate performances in local bars and meeting places. Last Friday I was invited to play with one group at the Mule Yard, a regular Friday night gathering on the waterfront in James Town.

Yes, it really was the mule yard - before motor vehicles arrived here, donkeys, mules and bullock drays did the hard work carrying goods up into the hills - more on that later.

Mule Yard Live Music With My Beat Box From Manila

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