Saturday, 29 December 2012

Christmas 2012

I sit here with arms aching from dragging a small donkey for a walk. Half an eye is on Pip as she ploughs through a packet of liquorice wheels. Another eye is watching Bob take a bucket of pea pods over to the goats. This doesn't leave much for writing so please excuse all spelling mistakes.

Christmas on St Helena has been quite different and rather lovely. Not sure I can pick out a highlight, don't really get the big highs and lows that you might get elsewhere. Everything just mooches along quite nicely. occasionally surprising you with something quite simple and quite special. It might be that everyone joins in in such a quiet, good spirited way. I sort of expected the carnival and parade to be a little more... something. They're pretty steady really but what is really impressive is the span of people you see dressed up and getting involved. No embarrassment, well perhaps a little but everyone is laughing with you. It can give one quite a warm fuzzy feeling.

We've had some wonderful walks too. Every time we make it out we're blindsided by just how stunning the place is. Will sort out a few photos of some of the views and put them into some sort of order- too many to just upload in one load.

Picnic on Flagstaff Hill, Christmas eve 2012

On the waterfront setting off to join the parade. Jacob's ladder in the background. "The Castle" home of St Helena Government is the white building on the left. 

The parade attracted onlookers of all shapes and sizes.

We all looked the part :-) (post office is the building behind us)

After dancing down the street the parade continued along the waterfront.

Really impressed at the efforts everyone made.
Yet another of the rather stunning views. This on was boxing day while a friend looked after Pip we got to have a little look out.

Really can't get to grips with how quickly everything changes here...

Friday, 7 December 2012

Looking up

I can tenatively say that the weather is improving. I'm pretty sure that the arrival of our tumble dryer (order 28th September) and waterproof trousers on the RMS this week will guarentee that neither are needed for several months. Shoes are drying out and noses are starting to peel. It's all good.

Work is busy- dealing with day-to-day, planning going forward, reviewing methodology (which would be greatly facilitated if everything had been written down to start with!), training and much more. Giving a talk at the local secondary school next week which makes my knees quite wobbly when I think about it... which I try not to!

School has been a whirlwind too- school plays, partys, trips and competitions are keeping Pip (and us!) busy. Pip says she's getting into the spirit of it now the weather is warming up, how quickly things changet!!

One of the biggest treats coming with the changing season is the stars. So many. So clear. So amazing!
They look different here- can't recognise any at the moment. I know we've got the Southern Hemisphere ones but we can still see lots of familiar Northern Hemisphere constellations, apparently- we can't find them! Probably hiding in all the others.

Day time sky can be pretty fancy too. This week a NASA published a satellite image of cloud vortices trailing from St Helena. Pretty fancy I think you'll agree.

Cloud vortices off St Helena.

Monday, 5 November 2012

A whale in James Bay!

Driving to work this morning I was in a mild Monday morning haze. Started down Side Path, typically mindful of several bends ahead so that I can pull over in a wide enough stopping point if there’s anything coming my way (up-hill gets priority). Big white sploosh in the water. Odd I thought then I realised- it’s only a whale!!
Pulled over to watch for a while (waving all the people behind me on who thought I’d stopped for a “good” reason). It jumped and splashed and slammed it’s tail down and did great big belly flops. Amazing. Thanks to my dodgy eyes I don’t know if it was one really active one or a couple taking turns. The North Side of St Helena is a nursing ground for humpback whales, several mother/child pairs have been spotted. Now I’ve seen them too J
It is a little odd to observe just how weary we become of the world around us. I didn’t spot anyone else who had stopped to watch: seen it before and will see it again. Same goes for so much around here: Myna birds are a pest, fresh Tuna a dull daily staple, bright red cardinals are cute but no more noteworthy than a UK sparrow. I was lucky enough to be brought up in some stunning scenery which I didn’t really appreciate until I’d moved away. I feel very fortunate to be living in another stunning place and to be approaching it with fresh eyes.

A different whale doing similar things.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Sunday, 14 October 2012

The Bell Stone

It's a Trachyandercite you know...

Night out- pizza on the peaks

Went out for tea tonight. Took our tea out might be a more honest description. Bob made pizza, I packed a blanket and we headed off towards Blue Hill. There are some fantastic picnic spots there, the one we had in mind is on the way to "High Peak" one side of the road falls away to Sandy Bay, the other down to... somewhere else, not sure where even with an OS map we can't make sense of where we are, where we're going or where we've been!

The wind was hurtling when we got there so sat in the car to eat. It was rather wonderful.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

You may want to blow off

I may have mentioned the astounding views- amazingly diverse scenery, awe inspiring cliffsand so on. These views come with a toll- the roads. 

I can't show a photo which will do them justice so I'll let you picture it yourself.

My drive to work takes around thirty minutes. Distance approximately six miles (one mile as the crow flies) change in altitude of around six hundred metres.

The stench of burning rubber which accompanied me into town the first time I drove the road alone may gives you a scent of what lies between Longwood and Jamestown. The screaming clutch provides the sound track.  I haven't often wished for a gear lower than first but several roads here do bring out a certain longing.

Blind bends are dealt with by "blowing off"... And then hoping for the best. Traffic going up hill generally has priority, but tight bends mean you can't often see what's coming your way. Some bends are normal tight, some very, some take a couple of goes- we've got a Clio, turning circles don't come much smaller.

So long as everyone goes slow and abides to these rules not much can go wrong. Not everyone does which leads to regular near misses. Very pleased we've got new brakes all round!

Lovely views though and my drive to work now counts towards the recommended 30mins daily exercise.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

What you doing?

“What you doing?” ask the Saints. “I’ll be working in the statistics office” is the short answer. What that means is not obvious. It certainly wasn’t clear to me before I got here. One week in and things are getting clearer but the details still need filling in.  I’ve copied the official press release below. It should satisfy anyone with a general interest. Ex-ONS colleagues will have a better idea of the ominous depths below those words.

Defending the requirement for a statistician for a population of a little over 4000 is a separate issue. Suffice to say it is important, really important. Not because it’s me doing the job but because official statistics are something we take for granted in the UK. They are produced... by someone, somewhere. We see the figures in the media. Perhaps we don’t recognise just how important they are to planning, appropriately allocating resources and monitoring the economic and social welfare of the country. Many (most?) people  don’t realise the effort and dedication that goes in to making sure that the figures which are produced really are the best they can be. There are (and always will be) some issues and limitations. These are complicated figures produced by people. However, there is a strict code of practise by which all UK official statistics are produced which limit potential issues, ensures new research is incorporated into statistical methodology, and ensures that the figures you see in the press are produced in such a way that you can see exactly how and why they came to be. This isn’t the case everywhere. When asked at interview what I would bring to the office I said I’d bring the Code of Practise for UK official statistics and cake.

Bob is handling the cake (all ingredients sourced and obtained!) and I’m doing the other bits... The SHG press release is copied below. Link to source is here:

24 September 2012
HE and Dr Paula McLeod
Arriving on 12 September 2012 was Statistician, Dr. Paula McLeod who will be working within the St Helena Government Statistics Office on a two year contract.
Dr. McLeod took the official Oath for Statistics Officer in the presence of His Excellency Governor Capes at his Office, in Jamestown, on Thursday 20 September 2012.
As the Statistician Paula will be working with the statistics team to ensure that they keep building on their current skills base and that the office is equipped to meet the requirement for accurate, timely and relevant statistics.
Paula will also be working closely with other Government Directorates to ensure that the Statistics Office is appropriately addressing their requirements for reliable evidence with which to inform the decision making process.
Paula is also hoping to engage with the Private Sector to improve their trust and understanding in the figures produced.
Paula commented:
“My initial activities will include reviewing the National Statistical Development Strategy to ensure we are meeting the targets set out but also to ensure that the strategy itself remains relevant to the needs of SHG, the private sector, potential investors and the general public.
“It is evident that there is a need to review some of our data collection practices. We need to be taking advantage of the opportunity to embrace new working practices and technology where appropriate to improve efficiency and ensure that we are collecting the information we need without imposing an undue burden on those responsible for data collection.”
Prior to coming to St Helena Paula worked in the Methodology Directorate at the Office for National Statistics in the UK.
Paula is here with her partner Bob and daughter Philippa. Bob will be a stay at home parent and Philippa has started in the reception class at Harford Primary School.
Paula added:
“We are all really happy to be here. Everyone we have met has been so friendly and welcoming which is making settling in much easier. The Island itself is incredibly beautiful and awe inspiring… but the roads are taking some getting used to!
“My daughter is thriving on everything St Helenian and my partner is rising to the challenge of getting washing to dry in Longwood.
“I am looking forward to the tasks ahead. A vital part of it will be good communication and working closely with key users. I am in the process of meeting people but if anyone feels I should be talking/listening to them and have not yet met them then please make yourself known!”

21 September 2012

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Getting here...

We’re here. Saint Helena, South Atlantic. Home for the next two years.

We are here!
First impressions are overwhelmingly good. The people are friendly, welcoming, open and generally all the things you could hope for when moving to a new place. The place itself is stunningly beautiful. Very rocky round the edges, but that rock glistens in a way I can’t describe right now. The island is volcanic, each lobe of the island has different appearance. This week we’ve been to the desert, tropical forests, the moon, welsh countryside, the Mediterranean... and we haven’t seen most of the island yet!

I did intend to keep a running travelogue but haven’t. There was no internet access, we’ve been busy, the dog ate my homework...

Anyway, the journey went really well. From the lovely taxi driver who picked us up and dropped at Heathrow Terminal 5. Right through to the much appreciated welcoming committee waiting on the wharf in Jamestown.

If you (or any little people you know!) have an interest in airports then make a trip to Heathrow, T5. Outside gives you a fantastic view of the runway, the planes and all the activity that goes on around them. Inside is just as good. We got a prime seat in the restaurant (Giraffe!) right next to a window overlooking it all.
Guarding the bags!
Outside T5 watching planes land.

Having tea and more plane watching!

I was very excited to see the international Passenger Survey (IPS) in residence. We weren’t sampled but I did go and speak to them... which baffled Bob a bit, hopefully ONS colleagues understand the excitement, even if no-one else does. I said hello, told them how exciting it was to see them and explained how much we rely on the data they collect. I think I’ve passed one of the tests for being a classified stats geek.

Pip coped really well with the plane. Slept like a whirling dervish all night... so at least she was rested even if Bob and I were a little bruised in the morning. She also managed to watch a couple of films. She didn’t really get to grips with the idea that she had headphones and not everyone could hear- kept shouting at the screen. I found it cute and funny even if it was a little awkward at the time!

Cape Town was good too. A whirlwind tour on the big red bus, a dip in a very cold pool (it’s winter there you know), a walk along the waterfront and fish (calamari) and chips looking at the harbour. Saw a seal too.

Embarking on the RMS St Helena was a little nerve wracking. Had a feeling of no going back... not sure why it hadn’t kicked in before. Perhaps until this point we knew it would just take finances to sort out a change of mind, once the ship pulled away the isolation becomes far much more of an issue. There was also fear that Pip wouldn’t travel well. I was wrong- she was fine! It was a pretty calm crossing but I’m not sure Pip really took notice of movement of the ship. 
On the bridge.

Dining room.

Pip with Kiera, best ship friends!

All at sea.

The crew and passengers on board were lovely. Struggled a little with some of the “Saga adventures” gang... but good practise in dealing diplomatically with loud and frequently voiced and ill-informed opinions. There was an overwhelming majority of really interesting, pleseant people. Some returning Saints, some other TC (technical collaboration) post holders moving for a year or two, quite a few working for Basil Reed the airport contractor and an scattering of others going for work or pleasure for a couple of weeks (both the UK and SH meaning of “couple” applies here!).

As you might expect Bob and I spent five days chasing Pip around the ship. We had lots of fun though. Some fun activities to join in with- hat making, horse racing deck sports. The food was really good too. My only regret is not trying the beef tea- think it’s of the Bovril type rather than some of the horrors I read about.

Horse racing night!
Ship's pool. Small, salty and a bit cold.

Tug of war. Was glad of the front man!
Our little filly did very good counting!

Arriving in Jamestown is a lot easier than I feared. Life jacket on, down the walkway, onto the little boat, couple of minutes to the wharf, friendly face with big arms to carry Pip and a helping hand for Bob and I, up a few steps, onto the minibus and then milling around the customs shed as we wait for bags.

We were met by the team I’ll be working with and my line manager. Again, the wall of smiling faces made everything so much easier. All becomes a bit of a blur after that- I may not get seasick but I suffer when I get back on land. Took a few days for my head to stop swimming. But they wrapped us up in a whirl of logistics, formalities, familiarities and necessities- shop, bank, office, tea, cake and sandwiches!

The drive from town to house has taken some getting used to- single lane, steep and tight bends doesn’t convey just how narrow, steep the roads are, nor the fear of blind corners... Suffice to say I didn’t need much encouragement when asked to “blow off” on the corners (it means to toot the horn...).
Will stop here. Will say more about the island and the work ahead in separate entries. Last things to say for now is that we are really happy here and are settling in well. Hard to believe it’s only been a week, feel like we’ve been here forever! I promise future blogs will be less of a bombardment of holiday snaps!

Pip, house, car (with new plates!) and garage-
this is a very handy place for hanging up washing .

Hedge flower

Thursday, 16 August 2012

It started on a whim...

We're not really planners, more inclined to go along with currents of life. Occasional whims and bursts of energy lead to little adventures along the way.

This time it's quite a big adventure. We'll keep you posted...

Once I've got my head round blogger technology they'll be more to see. Be patient!