Stroud farmers market run by “Made in Stroud” and trading under the name: Fresh-n-Local, has been hailed for years now, as one of the “must see” and "BEST" farmer’s markets in the country.
How I haven’t ever visited, I am not sure. Last Saturday I made the pilgrimage.
The Stroud Railway station car park might not seem the right place to start a story about a food market in Stroud; nevertheless it’s probably an important part of why the Stroud farmers market is one of the most popular in the country after almost 17 years of successful operating.
Going anywhere in this country in a car can be a stressful experience, to say the least. We all seem to have cars and want to be on the road and in the same parking space at the same time of day.
Travelling from Somerset to Stroud to meet family and knowing that there is not only parking but reasonably priced parking, makes the almost 100mile each way journey almost worthwhile in itself.
Arriving at the station with zero change and heading to the ticket office to pay the sum total of £1.70 for a whole day’s parking was a cathartic experience. As was the fact that the car park is massive. There are in fact two of them, both appearing pretty safe with plenty of people about.
So with the cost of the journey offset by the cheap parking, it was time to get a coffee.
The name of the coffee stop was “Dinner at 6” an unassuming slate blue frontage on the main town’s pedestrianised walkway in front of many of the main stalls.
The quality of the coffee and Bakewell tart with scrummy homemade raspberry jam centre scored another point in favour of Stroud!
It also offered a clear sign that any food served here is done with flair and loyalty to the flavour of each ingredient. Therefore a mental note to return for lunch instantaneously popped into my brain.
We in fact visited too early for lunch but the late breakfast which included homemade breads jams and a fantastic Spanish omelette showed that this place doesn’t just do nice cakes.
Dinner at 6 can be found at number 6 Union Street Stroud Gloucester so I guess the 6 is the address rather than the time they serve dinner. I didn't take a picture of the place but here is their website: http://www.dinneratsix.co.uk/#/1
So moving onto the Market which is why this piece is being written:
The Market web site: http://fresh-n-local.co.uk/ shows that this outfit are pretty organised compared to some farmers markets. They also successfully run farmers markets in Swindon, Stow on the Wold and in Gloucester.
The fresh and local website has plenty of information for the customer and for people who are thinking of becoming stallholders. However some of the information is a little bit dated, their blog has not had much input recently.
Having said that there is a great little article about British apples and how there are over two and a half thousand varieties of apples in this country. The events section is more up-to-date and that has some items on what else is going on in Stroud and also some spotlights on various Traders.
If you are keen to do a little bit more research before heading down or up to Stroud I would recommend some time browsing the TripAdvisor reviews of which there are more than 100. Most of them give a very strong thumbs up to the market and especially to the doughnut people called Pippins and Hobbs house bread which I guess everybody who loves food has heard of now because Tom and Henry Herbert, the two guys that run it, are on television as the Fabulous Baker Brothers.
Stroud itself has some similarities to settings such as Bath in terms of its layout. It’s a town in a bowl with some of the settlement meandering up the Hills.
Originally a centre for woollen manufacturing the town now has an arty independent feel to it.
The main shopping streets are all pedestrianised which is obviously a great plus point when setting up market stalls and expecting customers to wander freely around them. This means the market isnt bunched up but part of the whole town centre.
I would think this brings a win win to the town as everyone benefits by people walking past their “doors”.
Another big plus point of this area is that historically it has always been a food destination with proximity to the Cotswolds, Severn valley, Wales and the vale of Evesham.
Amongst other things, Gloucestershire has its own historic cheeses, the double and single Gloucesters, which have a protected designation of origin status.
This means they can only be produced in Gloucestershire from specific milk.
There is certainly a buzz to the place. One of the things that I noticed immediately was how cheerful many of the stallholders looked while I was walking around.
This is in harsh contrast to many shopping experiences in faceless retail parks where the average shop assistant may dive for cover when they see you or at least avoid eye contact.
As someone with as finely tuned "customer service radar” as mine, it means a pleasurable time wandering around talking to the stallholders rather than wishing there was someplace else I could go to spend my money.
Market stalls are obviously run by People who put their own money on the line to produce food for the public to buy. It is in their interest to attract customers and produce not only memorable products but happy memories associated with the purchase. It is something that is very close to my heart as I strongly believe that anyone running their own business has much more commitment to the customer than someone working for a Faceless plc.
So it’s not just the quality of the products on sale that is driving crowds of people to come to Stroud farmers market. It’s also the experience and you cannot underestimate this.
People want to enjoy themselves when they’re spending their money and they certainly are at Stroud farmers market.
There are a plethora of stalls ranging from Mediterranean olives, free range eggs, Isle of Wight garlic, cheeses, meats and pies.
I counted four different stall holders selling the most delicious looking bread.
There were beauty products curries being sold next to a guy selling sheepskins, carved wood, locally made cards and Christmas ornaments and more. In one of the shops there was even a spinning wool out of DOG HAIR!
Many of these stalls are regulars and have been here for years.
TripAdvisor reviews mention the doughnuts and how you need to get there early before they sell out.
The only things I didn’t see were someone selling hot roast chestnuts as this visit was in October and also maybe someone selling hot roast meat sandwiches, especially pastrami or salt beef. Food for thought!
As the market is dotted around the whole town you can easily spend most of a morning browsing the stalls and local shops of which there are quite a few independents.
Lunch locations are many and varied and as parking is so reasonable there is little motivation to head home, other than the ever growing weight of bags full of goodies which is starting to cut into your hands.
A great way to spend a Saturday and one to put a smile on your face and great quality food in your fridge. I will return!
The comments and observations in this blog are personal, there was no payment to write this piece.
The content this piece was accurate at the time of writing.
I had never heard of Brill.
The word either meant Fab, Great, Brilliant, or it meant, "flat fish which has superb flavour". Until last Sunday.
A village not too far from both Bicester and Oxford also carries the name Brill.
Considering I spent three years at college in Oxford and more days than I would care to admit at the Bicester retail outlet park just a few miles away, its a surprise that I have never heard of it.
A fine destination in its own right, Brill is a picture perfect Olde English village complete with windmill and sunset views.
Owing to its growing reputation and stellar quality of the food at the Pointer Pub and Restaurant. Brill is now well and truly on the gastronomic map. Diners flock to the restaurant like the Bisto kids following the aroma of Mum’s gravy.
There’s no Bisto in this Chef’s cupboards.
Three AA Rosette Chef Mini Patel, who has recently been seen on BBC TV’s Great British Menu series compressing blackberries and burning mackerel with a blowtorch , works on the philosophy of prioritising fresh seasonal local ingredients for his menus. Many of these ingredients hail from the Pointer’s own gardens and farm. Longhorn Beef and Middlewhite Pork are a speciality.
The fruits of Mini’s labours delight not only the gastro tourists and regulars but also locals who pop in for a pint, some pork scratchings and a few slices of house made salami.
Sunday lunch is a fine tradition in this country, especially when weather turns cooler and the desire is to be indoors with a hearty plate of food and a heat source nearby. The Pointer ticks these boxes and more.
The place embodies all that is desired when heading out to spend hard earned cash on a meal out.
This is no accident, as anyone with passion who works in the hospitality industry will validate. It takes hours/days/months/years of effort and fine tuning to produce a product which becomes established as a favourite restaurant, bar, café or hotel. Once created it then takes a similar amount of effort to retain the consistency of those achievements. Little wonder there are so few which can do this.
The team at the Pointer have the passion and creativity to create a local pub restaurant and butchers shop which is appealing to not only them that want a £40 Sunday Lunch but also the locals who want a decent pint and some conversation.
Attention to detail is one of the strong points here where décor at the moment includes home grown gourds of many colours adorning any flat surface, including a giant of a pumpkin which sits on the bar asking customers to guess its weight. Attentive and sunny staff attend to guests in a manner I rarely see in most customer facing businesses (don’t get me started). And then there’s the food!
The menu (which can be seen on the restaurant’s website: http://www.thepointerbrill.co.uk/ ) has plenty to choose from. French classical descriptions such as Amuse Bouche, Pithiviers, petit fours etc etc are banned by Yorkshireman Mini who believes in calling a pie a pie!
Breads arrive in brown paper bags and platters of local butters, one made in house with beef goodness amongst other things. Swirls of thyme in one, sour yeasty scent from the other ensure that customers know this isn’t your average bread.
Chicken liver parfait pillows arrive with a citrus dust and marmalade of red onions and a smoky toast.
From this time on you know the attention to detail on not only flavour but visuals are a priority.
As mentioned the Pointer’s own farm produces prime grass fed Longhorn beef.
The Roast beef dinner sits at the top of the main course list in pride of place and although not as adventurous gastronomically as veal shin pie with crisp sweetbreads, can hold its own owing to quality of ingredients and the care given before the plate gets to its destination. Roast potatoes were some of the best I have ever had, no mean feat when cooking a menu which runs from 1.00pm to 5.00pm. Two were just not enough!.
Desserts can have less wow factor (or any part of a meal for that matter) when visiting a restaurant with a small team in the kitchen. This is because it’s up to the Head Chef’s knowledge and love of each topic to drive the quality in all areas.
Mini, thank goodness, is a pudding man, possibly down to his Yorkshire roots (get him a flat cap!) or just because he loves to cook them.
Puds at the Pointer entice diners with their masterful structures and precise positioning of flourishes. Promised flavours are delivered with every mouthful. My liquorice set cream had apple, honeycomb, wine, blackberry and probably five other flavours bouncing around my mouth.
And that’s not all. Order coffees or hot drinks after your meal and a procession of little sweet items arrive to accompany them: Madelines with a lemon curd dip, fantastic chocolate almond truffles rolled in pistachio and a variety of cookies. If we weren’t full before we were now at breaking point!
We often talk about “home from home” hospitality when staying in hotels or dining out.
It’s what we would like. But how many times does this actually happen?
The Pointer doesn’t disappoint in this department. It’s one of the few places I have visited where diners are actually waved off when they leave, just like would happen in our own homes.
How hard is that to do?
How many restaurants do it?
How much does it cost to do it?
What is the value of doing it………………….Priceless!
Turmeric seems to be big news at the moment, wherever you turn there seems to be somebody telling you that it’s the new superfood.
I think all this hype about superfoods is totally over the top. In this morning’s daily paper; if I was to believe everything I read about the health giving properties of food, I would be lunching on Raw garlic Blueberries, Sweet potatoes, Chicken soup, Almonds, Bone broth (what is chicken Soup I ask) Yoghurt, Cauliflower and Manuka Honey (Read in same paper last week that Manuka tests were inconclusive as to its health giving claims) etc etc
I was in the gastro heaven which is Whole Foods in Cheltenham last weekend and succumbed to buying a couple of knobs of fresh turmeric. Just in case all the claims are true.
I also bought some on Amazon as I used all the wholefoods turmeric up in one hit. Amazon have it in a variety of weights and prices, the link below sells 100g at the price shown and free postage
Here are some of the latest health claims: Just so you know how healthy we are all going to be if we start eating Turmeric en masse: It is supposed to be a powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, improve brain function and also lower heart disease and perhaps even treat cancer. Oh and if that isn’t enough I also found a web site saying that it is a new cure for Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis and depression.
Nobody is confirming how much of the stuff you're supposed to eat and also how often. So let's not get too serious about this and think that if we eat turmeric throughout the week we are all going to become miraculously healthy.
On a more serious note, you can actually buy turmeric capsules. There have been scientific studies done to prove that turmeric has to be cooked with oils in order to release any health giving properties so there you have it, the latest health low down on Turmeric!
Now onto the food bit!
Fresh turmeric is very similar to ginger in look, other than it is smaller and orange yellow in colour. It has very little smell and the raw bulb doesn’t really taste of much. Like its powder counterpart, fresh turmeric stains. It stains chopping boards, knives, cookware, even my kitchen sinks needed some bleach to get rid of the stains, the dishcloth was a total write-off and my hands look like I have a 50 a day habit.
Chickpeas are one of my constant favourites in the store cupboard.
They are cheap, nutritious; contain fibre, versatile, flavourful and crunchy. They come in a variety of guises, one being chickpea flour or gram flour or besan as it is also known. I will not be talking about chickpea flour today.
What I am working with today is the whole chickpea. These come either dried or in tins. I never buy chickpeas in tins because I’ve never found their flavours to be representative of anything like dried chickpeas which when soaked for 24 hours in a lot of water and a little bit of bicarbonate of soda become a really nice tasty item to use. Dried chickpeas are a lot cheaper than tinned chickpeas probably one bag of dried chickpeas will create four tins of bought chickpeas. See the link above for a suggestion again from amazon.
So with the turmeric and the chick peas ready to go what should I cook? One of my favourite dishes and one that I use to cook quite regularly on Saint Helena because all ingredients were available although over there it was dried turmeric.
This curry is incredibly tasty, cheap, easy to make.
It lasts two to three days in the refrigerator, will freeze easily and can be used to accompany anything from baked salmon to breast of chicken to part of an Indian meal. The quantity here will produce enough for around 8 starter/side or 4 main portions
250 grams of dried chickpeas & 1tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
2 teaspoons of whole cumin seeds
2 onions peeled and chopped
Two large cloves of garlic peeled and finely chopped
Large knob of Ginger around 5 to 60 grams finely chopped
50 to 60 g Fresh Turmeric finely chopped or one-and-a-half teaspoons of dried turmeric
Half a teaspoon of Cayenne pepper or other chili powder I used Chipotle which is smoked Jalapeno and delicious
Two tins of chopped tomatoes
2 teaspoons of garam masala, home made is best!
1 teaspoon of amchoor powder or (dried mango powder) or half a lemon or half a lime
2 to 4 teaspoons of salt to taste
THE DAY BEFORE...................Add Bicarbonate of soda to around a litre of water (water should be at least 4 times the volume of the dried chickpeas. Soak the dried chickpeas overnight.
Next day cook the chickpeas by bringing a pan of water to the boil and then adding them to it. Let the water return to the boil and turn the heat down to simmer. Skim any scum that forms in the pan. The chick peas should cook within around 30 to 40 minutes. They will take longer if the soaking time was less than 24 hours or the Chick Peas were old.
Garnish the dish with chopped fresh coriander chopped fresh mint and natural yoghurt.
I did not have natural yoghurt today so I just used cottage cheese which added not only the coolness of the yoghurt but it also an element of savouriness and some richness. In fact it’s something that I will now use with my Currys as well as using natural yoghurt
The photograph is the actual curry that I made today with mint and coriander garnish and the cottage cheese.
It just goes to show you do not always need absolutely everything in your store cupboard that appears on a recipe. If you look and choose the most similar item you can still come up with a delicious meal.
I really recommend this easy chickpea curry it’s something that you will love. Just watch out for the yellow stains and the healthy feeling from eating all that Turmeric!
My return to the UK from nearly 5 years overseas has not been without a variety of issues which have caused a medley of stress levels and certainly a vast amount of time which hadn’t really been factored in.
The greatest problem and time waster was the return of my car and the debacle which is still continuing owing to the fact that the car didn’t get added to the NOVA (Notice of vehicle arrival) data base when it arrived back at Tilbury in August.
We are now into the end of September and I still cannot drive my car although it is sitting in my garage. One of the main reasons is because it seems that every government department to do with cars has a stock answer of “10 working days” when responding to any query regarding processing time of paperwork. The DVLC still work on a paper only basis so nothing can be emailed, it all has to go into a brown envelope. Information is mixed and inaccurate, so my first application to get the car registered was just returned with a standard letter suggesting that I get the car onto the NOVA database and when I have, then I can re-apply. And I thought St Helena was top of the hit parade when it comes to Bureaucracy. I forgot that it was the British that taught them!
The saga above is what has given me the inspiration for the subject of this latest post.
I am sure there are thousands of Expats returning to the UK every month given the kind of work patterns we all have nowadays. The following are my suggestions and my opinions.
10 things to remember when returning to the UK from overseas:
It has taken me a while to plump up the motivation to write this piece as I really don’t want to draw a line under my time on St Helena. But needs must and I am now back in the UK having completed my contract on the island.
Almost five years has gone by since I first started this blog, which was initially to keep family and friends informed of my time on this remote island. The blog has taken on a character of its own and has a loyal following with sometimes over 2000 people a week reading it.
Where is it going to go from here? Well I will be posting some other articles on the island given the massive amount of photographs I have on a variety of subjects. So watch this space as they say and feel free to comment or request subject matter for the articles.
There is still much to do on the island as we are still waiting for the green light with regard to the airport operating on a commercial basis. In the meantime life will go on as it always has, the Saints are a resilient lot and for them it’s just another day ……..waiting for the RMS to arrive with food supplies and loved ones.
Once we do have commercial aircraft making scheduled visits I know there are many businesses just poised to welcome visitors from all over the world, many of them having planned their growth around the new arrivals.
In the run up to my departure, which was via Ascension Island and the subject of another blog, I was blessed with a leaving party organised by my colleagues at Enterprise St Helena. I shared the day with Merle Peters who was leaving to join the local Bank.
Lunch was served at KJs place in Longwood. Pub Paradise has been famous for its Steaks for many years. KJ the owner takes great pride in the quality of meat he buys and how it gets cooked. Also KJ has been a staunch supporter of my work within the Hospitality Upskilling Project. I was therefore thrilled when I learned of the location for lunch.
The turnout was great with almost all my colleagues able to make it over to Longwood.
The meal was lovely and enjoyed by all, including the homemade ice cream in large quantity. Speeches were made and both Merle and I received gifts.
The locally hand carved box I received is truly exquisite and something that will be treasured and put on display here in England once it arrives with my belongings.
A few days later I was on the wharf with many other travellers, saying goodbye to friends and co-workers. It was all a bit surreal and in some ways I still can’t believe that my time on St Helena is over . Well over for the time being anyway!
So goodbye St Helena and hello to Family and Friends over here who haven’t really seen much of me at all for the past few years. Perhaps when the airport opens I can bring some of my family over to visit the island in the middle of the South Atlantic they call St Helena.
This week I managed to visit the majority of the remaining people written about in Sue’s book. "From Little Acorns" which is available on Amazon.
First on the list was Martin Joshua who has recently given up his full time job to run his market gardening business full time. Martin has been juggling his job, his growing number of polytunnels (12 at the moment) and the produce within for the past 6 years. He now has the confidence to go it alone rather than depending on a regular income, which is quite a daunting thing to do, especially with a family.
Tomatoes and cucumbers are the main crops although parsley, lettuce and salad leaves also feature. The island gets through around 60 tonnes of tomatoes a year, which is why tomatoes are the key crop here. The yield from each plant is carefully monitored in order to gauge the break-even point.
We discussed the practice by the leading food stores on island, of taking local produce on a sale or return basis. This is in contrast to imported foods which are usually at least partially paid for in advance of receiving them. It seems a shame that the cash flow of the local grower is controlled to a greater extent by the bigger businesses. Sounds a bit like the UK doesn’t it?
Shape has a special place in the heart of the whole community here. It was set up to support locals with any disability learn to lead more independent lives by offering them a place to come and learn new skills. These skills include, running a small café, making jewellery, candles, soap, paper and food items. These are all sold through shops on island and in the centre itself. Situated in the idyllic green Sandy Bay area of the island, it is always an uplifting experience to visit shape. This time we met with Manager Sarah Dalton and Emma Piek who were running a variety of activities including maths lessons and making candles and beads.
Sleepy Hollow has the right name for a bed and breakfast to relax in. Aaron Legg and Julie George run this new business along with Aaron’s four wheel drive tours, a banana plantation and small market garden concentrating on Onions. In 2015 Julie took advantage of a trip to Cape Town to learn about running a busy bed and breakfast with more than one room. This is the goal for the future. We have one room running well and now the plan is to expand and go to two then four rooms. Julie’s attention to detail and her keenness to be there for her customers will ensure that any accommodation she runs will have people keen to stay there.
Derek and Linda Richards are similar to many of the folk in these stories in that they offer a variety of services across the whole week and any time of the day! This is in massive contrast to the hours worked by many people on the island, normally Monday to Friday 8.00am to 4.00pm.
Derek and Linda started off by leasing the sandwich bar business from Sally and Paul in my previous blog.
The Sandwich bar is one of the busiest food outlets in Jamestown, open from around 7.30 in the morning through to around 3.00 in the afternoon. Coffee, tea, bacon sandwiches, cakes and hot meals are all dispensed from the Sandwich bar.
Following on from this success Derek and Linda now operate a small restaurant from their home in St Pauls and Derek offers tours when he can get away from the stove. Both are driven by wanting to see their business succeed and to keep their customers coming back for more. No mean feat on this little island of 4000 people
Cakes Jams and Chutneys are the order of the day where Helen Joshua is concerned. Helen has recently returned to St Helena from working overseas most of her career. Helen and her husband have been working on the Falkland Islands and building their home here over the past 8 years. Now the home is finished they have both moved back here and are committed to making a living on St Helena. As Helen has a small child, she has opted for a home business which can be worked flexible hours. The finished products are sold at local markets or by locals putting in orders to be collected. So far, so good and Helen is just about keeping up with demand
The Green Wagon on Blue Hill!
I met Steve and Joan almost 5 years ago when I first arrived on St Helena.
Steve is a Florida native, Joan is the Saint.
Their dream is to have a flourishing organic market gardening business and I must say, they have gone a very long way to achieving this goal.
The island now enjoys consistent quantities of local herbs and exotic items such as melons and aubergines thanks to Joan and Steve’s endless toil.
Their 5 acre garden in Blue Hill is the hub of the enterprise with 2 polytunnels and a variety of items being grown outside.
On our visit we were able to spot a variety of Chiles, three types of basil, oregano, coriander, mint, lemongrass, lovage, parsley, thyme, marjoram, sage, aubergines. There were also waiting in the wings, passion fruit and strawberry plants. I will expect to see copious quantities of both on my next visit to the Green Wagon!
To round up these visits I would just like to say that these people are setting high standards here on St Helena and its not just about the end result.
Its about the work ethic and attention to detail which all businesses need to be successful. Its the marketing and the getting the item to market. Its about dealing with bureaucracy and customers who don't understand how your business operates. Its about having a smile after sleepless nights when the weather turns bad and when the customers don't show.
I really admire anyone who is prepared to take a dream and turn it into reality. Especially when that reality means hard work, disappointment and set backs along with the satisfaction and successes of being in control of your own business. These are not the only businesses on St Helena, they are just some of the ones who followed the training in Food Safety we offered a year or so ago. There are many businesses on St Helena who deserve to be applauded and long may they last!
Today I am writing about some of the businesses on St Helena who worked towards achieving high standards of food safety in their operations.
This was all done with the support and help of Sue White, from deepest Dorset, who travelled over here twice in 2014 and 2015. Over 200 people passed food safety qualifications of some sort and many changed the way they work in order to make sure their food and premises achieve international standards of hygiene.
When Sue returned to the UK, she put pen to paper, or whatever the modern equivalent is, and wrote a book!
Her book which is called, from little acorns… and is available on Amazon. It follows the story of a number of Saint Businesses who worked with her in the food safety field. Each chapter gives the story of how one business started up and operates over here and is well worth a read.
The book arrived here a few weeks ago and my role was to make sure that each business received at least one of Sue’s books. The motive here from my part was to record the event so that Sue could see her books made it back to the island and also to celebrate these folk who are mostly running these businesses off their own money
St Helena is not the most conducive place on earth to start a business. There are some big advantages such as no VAT and no business rates but on the other side of the coin there is the lack of raw materials as most things have to be imported, expensive slow broadband, expensive electricity and a small local marketplace.
The people featured in Sue’s book have to plan any purchasing around 10 weeks before they need to use items, they have to deal with items not arriving when ordered or being stopped by customs here or in South Africa because the paperwork isn’t correct.
Roddy is the only island’s commercial egg producer and has been in business for around 5 years. Roddy, had a situation around a year ago when he couldn’t get any new chickens to replace his egg laying stock. This was because they had to come from abroad and because of a number of problems regarding regulations Roddy didn’t get his chickens. This meant, his income dropped like a stone and the island ran out of eggs.
Roddy now has more chickens than ever and is raising some of his own stock although fresh stock still has to come from overseas every year or so. He has moved into new premises recently although is still waiting for a water supply to be fitted in one area. Roddy has no apprentice to assist as few youngsters want this kind of work (sounds familiar) and so hasn’t had a holiday for years, he works 7 days a week. It’s a good job that he loves what he does, in spite of some of the setbacks.
Paul and Sally Hickling are well known to all on St Helena and a few folk across the globe, including many of the Navy crews who stop here for a couple of days R&R. The reason being is that Sally and Paul own the islands and in their words, “the world’s most remote distillery”.
Always up for a challenge they have gone from making one or two products to a line which now includes limoncello, a coffee liqueur and wine.
Their products sell well and have recently created and sold a brandy to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Napoleon’s time here on St Helena.
Heading down to Rupert’s Bay to visit what was the Argos factory, one is struck by the immense changes going on down this way. Rupert’s is to be the new Cargo terminal and so is having new roads, wharf and other infrastructures built. The poor residents of the area have been subjected to this activity for over two years. Tucked away in a corner is the fish processing plant for the island and as mentioned it was run by a company called Argos until recently. Melvin Obey has worked down here for years and has seen many changes over that period. On the day we visited to give Melvin and his team the book, there had been a good catch of Wahoo brought in as you can see from the picture. Also this month we have been seeing skipjack and yellowfin tuna, all at prices around a fifth of what you would pay in the UK.
Ann’s place in the castle gardens is an open air eatery which has been running for years and at the moment is under the patronage of Jane Sim and her family. Jane does the majority of the work and also looks after her family. This means that she is another one who regularly works 7 days a week. Ann’s place has always been popular with yacht crews when they come past on their way to South America. Some have donated flags over the years which adorn the ceilings as you can see in my picture. Janes menu has plenty of local fish on it as her husband is a fisherman.
Gregory Cairns Wicks and Anita Magellan run the successful Queen Mary Store which sells everything from Cream Cheese to Roofing! When I was running 2onmain, Gregory and his team were some of the most helpful suppliers we used. Nothing was too much trouble, including telling us what was coming in from Cape Town on the ship before if arrived so we could do our menus in advance. Gregory has made sure that his food team are all trained in food safety and has embraced the principles which go to make what is known in the trade as "safer food better business". This means that customers can be sure that the food they are buying is fit for consumption because it has been stored at correct temperatures and handled with a minimum of risk by trained staff.
In fact all the businesses which have been mentioned in this blog are managing their businesses with these principles in place. When you consider that most food here is imported and the average temperature in Jamestown is above 20 degrees Centigrade, there is every reason to make sure that risks are minimised.
Next week I should be visiting a few more of the businesses and will post a blog and of course the pictures!
Following closely on from St Helena day is Africa Day; probably less well known in the northern hemisphere than here on St Helena, with its very strong connections to South Africa and in particular Cape Town.
I would hazard a guess to say this is because of the Ship’s connection through the many years of tooing and froing between here and Cape Town. Loved ones have settled in Cape Town, any medical situation which cannot be fixed here will be sent to Cape Town and more poignantly, may die there or on the journey. Much of our regular supplies come from Cape Town and its one of the first ports of call for Saints to go on Holiday, other than the UK of course.
St Helena currently has quite a large proportion of the population either originating from South Africa or who work here and still live over there. Basil Read, the contractor for the airport has had as many as 400 persons working here from all over the continent.
So what is Africa Day? Well over here it’s a day when all Africans take the opportunity to celebrate their nationality and to enjoy festivities, foods and company with their fellow citizens.
Officially its origins started to honour the 1963 founding of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). On this day in 1963, 30 leaders of the 32 independent African states signed a founding charter in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, which later led to the current organisation known as the African Union.
I was invited to the home of Julia Benjamin, my colleague and friend who hosted an Africa Day celebration at her home.
The guests did all the cooking and what a feast it was and how proud each cook was of his/her dishes; woe betide anyone who didn’t try everything. Countries represented at Julia’s included: Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Nigeria.
There was Brai (Barbecue to anyone in the west), Braised beans, rice cooked with peanut butter, slow cooked pigs trotters, greens cooked with onions, “Fat Cook or Vetkoek” which is a sort of savoury doughnut, Pap, which is a maize dish similar to grits or polenta and potjiekos (stew) made from oxtail.
Malva pudding was the grand finale, a dense rich sugary sponge pudding containing Apricot jam and served with custard of a similar mass.
Dancing followed on from the copious quantities of food, everyone was expected to participate and participate we did.
The atmosphere throughout the day and evening was uplifting and exceptionally open and friendly. I have attended parties (as I am sure we all have) where people group into cliques and no one mixes. This was the opposite. Although we all hailed from a huge variety of backgrounds, ages and countries we celebrated together as friends who had known each other for years. The fabulous food and openness of all to try new things set the stage as did the keenness to celebrate Africa.
I went home thinking how fortunate I am to have experienced such an uplifting event and how powerful food and dining together with strangers can be. Something to remember in our dysfunctional society and perhaps something which could be considered in situations which are overheated, whether at family or country level.
St Helena people love parades and parties.
There are around three or four major celebrations through the year and a number of lesser ones when the Scouts and Guides march with the local police force and the local brass band.
The St Helena day parade celebrates the day that St Helena was discovered by the Portuguese navigator Joao da Nova on his voyage home from India in 1502. Over here it is always a public holiday and more so this year as we were expecting the opening of the new airport this weekend. Sadly that is not yet to be but it didn't stop the party from happening.
The year 2016 is noted for it not only being my last St Helena Day, at least for a while, but also that of the RMS St Helena, moored in St James’s bay ready for one of her last voyages to the UK which set off a couple of days later.
These celebrations actually started earlier in the year when each district of the island planned the assembly and theme of their floats. Considering we are in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, it is amazing the amount of items are sourced for the floats and the amount of ingenuity which goes into each project. The theme for this year was transport through the ages.
Weather was pretty much perfect for a day in the open air. Not too much sun but enough to make the temperature a pleasant 24 degrees. As quite a windy island, with dusty blasts sometimes gusting debris into people’s eyes, it was a relief to know that today the wind stayed away.
Eventually things got off to a start around 3.30 with the procession winding its way down upper Jamestown toward the market and the main town and onto the sea front.
Although in terms of distance it’s only around a mile from start to finish the convoy takes its time and eventually arrives at the finish having entertained the whole island with displays of music, colour and laughs.
The winning float was chosen to be the St Pauls District entry which was the donkey and cart. A not so long ago form of transport used here up until very recently. The entry was complete with sound system which brayed loudly across the valley just in case we didn't know it was a donkey.
Following on from the parade were celebrations at the Mule Yard, Donny’s bar and Sea Front which lasted until the wee hours.
I missed the firework display at 8.00pm which was a shame.
I went home to check on my photos and never made it back out of the house.
Must be something to do with my age!
I did however get some nice pictures of the town in the early evening sunlight and managed to start this blog.
Although we knew that the MV Queen Victoria was not going to stop here, we all wished she had. None more than I as two of my friends Tony and Valerie Chapman were on board, promising to wave as they went by!
It’s a case of Economics as to whether a cruise ship stops at a destination or not. In the old days (1960s and before) St Helena saw a multitude of ships stopping for supplies, news and to let passengers on and off.
Since the opening of the Suez Canal and increasingly cheap air travel, these days have ended.
Cruise liners are reluctant to mention St Helena (or any other small destinations) as a stop off as the sea can sometimes prevent landing and supplies don’t need to be uploaded any more.
Making a promise to someone paying thousands of pounds for a cruise and then not fulfilling it, is a recipe for an unhappy customer.
St Helena welcomes in the region on 6 to 15 Cruise Ships per year at the moment, some are only small carriers, and others are huge, keeping the whole island busy, including sometimes, school kids as the school buses are used for tours on a busy cruise ship day.
These stops are immensely important to the island as they bring revenue; although not always much. Lack of time sometimes means that tourists are on the bus round the island and then back on the ship in a couple of hours.
Cruise Ship visits also bring much relished interaction with others. Being a small island of only 4200 folk, the locals (and those of us who are not local) love to chat to visitors and to proudly show them the island. The feedback from Cruise passengers over the time I have been here has constantly been incredibly positive. Not only contact with the islanders but the variety of scenery and the totally unspoilt feel of the place.
It’s a real shame that Cunard didn’t feel they had time to stop and say hello. They would have received a warm St Helena Welcome and an invitation to return next time they are passing!