150 or so guests had been invited to attend a cocktail party at Longwood House.
Hosts of the evening were the Fondation Napoleon as part of the 200th Anniversary commemorations of Napoleon’s arrival on St Helena which was on October 15th 1815.
Part of the evening was given to the distribution of honours and gifts to a variety of people on the island who have contributed in some way to preserving the Napoleonic history here.
Unfortunately I didn’t get to see these awards as I was busy assisting with the food effort with JJ who with his partner Michel manages the Longwood estate and all things Napoleonic. Michel is the honorary French Consul General here on St Helena
The team had created a variety of items, from rare beef fillet on olive scones and smoked salmon with lemon mayonnaise to miniature fish cakes, king prawns in St Helena tomato sauce and local tuna with Dijon mustard and almonds. Also on hand were an assortment of delicious French dried sausages and meats which were simply served to show off their flavours.
Before we started serving we had to manage a kitchen which was packed with trays and dishes of delectable items, it was hard to know where to put everything.
As soon as the signal was given to start serving there was a flurry of activity as much of the food was assembled at the last minute in order for it to be at its best when served. Trays returned from the party empty and kept doing so for around 45 minutes. It was battle stations for that time, with the kitchen team working as if they had worked together for years…These are the moments that those of us in catering really love as the fruits of our labours are being appreciated and the hours of prep and organisation are reflected in an effortless service!
The team of staff at Longwood House are made up of local ladies and men, most of who have other jobs and have worked at the house for a number of years. They were a pleasure to work with, smiling and ensuring that their guests have an evening to remember. In fact as sometimes happens, the evening was so successful, it was hard to get people to think about going home!
Eventually it was time to wind down and one of my treats from the evening was a superb cold glass of Pouilly Fume, all the way from the Loire Valley in France. Such a rarity on St Helena as the vast majority of wine here is from South Africa.
Friday morning will see the French delegation depart on the RMS for Cape Town. Their visit has been packed with memorable moments and interactions.
The week they were here will be remembered not only by the visitors but by many of us who were lucky enough to be on St Helena in the anniversary year of Napoleon’s arrival.
Sunday 11th October saw us up early to get ready for a food festival to be held on Longwood Green which is in front of Longwood House, home to Napoleon. The day was one of the windiest days on the island. As I drove there I encountered broken tree limbs on the road and leaves everywhere, which considering its spring here, shouldn’t be happening!
Gazebos and tents were erected in true St Helena style, in spite of the gale howling around. Johnny Dillon and his team did a great job getting everything ready for the stall holders to set up.
The weather stayed kind to us with some bright spells between the clouds which rushed across the sky and the rain stayed away.
Once the music started and bar opened, the crowds arrived to enjoy a variety of food and drinks not often seen in one place on St Helena. Kids had face painting and bouncy castle, and loads of space to charge around. There was even a scarecrow competition! A great atmosphere and a lovely day out.
Our Chief Executive is blessed with an incredibly talented family, especially when it comes to the arts. Niall’s wife Aine, who is an accomplished artist, has spent the past months depicting a variety of representations of Napoleon’s time here on St Helena.
The showing of these paintings was held at the St Helena Museum and had all the trappings of a Bond Street event. The location was perfect with lighting to highlight the paintings, it soon became packed full of jolly folk, glasses of wine in hand, mulling over the merits of one picture over another.
Aine was for sure the star of the evening, gracefully moving from group to group, smiling modestly as if these were just a few scribbles that she had knocked up the night before. The praise for her efforts was unanimous and many of the works sold within the first hour of the event. Anyone who was there will remember it as a fabulous evening and one which should be repeated more often.
The heading to this Blog is taken from the island of Maui, part of the Hawaiian Islands where I have spent many happy hours wondering around the town of Lahaina where every Friday they have Art Night. Lahaina has many Art Galleries and they all open their doors each Friday to anyone who wishes to just meander around absorbing the atmosphere and the paintings. And what paintings I have seen, Picassos, Warhols, Norman Rockwells, Ronnie Wood of Rolling Stones fame to name just a few.
Islands are great places for art galleries (and jewellers) as security can be managed more easily than in a city. If anyone is reading this who has such a business, please consider St Helena as we are one of the safest places on the planet and open for business!
October 2015 has been prominent on the St Helena Calendar for many years. Napoleon Bonaparte arrived here 200 years ago and is one of the biggest dates to commemorate this year. The RMS had been booked up over a year before by a number of Napoleon aficionados including the President of the Fondation Napoleon and a representative for the French Foreign Minister.
The island’s events for this month are many and varied, from an Art exhibition to a Scarecrow judging competition! One of these events has tied in with a project dear to my heart. Bertrand’s Cottage, which sits opposite Longwood House (Where Napoleon lived) was built to house General Henri Bertrand, his wife Fanny and three children (a forth was born on St Helena). General Bertrand was Napoleon’s Aide de Camp, he had followed Napoleon to Elba and now was with him in St Helena.
The house, like many of this period on the island has buckets of potential and is absolutely charming in location and style. However funding has prevented the property being renovated to a high standard. When the organisation I work for was given the opportunity to work in the building, I suggested that it would make a superb Restaurant with Rooms style business and one which could be used to benefit the training needs of the hospitality sector. That was a few months ago. Fast forward to Friday 9th October and we now officially have Bertrand’s Cottage on its way to being refurbished into a smart Restaurant with Rooms.
The property will have three en-suite bedrooms on the first floor and on the ground floor, will be kitchen and restaurant areas plus lounge and reception area. The gardens in the past were full of fruit and vegetables; one of the trees in the garden was here in Napoleon’s time. At the moment what we have is fennel which has self seeded and run wild! I hope we can tame the garden and get it running to support the kitchen with basic vegetables and herbs.
To commemorate the occasion, there was a small event organised to include our French visitors and many of the individuals on St Helena who support this project.
The Governor gave and speech which also announced the confirmation of another air link to St Helena. This time it will be a once a month flight to and from Ascension Island which is a main hub for many of the Saints who work on the Falkland Islands and Ascension itself. The flight will also enable people who want to fly to the UK that way to still do so.
Slowly slowly we are seeing the results of many people’s hard work, often behind closed doors as much of this work is at Government level involving many different parties. The island is gradually developing and rising to embrace the new opportunities happening because of the airport and it’s a great pleasure to see it materialise.
‘It’s surreal’ – pilot’s comment as he prepares to fly the first plane ever to land on St Helena
Taken from Simon Pipe's Blog "St Helena online" Although living in the UK Simon runs a popular blog on the comings and goings on St Helena.
Posted on 11 September, 2015 by Simon Pipe Four hours to go before he was due to begin a journey into St Helena’s history books, and Stuart Rawlinson was sitting in his garden in the UK, getting some rest. He would need it.
He’d landed the job of chief pilot aboard the very first aircraft ever to fly out to the island.
“It’s a bit surreal,” he admitted. “There aren’t many places in the world you can’t fly to. It’s quite exciting to be part of making it happen.”
A large proportion of St Helena’s 4,000-population is expected to line vantage points to see the Beechcraft King Air 200 touch down, some time between Sunday 13 and Thursday 17 September 2015. Special traffic arrangements have been put in place around Longwood.
“Yes, we’ve been told about that,” said Stuart, who flies with Surrey-based Flight Calibration Services Limited. “It’s good.
“It’s a bit special. It’s got challenges because of the remoteness. It’s an excitement.
“When we’ve turned up in other countries there’s been an entourage that turns up. We know it’s important to the people of St Helena. I’m sure we’ll get a good welcome.”
There will be five people on board for the historic first landing, including three pilots and Stuart’s colleague Nick Whitehouse, who will do much of the inspection work.
“As we’re using a local [South African] aircraft out there, we take the crew of the aircraft. There will be one of their pilots and myself at the controls.
The team also includes a flight engineer who can service the plane in St Helena if needed. “If there’s a problem, we can’t just nip down to Halfords for a spare part,” said Stuart.
There’s no saying when they will be able to set out from South Africa for the flight via Namibia and Angola.
“We have to wait for a weather window to get to St Helena, to get in and get out again with a fuel load.
“There may or may not be a wait of a day or so because we are going in just on GPS.”
Though they’re going to test the guidance systems on Prosperous Bay Plane, they won’t be able to rely on them for their own landing – so no using the usual instruments.
“We have weather forecasters from the met office giving us forecasts.
“The network of people behind making this happen is quite wide. I wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t less than 100 making sure that flight arrives on the island.”
Once on the island, the team will begin a series of calibration flights, testing the navigation and communication systems over several days.
“The homing beacon is probably going to take one to two days to ensure it’s working correctly. Then we have the instrument landing system – a day to two days – and then the lighting system.
“There’s a lot of tech things in the background including the ground communication system, to make sure they’re set up as the engineers want them.
“Whatever we set up for the next week or two is going to be there for the next 20 years so we need to get this right.”
The St Helena job won’t be an entirely unfamiliar experience for Stuart.
“When we calibrate in Portugal we have to fly to the Azores, which isn’t a hugely dissimilar distance.
Stuart is a commercial instructor who’s been making calibration flights for six years. “It requires something different. A sense of humour, mainly.
“We go all round doing this. We’ll go from the Turks and Caicos Islands to Nigeria and Swaziland… we have a crew in UAE [the United Arab Emirates] at the moment.
“One minute you’re at Heathrow and the next minute you’re landing on an island in the middle of the South Atlantic, and then it could be a trip to the desert. I could be anywhere.”
Given the extra challenges of the St Helena job, was he nervous about it?
“What’s making people nervous is that we’ve heard the airport supply ship is decommissioned at the end of the month, so it has to work. There is no plan B
FIRST FLIGHT TO LAND ON ST HELENA
The Following text is from today's press release regarding next week's milestone event!
On Friday 4 September 2015 Basil Read was granted temporary use of the St Helena Airport runway by Air Support Safety International (ASSI). This heralds an historic milestone next week when a Beechcraft King Air 200 aircraft is due to land at the Airport to carry out a series of calibration flights. This will be the first ever plane to land on St Helena.
ASSI Senior Aerodrome Inspector, Justin Rothwell, carried out an assessment of the Airport infrastructure and safety procedures. As a result, an exemption was granted until 30 September 2015 to enable the calibration flights to go ahead.
The aircraft is due to arrive between Sunday 13 and Thursday 17 September 2015, dependent upon suitable weather and other factors. The precise date and time of arrival is therefore still to be determined, but every effort will be made to inform the public as early as possible.
The calibration tests will be undertaken by Flight Calibration Services Limited (FCSL) who will travel to St Helena on the aircraft leased from TAB in South Africa. The aircraft will fly from Lanseria Airport in Johannesburg, to Namibia, then to Angola and on to St Helena, taking approximately four hours for the final leg of the journey to the Island.
The aircraft will likely arrive between mid-morning and early afternoon. We expect that it will approach the northern end of the runway (i.e. from the direction of The Barn) and that it will carry out an initial low-level pass of the runway before coming in to land.
Although it is expected that the first flight to land at St Helena Airport will generate a huge amount of public interest, the public should be aware that this will not be the only chance to see this aircraft. It will remain on the Island for around a week, undertaking several flights each day (weather permitting).
Vantage Points and Vehicles
The public is advised that there is no access to the Airport Site. Instead, Basil Read, working closely with the St Helena Police Service, has identified various public vantage points where people will be able to get a good view of the aircraft. Other vantage points, such as Woody Ridge, will be available - but there will be no traffic management available at those places. The public is therefore asked to take extra care when driving to and parking at other vantage points on the Island.
The public are strongly encouraged to car share where possible, and to be mindful of their personal safety, particularly when on foot. People should drive and park sensibly and be aware of their surroundings.
Basil Read has granted permission for part of the Access Road, normally closed to the public, to be used as part of a one way system on the day to alleviate congestion. To approach the vantage points below, vehicles will be allowed through Longwood Gate and through to Bottom Woods. To return, vehicles will be directed past Reggie’s Takeaway at Bottom Woods, along the Access Road, through to Foxy’s Garage at Deadwood and then back to Longwood Gate (See attached map).
The entrance to Fisher’s Valley will be closed to all traffic other than residents.
Bradley’s Camp/Garage Area
Enquiries about the practical arrangements on the day the plane arrives should be directed to the Police on tel: 22626.
9 September 2015
One thing which hasn’t changed much over the past three years which I have been here are the shops. Well the outward appearance at least. Inside I must confess that there are signs of more choice, especially with items which might not perish in our warm temperatures here.
McVities Chocolate biscuits and Gingernuts have been very thin on the ground but recently we are seeing good supplies of them albeit at around 30% more than the UK prices.
Buying anything perishable is a lottery anywhere in the world.....but buying perishables which have to sit in the hold of a ship for up to 8 weeks is even more so. The local food stores do their utmost to keep up with demand and seasons but with only one ship a month its touch and go. One year the Easter Egg delivery arrived in July!
Because of this and the small population here, shops have a hard time making a good profit, just like the hospitality sector, they suffer from low customer numbers, many of whom have a very low income. This will obviously change with the times although I think its going to take another year or so.
Outside, the shop appearances could be mistaken for something from another era with many of them taking the names of pubs for some reason. In Jamestown there are three main “supermarkets” The Star, The Rose and Crown and the Queen Mary. There is also a DIY store which has a trade section at the back to assist the many building projects going on at the moment.
We also have one food store which specialises in health food items and UK branded products such as Yorkshire Tea and Wessex mill bread flour.
Out of town there are dozens of small stores which look after those who don’t want the trek down ladder hill to Jamestown. These are usually people’s homes and so unless you know where to find it, you can drive right past!
Fresh vegetables, meat and fish are purchased in the local market which is looking forward to a massive face lift over the next few months in the form of new shopping area with new lighting and refrigeration.
One of the big advantages of shopping on St Helena is that all parking on the island is currently free! How long this is going to carry on for who knows.
Disadvantages include the fact that sometimes we run out of things and the time to get something sent from the UK is in the region of 6 to 8 weeks. This is especially difficult when thinking about car parts as there is probably one of every car in Britain on this island.....Oh we have no Mercedes yet!
The past months have been pretty frantic with the whole team assisting anywhere on the island where there are people who are willing and able to be trained. We have covered many subjects; some practical and others more legislative, such as fire training and the food safety training which eventually saw over 200 people successfully achieve accreditation.
I have been focusing on training customer service via the world famous “Fish” training programme.
Having now run this training more than 25 times I am forever surprised by the fantastic response this training gets from all levels of staff. Another thing which I love about the sessions are that they never follow a set pattern as the sessions are about getting as much participation from the group as possible.
The training hinges on a film of a group of workers at the Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle and how their business thrives. They do this by making sure the day is fun packed and customer focused by following four principles: Play, Be there, Make their day and Choose your attitude.
The training is fast moving and participative which means that interest levels remain high and we have commitment to continue with the principles once out of the classroom.
125 customer facing staff have completed the training in July and August. Now comes the follow up which will mean checking standards within the workplace.
Bevan has already spent a short time at the Five Star Cape Grace Hotel in 2014. This time he is going for three months in order to learn some more advanced culinary skills and how to work as part of a large team. So far in St Helena, we have nothing comparable to this so the Cape Grace experience is going to be crucial to Bevan's development. The hotel is right on the Cape Town waterfront and enjoys not only an international clientele but many locals use the hotel as a regular dining venue. It is always busy and there is always something happening!
Debbie's role on St Helena is House Manager at Plantation House which is home to the Governor of the Island.
Debbie's training at the Lismoyne Hotel in Fleet is based on honing her management skills with a focus on events such as organising weddings, meetings and parties. The training will also have a hefty chunk of commercial reality as running Plantation House doesn't (currently) involve profit or charging money for services!
The Five Star 12 Apostles Hotel and Spa is situated a little way outside Cape Town in order to take advantage of the Staggeringly beautiful scenery. The Hotel is part of the world renowned Red Carnation Group who have won countless awards for their hotels, food, service and staff.
Jackie is working her way around each of the Hotel's departments with a focus on gaining experience in management and operational standards at the five star levels. Its a different world from running the Hotel operations on the RMS St Helena which is Jackie's current job. Jackie is keen to be able to continue her career in hospitality on St Helena once her time with the RMS is over and this time at the 12 Apostles will give her the commercial experience. So far Jackie has experienced fine dining, a trip in a helicopter and setting up a romantic table so a guest can propose!
Friday 27th March 2015 was a day to remember in the history of St Helena. This was the day when all was revealed to the local population as to who was getting the contract to be the first ones to fly in and out and who was getting the contract to operate the new hotel being built at 1 2 & 3 Main Street.
The announcements were coupled with an opportunities fair which highlighted all the new business and employment opportunities which are likely to evolve from the announcements. A video link to South Africa was set up which relayed the Chairman of Comair South Africa and the Mantis Hotel Group.
Comair will be flying from Johannesburg initially once a week on a Saturday. The flight is likely to take around 5 hours and will be a daytime flight, returning to Johannesburg the same day.
The news was communicated by our Governor Mark Capes.
There were other good news announcements. The signing of a contract to operate the new Jamestown Hotel which will be built on the site of our training school at 2onmain.
Mantis are familiar with the island having visited here in 2013 with a view to looking at potential hotel sites. Amongst others, they have a very nice hotel in Cheltenham and also the Draycott Hotel in London.
The building is starting probably July so we have a month or so to get all our stock and equipment together and move it out.
Our new location is very likely to be Bertrand's Cottage in Longwood. More of that when I have full confirmation that it will go ahead.
There was also confirmation that the local hospital is to receive an upgrade to the tune of over £2 Million. This is great news to the locals who have to tolerate the thought of travelling by sea for five days to Cape Town when something is really wrong with them.