The first week has flown by with a multitude of names to remember and a rapid immersion into the St Helena way of life. Meeting the accommodation providers on the island has been a high point as their open welcome and keenness to hear feedback has been a breath of fresh air when thinking back to my AA days and some of the discussions I have had with proprietors. Much of the accommodation on St Helena is self catering as there has been quite a bit of building by non resident “Saints” or by locals who have worked in the UK or Ascension or the Falklands and have saved a nest egg to put into a property. Most of these properties are like the place I’m staying in. Two or three bedroom bungalows built from breeze blocks and tiled throughout. As many of them have been built in the past three years their condition is excellent. Gardens will take a bit longer to mature and the land is pretty dry on the Jamestown side. Few and far between are the buildings from the old days, some from the times when Napoleon was here (1815). These houses are either in Jamestown or out in the country regions with fabulous views and plenty of land. The great thing about the older properties are the fantastic high ceilings and many have the original teak floors. Another interesting point is that Raeburns and Agas are fairly common due to the surplus of fire wood on the island and the fact that although close to the Equator, it can get chilly here.
The contrast in the countryside is similar to many volcanic islands around the world with the windward side attracting heavier rainfall and leeward side almost desert like in places, (or is it the other way round?) . As St Helena is British and has been since around 1660 it has many characteristics of the mother country. Driving on the left and road signs are two obvious ones. I was surprised to see gorse bushes on the hillsides, pheasants flying across fields and quite a few sheep once I ventured out. The terrain is VERY hilly as some of my pictures show; the roads are single track with passing places just like our country lanes. At the moment the traffic is minimal but I dread to think what these roads will be like once the airport has brought the masses in to visit. At least the vehicles over here are sensibly sized, not American in size!
We start the accommodation grading next week which will entail visits to every accommodation provider with some of the team from the tourist office here. We will be grading each property provisionally in order for any issues to be addressed before a full grading in 2012.
Plans for the food side of this visit are taking shape. I’m going to be running a number of classroom type courses on the most requested subjects: Bread, desserts and pastry. Other subjects are going to be covered when I spend a day with each of the caterers. I am also going to be writing a weekly newspaper article about food in general, with recipes and tips etc etc. The motive behind this is to get more information out there and to create interest in trying different ways of cooking some of the more traditional foods over here. Pumpkin is a staple here as is spinach. Except spinach over here is really chard as we call it in the UK. Vegetables seem to thrive in the rich soil. I had the best tasting broccoli ever yesterday.........nothing at all like the offerings we buy in Tesco and the like.