Thursday October 10th
We were fortunate enough to be on the first little boat ferrying passengers to the quayside. After less than an hour, we completed all the immigration formalities, collected our luggage and were met by the new senior management team of the Health Service and Hospital. They immediately saw how unwell I was and insisted that I not start work until Monday. The HR manager kindly drove us up to the house that had been our preferred choice from the photos we’d been sent. It was a little 2 up – 2 down half way up the hill to the hospital, just beyond the Baptist church and opposite Pilling Primary School. We were told that it had been cleaned in readiness for our arrival, but, unfortunately, no one had checked if this was true. Immediately on opening the front door the unpleasant musty smell hit us and it didn’t take many moments to see that the house was filthy from top to bottom. At first, I thought we could handle it, but the more I realised needed to be done (carpet and furniture cleaning; the oven and all the kitchen utensils, crockery and cupboards etc etc) the quicker I realised it was impossible to stay. Alan had gone up to fetch the car from the hospital that I’ve been allocated and brought back another HR person who is a local “Saint”. She also agreed that the place was barely habitable and, after a few phone calls, we were moved to Wellington House guest house back in the centre of town. Ivy, the owner, gave us a lovely welcome and showed us to a big airy room at the back on the first floor. We are in twin beds, the toilets and washing facilities are in little cubicles with plastic concertina-folding doors up on the next floor up a steep seventeen step wooden staircase. Our room has a locked dividing door to the next bedroom which is occupied by a retired judge from Norfolk. There is no sound-proofing at all, due to the age and construction of the building. I feel very sorry for him having to put up with my coughing spells (which, thankfully, are not that frequent through the night). He has been most gracious and a pleasant meal time companion. The reason he is here is to investigate as much as he can about Napoleon’s time on the island as one of his great great grandfather’s was part of the guard who watched the emperor during his captivity and who saw his body immediately on his death. Alasdair has a copy of a letter with him that was written by his ancestor to his mother detailing Napoleon’s last days and the funeral. He has also lent us two books to improve our knowledge of Napoleon’s time on St Helena.