The view from our front door
Saturday was spent not going anywhere at all, putting down roots in Periwinkle. Alan is aiming to do this literally. He has planted radish and lettuce seeds, which we hope will help us towards our “5 a day” before we leave, which is quite a challenge here. The owner of Periwinkle has had a successful vegetable plot in the past. Alan has cleaned it up and, in addition to seed-sowing, has started reviving the flower beds and plants in containers too. The soil is very dry as St Helena has experienced a drought this year which lead to a hosepipe ban, recently lifted thanks to significant rainfall in late August and September. Despite the drought there are at least five large green bunches of bananas visible amongst the large banana palms to one side of the house. These shelter the washing line from the worst of the wind, which continues to blow regularly and noisily.
Yes – we have bananas!
I had wondered when we would meet the wildlife that wishes to share Periwinkle with us. In addition to the moth balls found in wardrobes and drawers, there are empty ant traps all over the cottage as well as sprays against ants and cockroaches under the kitchen sink. During Saturday, I removed a dead cockroach that was surrounded by tiny ants from outside the bathroom door. The tiny ants were trailing through from a crack under the bath. I put the ant spray to use. Later, I found a live cockroach outside the bathroom (effectively outside the house so not too worrying). I sprayed it with the cockroach spray. It tried to get back into the separate toilet but did not make it. After dark, I put on the kitchen light and found a massive cockroach bold as brass on the kitchen counter next to the sink. It hid under a saucepan. I shouted for Alan (so nice to have him around!). He came and we looked at the cockroach, deciding what to do. I tried to grab it with the kitchen towel but it scuttled out so quickly and disappeared through the top of the under-sink cupboard door. That was that. All evening and the next morning Alan teased me, attributing any noise or door movement to “Mr Cockroach” returning to cause trouble. Later on on the Sunday morning, he got his just desserts. We are both sitting at the kitchen table working away on our laptops. Suddenly, up he jumped and took off a shoe. “Yes, yes”, I said sounding rather wearily cynical, “Stop messing around”, thinking that he was teasing me again. But, no, he had been wearing his shoes with a guest on board, possibly the same massive cockroach of the previous evening now concealed in the toe end. Mr C must have decided he could put up with the cramped conditions no longer and started to wriggle. Alan has tickly feet anyway, hence the dramatic reaction. Now we are one cockroach less in the world, firmly squelched on the garden path by the same shoe it had been taking refuge in.
While on the subject of beasties in houses; I discovered an unsettling bit of recent history about the house that would have been our ‘fall back’ residence if Periwinkle had fallen through. I’d already heard rumours about a rat problem there. Now I know first-hand what happened. My informant was living in that house for over a year when one night while asleep in bed he was woken suddenly by a sharp pain in his big toe. He found a rat gnawing away on it, no doubt attracted by a rubbed and broken bit of skin from the wearing of new sandals the previous day. The poor guy had a chunk of flesh missing and then, being medical, the worries of having caught leptospirosis, a nasty rat-borne illness that is present on St Helena. I’m happy to report that the tests were negative. This was the trigger to him looking for alternative accommodation. I am SO, SO glad that we will not be living there. Although we may have rats living close to us in Periwinkle, I believe the house is not as permeable to rodent intrusion as that particular Jamestown house is.
After a Sunday spent in domestic bliss, give or take the odd cockroach, we took ourselves down to Jamestown to join the Baptist congregation at the evening service. The Baptist church had not been in use between 2008 and earlier this year due to a rock fall that took out the back wall and a significant chunk of the next door manse. The pastor was at home at the time but thankfully not in the bathroom, which took the brunt of the damage. Now the church is repaired and redecorated, light and welcoming with the cornet-playing pastor and organ-playing retired dentist providing the music. I had the lovely surprise of finding three colleagues, including the head community nurse, in the congregation. For the second time in a week we sang ‘Be thou my vision’ and the final song was ‘I am a new creation’ which will forever bring back fond memories of Len Swift for whom this was a firm favourite. There was tea in the hall after the service and an opportunity to learn more about the people and the church. We learned that the Baptist church on St Helena was founded by a Scotsman, James McGregor Bertram, born in Gladsmuir in the early 19th Century who came to the island in 1846. At one point there were seven Baptist congregations, now there are four, which is not bad going given the population of under 4,500 and the presence of other denominations and religions too. The pastor and his wife were surprised when I told them that Alan and I were usually part of a much smaller congregation than the 30 or so who are part of the Jamestown Baptist Church. They gave us a book written by a New York minister about James Bertram’s life and ministry after he had visited America to raise funds to build churches on St Helena. The book had been republished as part of the fund-raising to repair the rock fall damage.
A quick call in to Wellington House to invite Alasdair to dinner the following Tuesday, preceded our return up and over the valley side and on home to Periwinkle.
Early evening sea and sky