I have just been catching up on recent issues of the St. Helena Independent.
As usual the paper gives a downbeat view of life on the island, which I fear is an all too accurate representation of reality.
The last few issues have been dominated by the distressingl circumstances surrounding the birth of a still born child in the hospital - which according to the Bishop has resulted in a lack of confidence in the medical facilities on the island.
On a brighter note I was pleased to read that the cultural voyage to St Helena, "In the Footsteps of Napoleon" , which I wrote about last October, has attracted a lot of interest. According to Alistair McLean, Marketing Executive of R.M.S. St Helena, 34 packages have been sold, and they have had to turn away further enquiries because of the lack of suitable accommodation on the island. Alistair thinks it will be one of the biggest such parties to arrive on the island. Further trips are likely to take place in 2011 and 2012.
It was also interesting to read a presentation made by the French Honorary Consul, Michel Martineau, to Legislators and Senior Government Officials. The main points are listed below.
The French Government is responsible for the maintenance of the French properties; the St Helena Government is now responsible for Fire and Burglary security of Longwood House and for ensuring the properties are accessible to public.
Permission has been secured from the French Government to restore the Generals Quarters at Longwood House. (photo above). These quarters had previously been rebuilt in the 1930's, but because of poor quality materials and the harsh weather conditions at Longwood they have deteriorated badly. The project will cost 800,000 Euros. Happily the main construction work will be undertaken by a local builder, with specialist assistance as needed from France. A campaign to raise sponsorship for this project will begin in the autumn. The project is expected to take three years.
In 2016 some 80 pieces of furniture associated with Napoleon's captivity will temporarily be removed from St Helena to be exhibited in Paris alongside other Napoleon artefacts. The furniture will be expertly restored before the exhibition, and will be returned in perfect condition to St Helena.
Visitors to St Helena beware - Longwood is going to be rather empty in 2016!