Throwback Thursday

LOYAL AND UNSHAKEABLE

Looks like I missed the 198 anniversary of the death of Napolean on May 5. However in looking at my monthly stats for the blog I noticed that someone had gone (on the 5th) to a post I wrote back in 2012 about St Helena and his exile there.

My friend Gary’s association with St. Helena has given it a special significance in my mind. His fascination with the place was contagious and we often talked about taking 5 day journey on the RMS St. Helena from Cape Town to the Islands. He had decided that if we were going that far we might as well see Ascension and Tristan da Cunha.

Much has changed since I wrote that post. Gary died last year without ever getting to St. Helena except in his imagination. The much need – and much delayed – airport finally opened in October 2017 and is serviced by a weekly flight from Johannesburg. The RMS St. Helena, one of the last Royal Mail Ships, made her final voyage from the Island on February 10, 2018 . The occasional cruise ship now includes St Helena on it’s scheduled stops.

In rereading the post for one fleeting moment I paused and thought … hmmm the 200th anniversary of Napolean’s death is only two years away. Maybe … just maybe.

Willy Or Won't He

The approach to St Helena as recorded by James Wathen on a three day visit to the island in the summer of 1812.  From his A Series of Views of the Island of St Helena published in September 1821.  It is said that the view, save for the sailing ships, has little changed today.

Yesterday was the anniversary of the death in 1821 of Napoleon Bonaparte; he died in exile, a prisoner of the British, on St Helena – a 47 sq mi volcanic island 1200 miles from Angola in Africa and 1800 miles from Brazil in South America.   Uninhabited when it was discovered by the Portuguese in the 1500s it was to become an important outpost for the East India Company and other English ships on the voyage to the Indies and Australia.  Like many other isolated locations it also served in its early years as a place…

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Half Way Between

The approach to St Helena as recorded by James Wathen on a three day visit to the island in the summer of 1812.  From his A Series of Views of the Island of St Helena published in September 1821.  It is said that the view, save for the sailing ships, has little changed today.

Yesterday was the anniversary of the death in 1821 of Napoleon Bonaparte; he died in exile, a prisoner of the British, on St Helena – a 47 sq mi volcanic island 1200 miles from Angola in Africa and 1800 miles from Brazil in South America.   Uninhabited when it was discovered by the Portuguese in the 1500s it was to become an important outpost for the East India Company and other English ships on the voyage to the Indies and Australia.  Like many other isolated locations it also served in its early years as a place of exile for felons and prisoners of war including the Little Corsican, Dinuzulu kaCetshwayo and more than 5,000 Boer prisoners.  Forts were built along the rouged coast line to act as lookouts for possible escape attempts – and during Napoleon’s exile British Navy frigates circled the island night and day.

Its importance was to be greatly diminished with the opening of the Suez Canal in the 1800s and then ultimately by the jet plane.  Today the island can be reached by the only remaining Royal Mail ship which calls at the island from Capetown en route to Ascension Island.  There are plans for an airport and several smaller cruise ships do stop there but for the moment it is one of those almost unreachable places that – for me at least – begs to be reached.  And perhaps one of these days I will reach it.

After his death – and there has been much discussion over how natural it was – Napoleon was interred on the island.  In his book  A Series of Views of the Island of St Helena*, James Wathen gives this explanation to his illustration of the Tomb:

BURIAL PLACE OF NAPOLEON BUONAPARTE

This is situated in a place called Haine’s Valley, or the Devil’s Punch-bowl, near Hut’s Gate.  It is distant from Longwood about a mile and a half in a strait direction, but the common road forms a circle of about three miles. Before the Funeral, which took place on Wednesday, the 9th of May, 1821, one hundred men were employed to cut a direct descent to the grave. The tomb is in the vicinity of some willows, and a spring of water which were favorites with Buonaparte; who pointed out this spot for his burial place, soon after his arrival on the Island. A centinel is constantly on duty at the grave.

* A left click will take you to a facsimile of the book – including Wathen’s beautiful illustrations with explanations.

For the next 16 years his body was to remain in the unmarked grave – his warder Hudson Lowe, whose harshness in all probability hastened Napoleon’s death, refused to allow any sign of royalty to be inscribed so the slab was left blank – on the island that was his home for the last six years of his life.  In 1840 at the request of Louis Philippe I the British returned Napoleon’s remains to France.  They were carried on a journey from St Helena to Cherbourg on the Belle-Poule, a French frigate that was painted black for the voyage.  They were transferred to the steamship Normandie onward to Le Havre and up the Seine to Paris.  A state funeral was held on December 15 and the hearse carried Emperor Napoleon I from the Arc de Triomphe to a temporary resting place at St Jérôme’s Chapel until Louis Visconti‘s porphyry sarcophagus was completed under the dome at Les Invalides.

At 1100 (GMT) yesterday morning there was a commemoration of Napoleon’s death at the (now empty) Tomb in St Helena that was timed to coincide with a similar ceremony at Les Invalides.  The 20 minute memorial, arranged by the St Helena Tourism Office and the Honourary French Consul, included the laying of wreaths and the playing of the Last Post.  It was a brief tribute to the man whose unhappy stay there gave the island a lasting place in history.
I admit that I only knew of this little ceremony because of my good friend Gary.  He has developed an interest in this small outcropping in the middle of the Atlantic and follows news events from the island regularly.  But his interest is not a passive one – for the past ten years he has been sending books to the library in Jamestown.  Almost a decade ago he was downsizing and as he was culling his considerable book stash – in one of those moments of serendipity – came across a travel article about the island.  He had quite a few books about Canada  and he thought that rather than shunting them off to a second hand bookstore he would send them to St Helena – a way of sharing the story of the largest country of the Commonwealth with one of its smallest territories.

So for the past 10 years he has been gathering up books once or twice a year  (some of his own and many that he has bought for that purpose),  making a trip over to London and mailing them through a forwarding company that deals exclusively with St Helena, Ascension and the Falklands.  Recently he sent a history of Rideau Hall, Canada’s Government House, to the library and in return received a thank you note from the (then) Governor’s wife and a signed copy of the history of Plantation House, the Governor’s Residence on the Island.  As an interesting sidebar it is thought that Jonathan, one of the tortoises living on the grounds of the residence, is the oldest living reptile on earth.

Gary’s reminder had me delving into a bit of the history of St Helena and into some of the stories surrounding Napoleon’s exile and death.  And it brought to mind a disarming little movie I saw many years ago.  The Emperor’s New Clothes has as its premise the intriguing fantasy that it was not Napoleon but a double who died on St Helena.  Starring Ian Holm as Napoleon – he has played the role several times – it tells the story of his mistaken-ridden attempt to regain his throne but finding instead love, honesty and happiness in anonymity.  It is a movie I would love to see again but unfortunately it doesn’t appear to be available on iTunes or Netflix.  Should you get a chance to see it I highly recommended it, not because it is a great movie but because it is a warm-hearted and gently funny film with a dynamite performance at its core.

06 May – 1844: The Glaciarium, the world’s first mechanically frozen ice rink, opens.
 

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And It Would Be …..

Well my friend Dayle got it right – though Yellowdog Granny’s mind was obviously going in the same direction as a few friends who ventured a guess on Facebook and via e-mail. It is indeed a Citrus press. I will give it a try at lunch tomorrow – not that anything on the menu requires lemon juice but more because I want to try it.  And I may follow Jacques suggestion and see if it works as a funnel.

I have to admit I was rather at a loss as to what Platinum Silicone was – but a quick Google reveals its a method of curing the silicone to increase its tensile strength.  Who knew?

And Dayle as the winner you have your choice of one of these lovely fridge magnets imported from Italy at great expense.  Let me know by e-mail which one you wish to grace the door of your Kalvinator!  Or maybe you can use it on that freezer you’re so fond of????

19 novembre/November – Santa Matilde di Hackeborne

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And This Would Be???????

Gary and I have been friends for at least the past 40 years – barring the odd time when I was in a snit about something but come to think of it even then he was still my friend – and still he never fails to surprise and delight me.  Take for example the little gift we received from him today to welcome us to the new apartment.

Bright! Eye catching! And highly utilitarian! Something that no home should be without.  And I’ll think of him every time I use it!

Okay so what the hell is it?  The first person who can tell me what it is will get their choice from the wonderful collection of  fridge magnets I bought back from Italy – all, I might add giving you a broad hint, food related.

Any guesses?


17 novembre/November – Gregorio il Taumaturgo