As far as you can go – Living and Working in Jamestown

On my first trip I was in splendid isolation up in my house in the woods, for the other two trips, Edsel and I were given a house at the back of Jamestown.  When we arrived without luggage we were able to  simply walk up the main street, behind the tourist office, drop down into a small courtyard and enter our abode ten minutes after leaving the port.  After a 6 day trip it was the simplest of endings.

The house was large enough for our needs, downstairs was a lounge decorated in a way which would have looked outdated in the 1970s in the UK.  A small kitchen at the back and upstairs a couple of bedrooms and bathroom set on the creakiest wooden floor.  The back of the house was dark as a steep hill and other buildings crowded in.  The front was not much better as it was in a courtyard of several other houses and next to a car mechanics.  But we did not need much and since we were mainly based out of either the National Trust or the Legal and Lands Department, both just a short walk away.

My first visit had identified that there was a need to build an inclusive GIS of all the environmental agencies and also look at it as a prototype for a island wide GIS.  The Legal and Lands Department had a GIS already, and some capacity in the shape of a fabulous young man called Len Coleman.  I’d not met him the first time I had visited; I think he had been away on a training course in China.  When Edsel and I walked into the office for the first time he was so happy to see us – he had been asking for ages to get some more GIS experience and organise the data properly and from what he had read of our work in Anguilla and Ascension, he was excited by our visit.

Aside from the Castle, Legal and Lands had one of the most prestigious government buildings in Jamestown, Essex House.  It was a grand four storey building, although two of the storeys were below the main street level.  Going up an elegant staircase you entered a large wooden panelled entrance hall with a glass panelled reception area.  If you went upstairs you met the surveyors , including the chief man at the time, Gavin.  Len had a large room at the back of the house overlooking a small courtyard garden.  At the far end was another substantial building housing the Legal Section.  People visiting there could gain access through a small subway from the street under the main building.

Like many buildings in Jamestown, Essex House was indeed built with some grandeur, but lack of money and maintenance had let it fade considerably.  Despite this Edsel and I were very happy working here.  GIS was at the heart of the room; there were maps up on all the walls; Len and his colleague Gina were working hard on a project to scan all the property titles for the country and add them to a massive database, massive by small island scales anyway.  The contrast with the other two main offices in which we had worked were strong.  I loved Scotland with its outward bound style offices, but it was often shrouded in a dank cloud and cold.  I loved working  in the National Trust Office in Jamestown; the different ladies who ran the show there each had their own characters and  I always felt looked after by them, in particular the indomitable and always bubbly administrator, Phyllis.  But here with Len we had found the beating core of what we had to do and someone who knew what GIS was about.

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