As he reveals in his latest blog (15 November 2010), Michel Martineau has now spent a quarter of a century on St Helena - the same length of time that Napoleon and his mortal remains were on the island. In the blog Michel features a recent article in the St Helena Herald about the French Properties. I am among Michel's greatest fans, and very pleased that his contribution, and not only to the French properties, is becoming more widely appreciated.
The Herald article goes into some detail about the 60 acres (enormous by St Helena standards) which Michel purchased and later donated to the National Trust. Apparently the bank asked more questions about St Helena than about Michel's financial circumstances when he applied for a mortgage.
The article also sets out Michel's philosophy for Longwood and the other properties:
I want to move away from this old notion of 'those are the French properties and behind their walls they do as they want'. I want to open up the properties completely. .. Let's face it, a lot of people only know St. Helena because of the Napoleon link. The idea is to use this fact as a springboard and then tourists can discover other things about the island."This certainly chimes with my own experience. I went out of curiosity about Napoleon, and fell in love with the island and its people.
Michel has already made amazing progress. When Jean-Paul Kauffman - author of The Dark Room at Longwood - visited the island fifteen years ago, he commented on the total separation of the French Properties from the rest of St Helena life. That that separation is no longer the case is entirely due to Michel's efforts.