Whats it like to live in the Falklands?

Its a difficult question to answer.

You know most people but not all. You raise your hand to acknowledge other drivers in most but not all cases.

Wine and meat are cheap but fruit and veg are very expensive.

Shopping 

In Stanley, there are two large grocery shops and they both sell an array of merchandise in addition to the usual weekly shop, things like ski poles in one or pretty jumpers in another. There are 3 convenience stores one gas station and about 5 pubs. There are a couple of clothing shops but the ranges are small. A few gift shops survive by doing great trade with cruise line customers. These shops sell a mix of merchandise but my favourite items are those locally designed and made. People spin and dye wool which can be bought in Skeins. Other people use the wool to make hats, scarves and wraps. Some people do felting and sell felt pictures. Now I’ve met people locally I better understand just how much work goes into producing each item. Jam made from a tiny berry which grows on the Diddle Dee plant can be found in some shops. There is little time or need to go shopping but there is a hive of activity going on in homes where people are making stuff for ‘The Season’.

Another of my favourite shops is one that sells fresh fruit and vegetables. They have an array of poly tunnels which they use to grown produce to used by locals and sold in the shop. Lamb or beef are inexpensive here and no doubt are the main food.

People 

Whats it like? Its mesmerising, so like the UK and yet so very different. You feel comfortable and at home quickly because things are familiar and then you hear a word like Smoko and you have no idea what people are talking about. There is a mix of Islanders ( which normally means they can date their island heritage back many generations and mostly came from UK).

Other groups include Contractors (here for a specific contract as a Teacher, Accountant, Treasurer or the Chief Executive normally on a 2 year contract).The common phrase you hear is that people came here for a 2 year contact but ended up staying 15, 20, 25, 30 years.

The next group are Chilean immigrants who come here to take up work, have children and eventually become Islanders. Zimbabweans come here to do de-mining, they bring their families and may eventually end up staying. People from the Philippines came to take up work in shops and hotels and many have stayed to take up residency. Most people can tell you who the first Philippina was and why she came. I haven’t asked but the same is probably true of Chileans.

Then you have an array of other nationalities who came to do something and then just couldn’t leave. All of these new people bring new blood and create a thriving social and economic community. They also bring amazing skills and knowledge to the islands, its not unusual to have a conversation and to find that the person you are talking to has had an amazing career somewhere before coming here. I think we have almost every skill you could imagine needing on the islands.

The population is growing very quickly. The primary school is full and all of the people who settle here can one day become UK citizens if they first become Falkland Islanders. They will have free access to the UK health care system and the right to abode in the UK.

Everyday stuff

Whats it like?  We suffer from Falklands Trouser leg and Falklands Hair.

As everyone drives big cars and some roads are unmade there is always dust or mud on the car so when I get out I inevitably catch my trouser on the step and this results in an ungainly muddy stain on the leg of my trousers. See examples.

Falklands hair, well the winds are so strong that you must always have a hat to hand. I still blow-dry my hair most days thought not sure why as I then put a hat on every time I leave the house. My hair is flattened, or worse if I forget the hat, I look wrecked.

Every time you leave the house to visit the penguins you need to take a camera, binoculars, a bottle of water, sunglasses, a hat, scarf, padded jacket and walking boots. You need to dress for 4 seasons!

and finally

I can’t think of anywhere more beautiful and inspiring for creativity than the Falkland Islands. I only wish it were a tad warmer!

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

Ernest Hemingway, died on 2nd July 1961, was 62 years old and seems always to have been in pain pursuing his profession. His quotes paint a picture of a soul in torment.

‘The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.’

I’ll never write anything like The Old Man and The Sea or For Whom the Bells Toll. I don’t even think I want to write like that. To me, his writing is pretty near perfect and I can only imagine that the process was torturous. When googling the reviews for the Old Man and the Sea, some praise it, others seem to detest it. So as a writer, you will never please all of the people, criticism is always given.

Now lets just be clear about something, I am not comparing myself to Hemingway, but I like his quotes because thats how I feel every time I try to write fiction. I bleed, I hurt, I ache, I would rather pick up the horse shit by the road for my friend’s garden than write fiction.

At the same time I am compelled to write, I need to write, I want to write and I feel better when I write. The only problem is that, well, I just don’t write! Oh, I promise myself that today is the day I will sit down and write my novel. So, I sharpen a pencil, make sure my pen has ink, get the notebook out and ruler a small margin on each page so it’s ready for the pearls that will flow. I stare at the book, I fiddle with my pen, I look out the window and then I notice something in the room that needs tidying, so I busy myself with that.

I’ve tried to sit for an hour with a blank sheet where I’m not allowed to move for the hour even if I don’t write. What happens? I fall asleep or start to daydream about what I will do later.

The desire to write is like a curse. I could just say ‘thats it, I don’t give a fxxx, I am never going to write a novel and all thoughts, ideas and plans for such a thing will now be thrown out’. What do I do? I write a blog about how I can’t write. I talk to people about how I can’t write. I dream about how I can’t write and I moan about how I can’t write.

I am delighted then to announce that I have written twice this week! Both exercises suggested by a wonderful woman – but I’ve done them. They have nothing to do with my novels and they weren’t that much fun to do but they’re done. Perhaps this will be the week I get started….

My character is a slightly overweight female assassin. Although I suspect she’s more of a Guardian Angel who just happens to have skills which mean she can get herself and others out of difficult situations. She is an excellent markswoman, fun, complex but efficient. She has a close friend who is very beautiful, talented and a risk taker. Her friend works in TV but is anxious as she is about to lose her job. My character makes a suggestion that will change her friend’s fortunes for the better.

Lets see if I can get any further in the next few weeks….

A unique family

Living in the Falkland Islands you can’t escape the fact that there are almost as many military personnel (including the civilian staff) as there are Islanders. I’ve never worked with the military in any form other than occasionally with a colleague or two on leadership development programmes or coaching people to help them to achieve professional qualifications which will lead to a second career when they leave the Service.

This is a family of amazing people. The family goes much wider than the services alone. Spouses and families travel with serving personnel and try to create as normal a family life as possible. There are groups and clubs created around interests. No doubt there are arguments and problems but those aren’t visible to me. What I see are people living in this sometimes hostile environment – weather and facilities – having fun and getting the most out of their time here.

Any event such as a run or the mid-winter swim for charity, the services will always turn up. The great winter swim fell on a day when the weather was sunny but very cold. The waves at Surf Beach were higher than anything I’ve seen down there and yet a coach load of amazing people made their way into Stanley to take a dip – for charity and camaraderie.

Every time I fly the airbridge I will meet some people from one of the services. Without exception, people are amazing. A young man recently told me about his time in Afghanistan and how on one occasion he had lost hearing in one ear. He was with a group of chaps and initially got a ribbing because the spare seat next to him was filled with me. Not the nicest thought for a young man who was facing a seventeen and a half hour flight. He was kind, warm and chatty and told me about his family and his life in the UK living in military accommodation. I was really inspired. I get tired of the media and in particular the depictions of the services. Isn’t it about time we supported this family who train to support us?

BFBS provides the local radio stations and Jade is my favourite DJ. She’s fun and engaging and its like listening to one of my best friends chatting. On the Queens birthday she was rather surprised then pleased when the band played the Rocky theme and entertained us with a little wiggle. She interviews serving personnel about their time here and their various roles.

However, I have to say that the Forces TV channel is hilarious the listings include programmes I haven’t seen since the1970’s. I’ve often wondered if its a strategy; keep the TV banal and funny to keep tempers down. Or is it to do with funding? I guess I know the real answer, but I can’t help enjoying the image of someone in the MoD spending time psychologically assessing programmes. How they would come up with some of these choices as the best combination for relaxing and calming serving personnel is beyond me but I’m interested in your thoughts on the listings for tonight!

Maybe its entertainment all of the family can enjoy – like Disney 😉

Strangely, and rather pleasingly, BFBS Extra has season 7 Game of Thrones running. Unfortunately I missed the start of this season so won’t be able to watch now until the DVD is issued. No spoilers please.

Feeling blessed to be meeting so many wonderful people who know how to have fun, be creative and support each other.

 

 

Festival of quilts-2017

Go to the festival of quilts my Falkland islander friend suggested, and obediently I did. It’s a strange feeling being in a queue with many Boden clad women all vying for a space just a little ahead of me. It seems there is something that happens to women of a certain age, they turn into honey monsters when there is a queue or if you just happen to stand in a place they want to photograph, or basically if you breathe anywhere near them. I understand, Ive had those days when I was starting to learn to assert myself, starting to feel the fear of saying what I think and Don’t let anyone stand in your way moments. Now through the other side I feel quite confident that my boundaries are intact so I no longer feel the need to assert. This bunch might challenge my resolve though. What is it about a few squares of fabric sewn together that turns us into shrews. I’ve got to do my shopping now before I find bolts ripped out of my hands or worse I am tackled to the ground for a bolt end. I love the quilts and its worth navigating everything just to see some amazing work. Look at the stuff below.

 

A few bits of fabric sewn together creates works of art.

Cooking is for those who don’t know how to quilt!

That’s apparently a famous quote on quilting. I think it sums up my own views quite well. I love to cook but I’m not very good. I cant really follow recipes because my brain doesn’t seem to work in the way recipes are written.  I’m a piss poor pastry or desert chef and that means my guests endure whatever M&S has to offer that day.  After years of feeling inadequate about my lack of culinary skill I now feel liberated. No more worrying about whether or not I should be making my own bread. No more tearing out recipes from magazines promising to one day give them a go and no more anxiety about dinner parties. Cooking is just not what I do.

Quilting or patchwork is my new hobby and I love it with a passion.

Taken for granted

Back to Blighty and the first thing I notice is the speed. The wonderful taxi driver who picks me up at the airport, chirpy and with a big smile, jumps into her seat and whisks me off down some narrow roads at a phenomenal speed. She’s within the limit but coming from the Falklands, where the maximum is 40mph, she’s like a daredevil.

Going into town the train is sedate by comparison and the fact that I can choose my hours means that I travel when I get a seat. Trains don’t exist in the Falkland Islands, or if they do I’ve yet to see one. I realise that I take trains for granted.

A queue in Pret a Manger is normal but twice as long as anything I’ve experienced for the past few months. The choice for  lunch is confusing and I want to taste a little of everything. Fresh crayfish and rocket is a real treat and something I would have taken for granted before FI.

The tube is intimidating and I feel claustrophobic. People are mostly pleasant; occasionally someone is rude and I notice that rudeness more than before.

A quick shop and I’ve bought more ‘stuff’ in 30 minutes than would be possible in  a week of trawling the shops of the Falkland Islands. The colours, textures, smells and array of options leaves me breathless. I’m just as appalled as enthused by the options. What will happen to this ‘stuff’ if not sold? I realise I’ve lived quite well without having to make choices like these. I select the things I want and enjoy the act of purchase.

Finally, I have one stop I need to make and it attacks my senses. The most amazing florist who specialises in miniature arrangements. Just a few small flowers but they mean so much.

flowers (2)

On becoming a penguin

Today I looked at photos taken on Saturday. I found this one of me checking out the ice to see how strong it was. Very is the answer. It could withstand my weight and thats not light.

My fall has meant limited outside adventures and lots of elevating my limb on the sofa. So a chance to walk out by Gypsy Cove was irresistible. Unfortunately it was very icy and, as could probably have been predicted, I nearly fell. So I decided to explore off track terrain a little.

John took this photo and its supposed to show how strong the ice is but instead I can’t help but notice that I look a little like a very large penguin! Perhaps thats what happens when you live somewhere like this.

This is what Wikipedia says about a penguin.

The penguin’s body is adapted for swimming. Its body is fusiform (tapered at both ends) and streamlined. A penguin has a large head, short neck, and elongated body. The legs and webbed feet are set far back on the body, which gives penguins their upright posture on land.

Im not sure that I could be called streamlined but I am fusiformed!

Another characteristic of the penguin is to hunker down in a burrow with one true love. I leave you with that thought!

My guilty secret

Since a child I’ve held a guilty secret. I was warned that nothing good would come of it. That I would waste my life and life would pass me by if I did it. I used to hide in a shed in my garden to do it. Sometimes I’d take torch to bed to do it so no-one would know I was at it. My first time was a magical experience, the second was an adventure and the third … who knows by then I was hooked. When I lived in Paris I was so lonely I spent all my spare time – at it. When I started work it became weekends only. As my life became busier I would binge on holidays and never engage in it outside of those precious weeks. Now I’m somewhere I could do it all day long. No one would know. However, I still have that terrible feeling of guilt.

So my question? Is reading a book for pleasure pure idleness?