Monday, October 17, 2011

A recce

Today we have three military personal from the Port Troop and the captain of the tug on George Island. They are doing a recce of the beach to see if they can use the miltary landing craft to land an Eager Beaver on George Island. We have been trying to get the Eager Beaver here and a tractor and Shauns Surf on to Speedwell for two years. Not too many years ago we could have them landed here by our coastal shipping vessel on a sea truck. Our government however had been receiving disspensation from the MCA to land them because they exceeded the weight that the sea trucks were officially allowed to carry. We asked if disspensation could again be given to land the above vehicles but the reply from the MCA was that our government had been given disspensation for 14 years to get their house in order and no it would no longer be granted. So today after two long years of struggle to get much needed machinery onto our islands we are perhaps a little closer. The personal will be picked up again today by FIGAS and will then fly up to Speedwell Island and also undertake a recce there. Even if we are successful and we do manage to get these vehciles out this is not a permanent solution only a very expensive sticky plaster on a problem that not only affects us but other islands to. A problem that is long overdue a solution.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Me and the sea

It is a strange relationship. From the age of 14 I knew I wanted to go to sea. The only opportunity I could see to achieve this ambition was to work on a cruise ship. At the time the only ship I knew of that visited the Falklands was the Linblad Explorer. My mum bless her arranged for me to met the captain on one of her visits to Stanley. I was 15 at the time and had ju

st finished my first year of O'levels. His suggestion was I should finish the second year and then get in touch again. This I would almost certainly have done if the islands had not been invaded. After the conflict I still thought about it but people said they would not employ Falklands Islanders now because they carried Argentine tourists. As a then sixteen year old I listened to these apparently enlightened people and never did check it out for myself. I still wish I had.
So you would think that the life that I lead now would be perfect. We move around our islands very regularly during the summer months on our boat Theo. Who could wish for more but there's a problem. I love big ships, even big ships in bad weather. In 1983 I sailed on the Keiran to Ascension and three months later back to the islands from Ascension. I loved it and the rougher it was the more I loved it.
Theo is 36 feet, a decent size but she only has one engine and no sails. I have become a wimp. I worry continously that we will break down. I no longer like being out in the rough weather in case we should break down or have to stop the engine for any reason. I know if we stop we will swing side on to the waves and that scares me. My fear has become totally irrational. 10 years ago when we first bought George Island I would stand on the beach for a good 15 minutes and retch continously with nerves. At the time we had a wooden boat. What if we spring a board, we will sink. On the plus side although she wasnt designed to sail she had a lovely big red sail which would keep her into the wind if needed. My irrational side drives me and Christopher mad. In the earlier years I used to get this idea that I would feel better off the boat then on. You may think well there is nothing wrong with that but we would be half way between islands and taking into account that I can't swim it is a totally bizarre thing to think. Other times I have had the urge to get into the dinghy and be towed then if something should go wrong then I would already be in the dinghy. This plan however is then squashed by the thought, what if the rope comes untied, I will float away and he (Christopher) may not notice. I am not alone in this thought of being towed in the dinghy however. Elle the dog actually had the nerve to do it. She dissappeared of the boat only to be found standing up in the bow of the dinghy under tow. I often think I should write Christopher a book of warning signs. It would start of with, it's a little rough - this means it's okay at the moment but if it gets a bit rougher there might be a problem. I can hear the wind up high in the sky today - are you sure it's not going to get windy. I don't like it - this is quite serious, it's his first warning that I am not happy. It really means I would like to go back but I am not going to ask, you should just know. I really don't like this - this is the second warning he really should react to this, in fact he shouldn't ask if I want to go back he should just turn and go back. The third and final warning is delivered in total meltdown. It is delivered in no uncertain terms. It comes in the form of unstoppable, uncontrollable verbal abuse and threats of never ever, ever going again. Last time it arrived with an overwhelming desire to kick him in the legs, which I managed to refrain from. My demons however have only got the better of me once. This would never have happened if we didn't have company. I knew it was too rough for me. I could see the waves breaking outside the harbour but we had company. This he thought would give him a bit more leeway. I wouldn't play up in company. Wrong, very wrong, he will not try that again. Today was a lovely day but a bit cold. I decided I would lay on the hatch cover on the deck. Christopher came out and said why don't you get up in the dinghy it will be nice and sunny in there and you will feel DOUBLEY safe. There is no such thing as doubley safe!!! UMM says the insane bit of brain, it sits on a bracket that is welded onto the end of the boat. It hangs out over the back. WHAT IF the bracket breaks, the boat can't fall right of because it is tied but one side will drop. I will fall out. I can't swim, I'm not wearing my lifejacket, he might not notice it has fallen off. I obligingly climb up into the dinghy. After all its only for an hour and a half and worrying about the bracket breaking off means I dont have to worry about the acid that he spilt in the hold which has eaten the legs of his padded boiler suit practically to the knees. I mean what else is it eating. So that is my relationship with Theo and the sea. Never look at the dials. You might notice something is wrong. Enquire about every noise that you have not heard before and most importantly take an i-pod turn it up to full volume and hopefully it will drown all those noises that you have not noticed before that might indicate a problem.

Friday, October 14, 2011

79 today and uncontrollable giggling when you shouldn't

Today is my mums 79th birthday. I wish I was in Stanley so I could take her out for a meal and buy her a birthday present. My mum is a truelly remarkable person. She is as fit as a fiddle despite being told 5 years ago that she had 18 months left to live. Well my mum thoroughly enjoys an argument and proving others wrong. No one was going to tell her she had 18 months to live and not be proved wrong. I know my mum will not mind me telling you all because she is quite proud of the fact that they have been proved wrong. Mums initial health problems started approximately 20 years ago when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. The prognosis was good and she had a lumpectomy and radiotherapy. Five years ago she was diagnosed with a rare form of leaukemia called hairy leaukemia, a very slow developing form of cancer which she had probably been developing for the previous 10 years. Ironically it was suggested that this had probably been caused by the treatment that cured her breast cancer. At the time her blood counts were very low and her resistance to illness and the ability of her blood to clot were away below normal. In a remarkable act of what I can only describe as defiance over the last two years her blood counts have improved, some have actually came back to within normal range. Some are still low but no part has deterioated further with all tests showing a degree of improvement to the point where her monthly checks have now been extended back to three monthly checks. She is one in a million.
On a sadder note it is two years yesterday since my father was buried. He was 81 years old. My dad had never spent a day in hospital until his final illness which he was very unfortunate to die from. He was like my mum, as fit as a fiddle and they had both just returned from the UK. Summer had arrived and dad had started to plant his still very large potato garden. During the night he woke with a pain in his chest. In the morning mum was not happy with him and got my sister to take him to the hospital. To cut the story short it showed that he had had a heart attack. The hospital believed it had been caused by a faulty valve that was letting blood drain back. The decision was taken that because he was still incredibly fit and had stablized well he would be sent to Santiago in Chile. An air cardel flight was brought in for him and my brother John was allowed to go on the flight with him. My mum was not allowed to go because obviously she can not get insurance because of her condition. They had a good flight and dad arrived in Santiago in a good and stable condition. His diagnoses was confirmed, he was rested for a few days and then tests were started to determine if his heart and arteries were in good enough condition to have a valve replacement. We were warned that one of the tests carried the risk of disloging something which may cause a stroke. My dad was just so unlucky because this is what happened. The day after the test and with the all clear for the valve replacement he had a stroke. Again he was fortunate and apart from some confusion he didnt lose any use of his limbs but this meant that he was no longer well enough to have his valve replacement. The path of treatment became a bit blurred but we knew it would now be several weeks before his operation could go ahead. Unfortunately his heart couldnt take the strain of the wait and on the 5th October 2009 he had another heart attack and passed away. A week later my brother flew home with my father body.
There was then a delay with his funeral because dad had arrived without all his relevant paperwork which meant he could not be buried. We were told that because dad was in a sealed coffin it would have a window so we could see him if we wanted to. I had visions of this window, would it just be a little window that I could only see his face through. Like a peek a boo window. I couldnt get to grips with it. Mum, my sister Stephanie and I decided we would go and see dad. We arrived outside the hospital and I decided no I couldnt go so only mum and Stephanie went. They came back and Stephanie explained that in fact the whole top half of the coffin lifted and I shouldnt worry because dad looked very peaceful and asleep. One more trip around the square and I decided I did want to go. I had never seem a deceased person before but I have seen lots of dead animals and although I have never said to my sister my dad did look peaceful but he didnt look asleep, he looked as stark as it might seem, dead!! Anyway this was not meant to be a morbid blog but today I have been thinking about my dad and his funeral. I remember telling my sister Stephanie years ago that I dreaded the day our parents should die because I was sure I would be like the Africans when they mourn their dead and that I would be uncontrolable and howl loudly. Bearing this in mind the dreadful day of the funeral arrived. I was doing well, thinking don't think about it, sing the hymn, keep your mind occuppied with other things. So I sang and then I realised, I'm singing different words, I listened more carefully and then realised half the church was singing different words. I got this uncontrollable desire to laugh. I thought of my dad and he would laugh until the tears ran down his face. I laughed and I laughed and my shoulders shock with uncontrollable laughter but I didnt make a sound. I was totally engrossed in my own private world of laughter until I got a sharp nudge in the ribs from Christopher. Dad would have found it soooo funny. No one else laughed.

Perhaps we were having our own private joke. I look back and think the people behind must have thought I was unconsolable with my shoulders shaking in grief, all because the parson had printed the same verse twice. Those who knew the song missed it out and those like me who didnt sang it.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A career hanging in the wind, she's going to love me!!

At last some good news.  As previously mentioned Tiphanie went off to London.   It has been a long two months especially for her.  Some of you will recall me writing about Tiphanie spending a night in hospital with anaphylactic shock while she was in Wales.  This had a massive knock on effect for her job.  She had already secured a job as a fisheries observer before she came home and before commencing her job all that was required was a medical.  During the medical she said that she had spent the night in hospital with anaphylactic shock.  This admission meant that the doctor would not sign her off to start her job.  At the time she had been taking two different antibiotics for a throat infection.  She was immediately taken off both of them.  She returned home not knowing which one she was actually allergic too.  She was however told that it was not likely to be penicillin because she has taken them periodically throughout her life and that it was most likely to be the other antibiotic that she was taking. Fortunately for her the doctor realised the enormous impact on her career if she couldn't pass her medical and arranged for her to go to an allergy clinic in London to be given both antibiotics under controlled conditions. Several weeks later she was sent off to London.  Christopher and I had to pay £400 towards the visit but it was a small price to pay if it meant the difference to her having a job in her field or not.  She went into hospital on the the first Thursday after she arrived and was administered the first antibiotic, the one they thought had caused the reaction.  Nothing.  She then had to return the following Thursday to be tested for the second one.  Nothing happened until the last dose was administered.   The reaction was the same as previously, her face swelled and she got short of breath.  The reaction however was not too severe and they were able to treat it with tablets rather then with an epi pen.  The result was that although the drug ended in the 'in' that normally indicates it is a penicillin it was not a penicillin but in fact an antibiotic that belongs to a small group of drugs called quinollins which apparently are normally given to people that are allergic to penicillin.  Happily Tiphanie is now signed off and starts her job on Monday.  She has tablets in case she should accidentally take quinolllins and an epi pen but she is absolutely clear about what she is able to take so I don't see that she will ever use them but better safe then sorry.
This problem unfortunately has hung over her for approximately two months while she has been working on her masters dissertation.  The knock on effect has been she lost interest in it because she couldn't think of any other job in her field she could do here if she didn't pass her medical.  She has one week left to finish it which she will but I think we will all have to keep our fingers crossed that she gets good enough marks in the dissertation to pass.
I actually wrote this weeks ago and since then Tiphanie has now been at sea for coming up to three weeks. 
After her induced reaction

Normal face

There's a bird and penguin eggs, yum.

There's a tussac bird that appears to have syncronized with Christophers alarm clock.  The alarm clock goes off at 5 am and the bird goes off at 5.05 am.  This wouldn't be so bad if you could turn him off like the alarm clock but I timed him yesterday and he chirpped and cheeped for a full 20 minutes.  To try and control the annoyance that boils up inside me at this interpution to my sleep I even tried putting words from an ABBA song to his so called singing.  It didnt work.  I have moments of shoot him, please Christopher go and shoot him, but he is rare, so they say. I put up with him last summer but my tolerance is running out, the only solution I can see is to move islands.
Gentoo penguin rookeries in the sand grass on Speedwell Island

King shags
On happier things the gentoo penguins have laid.   There are thousands of them all looking fit and healthy. They have set up an alliance with the shags.  I'm not sure who is benifiting, I can't see who has anything to gain by it but the shags have started laying in the centre of the penguin rookeries.  Last year there was an island wide penguin census by Falkland Conservation.  We opted to count our own penguins.  Never again. I believe it is near impossible to get an anywhere near accurate count off the large colonies that have several thousand penguins interscepted with several thousand shags.  I think a new method will need to be investigated for the next census, maybe aerial photos.  We have collected eggs from one colony.  We will pickle some for ourselves and also give some to our families in Stanley.  This will have no detrimental affect on the penguins, they were robbed immediately after their first laying and like a hen they will lay again.  Although we eat penguin eggs we are both conservation minded and the penguins will not be disturbed again this season.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

No, No, Shaun not like that!!!

Young farmer putting sheep out

The unruly Bex, looking the part.
Yesterday Christopher asked Shaun to take some cull sheep out of the pens across the green and turn them out into one of the paddocks.  Take your own dog he says.  His own dog is a ten month old collie as yet untrained other then the command, stop.  There are things the old farmer knows that the young farmer doesn't and the old farmer sometimes does not bother to enlighten the young farmer. One thing being that there are at a quick count  at least five different exits of the green and it would probably help you and your very unruly dog if you shut the exits that you don't want your sheep to go through.  Old farmer and wife stand at the kitchen window and laugh as the sheep leave the pens in small cuts.  First comes a cut of three, then another of two, followed by a larger cut which in turn was followed by young farmer carrying a sheep.  Old farmer stops laughing and says well that's a big mistake he's just made.  He's let the front end get away, if he's not careful they are going to be out with the ewes and lambs that have been born from the artificial insemination programme.  Wife says well your not going to wait for it to happen and then get sh**** with him are you.  This prompted old farmer to get older more reliable dogs and a motorbike but not before the sheep were heading out to the ewes and lambs.  Happily between them they managed to get them back in before they mixed with the ewes and lambs.  Young farmer says I'm really pleased with Bex, she didn't know what to do but she really tried. 

It's quite likely we will get lost without you burning the track!!!!

Its been a long time.  We had a frustrating last couple of weeks in Stanley.  Finally on about the 20th September Theo was ready to go back in the water.  It then blew for about three days making it impossible to get lifted back into the water.  Then the dock was extremely  busy with trawlers and oil support vessels etc.  The only spot available was a one hour slot between vessels on I think it was the 23rd.  Everything went to plan and at last she was back in the water.  Christopher and Shaun eventually got a weather window to bring her back out to the islands on the 26th.  It all happened at very short notice and they were unable to get any one to come with them.  They eventually got away at 10:45 in the morning.  They had a good run through with a bit of rock and roll around Lively Island.  Shaun decided they should plot a new course which he okayed with Christopher which resulted in them having the fastest trip through ever.  I got a last call from Christopher at 11:45 pm saying that they were passing George Island.  They took the boat to Speedwell and slept on the boat at the jetty ready to come across to Flores Harbour the following morning to pick Tanya and I up.  It was a great experience for Shaun and proved that he was capable of skippering the boat, plotting courses and using all the navigation equipment.  Tanya and I left Stanley at 6:00 am the following morning.  We had a good run out.  Tanya and I have only ever drove off road down to Flores Harbour once each by ourselves.  We were well chuffed with ourselves for not getting lost.  It was a little disconcerting to find that North Arm had been burning off the rank white grass and in some areas it had swept across the track obscuring the way. We were exactly four hours from Stanley to Flores Harbour and as we came down the last hill to the harbour Christopher and Shaun were just coming in through the narrows.  Happy Days.