Monday, 23 April 2012

"Happy Birthday, Your Majesty!"

A very bright and cold day dawned on Saturday.   As you will no doubt know, it was HM Queen's birthday, and like loyal subjects everywhere, we were heading off to the celebrations....

First frost of the year

Walking down the hill, we could see HMS Clyde in the harbour, bedecked with bunting. As we approached Victory Green, the crowd grew as we waited for the arrival of the Governor and the military commanders.

Victory Green, with former Upland Goose hotel behind

The green is about 500 yards by 50 yards, lying between the sea, and the main road along the front of Stanley.  It's usually empty, but for some ceremonial cannon, a mast from SS Great Britain (which lay in the harbour for decades), and dozens of Upland Geese enjoying the high-quality grass and the tranquility.  

HMS Clyde and spectators

At one end of the green are a couple of good shops and the West Store, which stocks mostly Waitrose products.  Facing the Green, are Stanley House, a boarding facility for children from Camp attending school in Stanley; the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) office; the former Upland Goose Hotel; the Police Station (and prison!).  At the west end of the Green, on the shore side, is another great gift shop; the Bank; Town Hall; and Post Office.  Downtown!    

Geese enjoying the quiet.....
Around Stanley House and the BAS office is probably the highest concentration of trees on East Falkland.
Vultures - do they know something?

Punctually, His Excellency, the Governor, arrives in a shiny Range Rover.  (By the way, he doesn't govern! He is the Queen's representative.  A Foreign Office diplomat who works closely with the Falklands Islands government on policy matters.  The UK is responsible for the Falklands' Defence and Foreign Policy.  Everything else is run by the Falklanders themselves.)

Accompanied by military commanders from the British Forces, South Atlantic Islands  (BFSAI), he takes the salute as Flags are raised and lowered.  The guard of honour - made up of members of the Falklands Islands Defence Force and counterparts from BFSAI - is inspected.  All seems in order.

Inspecting the troops.

Feathers fly
I've heard gun salutes in London a couple of times, but they were probably a few miles away from me - perhaps in Hyde Park.  You would notice  them, and think "What's that?  Oh, it's the Queen's Birthday", and get on with your sight-seeing.  It was less intrusive than a car horn warning you not to step off the kerb.
Not in Stanley.  Not when the guns are 20 yards away.  I heard the first command "Fire!", and that was about the last words I heard for about 15 minutes... The geese got the fright of their lives and flew off cackling for all they were worth.   20 more explosions followed, echoing off the hills, and filling the green with smoke.
RAF and Royal Navy make an appearance
Eventually, the guns fell silent.  Someone, I think it may have been the Governor, suggested "3 cheers for Her Majesty...Hip, hip...".   The guard of honour sloped arms and marched off.  The Governor's entourage made their way back to Government House for a reception, and some of us wandered around waiting for the geese, and our hearing, to return.....
Job done
As we were dispersing, we bumped into a couple of ladies we'd met on Sea Lion Island in February.
Ashford Spinning Wheel
One of them invited us into her cottage overlooking Victory Green.  It was formerly part of the Upland Goose Hotel, which was the watering hole for senior Argentine officers in 1982, and, subsequently, members of the British press like Max Hastings.  The historic building has recently been converted into a row of cottages, keeping this part of town alive and attractive, although  there is still the occasional knock on the door from a visitor looking for the Upland Goose bar!

Warship in the harbour; Upland Geese on the Green
Our hostess was a retired travelling teacher.  On the sparsely-populated West Falklands, farms are so remote, primary schools are not viable, so teachers moved every few weeks from family to family.  Face-to-face lessons are supplemented by radio, and now Internet, teaching from the school in Stanley.

As she produced much-needed hot coffee and home baking, we couldn't help admire the many examples of her other skills in profusion around the house.  As winter was approaching, the spinning wheel was being brought out for the long, dark nights.  Crocheting, cross-stitching, felting, patchworking, knitting, weaving, basket-making, tapestry,embroidery and more was also in evidence.

There's quite a thriving craft "industry" in the Falklands, although it's definitely at the cottage level.  Cruise ship passengers usually snap up the high-quality, stylish  products, but I feel it could also benefit from a high-profile "Falkland Islands" brand - such as Fair Isle jumpers enjoy.  

Some reviews of shopping opportunities can be found here -

As I write, on St Georges Day, it is a Bank Holiday (for the Queen's Birthday) on the Falklands.  Here's hoping the traffic isn't too bad.

The Queen is 86 years old.  Who can remember another British Monarch?  Not many of us.  I wonder if the next monarch will get the crowds out in far-flung corners of the globe?

Happy St Georges Day to my English friends!



  1. Hi Peter, as usual St George's day passed without much celebration. Although I did 'my' bit attending the festivities at Trafalgar Square over the weekend and pretty good they were too. Looks like it's getting a bit nippy down there. hope you packed your thermals. Bx

  2. Hi Bx, the thermals have been on for a week or two. It's the wind that does the damage. My kilt is due to arrive this week. It may have been a mistake!

  3. Hi Peter, have you thought of posting pictures of some of the craft goods? I guess they could sell them on e-Bay if the issue of delivery could be handled?

    On another matter I keep meaning to ask and then forgetting: have you seen any beehives in the Falklands?


    1. Hi Nick, good idea about the photos. I haven't seen any beehives. I'll need to find out how plants are pollinated here, but I suspect they've evolved without bees. Honey is very expensive in the shops, so I doubt there is any local stuff. But then, turnips and caulis are about £5 each! Carrots cheap this week, so off to bake some carrot cakes!

  4. Coming from a crafting site I can only second Nick's request.
    I feel like I have gone back a century often when reading your blog - I am amazed by the ongoing customs in far flung places of the globe!
    Also very jealous of your 'away from the madding crowds' lifestyle as it sounds such fun.

    1. I'll try to get to another craft fair, but they seem to be advertised by word of mouth! I used to help my mum knit - at least I remember sitting with my arms stuck out as she wound the wool around the wrists....
      Definitely away from madding crowds. It's the only place I've been, apart from parts of north-west Scotland, where people say "Hello" in the street. It doesn't have confuse the tourists.

  5. Keep up the good work Peter. Enjoying your posts.
    FWIW I was at Grammar school when I heard the news of King George V1's passing. Maybe I am your oldest reader and qualify for a prize?

    1. Thanks, Lily. One of my Nordic Walking friends says her Mum reads it. I hope I'm not breaking any confidences when I say she is 86, so you don't get the prize, sorry! (Unless you were late developer, and didn't start Grammar school until into your 20's).

      But at least you'll remember the Coronation. I'm surprised you haven't been invited to a Garden Party. My brother was born on Coronation Day. Received a silver spoon. My Mum was a bit annoyed as all the nurses were watching the TV while she was in labour! Happy days!

  6. Hi Peter, I am fairly new to the computer but just wanted to say
    how much I am enjoying your blog. The last time we met was on a
    very hot Nordic Walk at Polesden Lacy last June!

  7. Hi and welcome to our virtual world! (Sorry I can't welcome you by name, but you probably have to login for me to see your email address. (Or you can email me. I'm reluctant to publish my email here for several reasons, but I assume you know Kay? She would provide my details. Failing that, I'll respond with my details)

    I remember Polesden Lacey well. Very hot, and the lovely dog with us had to cool off in a cattle trough. No need for that now, I suspect! Glad you enjoy the blog. Cheers

    1. I am having a few 'technical' problems being a novice
      but hope to see Kay on Sunday for another Polesden
      walk so hopefully she can give me the details I need.
      I was with my Scottish friend, my name is Sue. Yes I
      do remember the dog cooling off in the cattle trough,
      I think we all needed to jump in!!