Monday, 18 June 2012

Liberation; snow; and Mouse Survey Team wanted..

Well, after the long anticipation, the 30th Liberation Day, June 14th, arrived.  The day that the Falkland Islanders remembered those that died so that they could have their freedom.  255 British servicemen died 30 years ago, and many of their comrades returned this year to join with the Islanders in paying respects and to re-live traumatic times.
Liberty Ball - flags everywhere, even on frocks.
Many events were planned to commemorate and celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the War.  Knowing I was a bit under-dressed at the previous social event - Queen Night - I decided to wear my kilt to the Liberation Ball on the eve of Liberation Day.  Unfortunately, this coincided with a downturn in the weather, and it was a bit chilly around the South Atlantic, I can tell you.
Unexpected change in the weather....

Miss Liberation contestants - winner has patriotic dress.
However, many of the local youngsters had made a big effort, and were impressive in their suits and ball gowns.   There was a contest to see who would be voted "Miss Liberation", so I repaired to the bar in case I confused the judges.  Unlike the dance floor, the bar was absolutely heaving with dignitaries, Veterans and locals.  It seems that because there were under-18s at the Ball, the drink was restricted to a small bar area and couldn't be taken out to the dance hall.  So the choice was - get squashed and inebriated but find a  interesting character to talk to, or watch the alcohol-free ballroom dancing.  Decisions, decisions.....
The band played on through the snow
Perhaps because of my kilt, several people mistakenly thought I'd been with the Scots Guards on Mount Tumbledown during the war, but I had to explain that  I was hiding out in Bootle at that time.  I did chat to a helicopter pilot from the conflict who calmly explained that it was quite "hairy" at times, with troops from both sides firing at aircraft, in case they belonged to the enemy.  Of the three machines and crews in his unit, his team were the only survivors.
Liberation line-up
The next day, the weather took another turn for the worse, and I made some more dressing mistakes.  This time, I left the house without a hat, and soon realised that my mum had been right all those years ago.... Worse was to come as the heavy, wet snow started to stick to my clothes, hair and glasses, and I discovered that my jacket was no longer waterproof.  Still, when I looked around the large crowd, I could see that most of the military and ex-military people were wearing fewer layers than I was, so I decided to stick it out, hoping the snow would ease off.
These guys wore no gloves!
How the bandsmen played their instruments with frozen fingers was beyond me.  But they did, and then they marched past the recently-laid wreaths to waiting buses, which took them to the Government Reception in the Falklands Islands Defence Force Hall, where most of the population, young and old, gathered to thaw out and meet up with neighbours and saviours.

"We will remember them!!"  3 Para Group
  Everyone on the Islands - residents and visitors alike - was invited to the Reception, and I'm sure it would have been well-attended even it hadn't been a free bar! It was a very convivial occasion, with strangers greeting strangers with a handshake and "Happy Liberation Day".  The Veterans were the Guests of Honour, obviously, and many toasts were made to them and their comrades. As it says on many memorials -  "For their tomorrow, we gave our today"........
Liberation Monument

Meanwhile, the sun had come out, and it was a perfect day for kids to sledge down the hilly roads that hadn't been gritted.  There was very little traffic on the roads, as it was a public holiday!

Good sledging hill, Stanley

Lots of horses moved down from the hills after the snow

There is very little crime on the Falklands, which is just as well, as I don't think I would have had much of an alibi if anything untoward had happened that evening - "Where we you between the hours of 8pm and 11pm on June 14th?".  Well, I remember watching a BBC radio show being broadcast live from the bar in the Malvina House Hotel, and I recall seeing His Excellency The Governor in the Victory Bar some time later, but apart from that, it's all a bit blurred...

Two Sisters, 3 miles away
 Luckily, I was able to work off any excesses with some Nordic Walking on the frozen ground the next day. The clear nights had produced a severe frost, resulting in ice on the inside of the car windscreen, and my trusty water bottle turned into a solid block of ice.  Luckily the beach is normally frost-free.
Resident wildlife
Although I usually have my camera at the ready to capture the local wildlife, I was too slow to capture a wonderful scene.  As our group strode along, there was a line of dorsal fins breaking the surf about 100 yards offshore.  Just as we stopped to watch the dolphins, they turned as if in formation and swam, side by side, straight towards us, catching up and then riding the big rollers that were washing ashore.  Then they turned, and headed out to sea.   It was amazing watching wild animals doing something just for pleasure!

Seal surfing
On a more mundane level, there was a bumper souvenir issue of Penguin News.   But I was grabbed by the  variety of Vacancies advertised -

Teaching Assistants,
Learning Support Assistants,
Home Help,
Aircraft Engineer, and
Mouse Survey Team !

The last position is for a Team Leader and Assistant to work in remote locations and adverse weather.  Assessment of rodent-bait uptake is essential!  (The work is sponsored by the RSPB  (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) to find out how many mice are out there - they devour birds' eggs).

The week ended with the sudden cessation of electricity coursing through the house, as our pre-paid meter ran out of funds.  The meter is fed by cards bought from a local shop, but is inconveniently located in the garage, and I haven't been going in there much recently so had forgotten to check how much was left.

So, just as the England/Sweden match (Euro 2012, for those not aware) was coming to its climatic finish we were plunged  into darkness.  I now realise I should keep spare cards in the house, but even if I had had some, I don't think I would have been venturing outside when it's -5C.  So, head-torch attached, it was off to bed, watch the stars, and await the sunrise  (9am).

Sunrise over a British outpost.



  1. I love the dusting of snow. It must disappear as fast as it arrives. My weather network widget give the temperature at Stanley at 7 C today.

    I must have been great fun and emotion to celebrate the 30th Liberation Day. I imagine it would be delightful to be there.

    Your electrical metering for your electricity is interesting. Perhaps some day you may have the metering we have here in North America where you are sent a bill. We now even have smart meters which charge different rates at different times of day.

  2. Hi, regarding the snow, yes, there is a slight time lag as I find time to post, so there is only patchy snow left now.

    And I agree an electricity bill would be a bit more civilised. I feel we are not trusted to incur a big bill in case we flee the country!

    Liberation Day was good - not even spoiled by the antics of Mrs Kirchner at the UN....I hear she is still at it at the G20...