Monday, 31 December 2012

A cash-free Xmas; New job; Ships and dolphins!

[Occasional reports of life in the South Atlantic.  This week, the ONLY Bank in the country closes for 6 days, and visitors include Father Christmas and 3,000 cruise ship passengers....Hurrah! ]

Was anyone else excited about finding a tangerine in their Christmas stocking???  :-)

Santa and elves dishing out gifts. No Elfin Safety here!
I hope everyone reading this had a peaceful and Happy Christmas.  So many friends sent cards and letters, which was a wonderful way to catch up with their news.  I'm a big fan of social networks, but there's something about a paper message which Facebook or Twitter can't replace.  The last flight from the UK  before Christmas arrived in the Falklands around 5pm on Christmas Eve, and some Postal staff brought the bags of mail to Stanley for sorting.  As there is no delivery service here (and we don't have a postbox in the Post Office), we popped into the Post Office about 9pm to pick up the final mail before Christmas.   I liked the "last-minuteness" of it all.  My thanks to all those involved with making it happen.
Various beachwear styles on Christmas morning.....
Christmas Day in Stanley dawned  overcast and windy.  The temperature was, according to one weather site, "6C, but feels like 2C"!.  So much for enjoying a southern-hemisphere Xmas BBQ on the beach....Instead, we'd agreed to meet other brave folk and try a refreshing dip in the sea. Unlike the mid-winter dip in June, this one had no tents for changing,  no bonfires to stand beside, and no cheering crowds.  So, it was strip off and run in, and stay upright for as long as possible...
Wearing hi-vis hat to aid air-sea rescue..
Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!  It was COLD!  After what seemed an age, but was probably about 30 seconds, we escaped to dry land and made a dash for the cars.  (I wish I had had a towelling penguin suit!).  A brief 5 minute drive saw us back at friends who had kindly prepared mulled wine and mince pies.  I could feel the blood returning to my toes.
Kelp was a problem
Christmas dinner was a quiet affair:  a quarter of a tender Falklands lamb, slowly roasted for 4 hours, accompanied by roast (and new) potatoes, and roasted Brussels sprouts and a parsnip. The new potatoes and parsnip cost more than the lamb!
It was cold.....
Settling down afterwards to watch the traditional Queen's Message and  "The Great Escape", we noticed some flurries outside. The wind had changed to a southerly, and we could feel Antarctcia was only 600 miles away! A White Christmas!

Santa's little helper checking if it was a white Christmas?
Boxing Day marked the start of a 3-day festival of sport and horse-racing:  the 100th holding of the Stanley Sports Association Annual Race Meeting.  The social event of the year.  Just about the entire country was holiday, and Stanley was busy with horse trailers as hopeful owners brought their steeds into town for the week.  
Boxing Day Brunch washed down by excellent home brew.
Imagine a  mix of Badminton Horse Trials, Ascot, and It's a Knockout, but attended by the whole population of the UK.  Gymkhanas, horse-races and tug-of war events, not to mention the competitive egg-and-spoon race!   If all that wasn't enough, Falklands Beerworks had produced a special new beer for the event.
Race day hats were in evidence....
Well, I'm afraid you will just have to imagine what it was like, as, alas, it was not to be.  The weather, as in the UK, had been very wet in December, and the Racecourse is in a valley.  The course was declared waterlogged and the racing cancelled for the day, and later, for the week.
Tom Cruise makes an appearance....
However, we had been invited to a pre-Race Brunch at 10 am, and were unaware of the state of the course.  After a Bucks Fizz or two, and some delicious food, we were eager to get to the racing and the main event - The Governor's Cup.  It was then we found out that it wouldn't be happening this year.  So, we stayed and commiserated with several other erstwhile racegoers, who were busy drowning their sorrows at the lost opportunity.  We sneaked out at about 5pm, as the "Brunch" started to liven up.  No stamina, these days...

I felt a bit of a wimp leaving after a mere 7 hours, but I was due to work the next day, as a large cruise ship was expected in the harbour.  The Veendam had been due to visit twice before in this season, but had stuck to Argentine ports due, one assumes, to political pressure from Argentina's politicians.  (No doubt, thanks are due to our (UK) diplomats for behind-the-scenes activities, too).
Gypsy Cove after a passing thunderstorm
However, on this occasion, it appears that the ship has decided to give its passengers, and Falklanders, a pleasant surprise, and call in.  As there were about 1300 passenger likely to come ashore, Wardens at the local penguin beaches would be required, and I received a text asking me to attend at Gypsy Cove the next morning, in my new role!
There is a penguin chick in that burrow...
It was a great experience, meeting people from Peru, Venezuela, Colombia, Brazil, Zimbabwe, Australia, USA, Canada, Russia ("Drazvoutchya! No smoking, please!")  etc, etc, who were happy to have been able to spend a few hours seeing a bit of the Falklands, and some penguins, despite their lack of adequate clothing....  I tend to have a spare pair of gloves in my daysack, but even two pairs were not enough.
Star Princess appearing through the mist
Penguins sheltering from the rain...
I have to say, the penguins were a bit nervous to see so many people in a day, but this may also have been because they now have chicks to protect.  I saw 4 Magellanic chicks (the first this year), but the parents were so protective that I couldn't get a photo of any, despite being there for 8 hours!  So imagine how pleased is a visitor, who only has an hour at most, to capture one on their memory card!
Kite-surfer and Lady Liz.  See below to see below the waves......
And 2012 fizzles out with a final ceilidh... and I celebrate "The Bells" (bringing in the New Year) 11 hours after my sister in Perth, Australia......I leave you with some amazing scenes captured in Stanley Harbour.

We bumped into a kite-surfer in a cafe the other day, and he told of us his great encounters with dolphins.  In fact, he'd filmed them on his helmet-cam!  Enjoy!   See you in 2013.

"Should old acquaintance be forgot, and  Auld Lang Syne..."

Happy New Year



  1. A very Happy and Healthy New Year to you both.
    I look forward to hearing more about your time
    in The Falklands, especially about the wildlife!

    1. Thanks, Sue. And the same to you, and the other readers. A new post is already out there. And I've just noticed a typo at the start of this one... "reports of life in the South Atlantic...", should be "reports on life in the...."


  2. Happy New Year to you both!

    Woodford Wherry is a popular brew in our house too!

    1. And to you, Anne! I'm now into Day 7 of Dry January. Not sure if it'll help me live longer, but it certainly feels like it. Waking up with that awful feeling - knowing that's as good as I'll feel all day...... :-)

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.