Sunday, 6 January 2013

Advert Diplomacy; Pathe News; 30 days hath February!

[This is an occasional blog from an UK ex-pat living in the Falkland Islands.  If you don't like lupins,  penguins, or rants, look away now!]
Surf Bay on a calm, warm day.  Every visit sees the beach re-shaped.

At last, it's stopped raining!   Perhaps it's not quite at UK levels, but the rain in December in Stanley was been as heavy as most people can remember.  So much so, that the entire week of horse-races was cancelled for maybe the first time in 30 years.  (If our friends who visited in November and enjoyed 2 weeks of unbroken sunshine are reading this.... it hasn't stopped raining since you left!)
"Gone Penguin Watching"...Stanley shop sign

The other unfortunate impact was that several shiploads of tourists arrived at the end of the year and most of the time they were ashore it was raining persistently.  I was working as a Warden at a penguin rookery near Stanley for a couple of days, and I wasn't tempted to risk my camera in the rain, so I felt sorry for the tourists for whom this may be the only chance they have to see penguins in the wild.
Magellanic penguin

Even so, I was a bit surprised at the number who took photos with their iPads.  Call me old-fashioned, but they don't seem particularly practical.  You can't exactly fit them in your pocket, and they don't look very waterproof.  Am I wrong?  The penguins seems puzzled at these people holding up what looked like tea-trays in their direction....
Overdressed on the beach for a change.
 The other day, I was searching through the freezer section of a local supermarket for alternatives to turkey and lamb, and found some whole rabbits, all the way from China!  I'm told there are rabbits on West Falklands (introduced for their meat), but  I've only seen hares on the East, and several eke out an existence in the sand dunes near Stanley.
They are very shy, but I watched this one (below) through binoculars for about 15 minutes as it grazed on the marram grass which stabilises the dunes.  I have lots of photos which show how well camouflaged it can be...
A rare hare!

Flat calm

Apart from the weather, the other recent talking point, has been the advert taken out by the Argentine President, Christina Ferdinand de Kirchner (or CFK, for brevity).   Let me say right away that I have never met CFK, but every Argentine I have met has been polite, friendly and welcoming.  Proud of their country, but not belligerent or antagonistic.  So, I make the distinction between the politicians and general populace.
Lupins abound

Now, I've seen many strange adverts or supplements in UK newspapers, usually extolling the virtues of Kazakhstan or North Korea or (Gaddaffi's) Libya, or some dictatorship.  It never occurred to me that they were aimed at anyone other than residents of those countries.  Certainly, no Guardian reader is likely to read them and say to their family - "Oh, North Korea sounds nice - fancy a house swap there instead of Tuscany this year?"

Rock shag nestlings

No - they are clearly aimed at the local populace, or to provoke a reaction such as happened.  No publicity is bad publicity and what Mrs de Kirchner wants is publicity about anything other than her stewardship of the economy.   What does an ad in the Guardian cost, anyway?    Probably, the best-value 10,000 pesos she has spent in a long time.

Lupins and Whalebone arch (and trees).
But listening to the CFK message, it seems to be subtly changing.  The crux is that there was no indigenous population on the Falklands when Europeans arrived and started to squabble over it.  So, all residents must be immigrants, or descended from some.  It is clear that many Falklanders are of British stock, and the Union flag is ubiquitous.  Cars are adorned with "British to the Core" and similar slogans.  Argentine ministers have already agreed that British people will vote to stay British, in the forthcoming referendum here.  They do not recognise the residents of the Falklands as legitimate nationals, but as implanted colonists.

So, there is little or no chance of Falklanders agreeing to becoming Argentinian.  The Argentine government no longer, as it once did, tries to entice Falklanders to join that country.  It has seen the light and given up that strategy.  What CFK  demanded of Mr Cameron was the return (sic) of the Falklands (ie, the territory, not the people).

What I think CFK and her acolytes seem to be suggesting is that if the islanders don't want to be part of the province of Patagonia, and are not happy about being "South American", then why not remove themselves to where they will be happy, eg the UK?
"John Clark Ross" (British Antarctic Survey)  arriving in Stanley.

I'm not sure what the riposte is, but I suspect more emphasis needs to be put on the Falklanders' culture and heritage, and independent spirit.  This would highlight that they have carved out an existence in a very challenging environment, and just because they are not of Spanish descent, it doesn't mean they can't happily co-exist in the South Atlantic.  No-one seriously suggests that New Zealanders of British descent up sticks and head back to the UK.  Both groups have been managing their respective island countries for about the same amount of time.
Happy couples, mate for life, but have separate holidays after raising chicks!
So, maybe the Falklands should go down a similar road to Scotland's SNP (Scottish National Party) aim of independence?  Be more at "arm's length" from the UK?  I don't know.  But as I write this, I hear another debate on the radio about whether the British taxpayer should continue to fund the Forces based here, come what may.   I think that is the debate that CFK's advert was designed to provoke.  Some would say that any defence cost is marginal, as the military personnel and weapons would have to be somewhere, even if the Falklands didn't exist, and it is an economical training ground for the British Forces.  But the point is - her intervention has provoked this debate, rather than being kicked into the long grass as usual.  It's just a shame she didn't put the advert in the Penguin News....
Penguin guarding chicks in burrow.

(I also heard the Sun newspaper has taken out an advert in a Buenos Aires paper in retaliation for the Guardian ad, telling Argentina, "Hands Off the Falklands".  Would this be the same Sun that had "GOTCHA" on its front page when 323 Argentine sailors from the cruiser, Belgrano, were killed in the south Atlantic?  I can't see its message carrying a lot of weight in Buenos Aires...)

Anyway, just wait till CFK  finds out about Diego Garcia!  Islanders' views paramount?  Hmmm.   End  of rant......

Same penguin in burrow, (bottom centre) near Gypsy Cove.
Many thanks to Sue Gyford, a journalist I follow on Twitter, for tweeting the link to the Falklands newsreels on the Pathe website.  (Coincidentally, I believe Sue has spent a few years on the Falklands.  She also reported for the Edinburgh Evening News on a round-the-world yacht race 2011.  Also on board was my brother, who was a crew member between Southampton and Rio de Janiero.  Small world!)

The Pathe newsreels show some aspects of Falklands' life that are mostly gone - kelp harvesting; float planes, etc.   But the couple I've looked at also show the landscape, which hasn't changed much, and some activities, like transporting sheep by small boat, that are still going on.  They also make clear, that even in 1969, the islanders were extremely pro-British.

Pathe ..............a treasure trove.  I just wish I had the bandwidth to explore it more....


And talking of bandwidth, January also saw the publication of the traditional Cable & Wireless-sponsored Falkland Islands Calendar, showing beautiful scenes of the Falklands.  This one may become a collectors' item as February now has 30 days!  I wonder if we'll have a couple of free days of phone calls or internet access?



  1. If the Argentines ever win their claim on the Falklands, I would support a claim by Canada to the French islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon only 10 km off the coast of Newfoundland and also Greenland. Greenland is geologically part of North American as is half of Iceland. The indigenous inhabitants, of Greeland, came from the Canadian arctic. They are Inuit. Of course this is nonsense. Being geologically attached to another land mass does not give any country a claim to ownership. If that was the case you would see lots of claims around the world. You might begin with the British Channel Islands. Some French would like to claim them but they have accepted the reality that the Islanders want to remain British.

    I would hope that sometime in their future the Falkland Islanders strengthen their ties with the Americas. They might begin by making Spanish a second language taught in the school. Also economically the Islanders could reach out to other English speaking nations in the Caribbean and North America. Perhaps the day will come when students will be sent to Canada for University. I would suggest Newfoundland share much with the Falklands. Let it be known that Canada does not raise enough sheep to supply the domestic lamb market. We import lamb from New Zealand. How about sending us some Falkland Island lamb. We could send you offshore oil workers or inshore fishermen from Newfoundland. Many of them would rather be fishing that working in Alberta in the nasty tar sands.

    1. There was a big cruise ship in today - probably doubled the population of the Falklands. I was taking visitors, mostly Argentine, to see the penguins.

      The topic of ownership would come up in conversation (usually after what is the price of food, housing, cars? etc), and not one person thought Argentina had even a remote claim on the islands. It is all the spouting of a sinking President.

      But I agree with you about the Spanish and building closer ties. I believe many children (pre-1982) went to boarding school in Buenos Aires and Montevideo, and learnt Spanish then. I'm fairly sure it is taught in school here, and there is a large Chilean group on the islands.

      As to the Caribbean, we have recently had a posse of journalists visit from there, and our cricket team toured Belize, Jamaica, Barbados in December. Heavily beaten I understand, but there is maybe a gulf in class. So, there is an effort going on to win hearts and minds and counter the messages from CFK.

      I'm sure your offers of help to assist our economy will be welcomed. Would mutton be OK, if we are short of lamb?

  2. The Malvinas can be an independent province of Argentina and it could have even more autonomy than it has now. Argentine Constitution stablishes that natural resources belong to the provinces so your situation will not be so different in that respect. Your living standard will improve, food and goods will be cheaper and you'll certainly have much more internet bandwith. Look how Tierra del Fuego is developed, that is what the Malvinas could be. You'll actually have much cheaper electronics because you can buy them off Tierra del Fuego where they're assembled.
    It's the intention of Argentina to respect the islander's way of life, as we do respect all the different communities and nationalities that coexist within our continental land.
    If islanders would think about it, they'd realize they'd be better off being part of Argentina.

  3. There are other options, which I touch on in my recent post - eg Full independence, with, perhaps, free assocation with another country. This has been done with small island countries and New Zealand.
    Also, French Guyana is a former colony that doesn't seem to be absorbed by neighbours in South America.....

    You are entitled to your view, but I can't see any Islanders being persuaded to join Argentina. If they wanted to, they could simply jump on a plane and be there in an hour. (One plane per month).