Monday, 30 September 2013

Craft Fair; Feeding Penguin and Big Eggs.

[A life in the South Atlantic, on board the Falkland Islands, some 300 miles of the east coast of South improving as we leave winter behind, and the sun returns to the Southern Hemisphere.]

Cutting through the peat
Another exciting period in Stanley, with a new road being cut through a huge peat bank on Stanley Common, at the south edge of town.  This will lead to a new housing development - mostly shared accommodation for seasonal workers, I understand.
The road through the peat
About 40 years ago, most residents would cut peat on the common to heat their houses or use as fuel for their stoves.   Nowadays, only a handful of people still use peat.   But I think it came as a bit of a surprise to see how deep the bank was.  The first Monday in October is a national holiday in the Falklands - Peat Cutting Monday!
Watching penguins near Stanley
A few miles to the west of Stanley are some lovely sand dunes, which is where we took a new friend recently.  Emily had arrived as a teacher in August, but had yet to see a penguin, so we showed her a secret Gentoo colony, guarded by a minefield!  A few days later, we were getting closeup views of a King Penguin.....
Feeding time for a King
An oiled King penguin had been found on a local beach and Falklands Conservation staff had taken it to their de-oiling facility, in Stanley
Temporary home
However, removing the oil also means the bird's feathers are not waterproof, so going back into the freezing sea is not an option until the waterproofness returns in a few weeks.  Volunteers were sought to help feed the bird while it regains its water-repellence.   How could I refuse?  Another sardine?
Nordic Walkers enjoying the sunshine
The good weather has also encouraged more Nordic Walkers out to exercise in the countryside around Stanley.   I have been busy recently working as a driving instructor (harder than it sounds in a country with no traffic lights or roundabouts), so not been able to devote as much time to Nordic Walking.  However, it is gratifying to see people enjoying it on their own or with friends.  Have poles, keep fit.
Historic Quilt
The local secondary school recently was the venue for a Craft Fair which displayed  many examples of the skills of residents.  Particularly impressive were the quilts - some of which were works of art, and had taken many man-hours (or, more correctly, woman-hours) in the making.
Second prize for Hilary
 The quilt below was created by a friend, and shows scens from Falklands' life, such as the small planes that connect the remote communities.
'Windows on Falklands', quilt
There were categories for knitting, weaving,  felting, model-making, photography, crocheting, leather-work, wood-turning and so on.  There was even a category for cured animal skins and the winner was a rat, which I assumed had been one those killed in the recent rat eradication programme on South Georgia!
Winner of the skin contest....

A local bird, a crested Caracara, in felt.
 What people can do with wool is amazing......
A live crested Caracara, in life
The Legislative Assembly has been dissolved, which means a new one, comprising 8 Members, will be elected in November.  There will be 5 Members representing the Stanley constituency, and 3 Members representing the rest of the country (also known as Camp).

Street furniture
So, the next few weeks should see a lot of debate about things that Falkland Islanders hold dear.  Building a port for the oil industry; tarmacing the main road to the airport; subsidising rural life - these are all issues which generate strong debates every so often.
Goose egg, plus hen eggs
Unfortunately, I will miss much of the debate, as I am going away for a few weeks to see a bit of Peru.
The new neighbours
I expect there will still be some public meetings being held on my return, as there are more candidates than seats, so many candidates will no doubt be promising change when (or if) they are elected.  More on this topic in a month or so.
Handy size
Meanwhile, Spring is showing evidence of arriving in the Southern Hemisphere.  Penguins and seals are gathering on the beaches to breed.  Indigenous birds such as the Upland Geese, are laying eggs, which make a change from the normal chicken eggs.
Fills the pan
More on the wildlife of the Falklands in the next posting.   Oh, and the Conservation Ball was held on Friday, and several guests cutting a fine figure and showing shapely legs.  And the women looked smart in the ball gowns, too!  

Have you worked out what is worn under the kilt, yet?

More soon,


Tuesday, 17 September 2013

100 Not Out! Yorkshire Day! Penguin feeding!

[Continuing the reports on the minutiae of life in the Falkland Islands, as experienced by someone who arrived about 20 months ago......Sorry the gestation period for this episode has been a bit long, but I've been unusually busy in the last month.....However, if you would like a more regular view of the Falklands through a different set of eyes, I can recommend a look at this new blog >]
Horses on the horizon
This blog has reached the milestone of being the 100th such update of trivial travails in the town of Stanley, capital of the Falkland Islands.   A century of blog posts!  Many thanks to those who encouraged me, especially Nick O'D (my mentor in a previous employment), and all of you who spur me on by simply reading and commenting on the blog.
Local micro-brewery
Looking at the statistics, it's clear I know only a handful of readers personally.  The bulk are scattered around the globe.  The original idea was to keep friends and family in the UK and Australia informed about how my wife and I were getting on in our new home, as communications links here are expensive, slow and often inconvenient, due to time differences.
Worth supporting...
However, it is clear that people from all over have shown an interest in life here as the Top 10 list of countries by viewers, read as - (in order of activity) -

Isle of Man !

I know someone on the Isle of Man, but I'm not aware of knowing anyone in Ukraine or Poland, or most of those countries, so "Thank You" for taking an interest!
Local (and free) lawn  trimmers.
The weather here is slowly getting warmer, but the biggest change is the increasing amount of daylight.  My wife now leaves for, and returns from, work in daylight.  The trudge through the dark for the last 3 months is over, and it feels as if Spring is coming soon.

And with Spring will come penguins, elephant seals, albatrosses and tourists!
Penguin beach near Stanley
To brighten up the dark winter nights, my wife (born in Yorkshire - "God's own county) decided to invite friends to celebrate Yorkshire Day.  OK, we were a couple of weeks late, but by the end of August most people had returned from their trips to the northern hemisphere in search of warmth and family.
White Rose of Yorkshire bunting
After finding some Yorkshire flags on the Internet and some Yorkshire beer in the shops, we defrosted a bag of Aunt Bessie's Yorkshire Puddings and invited some friends round to sample the delicacies.....
"You can always tell a Yorkshireman...... but you can't tell 'im much!"  Friends give up time down t'pit and whippet training to attend Yorkshire Day celebrations.....
We scoured the supermarket shelves for Yorkshire produce - Black Sheep Ale from Masham; Theakston's Old Peculiar; pickled eggs from Selby;  Liquorice Cakes from Pontefract.
The hall overflows with discarded footwear.....A Falklands tradition.
Friends contributed home-made potted meat, and Parkin - famous Yorkshire delicacies......
If you want to test your knowledge of Yorkshire, there's a Yorkshire Quiz from the famous regional newspaper -
Yorkshire empty.
Meanwhile, there have been some equinoctial storms heralding the arrival of Spring.  One of these damaged one of the many wrecks in Stanley Harbour.   The Jhelum has rested on the shallow water for about 100 years, but suffered badly in the recent gales.
Jhelum timber points to the wreck. The Sun sculpture behind.
Jhelum this week after the storm
Jhelum last year after 100 years on the spot.
The Ramblers group have been out and about in September, this time around an abandoned settlement near Fitzroy, about 20 miles south-west of Stanley.
A bridge
 It was thick fog as a convoy of cars left Stanley early one Sunday, but the blue skies soon returned.
No bridge
 We seemed to cross quite a few streams and rivers, but largely kept our feet dry, except on the occasional shallow ford.
Half a bridge
There was quite a few new faces on the walk, as the new term had brought in a batch of teachers.  (Is that the right collective noun?).  It was interesting to hear their obvious enthusiasm for their new home.
Previously the main route across East Falklands
On the wildlife front, summer visitors are beginning to return to breed.  Unfortunately, one King penguin has been found on a local beach covered in oil.
Penguin-feeding training.  Open wide!
Falklands Conservation staff rescued her and cleaned her up.  But it may take weeks for the waterproofing to return to her feathers.  So she is being kept in a facility in the meantime, and volunteers have been trained in feeding her.  Not that difficult, wide!
The alternative to TV.
Well, that's me just about up-to-date with happenings.   My driving instruction is tailing off, as the regular, full-time instructor returns from holiday.  But another 2 students passed their test on Friday,  so that was a tense day.
The Government here  has agreed to commission a memorial to Mrs Thatcher, who is held in high respect here, after all she did for the Islanders in 1982.   My office window, on Thatcher Drive (!), should have a good view of the memorial when it's built.  Photo to follow....

Next time - how a rat won first prize at the Craft Fair, and whether anything is worn under the kilt!