We have been very lax at updating the blog, so now that I am captive on the airbridge again for oh too many hours to think about, I will try to remember what we have been doing for the last three weeks since leaving Phoebe at school.
What comes to mind instantly, is entertaining – lots of it – lunches and dinners – mostly at our house, but also Battle of Britain night in the mess – very RAF, wth low flying planes over the tables, a typhoon fly past (I tried so hard not to flinch as it roared up above us, but I failed miserably. It was SOOO loud) – and looking after house guests.
We seem to have established ourselves something of a routine; guests, whether the military or government variety, generally appear on the Monday flight and stay until the Friday, with Supper on Monday, a dinner on Thursday, and bits and bobs inbetween as needed. Will I ever manage to be sociable at breakfast? Not sure. In addition, we seem to be fitting in a regular lunch, to give the spouses (not actually all ladies – three house husbands and counting..) a chance to meet new people, and to guage the feeling of the community.. Friday lunch times are becoming the day for Section lunch, with 15 or so from a specific dept. enjoying food other than mess rations for a change, and having the opportunity to talk shop in more relaxed surroundings.
We are, as you can see, running a small hotel, and Marc who copes with the cooking almost single handedly, is doing a good job. He sometimes looks as if steam may be coming from places other then the oven, but always declares himself to be fine, even in the face of ‘an extra one’ or the inevitable vegetarian who slipped through our screening! I contribute the odd biscuit or cake and try to control the few evening meals when we are on our own, in an effort to rebalance the huge quantities of lamb and beef and food in general!
Everyone works a 6 day week on island, and with our house so rarely our own, free time is precious, but we have managed to escape to try a spot of fishing. Bill caught our tea on a beautiful sunny afternoon down at Swan Inlet. Archie was utterly confused by the small colourful thing that was swishing through the air into the water, but which he was not allowed to chase. Even more frustratingly, he was not allowed to gallop after the splashing fish, so I’m not sure he will be keen to come fishing again!
On Thursday, Bill managed to fit in time to explore the islands a little; we headed off by Landrover towards Darwin, and took the Newhaven road down to the newly built (2009) ferry port. This allows a regular ferry (the Concordia) to run between East and West Falkland, as well as support the islands; around 16 miles, and a 2 hour, regularly ‘interesting’ trip. We will try to make the jump for a few days at Christmas, but this time we just visited the very tame penguin colony which lives by the port, and watched the sea lions fishing for their lunch in the kelp forest. They porpoise up and down just like dolphins, and are magical to watch. On the return trip we stopped for coffee at the Goose Green cafe - not quite Starbucks, but very much more welcoming! - and went to visit the Bodie Creek suspension bridge (the southern most such structure in the world - and soon to be not so much of a structure given the amount of corrosion) and the Argentine war cemetery at Darwin.
This weekend, we ventured to Race Point Farm at Port san Carlos; the weather had been gruesome on Saturday, and the roads were closed again. I was convinced that we were going to lose our roof on Friday night - but by the afternoon the driving restrictions were lifted. We headed out on the Goose Green road, and turned right towards San Carlos; about 37 miles over rough roads, but only a few bogged areas. The drive took us 2 and a quarter hours, and once we had lost Darwin from our sights, we saw very few houses – Greenfield Farm, high up in the hills, and Wreck Point House, Head of the Bay House at San Carlos Water, and the three or four houses which make up the settlement – and then miles and miles and miles of beautiful, desolate moorland, winding inlets, and sheep.. Lambing has begun, and tiny lambs jump out from the diddle dee bushes and run in front of the Landrover. We finally arrived at Port san Carlos settlement – three houses, and a couple more over the hill. John and Michelle Jones put us up in their cottage, and cooked a fabulous supper. Donna and Michael from over the hill came in to say hello, and we ended up chatting until Talia, their six year old declared bath time at getting on for 10. There are no other children in the settlement; Talia goes to school with two ‘local’ children within an hour’s drive. The teacher lives at Talia’s house one week, and the other children come to her, and they alternate so that everyone has a week at home (apart from the teacher!). Once she is 11, she will go to Stanley and weekly board along with the rest of the Islands’ children. These are independent, sociable children, who have complete freedom to roam safely for miles, and complete confidence in the company of adults. They understand the countryside, and their matter-of-fact approach to the realities of farming life is refreshing.
There is no light pollution this far out; the stars came right down to the horizon, and the Southern Cross shone brightly, with the Milky Way washing across the sky. A beautiful clear night dawned into a misty Sunday morning , and once the sun had warmed the air, it was a perfect day – and magically still. We walked to the sea; the gorse is popping, the diddle dee is coming into flower. You would not have wished to be anywhere else. The bays here have huge mussel beds very close to (or sometimes at) the beach. The birds here gorge themselves on huge mussels, and the beaches are a litter of broken shells.
We were sad to leave – especially after Michelle’s lunchtime chocolate cake – but the drive back was fabulous. We drove high up into the hills and looked back at San Carlos bay; the deep blue against the acid green and yellow of the moorland. We could have stayed much longer, but we were headed home to skype Phoebe, who had spent the day in Bath, and was delighted to have found her favourite mango sorbet ice cream !