Oh my goodness where did May go? It has been a jolly busy Autumn- we can probably count the evenings in on the toes of one hand(!?), and now the snow is beginning in earnest, and the wind produces a rather familiar ache in the bones of my face. While my friends at home consider the benefits of facials, I wonder how drastically my face will reflect the ravages of 2 years’ worth of gales and extreme cold. The constant wind is hugely dehydrating, and as well as drinking gallons of water, I am sure loreal could make a mint down here if she thought we were worth it..
The 74 days of Falklands Conflict of 30 years ago, is being re-lived on every TV and radio programme back at home, and we are amazed at how much press coverage there is. Little did we imagine when we accepted this posting, that it would be quite such news.. but that was before Christina decided that we were the ultimate diversion for her economic nightmare!
We don’t see much TV (British Forces Broadcasting is not the most groundbreaking), and the radio choices are BFBS RADIO (LOUD music or sport) or Falklands radio (LOUD music and surreal news..personal messages where everyone on island except us knows who is being talked about, lists of who is flying from and to which island tomorrow, and of course the sheep chill factor from the weatherman, which warns in percentage terms, how likely your newly shorn sheep is to be killed by tomorrow’s weather. Bill likes to listen to the flying lists; he tries to match up passengers and wonder who might be having an affair with whom..
But we don’t need to read about the history of the Conflict, or see it on TV. We have a walking history book passing through our doors each week. A fascinating, humbling collection of veterans, deeply touched by the Conflict, generally back for the first time, emotional, apprehensive, in groups of tight camaraderie reformed after years and clearly as firm as ever. Sitting in our house, sipping tea politely they recount stories of endurance, bravery and horror with equally matter of fact tones. Standing on the beach as a soldier recounts jumping from a landing craft and landing waist deep in water – not to get dry for the duration of the fighting. Another recounts lying in a trench for nine days after which he remembers a plane flying low overhead, bombs drifting across, ‘almost close enough to touch’, parachutes opening , and then huge explosions, friends dreadfully injured, the desperate struggle to keep comrades alive, the deafening noise. .
Standing in Stanley on Liberation day, it is hard to understand what must be going through the minds of the soldiers who have returned to revisit beaches of their nightmares, and to share memories with their families. Standing in the cathedral, a soldier recalled stumbling in to pray for his best friend who had been terribly wounded. The friend survived, and he came into the cathedral to tell the Falkland Islanders that, having met them again in peacetime, and having seen the progress the islands have made, and the gratitude the Islands continue to show to the military, he is hugely proud and relieved to know that he feels glad to have been part of the Conflict.
Outside the Cathedral, a parade in the deteriorating weather; Falkland Island defence force march alongside representatives from all three services currently on tour, as well as veterans. Locals of all ages have stood outside in the freezing rain, waiting. Now the snow begins and the sentinels standing at each corner of the memorial, shiver. The wind cuts coldly, and it is a real reminder of what it must have been like to live outside 30 years ago. My hat drips and after an hour I can tip a pile of snow onto the pavement.
After the marching and praying, a reception at the FIDF hall – it is going to last all day and night, and only the stalwart will survive past tea time!