tger greenhaddock: At the arse end of the world

Sunday, November 20, 2005

At the arse end of the world

It is 20 years ago this month that I left the Falkland Islands to return to the UK. I had been working in Port Stanley for a year as a satcom tech for the company responsible for providing the islands international telecommunications services. Even though I didn't realise it at the time, the year I spent down south changed me in many ways, and shaped to a certain extent the person I am today.

Port Stanley was quite a rough place at times and had the feel of a frontier town about it. The British Forces were still based in the Stanley and the brawls that broke out in the pubs sometimes had to be witnessed to be believed. It was like the wild west. I quickly learnt to drink by the door incase a hasty exit was needed!

Drinking heavily in the Falklands was a way of life for many in those days. Some of the islanders seemed immune to the effects of rum. I have never seen so much hard liquor consumed by men and women. To combat the endless hangovers it was best to have other interests in life other than drinking. Fortunately I have always liked birdwatching and together with a new camera I had acquired when working in Hong Kong, I tried to devote a lot of my time, when the weather allowed, to photographing the birdlife on the islands. I still drank like a fish though!

During my year on the islands I made many trips to out lying settlements. At one of these I learnt how to slaughter sheep. Every Friday sheep were butchered to feed the people and sheepdogs for the following week. It was like a different world. But it taught me a bit about the cycle of life & death, and how little thought goes into where our food comes from. When I sat there in Port Stephens tucking into some mutton I knew exactly where it had come from, and it wasn't plastic wrapped from a supermarket.

But perhaps the most enduring impression of the Falklands that I will always carry with me is of the ruggedness and beauty of the place. I once at sat in a 10,000 strong colony of Rockhopper Penguins and watched the sun go down over the southern ocean. I was totally accepted by the penguins, the sunset was too beautiful for words, and I felt totally at one with the world. It's funny, but I knew at the time I would never feel like that again.

Over 3 years after leaving the Falklands, I was offered a chance to return to my old job in Port Stanley, but this time for a stint of 2 years. I declined. I very much enjoyed my one year there, but I was sure my liver would have never survive the abuse for a further 2 years :)


Blogger Ms Mac said...

I saw a show once about a bloke who was in Antarctica and spent the night on an island with a particular type of penguin. The penguins were not bothered by him at all because there were no land based predators on that island so they had no fear of him. I absolutely adore penguins and was quite envious of him until he decided it was time to go to sleep but of course, it only got dark for about 3 hours and the penguins kept walking over the top of him so he got no sleep at all! Funny stuff.

I imagine the Falklands to be a very strange place, your account just adding to my impressions!

November 21, 2005 9:11 AM  
Blogger christina said...

I'm sorry, but I must take back the title "arse-end of the world" and apply it to where I live. :-) The Falklands sound MUCH more interesting.

And, wow, how many people get to hang out with penguins?

November 21, 2005 1:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re: I was totally accepted by the penguins.

Where you wearing a dinner siut at the time?

November 21, 2005 4:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Should have read:

Re: I was totally accepted by the penguins.

Were you wearing a dinner suit at the time?

November 21, 2005 4:48 PM  
Blogger Rocky said...

What a great experience on the islands and with the penguins, thanks for sharing.

Some people make decisions with their heart. Some with their gut. I'm happy to hear more people are listening to their livers!

November 21, 2005 7:16 PM  
Blogger Haddock said...

Ms Mac - Yep the falklands was a wierd place alright. But the penguins were excellant....really funny and friendly!

Christina - It cant be that bad were you live? :)

Rocky - If only more people would listen to there livers eh!

November 22, 2005 9:32 AM  
Anonymous Red Baron said...

I think it's the sort of place that you have to experience, though you wouldn't necessarily want to experience it again, I felt much the same about certain parts of Germany but equally you feel it was well worth it as part of life's rich tapestry. I always thought the Falklands might be rather low key and laid back but I guess the squaddie presence prevents that.

An interesting little snippet in the other people's lives section that makes you fell yours has been mundane by comparison!

November 22, 2005 9:43 PM  
Blogger Haddock said...

Once outside of Port Stanley the Falklands was rather low key and laid back. Certainly the local people were very friendly and very helpful.

November 22, 2005 10:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I remember rightly you were known as Malvinas Parse before you went to the Falklands. Am I wrong? Help me have I gone senior?

November 22, 2005 11:19 PM  
Blogger Haddock said...

Anon - You are right and I had completely forgotten about that.....I seem to certainly to have had a senior moment on that one! :)

November 22, 2005 11:42 PM  
Blogger Hamish said...

Does the fact that pubs can stay open all night sway your mind at all?

November 23, 2005 11:55 PM  

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