Sincerest apologies for the week without an update. As previously mentioned, the internet here is satellite driven and does not come cheaply. I guess you don’t move to one of the most remote communities in the world and expect to be connected at the same time; you can’t have it both ways. I guess this brings me on to what I might talk about this week, which is some of the down-sides of living here in Stanley. Thus far, you’ve probably had a somewhat rose-tinted view of life here but it’s only fair that I give you a few of the drawbacks too:
- The Internet – we pay £80 per month for 5gb of internet. Each mb over that costs you 6p. If you have an update to run or, say, your iPhone resets its settings and uploads everything to the cloud, you can run into trouble very quickly. Add the cost of international phone calls to the mix and I’ve been paying Sure, the comms company, about £200 per month. There are less measurable upsides to this too though. You really do realise how little you need to see, read and load most of the stuff online.
- The Falklands assumptions – In a community where everyone knows everyone and everyone knows everywhere, when you ask someone for help, directions or information, everyone seems to assume that you know as much as they do and it can be very hard, especially in camp, to figure out what’s going on. Similarly, you find out about events by pure luck half the time.
- The pace – it is an easy-going life here but this can have its drawbacks. If you go shopping, expect it to take some time while they pack the bags one item at a time, people write their cheques out and if you want to get hold of something you’d better not be hoping to buy it between Midday and 1pm. Stanley is shut for the sacrosanct lunchtime (even the police station).
- The banking – Standard Chartered run the bank here. You need to be here 6 months before they’ll give you a debit card, there is no cash machine so you have to go into branch to get cash out, except they close at 3pm each day and the prolific use of cheques, combined with only being able to get your weekly statement when they send it to you makes it bloody hard to keep track of your spending.
I’m sure there are many who would add a hell of a lot to that list, but for now that’s what I’ve found most frustrating. To counter this, the Falklands continues to provide its moments. In the last week we’ve had Remembrance Sunday in Stanley, our first cinema trip (oh yes!) and a walk from the Lady Liz around to Gypsy Cove today.
Remembrance Sunday is a big deal here, not that there’s any knocking that. A parade made up of the various sections of the military and the FIDF (Falkland Islands Defence Force: a sort-of Army Reserve of Falkland Islanders) makes its way to the Cross of Sacrifice on the seafront, where the Governor appears with CBFSAI, emerging from their official vehicle (a Discovery with a gold crown on a black background as a registration plate – he is the Queen’s representative after all) and the ceremony ends with the military band, the firing of the Victory Guns to mark the silence and the units marching off. Our links with the military didn’t end there as we took a Sunday night trip to the Cinema at Mount Pleasant Airfield/MPA (the military complex). Civilians are allowed to access the amenities at MPA, 40 minutes’ gravel, pot-holed drive from Stanley, but you’re not in danger of forgetting it’s a base. The signs reminding you that the area comes under the Official Secrets Act, the guard ready to deny you entry without a password, the security badges with your photo on, the Rapier anti-aircraft missile sites, the bunkers etc etc do make it obvious. Once you’ve figured out which non-descript, unsigned door holds the NAAFI and cinema, you can go and sit in with the military boys for the bargain price of £4. Bond was OK, by the way. What you save in ticket price, you suffer for in having to drive home on the MPA road at night. A frightening but unavoidable prospect.
We had planned a more exotic adventure this weekend but the wind picked up and we ended up doing our most local scenic walk.
Head to the Lady Liz, walk around to Gypsy Cove and see Stanley through the Narrows of the harbour. 5 miles, lovely stuff. Always something to be seen, so we can’t complain. I’ve never been and never will be a twitcher but I like to know what I’m looking at so we’ve slowly been learning some of the Falklands wildlife.
I don’t know if it’s a good thing but I can now tell my Meadowlark from a Cormorant, my Karakara from an Upland Goose. Han’s taken some pretty great pictures this week and she’s got her log-in for the site so hopefully there’ll be a lot more to keep you interested appearing very soon.