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F e a t u r e s

Diary of a Dependant…

Susie Wakeham - Dawson

A Wife in Overdrive


uestion: What, I wonder, would happen to the non-dependants, if the dependants, upon whom the non-dependants

depend pretty heavily, became dependant in fact and not just on paper??? Answers on a postcard. Or email if a postcard doesn’t have enough room…

So far in the story… Andrew, Susie, Humphrey and Henry joined the RAF (Andrew as a chaplain, the others as the legendary dependants) and are happily settling in at RAF Wittering, but after only a year …

End of March . . . Andrew comes home for lunch with the totally unexpected but very exciting news that we’re posted to the Falkland Islands in July. Now, it would be exaggerating to say that getting to the Falklands was the reason for joining the RAF, but it was certainly a contributory factor: we are both keen naturalists. So, although we were thoroughly enjoying Wittering, the next chapter of the adventure was beckoning and we said ‘Yes Please’ and started the huge logistical task of getting there.

The next few months were just a huge bunch of lists for me. I used to be an Editorial Director for a well-known children’s books publisher, but I don’t think I’ve ever had to think of such a wide range of Things. I kept a pen and paper by my bed, in the car, in my nappy bag… After a flurry of unreadable faxed computer printouts of inventories and incredibly useful lists from the current chaplain and his wife, we had a very detailed idea of what we needed to take. Just about everything bar the furniture…

Because of the three months needed to ship stuff 8,000 miles south to the Falklands, we had to sort things into a nightmare of categories: stuff to ship, stuff to store, stuff that couldn’t tolerate storage for getting to tolerant friends with big houses, stuff to keep and take with us on the aeroplane, stuff to give away; clothes that fit the boys now, clothes for them to grow into, clothes for summer now, layers for 18 hours in a plane (and two in a hot and humid outdoor ‘cage’ at Ascension, where the plane

12 Spring 2008

refuels), extra clothes for Henry – who has so far been sick on every form of transport other than a bicycle and a horse; clothes for midwinter when we arrive on a windswept South Atlantic airstrip, clothes for equatorial holidays in Ascension, clothes and camping kit for holidays in nearby South America, clothes for snow, the mess, beach; TOYS – aargh; birthday presents for the year ahead for our boys and any friends; pictures/posters, throws and cushions to try and make our green wooden bungalow on stilts look less like a barrack-furnished scout hut and more like a home; a huge thing of olive oil; vast quantities of washing powder (I left a great deal of this behind); loo paper, paracetamol, shampoo; music; Christmas decorations and on and on and on and on…

One thing we were rather pleased about was managing to buy and ship a Sodastream... all very well but we then spent a year trying to get a ‘bomb’ to make it go. It never did. There was somewhere to fill them up but not to buy empty, or full ones, and although we tried several times with several different parameters, we couldn’t get one on the plane. Make a Note: ship it. The nappies and wipes were another horror – I tried to calculate how many the boys, now 3 and 1, would get through in a year. The result was so appalling I immediately tried the re-usable ones. But they refused to wear them. So I sent an obscene amount of disposable nappies, and had to send for more half way through the year – another three months at sea. A packet of nappies that would usually cost about £8 here was £20.50 in Stanley… I still wish we’d persevered with the others. We took loads of baking stuff since most people out there make their own bread. I faithfully did this for a whole year… Result: I put on TWO STONE while we were there and had to start a Fat Club. Apparently it’s called The Falklands Stone (or StoneS) and everyone knows that you either get fat or fit there.

I had this idea that even with a three and a one year old to look after that I would have loads of time to do things like tapestry and making hats – so that was another bag load. (I did in fact make loads of hats, and sold them at the regular craft sales – if you can’t sell furry, velvety hats in the Falklands you can’t sell them anywhere!) I’d also been told about the fishing and the riding in the Falklands. So a load of fishing kit was added in, and my riding kit – both of which I used, catching both mullet and sea trout (singular) and racing in the Goose Green races. I went off shopping for balaclavas for the boys, ski gloves, and ski suits – all of which were

and still are, very useful. The balaclava is possibly the least flattering form of clothing known to man – but the boys wore them all year round – especially on the beach where the wind blew sand everywhere.

It was getting silly, but we had been warned of the excessive expense and/or time delay of buying things in the Falklands and were anxious not to get caught out. But getting round the cot, high chair, pushchair and car seat conundrum (i.e. sending them out there then doing without them for 3 months) nearly finished me off. We ended up sending a double three wheeler (great for the beach!), a high chair and two car seats by sea, and taking a stroller and two more with us for the journey to Brize Norton and on the plane. Ridiculous. Luckily, car seats fetch a fair price at the Port Stanley weekly tabletop sale…

April 4. All to the doctors to make sure we are physically fit to go to an ‘operational base’… I need to have an MRI for my back to make sure I won’t need sending home in an expensive hurry should it get worse. Needless to say, it was fine.

April 14. A man comes from the packers to assess the cubic meterage of stuff for storage and shipping. He has an amazing little machine and hits the buttons with staggering speed, gazing rather condescendingly around our elderly scruffy belongings, and with dismay at the endless shelves of books. Nice to be able to note now, although irritating at the time, that he got it completely wrong.

April 17. To the Mellors, last but one chaplain to MPA, and now at nearby Cottesmore, to look at pictures of what it’s like down there. Many thousands of amazing pictures later we are familiar with several species of penguin and an incredibly windy landscape not unlike the veldt of South Africa The Mellors also kindly give us some extra suitcases; mindful of the huge amounts of stuff we’ll be packing. (Paul – do you want them back?)

April 26. The packers arrive to take away everything that we couldn’t do without for a year, but not the things that we couldn’t do without for the next three months – which, when you think about it, comes to much the same thing. But we had to beg, borrow, steal or, as an absolute last resort, buy several things again, having sent them on ahead. The lovely lady from the HIVE had lent us a microwave, and everybody was incredibly helpful: it’s amazing how much spare stuff we all keep in our garages!

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