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F e a t u r e s


May. Once that lot had gone, the lists started again. People to see, chickens to re-home, more people to see, dentists (on ‘operational bases’ dentists and doctors come as part of the package – one less Thing to Worry About), large and heavy books on Birds of the South Atlantic to buy, people to stay, people to lunch (no kitchen equipment – all in ship – great excuse for takeaways!)… In the weeks leading up to our departure my diary begins to look very, very sociable indeed. Unfortunately, this time of year is incredibly popular for christenings, and I think Andrew had a personal crusade going to baptise every baby on the camp (and off), so weekends were pretty busy for him. The fantastically bossy friends, mentioned in my last article, were again in evidence, packing, storing and generally expressing strong opinions about what I should and shouldn’t take. They have also expressed an interest in a change of adjectives, telling me that they prefer ‘capable’ and ‘kind’…


June 10. To PC World to spend lots of money on ways to communicate from the FI, and printer ink, and paper etc.


June 24. We take another van-load of stuff to my dad’s house, for storing in his attic, as well as Mrs Grey Hen (who survives the year) and Mrs White Hen (who sadly doesn’t) to live with his free- range, roost-in-the-trees, dodge-the-fox chickens.


June 26. My sister and her family return from a year spent in Turkey. I haven’t seen her for a year, and now we’re off for a year. But she’s just in time to be involved in some car swapping shenanigans.


June 28. Our car goes – I’ve no memory at all of how it got there – to my other sister. In it are most of my plants. Somehow or other we then get hold of the other sister’s car and borrow that until the day we leave. We’ve arranged to buy the current chaplain’s Discovery from him out there, although a lot of people get a kick out of shipping relatively cheap cars down there and selling them for huge profits, we didn’t think that, realistically, we’d manage that. (Once there, Andrew bought me an ancient Series II Landrover called Bessie, with a beautiful Union Flag on the bonnet, to ‘keep me out of trouble’… Apart from being downright dangerous to drive, I think this worked.) The roads there are so bad that 4WD vehicles are a necessity.


I did begin, at this stage, to feel slightly sullied by the excess of materialism going on in my life. Having spent 10 years living on a boat, having to work quite hard for things that people in houses take for granted (hot water, heating, sewage etc), could we really not cope without all this damn stuff? Did we really need the stuff that was going into storage for a year? But it was not the right time to be asking these questions, and, as a friend says, ‘any fool can be uncomfortable’. And when dealing with small children, almost anything that keeps them quiet, or asleep, is worth its weight in luggage and/or cargo allowance…


June 29. Packers arrive to pack stuff to go into storage. Amazingly, they make no fuss about the chicken house, which is infested with wildlife and has quite a lot of grass growing in it. They simply popped it into the ISO container on top of some unfortunate books and a rather nice chest of drawers. I quickly look away. Some cousins of mine had to put stuff into storage, and had put aside a Chicken Kiev to heat up for their lunch… you know the rest. I think, on this move, that our lads packed a teacup someone had been using, and, even better, a full dustbin… That evening we moved into the Welcome House. It was fantastic. Had everything, including toys and videos, the HIVE had even stocked the fridge for us. Thank you!


June 30. Packers finish packing. The amount of things left behind at the end of this day are all going to have to fit into suitcases or find alternative homes for the duration. I had spent the last week fiendishly making jam with all the anonymous berries I’d found in the depths of the freezer, and various other things still needed redistribution. My friend Ann was kindly going to do the March Out (two moves later and I haven’t done one yet...).


July 5. At last, after months of seriously stressful countdown, July 5 arrived. I was slightly hung-over having been to a final book club meeting the night before, which might account for the fact that I left the children’s coats behind in the tumble drier, having been expressly advised to take winter coats on the plane for the walk from the plane to the arrivals building. Hey ho. My diary says ‘swap cars’: I think my sister and her husband had come to pick their car up. Things get a


little hazy at this point. MT had sent a minibus to pick us up to get to Brize, but it soon became clear that it wasn’t big enough for all our luggage so off it went and got swapped for a small coach.


A little known fact is that if you were a couple of cubic metres short on your shipping allowance (which, incredibly, we were), you can convert that into luggage allowance on the plane. So we managed to check in something rather more than 300 kg of luggage. The plane was scheduled to fly at midnight and we got there around 6pm. My efficiency had entirely burnt out: the children were starving and exhausted. Neither Andrew nor I had been to Brize Norton before and we’d rather underestimated the food and facilities available. But it was a good time to meet people who, like us, were starting their tours, or had been back to the UK for a break. We found that the wide range of friends made on that first abysmal baptismal journey remained friends throughout our tour.


After seven or eight hours of Henry crying and apologising to people sitting nearby, we got to Ascension. Two hours in the ‘cage’ later, the final leg began. Astonishingly, in a half empty plane, the people who’d had the misfortune to be seated near us for the first bit actually came back for more, dutifully returning to their allocated seats. I don’t want to dwell on what this says about military training versus initiative! Maybe screaming children are more stressful to their parents than to other passengers.


The finality of 8000 miles, 3 months at sea for anything over 2kg, the plane coming only every five days (and not always that!), and the time zone differences (they have three different time zones in one year, and one other that stays constant… confused? I was), was staggering. We are so used to immediate gratification, to ‘next day delivery’ etc. I wonder if we ever go overseas again, say to Germany, if it will seem like a doddle: one can pop home for the weekend! Certainly, when I took the children to New York recently – without Andrew, I wasn’t the slightest bit concerned about the journey. Moving to the Falklands is a bit like climbing Everest, after that everything seems easy!


Spring 2008 1313


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