Fairy Elephant

I was complimented this evening in the way that I ‘threw’ myself into the activity at hand. I was invited to a dancing class for the Falkland Islands May Ball and I think it was a compliment. Hmmm… Anyway, I have got to a certain age where I don’t worry about things as much as I used to. Dance as if no-one is watching is my philosophy now!

Now I think I can be forgiven for having some self-belief in my singing ability. I have had consistent compliments over the years and I have now gotten used to hearing my voice in recorded format and I no longer cringe. I told one of my friends recently that ‘I don’t share my stage’ at a late night karaoke bar in Barcelona. Embarrassingly, this is actually true, but in my defence my friend is a ‘Diva’ and she really knows how to ‘Diva’ her stage and everyone else’s stage. You know who you are :). Incidentally I worked the international crowd really well with my rendition of Olivia Newton John’s Hopelessly Devoted.

Anyhow, I digress, the point is evidence would suggest that my confidence is higher when it comes to singing than it does with dancing. Admittedly, I don’t have the body I used to have and more often than not if I am jumping around on a sprung floor then someone else is jumping around unintentionally a relative distance away. But Mum I am sorry to have to bring this up now but I do think something you said once is the root of the lack of confidence I have when it comes to dancing. I joined a drama group when I was about 12 or 13 and we did some musicals at the Thameside Theatre in Grays in Essex. I was lucky enough to be picked for some really good roles (I never really understood why) and these often had quite a bit of singing. However, once I was asked to don a pale blue shiny lycra all-in one and wear a tutu and dance as a fairy. Now even when I was young and thin I wasn’t THAT thin, I wasn’t very fairy-like either (more rough and tumble) and you would never have used the word ‘graceful’ in a sentence when referring to the way I moved to music. I am so pleased my parents encouraged me with music because when I asked my mum what she thought of my dancing in the show, I do remember ‘fairy elephant’ was mentioned, I mean she was nice about it – I think 🙂 . Well at least I had my music to fall back on. It actually make me laugh out loud this evening when the memory came back to me.

Dancing is a popular activity in the Falklands. Dances have been held in Stanley since its founding in 1843. Outside Stanley, dances are held frequently, especially in winter months. Today a number of dances feature annually including the May Ball, Falklands Ball (used to be called Winter Ball) and Poppy Ball. There is actually once taking place on my birthday 3 August (Falklands/Winter Ball). I wonder if I will be here to take part?

The May Ball in the Falklands is the first ball that Year 10 and above are able to attend. There are three balls over the weekend. The May Ball on Friday evening for Year 10 and over. The Mini-May Ball on Saturday afternoon for the cubs, brownies, guides and scouts and then the Family Ball on the Saturday night. The May Ball on Friday is likened to a debutants ball or the type of ‘prom’ that we are seeing more frequently in the UK for children about to leave school. The girls and boys spend hours on their appearance. The only major difference is the children and some adults spend about 8 weeks before the event learning how to dance with a partner. There is traditional country dancing, folk dancing and the Falklands has a love of country music. At the end of the evening the May Ball Prince and Princess are announced. Apparently it is a wonderful evening and lots of people come from across the islands to take part.

So I spent yesterday evening throwing myself around the floor and dancing to a range of different dancing styles. It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening and those who have been going for a number of weeks are really looking good. What fascinated me the most was the enthusiasm of the children taking part. I don’t think we would see that in the UK. I learnt how to Foxtrot, Waltz, Boston Two-Step, (no way was I attempting the Military Two-Step), Gay-Gordons, Canadian Barn Dance, Circassian Circle, Waltz Country Dance, a number of other dances that I cant quite remember the names of now and Strip the Willow which is highly energetic and nearly killed me. Thank god there were a number of nurses on hand to help should I have had a cardiac episode!

The nicest part of the evening was when I returned from the loo and came back and everyone else was dancing and singing along to Chicken Fried by Zac Brown Band. It was magical and I have another singer to add to my iTunes collection.

So I am really excited that I have been invited to take part in the weekend. But I soon realised that I needed a dress and shoes. I placed an order to the UK a week or so ago and I am patiently waiting for it to arrive. Today’s Airbridge has been cancelled, fingers crossed I have 2 more flights before the big day!

Racecourse Road

My landlord kindly gave me a lift to the craft fair last Sunday which celebrates the crafts of local crafters and artists. I saw some wonderful crafts, some amazing photographs and lino paintings and I am going to try to buy a couple before I come home. I also had a chat with a local coin collector (very interesting and deserves it’s own post). On the way home, I was offered a short tour of Stanley. This would be the very first time I had ventured outside of the town.

We drove to the Chandlery Supermarket. This is the largest supermarket on the island. After popping into to buy some rice and wine, we continued along the MPA Road (Mount Pleasant Airport – I am getting used to the lingo). This road is the road that I came in on, on the very first evening from the airport. Obviously!

Just passed the Chandlery supermarket and situated on the Stanley by-pass road, the Totem Pole is a quirky colourful structure and signposting distances to various places in the world. It is said that it was originally created by military personnel but signs have been added by many visitors. I didn’t get a chance to stop at the totem pole, but will try to before I come home. I have been told that most are villages, towns and cities in the UK at roughly 8,000 miles away. There are other locations in the American continent, along with Europe and even Russia. Have a quick jump over to Google, I don’t have a photo yet but there are many on there.

We drove and had a quick stop at Surf Bay and then on to Gypsy Cove which has amazingly an white sandy bay which would not look out of place on a Caribbean island. Driving around this area, I saw where the minefields are still being cleared and the red flag and cordoned area which denotes a minefield. Thankfully I know what to look for now. This is the place that we were hoping may have had the last of the migrating penguins, but sadly there were none for me to see that day.

There are some beaches in the area that have not been touched by human feet in 35 years and are full of wildlife. I asked whether the penguins get hurt by the mines but apparently they are not heavy enough to set them off.

Heading back to Stanley, we drove past the Lady Liz (Lady Elizabeth, 1879). The Lady Liz is resting at the east end of Stanley Harbour and is Stanley’s most imposing and iconic shipwreck. There are in fact a few shipwrecks in the harbour. The ship was launched in Sunderland in the UK in 1879 and suffered damage whilst rounding Cape Horn in 1913.   Managing to reach Stanley, the cost of repairs were too expensive to be carried out. After various moorings, a violent gale in 1936 forced the Lady Liz into her current resting place.  She was made of iron and so her rusty carcass exposed to the elements is starting to deteriorate and at some point soon it may be engulfed by the sea.

I noticed various point of interest as we drove through Stanley some of which I had seen the evening I arrived. One road sign I noticed again was that of Racecourse Road. I saw it on the first evening and just assumed that it was a good name for a road. I’m not entirely sure why but I was very surprised to find out that Stanley actually has its own racecourse. Yep Racecourse Road takes you to the racecourse. Why was in any doubt? So obvious to have a racecourse on an island of less than 3,000 people. I have later found out since that the national sport of the Falkland Islands is horse racing and in fact the islands have 3 racecourses and some very good racing stock.

Stanley Racecourse has a length of 1.2 miles, or 10 furlongs. The racecourse has been in the same place for over a hundred years and on land belonging to the Falkland Islands Company. For most of its history the course was owned in part by the Crown and in part by the Company. In 2007 the Company land was acquired by the Falkland Islands Government. A two-day horse racing meeting is held every year and the tradition of the summer races has continued for over 100 years. The races are held on the 26th and 27th of December – I still find it very strange that I am here in May and the depths of winter are just around the corner!

In 1991, St Michael Oswald who was the manager of the Queen’s stud visited the island to visit a friend. During his stay he met Laurie Butler who was the chairman of the Stanley Sports Association. Laurie asked St Michael Oswald if he could look out for a breeding stallion, they didn’t have much money only £12,000. A few months later he called to say that Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid alMaktoum (the Emir of Duabi) was wiling to give them a three year old stallion called Thyer as long as the Island paid the costs of the transport and the promise that the stallion didn’t leave the island. This stallion was worth approximately £600,000. There isn’t any actual confirmation as to why The Emir of Dubai would make such a gift but it is rumoured that he admired the plucky Falklanders and their refusal to be budged by their Argentinian neighbours.

Another interesting fact I discovered as we drove past racecourse was that it was it was the centrepiece of one of the world’s very first passenger plane hijack. It didn’t reach national news at the time. On 28 September 1966, an Argentine passenger aeroplane on an internal flight with thirty-five passengers, was hijacked by a group of nineteen of the passengers, who forced the pilot to fly them to the Falkland Islands. The hijackers (a group of metalworkers and a journalist brought along to record their actions) declared that they intended to seize the islands for Argentina. As this was before the islands had an airport, the aeroplane set down on the racecourse. After three days shivering beneath the wings, without food and surrounded by the local militia and Royal Marines, the hijackers surrendered.

Every single day I discover something of interest. I was under the impression that my blogs were going to become less frequent. I am not sure that this will be the case yet.

Spinning Class

Imagine a whole bunch of exercise bikes lined up inside a fitness studio. Riders are on each one, spinning the pedals at a rapid pace; heads down, sweat pouring off their red faces. The lights are turned down, charged music fills the air and an instructor with a headset on the lead bike yells out commands. “Climb out of the saddle,” she energises the class. “Big hill approaching!” The riders rise as one, pedalling faster as they grimace with exertion, sweat dripping off their bodies.

So on Monday evening last, I joined the spinning class. However, before you conjure up this image of me red-faced, trying to balance atop a fixed wheel bicycle you are mistaken. You can also stop laughing! It wasn’t that kind of spinning class! Although getting there did feel like a workout. It was only about 10 minutes away from where I live but I had to walk up the steepest of hills. I did that thing where you are knackered but pretend to those who are walking or driving past that you are just taking in the view when you really can’t breathe anymore. The trick is, turn round, arms on hips, breath in deeply, look at the view. nod your head slightly in appreciation. I did that twice!

I found the portacabin and knocked on the door and entered. Inside I discovered a group of about six ladies sitting behind spinning wheels. No red faces, no sweat pouring off their bodies, just happy and at ease. Yes this was definitely my kind of spinning.

Each had their own spinning wheel some colouful ‘top’ (raw semi-processed wool). The atmosphere was relaxing, they sat chatting away their days.

Wool top. Topmaking mills make wool top, a semi-processed product from raw wool. The process requires that the wool be scoured (washed) and combed and sorted. The longer fibres resulting from the process are called tops, and are in a form ready for spinning (thank you Wikipedia).

So I was asked to sit in front of a spinning wheel and given some ‘top’. Now, I do have a tiny bit of intelligence somewhere inside of my head. There is some there somewhere, but today was not going to be one of the days where my brain would be demonstrating that fact to my new friends. I really do have to question my logic sometimes :). As I was handed the top, I thought and at the same time said out loud wow, I didn’t realise the sheep here had such long hair. Certainly from the pictures I had seen they all looked pretty standard to me. The ‘top’ I was given was about a metre long and rather like soft cotton wool. I told that during the wool-making process, the fibres from sheep (same as the standard type you just in fields in England) are combed into longer sections. Doh – I did feel very silly!

The Falkland Islands have a very long sheep farming history. For almost 150 years sheep have been grazed on the wide-open native white grass camps and coastal valleys. Sheep farming in the Islands has traditionally been carried out for wool production. The absence of an export sheep meat outlet until recently (EU approved abattoir commissioned in 2003) meant that a balanced flock was the “norm” on most farms. The priority was to have enough breeding ewes to sustain sheep numbers while maximising wool production. Wool preparation and wool classing is taken very seriously.

Interestingly the ‘top’ we were using although began life in the Falklands, had been all the way to the UK to be processed. There used to be a mill but it was too expensive to maintain. As soon as the Victorian mill equipment (which incidentally didn’t arrive immediately in the Falklands when first sent from the UK and went via Asia by mistake) started to break down, they realised that it wasn’t worth repairing. Although there is a small industry on the Falklands, producing woollen goods, it didn’t justify the cost in repair so sadly the mill closed. Now the wool is sheared, sent in bales to the UK, processed and made into ‘top’ and sold back to the Falkland Islands.

When spinning ‘top’ there are two processes to go through. I am sure that there may be more but this is what I learned on Monday. The first process is turning the top into a woollen strand.

This involves you passing an even amount of wool through an orifice to the spinning wheel which passes the spun fibre to a bobbin. The spinning wheel is quite difficult to master because it requires pedals to work the speed of the wheel. So you treadle (press your feet on the pedals one at a time) which turn the spinning wheel. You have to keep your eye on the amount of top you are feeding through to keep it even, the length of the ‘top’ in your hands which may run out without you realising, the bobbin which can easily become jammed and the speed at which you are treadling.

A spinning wheel works by rotating the bobbin using the drive band. While you treadle, the wheel turns and the flyer and the bobbin rotate. You twist the fibers in your hand and these are wound around the bobbin. You have to change the speed of bobbin in order to get the yarn on the bobbin automatically. I am told that once you’ve gotten the hang of spinning on a wheel it gets easier.

Once you have a bobbin full, you wind a second bobbin and move to the next process. I was told that the process of spinning in a clockwise motion (I guess either way) gives the fibre a lot of energy and you can see when you look at the fibres there is a twist and some twists have more spring than others. The next process would balance out that energy and the wheel would be spun in an anti-clockwise motion. At the same time I would be spinning the two fibres together to may 2-ply wool.

I had a lovely evening and met some lovely ladies, again it is such a small world and life is full of co-incidences. When I walked in one of the ladies asked if I was Emma Gale. It turns out it was the lady I had been speaking to on email before I arrived and she is a friend of a friend. I then found out during the evening that the lady sitting opposite me had literally left Weymouth in January where she had been working for a couple of years. She also literally lived down the road from us, so the chances are we had crossed paths.

I did enjoy the process of spinning wool, the output from this session was interesting. In places my two ply wool looks like very thick rope and then in others its quite fine. I guess time will show me whether or not this is an interest worth pursuing. I was extremely impressed with the work that the others were doing though. One lady had dyed her own wool into a gorgeous lime green colour and made an infinity scarf. I did ask whether in 9 weeks I would have enough wool to make a scarf. My tutor just smiled and said that she admired ambition.

She did say that I can come back next week though.

Lazy Afternoon

After one of the most exciting experiences since landing on the Falklands, in one of the best sewing shops I have been to (on par with Pauline’s Patchwork in Dorchester), I wandered down through the houses in Stanley to the harbour.

On my way down, I found the Pink Shop which sells a whole range of goods. You will often find that the shops in Stanley sell an unusual mix of items rather than just one product type. So for instance, the Pink Shop sells, art supplies, hats and gloves, hand-crafted items, guitars, guitar strings, trinkets and other fancy goods. I went into another shop called Southern Imports and it sells everything from sweets and chocolate, dried goods, tins and groceries to pet food, washing machines, stationery, ironmongery and car parts. I have also been told it’s worth buying things if you think you are going to need them. Sometimes popular items sell out (like Milk) and you have to wait until the ship comes in.

Hello ‘Emma’ said that lady behind the counter after I had finished browsing. I looked slightly aback. ‘…. the hospital, I work as a Nurse Practitioner during the week’. ‘Ha, yes of course! What are you doing here?’

Apparently everyone does a little bit of everything on the Falklands and this was a shop that she owned and ran part-time when she wasn’t at the hospital. After finding out about the art class at the Coffee Club meet, I wanted to try my hand at watercolour painting and would be going along the following Saturday. I left the shop about half an hour later with four tubes of Artists’ water colour; Raw Umber, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber and Cobolt blue, a pencil and a water colour block and a date in the diary to go and meet with her on Monday morning.

I didn’t fancy heading home straight away, so I popped into a number of small gift shops on the way as I weaved my way to the far end of the harbour. I did think about finding a little pub somewhere and stopping for a glass of wine, but I had planned to get home and do some cooking. There was an almost certain risk that if I ‘popped’ into the pub, I may not ‘pop’ out again for a few hours. Did you have to go back and read the bit about me cooking? I know, me cook! Watch out Nigella! I am now officially a domestic goddess having bulk cooked a spaghetti bolognaise and diet cola chicken and separated into portions.

Look at me go! Go Em! High five! Even more amazing is that I haven’t been inside a pub in Stanley yet!

What happens in here… stays in here!

As we reached our destination, I thanked them both for giving me a lift. They both said no problem at all but my friend kindly insisted walking me to the door. ”Do you need a lift back?’ enquired her husband. ‘No it’s ok, but thank you” I said, “I may be some time’.

My friend told me that she would take me to the door because the location wasn’t marked and it wasn’t exactly clear which way was the entrance. So she led me through a lovely small garden to an entrance door to a building on the side of a house. I noticed that there was a tidy vegetable garden to the right of the building which housed a medium sized poly tunnel. They obviously spent some time growing their own vegetables and from the neatly pruned bushes they definitely looked after their garden. ‘Oh thank you, I am so grateful. I would never have found this myself.’ I said.

As soon as the door opened, my eyes lit up and I involuntarily let out a few gasps. This was definitely not what I was expecting. There were a few women already inside and each of us looked at each other with that knowing look that only those that had been in an establishment like this before would appreciate. We acknowledged and smiled at each other quickly but they swiftly got back to what they were doing. There are no illusions here, we all knew that we were here for one thing only. The atmosphere was calm but you could feel an electric undercurrent simultaneously. Eyes were darting from one thing to the next and you could tell this is the place that ladies flocked to, to feed their obsessions. I wondered how often they came here and then my thoughts drifted back to me and I wondered how often would I find myself here.

I wandered around the rooms in a slightly confused state, I wasn’t really sure what to do. Should I? Did I need to? Hadn’t I got enough? What would Pete say? I wasn’t sure. The rooms were filled with dreams. I imagine it was like being in heaven, everything you could possibly need but more. After about 10 minutes, I decided that I needed to start making a plan in my head because the lady who ran the establishment would surely be wondering what was taking me so long to decide. I started to feel a little anxious. Should I give in?

I had another look around and eventually made up my mind. At that point, I wandered into the central room where there were a number of ladies in deep discussion. I heard one say, ‘Well I was really annoyed this morning. I had kept a number of £20’s in my purse especially to use today and he didn’t know that I had them. I don’t really like to lie to him although I don’t really think it’s being that dishonest to really call it a lie it is? Do you think its a lie? Then out of the blue, we nip to the West Store and he didn’t have his card on him. I tried to slip out a note without him noticing but he saw that I had a wad of 20s. He then insisted we went to the garage to fill up with petrol. I was absolutely gutted. This is all I have.’

‘Oh I have stopped telling him that I come here. He just gets really grumpy’ said another, ‘anyway it’s all his fault, he encouraged me to come here in the first place’.

‘Oh you don’t need to worry about that at all ladies’, said the owner and I could sense that there was a hint of NZ calm when she spoke. ‘What happens in here stays in here. Just you remember your secrets will stay safe with me. Oh yeah, I’ve seen and heard it all before. The men are all lined up outside in their cars and they can think exactly what they want to think. What they don’t realise is they can’t do a damn thing about it. Do you know what we do in here? We just ignore the horns.’ Everyone laughed.

I smiled at the owner and handed her my choices. ‘Would you like 1 metre or 2?’ she asked. ‘Did you realise that the pattern on that particular print is traditional Mauri pattern and all the way from New Zealand?’.

Coffee Club

I woke up and decided that I would go to Coffee Club. Coffee Club is held every Saturday morning from 10am to 12pm in a café called the Narrows Lounge. An open invitation to anyone who would like to go. I believe it started out mainly for those people who are working on contracts to have somewhere to go to on a Saturday morning and a group of friendly faces to meet with. Contracts to work out here tend to last for two years unless of course you are in the military and they have their own deployment arrangements. It seemed that most of the people I met on Saturday were on their second or third term. The thing that they have in common though is that they all have connections to the UK; sons, daughters, husbands and wives and will remember what it was like to come straight off the airbridge into this wonderful land.

It was a bright morning and not terribly cold, so I decided to wander along to the meeting and thought it would be nice to have my breakfast there. I was given rough directions but I didn’t really think about how I would manage without my phone. Soon after I started out, I realised that I didn’t really know where I was going and of course my phone wasn’t going to be of any help. I did know that it’s not that far from my house and it wasn’t like I was going to stray into some unknown territory or minefield or anything.

On that subject, now that I know there are minefields on The Falklands, I know to look out for them. Incidentally since finding out about them, I have taken the sensible action to find out how they are marked and I have actually seen a real minefield now. Mum you will be pleased to know your health and safety awareness training is paying off and you have nothing to worry about. The minefields are a legacy of the 74 day invasion and occupation by Argentine forces of the Falklands in 1982. It is estimated that over 15.600 (12.300 antipersonnel and 3.300 anti-vehicle) Argentine laid mines remained in the Falklands according to a report delivered by Lord Astor of Hever, UK Parliamentary Secretary of State, Defence in February 2011. Currently, Phase 5 which commenced in October 2017, has removed more than 2,000 anti-personnel mines and over 50 anti-vehicle mines. Phases completed between 2009 and 2016 cleared more than 30 minefields. Obviously the mines are taken very seriously here and children in the local schools regularly have minefield awareness training conducted by the military.

I digress, there aren’t actually any minefields in the vicinity of my house or within the distance I will be walking around Stanley for that matter. It was, however, the first time I would be turning right up the road instead of left. See I do like to live dangerously 🙂 I do remember thinking that I was really venturing into unknown territory. But in reality, it is actually all very straight forward, the roads in Stanley are in a grid system and from the harbour it all tends to be uphill so I reminded myself that if I got lost, all I had to do was turn left, go downhill and I will find the harbour!

I didn’t actually get THAT lost and found myself at the right place ordering a cup of tea and English muffins about 15 minute later.

I love co-incidences, one of the ladies I met there and who I will be working with at the hospital was born in the same hospital in Portsmouth as me but three years earlier. She had also lived a few streets away from where I lived on Northern Parade there until I was 2. Another, lived very close to where my dad was brought up. It was a very tiny village called Lydiate outside of Liverpool on the way to Southport in Lancashire. We spoke about the tiny pub there called the Scotch Piper which I had actually been in to a few years ago.

We had a lovely morning chewing the fat, there were discussions about my arrival, where I was living and working. We spoke about the hospital, my work there and the highs and lows of patient management systems. There was a GP and lead nurse so I would be working quite closely with them. A couple of lawyers who are friends with my landlord and the island vet was also there. He told me that the hospital scanner is sometimes used to x-ray animals and he is called upon to help out at the hospital in an emergency. They were telling me about ‘camp’ which is everywhere else outside of Stanley and what to expect on my 4×4 tour of the island which I plan to do in a week or so. Oh and where to find the penguins!

There is a large population on the Falkland Islands who are very keen on arts and crafts. Great British Sewing Bee had a massive following this year in the Falklands. I wonder if they know that? I told them that I had brought my sewing machine with me (though shamefully its been a week and I haven’t switched it on yet) and then I got into a conversation with two of the ladies about quilting. Out came the photos of the recent quilting that I have been doing and of course I had to sneak a picture of Lily too.

By lunchtime, I have my week ahead planned. On Monday I am going to spinning class, on Wednesday I have Bridge and on Saturday morning I shall be joining the watercolour class up at the school.

After a wonderful morning one of my new friends offered me a lift up to what I can only describe as the most perfect haven on the Falkland Islands. Its where men line up in their cars outside and ladies go to dream. Within half an hour of being in there I heard the immortal line “Oh you don’t need to worry about that at all, what happens in here, stays in here.”.

Back to Work

It occurred to me today that I have settled straight back into work; just like riding a bike. I had had a couple of months away from the workplace and on reflection if I had had time to really think about the process of going back, I may have spent some time preparing myself. I didn’t have time but it didn’t matter in any case it’s been absolutely fine. Like duck to water, penguin to natural habitat in any continent in the Southern Hemisphere.

I went in to meet the team at 8.30 on Wednesday morning. Strangely I wasn’t nervous at all; I was really excited and ready to get stuck in.

I’m not going to write about the hospital or my work in any detail after today, but I thought that it deserved at least one posting. After all its why I am here and it’s no big secret; it’s not the case that if I tell you I will have to kill you or anything. Although that would be really cool if I said that I was doing something so important that I couldn’t tell you what I was doing.

What is really important is that I am really proud of what I have been tasked to do and the difference it will make to the population of the Falklands and the care that the clinicians and supporting staff can give to their patients.

The patient system at the hospital needs replacing and in order to do that, there is a process that needs to be followed. I have been working on the design, development and deployment of systems for a multitude of healthcare settings for many years. Most of the areas I have worked in have been community services, community hospital, mental health, primary care, child health and prisons. So working for a hospital providing acute and emergency care is new to me. These are basically the larger type of hospital that provides lots of different types of care and have A & E departments, ICU, wards, X-ray, etc.

Now in the Falklands, I have discovered that the hospital is a one-stop shop. The medical team deliver care across every care setting and it’s managed centrally at the hospital. This includes Primary Care (GPs), Secondary Care, A&E, Mental Health, Social Care, Dentistry, Radiology, Pharmacy and Laboratory, health prevention and public health. The Falklands not only suffers from the same issues that we do in the UK with an increasingly older population, recruitment and retention, budget constraints, drive from paper to electronic records but has it’s own unique challenges. Its a very transient population, there are a large number of short-term contractors who work here and the military base use the hospital. Fishing which is the largest part of the economy in the Falklands also brings fisherman to the hospital; with the principle fleets coming from Spain, Korea and Taiwan. The hospital team also need to provide care out in the community and also to the area outside of Stanley which is known as ‘Camp’. Basically that is everywhere that is not Stanley and often requires the use of the air ambulance or helicopter. I found out today that the island vet has to have cross-over training in the event of a medical emergency as he will be called to help. Everyone here has to roll-up their sleeves and ‘that’s not my job’ is a term that you will never hear here.

I am in a unique position where I am project manager for both the hospital and the supplier. Normally, when you are leading a project, there would be a project manager on each side and a team sharing the tasks, but this is a solo deployment and it’s my job to get the system live for both parties. In order to do that, I will need to meet with every team in the hospital, find out how they use their current system and make sure that our new system is configured and working for them. Its quite a straight forward process but has complexities (aside from those above), the data from the old system needs to be transferred to the new system, the system needs to be configured, tested and approved and I need to teach everyone how to use it. It is a lot of work but just the sort of challenge I love jumping right into.

So after starting work at 8.30am on Wednesday, I have already met with three of the teams and had a project board. I wandered down the corridor on Friday and four people said hello to me by name. I’ve made friends with the cleaners, the catering staff and today I was having coffee with the lead nurse in A&E, there are no barriers here.

It’s a privilege to be here and having this amazing opportunity which I will remember for the rest of my life. I really want to do the best job I can not only for me but for the company I am working for, the hospital and its patients. Success would mean that I get the system rolled and everyone working by the middle of June when I return to the UK. Success would also mean I don’t need to come back….. hmmm…… I have to ask myself, is success always that important???? 🙂 🙂 🙂

(If my Directors are reading this, I promise with that last line I am joking).

Just call me Larry

On Monday afternoon I decided to bite the bullet and take myself shopping. Now anyone who knows me well knows how much I love shopping; who doesn’t. I love buying shoes, clothes, sewing notions (that was a word I learned recently), fabrics, gadgets, houses, stuff. Lots of stuff. I love shopping, I can shop, really shop!

However, I hate food shopping – with a passion. Hate it! Hate it! Hate it!

I find it extremely stressful. It can send me from a really happy go lucky person in two seconds flat to a screaming banshee. I struggle to plan my meals sensibly, look at shelves and shelves of food, usually end up getting irritated, overbuying and spending a fortune.

I was determined after such a relaxing start to my adventure that I would enjoy this experience. When I went into The West Store I was really surprised at how big it was. It took over three large sized buildings. There were no windows so you couldn’t really appreciate its size until you were inside.

I started to notice that there seem to be quite a few items on the shelves that had the Waitrose logo and I started to smile. One supermarket I really like going to is Waitrose. Look I know, I know, but it’s just nice. It’s really nice. I know exactly what Pete is thinking as he reads this 🙂 Now if I had a choice (and an unlimited bank balance), I would shop at Waitrose all the time. I was definitely starting to enjoy my browsing.

Looking around the shelves of food, I decided that I would make myself Diet Cola Chicken. I know how to make it, I make it well and its quick. The second thing I really dislike doing is cooking. I find it boring and normally end up doing something else while I am waiting which means I end up burning my food or it just doesn’t taste of much. Diet Cola chicken has had a 100% success rate so far. I think I have made it about 6 times and each time its been good. That’s Pete saying that too – not me!

I would need to find some chicken, onions, peppers, garlic, tomato pure, passata, Worcester sauce, soy sauce and either rice or pasta. I decided to go for pasta. That’s when I happened to notice the price tickets. I found the peppers, (£3 each), I looked for chicken – you cant buy fresh chicken – frozen chicken is £10 for a bag of small breasts, I bought a bottle of red wine (Winner winner: £4.50), a bottle of water (£1), diet cola (£1), (it’s starting to look more cost effective to just drink wine), canned beans (£2 each can), frozen onions (£3.50), frozen beans (£4), frozen chicken (£10), some other small items. I bought enough to fit into my small backpack and a carrier bag and it came to £67. Yep £67. These were not even Waitrose prices, these were Fortnum and Mason prices. I found the whole experience entertaining. I was looking at random items and trying to work out how much things were back home and then saying things to myself like ‘My word, £14.50 for a box of Persil Non-biological’.

I was definitely warned about the cost of buying food so I shouldn’t have been that surprised. I estimated that my bag was probably three times as expensive for a similar bag in the UK. Although I did notice that the leg of lamb was £4 for a large leg. I am going back on Saturday for a basket of lamb and a bucket of mint jelly!

If I come home wearing a cream jumper, speaking in baa’s and skipping around, just call me Larry!

HMS Dunbarton Castle

After making myself some breakfast, I tidied away the remaining items I had left from my suitcase and got ready to meet my colleague who was giving me an oritentation of the town.

At 9.30 my colleague arrived and gave me a brief introduction, she told me to grab my shoes and not to worry about locking the door. She explained how safe the Island is and the only reason to lock the door would be to keep the wind out.

We walked over to the post office which is diagonally opposite my house where they now know what to do with my post should any arrive.   The Falklands do not have a postal delivery service but post which arrives on the island is held in a PO box system.   As you enter the post office there are two doors.   The door on the right takes you to the Philatelic  Bureau (stamp office) where you can buy a range of commemorative stamps.  The door on the left takes you into a room full of rows and rows of metal red postal boxes each one having a lock.  The post is left in the boxes and the owners come to collect their post.     My post will be delivered to the hospital so I don’t have to worry about collecting it although it would be quite nice to have my own little red box.

Opposite the post office is the police station, prison and court house.   I really hope that I do not have a reason to go into any of those buildings unless I am helping them with a system query!   We passed the bank and wandered along the harbour a little way. I noticed some names on the hills opposite the harbour.    The longest name being the Dumbarton Castle.      

The Royal Navy has a standing commitment to the Falkland Islands. It maintains a sovereign presence around the island chain and also provides security and reassurance to its residents.   At a distance of almost 8,000 nautical miles from the UK and subject to strong winds and high sea states, the South Atlantic Overseas Territory presents one of the harshest working environments of any Royal Navy deployment.  (I read up on this).

There is a tradition that the ships company of those vessels who have provided prolonged periods of protection to the Islands are asked by the Governor of the Falkland Islands to lay their ship’s name in large stones on the hillside opposite Stanley.   There are a number of names on the hillside; Barracouta,  Beagle, Protector, Dunbarton Castle, Clyde.  Each letter is ten metres high (32ft) by five metres (16ft) wide, made from roughly four tonnes of rock and laid on top of the scrub and bog that make up the Camber (Ref: Royal Navy News).

We walked back along the harbour, past the police station, prison and bank, post office.  Just past my house to the left is a hotel and restaurant called the Malvina House Hotel and further along and set back behind the front row of houses is the hospital.  Less than a 5 minute walk from my home.   To the right of the hospital is the school and leisure centre.  It’s good to know that I don’t have to go far to swim!  In fact I don’t have to go far to swim if I don’t mind the freezing cold harbour, but I think I will much prefer it in the nicer surroundings of the leisure centre.  I will be joining the leisure centre tomorrow.   This afternoon I have to navigate the supermarket!

What’s the time?

I woke with a start, it was still dark, but that didn’t mean a thing, it was still dark in the mornings in England. I looked at my watch. 6.45! 6.45 where? I couldn’t remember whether my watch had synched or not. Was that 6.45 in England? Yes it was possible if it was 6.45 in England then it would be 2.45am here and I had been asleep for about 4 hours.

I looked at my phone 6.45. Had my phone synched? Not sure, couldn’t think straight. I looked at the messages on my phone.  I had a message that Pete had joined WhatsApp so that we could stay in touch easier.

Pete, what’s the time? 11am came his reply. Sigh of relief. I hadn’t overslept nor would I spend the early hours awake and unable to. I made myself a cup of tea.

I have a lovely little house. It looks very small from the outside but surprisingly spacious on the inside.   Its a wooden clad detached building with a brown metal roof.   There is a storm porch with an Easterly facing door (they are all Easterly facing). I was told this morning the winds mostly come from the West. If they come from the East, that’s really bad and they normally bring snow!

My house is quite old fashioned but it’s very cosy; pink carpet, flowery sofa. It has a living/dining area with two sofas and three arm chairs, a dining table and six chairs. The dining table is perfect to work on. One end is set up for my laptop and the other end my sewing machine.   I have put my cutting mat in the middle for cutting patchwork shapes.       There are two doors off the main living area, one to the kitchen which is at the centre back of the property and another to a hallway.   The hallway leads to two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a drying room, utility room and another room which is locked. I would love to know what is behind the locked door! You can also access the kitchen from the hallway.  I like the house so much. I have already grown quite fond of it. It has a good layout; very practical.    It actually reminds me of the houses I saw in Sweden both in terms of aesthetics and practicality.   I did catch myself thinking about how I would change the décor if it were mine.

The house has a small front garden which has been decked and has a small BBQ and seating area. The back garden has a raised lawn. I saw a black cat and a ginger cat scrapping outside there earlier.

Its very comfortable and feels like it has been a very happy home, has a wonderful atmosphere.    I know I am going to be happy here.