Having spent the last week enjoying our Bonus Days in the fantastically friendly yet unfortunately-named Malvina House Hotel*, our time to actually depart the islands finally came. The journey is often an eventful one so I thought it worth a little note for our own posterity and it allows me to gloss over the reality of the move, for now.  It was sad to have to leave for so, so many reasons, but not least because we’d had such a wonderful week in the hotel enjoying the hospitality and view:View from the hotel

That’s HMS Forth behind the excellent Museum, by the way. She’s the new South Atlantic patrol vessel but we never got the opportunity to have a good look around her as we did with HMS Clyde.

So it was that late in the evening (9pm, to be precise) on Wednesday 17th June our bus to the airport arrived (a mere 6 hours before our flight) and we checked in to our flight at the required time alongside the other military and civilian passengers heading North. So just 5 hours spare, then. Before our 18-hour flight. With a baby. At night.  In a brightly lit air terminal. We do so love a challenge.

Continuing our theme of thoroughly Falklands experiences sending us off, the aircraft had a few issues getting started and we were delayed aboard the plane while the temperature dropped to what I will fondly remember as a farewell chill (though at the time we weren’t thinking of it so positively). Quite the opposite then occurred some 10 hours later when we landed in Dakar (Senegal) unable to decamp from the plane but experiencing the ambient heat nonetheless. It could have been a lot worse; at least baby behaved for the most part (all credit to Han on that front, more as a result of the biology of breastfeeding than 1920s gender roles in parenting, I might add).

Just 25 hours after we were first collected, we landed at RAF Brize Norton for what could be the last time, before a 2 hour journey to our transiting location at my sister’s for her 5am wake-up call, where we sat in an odd legal great area as the government’s quarantine laws have yet to catch up the reality on the ground. On Monday 22nd June, we finally made it across to Han’s homeland of Ireland (where we’ll spend our first Summer for quite a while). After one final drive (extended by a puncture on our brand new rental car, just to top off our travel woes), our journey so many weeks in the making was over! In an effort to ease back into the hustle and bustle of life outside the Falklands, we’ve booked ourselves into a remote mountain lodge and are spending some time as a family while we await our freedom on July 6th. It was meant to be July 4th, which would have made a great excuse to watch Independence Day again, but our delays cost us that piece of symmetry. Thankfully, we can all agree that you don’t really need an excuse to watch Independence Day again.

Slowly but surely we are running through the readjustments that always come from leaving the islands: we’re recalling how to pay for things with cards instead of cheque books, we’re gaining an unfortunate number of mouth ulcers from the unprecedented levels of exotic fruit we’re consuming, we’re relearning the correct quantity of fresh, not UHT, milk to add to our tea and we’re training our eyes to look for different forms of wildlife out the window:


Not a penguin OR a sea lion

Moving forward, we have to learn to contrast our two lives; the old and the new:

We’ll be seeing very different things and spending our time in very different ways, but quarantine isn’t as bad as it sounds. Yes, those are hand made Falklands sheepskin/wool slippers purchased from the wonderful Harbour View Gift Shop, who have been supplying us, our friends and our families with penguin gifts and merchandise for so many years now. We’ve been eyeing them up for years wondering whether to spoil ourselves and commit. Turns out, they’re worth the investment. This is not a sponsored post (much as I wish it was) but they do post them.

I’ve been pondering how to sum up our time down South for months now and you might think that being forced to spend a fortnight locked in a remote cabin might present just the opportunity to churn something out. By now, you probably also know that lockdown doesn’t increase productivity half as much as one might initially have hoped. Bear with me. Just like leaving the Falklands, writing the final chapter of the blog was always going to be a mental struggle. Just a glance through our Photo Highlights page gives a taste of what I’m up against. As I’ve seen it plastered everywhere, I’ll jump on the Irish government’s continuing message to its population: hold firm. The end is coming.

Just to be clear, I added the bit about the end coming. I know the Irish government has a history of religious fervour, but it hasn’t gone that extreme in its response to Covid.

* True to form, I’ll insert a short historical backstory here as the naming of the Malvina House Hotel often causes some confusion/curiosity/offence in different contexts: Malvina is a Scottish girls’ name and Malvina Felton was the name of one of the original owner’s daughters back in 1881. This is in no way related to the Spanish word for the Islands (Islas Malvinas), which itself originally came from the French name for the islands (Iles Malouines, named by sailors after their home port of St Malo). The Spanish and French using names for the islands in their own language would not usually be a problem (in English, for example, we don’t refer to Germany as Deutschland), however Argentina continues to use its own names for most locations in the islands when pushing its claim (including some from the 1982/General Galtieri era such as ‘Puerto Argentino’ as their name for Stanley, which never existed until after the invasion when Argentina decided its original idea of renaming Stanley ‘Puerto Rivero’ was probably not the look they were going for as the apparently inspirational Antonio Rivero was, in fact, a mass murderer). As a result, references to the islands as ‘Islas Malvinas’ are usually seen as offensive by Falkland Islanders though this is often not the intention of other Spanish speakers who will have grown up knowing the islands by the Spanish name. As the UN’s stance is that there is (what it considers) an unresolved dispute over the islands, the official UN name for the islands is “Falklands Islands (Islas Malvinas)”. It’s a complex linguistical anomaly: if Argentina didn’t claim the islands then there would probably be no issue with other countries using other names for them. But they do, so there is.


Regular Pengoing South attendees will know that today is a very special day here in the Falkland Islands. 14th June each year marks Liberation Day, the day that the islands were formally freed from Argentine occupation in 1982. It is hard to summarise just what this means for the people here. Having never endured military occupation by an aggressor state, I am not sure I feel qualified to explain the significance. Fortunately, Falkland Islands Government have given some insight:

Liberation Day also means a surprising amount to those not originally from the islands. After all, had history taken a slightly different (but also completely realistic) turn, none of us would be able to experience the islands as they are today. So it is that,  even in these troubled and difficult circumstances, many turn out to mark the occasion at the powerful Liberation Monument on Stanley seafront. And who doesn’t appreciate a symbolic flypast? (all photos by Han today)BHTF2836

Close friends and family will also know that we should currently be about 28,000 feet above the Atlantic right now. How very apt that our final few days in the islands are spent with some thoroughly Falklands experiences: celebrating Liberation Day and an extended stay from a cancelled Airbridge flight. We’ve been relatively lucky with our flights, only suffering the occasional minor delay, but a friend has had his last 7 trips to the UK delayed by 24 hours+. It’s a fact of life here that you allow for Airbridge unpredictability (resulting from the weather and the poor placement of the runway in the 1980s). We can’t complain: without the MoD we wouldn’t have the vital air link and wouldn’t be getting away at all right now. We’ve come to endearingly call them “Bonus Days” and encourage others to think of them as such too. It adds an air of positivity to what could otherwise be a stressful time.

IMG_8748Despite the fact that the building that has been our home for nearly 5 years now sits empty and we have decamped to a very nice local hotel to be their only guests, it still hasn’t quite sunk in that we are leaving. Perhaps we’ve been distracted by the view:

View from the hotel

We’ve not been complacent about it, we’ve been sure to do as much as we could in the time available to us (between packing, of course).

We’ve taken a final visit out to the breathtakingly scenic Volunteer Point to see the King Penguin colony there (with the bonus of several groups of Southern Right Whales close in to the beach):

We obviously had to take a final trip out to Camp (soon to be a term I guess we’ll stop using), to stop by Estancia Farm to introduce one important member of the family to another: Baby, meet Milo! Milo, meet Baby!


Just another drive in the country


Family union

I’m not prone to sentiment, but it proved to be something of an emotional drive. Before arriving in the islands I’d never even driven a 4×4, yet alone on gravel roads or off road altogether. Learning to drive in the distinct style that is required here has opened the islands up to us and allowed us to access no end of incredible places and experiences. Our cars have become important parts of our life here and it was incredibly sad to see them go, though we know they go on to good homes; both to new arrivals eager to begin their Falklands journey. We know that it’s unlikely that we’ll ever run a 4×4 again (yet alone 2!) or get to use them for their intended purpose in the way we have here, so it truly was a fond farewell to our trusty steeds:

They say that moving house is one of the most stressful things in life. It is. As it transpires, trying to do so in the middle of a global pandemic adds an extra unpredictability that verges on hilarity. Well, you can either laugh or cry as whatever plans you try to lay down alter several times each week in response to changing rules in various countries. We’ve tried not to let it get to us and we think we’re sorted now, but we’ve got a lot of people and places to say our goodbyes to. In the spirit of romance mixed with efficiency (always a winning combination, I’ve found), we cashed in an anniversary present that I had got Han pre-baby from the wonderful Falklands Helicopter Services and we took to the skies for one more outstanding memory from this little place:

102664116_10100271028955697_1369925764762985250_oAfter the initial flurry of logistical patchwork, we’re actually very pleased to have our Bonus Days right now. It all just seems so appropriate and gives us the opportunity to tend to a few things that we have been meaning to do before we go.

One bit of local lore concerns Boot Hill, for example. This ever-expanding collection of shoes on sticks alongside the main road into Stanley has an unclear provenance but it has evolved into something of a ritual for those whose time it is to leave the islands. The legend now goes that, if you think you’ve had your fill and won’t be returning, you leave a pair of shoes. If you think that this place still has a hold on you and that one day you’ll be back, it’s one shoe for you. Will we be one boot or two? Our final few days may tell.