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:
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:
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.