This is it.
Han’s grandmother recently asked me if I was still writing, to which I replied that I had one more post to do but that it was taking me a long time to complete. “It’s hard to find the words to end it” came my exact reply. We’ve been many months back in Europe now and regular readers will know that I’d expected to have this post done quite a while ago. It’s easy to be philosophical about why it’s taken so long.
This blog has tracked our entire time in the Falkland Islands, from the anticipation before our arrival to our first sighting of the islands, through to our sad departure and almost everything in between. Perhaps ending the blog is a similar reflection; drawing a line under our Falklands experience altogether. Not as easy as it seems, then.
Due to the travel costs and restrictions, our few absences or holidays away from the Falklands often lasted many weeks or months so it hasn’t yet fully sunk in that we’re not returning to our beloved islands. It’s starting to, though. I know that we packed our house up and handed it back to the government, but some part of me still pictures it there waiting for us to walk back in. Friends that have left the islands (of which there are many) tell us ‘it’ll take time’ or that we’ll ‘find somewhere else’; phrases that make our departure sound like a relationship ending, which I guess it kind of is. Like a break-up, they tell us we’ll remember the good bits and forget the bad bits (there were some we shouldn’t forget and I should record that we were contractually prevented from discussing them publicly). We’ve lived in several different places before, but I don’t remember going through this when we left England’s capital city or village life in the Home Counties.
The Falklands has been a huge part of our lives (said with epic understatement). We arrived there 5 years ago as a newly-engaged couple in our late 20s. We departed as a married couple in our 30s, with a tiny baby in tow. More than that, however, our Falklands experience has altered our outlook on our lives and our future.
Growing up in a deprived coastal town in the South of England, I always figured I’d end up living somewhere in the UK. It was just the accepted norm. If, six years ago, somebody had told us that we would be moving to a remote island in the South Atlantic to live alongside a million and a half penguins, it would have (understandably) sounded like nonsense. Despite studying the conflict, I didn’t even really know if it was possible to move to the Falklands like you might with any other country.
We actually joked about moving there for a while, when the job advert was first noticed; talking about it as if it was some fanciful idea completely outside of the realm of reality. We never really thought it would happen. Then it did. Our friends and family had to adjust, out of the blue, to the announcement that we weren’t going to be in Essex any more. Nor even in England. Not even in Europe, or the Northern hemisphere. Instead, we were going to be 8000 miles away, on a remote set of islands near Antarctica accessible by unpredictable 18-hour RAF flights. They did adjust, though. And so did we. Somehow (and I can’t explain when it happened) the distance seemed to decrease over time. The world started to feel a little smaller.
Predictably, it takes a certain type of person to up sticks and relocate their lives to the Falkland Islands. The result of that is a society with a very particular, outgoing and nomadic make-up. A further consequence of that is that our close friendship group now spans from Tristan Da Cunha to Canada to Russia to Australia, back to Ascension Island and far beyond. This also makes the globe feel a little less daunting.
Six years ago, we couldn’t have known that we could leave our comfortable lives in England, move to a remote and windswept archipelago and spend our spare time bombing around between minefields in a 4×4, thriving on the experience and remaining for 5 years. We couldn’t have known how miles would shrink in their significance. How, then, do we discount any other possibilities (however unlikely they may be) for the future? This is one change brought about by such experiences.
The convoluted point that I am trying to make is that, much like the Falkland Islands has a pivotal moment in their own history, the Falklands will no doubt represent a pivotal moment in ours. Our mindset and our lives ‘before’ were completely different to those ‘after’. Although seeming vast at times, as you stare out over uninterrupted expanses of land, the reality is that the Falkland Islands represent a very tiny part of the World. In many ways, settling for so long in the Falkland Islands has made it hard to settle elsewhere.
So what makes this transition so hard? A little while back, I listed just some of the unusual experiences that we have had in/as a result of the Falkland Islands. It was only a short attempt, but the blog stands as a wider list of the experiences that we’ve had and the memories that we’ve made in the islands. They are wonderfully extensive and I’m very thankful to the blog for recording so many that might otherwise be lost to my absent mind.
Our lives have changed considerably now. Not just because we have left the islands and because Covid19 has altered all of our lives, but also because we have a baby. No doubt, our Falklands experience would have been drastically different had the baby arrived at the start of, rather than the end of, our time there. I’ve no doubt that it still would have been great; our predominant nostalgia for our island life revolves around the people more than the place and I’m certain that our community would have been just as cosy regardless.
As with so much of modern society, our time in the islands has been entwined with a photographic record. I’ve tried to pull together some highlights before but, now that we’ve left, the collection seems to go on and on. As I was trawling back through our archive, I couldn’t help but notice that the landscape and wildlife shots were far outweighed in their quantity and their significance by the numerous photos of our friends and social events. I’ve not included them here, for a host of reasons, but it’s the people, the friends, the community, the parties and the events that are the overwhelming majority of our memories and, subsequently, the majority of our photos. Nevertheless, at the end of this post you’ll find a selection (several hundred strong, I’m afraid) of some of our more memorable photos in the hope of ending this on a high.
Thank you all for stopping by our blog, commenting or just browsing the photos. We did keep an eye on our stats and it all helped to motivate us to keep it going. It’s to you that we owe our unique record of these precious years. We’ve not decided what will happen to the blog yet (we do pay a small amount to host it and don’t intend to do so forever) but hopefully it will remain here for a little while, then one day it will be promoted to paper on our bookshelf.
Like leaving the islands, signing off the blog was always going to be hard. I was never going to be content with my effort (and, sure enough, I’m not) but, like our time in the South, it has to end sometime.
This chapter of our story is now complete. The next one is yet to be written. One way or another it will be, soon.
So here’s to the future: our curious blank: