33. Thinking of home

Some readers of this blog may not know that it is called Natural Adventures because it was started as a digitisation of adventure I had to the Falkland Islands in 1988 when I was a young man. I was a fisheries scientist working for the Falkland Islands Government and at this point in the Journal was out at sea on a Japanese squid jigger called the Koei Maru 30.

For context it might be worth reading chapter 1, ‘An ill wind‘.

Previous chapters (in reverse chronological order) are listed here.

The adventure continues…

 

Sunday 3 July 1988. Koei Maru 30

Today I had a lovely lie in – woken by the bell some time around 5am and then by the generator at about 6.15 or so. What it means of course is that I shan’t be able to sleep again tonight.

A bird is on  the deck, seemingly knackered, perhaps dying – I gave it some fish livers which it is eating quite happily. I hope it lives – I may take a piccie.

It is a dolphin gull and I think it has thrown in the towel – poor thing – I wish there was more I could do for it.

Watched Lethal Weapon (4th time) ace film, and smoked loads of ciggies and drank lots of beer and whiskey and am now ready for bed. I miss Deb so much – especially now when I know ‘home time’ is only three weeks away.

Whiskey and cigarettes, Koei Maru 30, Falkland Islands, 1988
Whiskey and cigarettes, Koei Maru 30, Falkland Islands, 1988

 

Monday 4 July 1988. Koei Maru 30

One year ago today we sat in the Annex (one of the residences at Bangor University where the overseas students lived) garden stuffing ourselves with home made beefburgers and cake and chicken and potato salad and beer and wine and it was a lot of fun – fighting off the mozzies as the chill of the summer evening set in, lighting fireworks and basically having a good time.

I will never forget Moyo’s dancing or Pia’s shirt. Andy Brooks threw a good party and I was happy. How can it all be a year ago? It seems so unfair that life slips by like this.

My cabin, Koei Maru 30, Falkland Islands 1988
My cabin, Koei Maru 30, Falkland Islands 1988

Life is sometimes a big disappoitment – never waste it, remember it and live the memories, enjoy them – they’re all we have when we die. Memories are all that is left. I remember Jeremy Jones with a good heart – he lives on in my mind. So sad. I shed a tear every now and then. How can he be gone? That’s it, he’s over.

My seagull has disappeared – I pray that it lived and flew off.

Sleep once again accompaned by a wee dram of scotch.

Slept well for a change (probably the five steaks!).

 

Tuesday 5 July 1988. Koei Maru 30

Spoke to Liz on the blower.

I should be getting back to Port Stanley round about the 17th or so, but in looking at this I realise that it is a Sunday, so it will have to be the 15th or the 18th – it will be fun breaking the news to the Fishing Master!

Processsing deck, Koei Maru 30, Falkland Islands 1988
Processsing deck, Koei Maru 30, Falkland Islands 1988

I must be barmy bonkers.

Wrote a letter to Deb in which I told her that I smoke now,

God I wish I didn’t – my lungs now are burning and full of shit. I am in very poor condition. I dislike myself at the moment.

I wish I was home – I wish I didn’t have this blasted job.

Sod the expeience!

Sod this!

I miss home, and I’m ultra pissed off and my cabin is too hot and I’m sweating!

Bollocks!

 

Wednesday 6 July 1988. Koei Maru 30

Slept terribly, only to wake up this morning and celebrate a day of no fishing. What makes today even better is the fact that we are sheltering from the rough seas in the shadow of Pebble Island.

I therefore am relatively happy

Very little else to write about – these non-working days are very long indeed.

32. Rough seas

Some readers of this blog may wonder why my avatar image is a rockhopper penguin, well there are two reasons…

  1. It is a lot more attractive than yet another balding white middle-aged man on the Interweb.
  2. It links to the original purpose of Natural Adventures, which was to digitise my daily log that I wrote whilst serving as a Fisheries Scientist in the Falkland Islands in 1988. (More about this in chapter 1, ‘An ill wind‘).

The adventure continues…

 

Thursday 30 June 1988. Koei Maru 30

I have been rattled and am livid. Abe the Ice Master has taken it upon himself to be mildly aggressive towards me today – probably because he fell over quite nastily in a playful attack on me earlier on. It is all really petty, but he keeps taking the fish I’m about to use in a sample, and since the fish are few and far between, this considerably holds me up. Basically he’s just a turd and this is the first fury I’ve been in for a long time, so I’m entitled to it.

Aaarg

I have calmed down a bit now, and watched the conclusion of ‘the Goonies’ – what a crap film!

I love grooming the papers – here is a little gem from The Times.

Press notice for Aztec Camera (a favourite band) playing in Aberdeen.
Press notice for Aztec Camera (a favourite band) playing in Aberdeen.

It has actually turned out OK in the end. Abe came to my room late to get some whiskey, which is stockpiled here and gave me a bottle – perhaps he was feeling a little guilty for his behaviour to day – I don’t know.

Two more weeks of this hell and then Port Stanley – then home.

How can a soul be expected to wait for such things?

 

Friday 1 July 1988. Koei Maru 30

Well I’ve cracked another month out here, and have only gone slightly round the bend. It seems the KM30 will piss off shortly after me, which is fine by me, I don’t care what Fishops say.

I will be quite sad to say goodbye or sayonara to this lot, they’ve been quite an experience and certainly enriched my life a whole lot. But I shall be glad when it is all over.

I’m so glad I wrote something earlier today ‘cos I’m knackered.

I have started helping around the placeas an auxiliary crew member – quite fun really and as usual it kills time.

I’ve started a collection of jigs for fishing and showing people, with talks in mind.

It rained and snowed today, for about five minutes of each.

I’m working on justifying stealing the helmet I intend to nick when I leave the ship. I think I deserve it and it will be a brilliant reminder of my three months on the KM30.

Wrote to Deb.

 

Saturday 2 July 1988. Koei Maru

Well what a day – I must be writing this in about a force 9 or 10 sea. It is ridiculous.

We began fishing, but abandoned two thirds of the line to haul when it gets better.

This is the roughest it has been since I joined the KM30.

Earlier today I got my leg smashed by the work table during a roll. Completely bonkers and very painful – Itai!

Sketch showing how the table slid across the floor and smashed my leg
Sketch showing how the table slid across the floor and smashed my leg

I lost my otolith board and it took 1/2 an hour to find it in the debris. Jokes about rough seas (it’s really rough) just aren’t funny any more – it was bloody dangerous today!

The Fishing Master says we’ll call into Port Stanley on the 17th no problem, but seems to think that they’ll finish then!

Impossible to get to sleep again. Thinking about death, tax, etc – such a worrier!

30. Overslept

Just a quick recap – This blog ‘Natural Adventures’ was set up so that I could digitise a journal I wrote while working in the Falkland Islands in 1988. The Haiku and street art took over completely, but every now and then I like to get back to my roots. For any readers who have not seen any of this Falkland stuff before, it is worth getting some context from my first post ‘An Ill Wind’.

 

Wednesday 22 June 1988. Koei Maru 30

I think I have a slight stomach bug – I am not sure of the cause – it causes only a little pain, but it’s there. Today will be a long day again, 450 lines deployed. Wrote letter No 49 to Deb. That isn’t bad, 49 letters and cards in 106 days since I’ve been here. Admittedly, they aren’t as long as they were, but they still keep coming (going).

The Desire (one of the patrol vessels) came – yahoo – and delivered loads of letters and papers – I am glowing. It has been a very good day.

A school of dolphins passed by and I took some snaps, some new fish came up, I got some lovely corals and a hairy winkle (pardon?!).

The fish, the best one, unfortunately ended up as sashimi.

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I now smell really fishy!

All my doubts and fears about Deb have cleared away – I’m a happy bunny – Mum and Karen and granny’s letters are all ace. I still want to get home though.

 

Thursday 23 June 1988. Koei Maru 30

My stomach bug continues, but it is mild. My shit is like liquid ‘caramac’, but not quite so tasty I’m sure.

It has bee an idyllic day – calm and sunny – loads of photos (none very good)

The catch has been good – I would guess at about 2.5 to 3 tonnes of Kingu (Kingclip). I hate this work and I want to go home – all my letters (which I received yesterday) are now haunting me. I don’t think I’m content here – I could not live this way for the rest of my life.

My last duty of the day (changing my camera film and sticking the slide reference number in my journal) before showering and turning in. These days are so long, I don’t have much time for reading or letters – a shame really, but it is good that I am occupied.

Saw some ace penguins hop out of the sea Vertically onto a patch of floating kelp. It was very funny. I thought I was in for a superb sunset, but I was wrong.

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Friday 24 June 1988. Koei Maru 30

My bug seems to be over, which is a relief. So many birds today.

What I’m thinking right now is why do I get spots?

Now I know ‘Queen Mab’ properly. Now to set about the whole part of Mercutio. Will I ever achieve it?

Amongst my letters was one from Granny G. She had sent me a tape, but I never received it, which is a terrible shame – it would have had all the family news in it. I still don’t know if Simon and Sue are married yet. Nobody has mentioned it to me. (Reading this paragraph now in 2017 rather breaks my heart. I would love to hear my grandmother’s voice on a tape trapped in that year of 1988.)

29 days and I’ll be home! yahoo. Until then I wait.

Articles about the Falkland Islands
Articles about the Falkland Islands

My cabin is a tip – I love it like this – my papers and magazines all over the floor, a full bin, folders strewn everywhere. A mixture of work and leisure.

 

Saturday 25 June 1988. Koei Maru 30

I may as well use up this space (alongside an article I stuck in my journal) it seems such a waste otherwise. A beautiful sun rise but not a beautiful day. It is choppy, the waves are cutting across our path and the ship is rolling like billyo.

Times article about the Falkland Islands, 25 May 1988
Times article about the Falkland Islands, 25 May 1988

So many people have said how vivid my letters are – I can;’t believe them. Frankly I think they are dull, uninteresting and badly written, but there we are.

Yuk! I’ve just disposed of a tin of custard down my gob – in times of hardship one loses all self-pride – It’s so true.

I forgot to mention that I am now an expert in chopstick (hachi) management. Pretty bloody cool.

26. All alone

I haven’t written in this category of my blog for a long while, so for the benefit of the one or two visitors who are reading this blog for the first time I will attempt to provide a little context. It would be worthwhile having a quick read of the first entry ‘An Ill Wind‘. In short, this is a faithful digitisation of a journal I kept when working in the Falkland Islands and South Atlantic in 1988. I am doing this mostly for me, but really hope you enjoy reading it.

 

Sunday 5 June 1988, Montevideo, London Palace Hotel

A beautiful day indeed. I wish Jim wasn’t going or that I could go with him.I accompanied him to the departure stop and we chatted a while. Some older ladies turned up for the same tour (poor Jim). We said our goodbyes and I promised to get in touch the minute I get home.

I have been smoking too much recently, it is the influence of Jim. I must stop. I feel the damage it does to my lungs. I will limit myself to 4 only each day and vow not to buy cigarettes or tobacco in England.

I promise (signed) Stephen

The boatswain said we will probably leave Monte on or about the 10 June, so I have to cope with 4 nights alone in Monte – I will join the Koei Maru 30 the day before she sails. The Fishing Master is very curt with me – he is venting his disapproval of the proposals (for extended fishing) on me, it isn’t fair. Today I will begin to tick off the days until I return home (see back).

Alone I ventured to the Fogon – very depressing I thought – it’s not the same without a friend to chat to.

After, it was a case of a whiskey solo in the hotel bar before retiring at 9.45pm (pitiful) to read a book and write some letters. I am reading another Theroux novel, ‘the Black House’, it isn’t as attention-grabbing as some of his others.

Monday 6 June 1988, Montevideo, London Palace Hotel

The start of another week during which work on the vessel should be completed. Breakfast alone – the waiter asked me where my friend had gone. “Iguazu” I said, and thought – sod him!

It’s a no no on the jacket – possibly they’ll have one tomorrow – I doubt it. If I pay by visa it’ll cost more !?!

Well Mr Chiba (the Fishing Master) can’t hack it, he’s leaving for japan, and another Fishing Master will join the Koei Maru 30. This is a revelation and perhaps explains his odd behaviour the last few days. We had a hearty chat and quite a lot of fun, so things between us are now well again.

Refit of the processing deck on the Koei Maru 30, Montevideo, June 1988
Refit of the processing deck on the Koei Maru 30, Montevideo, June 1988

Quite surprisingly I went to the Fogon again. Oddjob was there alone and behaved a bit like a caveman. Oddjob (not his real name) is one of the new crew members on the Koei Maru. I returned to the hotel bar and quaffed a couple of neat whiskeys and read the TLS (Times Literary Supplement), rather classy I thought. My partner in crime was a young woman (28ish) rather attractive who sat two tables away facing me. She sipped her gin and tonic and pretended to read and write some notes.

Then to bed. Alone! I could never make an advance – I’m too bloody shy.

In the Fogon there had been a power cut – ace fun – it only lasted about five minutes but for all that time the place was plunged into darkness.

Tuesday 7 June 1988, Montevideo, London Palace Hotel

The waiter volunteered the information this morning, that the solo girl is English. He made several other suggestions, I think I got the gist, but “benita chica” was one. I breakfasted alone. How is it possible to ask an attractive girl if she would mind if I sat with her, without making her feel I was trying to pick her up. I must convince myself first.

Dreamed that Louise had a helicopter crash – it was so vivid and nasty, but she lived. Somehow she caused 29 million pounds worth of damage to a new airport hangar.

I bought the jacket. I hope I like it. Hip and cool and $185 roughly £100. But best of all, made today, for me, in Uruguay.

 

Guess where I ate…

Spoke to the English woman at the bar and chatted for a long time. Alas she goes tomorrow, and I will once again be alone in Monte, but it was great to have a long English conversation with someone new. Refreshing.

My opening words (so embarrassing) were “excuse me, but are you English?” She was delightful. Frightfully delicate and well spoken – about 30-35 – very reminiscent of Dr Brown (my university tutor). Independent. She was a freelance writer, but involved with English linguistics and Heinemann educational. I told her I lived near Bedford Square. I didn’t even ask her name – it didn’t seem important and hardly worth it really. So bloody English.

Watched return of the Jedi – ace film.

And drank the water from the tap in my bathroom – if I should collapse and die, this is why.

 

25. Topless

There may be one or two visitors who are reading this blog for the first time. To provide a little context, it would be worthwhile having a quick read of the first entry ‘An Ill Wind‘. In short this is a faithful digitisation of a journal I kept when working in the Falkland Islands and South Atlantic in 1988. Enjoy.

Wednesday 1 June 1988, Montevideo, London Palace Hotel

Summer isn’t here at last. It is clearly Autumn, the plethora of leaves littered by the London plane trees tell the story well enough. Got my camera past the dock gates – took some Montevideo piccies, but not many. It is quite nerve racking using a camera, each picture may be your last.

Since this is a stick in page, I may as well put in some misfits.

Falkland Islands May Ball 1988, ticket
Falkland Islands May Ball 1988, ticket
Emma's Guest House bill, May 1988
Emma’s Guest House bill, May 1988

I was mightily pissed off by all on the KM30, they were not helpful at all. I think there is a conspiracy against me.

Iguazu is out for me, it seems that it must be for eight days or nothing. I can’t give up the time.

We went to the el Fogon a restaurant (still there, I just checked on google) for lunch and also for supper and then on to a topless nightclub.

What an experience! It was like watching an American film- the two uninterested dancers weaved and twisted out of time to the music on podia which allowed a maximum half-stride in any direction. After a while at the bar, Jim and I were approached by a call girl/prostitute who couldn’t understand why we were at the club if we didn’t want a girl. Were we gay? No.

Basically it was a knocking shop and although Jim and I want to return, I think it could be a mistake. Nonetheless it was an experience and life is made up of experiences.

Thursday 2 June 1988, Montevideo, London Palace Hotel 

Fun, fun, fun – Jim and I bought leather jackets. His was much nicer than mine, but was also more than double the price. Mine was US$75.

I have decided to get another like Jim’s but at US$185 (£100) it is a little on the expy side.

Belfast Leather Factory, the place for leather jackets. Montevideo June 1988
Belfast Leather Factory, the place for leather jackets. Montevideo June 1988

Jim has decided on the jacket and Iguazu, lucky thing, meanwhile I am to be left, festering in Monte. I’m so glad he has been here up to now.

Nicer weather, clearer skies.

Friday 3 June 1988, Montevideo, London Palace Hotel

Shaved again – I’ve got those lumps and spots once more – it is definitely shaving that produces these infections. Will I ever be free of them?

My jacket, the more I look at it the more I feel is cheap. It will be ok for a ‘rough and tumble’ in the UK, but I am only proud of it because it is Uruguayan.

The sun is at this moment pouring into my hotel room, a seemingly impossible feat given the angle of the room, window and sun.

View from the roof of the London Palace Hotel, Montevideo. June 1988
View from the roof of the London Palace Hotel, Montevideo. June 1988

I am quite pissed off that Jim is going on Sunday, I have enjoyed his company – being alone will be quite boring, but perhaps I’ll meet someone or something – things usually work out alright in the end.

We went again to the topless bar (called Baires). What a seedy dump. Once again we were both approached – in my case by a girl called Giselle? Anyhow we kept a stiff upper lip, refused all approaches and thought ourselves very cool for being so good. I think Jim could quite easily be tempted if I wasn’t here, but if I wasn’t here then he wouldn’t be here at all, so all’s well.

Saturday 4 June 1988, Montevideo, London Palace Hotel

A sunny day to wake up to.

Today we went wandering and Wandering. La la la. Jim cocked up on the money front and I bailed him out with US$100. I have worked out that he owes me on the basis of $1.83 dollars to the pound: £54.65 + £8.21 for the other money I lent him, giving a total of £62.86.

Went to the boat and took a hook and line (snood). Watched a German league football match on the TV.

Bought a gourd for Deb and a leather notebook, perhaps for Emily.

Lovely day all day. Jim and I went out onto the hotel roof.

After a very pleasant meal at Otto’s – a more exclusive restaurant than el Fogon we pootled on to the show below:

Flyer from the nightclub, Montevideo June 1988
Flyer from the nightclub, Montevideo June 1988

It was really seedy – it included a ‘free’ drink in the £1.60 entrance fee. What a laugh. The film was a very cheap British Caligula Caesar film, terrible. The strip was more like modern dance performed entirely without interest. The girls and bloke can’t earn much more than about a tenner a day. It was a real gas. Jim and I then went off solemnly to our hotel rooms.

24. Montevideo

Today marks British Summertime and Easter Sunday, but the weather and its unpredictability has forced me indoors. I thought I’d use the time productively to update my Falkland Island journal from 1988. I urge any new readers to read An Ill Wind, the first ‘chapter’ of this personal voyage in order to understand the context.

Thursday 26 May 1988, Koei Maru 30

Yesterday I got $900 which was about £500. I hope I don’t spend this in Montevideo. I will be right pissed off if I can’t get subsistence.

It is a miserable day, but fairly calm. I will miss Port Stanley. I do miss Deb. I can’t wait to go home.

Meeting with Sam, John, Abe ‘Radar’ – Total farce – John is a fool, he has no command of the situation, he didn’t take control. I am sitting with Jim, some hours after our departure from Port Stanley. A poignant moment. Sad.

IMG_4372
Jim and his last farewell to Port Stanley, May 1988

Leaving Port Stanley can be painful.

Friday 27 May 1988, Koei Maru 30

Mellow music, mellow mood – I am surprisingly happy. Martin Stephenson can see me through.

Not so happy now. I have just watched ‘Platoon’ on video. It is a clichéd but nonetheless depressing film. I am now ready to sleep. I am scared of montevideo, it could be quite a dangerous place and I am always a coward. I pray I don’t get any trouble. Wrote to Deb and Gavin.

Japanese wine – bloody horrible.

Saturday 28 May 1988 Koei Maru 30

Pulled off the first of my calendar tags that I made.

Had a ‘conference’ with Mr Chiba (the Captain) and ‘Radar’ (the radio operator). It seems that the KM30 intends to leave here by August 30 at the latest, after only 80 days fishing in the zone. I have the task of being the man on the spot and telling John and John that 120 days looks out of the question.

Sunday 29 May 1988, Koei Maru 30

Pay day tomorrow, actually the day after tomorrow.

‘Down and out in Beverly Hills’ – good film. Little Richard remains extremely cool.

The moon is almost full and very bright. It is much warmer here, but still no sight of South America.

Monday 30 May 1988, Montevideo, London Palace Hotel

Arrived at last – we’re here and I can’t believe it.

The docks of Montevideo, May 1988
The docks of Montevideo, May 1988

A long wait in a shyte hut.

It was cold – Jim had problems with customs.

It is cheap here – only $27 for a reasonable hotel. Meals out here are pretty cheap too. Jim and I ate out and I paid on Visa.

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I can’t understand it.

SOUTH AMERICA!

Tuesday 31 May 1988, Montevideo, London Palace Hotel

Now, let me write with a straight head. We waited in a derelict dock customs gate for some three hours in the cold rain, before the Japanese agent finally sorted something out. Jim in the end will have to pay $25 for his camera. Rip-off.

My ship pass for entering the docks
My ship pass for entering the docks

We saw the customs man accept bribes from an African crew. Two tins of sardines. It was shameless and very funny. It is kind of expected here.

My ship pass for entering the docks
My ship pass for entering the docks

I slept very badly, because I was so very hot and dehydrated, but at least I am here, and have survived the ordeals of the first day.

I must keep a tab on my spending. See p.94.

The cars and trucks here have to be seen to be believed – out of the ’30s ’40s and ’50s. We were given a lift by the agent in a huge Mercedes.

There is no highway code, or so it seems. The whole place is a ‘Tintin’ adventure.

I went to the boat – not much seems to have happened there yet, except a few of the machines have been uncovered. I will return there tomorrow.

We wandered fairly aimlessly about, something I love doing in foreign cities, but Jim seemed to tire of it. He derives his pleasures in different ways to me. We inquired about trips to Iguazu falls.

23. Marking time

For those reading this blog for the first time, please read the first entry called ‘An ill wind‘ which sets the context for an adventure I had as a 24 year old in 1988. I am taking the time to digitise my journal from 1988 in the Falkland Islands and am remaining faithful to my original text – this post ‘Marking time’ is a particularly drab entry, recording what was a rather boring few days. My apologies.

Sunday 22 May 1988, Port Stanley, Emma’s Guest House

The KSJ dinner/buffet was a complete success for me.

Squid and tuna sushi, cold beef, rice, squid, chicken and free drinks – it was brilliant.

Today was a lovely day although we had a couple of rain showers. Jim and Pete L and I went went to Penguin Walk and the lighthouse. I took loads of slides of penguins etc. I was happy, as I listened to ‘Smells of Summer’ on my Walkman. Sometimes this place can be such a joy – getting away from pressures. But it doesn’t last. The loneliness and tedium get get to one eventually. I want to go home so badly, to see Deb and my family. I will never be the same after this experience. I’m sure they will see a certain change in me. I feel so remote.

Penguin Walk, Falkland Islands, May 1988
Penguin Walk, Falkland Islands, May 1988

Monday 23 May 1988, Port Stanley, Emma’s Guest House

I spent most of the day pretending (once again) to work at FIPASS. Not much has really happened. I felt really good having had an early and sensible night last night, but disgusted that I smoked again today. Got a letter from Pat and Roy – quite why I got it today I don’t know.

Pete and Steve left for volunteer point, in this weather I didn’t envy them. Roll on Summer time.

Went to have a meal at John’s (John and Alison went out) with Jim and Sean. Later Anna came round and we watched ‘La Bamba’ on video. Shitty film but with good music.

Tuesday 24 May 1988, Port Stanley, Emma’s Guest House

Worked again on my drawings.

The Koei Maru 30 came in. I saw the crew and all they could say was “girls, girls – jiggy-jiggy” it is very sad and depressing. I went into the galley to say hello to Nananuma. It was awful, like rekindling the flames of awful memories. Quite terrible.

In the evening Drin, Jim, Phil, Liz and I went to Monty’s and for some reason I ended up paying for the lot. We then went to the Goose and I got pretty merry. Ended up writing a drunken letter to Deb.

Wednesday 25 May 1988, Port Stanley, Emma’s Guest House

Today I have a lot of work to do. I must also buy supplies, since I expect to leave for Montevideo tomorrow.

Lost at cards. Phil won and is the champion.

Phoned Deb – it was great. She was in Edinburgh with her granny. She is revising for her exams on Wednesday.

Melanie was at the Cable & Wireless office – she is so sweet and I think it is fitting that when I telephone Deb, she is there.

I don’t want to go to sea, despite the fact that Jim is able to come. Went to the fish and chip shop with Phil and then the Globe – became a little merry. Power cut at midnight.

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Penguin Walk, Falkland Islands, May 1988
Penguin Walk, Falkland Islands, May 1988