3. Preparing to go to sea

Thursday 10 March 1988. Port Stanley

Up early (7.30am) -ish to go to a seminar on board the Falkland Desire (research vessel). Fortunately the sun was out and it has been a pleasant day. There is a quality of light here, it is so clear and bright.

The seminars were on the whole fairly boring and I didn’t make notes, a mistake perhaps.

I discovered the bank and the Post Office and am just about to post my first three letters (Deb, Ma and Ad and G&G K). They will not go until Saturday.

Lobster Krill washed up on the tide line, Port Stanley March 1988
Lobster Krill washed up on the tide line, Port Stanley March 1988

I spoke to an Italian fisheries man, Dr Luigi Giannini, over lunch (king crab, beef etc.). He gave me his business card and an open invitation to meet up.

I drove the long wheel-base Land Rover to FIPASS. I am now going out to pose a bit with my camera. ‘Til later, ciao.

I have just been subjected to the most horrendous half hour of my life so far, here in the Falklands. It was a meal of rice and chilli con carne type of thing with beans (kidney?) and baked beans. I was gagging and almost puked several times. What a horrid experience. I couldn’t finish it.

Friday 11 March 1988. Port Stanley

So far on subsistence alone I have notched up some £115 in 4 nights, can’t be bad. I have done very little real work, although I am almost completely sorted out for going to sea. Another beautiful day – the difference between this place and any other I have been to is that you can see for miles, there is no mist or haze in this sunlight. It is clean here. I have driven both Rovers now and can’t say I like either of them. Bizarre road rules include giving way to hills and to the right. I don’t understand myself, but I am a bit stupid with these things.

Tonight is Friday night and it is fish and chips (relief). It is the horrible food which is driving me to sea, I can’t wait to be on board a jigger, but I may have to wait now until mid-week. I am beginning to pick up the storyline of the Archers – oh my God, what is life coming to?

The past two days I have seen the same elderly bearded man fixing exactly the same fence in exactly the same place at the infant and junior school. Things can take forever here. I found the Co-op today and went to the West Store and Farmers Store to get a hold-all (brill) boots and overalls. I still need some kit, mainly a hacksaw for removing otoliths from very large fish.

I have just taken some pictures of one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen, the pink and orange mackerel sky to the West. I took about six pictures and hope at least one comes out as it was. Fish and Chips – here we come.

Saturday 12 March 1988. Port Stanley

First film of 24 exposures is finished – I think I booked real bad…I opened the camera, so I must start again and retake as many of the pictures as I can.

I spent much of the morning doing what I had travelled so far from London to escape, namely data entry onto a computer. I was given the afternoon off because I go to sea for sure on Monday and tomorrow I see my first squid – what a joke! I am a little bit miffed because I will be boarding the ship alone without guidance for the first couple of days.

I had a walk out of Stanley up towards Tumbledown Mountain. I took stacks of photographs of geese (Upland and Kelp) and washed up lobster krill. I also went to the Co-op to buy some provisions for the trip. I may be at sea for three weeks – it is very likely.

It has been so hot today. I was not expecting that.

Falkland Islands 29p stamp, March 1988
Falkland Islands 29p stamp, March 1988

Sunday 13 March 1988. Port Stanley

My last day in Stanley and blazing hot too. I am exhausted, too tired to write, I have sunburn (face and arms) and am aching (ankles and back). Walked for miles with Crag and took tons of pictures. I will fill in the detail tomorrow…meanwhile, night night.

AFC lost 1-2 v Nottingham Forest in the cup.

2. Leaving and arriving

Well my ‘flu has subsided, thank heavens, I genuinely don’t think I have ever felt so ill in my life before. I am still not back at work, and have been keen to use the quiet time to continue with laying down the journal I kept in 1988 when I visited the Falkland Islands as a Scientific Officer with the fisheries department.

It should be obvious from the journal itself, but my girlfriend at the time was called Deborah. The next few entries describe some of the upset of leaving loved ones behind. It was tough, but exciting too.

Thursday 3 March 1988. Montague Place, London

It is these pages which I shall return to for home comforts during those ‘black’ periods I am sure to have on my voyages. I shall remember the bomb site loosely described as my bedroom. Remember the phone call with Deborah in which she told me she was coming to London tonight and not tomorrow afternoon as planned.

Every time I go away I spend a fair amount of my time recording music – I don’t know where I would be without music. Jim said that rechargeable batteries are essential – I may have to get some. Also, I may copy him and get a small electric organ, for hours of composition fun.

Tonight I say my farewells to Dad, he is taking Karen and me to a restaurant somewhere in the St Martin’s Lane area.

Deborah’s present is great – I wish someone would buy ‘Hockney, a Retrospective’ for me!

It seems that I, like everyone else, buy presents which I myself would only love to receive given half a chance.

I said my farewell to Sean – he will keep me posted re AFC. I hope he keeps his word.

I received my ticket this morning – no turning back now. I think I ought to give Neil Downs a buzz.

Saturday 5 March 1988. Montague Place, London

A lovely meal at the Chicago Pizza Pie Factory and a drink at le Beaujolais was as much of a send-off as anyone could ask for.

Seeing Deborah off was painful – I didn’t think I would cry, but it was inevitable. Everyone tries to kid me that (5) 10 months is such a short time. It isn’t.

My coat problem was solved today – Richard gave me a Barbour type coat when Deb and I went to say goodbye. I shall see such a change in Helen when I get back. I have a stack of clothes and bits to take.

The Lucian Freud exhibition at the Hayward was enjoyed far more by Deb than by me.

Sunday 6 March 1988. Montague Place, London

I am not certain, but I could be terrified. It is all still unreal. Less than 24 hours, and my adventure will have begun. I would like to think that I could be home with the snap of the fingers, but must be content without any such luxury. Everything is set and ready to begin.

I will miss very much everyone whom I love and this makes me sad, but this cannot hold me back. Missing Deborah already. Very much. How is she so understanding?

Some things have been left undone, but I do have tomorrow.

My next entry will probably not be made for a couple of days, although I hope I can do some writing on the aeroplane.

I am too tired to stay awake, too excited to sleep.

Arsenal beat Spurs 2:1 at Highbury.

(At this point there are letters from both of my grandmothers stuck into my journal. They are both personal and very touching. Sadly both have since passed away, but their advice, love and guidance was an essential part of this extraordinary year)

I love my grandparents. They write so well.

(There were a couple of further cuttings in my journal, the last ones before leaving the UK. The first is an article from the Sunday Times on 6 March 1988, which was a little unsettling, and the other was the standings in the Barclays League First Division. I wasn’t going to let a few thousand miles stand between me and football!).


Wednesday 9 March 1988. Port Stanley

The flight, although very long, was ok. I think boredom was the most challenging problem to overcome. The jet, a tri-star, was rather like a bus or a coach, very smooth. Ascension was like a Dr Who set, lava and dust everywhere. I picked up a small piece of lava from the airstrip. It was very hot, 80 degrees at 7:30 in the morning, and I could have happily stayed there.

On to the Falklands. I don’t feel I’m here – getting down was so easy, I could just as easily be in a small Cornish village.the buildings are colonial wooden or post-colonial wooden and corrugated iron.

My first task today was to accompany ‘the Warrah’ a small patrol vessel, to Berkeley sound for some checking up on jiggers, trawlers and reefers. It was quite rough but the Stugeron sent me to sleep. I saw my first wild dolphins today, and Gentoo penguins and steamer ducks too. The cormorants here have white breasts.

Jim went to sea in a Taiwanese jigger – he was not too happy about it.

And so my journey had begun. I am enjoying reading through my journal, bringing to life some experiences that happend half a lifetime ago. I will try to make time to do another upload soon.

Stephen