31. Long, tiring days

This is another of my infrequent posts which is what Natural Adventures was originally set up for. For those of you unfamiliar with my Falkland Islands journal I will offer a quick recap. In 1988 I landed a job as a fisheries scientist working with the Falkland Islands Government on a contract just shy of a year. This blog is a faithful digitisation of the journal I wrote on that trip. For me, this is a catharsis, for you it may be an insight into the mind of a 24 year old on an exciting and challenging adventure.

The scene is set in the first post ‘An Ill Wind‘, which you might like to read for context.

 

Suday 26 June 1988. Koei Maru 30

Aah, at last a day off. I slept so terribly, the rough sea rolled me about something rotten. It is a little better now, but would have been terrible if we had tried a set (setting the longline) this morning.

I think my stomach bugs are caused by the sashimi! my body just isn’t used to it. I must confess that the raw tuna is excellent.

Wrote letters to Mum and Ad and to Deb.

I have been considering a reply to Karen’s rather frustrated letter in which she seems to ask ‘what are we doing here?’ or something similar.

I’ve thought of many answers, but some may seem a little brutal, and sinceshe thinks I am a brute anyway I don’t want to upset her again.

Began to write my schedule for other scientists (I refuse to call them observers) who will work on the KM30 while I am on leave, namnely Crag and Phil.

I am still furious about my tax position with PDA – this company seems to be nothing but trouble.

 

Monday 27 June 1988. Koei Maru 30

A beautiful sunrise – I wonder if I will see such lovely sights again when I return to the UK – for starters I don’t think I will ever be up in time!

I hear Africa calling

Africa calling

Possibly cos I’m listening to African Sanctus at this moment.

Some more pretty corals today – I should be able to build up quite a good collection.

Several albatross were caught up in the lines today – I think they go for the squid bait  when the line is deployed and get caught up, dragged down and drown – it is very sad indeed. I also thought it was unlucky to kill an albatross, but maybe that is only if it is intentional.

Black browed albatross and giant peterels alongside the Koei Maru 30, 1988
Black browed albatross and giant peterels alongside the Koei Maru 30, 1988

Not long now ’til home.

 

Tuesday 28 June 1988. Koei Maru 30

I’m getting sick and tired of saying long, tiring day, but today really was – I hope I get some decent sleep.

Had a good radio chat with Elizabeth today – she’s also due for a break in August. She gets two holidays in the time I’ve only had one! RAW DEAL!

The fishing was ace today – I hope it puts egg on the Fishing Master’s face – the crew were working fairly close to capacity I reckon.

5 tons/day, yeah pull the other one shortie!

Zone IV has been the best covered so far – all this is quite a laugh really.

Wrote a letter to Beth – very sweet of her, Charlie and Carl to write, but thwen I suppose I did write first. Letters are my life-blood.

Watching ‘With love from Oregon ’87’ for the third time – what a terrible drama, but a gorgeous half Indian (red) (OMG – we don’t say that these days – native north American) half Japanese girl of about 16 in the starring role.

I now feel at ease with all but two of the crew – ‘Rolf Harris’ and Iagi – they don’t seem to want to be friendly. I’ve made good friends with the grumpy old man – he’s really quite a good bloke.

Abe and Abe, crew members of the Koei Maru 30
Abe and Abe, crew members of the Koei Maru 30

Aah – shower and bed – nice.

 

Wednesday 29 June 1988. Koei Maru 30

A short day – it became too rough to set more than 60 lines (baskets). It was all over by 7.30am. So I decided to sleep, to make up for lost sleep last night – unfortunately this means that I won’t be tired and won’t be able to sleep tonight – vicious circle.

It’s funny but however hard I try I just can’t conjure up any original thoughts – I have none, so my diary becomes a dull, dreary account of my days and not an abstract random selection of my thoughts. I hope the reader (if any) will bear with me. It must be obvious that I’m not very happy at the moment, perhaps this can explain sume of this mundainity (is there such a word?).

As I write I often wonder if any of my children or grandchildren (if I have any) will pick up my diaries and read them. Perhaps they will understand me better for it and see into who I am a little more clearly.

 

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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.

28. Cottoperca gobio

Any readers who have not encountered this story on my blog before, I recommend you take a quick look at the first entry ‘an Ill Wind‘ to provide some kind of context. As you can see, this is the 28th excerpt from my 1988 journal, and it will appear meaningless without some context setting. The full catalog of chapters so far is in the ‘Falkland Journal, 1988’ category on the left of this page.

 

Monday 13 June 1988. Koei Maru 30

Spoke to Drin on the radio. JB is at this moment on the Right (one of the Falkland Islands fisheries patrol vessels), trawling. It looks very much like I’m on my own. I spent two hours talking to the Fishing Master. He and I now are in good form – he is a good man and cares for his crew. The contract should have included a certain amount of input from him. It was worked out by imbeciles who knew little about the fishing operation. I understand that now.

I have just been watching Crocodile Dundee, but at the critical moment have been cut off – a subtle lunch hint I think.

Spent the evening with Sato (gold tooth) and Naganuma and we watched a couple of porn videos. They became boring very quickly – the only interest I have is trying to understand why the hell people perform in such videos…are they desperate for money? or exhibitionists? very strange.

Tuesday 14 June 1988. Koei Maru 30

40 days to go!

I can’t believe that this is all I had to write on this day! wrote to Louise and Deb.

Prepared for fishing. Did some ace drawings I reckon.

Wednesday 15 June 1988. Koei Maru 30

Stand by at 0200 hours – what a nightmare. I hardly slept at all before and I had difficulty afterwards. False alarm, the sea was too heavy, so we moved to the southeast (Zone II).

Spoke with Drin and some idiot on the Falkland Right. People really piss me off sometimes.

Oops I think it was Dave ‘intense’, the one who I didn’t know.

I have arranged for Mr Ikido to deal with the problem of trawlers and traffic – delegation, that is the key to power.

Smoking still – I wish I would stop, but the day drags on so.No smoking before 1200 hours but maybe 4-8 after that. I am looking forward to going home, not least because I’ll be able to stop. (Something that took a further twelve years to conquer!)

No more pictures today. I think that stand by tomorrow is at 0300 hours. Bed early tonight.

I am watching a Japanese TV drama (It’ll last for hours) about blackmail – they really go in for these ‘video dramas’.

My spots under my stubble are still flourishing. I feel fairly ugly at the moment, but my spirits are high.

Thursday 16 June 1988. Koei Maru 30

What a bloody day. Quite exciting really, but very tiring and bloody annoying when the bastard Fishing Master holds you responsible for all the problems.

Caught this amazing monster fish, like a giant goby or blenny and called Cottoperca gobio – yellow, green and gold with a beautiful dorsal fin. See photos.

The whole long-lining process is a bit of a miracle. A production line for the set – really primitive, but thoroughly effective.

Saw a whole bunch of gentoo penguins, loads of albatross too – a real wildlife day. It would be great if I didn’t have to bloody do something! 30 more days of this – I may go bananas!

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I’m so bloody tired I feel like a zombie – I may if I’m lucky, grab 6 or 7 hours sleep tonight. I pray for bad weather!

BONKERS.

Friday 17 June 1988. Koei Maru 30

Another long hard day. Some very interesting things coming up, so I was happy. I got some corals, with any luck I could get them home to Deb, or add them to my collection.

I am still motivated by marine life – there were loads of echinoderms and possibly crinoids today, as well as some ace fish, but none of it what the Fishing Master wants. He and the crew are restless.

Unknown spp, caught by the long-liner Koei Maru 30 in Falkland Islands waters June 1988
Unknown spp, caught by the long-liner Koei Maru 30 in Falkland Islands waters June 1988

A penguin was gaffed up.

The sea was rough today and waves were pouring into the factory deck.

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I am once again very tired and want to go to sleep, but I’m sure that, like last night, I won’t find it easy.

Roll on July!

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.

 

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

22. Booze and balls

Sunday 15 May 1988, Port Stanley, Emma’s Guest House

Another nothing day.

Tried to telephone home, got Mum and Ad, but I think I may have left them with a very depressed image of me…not entirely untrue. Couldn’t get Deb, perhaps I was dialing the wrong number. Instead I called Karen, but she was out, so I spoke with Matt – this was a much better conversation. I hope Deb isn’t too upset. I asked Karen, via Matt, to ring Deb to tell her I had tried to call.

Had lunch at the Boathouse – not bad really, and cheap.

I want to start saving some money. Emma’s really is a piss-hole, but who cares? Tomorrow I begin some work, but I don’t quite know what.

I like not having a beard.

Monday 16 May 1988, Port Stanley, Emma’s Guest House

My work begins. Spent most of the bloody day in front of a computer doing data entry.

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Lunch at the Goose, bought for me by Jim.

Not a bad day – blue sky, but cold and quite windy.

I am to begin work on a strategy for the long-lining. I hope I am up to it.

I had a great evening – just me, Phil and Jim at the Goose. Not over-drinking, but having a pleasant number of beers and at last finding things to talk about.

Jim took the bull by the horns and went to visit KSJ to ask permission for passage to Montevideo…then he went and told Jacko, who I don’t think was too pleased having previously said no.

Beautiful sky at night – the stars were spectacular.

Tuesday 17 May 1988, Port Stanley, Emma’s Guest House

A day at FIPASS (the floating port facility left over from the war) – ok – beautiful day. Sky blue – no wind. Things are beginning to happen really quickly now. I am much happier than I was the other day.

Phoned Deb and got through, it was lovely to speak to her – she sounded very remote (not distance-wise, but emotionally). She is working very hard for her exams in June – I hope she does well. Her voice was tired and dopey.

Evening was a booze up in the Globe. It was very interesting all about PDA *(my employers) and Peter Derham in particular.

Wednesday 18 May 1988, Port Stanley, Emma’s Guest House

First full day at FIPASS – also a letters day, but it was puny – one TLS, that’s it! what a contrast to yesterday weather-wise. Terrible wind and rain. Unbearable.

I am back at Emma’s now and am so sad for the kids here. No love, no attention. Their mother is having a breakdown I think, she can’t cope with their crying and only compounds the problem by screaming ‘shut up!’ at them. It is no wonder that they are so friendly with the guests – they need the company. I am concerned; I don’t think that she’s violent yet, but it is just a matter of time. The war is over now – at last.

On reading this last passage again in 2016, with a family of my own, I am curious about my view of the situation at Emma’s Guest House. I know now how hard it can be bringing up children. I think I saw the world through a young man’s eyes and my values and judgments were different. I wonder what I would have thought of the situation if I were the me of now, and whether I would have tried to help.

Thursday 19 May 1988, Port Stanley, Emma’s Guest House

Out at FIPASS again for the morning. Drin and Liz also went out. The storm has died down and it is a fairly calm, but overcast day.

Looking forward to the May Ball tomorrow, but what costume shall the poor ‘boy’ wear (corruption of and reference to a Japan cover of a Velvet Underground song).

FIPASS is like a moon base, quite claustrophobic and synthetic – the strip lights etc.

FIPASS, Port Stanley
FIPASS, Port Stanley

We moved more of the office over and now the computers are at FIPASS. I will work from there from now.

Went to the Desire for a booze up down at FIPASS – it was a resounding success. I was plastered and puked at Emma’s (in the sink). Whart a great evening – an excess of McEwans. Jim and John and Phil and Steve and Peter and Alistair were there.

Friday 20 May 1988, Port Stanley, Emma’s Guest House

Ball night. Sean found an egret and brought it into the new office.

Mega piss up at the ball. Dear oh dear.

Globe – Goose – Ball.

Whiskey coat! ‘just going for a coat’.

May Queen – Melanie came third. I was forced into a dance with Miranda.

Very very pissed.

Post – letters from Charlie and Beth – I was very chuffed to hear from them. Also from Granny who seems to be a little better, from Karen too.

Jim fell over!

Saturday 21 May 1988, Port Stanley, Emma’s Guest House

Deb has sent me a fun pack. There was a packet of cartridges, some newspapers, a Private Eye and some crisps – also a rose – one which I gave her. Here are some petals

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Deb sent this before, but I’ve only just gotten round to sticking it in. I miss her terribly. I want to be at home. (This musician, Martin Stephenson, was to play a significant part in my adventure at a later point)

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The day was beautiful and sunny. Tonight is the second ball preceded by the KSJ dinner.