Thursday, August 2, 2012

Emergency History: June 29 - July 5

I think I really found my interviewing groove. I woke up on Friday to find I had two interviews that afternoon at my house. There was a slight mix-up regarding who I was supposed to speak with at which time, but (big surprise) my subjects knew each other and it worked out. Both of them came from really old Falklands families and had a wealth of stories about managing sheep farms on the Islands and about horse culture. In the old days, horses were the only form of transport on the farms and so most Islanders had to be excellent horsemen. This translated into leisure activities twice a year during sports weeks, which centered around horse races (in between dancing, drinking, and mutton). Today, 4x4s provide transport between the farms while motorbikes have replaced horses for managing the sheep. Most farms have only a handful lot horses, if any, and there are many more horses kept for sport or as pets than there are working horses anymore. In order to get a taste of the way things used to be I really wanted to go for a ride outside Stanley, but unfortunately everyone had sent their horses out of town for the winter. However, doing all these interviews on short notice made me feel a bit like an emergency historian, on-call to record people's memories.

On Saturday, I expected to start sharing my house as this was the date my hosts had given me for their return, which would signal my transition from house sitter to houseguest. The LAN Chile flight arrives at Mount Pleasant, about 45 minutes outside of Stanley, every Saturday afternoon, so I expected them home around supper time. However, time came to go to the pub and I was still on my own. Oh, well - I had more important things to do as it was a Trough night. Vanessa was awesome, as usual, but we all called it a relatively early night and caught a cab after the band finished up. Sunday brought a rather unfortunate  revelation as I tried to cook my dinner and found there was no gas to be had. Oops. I emailed my hosts to ask them what to do (and where they were), then settled in to watch the EuroCup final. That was an awesome match and I really enjoyed watching Spain play. A reply came from my hosts explaining that they decided to spend a week in Chile before coming back the next Saturday and that I should have more gas delivered.

Getting more gas proved incredibly easy on Monday. I called Stanley Services, they delivered more that afternoon, and charged my hosts' account. Simple, hassle-free, and I could cook again! I also managed to set up a trip to Goose Green on Thursday, tagging along with a couple of veterans and the former farm manager. I had another great interview at my house. The more good interviews I had, the more confident I got as an interviewer, but I do have to be careful not to get cocky. Tuesday's did not go quite as well. There was confusion over where the interview was taking place and I think that seriously affected how relaxed/comfortable my interviewee felt. I walked to his house clear on the other side of town, while he drove to my house and knocked on all the doors. His wife invited me in, but unfortunately he doesn't carry a cellphone, so there was no way of getting in touch. I had a chat and a cup of tea while we waited for him to give up on me and come home. Eventually, he did make it back, but we were both clearly discomfited by the confusion and behind schedule. Rough as the interview may have been, I took advantage of my presence on the far east end of Stanley to take some pictures and visit the Memorial Wood.

Some of the trees in the Memorial Wood. Originally a tree was planted for every British soldier killed in the 1982 war, but it has since been expanded to include all those killed while serving in the Falklands.
A view of the Memorial Wood and the Narrows.
I had a couple of hours to kill in town as I was planning on attending the FIODA (Falkland Islands Operatic and Dramatic Association) Variety Show at the Town Hall. A sandwich at the West Store Cafe and a cider at the Vic easily passed the time before I could take my seat for the show. With my long history in the theatre, I'm always fascinated to see local amateur dramatics and this show provided the expected variety. I think the highlights included an original song composed by students from the Falkland Islands Community School and a comedy bit of Queen Elizabeth II giving a "State of the Union" speech to the Falklands. My real reason for going was the final act as Christine was in the group performing "The Cell Block Tango" from Chicago. They did a pretty good job, but as the only American in the audience (as far as I know) the accents did sound a bit odd. Mike and I had an ongoing argument about whether or not Shakespeare could or should be performed with American accents. Having done it several times myself, I naturally said that it could be, but hearing Chicago in a variety of British accents may have helped me see where he was coming from.

The Fourth of July dawned with snow. Incredibly breathtakingly beautiful snow. I spent most of the day at home working on transcription, but I headed to the Vic for Steak Night to celebrate a little bit. Is it ironic to celebrate Independence Day in one of Great Britain's last remaining colonies? 

The beautiful view from my house on July 4th.
My usual Steak Night crowd were nowhere to be seen, but I didn't have to eat alone. Christine and Ruth were there with a couple of CHC crewmen and some squadies from Hillside. I ended up staying until closing enjoying some excellent conversation - I even managed to get into an argument about military history! The guys were rather impressed when I demonstrated that I did actually know what I was talking about and could name various tanks and weapons. Snow was falling as I headed home to Skype with my mom, promising poor conditions for the planned excursion to Goose Green.

Unsurprisingly, when Thursday morning came my guide called to say the outing was postponed until next Tuesday since the roads were so dangerous. I also had no interviews scheduled as Farmers' Week had kept most potential interviewees very busy. Another day of transcription.

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