Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Still alive!

In the last 3½ years I've come back from Ascension Island, been back to the Falkands, moved house, met a girl, got engaged, taken up knitting, cut a tiny bit off the end of a finger off with a knife (trying to get some crackling from a roast), and gained then lost a lot of weight.

And drunk quite a lot of good coffee.

Details to follow I hope.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

I'm sat on the verandah of the Office accommodation (bashas) on Ascension Island. The view from here is four volcanic cones and a lot of sky.

These were taken from different areas around the accommodation and on different days, well the first two were the same day with different views from the basha.

The fact I'm here at all is kind of a surprise, and sort of last minute too.

About three months ago I had just got back from a month detachment to Leuchars (the boss called me on Thursday and asked if I could be there for Tuesday morning - I said sure, but you're paying for the hotel!) and the boss pops into the office for a quick chat.
"You know how you said you don't mind working over Christmas as long as you get some time at home with your friends?" he said.
"Yes," I replied, already expecting bad things.
"How would you feel about doing that, but somewhere a bit different?"
The whole "spend some time at home" thing seems to have gone out the window here.
"Where, exactly?" I asked.
"Ascension. Next month. Until January."

In between I went to Pippa and John's wedding, which was brilliant, and ended up having more time off than I was expecting owing to a change of flight date, which was nice.

If you've never been here (and statistically, that's everyone) this is a little island 8 degrees south, 14 degrees west in the Atlantic. And I do mean little, it's about 10 km a side and roughly triangular, there's heavy showers 3 months of the year, drizzly showers (which shouldn't happen but given how humid it is any kind of shower drops the visibility down to almost nothing) 4 months of the year and tropical sunshine the rest of the time. The time I'm here for is end of the drizzly showers and into the hot season. Or that was the initial plan.
I've known a few people that have got here and then been bumped straight south to the Falklands so I made some plans. On my bed at home I left a bag packed with cold weather gear and told Sarah that if I got pushed south she should post it out and I'd get the Office to pay back the postage. I also packed some basic cold kit because I'd be coming back to the UK in the middle of January from a hot little island, chances are I'd want something warm!
On the first day here I dumped my bags into the transit room (my permanent room was still being used by the guy I was replacing), went to the beach, went snorkelling and got sun burned. When we got back the boss had just finished his shift and asked a couple of us over for a quiet word.
The other guy, Donald, as heading to the Falklands for a few weeks anyway but they had asked if he could come down a bit earlier. They had also asked if there was anyone else they could borrow for a month.
I laughed aloud at that.

In the time I had before I went south I got stuck into the work here, which is weird. The actual shifts are fine, there isn't very much to do; forecasting the drizzly showers, however, is a nightmare. There's no good model data, the satellites aren't much cop and just when you want good imagery the sun sets or rises and you lose the definition from the satellites. The next nearest observation is St Helena, 300 odd miles southeast, so not all that much help there.

But I did get out for some swimming (and had a toe bitten by a fish), went for a walk on the side of Green Mountain and enjoyed warm evenings with a gin and tonic - shortly turning that into warm evenings with a martini, including olives. Having moved into the en suite room at Travellers hill I was properly able to enjoy the pace of life here.

 These are pictures of the walk up Green Mountain, they cut some of the paths through the rock in the 1800s when there was a detachment here guarding Napoleon over at St Helena; although cutting the paths sounds like a lot of work, it might not have been as bad as you think, the rock is mostly quite loose volcanic stuff that you can cut through with a stick. Not a massively reassuring thought when you're 2000 ft up on the side of a hill. And I have edited the last picture slightly, just to remove a bit of chin. Or a couple of chins to be honest.

Three weeks after arriving I was back on the aircraft heading south again. The company running the airbridge had changed to HiFly and although the aircraft itself was a bit old and ragged no one minded because the on board entertainment took the form of iPads that were handed around.
I was actually in the Falklands as an observer/forecast support, which meant hourly observations, nightly weather balloon launches and lots of admin stuff. I managed to get to the gym around 3 times a week (something I need to start up again) and until I knackered my knee I was up to the third week of the couch to 5 K plan.
It was a great little tour and makes it 4 trips in 5 years, with next years already booked - I'll need it to pay for going to Tris' wedding and stag do! Although I didn't get out all that much it was a good time.

The four weeks down there passed very quickly and then it was back to the Island, this time when I got into the room and opened the door to the en suite shower/loo room I was greeted by 4 huge cockroaches. Or at least they looked huge to me. I'm not sure what the official international size range is for them but their bodies were around 2 inches long! Taken me 4 days to get rid of them all and I'm still wary of the shower!
I think the resident lizard might be sorting them out though, so that should be a plus.

We're still getting some showers (just had to move inside to stop my Mac from getting wet) but they seem to be dying out. There was a Movember variety night on Saturday when the 6 movers (responsible for getting the aircraft in, sorting out the luggage and passengers etc), all male, did a talent show/Miss Ascension Island competition with songs, dancing, magic tricks, swim-wear competitions (yes, one of them was in drag in a mankini) and general fun.  On Monday night they threw a pizza party at their lounge (we can't call them bars) which most of the camp turned up for and that was another really good night.
Basically, I'm enjoying life here (apart from the bugs but it's a tropical island with a dodgy pipe system so there's not a huge amount I can do about that) and I'll try to add some more photos before I leave.
I'm going to try to get some underwater pictures and the turtles will be back on the island over the coming months so that will be something to see.

Oh I'm also doing Movember again.
This time I decided to actually register for it so if you fancy throwing money at a good cause and can't think of any other ones, please feel free to pop over to http://mobro.co/jamesfearnley 
I know it looks like I'm missing a bit on my left hand side in the picture but it's just a bit thin there. 
Not as bad as my beard-of-shame though:
Figured it would be a bit hot for that out here.

Now for a serious decision. Do I go to the gym, go to the beach, have a drink or do all of them in order? Oh the harsh life I lead :)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A blog post! Yep, I'm still here.

Ok, I know I owe you guys a Falklands post with loads of photos, probably a post covering all the exciting things I've done since then (but not mentioning getting so drunk at an official function that I embarrassed myself completely. Crap, forget I mentioned that!) but for now I'll slap some photos up from last weekend.

Sarah (house mate Sarah, not any of the other ones) had her parents and sister in law visiting with her sister in law's dog Gary. We went over to Channory Point to try to see some dolphins. Nope, no dolphins but I did manage to get a few pictures of the dogs that came out quite well. Maisie is the ginger Cocker Spaniel, Gary is the other one.

On the way home we stopped off at Brodie Countyfaire for tea and a cake which was nice and nowhere near as expensive as I was expecting.

On other matters I've been to see Sherlock Holmes 2 (again) and loved it, Underworld in 3D and enjoyed it (don't go unless you've seen the others and liked them!) and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. I'll say this, the flame effects in Ghost Rider were superb, the 3D was very well done (although I was expecting the chain to really fling out more) and the bike was cool. For the rest, I think it may have been one of the worst films I've seen for a very long time. Not sure what it was, just didn't like most of the film and normally I love Nick Cage in silly popcorn films.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Brief post before my time runs out

By which I mean the time on my wifi card (100 minutes a week). Seriously, time yourself! See how long that lasts...
I'll get more online soon but I've made it off camp (Sea Lion Island once and Stanley once) and seen many, many penguins, Elephant Seals and other animals. Work is mostly going well and I would sign up for a tour next year if we weren't so short back home.

Anyway, DVLA bad, post office slightly better, I'm missing the ginger hound, we REALLY more single desperate ladies down here that aren't too bothered about military guys but like overweight hairy forecasters.
Oh and go on England in the rugby!!

Sunday, August 07, 2011


Right, it's been almost a year since I put finger to key (so to speak)and I've got a few catch up blog posts to put on, including weddings, flights, cars, cocktails, dogs parties and a few countries but for now I wanted to say that I will be putting a bit more on here as I'm currently sat in the departures lounge at Brize Norton (again), getting ready to head back out to the Falklands. I know, the last post was about the Falklands but I did come back and I've seen quite a few friends in that time and even made some more.
As it is, this time I'm due to have a fat boy seat on the way down (woohoo!) but as is my want I'm not going to fully believe that until we're wheels up and I'm reclining the seat to it's lie flat position (after the pilot has turned of the seat belt light, of course :) ) and I managed to get away with not carrying too many books this time, just some ones for work and a Kindle - more on this gadget in a previous post but safe to say it's still wonderful and I'll add more detail soon! So much so that I found myself trying to turn off a normal book rather than just putting it down.
Anyway, time to grab a coffee. I'm on Skype now (when I can get connection) but email is probably the best way to contact me, or leave a comment on the blog and I'll see it doon thar.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Falklands 2010

So, second time down and a few things were different. I already knew some people down there, I had a girlfriend down there and I knew what I was doing.
That, at least, was the plan.
Turns out it took me much longer than it should have to get my mind in to the local weather and I've already mentioned that Kate and I broke up half way through the tour.

Although I didn't see any penguins I did see some other birds:

A turkey vulture at Goose Green, the second largest settlement in the Falklands, not counting Mount Pleasant. Population: about 35.

Ugly bugger up close. Which is probably what he thought of me.

This little fella was chilling inside a wreck at Goose Green, he's a night heron. Lovely, isn't he?

Sometimes called the military starling or the Falklands robin, I didn't capture just how damn RED the breast is on this Long Tailed Meadowlark. At least I think that's what it is; the chest is amazingly vibrant.

No visit would be complete without a striated caracara. This one wouldn't take off, just sat there, posing.

Just east of Stanley, this is Surf Bay, nice break, beautiful water and really white sand, it's probably a good thing you can't see that I'm wearing a full down jacket, gloves and hat. The water is about 4 degrees, rising to 8 at the end of summer.
I couldn't get to this beach last time owing to the mines that kept washing up on the beach. It's cleared now, or so they told me.

And this was a night in the Crab And Sprocket that started when Humf and Paul said "Fancy a drink?"
I think the details are self explanatory.

I'm aiming to get back down later in the year, but that might depend on some news due out of head office in the next couple of weeks.