Introducing Fanny and Pickle

November 19, 2007 at 6:23 pm | Posted in Blogroll, Dreams and imagination, Observations in Antarctica, The Practicalities of Everyday Life Out Here | 2 Comments

3rd November

We all thought it was going to be a cold one, the wind blew up, but it wasn’t too chilly really. Wake with the expectation of leaping into action, but there’s no ship on the horizon. It’s about three degrees (plus wind chill). Back into bags with tea and muesli. Rick reads, Helen knits, Tudor thinks. I write: I’m scared. Last night I was kind of close to tears – scared that this is hard and we’ve only just begun. E-mail from ship – eta three pm. Relaxed pottering = much happier. We have the luxury of not rushing, finishing off labels, tweaking. Tudor is brilliant at ‘Display’ – his family used to run a department store.

Prepare for the rush by tearing sheets of stamps, and wrapping First Day Covers in protective wrappers. Rick and Tudor are fixing up the Penguin Study Area’s ropes and posts (so that human impact can be monitored with control colonies. Shovel snow from front decking in order to increase circulation and warm up, which takes minutes! First on-site lesson in radio use for Fanny and Pickle (for that, inexplicably, is what this season’s postal staff have been named,) involving wandering about going “Wot? eh? What button? Can’t hear you! Over and out!” etc. Funny. We’re sure to get the hang of it soon enough. Helen counts out float, and places stamps, paper bags, credit card machine etc on the counter. I prepare an emergency snack box for under-counter guzzling and bottles of quenching water. We’re ready to be there for maybe five hours without pause. We’re waiting…and waiting… and waiting… getting hetty- keep going to the door and peering out. Finally take tea on the veranda. Rick checks e-mail; ship is not coming – impossible to negotiate ice in the Gerlache Strait. Oh. So we can finish glossing the walls… Ah ha! We can also start our Post Mistress duties: Mail that was posted here at the end of last season, after the PO ‘closed’ in March, together with all the new postcards from the Nordnorge, need cancelling without delay!

Hurray! Much excitement and anticipation. First we apply hundreds of stamps to prepaid mail (i.e. a bundle of postcards with enough dollar to cover postage.) Helen ensures date correct on the rubber stamp. Cameras at the ready and we’re off, stamping away and laying out the cards so the ink will dry in this temperature, and not smudge. Every so often, consulting PO instruction manual for guidance re. Non British Antarctic Territory stamps, special issues, Philatelic collectors items, not to mention how each stamp must be ‘tied’ to the envelope by the cancel. I LOVE it! Setting up a system, music on, singing away to hits from the 80s…peeking out of the window to see penguins, glacier edge and sheathbills running round in circles. Bliss. Nearly done by six thirty, and no more room to lay them out. No ship means no fresh water, so down to the rocks at low tide, to chip ice from a berg that doesn’t taste too salty. Five washing up bowls full later, clamber back with the ice picks. Minus one degree outside… no chance of it melting; the bowls will cool down the bunkroom tonight. Squat on rock by water’s edge for first Antarctic alfresco pee, staring at limpets in the pools thinking ‘Bloody hell! Here I am!” Shiny icicles on the overhang contrast against diorite rock. Big Saturday Treat: It’s Fray Bentos Night! Rick’s favourite; with peas and potatoes, followed by rice pudding and raspberry jam oh yeah – the best feast, despite multiple freezings.

Stuffed, hot and fumey (from heater and Tilley lamp,) nice n’ fuggy.

Accompany Rick up to the loo. Gingerly climb down snow steps, balance on rock, chuck waste into high tide, wobble down to lower rock to swill out, slip, squeal and return up steps to where Rick stands smiling, saying nothing. Stop to admire lines of mountain ridge against bruised mauve sky. Sing to the gentoos as if this island is a cathedral.


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  1. Stumbled on this – a great read. Good luck to the three of you – although it’s a bit colder than last year, I send a warm welcome to Port Lockroy, from an original old-timer!

  2. penguins walking past the kitchen window! I love it. Almost as cold here, but not so interesting. The ship going down in the antarctic made me quickly jump to your blog, but I see you’re there! ie – not in the sea! All safe – so that’s fine.

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