The faint sound of distant avalanches

November 19, 2007 at 6:17 pm | Posted in Assistant Post Mistress, Dreams and imagination, The Practicalities of Everyday Life Out Here | Leave a comment

1st November

Helen leaps up wide awake this morning. She’s had the best night’s sleep because Rick taped his mouth up (even though, reputedly, he Doesn’t snore) just for us! We are so lucky. No-one keen to get going so we indulge in an hour’s reading/gazing. I commence some correspondence – cards made from the Dixie Overall packaging. This time is a luxury – soon the ships will be coming non-stop. The path to where our waste is chucked (The Stairway to Heaven…) needs digging out; Rick and Helen have already started by the time I’ve finished sorting e-mail. Water is so clear that rocks look like pebbles far below the blue. Rick demonstrates chuck n’ slosh technique – trick is to avoid splashback.
Yuk. Round to the landing place for more shovelling; path must be clear for each ship visit. Doesn’t take long with four of us – still needs tamping. Saw two avalanches; one on Mount William and one on the Fife Range, both so far away, we only hear them faintly. Amazing snow-smoke.

Second coat of gloss for ceiling of generator shed (the shop!) Helen, Tudor and I sing rounds, music hall and old school songs – anything that springs to mind. Each section takes one hour fifteen minutes, not that we’re counting or anything. Outside for fresh mountain air in between.

My curly hair is beginning to fester – have to wear hat a) for warmth and b) to avoid contact with painty beam. Finish by late lunch; noodle soup from Helen enhanced with sweet chilli sauce. Tudor continues on the beams. Helen attempts to achieve order under the counter and I do the same with the food shelves, which are full of crumbling bags of pasta and frozen tins whose labels are wet from condensation, lots of instant hot-chocolate sachets, crystallised jam, golden syrup and honey, stale biscuits, open bags of not-so-fresh coffee and anonymous sachets. Only manage to sort two shelves by six-thirty. I’ve been feeling scared today. There are so many things I don’t know about living this way. All the little essential courtesies that Rick patiently points out and Tudor drops into stories from Rothera. Really, I’m here under false pretences, with not a clue, but the desire to be in this most Spartan magnificent environment, to do a wacky job that, very loosely, ties in with my bookbinding work. Oh, and I’ve lived on my own for ten years. Mmm yes the curve is steep, with chocolate breaks on the way, I hope. Realising that it’s my turn to do dinner, I determinedly poke around hoping for inspiration. Commence with three tins of salmon, one of carrots, one of green beans, rice and some white sauce powder. Tin’s contents all frozen solid, then thaw out to mush. Fear disaster, but everyone’s generous, or merely ravenous. Bunkroom full of heat, funky music on, beer cracked open… Ah Helen decides we need pudding and tosses up pancakes; wow.

We’ve generated so much warmth that the heater is switched off! I can’t believe it! The cooker gas canister has run out, so Rick and I step down to the boat shed for a replacement. “You forget this is all outside here.’ says Rick as we trundle up the snow, avoiding clumps of penguins, rose light kissing the highest peaks and the snow quietly luminous.

Boogie about whilst instantaneously writing this. All tired and complete. Stand on door step and watch penguin pairs making out before bed.


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