Just to confirm: yes, Antarctic Christmases also involve bubble and squeak.

January 24, 2008 at 7:46 pm | Posted in Assistant Post Mistress, Life in the snow, Observations in Antarctica | Leave a comment

27th December

There is no way of zipping up a sleeping bag quietly; it’s like unwrapping a throat sweet at the theatre. Helen has to endure stereophonic snoring (from Eugene and Stan next door on the lounge floor.) Rick wakes up tired, he slept badly and now his throat is dry. So sunny! First tea, and then cereal outside on deck. Sheathbills have been in the shop, pulling t-shirts off the shelves with their beaks, and shitting everywhere. Eugene is reading on his Sony Clio – he has 200 books to peruse – wow. He and the other Vernadsky-ites have been there for ten months, two more to go. Every week or so he posts a long letter home and hopes to publish it on the web. They play us cheery Ukranian polar music and help carry things up from the boatshed. And buy lots of souvenirs from the shop. Twelve pax and three crew of the Anna Margaretha land and are briefed by Rick on visiting guidelines, as they are not IAATO members. They are 95% Dutch. The owners built, and now sail their yacht, and w ill be down in Antarctica three times. V keen to see the two chick nest and we stand in line patiently waiting for the parent to lift up and feed. But no movement. Parent stays impassive. One of the pax tells me that male gentoo have larger beaks and feet than the females – so that’s how you can tell! Sun shining, wind picking up. Not long ’til Corinthian II, but long enough for tea and Christmas cake. About to go for a major stock up when the ship invites us for lunch in twenty mins. And could they buy 900 postcards and lots of stamps? Eugene and Stan help count them out. Corinthian II is a beauty, and John the EL, an excellent sort. Captain Peter is at the gangway to greet us and accompanies us up to stern deck for the barbeque, which is actually a luxury buffet under an awning – luscious ribs and burgers. Helen has joined the Ukranians (who are delighted to discover that an 80% Russian crew will accompany them back to Vernadsky) in a glass of red. Rice pudding and tea. Dow n to lecture hall oh more like a coffee lounge and half listen to Ricky’s talk, but he’s distracted by chewing gum and going off on tangents, so we off to look at a map of the world instead. Back to base and jump off just before the captain, who is anxious to acquire a polar fleece as he was summoned for this job at only a few days notice, and is better prepared for warmer climes. Good calibre of passenger; good postcard writers – there was a queue at Reception the instant John announced cards and stamps were for sale. Good good. Not much chance to turn around before Andrea noses in. They have caused some perplexion by merging Goudier and Jougla together, when in fact they are separate landings on the IAATO schedule. Fortunately Rick goes over for a talk, giving Helen ten mins shut-eye, and me the chance to bundle mail and write a wee bit. Decide the moment is nigh to open Evie’s parcel (which has Best Wishes from Aberdour Post Office on a sticky label!) The most exquisite se lection of parcels wrapped in maps of Scotland and a lovely long letter. All wonderful, brilliant gifts, especially the Penguin Pop customised compilation and Pablo Neruda’s book of poetry from Il Postino (natch!) What a lift to have such a dazzling web-designer friend! Go see www.eskymo.co.uk So Andrea don’t start landing (60) passengers until six pm. Wind has really picked up – choppy zodiac rides, splashed clothes. All chirpy. One of the zodiac drivers has lost his neck warmer and nips in to see if we sell any; we don’t but I give him one a new one of mine, winning eternal gratitude. No offence but we’re relieved to shut the door. Rick cracks open a beer. Helen’s going for a round-the-island run and lets me come too. Bitter wind, but we’ve had no exercise for weeks. Clamber round clockwise from boatshed, mostly rock, patches of snow. Wonder if residents on Anna M think we’re crazy. Curtailed by sheer edge and deep water near Stairway, forced to retrace steps, having played with icicles and decided not to live there in a snow cave. Stretch and step ups on flat rocks, quite off putting the penguins. Into the warm around eight. Add baked beans to stew and fry up bubble and squeak with crispy bits. Helen has sprung a cavity somehow and my temporary filling has again vanished, so dentistry skills practised before camomile tea then bed. The wind is all around.

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