Well, it’s now a month after Midwinter, and still another three months until the first aircraft are due to arrive. We’ve come to the end of the fresh vegetables (the last of the potatoes were eaten for dinner last Saturday) and the last tray of apples are looking shrunken and wrinkly, although they still taste all right. From here on we’re on frozen, tinned and dried vegetables, in that order of preference! Actually, the tinned potatoes aren’t bad at all, and the instant mash is quite convincing. Dried green beans and onions are okay, too, but there’s plenty of meat still in the freezer so we’re unlikely to be eating Spam for a while yet.
What’s been more pressing for some people is the Booze Crisis – we’ve drunk rather more alcohol than we expected over the first half of the winter, so we’re into tight rationing for the rest of the season. Tim now stocks the bar fridges on a Friday evening with a week’s allowance (which is barely enough to fill them), and when it’s gone, it’s gone. In previous years, winterers have managed their own stocks of alcohol, but last year they tried managing it communally, which seemed to work well. This year we’ve more people who are runaway drinkers- after they’ve had a few, they keep drinking until the fridge is empty – so the consumption’s been a lot higher. Anyway, we’ve all readjusted to the new state of affairs, so there’s a lot more tea being drunk in the evenings!
One of the many unusual things about working here (rather than back in the UK) is that when the fire alarm goes off, everyone musters very quickly, rather than shambling down to the muster point in an unconcerned fashon as happens in most offices I’ve worked in! Unlike in the UK we’ve no fire brigade to call, so the first person to the muster point picks up the clipboard and radio and coordinates the fire response. This week, Richard the electrician (whose job covers the fire alarms and all the fire response equipment) completed our breathing apparatus (BA) training. We’ve all previously learned how to put on and test the BA gear, and to search a room in pairs. Now we had to try all this out – Richard filled the post office with smoke from a smoke machine and we took it in turns to search through the smoke-filled room and recover a dummy casualty. It’s surprisingly disorientating, even in a room you know quite well. I hope we never have to use the training in anger.
Yours truly, being a fireman
Today (22nd July) is the first day that, in theory, you can see the Sun as it rises over the hills to the north of Rothera, before disappearing behind Stokes Peaks. To celebrate this, a whole bunch of us went up to the flagpole on top of Rothera Point and changed the old, tattered flag for a shiny new one. As we had low cloud and falling snow we didn’t see the Sun, but it’s nice to know it’ll be back soon. At Halley they have the tradition that the oldest person on base lowers the old flag, whilst the youngest hoists the new one. We tried this – but our oldest resident is Bernard, who’s Irish, and our youngest is Riet, who’s Belgian – neither of whom particularly wanted to hoist the British flag! In the end Richard Logan took down the old flag, and Tom Vintner put up the new one. The old flag will be raffled off to someone at dinner tonight.