03 Weekly News 29 November 1998

Dear all,

Are we glad we took the opportunity to use Tuesday’s good weather to go for a walk. The weather has been pretty appalling since then, with a series of low pressure systems blowing through bringing rain, sleet and snow. On Saturday we woke to a couple of inches of wet slushy snow on the ground. Still, we have managed to get a few jobs done indoors. The flue system for the fire has been replaced with bits of flue found around the whaling station, which is conveniently falling apart, and we can now enjoy an open fire with the benefits of warmth in the living room and bedroom, baked potatoes, and the fun of something else to do – fetching and sawing fuel, poking the embers, etc. The problem is that with the chimney swept and flues cleared out or replaced there is such a good updraught that not much heat actually enters the room! Still, the first bit of flue goes through the bedroom so that warms up a bit with the result that Sarah does not have to wear her nice wooly hat in bed all night. We are both pleased about that.

We had fresh bread this week. A previous occupant – one of the British Antarctic Survey scientists – had build an oven to work with Primus stoves but it works fine with the gas cooker balanced inside so Pat got into production with reasonable results. A bit longer next time and the loaves will be perfect. Sarah’s hot water bottle was enough to get the dough to rising temperature.

We were intending to move around the coast to Leith, where we will start the cemetery project, today but this morning’s rainy, sleety, windy start delayed our move since there is no point starting cold and wet. Instead we pottered around getting packed up and ready to go until the weather cleared up at lunchtime allowing Pat to get out and get the roof finished. One lesson learnt about corrugated iron roofs is that you don’t want to start at two ends and work towards the middle. Unike a jigsaw the last little bit does not just slot into place but (like some jigsaws) you have to have a loud swearing session with lots of hard hammer hitting. Got there in the end but it is a very amateur looking repair. I’ll blame the tools and materials available. Handy hint: if you hold the nail with pliers you don’t hurt your thumb quite so much when you miss.

In between finding a route through the whaling station that can be negotiated with a wheelbarrow full of burnables, Sarah has been battling with the elements whose job this week has been to make the laundry as awkward as possible.

Peg it out and it rains or snows. Bring it in to drip and the sun appears. Of course providing grub for the handyman has been a colossal task as well but achieved with full marks. The army ration packs are certainly okay and don’t we just lurrrve those tinned steamed puddings. Sarah’s creative touch and fresh dandelions keep the standard up.

On the wildlife front, the two last females are being jealously guarded by the bull Elephant Seal in front of the house. He has not had to fight any suitors since we got here, a roar is enough to see them off. This evening they were joined by a handful of grazing reindeer. Their antlers are growing nicely and are covered with brown velvet.

The weaned elly pups have surrounded the house. Their evil plot to keep us awake, or at least to invade our dreams with their strangulated shrieks is only working a bit. They are lovely and peaceful during the day as they doze but you have to watch out for the occasional fur seal hidden amongst them. The latter leap out and growl as you pass. We have played with the weaners in the stream behind the house where a low bridge is ideally placed for a bit of wellie dipping. The pups like to mouth the ends of your boots and push and shove against them.

The barometer is rising and the sky is clear. However Mt Spaamann, the only real mountain that we can see from here, is obscured by cloud and we have heard that he (Spaamann – ‘Fortune Teller’ in Norwegian) is the only reliable indicator of good weather. Fingers crossed anyway.

Well that’s our news for another week or so. May be a bit later next week if we decide to stay at Leith a bit longer. It all depends on the weather and how many ships come and interrupt the work. We are expecting cruise ships, yachts, an Admiralty tug to service the Stromness buoy, HMS Endurance, the BAS ship Bransfield over the next week. Not all will come to see us but some will. We are not cut off from it all after all.

Love and best wishes,

Pat and Sarah

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