I wake up in my bed. It’s a beautiful spring day. The cat greets me. I have
a shower. The phone rings. I eat something and drink something. There is a computer
upstairs with internet access. I can leave the house if I desire and don’t need
to tell a soul where I am. I could go to London. Or Edinburgh. Or anywhere,
really, within reason. I mean, these days you can go anywhere in the world at
the click of a finger really, can’t you? Or swipe of a card. What’s happened
to the days of adventure and exploration? Can you imagine what it must have
been like to spend months getting somewhere? Bizarre. I like it like it is.
It’s easy. We can do what we want, when we want. And be back in time for work
on Monday morning. It’s Friday today but I’m taking the day off. I can’t remember
why but I’m just going to enjoy it. I guess this means I get three whole days
off in a row. What’ll I do with all that time? I’m sure it will fill. No complaints
from this department.
I woke up on a plane. Dotted around me in various seats were familiar faces.
I didn’t know why I knew them. But I did. Their names at least. Try as I might,
I couldn’t recall anything about their lives though. Who were they? Were did
they live? Do they have a family? Did we meet through a mutual friend? No, I
know nothing about their friends. But I know their names. And more than that.
Their essence. But no facts. Nothing to help me figure out where I am.
I’m in a cage. The air is warm, very warm, and the sky is dark. Black dark.
There are stars. I’m wearing a vest top, cargo pants and hiking boots. Veritable
tank girl. The air is warm against my bare arms. Really warm. 28 degrees warm.
I am loving this sensation. We are drinking beer. Me and some friends. We’re
having a laugh while waiting. Waiting in a cage. A big cage. There are maybe
a hundred people in here. And it’s warm. Warm from the ambient temperature,
we have plenty of space. We’re having a laugh, my mates and I, drinking beer.
There’s a small shop that sells postcards and sweets. I’m still trying to figure
out where I am so I have a look. The cards show photos of beach and rock. It
looks lovely; I’d like to go to this place. Apparently it’s turtle season too.
There’s a tea-towel with a map on. We’re in the middle of the Atlantic, right
on the equator. Three islands are labelled: Tristan da Cuna, Ascencion and St.
Helena. I ask the kiosk woman, Elizabeth, if she grew up here but that’s apparrantly
a strange question. Not many people live here permanently; it’s mainly British
military, Americans and St. Helenians. St. Helena is much more lush than this
island but also small. Here it is barren, there is one mountain, and you can
drive around the perimeter in an hour. How long to walk? She shrugs. Two or
three hours? Not that it’s an option for me, this midnight in a cage. I deduce
that we are in the Ascencion Islands. I get a stamp in my passport. Wide Awake
Airstrip or something like that. One of the longest in the world; they can land
a space shuttle here. An odd place to land if you’d just been in outer space,
I’m on a plane again. There’s plenty of room and we can sit where we like.
Air Luxor is flying us because all the RAF Tristars are in the Gulf. That’s
the only way this war (?has it started yet?) has touched my life at all. Air
Luxor are Portugese, in case you haven’t heard of them either. It’s all a bit
random but no more than anything else. The squaddie opposite me is reading “What
Men Think About Sex”. Does he need to be told what to think about that too?!
The plane is full of squaddies, Bennies and FIDs. I don’t know why I know these
words. Another clue. I must have been somewhere. Immersed for long enough to
have abbreviations and nicknames. I look again at those familar faces and realise
that many of them aren’t even full names: Jumbo, Munki, Cat, Dad, T.C…. that
stands for temperamental chef, Shaggy, Student, Foxy, Mindy. I answer to La
La. I smile to myself remembering radio conversation, “Monkey, Monkey, Cat.”
“Hi Cat, Monkey here. I’m with Jumbo..” Aah, so I have memories at least. That’s
Now I’m on a ship. It’s rocking a lot. And I mean A Lot. There’s a wierd sensation
at night time when you’re lying in bed but almost standing vertical. Force 12
it is. Big Seas. Waves splash over the bridge. Huge Seas. Energy. If you can
stand up, it’s amazing. Three days of this? Maybe two. We came to a virtual
standstill one night and then turned left the following night. The Falklands
were on the map but we were certainly not heading for them! It’d be good to
have a few days there. Looking forward to that: four days on land, reintegrating,
acclimatising. The Falklands are like a gradual immersion into Britain. People
speak the same language, drink the same beer, watch the same football and it
rains the whole time. Rugged Hebridean landscape, I was looking forward to a
few good stomps in the hills.
At some point a notice went up and the rumour mill was wild. Our flights had been brought forward, they were delayed again, no they were tomorrow, now we’re not going to make it there on time, back to Saturday, they’re going via Santiago, they’re not, they’re RAF flights…aaah, chaos! Catapulted, I felt catapulted.
At the end of a catapult, the rock stops dead, on the ground. It is still. It is home. Nothing has changed.
I wake up in my bed (MY BED!!! I’m alone. I’m not sharing a bunk room with
three others. I can touch the floor with my hand. Mandy isn’t here. I am alone.
In my bed MY BED!). It’s a beautiful spring day. (BEAUTIFUL. SPRING. DAY.) The
cat greets me (CAT!). I have a shower (SHOWER! LONG. HOT. HOT. LONG!) The phone
rings. (THE PHONE. THERE IS A TELEPHONE NEXT TO MY BED. IT RINGS. it RINGS!
A PHONE. IT DOESN’T COST £2.50/MINUTE) I eat something and drink something.
(OF MY CHOICE AND MAKING) There is a computer upstairs with internet access
I can leave the house if I desire and don’t need to tell a soul where I am.
So, the Antartic explorer is back home!
And appreciating many simple things much more than
I had lost track of you after the Jan29th entry since I had bookmarked Rhian
in Antartica and the link did not update to the revised page. I thought you
were lost in a snowbank with penquins….
Your colourful and lively tale of your return trip and your thoughts was fun reading.
Thanks for sharing!
From the dungeons of YorkU…
You’ve been home for months! …so I’m just going to shamelessly hijack this posting board. I lost your email address! What is it?
Best wishes and welcome home. I must remember not to take hot showers for granted. Take them yes. For granted no.
I very much enjoyed reading your story Rhian. You write in(amazingly)similar fashion to my daughter; Rhian Nadine, whom we sadly and suddenly lost on February 8th O1. She was due to study dentistry at Bristol Uni. and won an RAF flying scholarship. She wrote a story about a monkey and Jumbo when she was 10 and loved the teletubbies – particularly La La. She also loved Bridget Jones and kept a diary written in Bridget’s style. A framed letter from Helen Fielding hangs on her bedroom wall. Thank you for the pleasure of your story.