It’s been a while – thanks for prompting me. I have no excuses except
to say I’ve been working on the Halley May webpage which I hope you’ll enjoy.
A refreshing change from my usual drivel, this one contains loads of photos
and chat about everyone else on base. (Who was it asked for the Hollywood trailer
in a comment?!) Also, Simon here has put a bunch more
his website so for those of you with some time to waste on the internet, have
Thinking about time. Here’s what I came up with. Stars moving overhead, Orion
setting to the northwest as I walk home from the lab, the Southern Cross moving
from the south, the glow of rainbow hue from below the horizon to the north
east in the early afternoon. Midday stars. Time referenced to events: before
the storm, the night of the aurora, the full moon.
And then there are human changes. Beards growing, the length of my hair, everyone
gradually becoming more chunky with hibernation fat, body cycles. Growing familiarity
between compatriots: inside jokes, jests, rumours, a new comfort level, a sense
of safety within the devil you know. Subtle changes to personalities, people
coming out of their shells, surprise reactions, mood swings, the unveiling of
pasts and sharing of thoughts. And, for structure, base activities: Monday is
’24’, doc school on Tuesday, Workshop Wednesday, aerobics and curry on Thursday,
Friday night at the bar, end of the working week, Saturday some themed festivity,
Sunday telly throughout the day and big screen movie. These are the ways I notice
A dear friend wrote to me recently asking about time and why we never have
enough of it. It’s an age old question I guess and one that shouldn’t be relevant
here. I was about to say it is timeless but I’m more aware of the passage of
time here than ever before. Just not as defined by watches and clocks, schedules,
meetings, events and plans. I remember the horror I felt last summer when Louisa
and I were trying to meet up and our first available opportunity was 6 weeks
ahead. Now I’m back in the days of todays and tomorrows. If I don’t do something,
it’s because it’s not been made a priority.
Work is different, I’ll never have enough time to do all the things we want
to do in the lab. Instruments will continually break and need attention. Most
of my time is spent on maintenance of kit and on top of that there are specific
investigations we want to do at different times of year. Work is work but it’s
still pretty varied and to a large extent I am in control of what I do.
But my free time, that’s my choice how it’s spent. No shopping, communal cooking
and cleaning (and we get the day off work to do that), no commuting, no old
friends to catch up with or must-see events, no choice of parties on a Saturday
How do I spend my time here? On some level it’s much the same as home –
as many distractions as you could ever want and an equal number of good intentions.
There’s always someone to chat with, always some conversation happening or sit-com
running to pass the time. It actually takes effort to take yourself away. Another
thing everyone’s scurrying off to do is make their mid-winter presents. I’ve
lost hours in the dark room and am trying to teach myself the guitar. But I’m
never bored, never wondering "what shall I do now".
But it’s also not like home at all. We are, very much, in a communal bubble.
All experiencing this strange continual cold and dark, all restricted by the
weather, all living in a world with the same structure of time: melt-tank digging,
gash day, weekends, midwinter. The thought of being dropped back in a world
where your daily existence is totally different from that of your partner or
housemate is a little scary. We have to take in so much at home, process so
much information every second. Even if you try to empty your thoughts, a hundred
more rush in. Here, I guess, it is a slower and simpler life.
I’m busy, I’m never bored, but I’m not stressed either. There are stressful
moments for sure, and at times like that you crave anonymity and a space to
escape to almost as much as a fresh mango (please, please don’t torment me with
even the memory of one!), but that blows over just like everything else. It’s
like a microcosm of society, a time to try and understand yourself and other
people on a most basic and simple level. Myth holds that folk leave this place
with the ‘Halley Stare’ and that we all go a bit mad but it’s not true! Everyone
I’ve met who’s wintered just seems more at ease with themselves and perhaps
aware of what they do and don’t like. Maybe that’s just it – I won’t care
if you think I’m mad, it doesn’t matter any more.
Felix thought I might write less frequently during the winter and said he’d
nag me. Instead, the rest of you have, and I appreciate it. At some point, my
time here as become my ‘norm’ and I feel like there’s not much left to say.
Not much changes on a week-to-week basis. Not much that I imagine you’d be interested
in anyway. We keep doing our things, having our weird, wonderful and increasingly
more bizarre chats, watching films, drinking wine. It’s very comfortable. I
was going to say it’s even busy but not compaerd to your lives – busy
here means that there’s something going on every night. But you’d never dream
of combining two events in one day!
Yes, maybe time has slowed down… or maybe I’ve slowed down to the comfortable
speed that we’re meant to enjoy time at. At this speed, there’s plenty of time
for everything you want to do and never enough for the things you don’t. Perfect.