had brunch with my friend Geoff today, and he turned to me and asked: "does
Rhian ever have a day where she just goes to work, rather than being blown away
by the fabulousness of where she is?", Felix told me a few days ago,
and I’ve been pondering it ever since. I do and I don’t. I do, and then I find
myself doing so and immediately make an effort to remind myself of where I am.
It’s a beauty of being here, I guess – even in the hardest of moments
or when I’m at an all-time low, I think, this is a part of it. I came here for
this too.It’s a commitment that’s more than woweee.
Anyway, I’m feeling a bit blah right now so, in Geoff’s honour, I figured I
should write a blog to show that I’m not on cloud cuckoo the whole time. Thing
is, the reading might as a result be that much more bland but at least you won’t
be expecting me to be as exciting as my stories are once I return.
Believe you me, there’s nothing I want more sometimes than to just walk down
the streets of London (it has to be both big and familiar to fulfil my needs),
totally anonymous, shooting the shit with my mate Steve as we amble from pub
to pub – in the rain. I’d do anything for that right now. The rainier
and greyer the better. Totally unfabulous (the weather that is, not the company!).
See, if Toni was there, we’d be dancing in the rain and if Anna was there she’d
be visiting from Australia so it wouldn’t be just another day. It’s never ‘just
another day’ though is it, wherever you are? Shit. And then I realise I sound
like some fluffy-bunny-spewing evangelist drunk on the beauty of the world when
all I really truly want is another blah day with nothing spectacular happening
at all. Just once in a while – enough to get my breath back and discover
my thirst for adventure again.
So what gets me down? Not the weather. It’s glorious when it’s windy, sunny,
dark, still, you name it. This is Antarctica, and Antarctica here is described
by weather since there are no other physical features to speak of around here.
The sastrugi’s getting awful big these days, mind you (oh yeah, and it’s nice
to not have to add a glossary to the end of everything I write or say!).
The work? Yeah, the work gets me down. But when it does I try to find something
interesting to do to wake me up. There’s so many opportunities – so many
other jobs to share a part of. In the last couple of weeks, for instance, I
have helped with the gash run, when we bury our waste food; helped jack the
buildings at -50 subjective (and got white fingertips as thanks); helped the
gennie mech with flubbering, when the big bag of fuel under the base gets refilled
with Avtur (the help involves switching a switch on, and then, an hour later,
off); and helped the comms manager to loosen the stays on the masts that our
aerials hang off. It’s by no means one way – I’d say I receive a lot more
support from fellow base members than I provide. People help raise to the handline
to the lab, jack our building, attend to electrical, heat and vent problems
– and, most importantly, I’m always asking for help with digging holes
for samples and snow for the melt-tank!
Anyway, that’s what I do when I get bored of my job – I look to do something
else for a while. On the whole though, my job keeps me fairly busy at a cruise
speed, nothing overkill and crazy like last summer but I’m certainly not twiddling
my thumbs either. So work, does work get me down? No, not really – if
I fix something I come home feeling dead chuffed and if something remains broken
I have learnt, or am learning, to not lose sleep over it. We’ll get there in
I guess the thing that can really sway my day is other people. I used to think
I was fairly stable, fairly reasonable (don’t we all?), sensible, even. But
you’ve got to remember that BAS sets out to employ reasonable, stable, independent
people. And mainly blokes. So here, I am none of my previous selves. PMT hits
me like a blast from the east, a word from a colleague can send me above the
clouds or into dephs of navel gazing, innocent banter at dinner can fuel my
energy or force me to leave the room protesting. This being a British base,
there is a lot of banter, a lot of piss-taking, a fair amount of sarcasm and
the inevitavble gossip. I thought I could give as good as I got but I’m learning
to coat my shoulders with teflon – something I’ve never been a master
of. Still, although I am improved from earlier in the year, one emailed sentence
from a fellow inmate down here had me instantly in tears today. Tears of anger
or despair, I’m not sure which, but whichever it is, it’s not right. And while
my friends here say "don’t let it get to you", and I know it wouldn’t
get to them, it still finds its tender spot. I don’t want sympathy, I’m not
unhappy, PLEASE don’t now elevate me further into ‘I couldn’t do it’ levels
– I just am answering a question since I realise that in this mood, and
this isn’t the first, I rarely write blogs.
The sun rose yesterday but we still haven’t seen it – it’s been hidden
behind clouds. Maybe tomorrow. I had intended to write a blog tonight about
the joys of daylight, the colours on the horizon, the effect it’s had on raising
the spirits of all on base, the increased energy around the place and all the
outside jobs we can now do. Of how bizarre it is to see the landscape we have
been creating in the dark – some things now buried, many things needing
attention. The wonder of clouds and stars at dusk. How much closer everything
seems. Everyone is rushing around happy that they can work without the aid of
a torch. Skidoos are running and trips off-base being organised. Light first
appearred around 10am, beautiful pink and orange sky, and dissappeared after
dinner, around 7pm probably. Amazing. Last week we had a storm so the change
from dark to light is spectacular and sudden. I had forgotten how normal daylight
is. I don’t particularly like the normalness of it, but it is very convenient.
UPDATE: Geoff, I’m not sure we have met, but to answer your
question, no, I don’t think there is ever a day here where I ‘just go to work’.
It’s now 3:40am on the same night as the earlier entry I sent to Felix. I went
to sleep for a few hours but was having bad dreams, tossing and turning, feeling
too warm. The clock said 2:30. I went back to sleep and had an intense and weird
dream. When I hauled myself out of it, groggy and shaking myself, the clock
still said 2:30. I sleep in a sensory deprivation chamber, without my clock
I have no reference of time.
Maybe my clock was wrong. I’m on gash today – surely someone would have
woken me if I hadn’t got up for cleaning? Or if it was 2:30pm (my clock is analogue)?!
I got up, I don’t know why, it’s rare for me to get up in the night. I was still
discombobulated from the evening’s earlier interaction and I think that was
why I didn’t sleep well. As I pottered down the corridor in my dressing gown,
very sleepy eyed, I met the friend who had earlier upset me. He apologised,
I apologised, we made up and chatted for a while. It was really important to
me to do this. Some people here have the ability to allow things like this to
slippery slide off their shoulders but I don’t. I take personal actions directed
at me very seriously. You might say I over-react. I’m learning a lot from these
blokes here, the ground rules of live and let live, and learning that I have
a lot to learn.
My friend told me there was a beautiful aurora happening outside. Could I
be bothered to get dressed for it? Twenty minutes later the night-shift person
confirmed it was a good ‘un, though not necessarily good enough to wake people
for. I never regret going outside, never. So after goodnights I returned to
my room for clothes and a ‘doo suit. Ten minutes later I was walking like the
Michelin man down the steps of the platform outsiude, crunch rustle rustle.
The ‘doo suits (glossary: doo =skidoo) are warm but cumbersome!
There was an aurora. Gentle green swirls in the sky, clear starry night. The
swirls of aurora, the low-level mist, the milky way, all washed foggy stripes
around the place, merged together, glazed the sky. Scorpio laughing from the
north now, Orion not yet risen. I really do miss him. But to the South was another
constellation I have been chatting with for a while but have not yet found a
name for. Simon was outside with me, he’s on night-shift but also conveniently
has a PhD in astronomy. I’ve been meaning to show him this constellation for
As we’re looking around the sky he points out that Scorpio’s tail is in the
Milky Way. It’s good to know for when we get home. Oh – so when I see
the Milky Way, I should look for Scorpio’s tail and know the rest is out there
somewhere?, I ask. Scorpio is huge in the sky and apparrantly also visits the
north sometimes, like Orion visits us down here. I could believe that sometimes
you can only see his tail. No, Simon says, it’s so that when you see his tail,
you know that’s where the Milky Way is. I can’t imagine the stars without the
Milky Way. It’s sad to think the only reason we don’t see it is due to our own
light pollution. While we’re staring to the north watching the crustacean’s
pincers, a bright orb appears in the sky, falls, keeps falling, falls further
and eventually fades. It is the brightest shooting star either of us have ever
seen. Not so much shooting as dropping. There must be a meteor out there now,
about to be buried in snow. It’s funny to think that we’re closer to that then
any other people.
When we came in we looked the constellation up: Canis Major, Orion’s hunting
dog. So, Orion might be around less these days but at least he’s left his puppy!