COMING from a place as distant as the Falklands you get used to people not knowing a lot about where you're from. I recall that when my fellow Islanders and myself arrived at college in Winchester we were asked a host of questions by our fellow students which varied from the insightful, to the silly, to the insulting. I was once asked what the first language of the Falklands was, which is probably as damning an indictment of my speech as I could imagine. Ignorance about the Islands is nothing new of course. Famously there's a part of the The Diary Of Adrian Mole when Adrian bursts into his parents' bedroom early one morning and wakes them with the news that Argentina has invaded the Falklands. His dad leaps out of bed and starts to hurriedly get dressed because he think the Falklands are next to Scotland and the Argentines could reach their town within days.
The Falklands has been in the news a lot recently of course. It can be a worrying thing to see the sensationalism displayed by many onlookers who are clearly reveling in the situation, as well as the lack of research being put into some articles and features which are viewed by millions of people. One article in a national newspaper a few days ago mentioned that MILITARY Vessels which are flying the Falklands flag cannot currently dock in Argentina. If this were the case then it could of course impact on the potentially mighty Falklands Navy, but the closest thing we have to a fleet generally only appears at the annual raft race in Stanley and I'm not sure they'd make it all the way to Argentina.
I caught a part of a program called The Wright Stuff on Channel 5 this morning as I knew the Falklands were being featured. The title of the segment I tuned in for was as tasteful as you might expect, it was called "Who's up for another Falklands war?" Some contributors to the discussion suggested that David Cameron seemed to be attempting to provoke Argentina with the language he has used recently and that he had succeeded only in escalating the political situation. The level of outrage his comments have caused among many liberals seems to suggest that nobody has noticed the less than flattering terms being used to describe Britain and us Islanders by those in Argentina in recent, and not so recent, times. Having said that, as has been pointed out by others, being described as 'pirates' (As we have been) does lend us a slightly romantic and roguish air. I personally might wish to 'buckle my swash' at some point, but I do need to find out what that involves before I fully commit to doing so. Some may recall that 'The Wright stuff' is the same show which caused some consternation a few months ago by featuring a high brow discussion which I imagine the great thinkers of our time would have been clamouring to be a part of. The section I am referring to was called "Foxy Knoxy...Would Ya?" I don't imagine I have to explain this to most, but I will anyway. A young woman by the name of Amanda Knox was jailed for (allegedly) playing a part in the murder of a British student in Italy. Miss Knox is physically attractive. The premise of the debate was 'Would you still sleep with her, knowing what she was accused of'? I feel like I have discredited the word 'debate' simply by using it in my previous sentence.
A few years back I was playing pool with a group of people in Southend and the fact I am from the Falklands came up in conversation. A woman among the group of people we were playing with said that she had never heard of the Islands so I attempted to explain who/what/where we were (While catastrophically messing up my shot and conceding the game if history is anything to go by). As none of my prompts had any effect in terms of jogging her memory I resorted to "There was a war there in 1982?" and she replied with "Oh well...as long as we beat you in it". There were a few long moments of silence as my friend and I just stared at her. We were both waiting, hoping, for her to laugh and say that she was joking. Alas, she was not.
The lack of knowledge and awareness about the Falklands is a problem for us. The amount of people who believe that Argentina used to own the Falklands, or that the British population hasn't been there very long, or that penguins fall over when an aircraft goes overhead is positively alarming. One thing which we absolutely do have in our favour in terms of promoting a positive image and message is our young people. Our policy of sending kids away to study and gain qualifications and experience is something we should take a lot of pride in. At a time when English students are having to take on enormous amounts of debt in order to go to University this is all the more commendable. We want our young people to be educated, qualified and to be equipped to contribute to our future. There are now a large number of young Islanders in fairly senior positions of responsibility in the Islands. Some of those have benefitted from being sent away to become qualified and have returned and are now repaying the investment that the Falklands has made in them. I've also met a number of our students currently studying in the UK and I am confident that they have bright futures ahead of them. I cant help but be impressed by their work ethic and the maturity with which a lot of them carry themselves, particularly when I recall what I was like as a student.
To explain the difference in what I have described seeing in this generation of young Islanders and how some of my friends and I were the same age let me tell a quick story which could land me in some degree of trouble. The first time I ever met my current boss was at the annual Falklands reception in London in 1998, it was the same day as Scotland lost to Brazil in the world cup (I know as we went to the pub for a number of hours before the reception in order to watch it). I was standing in the hall with an equally inebriated fellow student and my boss (Sukey) approached us and said "You must be some of the students from Peter Symonds?" and held out a hand for my friend to shake. My friend, even when sober, has never been one of mankind's more graceful creatures and as he clumsily attempted to manoeuvre his drink from his right hand in order to shake Sukey's he spilled a large portion of his drink over her dress. Given his drunken state and the level of misplaced confidence this clearly imbued him with my friend instantly decided this could be one of those slightly awkward situations which can be laughed off. So that's what he did. He laughed...and then instantly walked off, leaving me standing there alone with Sukey. The next time I met her was when I interviewed for my role at FIGO about 9 years later. Funnily enough I did not mention our previous meeting at my interview and have never done so since. I have always wondered if she recalls our initial meeting. I imagine I may find out fairly soon after this piece goes online.
FALKLAND ISLANDER James Marsh works for the Falkland Islands Government Office in London and lives in Essex with his wife Amy and three dogs. Much of James' day is taken up with a rather tedious commute to and from London giving him plenty of time to think up interesting musings for Penguin News website visitors