SITE CAMP 4
Early August 1984
One of my colleagues in London (who was a newcomer and I had never met him) who was monitoring the costs of the project had told LMA the beer shipping costs were not reimbursible. I suppose this was because all accommodation, food, etc. was free, therefore reimbursible by HMG, but we paid for our beer, so the shipping costs were not reimbursible. Consequently beer can prices shot up from 30p to 50p. Thanks a million, Brian B.
I wrote to my boss saying this had put our lives in danger, all LMA were blaming us and even Bert F the local driver knew about it and asked who the PSA QS was. John G, brilliantly, said that it was Tony R (PSA QS liason officer) and this saved us.
We reckoned about 100,000 cans were drunk each month, five containers arrived each month and each carried 20,000. This worked out at about seventeen each per week at the time.
John G was due to go on leave in August 1984. He had got quiz questions from Nick Cole of Scunthorpe Evening Telegraph, so I thought it would be a wind-up to write to this guy about John. I sent him a message which said that John G was still having difficulties with the quiz questions even after reading the answers. I also said that he was returning on leave and eager to resume his search for a wife to qualify him for one of the luxurious villas at site. He'd like to meet Miss Scunthorpe Steel or Miss Grimsby Fish.
The article got published. Frank S came round one day and said "We've done it" as he had had a letter from John. John had asked who the "rodent" was.
Our lunches were usually doggy-bags with a couple of rolls and a Mars bar. The Mars bars were at least four months beyond their sell-by date and Kelvin were obviously finding that they weren't selling at the shop. The camp canteens, three of them, were now open and meals of much better quality than down at the Merchant Providence. Most people seemed to skip breakfast, though. For a long time we had insulated hot containers at lunch delivered to the office and around the site with soup. It was nourishing, even though obviously made up of baked beans, etc. left over from breakfast.
It was the baking which really improved the food, from the site bakery, and the sweet course, lots of trifles, jellies, custards, meringues, cream tarts, etc. Kid's party fare as some said. The veg still tended to be mixed veg from tins. I suppose it didn't travel well. Food had to be containerised, driven to a dock in the UK, stored until the next ship docked, shipped for three weeks at least, then driven to site. One frozen food container's freezer plant broke down and a whole container of frozen fish had to be thrown away, so no fish for many weeks after that.
The main bars were enormous, noisy and bland. This was why PSA and consultants made their own bars in a succession of drying rooms and later in a converted villa. LMA staff converted some portakabins for their staff bar.
George L left at the end of his tour on 27th August 1984. It was a clear, sunny, frosty, morning at the Islander airstrip "East Cove International Airport" and his eyes were red. I don't think it was just the cold weather. PSA were apparently finding it difficult to replace the pioneers as the word got back that life was difficult, they had to pay tax and other benefits weren't good enough (nil foreign service allowance for bachelors for instance).
I had a very vigorous circuit training on 27th August 1984 which involved squatting and bouncing and bumping into someone else to barge them over. When in the shower afterwards I bent down and got a massive muscle spasm that tore my lower back. I was in bed for a week and spent the rest of the late winter and spring in pain. Even when we went for our first camping trip west in December the bumping of the landrover hurt a lot.
I moved room yet again on 2nd September with much pain into a room with a shower, basin and toilet. Everyone commented on how it was bigger yet more inconvenient than before. The doors and alcoves meant that there was limited wall space for a wardrobe and arrangement of furniture less flexible. A minor problem, though. I also had a desk with drawers and a small display cabinet-cum-bookshelf, so no need now for that white pioneer chest pinched by Mark T.
About 22nd September 1984 the Hallam units for the main RAF camp were opened up prior to fixing. They were room-size boxes completely fitted out with decorations, carpets, electrical services and plumbing. They had been built many months before, stored, shipped to site then stored again. They had been wrapped in polythene or some other impervious membrane and the timber with a high moisture content had sweated. The moisture had caused large four inch wide patches of mould all over the walls, the electrical conduits had rusted and the carpets were ruined. Most had to be completely re-fitted and redecorated on site. Later units had a breathable membrane wrapping.
Life settled into a routine during the dull days of winter and spring. The wildness of pioneer days was definitely over, especially when pioneers left to be replaced by people dressed in jackets and ties and smart shoes. I continued to wear my boots and old pullover, even though I had better clothes.
Whereas the first summer we tended to go west for trips, this year after a wet winter we tended to go east along the gradually progressing gravel road to Stanley, climbing peaks towards Stanley which involved less driving on "camp".
I saw a cat outside lying in rolls of insulation. It must have walked a long way from Fitzroy, about twelve miles. I had seen mice running along the skirting in the shower areas and I supposed there were plenty around the kitchen areas.
The PSA/PCA land surveyors Ray K, Stirling M and others started a "supersurveyor" competition for PSA and LMA QSs and land surveyors on 11th October 1984. Eight events: golf chip and putt, golf putting, squash, 100 metres, 2 miles, table tennis, darts and pool. I entered for all except squash and two miles as my back was still very bad. When I played Ray M at darts we both had doubles to get, but he got his first. I beat Mike R at table tennis.
The golf was basically chip and putt along some grass that had been roughly mown. Most of us were useless. I lost my ball even though it pitched on relatively short grass. The putting was on an old sheep enclosure towards Island Harbour House where the grass was very short. I only jogged the 100 metres as my back was bad. Ray K won the 2 mile run. Steve N, an LMA QS, was second and eventually became Supersurveyor.
Supersurveyors' 100 metres on 3rd November 1984
Supersurveyors Dave N, Ray M, Geoff E, Ray K and Hilleth Y
In early November 1984 Ron S returned from leave with a bright new set of false teeth, his colleagues could now bear to have him in the same room as before his rotten teeth made his breath really foul.
The walkways between the camp blocks were closed in about November 1984, just as winter ended!.
New landrovers arrived in November 1984 and there was argument about who should have the first. The M & E guys Pat C and Barry O had cleverly made themselves in charge of vehicles some time before so Pat C collected the first new one. It didn't work and was in and out of Leyland. Eventually they got it to work, there was a wrong part in the fuel pump.
Eventually there was only one left to hand over but it wouldn't be ready for a week and Wayne M and ourselves had to share a rover. I said to John G "I can guess what's wrong with it". He went over to one of the Leyland guys at dinner and asked. He said he "had to be a bit diplomatic". In other words Pat C had asked him to switch fuel pumps and the last one was waiting for a replacement part. We thought the M & E guys were often selfish, but we were just as guilty of "ras-ing" in earlier times.
I met Francis B when out walking on 21st November. He admitted being LMA's worst pessimist. He was their chief planner. The main runway excavation had been under water from about June for a few months but was partly tarmaced by the end of November. The Stanley road was only making slow progress from the easy site end. Culverts were being installed at the Frying Pan. The whole runway and road and many buildings had to be finished by May 1985. In the event, a huge rush during December 1984 to May 1985 (summer and autumn) got the runway and road finished, but the main apron was only half complete. Enough for one plane.
There was a "gozome" party about 21st November for Martin R and Jim L. I then realised that apart from Maurice C, the PSA chief who I hardly ever saw after the early days, I was the only pioneer left. The camp was crowded and busy with smart people and I felt it wasn't the same at all afterwards.
On 24th November 1984 the new PSA bar in a converted villa was opened with a fancy dress party in race meeting costume with a large chequerboard on the floor, large dice and sticks with horses' heads. I made a top hat out of grey cardboard document files.
PSA versus LMA tug of war on October 1984.
PSA won twice thanks to 23 stone Ken D
Wickham started it and moved quickly away
Race meeting to open new PSA bar in a converted villa
on 24th November 1984
Peter H organises the race