The Falklands: The Island that’s more British than Britain itself

In the South Atlantic Ocean located around 300 miles away from Argentina and 8000 miles away from the United Kingdom lays an old England otherwise known as the Falkland Islands. The Islands were discovered by English explorer, John Davis in the fifteenth century. Many would assume that the Island would have more cultural influences from Argentina due to its close proximity to the country, but Roderick May, who was born and lived on the Falkland Islands until he reached his twenties, says that it is more British than Britain itself.
Most of the residents there are English, but before the war in 1982 many of them had never even visited the United Kingdom. It could be argued that it is in a way, an old fashioned England due to some of the values that still remain. Falkland Islanders still follow a lot of traditional English ways that some of the people residing in the United Kingdom have simply forgotten about. Such things include ‘smoko’ time which is a break that is taken in the morning at precisely 11am, where everybody stops to have a cigarette and a cup of tea. Another break is taken at 4pm for tea and cake.
Roderick grew up on the Islands when there was only electricity in the main town and on the larger farms. They didn’t have light bulbs, they used tilley lamps and one of the earliest forms of electricity on the Island that he remembers was a twelve volt battery system and wind charger. He sheered sheep from the age of sixteen until he left the Island at the age of twenty three. Most of them relied on the income of the wool industry as many of them lived on farms, but it wasn’t like the farms most people imagine. This was because they didn’t have much livestock due to the lack of vegetation on the Islands which is still an issue today. It may be very English in its values but visually it isn’t anything like England. There are very few trees, because of the harsh wind and soil, and animals such as penguins are as common to see over there as pigeons are in London.

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A penguin braces itself in the harsh Falkland winds                            Photograph by: Roddy May

The grass is more of a white colour than green, and it is rare for anyone in the Falkland Islands to get fruit. Such things have to be shipped over from countries such as Uruguay because they’d be impossible to grow on the Islands. Even with fruit being shipped over, it is still rare for anyone to actually get any of it as by the time it reaches its destination it is either rotten or inedible.
The soil is too acidic and can be compared more too as peat because it is decayed matter rather than actual soil and contains little nutrients making it difficult to grow anything. It was a shock for Roderick when he moved to England because of how green it was in comparison. When he grew up there, there was only around ten miles worth of road, with the rest of it being dirt tracks. This meant that cars often got stuck and it would take around four hours to drive just forty miles on it. Since then, more roads have been built but there is still a way to go. This resulted in many people walking everywhere instead of driving, meaning that they didn’t often venture too far away from their homes. “When I moved to Southampton, I was surprised at the amount of people who drove instead of walked.” He says widening his eyes. He was also surprised at the fact that there was such things as sliced bread as in the Falkland Islands most people made their own.
Despite the differences, he didn’t find himself getting homesick and this was because of the British people. For him it was just like being at home in that respect, but one of the biggest differences, was the amount of people. The Falklands has a population of around two thousand people whereas Britain has a population of around sixty four million.
Despite it being thousands of miles away, the food there is also English influenced. The mystery behind how they have managed to remain British without interference from other cultures is partly down to the wealthier Islanders. They would travel over to the United Kingdom for six months and return, bringing with them the latest fashion and gadgets. Roderick recalls this happening from his childhood, when a lot of them would travel to Britain by boat which could take up to a month. This meant that they were usually a bit behind the trends in England.
Many of those who move from the Islands reside in the city of Southampton as it is the main port that they arrive into. Despite being classified as an overseas British territory, Roderick had to obtain a visa when he first came to the United Kingdom because both of his parents were born in the Falklands. He ended up staying as an illegal immigrant for a while after his visa had expired because of the war which made him reluctant to want to return. War had broken out between Argentina and the United Kingdom over the Islands, as both countries were trying to claim it as their own. “It was scary because my family was still over there but they allowed me to stay in the country luckily.” Since the British won the Falkland war however the Islanders are now able to travel to and from England without a visa.
Curiosity was what brought him to Britain in the first place with an initial two year planned stay, but it was war that kept him from returning. He ended up building a life and family of his own in England which meant that he didn’t return for a further ten years, and when he did go back he found it to be near enough exactly the same as it was when he left. To his surprise everything that had once been destroyed in the war had been rebuilt.

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