My trip this time was to the most far away place I have ever been. If you think America is far, then you are in for a surprise. I was approached by a young man by the name Andy Giddon who is the owner of a company called Red Lion Foods. They sell many products into the multiples, including tea, sausages, bacon etc with all profits going to military charities. He asked me if I would like to go to the Falklands to have a look at some of the wonderful foods available. These included lamb, and many species of fish, mostly ones that I have never heard of, such as King Clip, Tooth fish, Moonfish. Plus squid. It also coincided nicely with the 30th anniversary of the ending of the conflict.
I had decided to go and write a series of notes for this website, and the original intention was to make a few bits of film, for Red Lion Foods. However it seemed a great shame to go all that way and not make a film or series of small films. So, I engaged the services of my good friend and cameraman Sam Berrido, who's, as it turns out quite bizarrely, great grandfather lived on the Falklands many years ago.
So after a few months of planning we all finally arrived at Brize Norton in Oxfordshire. After filming my departure from home, driving and chatting to set the travel doc, we arrive in the early evening. Check in is the quickest ever, no more than 5 minutes, brilliant; it did help the fact that it’s the only flight and only half full. We then made our way back to the Gateway, a sort of 60’s Holiday Inn cum Crossroads hotel. Its all a bit surreal, with cavernous reception, and bar that’s full of servicemen going all around the world. We have a pint and meet a lovely cook from Ascension Island called Yvette, and chat to her and Cathrin about Wales, cooking and how beautiful Ascension Island is. All too quickly we are called to take the bus to departures. After security checks, we are herded into another cavernous lounge. Here we chat to a lady called Sheila and her friend, and she tells us lovely stories about Stanley, the food and her passion fish (more about Sheila later).
Finally at 11.50, we board the Titan plane and take off. The flight is only half full so once airborne, we can move seats. A charming man called Tim, No1, advises me that I can have 3 seats to myself further up the plane, much to the amusement of the military guys sat around me. We are served a hot wrap of some description, not fully sure what was inside, its okay, but not the thing you want at midnight. I settle back and try to get some sleep.
Next thing I know we are being served breakfast, lights go on; you can’t see and fumble around a bit. Before you know it another wrap is thrust upon you. This time a full breakfast one. It’s a sort of a tasty full English sludge. The only components I can really decipher are baked beans and sausages, chopped up. If my daughter had been here I’m sure she would have described it as “breakfast sick in a wrap….dad”
After more squash, yes it’s a dry flight; we begin our decent to Ascension Island.
The weather on the island is sub tropical, and even at 8 in the morning is slightly cloudy and balmy. We are herded into a sort of cage, by the airstrip. I say goodbye to Yvette and hello to Karen a cook at the military base on Falkland. I also bump into the head chef for the base on the island. It turns out he is good friends with a couple of chefs I know. He asks me when we are going back and says he will do some nice grub for us on the way back. Cool.
We all have coffee and get our passports stamped, good fun. Then take a few pics and do a piece to camera, for the travel blog. In no time at all we are back on the plane and airborne for the 9, yes 9 hours to Stanley.
After an hour or so, we are fed again, this time sausage, mash and peas in onion gravy. I have to say, not too bad actually. I toss and turn and Sam coins a great saying “I’m bored of being bored”; it’s a long way. Hours later we are fed and watered again. Yep, squash and something else, I can’t remember now.
We land in the Falklands finally some 18 hours after leaving home; the local time is early afternoon.
Being a military airport everything is done the military way. The plane is boarded by an Army guy who quickly tells you the score. He than says can Phil Vickery please come to the front. I do exactly what I’m told, we shake hands and I’m led into the VIP area, reserved for dignitaries, governor and senior officials. Quickly followed by Sam. Our passports are taken, stamped and bags duly delivered. Andy meanwhile is going the normal way. Border control, note here for you, have a look at the way the MPA guys do it!!!!!! We all meet up and gently rib Andy as to the plusses of (very slight) media fame.
We are met by Gary Clement and war veteran, who married a local and returned to the island. He was going to be the guy that looked after us since Tony Davies had hurt his leg and could not make the long trip. Tony was another decorated veteran and works with not only war charities but also Red Lion Foods.
We make the 30 odd mile trip to Stanley, along a road, sorry track that the military had built after the conflict. Its cold and windy and the road is pretty grim. As we drive Gary points out various hills and bogs, including minefields that are still here. The names bring back vivid memories, Mount Longdon, Two Sisters, Harriet and probably the most famous Tumbledown. To the right we see signs for Bluff Cove, Goose Green and Fitzroy. I then remember a couple of my friends that went to the conflict, one a chef on QE2. All these we would see later in the week, something I was not really prepared for.
We arrive at the Malvina House Hotel right on the front in Stanley, just down the Governor’s house. Its small, quirky and lovely and warm. I’m puzzled as to the name, especially in light of what had happened here. But it turns out it was named after the daughter of the guy who built it in 1881, her name was Malvina. The inside is modern and welcoming. Carl the manager is brilliant, nothing was too much trouble.
We had planned a meeting with all the parties concerned as to the week’s schedule. Its very easy to plan from home, but on the ground its always different. This we did with the Army guys, the local TV and radio, Penguin news, local paper and of course Matt Clarke the head chef. I had emailed Matt to introduce myself and to get the lowdown on the cooking stuff I need to get ready. In fairness to him he did warm me about the wraps and squash on the trip.
That done a shower was needed, after 20 odd hours travelling, and then a cold beer, I don’t think I have enjoyed a beer so much for a long time. We ate in the hotel’s restaurant that evening, me, Sam and Andy. I had squid, deep fried, delicious. Smaller than the European offering really tender with good flavour. I then had braised rump of lamb with a well reduced sauce, nice and moist with really deep lamb flavor, similar to say a hogget in UK, lamb after 1 year old. This was very lean. Crème Brule 4 ways for dessert was okay, but I like deep filled, creamy and light, not a criticism at all, just a preference. Slept okay that night.