Falkland Islands Trip 2014

DThe Falkland Islands

 

Day 1, Wed 5th February, a long time planning comes to fruition

Howling winds, torrential rain, waves crashing through harbour walls and pounding the boats to destruction and my journey had only just began. Leaving Cornwall on the windiest day ever I had set off on a trip taking me 8000 miles away to the warmer climate of the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic. Admittedly, the 3 degrees difference wasn’t going to tempt me to hang up my cosy scarf just yet, and the knowledge that the penguins were still huddling together for warmth confirmed it.

On route to RAF Brize Norton I stopped off in Gloucester to pick up the mad welshman, Andy Shaw and his stepson Joe. I sailed down south with him in 82, flew down with him in 2012 and together we arranged this trip. He truly is a character, if you ever get the opportunity to spend 17 hours on a plane with him and stay in the same room as him for 2 weeks – DON’T….. not if you want to keep your sanity. He is a really good friend though, he cares, is a great cook and can talk for England.

Having been before, I knew what to expect in regards to the travel, and can happily say my 1st trip on HMS Hermes, the flagship of the Falklands war, was far more comfortable than sitting upright in economy for 17 hours on a plane, even if we did have to hot bunk. (someone else sleeping in your bed whilst you were on watch).  And the SAS, SBS and Gurkas we sailed down with were far less scary than modern RAF chappies on the plane alongside me now who had been denied their beauty sleep in their 5 star accommodation for the night.

This, and my previous trip back in April 2012 only came about through the generosity of SAMA 82 (South Atlantic Medal holders Association) and FVF (Falkland Veterans Foundation) who sponsored the flight and provide accommodation for veterans of the war. Many veterans from all services have taken the opportunity to return to the islands and lay their ghosts to rest. The help and support shown from both organisations far exceed anything I have ever seen, or asked for, but it doesn’t stop there. Once you arrive on the islands, the islanders themselves welcome you with open arms and can’t do enough for you. There are those who lived on the islands through the war, and others who have moved there since, the generosity and understanding from them all holds no bounds. If you need time to reflect or stand and remember your lost comrades they’ll give you the space you need when you need it. They’ll drive you, guide you, party with you, remember with you. They are the friends you want whilst your mind is in past times.

The flight attendants are great, pretty ladies, happy and smiley throughout the whole journey. They change crews after the 9 hour flight to the Ascension Islands, the plane refuelled and cleaned before the onward journey which is a shorter 8 hour flight. The planes currently in operation are A330’s operated by Airtanker which, given the fact it is chartered by the military, is actually quite comfortable. The entertainment leaves something to be desired and the food is very basic. cheese and ham toasties and a chicken curry were the main meals. And being a military flight no alcohol is served or to be taken on board. It is surprising how resilient everyone can be given the length on the journey, even children (who do travel to or from the islands) cope very well.

Falklands Typhoon

 

A highlight of the whole flying experience was being escorted in by a couple of RAF Typhoons who, whilst on exercise popped by to welcome us in.

“the real flight experience”

normal flights. get to Brize Norton, check in, check in luggage, go to Spar shop on site and buy coffee and sandwiches, sit and chat, eat and drink, buy more coffee, more sandwiches, get some sweets for the flight, sit and chat. realise that you are going on a very long flight and buy some more stuff for the plane.

get called to go through security and waste that last coffee you bought. enter waiting area where there is another small shop that opens for you to buy yet more coffee. wait there an hour or so drinking before finally realising that with that much caffeine you will never sleep the whole trip.

get on plane, search desperately for seats that you can sit by yourself and make a dash for them. Get kicked out of those seats and go to the one you’ve been assigned.

spread out your magazines, get out your video devices and prepare to entertain yourself for the next 9 hours.

be served meals, this occupies at least another 2 hours with most of it trying to figure out what you’ve just eaten.

after 5 or 6 hours realise that the goodies you bought for the flight haven’t been touched yet, open a bag of sweets, eat them all and wish you hadn’t.

now is the time to start thinking this 9 hour flight should be over by now even though you’ve got 3 hours to go.

Get told by the pilot you’ll be landing in 1 hour, put your boots on, stop your film part way through and go the toilet. 10 minutes later realise it doesn’t take an hour to put your boots on and take them off again.

land at Ascension Islands. get off plane, boil in the morning sun…. walk across hardstanding to waiting compound where you immediately fight to find a plug socket to charge up your laptop so you can continue watching your films on the next part of the trip.

go the toilet, wash, freshen up, chat for a bit longer, go to small shop and realise they don’t sell anything you want. have a coffee.

get on plane, regret having that coffee again and vow you won’t do that again when the pilot tells you the remaining part of the journey is 8 and a half hours.

decide it’s time to sleep. as soon as you nod off it’s meal time again. wake up begrudgingly and have the meal. decide that was a bad decision once you have had the overcooked cheese toastie, start watching your films again. for the next few hours wonder what made you make this trip and question your sanity.

Land in the Falkland Islands at military base and be threatened with having your cameras taken off you if you take photographs (again question your sanity). clear customs, pick up your bag, leave the airport doors and your time on the Falkland Islands begins now. Come to the conclusion it was all worth it and you’ll do it again many times.

Day 2, Thurs 6th February.  Solid ground, no cheese and ham toasties for 2 weeks – luxury.

Touchdown, the adventure begins.

The sheer joy of being able to move around on solid ground again makes the whole flying experience worth it once you’ve landed. Touchdown in the Falkland Islands is still at a military base, and photography here is not allowed so no pretty pictures of me kissing the ground on landing.

Customs and baggage handling is surprisingly quick then it’s off on our adventure in the pre-booked airport transport to the main town of Stanley where FVF have a very nice lodge built for the veterans to stay in when on the islands. Ellen, the lodge
manager (otherwise known as mother) welcomes all the veterans and directs everyone to their rooms before briefing them on the facilities and (if you don’t have one already) an agenda of places to go and things to do that she has pre-arranged on your behalf.

lodge

The lodge really is a nice building, and well equipped for your stay. It includes a washing machine, dryer, well stocked kitchen, multiple bathrooms and a computer to keep in touch with home. As long as you have brought good walking boots, comfortable clothes for all seasons and a mindset to accept all the compassion and understanding thrown at you then you’ll be just fine. You’ll end up sharing a room with another veteran if you are staying in the lodge so it also might be wise to take some earplugs
in case they snore (to stop you having to throw your boots across the room at them at night). Although the lodge is well stocked of food there is a store right next door that you can purchase all sorts of goods from.

Welcome.

It really is a great feeling when you arrive at the lodge to be welcomed by Ellen and any other veterans who may be staying. A nice cup of tea, a piece of cake, but above all a nice shower and a change of clothes works wonders and prepares you for probably the first of many invites out. In our case tonight we were invited to the Falkland Islands Defence Force for a few drinks with some extraordinary guys and girls. A great bunch of people but they inflict horrible hangovers.

There is a minibus at the lodge that is available to all the veterans to drive. If you take it out you need to ensure you top it up with fuel when you are finished with it. There is also a car you can use, it’s not to be driven beyond Stanley but is extremely useful for getting around town. They were donated by the kindness of the people of the Falkland Islands. I used the minibus to visit some old friends before heading out for drinks with the Falkland Island Defence Force.

Day 3, Friday 7th February. Meeting with the Falkland Islands primary school

Time for work

The first time I came back to the Falkland Islands in April 2012 I was lucky enough to visit a primary school in Goose Green. It was this visit that lit a desire in me to help the children of the Falkland Islands and set me on a road to raise funding or help of any kind.

For those that know me, the safety of children is paramount to how I focus my business activities and have created a website dedicated to safety for schools and parents to learn how to protect their little ones as well as identify the dangers of the internet. http://esafetymatters.com.

With security, reliability and speed in mind I was very pleased when a number of people came forward to help fund my mission or provide assistance to help me achieve my objective.

My relationships with suppliers and vendors is exceptional so when I explained the need to them, they pulled out all the stops to get me the best pricing and deliver the goods in a very quick timescale which was then very reliably delivered to the Falkland Islands in time for my visit.

My first meeting of the trip was a breakfast meeting with Rebecca Robinson, deputy head of the infant and Junior school and Camp schools. Rebecca explained the itinerary for the school visits and had arranged not only transport by road and air but invited the parents of the school children in Camp to have dinner and meet with us on the Monday and Tuesday. I told her about all the kit that had been shipped on to the Islands and we discussed how together we could get the items ready in time for a Monday and Tuesday delivery out in Camp.

Falkland Islands Camp Education

Carol Phillips, a Falkland Islander and friend from my previous visit helped me immensely with finding the right people to talk to in the schools and had also offered to see if there was anyone willing to help with shipping the kit to the islands. I was very surprised to receive a facebook message telling me Paul Chapman, a builder in Stanley, Falkland Islands had kindly offered to ship all the goods completely free of charge as long as I could get them all to his wife in the UK by Thursday, (it was Tuesday and I hadn’t bought any of the kit yet). If I could do this then the ship would arrive with a week or so spare having sailed for 5 weeks from the UK. Panic stations. My sales team went into overdrive, phoned suppliers, ensured there was enough stock and that it was available for a quick delivery, ordered it all and arranged for delivery to Julie, Paul’s wife. At this point the funders had agreed how much they were willing to contribute but no cash had changed hands so my company (NCI Technologies) put up the whole amount in advance.

I have the pleasure of saying it was The Belling Charitable Settlement who funded 26 HP laptops to be spread across 4 Camp schools and Stanley House, the boarding house in Stanley for children attending school from Camp in Stanley Primary and Secondary schools.

Having previously been in discussions with the school about their needs, one topic that came up was regarding a virtual learning environment (VLE). They mentioned they had trialled various VLE’s including Moodle and hadn’t found one that they were happy with. I approached a partner of ours, eSchools, http://www.eschools.co.uk and explained the situation to them. There was no hesitation, the directors of eSchools offered their VLE to the pupils across the whole of the Falkland Islands.

I wanted to make sure the children in Stanley house could make the most out of their spare time both educationally and in play. I also wanted to introduce new technologies to the island so authorised an interactive projector to be installed in the boarding house alongside a Wii-U premium with additional controllers and more games. NCI also added to the functionality of the laptops donated by The Belling Charitable Trust with upper and lower case keyboards, mice and headphones with microphones.

So after my meeting with Rebecca I went to Carol’s house to pick up all the kit that she had kindly stored for me once it reached the islands. I then brought it back to Liberty Lodge. To state a famous saying from the Falklands war, “we counted them all out, and we counted them all back in again.”Everything had arrived safely and I owe Paul, Julie and Carol for everything they had done.

at 1pm all the kit was delivered to the school. Not forgetting it was a Friday afternoon and with no notice the schools new IT support company on the island, Synergy, immediately began work re-imaging the laptops with the curriculum software ready for an early start Monday morning. They did a fantastic job as all the laptops were fully imaged and ready to load into the vehicle for a 7am Monday start.

3pm all the veterans visiting the island at the time were invited to the Governors House. We had a great meeting with Sandra Tyler-Haywood who is the First Secretary and Head of Governor’s Office. Although the tea and marmite scones were delicious, her answering of the many questions Andy Shaw, Joe Freeth, 3 visiting marine veterans and myself had felt honest and from the heart. An ex veteran herself she understands military sense of humour. We did the obligatory signing of the snooker table (Prince William, no bodyguards around to protect your signature from ex sailors this time matey).

The evening was spent around Stanley with a tour of the inside of the Victory Bar for a few beers.

Day 4  Saturday 8th Feb. Time for some mountain climbing

Yet another early start, but for no other reason than 6:00 am my body clock tells me its time to get up.

Today Trev Law (a serving marine based in the Falkland Islands gave us a great tour of Mount Harriet. From the base, through the route our forces took to the summit and beyond he explained every step of the way. Now I’m happy to admit, years of keeping fit by typing on keyboards, my increasing age and carrying the worlds heaviest camera and lenses up a mountain proved my fitness levels weren’t were they could potentially be (I was sweating, stopping, slowly dying) whilst Trev didn’t lose a breath. I thoroughly enjoyed the trip though and in awe of the guys who took the mountains in dark, carrying weapons over that terrain with people shooting at them.

Later in the day Taff, Joe and I took a drive out to Hookers Point to pay our respects to the guys of HMS Glamorgan where there is a very impressive memorial. We also visited the site of Black Eagle Camp and on to Gypsy Cove to see the penguins.

DSC_3699

Day 5 Sunday 9th Feb.  paying respects to HMS Antelope and HMS Ardent

One of the things I didn’t get to do on my last trip to the Falkland Islands was to visit the Antelope/Ardent Memorial which was disappointing because it was my brothers ship that went down in San Carlos waters. I had seen the ships marker previously but the memorial was on top of a mountain overlooking both stretches of water where the Antelope and Ardent lay peacefully. Dick Sawle, came to my rescue and volunteered to drive us there. An early start, a long drive but boy was it worth it.

Dick and I had a very interesting conversation about the islands the whole way there and back. The Falklanders fascinate me, the hardships they have had to endure to live where they love, and I don’t blame them. The Falkland Islands to some may be a cold, bleak bunch of rocks in the middle of no-where (and I’ve heard that said by some people in England) To others, me included, it is a place that holds so many secrets, so many memories, a new and exciting land that has so much potential. An unspoilt land in so many ways. The wildlife needs protecting, their way of life needs nurturing as to not move to fast but fast enough to give an advantage to the people who live there.

Anyway I diverse, the Antelope memorial. Getting there was no easy feat, it was only the 2nd time Dick had been there and the first time he followed someone else and said he hadn’t taken much notice because he never thought he would be doing it alone so soon. He was a true star. He had everything organised, radio contact with assistance if needed and was watching intently for the many dangers along the track whilst being quizzed by me. Once we got to the base of the track looking up we couldn’t see the memorial and it didn’t seem too far to the summit. Once we got to the top we could see what looked like the whole world after driving what seemed to be a pretty treacherous a long journey.

San Carlos waters from so high looked magical. There really is no other way to describe the feelings going through my head. I could imagine the scene of the landings back in 1982, the sailors on the ships watching the Harriers that we had launched from HMS Hermes and HMS Invincible fly over them chasing the Argentinian aircraft, bombs flying everywhere. Soldiers dug in to the hillside trying to take down the enemy and tend to the injured. Sailors leaving their home and belongings as their ships burnt. Visible from the memorial is Ajax Bay where the injured from all over the islands were tendered for by our medics and doctors and I could imagine the thoughts going through so many young soldiers and sailors heads as they watched the stretchers being brought in. The British medical teams, very young themselves, were outstanding.

32 years on and it feels like yesterday. I will never forget. I am at peace and very lucky for it, many aren’t and their memories control their daily lives. Guys and girls, if you read this then trust me when I say going back to the islands WILL help, and very few understand better than the islanders and veterans themselves.

We paid our respects at the memorial, we viewed the wonderful landscape around us and we started down the track, this time to visit Ajax Bay.

Ajax Bay field hospital was a disused refrigeration plant that was next to an ammunition dump. It was chosen by Surgeon Captain Rick Jolly as a good place to treat casualties from all sides as it was closer to the action than being on board a ship. It had a roof, was a large space and the ability to get casualties there quickly was better than being at sea.   The hospital was also known as the Red and Green Life Machine.

All the land on the Falkland Islands belongs to someone so in order to get to the hospital it was only polite to stop at the farm and ask the owner for permission to go on his land to the refrigeration plant. I don’t think I have ever met friendlier people than everyone I’ve met in the Falkland Islands so wasn’t surprised when the farmer didn’t give it a second thought but did warn us about some cows that were en route and politely asked for us to ensure any gates we opened were quickly closed behind us which was something we did everywhere we went anyway.

Thank you farmer, what is just a derelict building on your land is a building complex of memories for heroes. It is now in a state of complete disrepair having not been used since the war but that only adds to the wonder and feelings us veterans have and the respect we have for our fellow veterans. It also gave me the opportunity to get closer to the marker for HMS Antelope for a photograph.

As we arrived at Ajax Bay we were welcomed by around 200 penguins playing on the beach. The building have now lost their roofs and are in a pretty dangerous state with swinging beams above you and metal sheets of roofing ready to fall. Under normal circumstances you would never dream of its history given its current state but then remember the military. People who are trained to make the best of each and every situation, who will make a bar out of any material lying around in a disused building to have a drink full of injured British and Argentinian soldiers and sailors with unexploded bombs in the roof, a normal day for the military.

Rick Jolly was awarded the OBE for his part of the war, he later won the Order of May (Argentinian equivalent of the UK OBE) but most of all he won a place in the hearts of every serviceman involved in the Falklands War.

From there we moved on to San Carlos itself where we visited the museum then Blue Beach military cemetery, a sobering place in spectacular surroundings.

Goose Green was our next point of call to pay our respects at the memorials of Colonel H Jones, the 59 Independent Commando Squadron Royal Engineers and Nick Taylors Grave. Nick served with us onboard HMS Hermes, on the 4th May 1982 his Harrier was shot down by anti aircraft guns killing him instantly. My thoughts at any memorial lie with the people and the families of those lost but when you know someone who died, when you had spent the last year working on their aircraft and when you remember being told you had lost one of your own then they feel like family, it is hard.

It had already been a long day, very emotional, exhilarating, solemn, informative and tiring but Dick didn’t hesitate when we asked would he take us to the Argentinian Cemetery before heading home.

I realise that some people might not like my next few sentences but they are my thoughts and feelings and I’ll stick by them.

Situated West of Darwin settlement lies the bodies of 237 Argentines who lost their lives in the Falklands War. The cemetery was created when The Argentine Government refused to take back the bodies claiming that they were already on Argentine soil.

I’ve returned to the islands in 2012 and 2014, both times I made sure I visited the Argentine graveyards along with all the memorials for the British Forces across the Islands. I’ve spoken with many people who live on the islands who lived through the war, some too young to realise the dangers at the time and say it was an adventure, others who have had their husbands held with guns to their head in front of their children and threatened with death. We all went through our own war. The islanders too.

There are many unsung heroes walking amongst ourselves and the islands. My opinion of the Argentine soldiers is not one of hatred but pity. We killed, they killed, why are we the only ones that were right to do so? Many of the Argentines were in the same position we were, there to do a job, difference being that they were the invading force but that wasn’t the soldiers choice, it was their corrupt governments choice.

Years have passed, each and every life lost by British Forces and the 3 Islanders will never be forgotten, too many Argentine forces aren’t even known and maybe, just maybe, their families don’t even know they were lost on the islands. that should haunt us all. 123 of the wooden crosses at the cemetery simply state “Soldado Argentino Solo Conocido Por Dios” (“An Argentine Soldier Known Unto God”). This to me is incredulous but maybe I don’t know the full facts of why Argentina has not made every effort in identifying the soldiers that fought for its country.

My war is over, my respect for the people who not only fought in the war but lived through it will remain forever. the dead and the families of those lost on both sides will remain in my heart and in my thoughts.

Day 6 Monday 10th Feb.  visiting some amazing children.

An early start today, work started in earnest with the schools on the Falkland Islands. Bacon being sizzled for the TV crew from Falkland Islands TV who are joining us today, Rebecca the deputy head and of course the rest of us (Taff, Joe and I) for the breakfast sandwiches. I suppose I better add it was Taff cooking the bacon (me being useless in the kitchen).

Synergy, the schools IT support team, had worked long hours over the weekend to re-image all the laptops to have them ready for me to deliver to the schools today.

Rebecca took responsibility for the driving the whole day (well that was Rebecca’s definition of what she was doing hehe!). having practiced my quizzing people skills with Dick Sawle the day before I decided to hone all my newly acquired skills on to Rebecca whilst she was captive in the car and she couldn’t escape.

I learnt a lot about the islands, the way of life, how children are taught and the issues the education system has to try and resolve and it made me want to help even more.

First point of call was North Arm. North Arm is a settlement 90 miles away from Stanley in the Southern part of East Falkland. It is on the south coast on the shore of Bay of Harbours and overlooks Sea Lion Island. Although it is the largest settlement on East Falkland south of Goose green it currently has a population of 30 people, 6 of which are children.

As we drove up I was amazed by the layout of the settlement and even more amazed when we pulled up at the school. The size of a portacabin there is a single classroom which is also the kitchen, staff room etc. One room fits all purposes.

I was introduced to Richard, the teacher who has taken up post at North Arm on a 2 year contract from the UK. Richard took us into the school to meet the children, all 5 of them. They had been happily working away on lessons when we turned up only to be disturbed by strangers.

I’m going to admit here and now I was blown away by the reception the children gave us. I was thinking of ways to get them to open up to us on the long drive there but there was no need, it was like we were old friends from the very beginning, not forgetting we are talking primary age which makes it even more special.

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Marco, Alesha, Elisha, Beth and Jessica were delighted to show us what they did in school before I gave them their new laptops. As soon as they got them they started using them straight away and were very competent on the programs. Never before have I seen more grateful and respectful people.

I wasn’t aware previously but the people at North Arm had planned a few things for my visit which again blew me away. Richard and his wife had me giving milk to one of their pet sheep, you should have seen the smile on my face. The North Arm farm itself is 277,000 acres and unlike in England where there is around 4 sheep per acre, in the Falkland Islands there is normally 1 sheep per 4 acres.

me feeding a lamb

I learnt so much in such a short time. The children took time out from their school lessons to show me around the settlement, proudly telling me where they lived, showing me the museum which is smaller than my garden shed, the shop that opens for 3 hours a week and where they ride their bikes. Marco is an absolute star. He spends his time in the settlement with 4 girls so he idolises other male figures and it was hard to get a word in edgeways as he told me all about his life. One thing I will remember for the rest of my life, is a small conversation we had when he was putting on his shoes before we left the school. Jessica stood behind him and asked him what he thought of her hair. I whispered to him to tell her she looked beautiful and he said “I know that, I have to say that because if I don’t I know the consequences”- classic.

After the walk around the settlement the children took me down the road to the sheep sheds where there was sheep shearing taking place. This is a big event for the sheep farm for obvious reasons and they were working really hard when we arrived. The sheep shearers can travel the world doing their job and they win many competitions.

Sheep shearing doesn’t stop just for visitors, there is money to be made, but I do want to thank Dixie, the farm manager for explaining to us what was happening and letting us see it all in action. Although we were only there for a short time this was a highlight of my visit.

Back to the settlement for lunch which was so kindly made for us by the ladies of North Arm, and it was delicious. We had it in the community hall, a purpose built area for the locals to get together and party, have meetings and generally socialise away from their working environment. Dixie joined us for a short while to thank me for the laptops we had donated to their school which in itself was very generous of him to give up valuable time away from the shearing shed during his busiest period. People are amazing, generous people, whether it be with money or time or even just best wishes deserve so much in return and all the people of North Arm are amazing.

FITV interviewed the children in the school after lunch about their new laptops and what it would mean to them and filmed us driving off to Goose Green school. Honestly, I was actually sad to leave because I was made SO welcome.

Next stop was Goose Green.   I was lucky enough to visit here in 2012 and paid my respects at the graves and memorials of the people we left behind in 1982. Goose Green is 2 miles south-southwest of Darwin lying on Choiseul Sound with a population of 34. The farm itself spreads across 430,000 acres with their sheep shearing shed being claimed to be the worlds largest.

the children in Goose Green school

At Goose Green school I met Kia, Jose and Kamila who are the only pupils at the school in Goose Green at this point in time. Kia and Jose I had met in 2012 when all they got from me was a Cadbury’s cream egg (which they had never had before in their lives), this time they got laptops which will certainly help them with their studying a lot more than a chocolate egg.

Kia was interviewed by the TV crew and did really well. She drives to and from school each day on her quad bike and has done exceptionally well in competition driving.

The school had to be built from new when the old school was taken over by the Argentinians in 1982, used as their HQ then burnt down.

on both of my visits I have looked out of the windows in the school and fell in love with the view. I cannot imagine a better landscape to learn in.

The 114 people who made their living in or around Goose Green in 1982 were imprisoned in the community hall next door to the new school during the Falklands War.

We left the children delighted with their new things and headed towards Stanley, another long “drive”(Rebecca’s name for what she was doing).

On the journey back we were lucky enough to watch the Typhoons doing low level flying. This was even more impressive seeing it for real with the rough terrain all around you than reading it here.

After a very early start and a long day, and being constantly quizzed by me the whole time you would imagine that Rebecca would want to skid up to Liberty Lodge, throw us out and drive off at great speed but no, we had obviously worn her down into submission and she took us to Fitzroy on the way back so we could again pay respect at the memorials there.

memorial

After a shower it was down to the bars for the evening.

Day 7, Tues 11th Feb.  off flying again

Today Rebecca and I had to be at the airport really early to catch a flight with Falkland Islands Government Air Service (FIGAS) to Fox Bay. Over on West Falkland, Fox Bay is the 2nd largest settlement of that side of the islands with a population of 32. Sheep farming is again the main source of income.

Flying over from East Falkland to West Falkland on a Britten Norman Islander aircraft it was great to see the islands from the air.

On arrival at Fox Bay we were picked up and taken straight to the school arriving just before the children started their day. The school seemed even smaller than at North Arm in terms of size but was very welcoming inside. As with the other schools I had visited, the smiles from Amy, Cleo, Luke, Abigail and Madison as they came in made my heart melt.

The children took to the laptops instantly and started creating things straight away. Talking to them all about what they wanted to do when they got older I was intrigued to hear some of the professions included teachers and marine biologists. Watching them at work I have no doubt that all the children I met on the islands will have a great future. They are the friendliest, warmest, intelligent people with drive and ambition but they also love where they live and will help define the future of their own islands one day.

Fox Bay school children

During smoko (the islanders name for the mid morning break) some of the parents came over to meet me for coffee, also bringing cakes and snacks that they had made. Hearing about their way of life, the challenges they have and how they love what they do and where they are really opened my eyes up to how technology really rules my life. I’ve learnt so much already from speaking to everyone on the islands.

Before the children went home for lunch and I flew back to Stanley they took time out to show me Fox Bay, where they lived and were their parents worked. Fox Bay is split into two by a stretch of water. Fox Bay East and Fox Bay West. I was looking across the water at Fox Bay West with the school in the East along with a shop, a post office and a social club.

During the Falklands War, Fox Bay was occupied by around 900 Argentinian men from the 8th motorised infantry regiment and elements 9th engineer company who sowed several minefields around both settlements which still remain.Sea Harriers from my ship, HMS Hermes strafed and bombed the area the area and the Argentine vessel AR Bahia Buen Suceso which was serving as an Argentine logistics ship intended to supply Argentine garrisons around the islands.

14 people from Stanley who the Argentines classed as undesirables were sent to Fox Bay and placed under house arrest for the duration of the occupation. Some of these people were members of the Falkland Islands Defence Force (FIDF).

The tour of the settlement was very good, the children explained each building, told me where they played and where their parents worked. I was even made aware of the secret place they made their den where they sometimes kept lookouts to keep an eye on their parents.

The flight back took us right over Stanley and the shipwreck of Lady Elisabeth, a 1155 ton iron barque built in Sunderland in 1879.

Dinner tonight was hosted in Malvina House hotel by the senior management team of the schools in Stanley. Karen Steen, head teacher of the infant and junior school must have been pre-warned of my quizzing skills, either that or she has had dealings with the secret service because she did really well at bypassing my information requests :). It was great to meet a governor, and the head of the secondary school too. Dinner was lovely, the company even better.

We decided to walk back to Liberty Lodge from the hotel to get some fresh air, and fresh air we certainly got, it was freezing. All the way back, young Joe was trying to quiz me on my IT knowledge eventually grasping the fact that I knew more in my little finger than he did now.

The next few days are a different story and I will post a link when I’ve written then.  in the meantime to enjoy the photo’s I’ve taken on the islands in both trips visit this link https://flic.kr/s/aHsjzoeKqK

Director of NCI, Falklands veteran Andy Trish returns bearing Computer gifts.

On Wednesday 5th Feb, Andy Trish is heading off from Cornwall on what will be over a 28 hour journey through RAF Brize Norton, to the Ascencion Islands and finally on to the Falkland Islands. a total of 19 hours flying.

It has been 31 years since the UK sent a Task Force 8000 miles into the South Atlantic to save the people living on the islands from an Argentine invasion. The people on the islands and all the members of the Task Force will never forget 1982 and how it changed the lives for so many in all sorts of ways.

Andy Trish, certainly hasn’t forgotten and is in constant contact with many of the Armed Forces, and Civilians who took their part in recovering the Islands having sailed down there himself on the Flagship HMS Hermes alongside his brother on HMS Antelope and his cousin on HMS Broadsword.

With the help of The South Atlantic Medal Association 1982 (SAMA 82) and the Falklands Veterans Foundation (FVF) Andy was lucky enough to be able to return to the islands in April 2012 to meet the people who have influenced a good proportion of his life, the civilians for whom the Task Force went down to save. On his tours of the battlefields and memorials he also went to visit some of the schools out in Camp (any settlement that is away from Stanley, the main town), where he saw for himself how the children live and learn. Currently there are 286 primary and junior schools children and 170 secondary school pupils.

It was the children’s attitude, friendliness and total resolve to do well in their education no matter what their circumstances that has resulted in a 2nd visit in February 2014, only this time he is bringing gifts.

On their way to the Islands are enough HP laptops to replace all the ageing computers in all of the 4 schools in camp as well as a HP laptop per child for those in the remote parts of the islands that have a roaming teacher. There are also some surprise gifts on their way that will help the children with their studying and free time.

Having spoken with the Head Teacher, Karen Steen, another need on the islands was for a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) so the children across all the schools had an equal opportunity to interact with their education. eSchools, a leading provider of VLE’s in the UK have stepped in to transform the software environment for the children for years to come and will remotely train all the staff. http://www.eschools.co.uk

The next request was for ideas on how to improve their internet access and communication across the islands which are 12,200 km2 and have a population of less than 3000. If you can help, or know someone who can, the difference you can make for all of the islanders would be incredible.

The fundraising efforts carried out by NCI Technologies in 2013 resulted in over £150,000 being raised and spent solely on schools in the UK, the Falkland Islands project being close to Andy’s heart, will continue for the foreseeable future with a further £110,000 being committed so far in 2014 for UK schools.

The response from companies willing to help has been outstanding. If you are a company that would like to get involved in supporting the futures of the children on the islands or the children of the schools in UK mainland then please contact Andy with how you can assist.

Microsoft cease support on Windows XP.

Windows XP, the worlds favourite desktop operating system is about to have technical support, security updates and patches ceased by Microsoft on April 8th 2014.

You may have heard the news, it’s been on the cards for a long time now, but what have you done about it, or more importantly what should you do about it?

If your computer is not on the internet then you are probably going to be fine for a while yet. It will have been doing its job for many years without a worry in the world running software that maybe is incompatible with the latest operating systems. But how many systems out there aren’t on the internet?

So is this all going to turn out like the Y2K hype?

The number one danger from ignoring the fact security updates are ceasing is that you will either be hacked or an exploit on your system will be found that allows easy access to your data from others. “Windows XP is old now, what are the chances of that happening?”. I myself have asked that question thinking that surely after all this time the holes will have all been plugged, but no, not even close. In July more holes were plugged in Windows XP than Windows 7 or Windows 8. The newer operating systems are more secure – fact.

The way the hackers work is every time Microsoft release a security update they work on it to “reverse engineer” the code to find the vulnerability in the software. Hackers will continue to do this but the disadvantage for XP users is when that vulnerability is found they will not have received a patch to fix it. Problems may start to appear in Windows XP that no-one can resolve.

Now that may seem like scare-mongering, but it’s a reality that you as an XP owner will need to be aware of. NCI as a support company can and will continue to work with XP for our customers but we will be limited as to how far we can go to guarantee a complete fix. Without support from the people who wrote the software our options are limited hence this post to advise you of the dangers of running old software.

It isn’t just the dangers of vulnerabilities that you need to be aware of, software companies will have no reason to ensure their software runs on Windows XP anymore and may stop their own support on their software for the operating system.

42% of all Windows desktops are currently running XP so we don’t expect a massive onslaught of migrations to happen between now and April but that doesn’t mean to say you shouldn’t consider your options, and it would be irresponsible of us not to inform you of the dangers.

And it’s not just XP. On the same date Microsoft end support for Office 2003.

If your hardware is due a refresh and you don’t like the idea of moving to Windows 8 then maybe you need to consider Windows 7 instead. Microsoft are keen for you to take advantage of all the new features out in Windows 8 but if you don’t want to take that giant leap, Windows 7 is a great option that is reliable, secure, easy to use and available with Microsoft support until 2020.

To conclude, you have to sum up what Microsoft ceasing support on Windows XP and Office 2003 could cost your business in the medium to long term against the cost of moving to a supported operating system.

If you are concerned about this post and want to discuss your options our team will be happy to arrange a visit.

Contact us on Tel: 01326 379 497 or Email: sales@ncitech.co.uk

The danger of sending photo’s from your phone

The latest phones on the market now compete to have the best cameras and video facilities. Each device having bigger storage capacity and unlimited access to the internet with great links to social media sites such as facebook, Twitter etc. But have you considered the dangers associated with sending photo’s from a mobile phone?

You may have seen programmes where the police have tracked peoples movements by their phone records, or you may simply use a map feature to find your way around town. Nearly every mobile device on the market today has a GPS feature that most of us never consider configuring.

The GPS feature has saved many of us from getting lost, and using apps on some of the phones actually lets you track where your phone is if you lose it. Now lets consider one of the disadvantages – it can also let other people know where your mobile phone was when you took that innocent photo, if you let it.

Geotagging is information that isn’t visible to the user by default but is easily accessible using free browser addons or photographic software. It usually consists of latitude and longitude coordinates, though they can also include altitude, bearing, distance, accuracy data, and place names as well as information about your camera/phone.

Anyone who sees your digital photos, can work out where you were when you took the photo, and when. Suddenly that innocent photo of your child in their bedroom becomes a target for stalkers.

Most people I know usually take a photo on their phones and upload it at the same time as later in the day to some social media site or other without thinking about what data is associated with it. If you have children, or grandchildren, maybe its time to start taking control of the devices you now use.

This technology isn’t new, neither is the risk, if you are reading this information for the first time chances are someone has already looked at the geotagging data on some of the photo’s you’ve posted – take control of your online activity – be responsible.

A viral link is spreading a video from NBC News on facebook referring to a website called www.icanstalku.com which has now closed down.

Twitter and Facebook (shown in the video) now strip any Exif data from photographs on upload (meaning if you had copyright details on them it is now gone) however blogs, flickr, wordpress sites etc are still at risk.

The video is old (2010), some social media sites have adapted since then but not all – be safe, configure your device securely to prevent making a mistake in the future.

Google – a faceless giant

Google’s search engine is great, whenever you have a question or need information on a subject simply type in the words or a phrase into the Google Search engine and you’ll get an answer – except how to speak with someone in Google about a problem with their search engine.

My problem is with the search in Google images showing hard core pornographic material with safe search switched on, but Google don’t appear to care. Have you ever tried to phone them? No matter where you call, London or the US you’ll get through to an answering machine that tells you if you don’t know the direct dial number of someone in Google then access the help on their website, how’s that for customer care!

Now in order for you to be fully informed you need to know some history of my predicament, I don’t sit here all day looking for porn , but instead have thousands of schoolchildren that do that for me. NCI provides secure internet access to schools in the UK and work with world leading providers that constantly update their software and hardware to prevent the children from bypassing proxies and accessing sites that they shouldn’t however the global players whose software indexes the images need to stand up and take responsibility for child safety at a higher level.

A while back I had a similar issue but to a much lower extent with Bing images. This was discovered on a Friday evening and I was able to report the issue to Microsoft straight away. About an hour after the issue was reported I had an email from Clare Barclay, General Manager for SMB and Partner Group asking for more information which she was immediately sent. It took a weekend for the Bing team to fix but fix it they did and the problem never occurred again, now that is service for you. For Clare to take the time on a weekend to call in people to fix a global issue and also keep me informed with every step of the way is admirable.

Now Google on the other hand…..

This problem was reported to me late last week, it’s now a week on, it’s been reported in the press by CRN http://www.channelweb.co.uk/crn-uk/news/2274071/var-blasts-google-over-safesearch-porn-loophole?, contacts in Google have been emailed, yet no-one from Google has showed the slightest bit of interest in even what the issue is.

I’m not talking one image here, I’m talking a complete series of images and many combinations of things anyone can type in Google image search to get very undesirable content with innocent search contents. Would you like your 7 year old to view this type of content? They can now, in the safety of your home with safe search on. The issue does not occur in Bing or Yahoo.

NCI promote internet safety through their corporate responsible website www.esafetymatters.com and we will do our best to help prevent any damage irresponsible people on the internet create.

Google, a direct message to you: You may be a global player but you also have a social responsibility and a customer care responsibility. If you really care then feel free to get in touch with me to find out more information on the problem, I’m not chasing my tail trying to get in touch with you anymore – and your search engines are blocked until you fix the issue.

For obvious reasons I will not publish the innocent search terms used to get the images.

Andy Trish

Director

NCI Technologies

Beware on Facebook! – Who really pockets as your heart strings are tugged?

I’m going to ask all my friends, and their friends to consider carefully the effects of their naturally caring and giving characters when on Facebook. Here’s why…

Remember Facebook is not there for your benefit, it’s there to make money! The obvious money making tactics such as adverts, games etc, however annoying to some, pay for the convenience of you having a social network tool and make money for those that are associated with them.

There are other ways to make money on Facebook that are less obvious to the average user (you and me), and we are all guilty of contributing to this scheme without even knowing we are doing it. There is a mix of being a caring person, maybe inquisitive and sometimes being just purely careless. I have heard many a reply back that Facebook is confusing and how were you supposed to know clicking on the link showing ‘what the bad girl did in school’ wasn’t sensible- but this just doesn’t wash.

When ever you are asked to share a link or a photo that really has nothing to do with your personal life i.e 100,000 votes for Facebook or Microsoft or some other organization to donate to saving the life of the person in the photo, you are involuntarily contributing to someone’s financial gain, but not the benefit of the person in the photo.

How this works: Whenever a page, link or photo is shared it increases in value. It takes a few hundred thousand shares or likes to actually make it worth any money at all so the average post made by you or me will never make any money, not that we wanted it to in the first place.

Once the page/photo/link gets enough likes/shares it appears higher in peoples news feeds on Facebook so besides parting with your money for gold on games or adverts, a like/share can be classed as the secondary currency of Facebook. 100,000 likes are worth around $200 or £150

By creating a compelling reason for people to like or share a photo (a missing child, a sick child etc.) the link/photo starts racking up the likes/shares. A business or someone who really wants their own page/link/photo to appear higher up on the newsfeeds buys the rights to use that link/photo/page as their own and changes the content. So suddenly that sick child with whom you thought Facebook was going to donate millions for surgery to, suddenly becomes a photo of a pair of shoes or a holiday destination and has hundreds of thousands of likes/shares without any effort.

I’m not asking you not to care about these children. I am asking you to understand by liking/sharing these things on Facebook you are not contributing to the welfare of the poor and needy, more the greed of vultures who are using the poor and needy for their own benefits.

P.S. If you like/share this post do so because you want to help others, not me.

Microsoft price rises Dec 2012

On the 1st Dec 2012 you will notice an increase in price across a range of Microsoft products in our online shop and in our direct quotes to our customers.

I do not have an explanation for you on the reasons why, only to say that it is Microsoft themselves increasing the cost of their licenses and because of the massive increase NCI has no choice but to follow suit. This is in addition to the massive increase the UK suffered in July.

User Client Access Licenses (CALS) – To be increased a further 15% across a whole range of products -click link for details.

MS user client access licensesMS user client access licenses

Device Client Access Licenses (CALS) – no change

SharePoint 2013 – moving to a single version and to be increased by 37% compared to Sharepoint 2010 Standard (an estimated increase of £1450.00)

Lync Server 2013 – moving to a single version and to be increased by 400% compared to Lync 2010 Standard (an estimated increase of £2250.00)

Visio 2013 – Visio Pro replaces Visio Premium. Visio Standard increases by approximately 20%, Visio Pro increases by 5%

Project 2013 – Standard and Pro will increase by approximately 5% whilst Project Server will increase by approx 15%

Office 365 – Dependant on how it is purchased will increase by 8%

If you are thinking of purchasing any of these products contact NCI now for a quick quote. sales@ncitech.co.uk

Let us know your thoughts as a customer by commenting below.

Source: http://www.softcat.com/news/industry-news/important-changes-to-microsoft-products-announced

A different point of view

Every day for many years, staff and volunteers at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall (NMMC) have been able to delight visitors with their exhibitions, good food and amazing views both from the top but also the base of the tower. This weekend was no different, except maybe the view from the base changed slightly.

There aren’t many places that give you a window view of the sealife under water, fish swimming past, crabs walking along the sea bed and all in real time (this isn’t a tank – it’s the actual water bed). For as long as NCI has been supporting NMMC (and that was even before the building was built) that view has amazed visitors and changes every minute let alone day.

This weekend visitors got to see creatures of a different form.

Some bright spark decided to carefully lower some inflatables right in front of the windows. If you want them back, staff at NMMC will be only too happy to speak with you :)

Is your software licensing correct?

As a business owner/manager this is one article you may wish to spend time reading this.

Software licensing is very often not taken seriously when it comes to the day to day running of your work, but without it you may well not be in business. Software is written by people to help you achieve your tasks, to grow and to flourish, but all to often the importance of paying for it is disregarded as less important.

In todays internet world it is relatively easy to source software, films, music and games without having to pay for it, but the ease shouldn’t outweigh the rights of the manufacturers to get paid for what they create. Would you want someone to come in an open door and steal stuff from your office, or use your facilities for free?

Here at NCI, software licensing is very important to us, both ours and yours. We know that sometimes you may get in a muddle with understanding how licensing works so we have trained staff to guide you and assist in keeping you legal whilst not over purchasing. If you need to know what you have purchased from us we can help there too.

Over the next few months you may receive a telephone call from Microsoft or another vendor followed by an email with instructions on how to self audit your network. This more than likely will be a genuine call (if you are unsure contact us to confirm). NCI’s customer base are not being targeted, all businesses throughout the UK and beyond are in line for a call eventually.

What will this mean to you?

As a business owner/manager it is your responsibility to ensure every aspect of your business is legal and software licensing is included on that. There are many ways for an audit to be implemented and routine checks are just one of them. Disgruntled employees is the favourite, as is the rewards sometimes offered for “shopping your boss”.

The outcome from the audits can also be quite dramatic and can mean anything from you purchasing the correct licensing to heavy fines and imprisonment.

Tip-off costs BSA victim £99,000

Microsoft are very active in auditing businesses at the moment, but so are Adobe, Symantec and other big players. If you are unsure as to the state of your licensing count then let us know, we can give you the software to self audit or send in staff to do it for you. Don’t change from a perpetrator to a victim in the seedy world of licensing, start off legal and stay that way.