antarctica - the real story

May 25, 2005

my brother recently posted a really interesting entry on his weblog about the building where he lives in antarctica.

go and read that first.

after i'd read it, i came up with a list of questions that he hadn't answered in his entry. i obviously asked him all about the cooking and toilets. here's simon's reply...



> That entry is totally excellent! Thanks a lot for that

Glad you liked it. I've been planning to do it for a while but somehow never got round to it!

> 1. How do you get the waste from wherever its kept into those barrels you keep
> on the open platform? Do you link them up to the horsebox somehow? Do you
> have to pump them out? Nice job for somebody!

The drums on the platform are mostly solid waste - there are drums for landfill, glass,
plastic bottles, tin cans, aluminium cans, cooking oil, anti-freeze, lube oil, photo
chemicals, etc. One of the daily cleaning jobs is to take all the bins out and put the
rubbish in the correct drum. Other stuff (mainly paper, card and other plastics) go in
the compactor. Once the waste is in the drums they are sealed and shipped out for
someone else to deal with.

Sewage is pumped directly from the grifter tank, out via the horsebox and down into
the tunnels into the onion. The onion is basically just a pipe into the snow - the warmth
of the sewage melts the snow and creates an enormous cavern that is roughly onion
shaped! Every few years when one is full we move the pipe and start a new one! The
year before I arrived the plumber didn't check the onion level and it overflowed into the
tunnel! It froze solid and created a slick of frozen sewage down one of the tunnels. yuk!

> 2. What fresh vegetables have you got that have lasted THREE MONTHS? I think I
> can see some onions... surely they must be going a bit manky by now? What
> else?

I know, it's amazing. I don't really understand why things seem to last so long. My
best guess is that A: they buy products designed to last longer, B: the dry air here
helps preserve things and C: we are a bit too fussy at home about what we chuck.
From memory we've still got onions, potatos, cabbage, carrots and eggs (!). Last
year we had cabbage for almost 9 months and although the outside was rotten if you
opened them up the inside was still fine!

> Oh yeah, also, where did your chef work before he came to Halley? Is he a big
> "foodie" or is he more the practical type?

He was a restaurant chef so he can make some fancy stuff but he usually saves that
for special occasions. Often the simple pie and chips type meal goes down better than
posh stuff anyway!

> 3. Have you only got ONE washing machine between all of you? That must be a bit
> annoying in the summer!!

Nope, you could only see one in the shot but there are 3 washers and 2 dryers in that room.
It's still a bit of a pain in the summer but managable.

> 4. Why are the toilets/sinks metal? They look like disgusting public toilets.
> Why haven't you got proper ceramic ones? It must be totally vile having to use
> those permanently

Well they're easy to clean! To be honest I hadn't ever considered that - they're fine! I
suppose the base is generally a bit more unfinished than your average house (pipe work
on open display rather than behind wall cavities etc.) but it does make it easier to fix
things if they go wrong and you really stop noticing things like that after you've been here
a while.

> And what is that pink picture above the urinal? Or shouldn't I ask???

It's a poster advertising Vanessa's weekly aerobics classes.

> 5. Being a nosy person, I want to see more pictures of the food store rooms. I
> can hardly see from that pic what you've got, other than TONS of marmite!
> Please can you take some better pictures for me? Is that peppermint tea
> underneath all the coffee?

It's difficult to get good pictures because they are so long and thin. On picture 25 there
is basically just another row of those cupboards just out of shot on the right. I'll try and
get a better picture or just more from different angles. Yes that's herbel tea below the
coffee - another thing that isn't drunk all that much.

> Does the chef just get all that stuff delivered or can he request specific stuff based
> on what he's planning to cook? It must be a total nightmare, especially for a first-winter
> chef who has no clue what s/he's doing.

Each year the chef can make suggestions but usually they won't get to use the new stuff
as most of them only do one winter. There's plenty of variety though so I wouldn't have
thought it would be too hard for a professional chef to come up with stuff. Also they tend
to go for basic ingredients which can be used to make lots of things - for instance we don't
have any marzipan because you can make your own!

> 6. When you say the chiller cabinet usually contains chocolate, what do you mean?
> As in random bars of chocolate? THAT DOESN'T COUNT AS PUDDING!! Where
> are all your lovely desserts? I'm sure I read somewhere that your chef is a
> big fan of pud!

Yep, just bars of chocolate. That's as well as pudding though! Pudding is put out with the
main meal in the middle section if it's hot or in the chiller if it's cold. The chocolate is just for
snacking on although most people try to stay away because of the lack of a dentist here!

> 7. What magazines do you get? Is it annoying when they have stuff all over the
> front page like "David Beckham shags nanny!" and "Lord of the Rings released"
> which you already knew about from a year earlier?

This year we've got FHM/Loaded etc., Cosmo, 2 photography magazines, newsweek,
new scientist, focus (sciency type thing), national geographic and a few others. We also
usually get some totally bizarre ones thrown in for good measure - last month there was a
parenting magazine - really handy down here! I don't really keep up with the news that
much so it doesn't bother me that they are old. I've never been big into reading mags so
I tend to stick to books anyway.

> 8. How do you track what alcohol belongs to who with it all mixed up in the beer
> store?

We have a couple of shelves each and in the summer everything is sorted, checked and put
on our shelves. There's a fridge behind the bar so people move stuff into there and write their
names on it in pen. Spirits tend to sit on the shelves behind the bar - again labelled with names.

> Also, is there anybody on the base this year who smokes? I hope so, I
> think it would be hilarious having to dress up for 15 minutes every time you
> wanted a fag, that would probably be enough to put me off.

Yes there are 3 full time and 1 attempted quitter. They usually just stick on their overalls and a hat
and have a quick one at the bottom of the stairs. It doesn't seem to be as much of an incentive to
quit as you'd think though!

> 9. I didn't even know you had a computer room? Is that just so people can use
> the internet/send emails etc? was that there last year before you had internet
> access?

Yes that's always been there. People used it to check and send emails, print things off or work on local
files as most people don't have a computer to work at on the Laws platform. It's getting a bit more use
now we have internet!

> 10. Why do the girls get their own toilet? Did they have that last year when
> there were only two of them? Seems a bit unfair!

Well if you compare sizes on the plan you'll see it's pretty small. Last year there were only 2 girls but
there's 4 this year so it's probably fairly cramped.

> 11. Toiletries - do you get to choose your own or do you just have to use what's there?
> I remember you took some hair wax with you when you left, have you run out of that?

I just use what's there although of course you can use your own if you brought some. Most of it is
pretty reasonable except for the soap which is a bit cheap. Again, not something that really
bothers me! I've still got loads of that wax yet as I've resorted to fairly short hair as it's easier to cut
with a set of clippers.

> 12. The doctor's surgery looks well scary! How often does he actually need to
> use it? Surely he doesn't just sit in there all day waiting for somebody to
> have an accident???

No, she lays traps for us! Joking. Obviously most of the stuff just sits there and doesn't get used but
of course it needs to be there just in case. The doctors are probably the least busy people here but they
tend to take on some of the general base work (like waste management) to keep them occupied.

Hope that answers your questions!


books and holidays

May 19, 2005

yesterday, sarah brown posted an entry about how she didn't read the catcher in the rye until she was 20 and that she wished she had read it at age 16 like everyone else.

i didn't read it until i was 23, and it remains my favourite book ever.

i don't read a lot of fiction. i have trouble finding books that i like. i can't cope with classics - i've hacked my way through the merchant of venice and to the lighthouse and down and out in paris and london, but i can't say i actually enjoyed them. i can't face the sickly sweetness of most "chick-lit". my major reading material is autobiographies. favourites in recent years include toast by nigel slater and the diving bell and the butterfly by jean-dominique bauby. i am currently reading life and limb by jamie andrew.

anyway. the catcher in the rye. andy bought me a copy out of the blue when he found out i'd never read it. it was a week or two before i was going on holiday with lee-anne, so i put it in my suitcase. we went to marmaris, turkey. i am so, so, SO glad i went on that holiday before i had isabel. when i was pregnant and miserable, i remember looking at a photo of myself from that holiday in which i was clearly drunk, holding a glass of wine in one hand and a fag in the other and thinking, "i will never be that person again". as it turns out, now that life has returned to (vaguely) normal, i am still that person. it's just i don't have the freedom (or cash) to go on those sorts of holidays anymore.

lee-anne and i arrived at about 2am and the whole place was just utterly magical. we went to sleep, and woke up at like 8am and i was so excited i just couldn't stay in bed. i have a terrible memory, but i totally vividly recall walking out onto the patio by the pool that morning, and it was ABSOLUTELY PERFECT and the sun was beating down and the hotel was bright white and the pool was bright blue and i just thought, 'this is going to be the best holiday ever' and it was.

click on the picture to see a larger version

marmaris was insanely hot. it was 40 degrees c at noon. we spent a lot of time lazing by the pool, jumping in when we couldn't bear it anymore. i devoured the catcher in the rye. i'd finished it within a day or two of arrival. that book is totally saturated with sunshine for me now. i can almost still feel the warmth emanating from the cover. good times.

i need a holiday

May 14, 2005

sorry about the lack of updates recently. i am not managing to keep on top of everything at the moment.

1. my course. it is killing me. i should be working right now but i just can't face it. the chemistry is quite hard, and i have another tma looming. the workload is getting worse. it is tough and it's going to get worse because we have some busy weekends coming up.

2. time. we are booked up every weekend until the end of july. a lot of it is fun stuff, like going to scotland for a long weekend and going to wimbledon again (i am so spawny) but nevertheless it means life is hectic. the kitchen floor desperately needs cleaning. the ironing mountain is piling ever higher. the car is filthy. i really have to defrost the freezer soon. i have been meaning to make a 20-minute phone call for a week but haven't had a free 20 minutes.

3. diet/exercise. i have not been running because i haven't had time, and my diet is slipping again. and i bought a packet of cigarettes today. this is a disaster. i have GOT to start getting my shit together or i am going to have to buy bigger clothes. i'm not sure what i'm going to do to improve this situation but it has got to be major and soon.

4. stress. i really feel under pressure at the moment, to the point where i just can't get on with anything because i'm too frantic with worry. this is shit. i literally pace about thinking: must remember to phone soraya about wedding cake, must work out costume for izzy's 'dress as character from a book day', must plant plants which are dying from being left in pots, must remember to book smear test, must sort out wedding video. and my weblog's sidebar does not display properly in firefox and it's pissing me off and i need to fix it. and on, and on...

5. ill. i think i'm getting sick. i've had a raging headache all day today, and now am having shivery chills. i haven't got the time to be sick at the moment. this had better be temporary.

please forgive me if i don't post much for a while. i can't keep up the pace. i really need a break.

p.s. i very rarely buy a lottery ticket, but i bought one tonight. i haven't checked my numbers yet, but i am optimistic that i have won millions because i'm naturally an incredibly lucky person and besides, i deserve it. if that is indeed the case, i will give most of it to gordy (a promise is a promise). however, i will definitely be keeping enough cash to employ a personal assistant. and maybe a cleaner. and a personal trainer.

stinky britney

May 09, 2005

isabel and i are shopping. we are at the perfume counter. there is a huge ad for britney's new perfume which is called curious.

alicey: hey! let's see what britney smells like!
(tentatively sprays tiny amount on wrist)

while i am delicately sniffing my wrist to see if i like it, isabel has grabbed the entire bottle and is dousing herself in it.

i suddenly notice what she's doing.

alicey: isabel! NO!!!!

later, the entire car stinks of britney. niiiiice.

how to piss off other students/annoying telemarketer

May 05, 2005

i went to my tutorial tonight. really annoying bloke was there.
he is one of those know-it-all, my-anything-is-better-than-yours sort of guy who has been pissing me off since our first tutorial.

he arrived and immediately asked me what mark i got on my tutor marked assignment.

alicey: well, i was a bit disappointed actually.
him: so was i, i did really badly!
alicey: (smiles)
him: (unable to control himself a moment longer) I GOT 84!!!
alicey: (smiles)
him: what did you get?
alicey: i, errr, i just can't tell you.
him: oh go on, tell me, what did you get??
alicey: no really, i don't want to talk about it.


him: so what did you get on your assignment then?
alicey: i couldn't possibly comment.
him: did you get 88? did you get more than 84?
alicey: (keeping a straight face) i cannot reveal that information.
him: (twitching with impatience) oh go on!!
alicey: no.
him: dammit! i bet you got higher than me.
alicey: no comment.

to my credit, i didn't tell him, even though he harangued me about it all the way to the car park afterwards. he can't bear the thought that i might be better than him, yet he absolutely has to know*. it is hilarious.


at work today, matt took a phonecall at work and put the person through to me. the conversation went like this:

me: good afternoon
telemarketer: good afternoon! i hope you're having a great day!
me: yes, fine
telemarketer: i am calling from [your telecommunications company] and we are introducing a great new mobile phone service and wondered if you might be interested?
me: er, well...
telemarketer: (interrupting) oh, by the way...
me: yes?
telemarketer: (incredulously) are you a doctor?
me: (icily) no... why?
telemarketer: oh, it's just i've got down here, "dr green".
me: (even more icily) that's my husband.
telemarketer: oh right, that explains it then! so, as i was saying, about our mobile phone deal...

fucking hell, what an insult! OBVIOUSLY i couldn't be a doctor, what with me being a GIRL. female doctors, they don't exist, women are too thick, THAT EXPLAINS IT. oh my god, i was fuming when i got off the phone.

i go straight to mattgreen's office to tell him about this conversation.

mattgreen: (being nice) well, it just goes to show that you should start doing the doctorate you so richly deserve.
alicey: yeah, right. i'm just going back to my peon cell. oh no wait, maybe i should make you a cup of tea first, as that's my only useful role in life.
mattgreen: mmmmmm, tea.

* i actually got a mark of 82. it'll be a cold day in hell before i tell him that.

things i keep in my car

May 04, 2005

there's a post today on attorneys suck about the items he keeps in his car for emergencies.

it got me thinking about the stuff i have for emergencies:

* a compass
* a map of the zoo
* a first aid kit containing bandages and calpol but nothing useful like plasters or aspirin
* a pair of knickers
* a white umbrella that my mother bought in case it rained at our wedding (it didn't)
* mr spoon man (a plastic toy to entertain izzy if desperate)

i don't think i'd want to be stuck in my car in a real emergency.


in other news: i have finally got my new camera! it's a slightly different model and better than the old one. i will try and get some new pics up soon.

isabel has started going through the night without nappies. she just decided on sunday that she wasn't going to wear nappies anymore and hasn't had a single accident! it has been almost too easy...

studying is still taking up most of my spare time. i'm onto chemistry now. its an improvement. world of warcraft is having to take second place at the moment.

the election is tomorrow. i will be voting. you should too.


May 01, 2005

since my birthday and the arrival of my ipod shuffle, i have started running again.
i have not had time to go to the gym since i started studying and i am getting fat, so running seemed like the only option.

i had totally forgotten how much i LOVE running.

on thursday i ran home from work. everyone should do this. it totally gets rid of all the stress of the day and gives you loads of energy when you get home. i reckon that within six months i will be able to run home faster than it takes mattgreen to drive.

today i went out and almost immediately it started to rain. i ran through the rain, listening to "where is the love?" by the black eyed peas, grinning like a madman. i felt sorry for people sitting at home because they were missing out. i can't explain it. running is so brilliant. i can't believe i've been away from it for so long.

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