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Big, black, gold teeth and a do-rag.

I like to travel – I always have. Going places is so much better than ‘being somewhere’ in my opinion. I have worked overseas a number of times and have countless anecdotes to share about the places where I have worked and been. The great thing about a blog is that I get to recount my memories for the world (or the two people who visit!).

Back in the summer of 2004 I was working as a supervisor at Paramount’s Kings Dominion (now, just Kings Dominion). I was in charge of the Shanandoha (sp?) Log Flume and the Antique Cars rides. It was generally dull, repetitive work but we made our own fun when we could.

Due to the nature of the job and the low pay, staff turnover was quite high. One day I was sent a new start – T (not his real name). He was huge in every direction (not fat, just BIG), he was black with a gold tooth and spoke infrequently with a very gruff voice. As a very white Scotsman I was slightly intimidated… he really was huge. I started training him of the worst (yet easiest) ride position – unload. He was quiet, and still huge.

The next day I come in and shortly after he arrives. As he can only work the one position I send him to do that and I trot off to the control tower. These are the positions we would keep until break time (3 sodding hours in heat and humidity). Break time comes, and being in-charge of rotas I send myself on break & it works out that T also has a break. He was still huge by the way.

I sat with him at break and, being slightly nervous (I’m a softy as it is, and he was huge, black with gold teeth and now wearing a do-rag) I am not flowing with conversation. After a few minutes we do get talking and he opens up as do I. T turned out to be a thoughtful, kind guy! We went on to become one of my most important staff members and a good friend.

You learn things in life. Never judge a book by its cover. Never think ill of anybody and always remember that black skin, gold teeth and being huge don’t mean that the person is a thug!

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Argentina, the UK and the Falklands

Why has Argentina become so aggressive all of a sudden? I am not only talking about their self-assertion regarding the Falkland Islands, but also their attitude to Spanish oil producers.

Earlier in the week, two British cruise ships were denied permission to dock in Argentina. This action was supported by Argentine president Cristina Kirchner. This was the latest action ‘against’ Britain in the wrangle over ownership of the Falkland Islands. You do have to wonder who really looses out over such action… is it the few thousand [multi-national] tourists onboard these ships, or is it perhaps the inhabitants of the ports who have recently lost out on several thousand pounds worth of tourist spending? Yes, Kirchner has made headlines with this action, but it is her people who have lost out.

The Falklands are an interesting topic. In Britain we are taught one version of their history, in Argentina they are taught another. What is clear, and understood is that there are a few thousand people living on the islands that believe that they are British. In 1982, when the Argentines invaded (or in their view, attempted to liberate) the islands they honestly believed that the islanders would have welcomed their liberation. Perhaps this was an occasion of the Argentines believing what they wanted.

So what is the big deal about the Falklands now? Well, I believe that it is two fold. 1. Argentina is struggling financially and Cristina Kirchner’s political standing is improved by renewing these assertions. Secondly: oil. It is probable that there are oil reserves in the territorial waters around the Falklands. An explanation of the benefits of such reserves is not needed.

A few months ago the Royal Navy sent HMS Dauntless to the area. Dauntless is a destroyer and one of the most powerful ships on the ocean. You can understand why Argentina’s disliked this move, equally, you can understand why Britain made this move. Kirchner went on to say that Britain was militarising the area… Britain denied it… but of course we did! If a country makes threats against our people, our land or our sovereignty of course you are going to make efforts to protect them.

The way Dauntless works (on a very basic level) is that it shoots anything hostile out of the air before it can get anywhere near it. The only reason Argentina would dislike this, you could hypothesise, is that they planned to move closer to the islands.

I like Argentina. For a long time it has been a place I have wished to visit. I have Argentine friends, and get on very well with them. Such assertions by Kirchner has not impacted friendships, but has demotivated my urge to visit.

So, what is the future? I don’t think their will be an attempted invasion. This would be too expensive for both countries, and British defence equipment is now substantially more advanced than Argentina’s. The economic impact, mainly to Argentina, of war would be disastrous. Last year, Britain gave Argentina £27m in aid, and the IMF contributed £450m. If an unprovoked conflict were to break out, this would pretty much end. The UK is also a major export market for Argentina.

I believe that Argentina will continue to flex what muscles they have in the hope of getting as much out of the situation as they can. Today, they have ‘demanded’ that flights to the Falklands be operated by their flag carrier. I would expect such demands to continue – I would also expect the British government to negotiate a supply link (or similar) and tensions will ease for another 20 years or so.

It is all very sad in my opinion. You wonder why we can’t all just get along?Image

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