This book was of especial interest to me because I was one of Andrew Gurr's
predecessors as Chief Executive. The post was created following Lord Shackleton's
1982 report. It is in effect an enhanced version of the traditional Chief Secretary's post
with wide developmental responsibilities.
The Falklands are like the Archers with an enormous military presence and a foreign
policy aspect. Running the Falklands is more akin to local government administration
than it is to traditional colonial administration but the islands' remoteness and their
relative lack of resources and development produce their own pressures and anxious
moments when 'out of a clear blue sky a cloud no bigger than a man's hand' can easily
develop into a daunting situation which requires skilful handling. The job is demanding.
Andrew Gurr came to it from the post of Chief Executive of a Training and Enterprise
Council in the North-East. The sub title of his book My Adventures as Chief Executive of
the Falkland Islands reflects the excitement he felt at his change of lifestyle. This
excitement permeates the book. He entered with great enthusiasm into island life, driving
all over the countryside and getting repeatedly bogged down in his Land Rover,
attempting to shear a sheep and doing a record choice programme live on the local radio
station. He was an acute observer of all his experiences.
He describes the job, both the humdrum aspects and the anxious moments, well. He
gives an excellent account of what it feels like to live and work in the islands and has a
strong feeling for the scenery and the wildlife. His account of the limitations of shopping
in Stanley will resonate with anyone who has shopped and cooked there. He captures the
military presence especially well, their delight in acronyms to describe everyone and everything, their highly developed sense of status, and their frustrating bureaucracy. He
seems to have been adept in the despatch of business and to have the essential ability in a
Falklands Chief Executive to switch rapidly from global politics to the politics of the
parish pump. His accounts of the oil negotiations and the problem of the unsafe
Government House chimney which no one wanted demolished illustrate this vividly.
He has another quality too which is a great asset in the job, a highly developed sense
of humour. The problem is that in writing the book he seems to feel it necessary to be
funny at every turn. The nice social observation that officers' wives wear 'Alice' bands
is repeated in different forms three times in as many paragraphs. The local Broadcasting
Officer's support for Preston North End merits a fourteen line humorous description.
Those who like Bill Bryson or enjoyed A Year in Provence probably won't mind. I find
it irritating and occasionally patronising towards Islanders, defects in a book much of
which is engagingly informative and perceptive and deserves to be read by those who
want to understand the Falklands better.
In general the book should be shorter. His account of 'Getting Bogged' runs to
eighteen pages and does not impress a former District Officer who has experienced
several rainy seasons in Tanganyika. Do we really want to know precise details of his
exploits, ball by ball, for the Governor's XI? Or the details of a family holiday in Chile?
A fluent writer who has been told by his friends 'you must write a book about it' needs a