The managing director of a Caistor housing company has just returned from the Falklands Islands - 9,000 miles away - following a deal with its government.
Now, following his four day visit, Bill Cartledge looks back at a South Atlantic adventure, with penguins, and a proud British folk, who have no crime or unemployment on their windswept islands.
The Frame & Log Cabin Company has operated for five years designing and supplying timber frame cabins, housing and garden rooms.
Bill said he received a phone call late one night from “a nice gentleman who opened his conversation with ‘this is a genuine enquiry, give me a few minutes and I will explain who I work for’”
Overseas calls rarely lead to anything, so Bill was cautious at first, but the relationship developed leading to a blossoming three-year partnership with the Falkland Islands Commission.
“Within a few weeks, we had kits on the boat heading South,” he continued.
The commission had a UK operation which meant for easy shipping. “Most items, be it cars or houses through to food are shipped to the Falklands via military carriers and routes...as we were when we made the trip,” he said.
The Falkland Islands has a population of around 3,000 scattered over 750 islands, covering an area the size of Wales. It is largely empty with nearly all residents living in the capital, Port Stanley.
Bill said the flexibility and engineering of his kits particularly suited the islands.
“The Falkland Islanders are spoilt for plots commanding spectacular sea views that you would pay huge premiums for the equivalent in the UK, with that the style had to suit, but because of their location they are very exposed to severe winds! They wanted a few designs that captured the imagination of the locals whilst suiting the environment as well as the coastal theme,” he said.
The Islanders also wanted coloured cladding, which suited the designs, leaving the kit houses clad in white, blue, purple, black, red and even fluorescent yellow.
Looking back at his February trip, Bill remembers the people and of course the penguins.
“It was a fascinating place, slightly surreal, there’s no crime, no unemployment, it’s spotlessly clean, and inhabited by proud islanders who are very, very British and they want us to know it,” he said.
Bill’s journey involved flying from Brize Norton via the RAF air bridge with a break halfway for a couple of hours on the Ascension Islands.
Thought there was plenty of work, with site and client visits, there was plenty of time to be shown around the islands on 4wds.
“We spent some time with the Gentoo and King Penguins and were warmly entertained in the evenings so it was very pleasurable as well. Not too many suppliers make the effort to go down there, so we were made very welcome.”
Bill’s company has recruited extra staff to the current six because of the deal, and having supplied 30 cabins, he expects to supply more as an oil exploration industry down there is leading to an influx of visitors and contractors.