[ 17:20 saturday 31 december - placa da se, salvador da bahia, brazil ]
the late afternoon sun casts angular shadows across the corner of the seventh-floor roof terrace where i sit. to my right the crumbling pastel-coloured baroque of the old pelourinho quarter spreads out around its piazzas, towers and steep cobbled streets. below me the derelict nineteenth-century palaces of the “low town” back the constant toing-and-froing of fishing boats and freighters around the port. to my left the baia de todos santos stretches right to the horizon. a hundred rhythms and cries rise intertwined from the streets below. the steady easterly breeze carries the salty scent of the atlantic. the cathedral marks the half hour with its elaborate chime.
this evening there’s a party for the whole city on the shore at barra, a couple of miles to the south. sergio and i will be there. as midnight arrives hour by hour in different time zones i’ll be thinking of my friends around the world.
the horn of an incoming container ship echoes across the city as the evening’s first fireworks crackle into the sky.
: c :
[ 09:50 tuesday 27 december - gate 13, gatwick airport ]
sergio and i are about to depart for natal on the north-eastern tip of brazil. we don’t have any specific plans, but the fernando do noronha islands and the city of salvador have caught our imagination.
i spent a few days with mum, dad and granny over christmas. it was a delight from beginning to end. after dinner we had an impromptu carol service. i hammered out the accompaniments on the piano (with some curious harmonies) whilst the others sang.
the final passengers are boarding so it’s time to draw to an end now. i’m back on the eleventh of january. have fun in the meantime.
: c :
[ 01:00 thursday 1 december - shipton street, london ]
it’s a cold night here in london, nearing the threshold where i boot up the heating or light a fire. my breath condenses in the air between my mouth and the screen. my family desensitised me to cold early on in life. during my year in the isles of scilly i remember choosing to spend the whole of the first winter without any heating to see what it was like. the islands have a mild climate but my experiment still required several layers of wool and thermal mittens to stop my fingers seizing up at the keyboard. before learning to make fire man must have inhabited a much narrower range of climatic zones.
these thoughts are in marked contrast to my previous despatch, sheltering beneath a lemon tree from the fierce cretan sun. that was three months ago. really three months. i doubt i’ve ever been more focused, more driven or more productive than during these months but they have passed awfully quickly. the business is humming, the team feels tight and well-aligned, there is a sense of resonance with the world.
the level of interest in what we’re doing doesn’t seem to vary in a gradual or continuous way. instead it seems to switch by quanta, jumping from one level to another almost overnight then staying more or less constant until the next switch. during the past three months i’ve observed two such shifts. the first occurred immediately on my return from greece. my first day back in london i went into channel four to meet a fellow called steve moore. a couple of hours later he’d engaged us to provide a platform for a relaunch of the channel’s education department. since then we’ve done two further projects with steve and it’s been so productive we’re forming a partnerhip. during the same period we’ve been approached for a slew of projects from smoothing out communications in an investment business to supporting new ideas across a network of ten thousand experts. i’ve no idea how many of these discussions will develop into actual projects. all i can say is we weren’t being approached like this before my holiday in greece. something’s changed.
the second shift occurred a couple of weeks ago when my weekly roster of meetings suddenly trebled in quantity and stayed at that level. on several days a sequence of meetings has commenced at nine in the morning and concluded at nine in the evening, with no more than ten minutes’ break at any point throughout the day. it’s positive for the business but it’s rather draining for me. i keep telling myself there will soon be more people to share the load.
i’ve tended not to write much about trampoline in these despatches. probably this was a protection of sorts, keeping at least one area of experience separate from the focus that has taken over most of my energy and attention. but in consequence i only really write when i am traveling or when the government is cheerily peeling off another set of civil rights. i think i should try to remove this barrier. i’m not sure what will come out. possibly it will be very boring, in which case please write and tell me so i know to stop.
: c :