t u r n

08:34 friday 31 december , penzance heliport

a thick fog shrouds land and sea . it has just been announced that there will be no service until visibiity improves . anna and adam waved a bleary farewell from their doorway in hayle just forty minutes ago .

the spirit will be waiting against hugh town quay shortly after eleven . i’ll be able to meet her so long as a flight departs from here by 10:30 .

this shall be my last crossing to the islands for the forseeable future .

21:47- rosevear , st agnes

just about to don my costume and walk down to the island hall . i was planning to lift some remarkable seventies clothes from my parents but was mortified to discover they had all been sent to jumble over the last year . so we cobbled together a sort of psychadelic african guise . could catch on …

the helicopter was delayed an hour by the fog , but i made it . had a chance to catch up with nick lishman on st mary’s . the first time i’ve seen him since the workshop was founded . lots to sort out for the next month .

some of my friends are already in the next millennium . my turn will come soon , and other friends a little later . there is a great sense of a sphere rotating majestically , a perimeter between lght and dark sweeping across a rounded surface .

the afternoon was clear , with wonderful vivid light .

chin chin everyone

see you next time

: cH

j i n g l e

18:17 friday 24 december – gable end , sandhurst

the eve of christmas . my parents’ house . gusts of wind hurl hard rain against the glass and the floodwaters rise all about . by tomorrow the village may be cut off and once more i shall find myself on an island .

i made it to the mainland without hindrance . the seas were not too steep to reach st mary’s and the wind decreased sufficiently to permit flight to newquay . i was the sole passenger on the twenty-seat twin otter , heavily outnumbered by the three pilots . all the customary announcements were made but ” ladies and gentlemen ” was replaced rather self-consciously with ” sir ” . the view along the north cornwall coastline was tremendous , surf crashing on granite .

from the airport , a bleak semi-military concrete bunker , i was driven to truro by a cornishman who spent the journey berating london and its government . how remote , how arrogant , how uninterested in life outside the metropolis . i sat in uncharacteristic silence mumbling assent where it was required . there had been time only for three hours’ sleep , sufficient to dull even my sense of injustice .

the little website on which i’ve spent so many hours is at http://www.simplyscilly.co.uk . the text was written by the council’s tourism officer and only the three photos of st agnes are of my taking .

then london . my final week as a student with the school for social entrepreneurs . i spent the whole period feeling fatigued , sensing how much the previous month’s labours had cost me . i withdrew myself from the closing presentations and sat , a little ashamed , with my cameras . amongst the students there was a sense of beginning as much as ending . sometimes i hardly felt as if i were there .

there were other liaisons besides , friends and accomplices , many glad reunions . but i wanted nothing so much as to rest . by the time i left london , three days ago , i had the beginnings of the chest infection which remains with me now . i have slept almost constantly these last days .

yesterday i went to buy christmas presents for my family . the prospect repelled me but less so than the knowledge of the hurt which would be caused if i did not . this year of solitude has left me more fervently anti-consumerist than i reckoned . shop after shop sent me reeling with nausea from its piles of brazenly worthless trash , fighting for breath amidst the gleefully purchasing hordes . the solitary oasis was a sparsely-stocked interiors place where i spent quarter of an hour talking about travel with its young sri lankan owner .

london . what can i say of london ? the fever is at full flood . one friend commented ” it is germany in the thirties … everyone is clinging onto what they can ” . there is a relentless pre-occupation with trivia , a dangerously indiscriminate desperation for belief , a wilful abandonment of civilisation . but for all this there is hope too .

the scillonia digital wokshop was founded last saturday in my absence . fate determined it would be so . perhaps this was appropriate in any case . another association will come into being in the closing minute of this year , the votes to constitute it cast electronically . this the seas cannot interrupt .

i wish the world joy .

: cH

t i m e l y

01:56 friday 10 december – rosevear , st agnes

well we didn’t manage to found the workshop last tuesday . we tried again this week , but had to postpone it til today . but today the wind was so strong and the sea so lumpy that the boats were cancelled and our foundings frustrated .

i also heard today that the workshop has been granted its first dollop of european monies . £18000 , levered from the £2000 earned doing the website for the isles of scilly initiative . a modest sum , but enough .

this makes it rather urgent that we get the wretched thing founded before i leave the islands for my final week as a student with the sse . which i shall be doing on saturday . so a meeting is fixed for 10:30 that morning in the information technology room of st mary’s secondary school . pray for calm seas .

the last week has been a continuing frenzy of web construction , constitutional tweakings and stationery design . craig dropped down from london for the weekend , a wonderful diversion . the spirit lost an engine on the way over in the steep swell so he was landed by dinghy on covean . i could see the big grin on his chops from ten or fifteen yards .

: cH

d e f r a g

11:01 tuesday 30 november – penninnis head , st mary’s

alone on a high rock ledge . around me the massive granite forms . lichen-stained in green , mustard , black . etched by a thousand thousand winters into fantastic curls and spurs . far below me the sea churns and growls a cold restless green .

today the scillonia digital workshop may or may not come into existence .

it occurred to me some time ago that i know quite a number of people who produce interesting material and that i also know quite a number of people who appreciate original work .

so i have set up a simple mechanism to bring them together . an email list : defrag@egroups.com . anyone may submit work by sending it to this address . anyone may join the audience by sending an email to defrag-subscribe@egroups.com . any kind of material may be considered : text , image , animation , interactive content , sound , video . all accepted material will be published unaltered . no file exceeding 200k will be accepted . only original work will be considered . in the first instance i shall act as editor , distributing those pieces i like and rejecting those i do not . i’m not inclined to impose any standards of taste or decency , so delicate souls should be warned .

: cH

s t r e a k

02:39 monday 29 november – rosevear , st agnes

i feel i’ve been neglectful of these transmissions . but the fact is i’ve worked more or less non-stop since returning from london .

putting together the isles of scilly initiative website , building the distributed apprenticeship pilot around it , preparing for the legal formation of the digital workshop , designing the final version of the logo for the school for social entrepreneurs , working with the school’s design group on innumerable stationery layouts implementing it , building homepages for everyone connected with the school , setting up a pilot for a distributed seminar with the school , throwing round ideas left right and centre about infrastructure technologies .

i’ve had a couple of visitors too . james smith , the sse’s director , and simon darling , a friend who used to be unilever’s e-commerce potentate . it was a pleasure to show them both round , a chance for me to remember what it was like to see the islands for the very first time . but each visit had its ulterior motive and incorporated long stretches of intense debate .

this is harder than i’ve ever worked before and i’m finding it tremendously exhilarating . i don’t know whether i’ve used this analogy before , i’ve certainly thought it , but the experience makes me think of surfing . a sense of being thrust forward by huge forces , a mountain of green water constantly poised to collapse over me . but so long as i remain nimble , so long as i judge my posture and attitude well , i continue to ride it onward .

usually i get up around midday , eat a leisurely breakfast , then work until seven or eight when nik and i will cook and eat together . after that i’ll get back to work until four in the morning . i manage to find time to get outside for a bit most days .

yes , it does pain me to spend so much time in front of the screen and so little time on the rocks or the sand or the heathland or passing the time of day with the islanders . but there are things i must do whilst i have the energy and the opportunity . i do not expect this intensity of focus to be required of me for long .

but i think i need a day off . maybe sometime this week .

it’s been great sitting down to supper with nik each evening , the first time i’ve shared a meal regularly with someone for a long , long time . we’ve both been pretty adventurous with our cooking , and we’ve got into the habit of baking bread . in fact i took a couple of loaves of wholemeal out of the oven a few minutes ago . kneeding dough is splendid relaxation .

i handed over the big bedroom to nik this evening and transfered to the smaller one he’s been in until now . the last of my chatels came over from st mary’s on thursday ( the third attempt ) so i could unpack my futon and spread it out . the mould had got a bit rampant in my absence , but a quick hoovering soon saw to that .

so i’m all in one place again , the first time since the beginning of may .

having finished my work for the day i made some dough , kneeded it and left it to rise while i went out for a walk . there have been strong winds for the last couple of days but this evening it fell still and a thin mist rose . i walked out onto wingletang down , my heart thrilling as the sound of the ocean grew louder . to my left i could hear the high-pitched crash of surf on the southern tip of gugh . to my right i could hear , or rather feel , the awesome sub-sonic rumble from horse point and the western rocks . i rested on a granite boulder, able to discern the foaming whitewater in the darkness . the great waves of the south-westerly swell driving in relentlessly and destroying themselves upon the rocks . the bishop’s sweeping beam punctuating the hazy sky , silhouetting distant black islets .

as i turned and set off home i could see the distant light from rosevear , the rest of agnes sleeping . later , as i neared the house , the light spilling from my studio windows onto the lane seemed almost indecently bright .

: cH

p a r a b o l a

01:45 thursday 11 november – rosevear , st agnes

my eye lights upon the clock in the corner of my screen and i realise i have lain here three minutes already , unsure how to begin . how complex i make simple things . how easily i lose myself in the infinite possibilities .

i returned to the islands on tuesday afternoon after seventeen days on the mainland . my longest absence since arriving . the birdwatchers , the islands’ last invaders , are gone . the tourist shops in hugh town are closed and their windows cleared . the tripper boats are laid up , no longer jostling against the quay . the harbour moorings lie empty . the islanders have the place to themselves once more .

these are the islands i discover , so transformed from those i left . the sky is perfectly clear , the granite glowing in its low golden light , the calm water appearing soft and mysterious . my heart lifts .

the time in london has been extraordinary . on none of my previous visits have i packed my time so tight . the city is ablaze with the twin fevers of web speculation and the impending millennium . it is a strange place , vivid and dangerous . as my visits have punctuated the year i have sensed the rising tides and sought for ther direction . the change i perceived between september and october was greater than between any previous months . i know not what i shall find on my next foray , due in mid december .

a few fragments :

i saw tippett’s opera king priam with my aunt clare at the colliseum . one of the finest productions i have ever seen . a drama of destiny , choice and consequence with the power to hold a non-specialist audience’s attention through three acts of abstract music .

i had lunch with michael young and felt humbled by the astuteness of this octagenarian’s quizzing of my designs for electronically-distributed democratic systems . i made him promise to summon the patience to learn how to use a computer , even if he only gets to grips with email . he asked me if i would consider joining a group of about thirty people to go and live on an uninhabited island for a year to see what kind of constitution we would end up with . he seemed certain that some kind of religion would emerge . i thought insanity was more likely and told him to ask me again after i’d spent six months on a slightly larger land mass .

i tried to explain my model for the school for social entrepreneurs’ communications infrastructure to the staff and my fellow students . it was all a bit rocky and incoherent but slowly i’m beginning to find the language to communicate some of my ideas . the group’s questions and challenges were useful .

i met tom perrett for the first time in a year , just returned from adventures on the other side of the world . the same but different .

i had dinner with dinah moule , an inspiring young lady who aims to set up an organisation providing a space on the web where children can discuss their problems and access information .

i met mark czapnik , a traveller from melbourne , alighting from a bus at two in the morning and spent the next three and a half hours in conversation .

i walked the streets of west london with my friend henry hawkins quietly lamenting the difficulty of life .

the litany need not continue i think .

03:15 friday 12 november – rosevear , st agnes

just returned from a star-lit walk by the shore . seems a long time since i last did this . the sea is so still i did not see its margin and found myself treading in a couple of inches of water .

i stood and turned my face to the stars for an unmeasurable period . how wonderful they are , how ceaselessly compelling . as i watched a big meteor ripped across the sky leaving a trail of fizzing light . childlike i made my wish .

nik schultz arrived here on monday night and was in the house when i arrived . it was quite a gamble deciding to live and work under the same roof over the winter having never met , but somehow it seemed perfectly natural . i’ve been ranting on more than usual the last couple of days . maybe it’s because of all the stuff going round in my head or just because of the unaccustomed luxury of having an audience . he’s been very polite anyway . meanwhile we’re delicately negotiating about who has the big bedroom .

nik met andrew may , a director of the islands’ main flower marketing business , on his way over and there’s the prospect of a web project . fast work , and more apprenticeship opportunities for the workshop .

i spent much of this afternoon preparing supplementary material for the workshop’s european funding bid . i failed to persuade the laura ashley foundation that it would be a good idea to give us another few grand . lets hope we have more luck with this one .

: cH

w r a p p i n g

00:40 wednesday 20 october – digital workshop , st mary’s

after sending this message i’ll shut down the systems here in the stable at normandy farm for the last time and start packing everything into boxes .

the maintenance schedule for the lyonesse lady has slipped back and she will be out of action for the rest of the week . but the islands are now bitterly cold and i have decided to remove myself and some essentials to st agnes , on the black swan , tomorrow .

on sunday night , for first time , i felt intolerably cold in my tent . last night i employed my sleeping bag as well as the trusty eiderdown and was comfortable , but enough is enough . right now i sit here wearing two jerseys and my mittens , as i did through those early months on agnes , but the knowledge that there is a warm house waiting for me across the water makes it seem perverse to remain any longer .

and so another chapter closes .

: cH

d e f i n e

16:09 sunday 17 october – scillonia digital workshop , st mary’s

okay , time to write . got a message yesterday from tom perrett , who’s just crossed the border from laos to thailand , accusing me of procrastrination . and he’s right of course !

all my life i’ve tried to avoid describing my projects . why ? because whilst an activity remains undescribed it possesses an infinite fluidity which is lost the moment it is defined , cast into words . i have a pathological urge to keep options open , retain the widest set of possibilities . this is my freedom . in many ways it is a good approach in an unpredictable world . my strategies are always adaptable and opportunistic . but over the years i have had to learn the discipline of tempering this with hard statements and actions .

perhaps this is the story of moses and aaron ? certainly it is an archetypal tension , beyond satisfactory resolution .

on the whole i try to let things solidify bit by bit , each piece finding its own time and its own expression . but there remains a pain attached to each successive coagulation , a sense of something dying .

look at what i’m doing now . i started this despatch determined to desribe what i am doing . yet i have already spent several paragraphs avoiding that . it must seem ridiculous but i feel enormous reluctance and anxiety about doing this . my heart rate has increased .

[ gulp ]

i shall describe this year’s projects in four clusters : scillonia digital workshop , me ,school for social entrepreneurs , circus . that is also the order in which i sense they have prioritised themselves . the work i am doing in each cluster is , in a sense , the same . describing them separately will clarify but also mislead .

s c i l l o n i a d i g i t a l w o r k s h o p

an attempt to develop a scalable model to facilitate the rapid development of digital-sector skills and activities within traditional community structures .

starting points:
digital activities are widening existing social inequalities
rural communities are in crisis
existing community development models do more harm than good
rural areas are under growing pressure from wealthy incomers
policy still focuses on creating employment rather than extending the skill-base
the last remnants of traditional communities are on the verge of being lost
traditional communities contain many good solutions to human organisation

last july i decided to apply to the school for social entrepreneurs with a project to spend a year in the islands developing a response to these starting points . i had no idea what form that project would take . indeed i knew it could only succeed if i arrived with an open mind about what i’d do . the school was willing to take me on that basis .

why the islands ? i feel a strong personal commitment to them and that is probably the most important reason . but they also embody all the issues i listed . on the smaller islands the traditional community structures remain strong , and i knew i had to learn as much as possible from them . there is little digital-sector activity so a project in this area would have a clean slate , which appealed to me and meant i would not be treading on too many toes . the economy is almost totally dependent on tourism , with scarcely any viable alternatives . the opportunities for island children are increasingly limited to seasonal , low-skill , low-pay jobs . the indigenous community is increasingly vulnerable to wealthy incomers . the duchy of cornwall is concerned with little beyond the islands’ ongoing profitability .

i spent three months learning how things work here . talking to people and asking lots of questions . reading books and studies undertaken over the past three hundred years . taking hundreds of photos and writing about my experiences and perceptions .

by the middle of may i had a sense of what i would try to set up and a name for it ( very important ! ) . it would be a highly-distributed organisation with a flexible geometry . it would seek to create a favourable environment for the development of digital enterprise , which would demand developments in policy , telecoms infrastructure , facility provision , education , decision-making , investment and communications strategy . it would provide a platform of support within the islands but also consolidate a much wider network of influence and expertise . it would pioneer new models for skill-development and dispersed collaboration . it would sit within an unusual constituational structure . it would flow around existing community structures rather than cut across them . it would place digital activities within the traditional multi-skilled lifestyle rather than displace that lifestyle . it would act as an agency in its own right , able to initiate and discharge projects using skills within the islands supplemented where necessary with expertise from beyond them . it would squeeze the maximum learning opportunity from every project . it would seek generally to develop creativity and entrepreneurial capacity within the islands .

five months later the workshop has just begun its first project piloting a distributed apprenticeship model , built around a contract to develop a website for potential visitors . a bid is being made for european funding to establish the first layer of workshop activities and there will be substantial investment opportunities over the next seven years . the basis of the workshop’s constitution and its participation model are in place . the workshop is involved in discussions with the council committees responsible for education and economic development . also with the officers responsible for planning and information technology .

the workshop is proposing a community-owned business to retail the islands’ highest-quality flowers direct to consumers via the web , in my view the only future for this industry . there is a similar project to retail craft goods , and perhaps an extension of the distributed workshop model into tangible products . be good to reintroduce flax and hemp cultivation too .

the workshop is lobbying for the development of a complex of small craft and digital-sector workshop units clustered around a cafe providing open-access computer facilities for residents and visitors alike . this could also form the hub of an organic vegetable preparation scheme for small growers in the islands .

the workshop is lobbying for the investment of european funding in a new telecoms infrastructure via which local broadband services would be provided on a non-profit basis ( we’re urgently looking for a telecoms expert to undertake a month’s consultancy – please get in touch if you know anyone ) . radio-frequency solutions seem to provide the most interesting possibilities .

most importantly , i am confident that the work will continue when i leave at the beginning of february . it was always the greatest leap of faith that this would be the case . nick lishman has played as great a role as me in the development of the constitution and the funding bid . by the time i leave there will be a co-ordinator on each island and at least one island will be well on the way to publishing its own community homepage .

this show’s gonna rock !

m e

a series of experiments :

just-in-time living . i live and work with the minimum of planning or formal structuring .

simple living . utilising the minimum resources necessary to achieve my objectives . challenging my dependence on comfort and consumption .

real-time documenting . evolving strategies for sharing day-by-day life with distributed communities .

local participation . sharing my skills with the community amongst which i live .

wild food . exploring native edible stuff in the islands . yumm .

being myself . challenging habituated repression and self-censorship .

non-ownership . exploring the possibility of owning nothing at all . except myself .

and i’ve been working hard at my sax and my photography !

s c h o o l f o r s o c i a l e n t r e p r e n e u r s

in june 1997 i read a copy of the new statesman on a flight to helsinki .
it contained an interview with michael young , talking about social entrepreneurship and the school for social entrepreneurs . i’d never heard of young , the term “social entrepreneur” or the school , but the article grabbed my attention . i felt very close to the ideas he articulated . i’d been designing a distributed non-profit organisation ( circus ) for the previous year and had started describing myself as “an entrepreneur who wasn’t that interested in money” . when i arrived in finland i urged my friend kirmo kivela to read the article and predicted that i would get involved with michael young and his school . the magazine is still somewhere in kirmo’s parents’ house in helsinki .

it took until january 1998 for me to write to michael young , describing my experience and my interest in what he was doing . james smith , the director of the school , wrote back to me and soon we met . i loved the feel of the school and james’ enthusiasm . i offered my services , proposing a project to develop an electronic infrastructure for the school and a more general dispersed project management system for the voluntary sector .

james sought one other bid for developing the school’s infrastructure ( without realising the person he approached was actually my flatmate martin ! ) before engaging me . he suggested that the best way to go forward with the dispersed project management system was for me to become a student with the school . but it was only five years since i’d left cambridge and i wasn’t that interested in becoming a student again . my time at university was probably the least productive of my life .

in june i returned to the isles of scilly for the first time in five years . with me came tom perrett ( a cornish designer i’d met at online magic in london ) , kirmo kivela ( the aforementioned finnish designer whom i’d met at a club in london ) , tony auguste ( a st lucian friend of mine from london ) and adis bledman ( the son of eric , another st lucian friend in london ) . we spent ten days in tamarisk farm on st agnes , where i’d stayed on my previous visit at easter 1993 with jamie collins ( a childhood friend from cornwall ) and a group of his friends from oxford . that visit in 1993 led directly to the formation of the electric company , my first attempt to design a distributed organisation . odd .

but back to june 1998 . towards the end of our stay a few of us were having supper with johann and joffy , talking about the islands’ future . i remember a sudden , rather surprised , certainty that i would become a student with the school and spend the next year working out here . i commented on it to kirmo and tom the next day . kirmo said he’d come and visit me . as he did !

the story splits in two here . one branch is the scillonia digital workshop , which i’ve already talked about . the other branch is about my continuing work on the school’s electronic infrastructure .

but it’s late now . i’m going to stop and continue this tomorrow . hope it’s not going to be difficult to pick up the thread .

00:15 tuesday 19 october – scillonia digital workshop , st mary’s

and so i return to the fray . i feel pretty pumped about things right now . i’ve spent most of the evening setting things up for the first pilot of my distributed apprenticeship model . somehow i sense this is key to everything i’ve been thinking about through the year . fluid group structures . informal relationships . learning by doing . dispersed collaboration . this first experiment is going to be extremely simple but i hope much will be learned through it .

before i go to bed tonight i’ve got to finish the constitution for the workshop which nick and i have been working on . he phoned this afternoon with confirmation that our initial application had been received and the full form is on its way . we’ll need the constitution and a budget to send back with that .

i also need to write to the laura ashley foundation with feedback about how i used the grant they gave me at the start of the year and asking for a few grand more as leverage for the european grant we’re applying for now .

and i’d like to write a message which has been forming in my head for days about democratic systems to a little group i’ve formed with craig mcmillan and james smith . but i shall probably not get that far , as i fail to do day after day .

there are so many other things as well . if only i had more time . but the task which faces me now is to continue what i begen on sunday .

. . . s c h o o l f o r s o c i a l e n t r e p r e n e u r s

the school is unlike any institution i’ve encountered before . i remember commenting in one of the plenary sessions a few months ago that my instinct had always been to sniff out the rigidities in institutions and thenceforth put all my energy into kicking at them , but that i had so far failed to find any in the school . i have a sense of disbelief that i continue to feel so completely at ease in it .

the school’s approach to learning is fantastic . as far as i can gather there is no teaching at all . everything is about learning . i have learned from fourteen other students who span a terrific range of ages , locations , backgrounds and interests . i have learned , in collaboration with other students , from a wide range of “expert witnesses” who have aquired expertise or achievement of one kind or another . i have learned how to learn better through monthly meetings with a small group and a facilitator . and i have learnt from the people who conceived and run the school . it’s all so refreshing !

my goal is to understand the dynamics which underlie the school’s operation sufficiently to extend them into dispersed communications and i am certain this can be achieved . by february it had become clear to me that i could not have hoped to gain that understanding except by becoming a student . just as well things worked out the way they did .

mark perrett ( tom’s brother , another friend from online magic ) worked with me to get a rudimentary website published for the school back in january . but since then i have been building up a picture of how to move on from there . this process was very much intertwined with my activities in the islands and my wider learning . now things are beginning to move .

much is said about virtual entrepreneurs in the business world . but few in the non-profit sector yet grasp the significance of digital communications . for any group of people setting up a campaign , a fund-raising initiative , a community business , a knowledge-sharing network , the world is about to change . suddenly this sector’s relative lack of resources ceases to be the structural handicap it always has been . it becomes possible to bring together thousands of people with a common purpose in a moment . possible for a tiny but talented coalition to address a wide public as effectively as the largest multinational .

people need support in developing these skills , and the tools with which they will be able to achieve their objectives . group communication infrastructure is the key . every existing groupware technology i know of is rigid , centralised , top-down , overhead-heavy and dependent on proprietory solutions . these are tools designed for industrial-age organisations characterised by supervision-chains , formality and inflexible heirarchy . i seek to design an alternative which is light , decentralised , open-structured and which stimulates creativity and learning . i hope i’m in the process of doing this , but i couldn’t say how .

c i r c u s

a gathering of expertise which is informal , international , idealistic and playful . it’s a long time evolving but it’s going to be interesting . i wrote a sort of draft framework for it in the pub last week .

that’s about it . my hunch is that next year i’ll be working on the same four projects ( amongst others ) but the priority will be sse , circus , scillonia , me .

we’ll see !

what i’d really like to happen now is for people to write in and question me about any aspects of the projects i’ve described . i find it much easier to respond to interrogation than to volunteer information . there’s also the possibility of transforming this mailing list , turning into a more democratic affair in which anyone can participate with an equal voice rather than me droning on all the time . i’ve no idea whether that’s a good idea but if a significant number of people express interest in it i’ll put it to a vote !

shit it’s a relief to have got all that out of my system , inadequate though it undoubtedly is .

: cH

f o r e t a s t e

00:13 thursday 14 october – rosevear , st agnes

my very first night in rosevear , though i shall not move in until next week . this is a wonderful house , an ancient granite and ramm dwelling to which extra rooms have accreted over the years . at its heart is a big open kitchen in which the rayburn mumbles away . i photographed johann installing it in the spring . he has now stripped it down and de-coked it ready for the winter . it heats the house , provides hot water , two hobs and an oven . wonderful iron machine !

from the kitchen extends a long light studio at one end and the sitting room at the other . the bathroom is off to one side . upstairs there are three bedrooms , in one of which i repose now as i write .

i came over from st mary’s this evening to attend a meeting in agnes’ little school . though it currently has ten pupils , the islanders are facing the prospect that this will drop to zero over the next six or seven years . numbers have fluctuated constantly since the school was set up by augustus smith , then lord proprietor of the islands , in 1830 or thereabouts . but this is the first time it has faced such a serious crisis .

the same situation occurred on bryher some years ago , the only island with a population smaller than agnes’ . indeed in the fifties there was some speculation that bryher would cease to be viable as a community and would be depopulated , an eventuality which has happily been avoided . but the education authority decided to close bryher’s school , promising that it would be re-opened as soon as the island had children once again . the years passed and children were born , but the school was never re-opened . instead pupils cross daily to be taught on neighbouring tresco .

the people of agnes are determined they shall not lose their school . tonight’s meeting was to start working out how . about twenty-five people turned up , a third of the population and the nearest thing to a full island meeting to have occurred so far this year . the discussion was focused , intelligent and constructive . i sense that the island will not only succeed in preserving its school but that wider benefits may also emerge in the process . this will be a major focus of discussion here over the winter , and one to which my experience may be relevant .

tomorrow morning i return to st mary’s . roger lorenz , one of the islands’ two telecoms engineers , installed two lines into rosevear this morning , so everything is ready for me to set up shop . but the lyonesse lady ( the inter-island freight launch ) is currently laid up alongside the quay at hugh town for maintenance of some kind . hopefully she’ll be in service early next week so i’ll be able to pack up and shift everything across .

i’m quite excited about being in this house for the next three and a half months , being back amongst this community and this landscape . i don’t think i’ve ever looked forward to a winter so much as i do to the coming one . there’s an awful lot of work for me to do .

22:50 saturday 16 october – scillonia digital workshop , st mary’s

just got back here after supper at watermill . feeling pretty down on computers . last night my jaz drive , my primary storage device , bit the dust . it’s the second time this has happened and i only bought the wretched thing in march . hopefully i won’t have lost any data but i won’t be able to get at anything until iomega gets a replacement drive to me . this took a couple of weeks when the last one died at the beginning of june . it couldn’t have chosen a worse time .

but i’m able to continue some bits of work in the meantime . this afternoon i put together my first stab at photographic despatches :

http://www.charlesarmstrong.net/1999/10

it’s a start .

: cH