c o m m u t i n g

990212.1154 spirit of st agnes

i’m hitching a lift to st mary’s . the boat’s going over to pick up the music teacher for his fortnightly visit to the school on st agnes . i’m travelling to meet carmen mallon , a councillor who runs the ratio centre , a small technology centre set up as part of a project initiated by the university of plymouth .

its a still , cloudy day . a cormorant flies past in the opposite direction , just a foot or so from the water’s surface . about thirty or forty more are at rest , bobbing up and down in a loose huddle . strange bubbling clouds are massed on he horizon .

this vessel came into service only four years ago , replacing the old wooden-hulled craft which had plied the route between st agnes and st mary’s for decades . she’s a sturdy lady . twin grp hulls with steel superstructure . she can cope with heavier seas than her predecessor , moving the island one step closer towards 365 day access . david and john peacock own and run her . john was the first person on the island to send me an email , confirming the time of today’s journey . he studied systems engineering at portsmouth and worked for the mod before returning here to join his father in the family business .

we round the jetty , ease back the throttle and come up alongside the quay .

990213.0053 tamarisk farm

in bed , psion perched on the pillow . i’ve been tweaking my homepages . they’re still as self-indulgent as ever , but it’s hard to imagine how homepages could be anything else . maybe they could be a bit less pompous . http://www.charlesarmstrong.net for anyone who’s not had the delight . as soon as i get a new tube for my scanner ( the only casualty of the sea crossing ) i’ll get to work on a couple more modules .

i also put up the first simple page at http://www.scillonia.org.uk , which will be the principal site for my project out here .

mails today from friends in australia ( ross ) , new zealand ( tom ) and thailand ( simon ) as well as several from around britain . and this place is meant to feel isolated ?

supper was locally-caught skate poached in a little milk ( local , unpasteurised ) with steamed red cabbage and couscous . i ate it whilst poring over the strategic report on the islands commissioned by the duchy of cornwall back in 1984 . interesting reading but a little unimaginative .

my time on st mary’s was useful . i spent an hour in animated discussion with carmen . they’ve got several machines , including video-conferencing facilities , set up in a newly-refurbished wesleyan chapel in the middle of hughtown . they share the building with the tourist information office and the public library will be moving in soon . the project’s remit was to facilitate distance learning in forty rural locations across the south west . european money , of course . the main interest has actually been from people wanting to pick up basic computing skills , a valuable service which the centre seems to be performing effectively . it’s difficult for people from the off islands ( the four smaller islands ) to make use of it though . there are also questions about its long-term viability once the euromoney dries up . but how very positive to see an initiative like this succeeding here .

whilst i was speaking to carmen a fellow stuck his head round the door whom i guessed was nick lishman , a friend of joffy hicks . as well as looking after the council’s internal systems he cultivates herbs ( organically ) and makes baskets . we met up afterwards in his minimal office at the council building , wedged between the photocopier and the reception desk .

from here i walked round the garrison to newman house , an imposing granite building behind which humfrey wakefield has his pottery . i think i erroneously refered to his wife as wakeham in a previous despatch . i found hum ( as he’s known ) leaning against the wall smoking one of his filthy roll-ups . he complained that he was suffering from withdrawal because his wheel was out of action whilst the gallery was being renovated , showing me the new roof and shelves ( twice ) . i pruriently declined the proffered rolly and tipple . we talked about island politics and intrigues . he’s an utterly delightful fellow , full of mischievous stories and schemes . he returned my sennheiser headphones , which i left there on my last visit in august . i blamed his notorious home-brewed mead for this oversight . hum’s chairman of the environmental trust and suggested i should meet andrew gibson , its director . another interesting avenue to explore .

then it was time for me to head back down to the quay to catch the 1515 boat back to st agnes , carrying the island’s children home from the secondary school where they board during the week . before this school was opened in the 1960s people had to go away to school on the mainland . this is why my old school at truro developed such a strong relationship with the islands . johann was there , as was his son joffy . time to sleep now .

: cH

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