i t i n e r e n t

990731.1420 virgin train , gloucester to penzance

damn crowded train . mewling holiday-makers and their accoutrements . i was lucky to get a seat .

another valuable trip . school all day monday . then on tuesday i went to london transport’s lost property office behind baker street station . an odd assortment of people queuing to retrieve their mislayings . i handed over the chit when my turn came , flashed my newly-invigorated passport , and after a couple of minutes a familiar box was passed across the counter . once again i was the owner of a digital camera . its saviour , a surfer from perth , had written a charming message on the top of the box , including his email address . the camera revealed twenty-four dodgy images of him and his friends . enough material for a cute little web module . quite a saga .

the lost property office had closed whilst i was in there , so i was ushered out through a back exit . while we were passing through the store-rooms i asked my guide about items which had turned up recently . thousands of umbrellas , a case packed with bondage gear , a canister of bull sperm , a full-size grandfather clock , bits of medical equipment . i scent a bizarre documentary in prospect . the people who work there must develop a very peculiar perspective on humanity .

on wednesday i nipped up to cambridge for a meeting with ray jobling . he interviewed me when i applied for a place at st john’s college back in 1989 . i remember we ended up talking about jazz . he was my tutor for the three years i was there . since then we had no contact until i wrote to him in january describing my project in the islands and asking whether he could recommend somebody to play a study guide role . i was delighted when he agreed to do it himself .

research didn’t figure much in my original plans . it was michael young who prompted me to consider developing my documenting activity into something more coherent . since then i have become increasingly interested in the ethnographic aspect of my project . ray has been invaluable in helping me understand what i am doing in the context of others’ work and the issues they confronted . as the year progresses it wil become increasingly important to have an experienced researcher to bounce ideas off .

990805.2209 watermill , st mary’s

damn . everything’s out of sync . this despatch has been sitting in the draft folder waiting for me to complete it but i just haven’t been in the mood .

that trip to cambridge was really engaging . for the first time i felt i had a clear reason for being there . my conversation with ray was quite different in character from anything in the past . i couldn’t help seeing the university as an archipelago cast out amidst the bleak fenlands , each college an island with its own customs , its own personality . somehow it felt more familiar than it ever did when i was studying there .

after that i spent a couple of days with my parents in gloucestershire then headed for cornwall intending to get to the islands in time for sunday’s < round the island > sailing race . as usual i arrived at the heliport without booking a seat . i’ve mentioned before that i’ve developed a reputation there for my improbable luck , but this time i really thought it had run out . there were only a couple of flights left and both were fully booked .

i sat and wrote in my journal as the first flight left . when things had calmed down a bit i sauntered over to the desk and asked how it was looking . with a slightly awe-struck expression i was told i < must be the luckiest man in the world > . due to a booking error there would be an extra unscheduled flight on which i could travel .

feeling rather elated , and with an hour and a half before this extra flight , i decided it would be nice to unwind from the day’s train journey ( for the record , forty minutes late ) . i pulled out my towel and trunks , left the heliport , crossed the main road , took the footbridge over the railway and bingo : i was on the beach . there can’t be many airports where you can kill time before a flight with a swim in the sea .

so with a smug half-interest i watched the next flight rise up and disappear towards the islands . about twenty minutes later i returned to the heliport . this time the faces greeting me were aghast . the error had itself been erroneous , there would be no extra flight , space had been found for me on the last one and repeated calls had gone out , but i was splashing around in the sea .

so , no round the island race for me . i’d been looking forward to this all year . but it meant i could spend the next day with my sister anna and her husband adam , a day which happened to be the first anniversary their wedding . no regrets .

i arrived back here on monday afternoon and have been buried in work since then . except last night , when i played my sax with the steam band in st agnes’ island hall . this is the grand-daddy of island bands , playing together for the last twenty years . it was an honour to play with them and i had a whale of time . it was also the first time i’ve set foot on agnes since i moved to st mary’s at the start of june . i found it all a bit emotional . i didn’t quite make the boat back to st mary’s and ended up crashing on mike and christine hicks’ sofa . just a touch fuzzy-headed today .

: cH

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