e x p l o s i v e

[ 13:40 monday 6 january – yorckstrasse, berlin ]

on new year’s eve i landed in schonefeld, turned on my phone and received a message from patrick relaying a news report of major eruptions and tsunami on stromboli. i made my way into town with a certain anxiety. what had happened? were all my friends alright?

reimar met me from the u-bahn, accompanied me back to his apartment and got me online at once so i could check for news. the bbc had a couple of stories and a video clip showing lava flowing down the sciara, a dense cloud of smoke hanging over the island and houses covered in black ash. rai carried a story describing a huge wave which had struck the island destroying houses. it looked quite serious but there was no report of serious casualties.

i tried phoning friends on the island but i couldn’t get through to anyone. over the subsequent days i did manage to speak to several people. everyone is safe. the island has been evacuated (voluntarily) and most of the population is staying in hotels on lipari. on december 30th there was a series of unusually large explosions and lava started flowing down the western side of the mountain. then on the afternoon of new year’s eve a further explosion triggered a landslide in which 4 million cubic metres of the mountainside collapsed into the sea. this caused a 20m-high wave which spread round the island inflicting considerable damage and leading to the evacuation.

several houses were destroyed by the tsunami and the island’s little power station was put out of use. boats resting on the foreshore were smashed to matchsticks. initially i was concerned about gustl and valerie’s house where i am living, as it is directly on the northern shore and lower down the cliff than most other houses. but i spoke to gustl in vienna and was relieved to learn that the house is relatively unscathed. miraculously the surrounding rocks took the force of the wave and directed it away from the house. however the magazino located further down, beside the beach, where the washing machine and freezer are located, was engulfed by the wave and may not be quite the same shape as when i last saw it.

i planned to return to stromboli on the 15th to be joined by kirmo from helsinki so we could start discussing interface designs for trampoline. there haven’t been any further dramas so i’m still hoping it will be possible for me to return at this point, but bearing in mind the uncertainty i’ve suggested that kirmo postpone his visit til february.

for anyone who’s interested there are photos, maps and detailed information about the eruptions at these sites:

http://www.ct.ingv.it/Stromboli2002/Main.htm
http://www.educeth.ch/stromboli/beso/bes02c-en.html
news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/2622099.stm (video report from link in top right of page)

new year here in berlin has been fabulous. once i’d eased my mind that there weren’t any serious casualties on stromboli reimar whisked me straight off to a dinner party hosted by his friends jurg and lars. they live in an old building across the road from goebells’ propaganda ministry, a few hundred yards from the brandenburg gate. because the house was in the eastern zone it was left alone for fifty years and its residents have fought off attempts to redevelop the (wildly valuable) site since reunification. so in the very heart of imperial berlin there is still this little haven of bohemian exuberance.

the house is a warren of small rooms, each one a different colour, heated by enormous tiled stoves burning lignite, the low-grade coal which traditionally choked berlin’s air with its sulphurous fumes. the guests (about a dozen) were an eclectic group with a creative bias from all over northern europe. everyone spoke excellent english. the meal was superb and continued for hours and hours.

ten minutes before midnight we all poured out onto the snow-covered streets and half-ran, laughing and shouting, towards the brandenburg gate. the air was already filled with the bang and shriek of fireworks, increasing in intensity as we neared the epicentre of berlin’s celebrations. the crowd was officially reported as one million people. we arrived at the edge of it just as midnight arrived. an enormous cry went up and the tirade of fireworks redoubled in intensity, filling the sky with light of all colours. i was swept away on the surge of excitement, laughing and springing around like a demented frog. we opened a few more bottles of champagne and hugged each other, then scampered back to the house for the main course (two enormous pike). i got to bed around six.

it’s a bit overdue, but to everyone reading this my wishes for a year of creativity and hope.

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