Getting home from the Azores three weeks later than planned meant that I’ve had to cram the start of a new building project and catching up with five-weeks worth of office stuff into three and a half days before heading off to work at WOMAD for the weekend.
I love everything about WOMAD festivals except the camping, tents make my face go funny and I can never sleep in the things, however, if I want to do this job I have no choice and I love this job. Miss Whiplash lent me her little red tent for easy popability and I arrived early to pop it up in what seemed to be an advantageous place - near some rather posh-looking tents. I then went off to go and do some preparation for the weekend and came back a few hours later to see that the posh-looking tents have been assigned – I checked the tags on the tents to either side of mine.
I checked them out on Youtube, I don't think it'll be so bad - here’s one of them
BBC Radio 3 will be broadcasting some of the music from WOMAD.
Ambergris I have been given a lump of ambergris by a whale-and-squid specialist
Ambergris is made in a whale’s stomach, it is the sharp parrotty beaks of many squid mixed up with the whale’s intestinal fatty juices. Sometimes this mélange is burped back out of the mouth like a fur ball but more usually it passes through the other end of the whale, the lump bobs to the surface of the sea where the process of salt water and oxidisation turns it into ambergris – it smells like whale poo and is used in the more expensive perfumes.
Bloody Kit No sooner does one thing start working properly but another thing breaks down. We finally got a knob replaced that had broken last week - one full day of filming with everything working perfectly, by the following night the Giant Cable was broken...
Capes The Faial cape is celebrated as an island icon, its distinctive outline is scribbled as grafitti on walls and picked out in stones on the pavements. Made from very heavy fabric, the hood is disproportionately large and is made to sit above the wearer’s head by means of a wooden frame which is apparently very uncomfortable. Could this have been the inspiration for Darth Vader?
A Camera Boy has just turned up to help us find a giant squid somewhere in the big wet area in front of our house. He is fresh in from Indonesia where he was filming slow lorises (sounds a lot like slow lorries).
The slow loris in the wild is nocturnal and it is the world's only venomous primate; they excrete venom from their elbows and when threatened they lick their elbows to make their bite poisonous.
Before they were brought to my attention by the Camera Boy's filming trip I knew nothing about this animal but now I know that it is cute, furry and big-eyed so they are captured to sell on as pets*. They are also endangered.
*To get round the venom thing their teeth are snapped off.
Now that half the team are out filming at night our mealtime structure has fallen apart. These days at noon 3 people will be eating toast or a full-on fry up while the others are half way through their working day.
Somewhere in the early afternoon a 'proper' cooked meal is ready, it would be nice if we sat and ate together but now we're never hungry at the same time so it gets eaten in shifts. Sandwiches and snacks are packed for supper on the boat and those of us left behind have a bread and cheese supper sitting at a table outside our house watching the sunset and wondering if the specks we can see on the ocean are 'our boat’.
During any given summer many ants launch themselves on doomed nuptial flights wherever it is that I am staying. It seems futile to try and do anything about it until the stream of bodies stops but I’ve been here for two weeks now and still they are pouring out from under my window frame, heading straight for any electrical items and then dying. Drifts of little black bodies had piled up too high to ignore any longer.
After hoovering I rediscovered the product that I bought last week in the Azores. I haven’t dared use it yet, I think it is moisturising cream but then again my translating powers might not be all they should be.
I prefer my body lotion not to smell. A few years ago I endured a harrowing journey to London when I boarded a train after rubbing my knees with cocoa butter. The train was packed and I took a seat behind a family with a little dog, the child started on immediately and loudly that there was 'Someone eating chocolate’ and the dog spent the entire journey scrabbling at me through the seats.
Despite the train-and-cocoa-butter experience, I ended up buying this product mainly because I was intrigued by the words on the bottle. 'Love Lotion’ promises 'sexy and attractive skin’ which is what one might hope for in a moisturiser but it also explicitly claims in words written around a pair of kissy lips that it 'seduces 9 out of every 10 men’ on the back of the bottle this claim is reinforced with the words 'in tests 9 out of every 10 men ... I need more information about this testing: at what distances does Love Lotion work? Does it work on any particular sort of man?
The claim states that 90 per cent of men are seduced by Love Lotion but was it applied to women or, like cigarettes and other cosmetics, was the testing done on beagles and mice?
If anybody reading this is a tester for Love Lotion will you please supply answers to my questions.
I have been informed that it is a legal requirement to install one television set per 20 square metres in every public place in the Azores, I haven’t verified this but I have seen a lot of screens - all showing what appears to be the same continuously running soap opera featuring swarthy men and heavily made-up women in dramatic and emotive situations.
We appear to have been caught up with the drama, our days now cycle through a series of fairly predictable lurches from tragedy to triumph and back again.
Last Monday afternoon a lorry turned up with our Giant Cable which made us happy, but then we couldn’t get it off the truck which was awful … but then we did something terribly clever with poles and leverage - haha.
We celebrated our possession of the cable while choking on the smell of burning clutch left by the Giant Cable lorry who spent an hour trying to leave our property.
As the lorry finally heaved itself away an Austrian lady appeared with a truckload of dry wood, the wood was unloaded and we were very happy, the wood lady wanting to return home to her starving children got into her truck … which refused to start, we pushed her in her vehicle sending it cascading down the hill but still it didn't start - I hope her children are ok.
The principle location for our drama has now moved down to the harbour where our boat is moored and we are building a system for managing our equipment on the boat, a system that would gladden the heart of Heath Robinson - a knotty affair of pulleys, winches and fly-wheels, that has needed endless modification. Several days after we should be in the water we are still trying to make everything strong enough and balanced enough and not too heavy.
Our efforts would not have succeeded this far without the genius of the boat’s skipper and his friends who have pitched in on the whole glorious affair. To counter-balance all of this practical brilliance and to stop us feeling too positive we are also dogged by a Greek chorus of shaggy old men who stop by, often for hours at a stretch, to shake their heads and tell us that what we’re doing is rubbish and it’ll never work.
Our island is a very decorated place, wall paintings and mosaics are everywhere, the picture I’ve posted here is on a wall outside a restaurant where one can eat and watch the weeping/smouldering soap opera. Interpretations welcome.