Falling in Love with Polzeath – Molly Slight

Polzeath - Cornwall

Every summer, my family would pile into two cars at three o’clock in the morning and set off to Polzeath, Cornwall, arriving just as the sun was coming up over the water. Before even checking in to our holiday apartment, we would change into our wetsuits in the car park off the beach and run straight for the sea. If you’ve ever swum in the English Channel – you know how brave this is, even in a wetsuit.

We would surf until our hands turned blue and then struggle up the beach, making lines in the sand where our boards dragged behind us, to the little café where we would buy bacon sandwiches and hot chocolates which scalded our tongues. Other people went to the Caribbean or Malta for their holidays, but sitting on the beach, warming our hands on polystyrene cups until they were pink again, this was perfect for us.

Molly Slight lives in London and works as a Publishing Assistant for Scribe. She escapes to the sea whenever she can.

After Flying for a Day and a Half Halfway around the World

By Mirko Bonne April 29, 2014

Tell it to the Bees: Australian Journal 1

The lovely light over Melbourne that first bright morning – as though the world, the whole south, would be nothing but bright blue. I hadn’t yet seen or heard a single bird, but all night long I’d heard the twitter of an air conditioner from the roof of the neighboring apartment building, exactly as though a flock of budgies were roosting there. A sudden loud swell of windmill sails, perhaps a dream, but then a fire siren came racing down the chasms of the streets. After flying for a day and a half halfway around the world – from Abu Dhabi on over Sri Lanka and the Indian Ocean, past Perth and Adelaide – it was the most restful sleep I’d had in months. To wake up in such light – to wake up just once like that from the unreality in your life.

And don’t forget: from spring you flew into fall. Where was the summer en route? I grasp this autumnal April only in the Carlton Gardens, where I walk beneath the old sycamores and chestnuts and hear the first strange birds, a crawking and squeaking, an agitated bursting into flight, not a rustling, a rattling, clattering. Fallen leaves are everywhere, but the air is mild, a warm wind, a cirrostratus sky, but with clouds three times the size as those over Hamburg, Frankfurt or Paris. Again and again in these first days in Melbourne I observe vast cloud fields, mostly flooding in from the west over the Yarra River, seeming inconceivably swift, even when the wind barely stirs the treetops. Darkness falls quickly, dusk lasting barely twenty minutes, and the weather is just as quick to change. A cool rainy morning is followed two hours later by a radiant, warm noon; by an afternoon rent by gusts of wind and darkened by towering clouds; by an evening in which, at sunset, three frigate birds circle in the orange sky.

 

Translated by Isabel Fargo Cole

 

The Island’s Caretaker

By Mirko Bonne February 17, 2015

Tell It to the Bees: Australian Journal 16

My fear of the sea floor’s rapid drop into the submarine night beyond the reef, of encountering a moray, a fear as old as my thoughts of what could happen if a shark, a spider crab, a school of poisonous jellyfish trailing yard-long strands of burning nettle hooks, a grouper… my fear that panic could seize me in the water is too great for me to go swimming and snorkeling with the rest of the group. I gaze out at the water. I don’t dive, but my eyes dive down.

Suppenschildkröte

A pale turquoise sea turtle lollops past. A fish swims by so close to the boat that I freeze in wonder: so big, so bright red, almost perfectly round and striped black. And several pale-brown sharks, not very big, but big enough, circle around, crouching as it were, making a school of fusilier fish part before their flat snouts and whir off in different directions like finches before a buzzard.

After returning to the ship, several snorkelers post the photos they’ve just taken on Facebook or wherever, while I gaze over at Woody Island, a clump of mangroves where access is forbidden, and probably impossible. At least I certainly wouldn’t survive there long, what with my fear of those creatures waiting for God knows what in the salty mud between the tidal trees.

Bell Rock-Leuchtturm vor ArbroathOn Low Island there’s a lighthouse that was imported from Scotland in the 19th century – it might even be the work of one of Robert Louis Stevenson’s relatives, who were among Scotland’s leading lighthouse builders.

The island where the Scottish lighthouse stands is so tiny that a ten minutes’ walk takes me past the same seagull standing just as before in the sand, looking at me questioningly.

A museum little larger than a bicycle shed covers the history of Low Island, the first island in the Great Barrier Reef to produce all its electricity solely from the wind and the sun. But then, it has only one inhabitant.Low Isles

And not always the same one. The island’s caretaker switches every three weeks; the Low Isles Preservation Society LIPS organizes the volunteers. The “Sailaway IV”, a sailing catamaran whose diesel motor is used only near the coast, is taking the past weeks’ caretaker back to Port Douglas: a stocky elderly lady who talks about the cooperation between the LIPS and the local aborigines.

The skipper of the “Sailaway” recalls a caretaker from his boyhood. In 1972 the man took his two sons out to the island in a dinghy to save them from an approaching storm, and none of the three was ever seen again.

The only person shocked by the story is me. After all, Australia is the continent of disappearance, so much so that you have to wonder whether Australia as a whole won’t vanish from the earth someday, just like that.

WallabyEverything disappears here. Person after person gets lost in the outback. Whole swathes of land burn. A tornado destroys the sugar cane harvest. A prime minister sinks into a kelp forest. Animal species seem to die out overnight. A river dries up. People clear forests that for thousands of years have housed koalas, and bats that exist hardly anywhere else in the whole endangered batless world.

Everything belongs to an endangered species, everything is endangered, mangroves, platypuses, dingoes, parrots that now exist only in zoos. Restaurants catering to day-trippers keep pythons in glass cases, and barbed-wire cages house wallabies with eyes so sad that they bring you to your knees. No one knows whether the Tasmanian tiger still exists. They’re looking for it, but decades on, it still hasn’t been found.

Lagoons turn into train stations; droughts devastate a region as large as the great country of Poland. Tasmania’s aborigines were wiped out, except for one woman and one man. And another man, charged with the care of a coral island, rides out onto the sea with his sons in a little motor boat.

He rides and rides and rides and rides and doesn’t even notice that he and the two boys are long dead.

Photos: green turtle (1), lighthouse at Arbroath, Scotland, built by Robert Louis Stevenson’s grandfather (2), the Low Isles in the Great Barrier Reef: Woody Island, left, and Low Island, right (3), Wallaby (4)

 

Translated by Isabel Fargo Cole

The Fig Tree

By Mirko Bonne December 1, 2014

 

fig tree 1

Summer’s rubbish everywhere, plastic splendor on every slope. Tossed away, trodden flat, left lying, forgotten – the packaging of what once was, and is never to return, bottles of all colors, rust-corroded tins, a faded bag, a torn suitcase. Cars abandoned years ago by the roadside, wrecks, half-cannibalized, half-decayed, shat in, besmeared, oil-slicked. You squat, eye caught by something pale on the asphalt, and see a little goddess doll, with just half a head, no more body left, but Aphrodite’s smile on its lips. In the dry grass, layer upon layer, lie the remains of what couldn’t be stuffed into the crevices and niches of these walls whose stones have been used over and over, over and over again. Severed power lines in the trees, a branching of wires. On the beach a tide of toothbrushes, a spume of bags and bottle tops, caps and pens, laces, buttons, and the faded blind eyes of stuffed animals.

fig tree 2

On the tiny Greek isle of Symi, just a few sea miles from the Turkish coast, a house stands in the upper town of the fishing harbor, its roof beams, walls and floors prized open by a tree that has claimed, bit by bit, the abandoned masonry. The beautiful dark green fig grows on the junk and trash that is tossed in through the windows – tossed as though into a shaft in which the inevitability of decay merges with emptiness, and time and death fade in the face of sheer life.

Feige in Santa Barbara

 

 

 

 

Photos: Plastic in the Mediterranean near Rhodes (1), house with fig tree on Symi (2), fig tree in Santa Barbara, California (3)

Translated by Isabel Fargo Cole

Thoughts on the stories we have told.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the old stories – seeing links between these and the climate change we’ve brought upon our planet. In particular, I’ve been thinking about Pandora’s Box and also The Expulsion from Eden and seeing, in these tales, ripples out to the story of now.

In the Climate Change version of Pandora’s Box we were all complicit in the whispering urging to open that box, “for the advancement of human kind open it now Pandora!” And once it was out we couldn’t or wouldn’t put it back – unlike Pandora, we were entranced not horrified by what we’d released.

And did a weary God shake their head as we plucked that apple of knowledge – the one that made us so very aware of all we wanted and all we could take from the garden we were supposed to care for? It was the moment we exalted ourselves above all nature; the moment we believed ourselves to be somehow both separate and more than all that. Yet, once expelled, we didn’t heed the lesson, but instead like a petulant child we obstinately and defiantly repeated and expanded our mistakes. Of course, in the retelling we insisted that it had been God who had exalted us in the first place.

Did we ever really feel our connection with this wondrous place – our home? Was there a time when we rejoiced in our position as a small component of all that our home is? A time when we understood how we were a mere strand of all that existed? A time when we knew that a tug or break on this strand or that led to the unravelling of so much more? A time when we heard Gaia’s heartbeat – when lying on the earth watching the ants toil felt like watching the universe? A time when laying palm upon the soil felt like placing a hand upon your own skin?

Now we gleefully disembowel her in a frenzy of greed and displace the truth tellers who, inconveniently, tend the places we have set out to plunder. So I wonder, Pandora, what little scrap is left fluttering at the bottom of the box – is it still hope? And Adam and Eve when will you understand that you are but a tiny singular strand of that whole precious web?

Iluska Farkas, London Substation coordinator

 

 

 

An Enemy of the People

On 23.2.2015, the Sophie-Scholl-Schule substation attended a four-hour workshop at the Schaubühne theatre in Berlin about Henrik Ibsen’s play “An Enemy of the People”.

Theater workshop

 

In the play, Dr. Stockmann exposes a scandal: the water at the town health baths is contaminated. To begin with, he receives support from the press and his friends. Yet they suddenly change their position and no longer want the scandal to be uncovered. They see their future as threatened.
Thomas Ostermeier’s staging of the play poses the question: what chance does truth have in a society where the economy comes before all else?

The students were given the following task: have I even been opportunistic? When? Why?

It was interesting to hear my classmates’ “confessions” and observe their facial expressions at the same time.

 

SONY DSC

Who is stronger? Who is more powerful? Who is more convincing?

The students were given instructions by Wiebke Nonne, the Schaubühne’s theatre educator, in how to make proper use of their bodies in theatre acting.

 The workshop was funny and interesting, but also demanding.

SONY DSC

Many thanks to the Theatre Education team at the Schaubühne in Berlin!

The workshop helped me internalise the play more!

 

Hello from Romain-Rolland School, Germany

You can find Romain-Rolland-Gymnasium (RoRo) in the northern part of Berlin (Germany) which used to be the French district before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Its European profile is reflected by the variety of language classes offered to the students who learn English and French as their first and second languages. Additionally Spanish, Chinese or Latin classes can be attended. The second core theme is Sciences. At a young age, students learn how to experiment by working on special projects in cooperation with Berlin universities and national education foundations. The school community appreciates social commitment, gives the students a chance to develop their creative skills and teaches them social competences based on tolerance, peace, and considerateness.

RoRo had its first encounter with the Weather Stations project at the ilb International Literature Festival Berlin 2014 when a group of students attended a reading by Mirko Bonné from Hamburg (Germany) and Tony Birch from Australia. The students are in the age of 17 years.

Students from RoRo say:

“I really like the idea of connecting the aspect of climate change with literature so that there is an incentive even to people who might not be interested in this topic. I think in the project we will get to know a bit more about climate change from different perspectives; from the authors and from the other participants. I hope that we will learn how to express topics like climate change through literary texts. I am looking forward to getting more information when Mirko Bonné visits us.”

“I think that climate change does influence all of our lives and that we, as the young generation, should try to make the world a better place. It is not easy to draw attention to this subject, because everyone knows about climate change and its consequences. The problem is that just a few people help to prevent it. That is where the Weather Stations project comes in. They want to reach more and more people, the elders and the youth, and want them to know that with a little help from anyone, things can be changed. By using poems, short stories and promoting our school, we get a chance to take part in it.”

“I think the Weather Stations project will be a great project to learn about climate change and nature in a different way than just by watching TV or reading newspaper articles. I think it is great that we will get to know authors from different parts of the world.”

“I expect to learn more about the problems of climate change and the issues it causes around the world. I am particularly interested in the different opinions of different cultures toward that topic. In America, for example, I have even heard people say that climate change is not a real thing, and just made up by the media or environmental activists. I am excited to discuss these issues in class and with authors from all around the world who are interested in the same thing.”

Kathrin finds beauty

Tempelhof Airport, in the middle of Berlin, feels like a relief. It ceased running in 2008 and thanks to engaged communities fighting for public access, it became the city’s biggest park in 2010. Whereas Berlin has swallowed me up in the past, I can choose to vanish in its fields. My ears hear layers of distant sound, people are flying kites, rare birds suddenly give company. Its beauty derives from being an industrial ruin; a vacancy in the middle of city life. Though I have always loved the atmosphere of functioning airports and the promises they hold, their symbolism has become more difficult to embrace in our age. Maybe Tempelhof seems comforting because Germany feels like a big productive machine, eating its way into our last quiet places, unstoppable. Climate Change will bring about more of these ruins, I expect.

[Kathrin Bartha is a PhD candidate at Berlin. Her hometown Frankfurt houses one of Europe’s biggest airports.]

[Photographer - Veronica Bartleet]

[Photographer – Veronica Bartleet]

Hello from Firhouse Community College, Ireland

Our College, Firhouse Community College, is located at the foothills of the Dublin Mountains. It is home to 750 students, from many different faith and ethnic backgrounds. Our uniform consists of a green, V-neck jumper, grey shirt, grey uniform trousers or grey knee length skirt, school tie, black uniform jacket with school crest, and plain black shoes. For sixth years we substitute the grey shirt for a white one, and the green jumper for a black one.

The school has many extra-curricular activities in a couple of areas. For sports, we have soccer, Gaelic football, rugby, hurling, camogie (Uniquely Irish sports), basketball, table tennis and athletics. We also hold educational activities throughout the year such as a French debate team, choir, European studies and quizzes.

We have a green schools committee, made up of students from all different year groups. This committee aims to promote and encourage environmentally friendly behaviour, such as recycling and energy and water conservation.  The school is working hard to be awarded a green flag, an award given to schools for participation in environmental issues.

We began our weather stations project with a writing workshop by Oisin McGann. We learned how to structure stories. We had interesting discussions on how to create a plot and develop characters.

In transition year, we are working on many different projects in our wide range of subjects in regards to the weather stations project. In geography, each student did a project on extreme climate change. In art, the students did a project drawing characters based on a certain weather, and also drew comic strips. In English, we wrote essays and poems about weather and we are now watching a movie “5 degrees below”. We also watch movies that are about natural disasters that occurred because of climate change, such as “Twister” and “The Day After Tomorrow”.  Our music class have recorded weather sounds and are mixing them into sound tracks. We also attended the strange Weather exhibition in Trinity College Dublin. Here the students of trinity had created many different weather instruments that showed the effects of many climate types. We attended an interesting talk in the Civic Theatre about the weather. Our school was recently nominated for The Credit Union Award.

The art students are currently creating a weather display of snow in the school library for the Weather Stations project using trees and artificial snow. We will display all of our work to date before christmas. This will become our space, for our project,so we can add ideas to it and use it as a source of inspiration also.

We are looking forward to hearing about the other schools in the project.

The Transition Year students of Firhouse Community College.

Hello from Islington Arts and Media School, UK

Hello to all Substations out there!

We’d like to introduce ourselves to you. We are a happy multicultural school in the London borough of Islington with committed staff, lots of facilities and many exciting opportunities to develop our talents further such as this Weather Stations project.

The IAMS substation is a group of Year 10 (15 year olds) students who have been working with Free Word. We meet up for a regular after school session with the Substation Co-ordinator from Free Word. We have also met up with some of the Weather Station’s international writers. So far we’ve; considered our favourite weather and childhood memories with Tony Birch from Australia; discussed writing from our own experiences with Xiaolu Guo from London; learnt about crafting a narrative with Oisin McGann from Ireland. Take a look at some of our writing on the Global Weather Stations website.

We are in the heart of busy urban London near to Finsbury Park station and not far from Arsenal Football Club. Some of us have lived in different countries however this project is introducing us to scenes, thoughts and ideas from around our planet and we’re very excited to be heading to Berlin later this year and meeting all of you!

So, goodbye for now and see you in September.

IAMS Substation.