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Bardsey Island Observational Research Project

Finding a plan

July 29, 2010 This is the first post in the blog that I’ve created for the Observational Research Unit of my MA Screenwriting course at Bournemouth University.  For the project I need to go somewhere – anywhere – and sit there for five days, observing, recording sound, taking photographs and video  and generally absorbing the atmosphere of the place. The idea is that from this I will be inspired to write about that setting and that this arena will come through, hopefully as a character, in my script.

The brief was to challenge ourselves and take ourselves out of our comfort zones. So far just finding a place has been challenging!  My first thought, judging by my own sense of being outside my comfort zone, was to go somewhere busy, like London’s Piccadilly Circus. This would be torture. I decided against it because largely I am not at my most creative under duress! I could well come home a jibbering wreck – and worse still with no idea for a script!

My second choice was to go to Wootton Bassett, the village with the dubious privilege of receiving through their streets the bodies of our fallen soldiers on their return from Afghanistan. As my own daughter has previously served in Afghanistan and her husband is currently out there, this seemed like a potent place to sit and observe.  It would certainly be outside my comfort zone.  I know because a cold shudder runs down my spine every time I pass the road to there. It’s somewhere that every military parent, spouse , or child hopes they NEVER have to visit.  But whilst that would be challenging, to do the job properly I would also need to be very nosey and ask a lot of questions. I’m not sure I could be quite that ruthless as an investigative journalist, at least not in the context of a course assignment.  And from reading articles about Wootton Bassett (like this one) I get the feeling that they are wearying of media people noseying about the place.

My next choice was to sit at the top of Mount Snowdon for five days.  I’m reasonably familiar with Snowdonia and the exercise wouldn’t do me any harm.  I’d also planned to use the Snowdon Mountain Railway on two or three of the five days so I could spend longer at the summit.   The only flaw in my plan turned out to be that the railway only allows you to stop at the summit for thirty minutes before the train departs.  If you don’t return on that train your return ticket is invalid.  So if you want to stay for longer up there you have to buy a single to get back down – and whether or not they’ll sell you one is the discretion of the guard.

I thought I could get smart, so I asked the rather surly man in Llanberis “what if I throw some money at this thing, and buy a SINGLE to go up in the morning AND a RETURN on the evening train?”  Surely then they’d have to let me on the train down? Apparently not, I would not be allowed on the train down because I had not come up on it. In fact, according to the ticket office, your journey down is only valid if you are actually present on the train up.  If you have paid for your ticket but your bum is not on a seat when the train departs from Llanberis, they won’t let your bum touch the seat to come down when the train returns from the Summit!!

Presumably this means they will happily sell your seat to someone else even though you’ve already paid for it!!  But, this is Wales and there was to be no argument or reasoning over this.  So very angry and disgruntled I have said “Stuff Snowdon Mountain Railway”.

And sadly, it looks like I won’t be doing my observational research on Snowdon.  In fact, the sight of the mountain is angering me still every time I see it.  Right now its head is lost in the clouds, not unlike my own.  Keep your head hidden, I am angry with you.  Tomorrow may be different and I will love you again. I guess it’s all just part of the love/hate relationship that I have with Wales as a whole.  There’s a funny way of doing things sometimes and in the summer with the influx of visitors changing the landscape,  anything tourist-related tends to make unhelpful, grumpy staff who are less than accommodating.

Walking up the hill for all five days is still a possibility of course and I shall keep that on the back burner, at least while we still have the long evenings. I’d still like to do the project, though maybe not for my course. We shall see.  I realize that I’ve already got an idea for the project, a little bit of story that’s already crept into my head prematurely. To be honest much the same thing had already happened with Wootton Bassett too and that’s not what this project is all about.  By having a bit of a story already in my head I wasn’t really going to be letting the arena tell its own story to me.

How could I find somewhere that was outside my comfort zone, challenging and yet also somewhere unknown enough that I wasn’t already writing a story before I got there?

Luckily for me, at this point came an opportunity to do something much more interesting –  an opportunity to stay on Bardsey Island (or Ynys Enlli in Welsh) for a week.  I have absolutely no clue what it’s going to be like. I’ve read quite a bit online and there are quite a few articles out there from journalists, artist and writers who’ve stayed on the island. But I’ve no idea what it’s going to be like. I know I will need waterproofs and wellies for the journey over there which is likely to get a bit choppy. All my stuff must be packed in waterproof bags.  I need to take enough food for a week as there are no shops. And there’s no electricity.  There is no indoor toilet. (Trips out to Ty Bach in the middle of the night are going to be interesting – note to self: take a torch, in case candle blows out!).

And my comfort zone?  Well  leaving behind my technology for a week (no iPad, no 3G, no iPhone, no mp3) will be hard.  But what scares me most? Well according to at least one article I read there are no locks on the doors!

That really scares me!

But it will be an adventure! I should say “Touch wood” at this point because this is Wales and there are no guarantees.  The man in charge is going away on a sailing trip for a few days but he said I could considered it booked. I hope he remembers when he comes back or I might be having to make my peace with Snowdon.

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