Day 1.5 of the Japanese adventure

Day 1 in Tokyo

This adventure began in Skibbereen on Wednesday 26th April. We boarded the bus at 11.15a.m for Cork. In Kent Station at 13h we discovered there was a bus directly (well sort of directly) to Dublin Airport at 14h. We had Pucchinio’s sandwiches and coffee and worked out which stand the bus was departing from as it was not the one indicated on the board. A bus for Clonmel was departing from there. We wondered how many visitors who wished to go to the airport actually made an unexpected visit to Clonmel.
The seat beside the driver was occupied by a woman who seemed to have been vaccinated with a gramophone needle. She alighted in Cashel to everyone’s relief only to be replaced in Cahir by a lady of the travelling community. This passenger wanted to share all her recent and not so recent family tragedies with us all. These included tit bits like “sure I can’t stay there didin I smash all them windaws the last time I was there” Since we assumed she could not read she demanded from anyone with whom she made eye contact “where’s this in the country?”. She remained with us to the bus station in Dublin. The remainder 30mins trip was uneventful. Into our hotel for the night. Our flight to London was comfortable and efficient. We had 1hr to transit to our Tokyo flight. All went smoothly. We boarded having booked aisle seats.
We were all aboard ahead of schedule but alas the walkway to the plane would not release us to the skies. The ground staff huffed and they puffed and the couldn’t pull it away. We were stuck fast… After about 40mins we were suddenly free and off into the beautiful morning sky we flew.
I was seated beside a lovely Japanese/English girl. The flight took 11hrs and was as boring as all other long haul flights we have ever been on. We arrived in Haneda airport at around 7 am. It took about an hour of queuing to have our visitors rail pass stamped. Once stamped we were free to start our Japanese adventure. We had booked an airbnb. The owner had sent us detailed instructions of how to get there. And with only one minor error (going two stations in the wrong direction) we walked to the apartment door. We negotiated the many locks and codes and flopped into our bed, thankfully not a futon, for three hours.
Flushing the toilet appeared to require a degree in electronics until we discovered a ‘normal’ handle on the side. All the other paraphernalia was just decoration. But there is one great design feature. The flush handle also turns on a tap over the tiny basin at the back of the loo, to rinse your hands. The water from there refills the cistern, simple.
We now have to brave the streets again and find somewhere to eat dinner. This should not be difficult as we are in an area called Gotande quite close to the city center.

Zone Rouge

Yet again our little cinema offered this documentary by Laetitia Moreau & Olivier Dubuquoy. It was about the production of Aluminium at Gardanne.

Gardanne is a sleepy town which lies to the north of the Calanques which is the beautiful rocky region which runs along the south coast  to the east and west of Marseille. We have passed through it on the train to Marseille. The presence of the Aluminium works dominates the area. We remarked on the red dust covering the vehicles around the station area. Little did we realise what was hidden behind the hills surrounding the town.

In the documentary we see an areal view which is like an alien landscape with its red mountains and lake.

Aluminium is not a metal which is found in its pure form. It is always found imbedded in bauxite. Bauxite is mined along the Equator. The process of extracting the aluminium is the problem. It takes 30 to 40 tons of bauxite  to create a single ton of aluminium. The material left behind is full of toxins.  The plant at Gardanne was set up in 1963 and the mountains and lakes of residue have been building ever since. At one time it it was decided to create a tunnel from the production plant to the Mediterranean and flush the red lake through into the sea. This was done for many years causing the fish in the area to die at worst but to live with a coating of red dust at best. The fishermen were irate but they were powerless against the might of the aluminium producers. Eventually the practice was stopped but the mountains of red dust grow ever higher in Gardanne while the great minds of Europe try to work how how to make it disappear and the area of the Mediterranean sea where the effluent rushed out for years is now dead.

For those of you who understand french here is a link to the documentary:

Pour ceux d’entre vous qui comprennent le français, voici un lien vers le documentaire

What is to be done? The other metals could be extracted from the residue but that would be too costly so the mountains grow ever higher. The documentary interviewed some of the people living in the area who talked about their own ill health and that of their neighbours. The number of cancers among the people in the immediate area of the plant is very high but no one seems to be paying attention. The French government talk about the loss of jobs in the area if the plant closes but no one is talking about the fishermen who cannot fish the area where the red liquid killed the fish. No one is talking about the people dying of cancers which are apparently being caused by the red dust which whips up when the Mistral blows.

France needs aluminium but it does not need this growing mountain of bouxide as it is called. Over the years the authorities have tried to come up with names for the toxic material which are less alarming but the fact remains people are being poisoned by this material.

A solution needs to e found at a worldwide level or at the very least at a European level.

Ken Loach and his latest film “I David Blake”

I have mentioned our little cinema, in our adopted french village, a number of times. We are so lucky to have it and never tire of saying so. The village itself, nestled at the foot of the Luberon mountains is steeped in ancient history. It is the site of troglodyte homes and vestiges of Roman buildings. Our own home is relatively recent as it is the third belt of building around the village. It was built sometime in the 17th century.

Our cinema is run, mostly on a voluntary basis, by a group of young people. Their taste in film is really eclectic. hence we get to see films we might never choose to go to see or indeed could not be seen in the big screen cinemas.

Last night was no exception. First we were treated to “La Methode Ken Loach” which is a web documentary, in VO with french subtitles. It can be seen here

It gives some insight into how Ken Loach and his team work on an idea and then translate it into a project. He has worked with most of his team for a very long time. His methodology is to try to re-create scenes he, or one of his team,  has witnessed or experienced. He feels that although the result looks and ‘feels’ like a documentary he is freer to present his turn on the events in his own way.

As a photographer, I was really interested in the fact that he uses, wherever possible, natural light and ‘real’ locations. This is a breath of fresh air in the whizz bang world of modern cinematography.

Finding the right actors takes up an enormous amount of time at the preparation stages. For this latest film “I Daniel Blake”, which won the Palme D’Or in Cannes, he chose two ‘unknown actors. For the leading male part he chose a comedian Dave Johns, a true “Geordie’. The female lead was an aspiring actress, Haley Squires. Each was outstanding in the part they had to play.

Part of Loach’s methodology is to let the story unfold without giving the actors all the information. Sometimes he gives one of the actors the information but not the other. This is what happened towards the end of this film. This brings out spontaneous reactions in the actors which would be almost impossible to ‘stage’.

This is a wonderful film and a ‘must see’ for anyone interested in where we are in our present day society.

A trailer can be seen here.

Read also The Guardian article:

Corbyn urges May to see I, Daniel Blake to gain insight to life on welfare

Graduate exhibition on Sherkin Island: Uncover

This BA degree in Visual Arts is an outreach course which takes place on Sherkin Island off the south west coast of Ireland. It is the only outreach degree of this kind in the country and has been running for many years.

The idea of the course is to give students, especially islanders, who missed out on a university education when they were younger, the chance to return to college to pursue a degree qualification in the arts. Because of their diverse backgrounds the students bring a wealth of talent and experience to this course. The competition for places grows year on year. The resultant standard is extremely high.

Seventeen students submitted their final degree projects this year. The students present their work in various locations around the island.  This exhibition is open to the public. The 2016 exhibition is entitled Uncover.

I was unable to visit every student’s work so apologies to those whose work I was unable to see.

Much of the work is concerned with conceptual art. I have rarely been so moved by work as I was by that of Lesley Cox. She investigates the connection we all have to the uterus.

Lesley Cox
Lesley Cox
Lesley Cox
Lesley Cox

Other work, which I found outstanding, was Imagination-Emigration by Philomena Smith. The work represents this idea by linking Philomena’s life in the textile industry to her sense of misplacement or not belonging.

Philomena Smith
Philomena Smith

Detlef Schlich’s work, also struck me as very professional. It consisted of a film installation in three parts. The work is concerned with developing an alter ego. His work can be seen here

Deidre Buckley Cairns was a stained glass artist before she started her A Visual Arts course and this influenced her final project. This is about the link between colour and memory.

Deidre Buckley Cairns
Deidre Buckley Cairns

Other beautiful work included Brigid Madden’s project on the invisibility of displaced people in our world

Bridget Madden
Brigid Madden
Bridget Madden
Brigid Madden

Although many students used photography in their exhibits there was only one photographic project and this was the work of Jean Dunne which was truly stunning.

Jean Dunne
Jean Dunne

Since much of the work was conceptual it was tricky to photograph. One such project was Whispers by Daireen McMullan.This was about how the wallpaper is a witness to our secrets and our hidden lives. the room was dark with only a single lamp. It made me shiver to enter this space. The silhouette of the child struck me as meaningful so I left him in as he is not recognisable.


Lucy Cox’s work is concerned with environmental, political and spiritual elements.

Lesley Cox
Lucy Cox

Some of the images I made did nto do justice to the students work so I have not included them – for that I apologise.

Argentina: St Martin

From Pucon in the lake district of Chile we took a bus across the border to Argentina. There are only one or teo mountain passes across the border in this area and only one over which buses can pass.


A  novel breakfast publicity poster


Fellow passengers reflected in the bus before the ‘off’


A rather spoiled young fellow passenger uses the seat as a foot rest. She didn’t provide us with nose pegs….


We stop at the border to allow us to change money to Argentinian pesos


The money changing ‘shop’


The Argentinian border post


Barry trying to escape at the border…..


Great cafe on arrival in St Martin


Reminded me of the sixties


Lots of upmarket shops


Very PC dolly display


St Martin through a ‘photo op’ bill board….


The ‘Dublin’ pub where we had an apero one evening.


The lake in the early morning


The lake again – the guy is metal detecting…


St Martin is 2212kma from somewhere on the route 40


These lovely guys were wanting to be elected..