'Agree With Everything - Deny Nothing - Embellish All

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Resolution & Independence

A few days before my precipitate departure from St Bees (about which I'll not be blogging) I had a chance encounter on the promenade. It was a cold winter morning, the light was bouncing off the Head and the sea was gently flinging pebbles up the shingle slopes to the concrete platform on which I walked.
Coming towards me was a woman dragging what seemed to be a metal detector along the bank of stones beneath the promenade rim. She was of course checking the littoral for radiation from nearby Sellafield and the device was one of Mr Geiger's counters. She was dressed in bog-standard Goretex and woolly hat, beneath which her hair was streaked red - more environmentalist than corporate enforcer, I thought.
What was she looking for? I asked.
Radiation hotspots at the high water mark, she replied.
Were there many of those? I wondered.
Oh no, she said, she was definitely not expecting to find any at all. The clicks on her Geiger were just background radiation, that was all.
I thought I was being given the usual corporate bullshit line at this point. But the Renaissance Man tells me that what really worries BNFL these days is uncontrolled emissions of radioactive seagull droppings. (OK, this implies that other emissions are controlled by BNFL, but how do the seagulls get so much radioactivity within them in the first place?).
This made me reflect on her quest for things that slowly decay. What most impressed me about the solitary radiation gatherer was her utter dedication to a search which should most satisfactorily end in failure. She was separate and apart, in her work and appearance, both from those who employed her and those who she was, apparently, there to protect. The rest of the promenaders politely ignored her. But she continued her task on the edge of the prom. I took heart in my own despondency in a way I had not expected - she was showing me how to be true to your self, indifferent to success and failure, and above all utterly committed to the importance and authenticity of your own task.


Blogger Gill said...

We once had a lovely family picnic on Drigg beach in the biting winds of June and we were monitored for radioactivity by two lovely young men from BNFL instruments.

19/3/07 3:20 pm  

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