Marcus thinks it might be getting to him…

Tags: Marcus Brigstocke

For some reason I am full of a tetchy belligerence today, tired, scratchy listless and irreverent, so pretty much like most days for me. Although for the majority of this trip I’ve had saucy a twinkle in my eye and what has seemed like an undentable feeling of positivity and determined glee. I have felt funny a lot of the time, a feeling that brings with it a great sense of self worth for me. For now though I feel rather adolescent – as I write this sitting in cabin 308 I am listening to ‘Back In Black’ by AC/DC and the door has just been politely closed by the residents of 310 across the hall. Huh! Grown ups don’t like my music. Good. In a minute I might stand at the top of the stairs and shout ‘none of you understand me anyway… can’t you see I’m an adult?’ then scratch something rebellious and petulant in the table top with a compass just to see what would happen. I probably won’t. For several reasons, 2 of which are my children who I am missing terribly, another is my wife who I can’t wait to see and would hate to disappoint. Another still (and more immediate) is because explaining to 43 people why I’ve decided to put eye-liner on and behave like a spoilt trustafarian pleb would be testing and awkward.

We are sailing away from Greenland now, the sheer walls of the fjord gently scrolling past my porthole like a screen-saver. The speed with which familiarity breeds mild monotony in me is one of the few familiar things in life which never ceases to surprise me, though it does leave me disappointed in myself. ‘Hey Marcus, look at all this Arctic…’ – ‘Yeah, seen it’. We’re heading a couple of hundred miles out to sea (gulp!) to put an ARGO float in the water, which will report back to base in Southampton (southern most of all Hamptons) with news of the sea temperature and currents for next few years. Well I say ‘news’ – it’s sort of news but what it actually does is confirm the indisputable fact that the oceans up here are getting warmer year by year. It’s news in the same way that drizzle is news back at home, or that biscuits are nice with a cuppa or that Jeremy Clarkson is a meat faced twat. So the next time you read in the Telegraph, the Daily Mail or Express or for that matter in the columns of The Independent (Demonic Lawson) that climate change is not happening or not our fault please fire off the letter demanding to see their evidence. I would expect to get a similar response to the one Sarah Palin gave when asked what she made of the Bush doctrine. A glazed, confused, embarrassed but inexplicably confident stare followed by a swift change of subject.

Palin must have debated Joe Biden last night in the vice presidential race. I’m gutted to have missed it. Fish in barrels are a legitimate target if they stand a chance of running the world’s only super-power. Click. Bang. Splosh. Gulp. Plop. Scales and fish guts and creationist dogma sprayed up the walls of every news station in the US. That is how I see last night’s debate in my mind’s eye. That said – never underestimate the power and sympathetic allure of stupidity and religiously fuelled ignorance in the US. ‘Don’t vote for that guy he’s read too many books, and we all know what that leads to Mr Smarty Pants’… Please welcome president Palin! Aaaaaaghhhh! McCain having died laughing like a crazed scientist when he realised too late what fresh hell he had unleashed on the world with his pit-mom-hockey-bull running mate.

I’ve noticed a pleasing slew of comments and emails from the world beneath this one pointing out with all the tight lipped condescension that comes free with a lease in an ivory tower, that while we are here swanning about between icebergs that Cape Farewell 2008 is emitting a goodly dollop of CO2. Yes we are. Too much. Well spotted. We are undone by your rapier like accusations and will return with heads hung like bears in a zoo, wrapped in our shame to whip ourselves with locally sourced, organic, hemp whips. Not one of us will trouble the world with tales, images, songs, jokes, ideas, films, poems or graphs or stats from this our hour of thoughtless environmental thuggery. Instead we will indulge in enviro point scoring with people for whom climate change represents little more than chance to excel at being smug.

‘Me thinks she doth protest too much…’ ? Maybe. The thoughts driving this journey and the response to it must always be subjective and depend simply on whether or not a person finds value in the idea of what Cape Farewell does. I do. It makes sense to me, whilst leaving me more than little uncomfortable and unsure. Cape Farewell and its art meets science agenda at one end of the scale and CO2 at the other. Which will be flipped into the sky with greater force I wonder? Perhaps to attack the haters with such vigour is overkill, but that is why I’m here, it’s what I do. Jarvis might write a song about it all, Tracy might bind the book when it is written, Lemn might frame his response within poetic verse, David might project it on to an iceberg, Laurie create a work of musical performance art, Julian makes ceramics so perhaps you can expect his reply in the form of a pot. It is all subjective and trying to define its true value is as hard nailing jelly to a wall and maybe as pointless. (Oh God, I hope ‘jelly nailing’ is not anyone’s art project today. How embarrassing).

There now follows a list of things which have surprised me this week.

The blue ice cave in the end of a glacier. Very Hoth.
A wind so cold it made it hard to breath.
Jarvis performing ‘Babies’ on an acoustic guitar for an audience of around 50 (us and some drunken Greenlanders).
The Northern Lights.
An iceberg that looked like a rack of ribs.
The fact that Laurie Anderson was Andy Kaufman’s ‘straightman’.
The bloody, fishy taste of raw seal liver.
The brilliant uplifting children’s home in Uummannaq.
Greenlandic husky dogs eating whole, raw halibut.
The intrinsic hilarity of over earnest statements about climate change, leading to a series of filmed overblown visual metaphors.
The force with which I three the snowball into Hannah Bird’s face. Genuinely shaming.
How good KT Tunstall is at doing accents and voices.
Whale meat, seal blubber and dried halibut. Not nice.
Martha Wainwright operating the pub sound-desk for Leslie Feist, Vanessa Carlton and Shlomo.
Martha’s voice. Even if you’ve heard the albums, it’s amazing.
Andre, the ship’s second mate dancing like a startled fighting Elvis.
The complete absence of seasickness… so far
Just how skilful Shlomo really is at beatboxing.
The benevolent nature of the universe and my new found ability to sustain a belief in that notion.
The speed with which I can become bored and the noise in my head.
Just how warm my enormous Baffin boots really are.
The pace of change endured by the Inuit folk here in Greenland.
How knowledgeable and delightful Karen and Ludvig our Greenlandic guides are.
How much Greenlanders smoke.
The idea that if you got an aerial map of London and used the Starbucks coffee houses as a dot-to-dot you would end up with a perfect picture of David Hasslehoff’s big swollen face. I will investigate this idea further when I return, but I think there’s something in it.


  1. Nicolai Noorderlicht

    Posted Sunday 5 Oct at 13:49 | Permalink

    Great post there Marcus, yr mind is thriving on the pure arctic air, liked the ‘Painting a bigger picture’ vid too. Can’t believe you haven’t been seasick. Would love to be up there with you guys; I’m missing the old crew, reading these posts. I’m round at Jeremy Clarkson’s place, Melanie Phillips is here, we’re all nailing Jelly together. I think it’s gonna work this time, we’re gonna call it Jelly Capture and Storage (JCS).

  2. jon.plowman

    Posted Monday 6 Oct at 12:22 | Permalink

    sitting here at my desk in Television Centre London. I just completely envy you. If I had been asked whether I would swap this for “winds so cold they make it difficult to breathe” I would have declined but all the blogs nd the pictures and the work make me realise that what you’re doing there in bringing the extraordinary world and change to our attention is startling. Well done! jonp