I paused at a crossroads. An image of a postcard flashed into my head. A postcard I received from my friend Donal, years and years ago. A black and white image showing two hands barely meeting across a map, with three commandments in red strips overlaid: Admit Nothing. Blame Everyone. Be Bitter.
As I write this, I’m sitting in a café in Brussels (where hundreds of refugees are camped in parks, understandably turning down government dormitory accommodation). I’m Irish. I live here, for now. I migrated here, but I’m not a refugee. But look at the history of the Irish diaspora, or that of your own country. Look at how many people in your family or friends are descended from or connected someone who was displaced by war or crushing economic pressures, and think, did any of these people – the Syrians stranded on the beaches of Kos, or arriving in Munich ever dream they would become refugees?
For all the travelling I’ve done, it’s always good to come home. I am writing these words 50m away from the River Slaney, in the south east of Ireland, with a a copy of Crossabeg: The Parish and its People (Vol 2) waiting for me. And I’m honoured to be featured in the book. When my neighbour here, Alice Devine, one of the team who put the book together asked me to write something about my travels, I thought the best way was to show how my upbringing in Crossabeg provided the foundation for everything that followed – including my trips to the Arctic and the Antarctic.
On October 17th, for the last evening of my photo exhibition, The Arctic: Another World? we had a special event in solidarity with the 30 Greenpeace Arctic activists currently being held in detention in Russia, at Brussels’ beautiful Bibliothèque de Laeken, hosted by Greenpeace Belgium and the Ville de Bruxelles.
On Monday September 30, 2013, The Arctic: Another World?, a solo exhibition of my polar photography, will open at the Bibliothèque de Laeken in Brussels, presented by Greenpeace Belgium and the Ville de Bruxelles. Running until October 18, the exhibition is open to the public – so please come along if you’re in town. There’s a vernissage, as they say here – an official opening, at 11am on October 1st, and all are welcome.
We’re in the big African Queen inflatable, cruising alongside an anchored trawler. It’s more rust than metal – the ship is rotting away. The foredeck is covered in broken machinery. The fish deck is littered with frayed cables, and the mast lies horizontally, hanging over the starboard side. A large rusty Chinese character hangs on railings above the bridge, facing forward. It reads ‘happiness’.