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Capraia Diary: Mike Leahy

Wednesday 14th July

Our last day of filming for [episode 7]. We had a pretty reasonable starting time of 8.30, but loads to do. Jonathan had been thinking about the radio overnight, and set to work immediately, changing the dirty old wires he had previously used for new stuff. The signal that had previously disappeared, and then reappeared just as suddenly, was now fading in and out as it should do with a simple short-wave set. There was still a poor signal, and no selectivity, however.

putting up the aerialTo improve the signal we erected more aerial pylons by tying scaffold poles to existing fence posts. In the wind the scaffold poles were extremely unwieldy, and erecting one, half way up the hill from the prison proved to be a test of both strength and technique. Jonathan and I really struggled. Once it was safely up, beads of sweat forming on our foreheads, we started to make guy lines, but as we were tying them down we heard the dreaded voice of our director. He wanted to film us having another go. Dutifully we repeated the whole process. By this time sweat was streaming into our eyes and down our backs, but it wasn't enough for David, so down it came again. Luckily the third time we pulled the pylon into place was the last.

I had the distinct feeling that had we tried to erect it again we would probably not have succeeded, and should we have slipped, the post would have landed on Drew's head — which would have been awful. Finally, David left us to carry on, and before long we had the new aerial connected up — just in time for another thunder storm. Great!

The selectivity problem was traced to the saucepan. Jonathan was certain that there was too much capacitance, and as he took the radio apart, I sawed the bottom of another pan, cut a right-angled segment from it, and rubbed the rough edges off.

radioOnce Jonathan had covered the new saucepan base with polythene, we installed the new capacitor and tried the radio. This time reception was better, and more importantly the new saucepan improved selectivity so that we could tune into individual radio stations.

looking at the mapWithin minutes we had found Swiss, German and French radio channels, and within an hour we had a time check that we could use to calculate our longitude. Last of all we filmed the final scene where we showed off our inventions, and pointed out where we thought we were on a huge world map. Then the Champagne flowed. It was a wrap.

Later, as we all sat around the table, thanks, mutual congratulations and speeches flowed as effortlessly as the wine. Everyone had survived the filming of the first of the four programmes, and genuine friendships had been forged. Paul thanked David. David thanked everybody. Each of us received a tee shirt and an individual present from David. Jonathan and myself were given key rings with rotating globes on them — very appropriate. We carried on eating and drinking until we were an hour into John's birthday. Throughout most of the trip I had felt fine — not a hint of tiredness — but by now I was beginning to feel the pace, and I retired to bed before many of the others.

Thursday 15th July

I got out of bed at 6.20 a.m. — ready for our trip back to the UK. It was not an enjoyable experience. A quick breakfast and we were off. As usual some dragged their feet, the normal characters rolling up about a quarter of an hour after the agreed meeting time, but it was no problem — the ferry was also late. At the port we took loads of photos before boarding. I didn't want to go home. As the ferry cruised away from the island while dolphins played in the distance in the deep blue sea.

the island from the airThe flight home was long enough to think back about our few days on the island. As we climbed across the Med, we looked out of our windows. Punctuating the beautiful deep blue sea were several small islands, and as I looked immediately below the aircraft Capraia appeared, with a perfect view of the port, complete with a ferry at the jetty.

It was a shame to leave, but at least we knew that we would be coming back in a couple of months time to film the remaining three Rough Science programmes.