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Capraia Diary: Mike Leahy

Wednesday 22nd September

dye makingDay 2 of [episode 8] and on with the dye making activities. Jesus, it was labour intensive.

boiling the cloth in urineWhy did people ever bother colouring things — what a waste of time. I was pretty fed up with the whole thing, dipping cloth in boiling p*ss (which was supposed to act as a mordant), grinding up plants and working like a dog. It was the first time that I really wanted to be somewhere else, but it didn't last long.

Thursday 23rd September

raising the flagThank God — this was to be the last day that I would be buggering around with the dyes. It was a nice thought for Paul to promote my feminine side, and the fact is that my daytime job is within the realm of the biological sciences not thuggery, but colouring pretty flags is not quite me. Anyway, today would be the end of it all. It was still a pretty boring day though. The only fun bit was raising and lowering the flag pole several times for David to film.

the finished flagPredictably when we coloured the flag, the dyes were all a sort of brown colour, and worse still, the dye wouldn't stick to the cloth properly. It was the end of the second programme, and we all meandered down the hill together, the flag (looking like a cloth used to mop up incontinent nursing home tenants) flapping proudly above the prison.

Friday 24th September

Today was our first rest day, and Fabio and Giovanni had kindly offered to take us for a boat trip around the island. Jonathan and myself had originally intended to walk to the highest point, but our friends' offer was too good to miss. It also allowed us the opportunity of a lie in.

Jonathan and myself headed down to the port and stopped at a cafe where we wrote postcards to the accompaniment of Dire Straits. Soon Fabio arrived, and we were told that we would be able to do some swimming while we were out I his boat. Not one to miss an opportunity I found some snorkeling gear to hire. The boat that we were going to take belonged to Giovanni and a friend. It was a beautiful bright orange open lifeboat, powered by a low-revving diesel inboard. It was licensed to take twenty people, and we were told that it had previously carried sixty (although I couldn't think how), but for the sixteen of us it was perfect. The weather was sublime. Pure unbroken blue skies, and an even bluer sea.

We rounded the second headland on water that was as gentle as it had been rough the previous Monday. Giovanni signaled that we could swim, and we put on our gear as he dropped anchor.

in the boat

The sea was a mild 24 degrees [about 75°F], but I still caught my breath as I put my face in the water — sh*t asthma attack time.

After taking a quick puff of my inhaler, I swam back out. The water was clear, and fish appeared to be everywhere. I turned around to see a small shoal of silver fish eating a lump of bread, before surfacing to admire the breathtaking cliffs and rocks.

It was a truly magical experience, within the magic of the whole Capraia trip. I was totally at ease, there was nowhere else I wanted to be. Sound Paul did some excellent dives, then Angie performed an impressive back flip from the bow of the boat. After a while I climbed back in, hoping to do a few dives while Derek used my snorkeling gear. I chickened out though, because the sides of the boat were so slippery. What a woos!

Derek and Mike B.After a while we decided to weigh anchor, and carried on along the western side of the island. The sea was rougher here, but still not bad. Although the sea was by no means choppy, there was enough wave action for the small boat to roll and pitch a little as we passed the watch tower, and an amazing red cliff, which surrounded a bay that had once been the core of an active volcano.

There was nowhere else to swim from the boat that afternoon, but after a coffee at the port, Angie also hired some snorkelling gear, and we walked around to a bay, nearer the town. Together with Jonathan and Paul, we then spent the rest of the afternoon snorkeling around a field of sea grass, admiring the fishes and collecting empty shells. What an amazing place.