Out of the Fire
Having graduated with a 2:1 in Habitat and Soil Management in the summer of 2001 from the University of Reading I embarked on a new career as a lab technician at the School of Bioscience, Cardiff University. It was not quite what I had envisaged for myself but it was at least a start and whilst I hadn’t given up on my dreams the concept of Persephone was threatening to disappear.
Fortunately the work and the project at Cardiff were easy and if the pay hadn’t of been so bad then six months later, after a row with a postgraduate student, I might not have handed my in notice: but I did and it was not, as it proved in hindsight, to be a wise move. However I did during this period connect the name Persephone with my Degree Qualification to come up with the acronym P.H.A.S.M. and a consultancy concept, which I now needed to get off the ground. To this ends I registered the Domain name phasm.co.uk and for the first time begun to seriously consider a career as an independent consultant.
Despite getting some work, including writing a desk-top report into a proposed development on a landfill site for Cosmeston Community Farm Project, I spent the majority of the next 3 months in frantic job application mode before and quite literally taking flight.
The endless raking over the past to construct another variation of my CV, the ridiculous mini exam questions tha HR construct, the psychometric tests the brain dead love, the constant rejections, all had their toll and I was close to suicidal. So taking flight to Portugal where I had some friends who owned an old mill and eked out a living and lifestyle to suit was a good decision under the circumstances. It was here that I begun to reconsider my options and whilst Portugal was ideal for rekindling the ideas, my thoughts were drawn towards a place further South, across the pillars of Hercules and down to the home of the Little Prince; the small isolated fishing village of Tarafaya in Moroccan Sahara.
Tarfaya is I suppose a strange place to end up or dream of: a small fishing port on a peninsula, that is the most southerly point of historical Morocco and the most westerly of Africa, it is 100 km from anywhere. To the casual eye it is a small walled town half buried under sand with only the sea and the desert for company. Seen only from a distant road its isolation belies a rich history that tells another story. The French, the Spanish and even the British have fought and occupied this empty stretch of coast; but perhaps its most significant claim to fame came with the advent of air mail. For being so westerly, Tarfaya was the last station before the transatlantic crossing to South America and so played an important role in the development of air mail. It was here that the most famous flying post man, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, crashed his plane and whilst waiting for rescue conceived the idea that later became The Little Prince one of the greatest selling books of all time;
Whilst not so action filled nor dramatic it was as a consequence of a flight that I too had ended up here. Not though a recent flight nor one for that matter across Africa. No I had ended up here as a consequence of a conversation I had had in April 2001 on an Easyjet flight from Granada . The flight had been the return trip from the last module in my Degree course; a field trip to Andalusia, and I had found myself sat on this flight next to a man in his early 60’s… and over the 3 hour duration we conversed.
On landing, having exchanged ideas, we similarly exchanged emails; one of which was the email of a young English speaking resident of Tarfaya, Shaibata Mrabihrabou or Sadat, as her preferred to be called and his self help group ‘The Friends of Tarfaya’ . So it was a year later, too Tarfaya and Sadat that I traveled and it was here between the Desert and the Sea where Phasm finally begun to take shape.
next: story of phasm 03
references links and downloads
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
Free Cultural Works (CC-BY-NC-SA) Malcolm McEwen 2011