The Beauty of Booty, Especially When It's Legal
Arnott, Paul, New Statesman (1996)
This time last week Branscombe Beach was the place I took summer visitors line fishing for mackerel. Now it's the location of my infamy, where I was blooded in the ancient Devon line of shipwreck scavengers. You may have seen me on the front page, 14th container from the left, a blot on society. Too slow to salvage one of those BMW motorbikes from the MSC Napoli, my haul was a set of dice and an empty wine cask, one of hundreds en route from France to the vineyards of South Africa. Rolling the cask up the hill to do duty as a water butt--on the orders of my wife--I felt like an old smuggler robbing the excise man of duty on French brandy, and with the 31 January tax deadline looming, there was some pleasure in this.
More thrilling was that it was legal, astonishing my friend Gary, a senior policeman in these parts, who could scarcely believe what he was told by a lady called the Receiver of Wrecks as the BMWs were wheeled away under his nose by tattooed men. So long as they did a bit of paperwork, he told me, the bikes were theirs. Gary is a poacher-turned-gamekeeper--former punk anarchist and Blair Peach protestor, now first-rate community bobby--but even he didn't realise how wonderfully lawless the law can be. When he's off duty, he's coming back for a cask himself.
TV as sport
With the wind still fresh in what's left of my hair, I sat down to watch the edit of an arts documentary I've been producing for RTE in Ireland and America's PBS on the great Irish sculptor Rowan Gillespie, whose most famous public works are the "Famine" figures on Dublin Quay. We've been following him as he makes a new set for Toronto, figures he imagines might have arrived there 160 years ago. We filmed from first drawing to final casting one sculpture that was inspired by the character of Pius Mulvey in Joseph O'Connor's Star of the Sea.
The moment Joe saw Pius brought to bronze life in the pissing Irish rain was magnificent, and yet the chances of this being commissioned by a UK broadcaster are zero. I am only an occasional in production these days, and say this with no side, but the genius of the Indian backlash against Big Brother was that the effigies they burned were not of Jade but of the producers. …