Tuesday, 23 December 2014

A DREAM



So here it is. As promised the first view of the book I spent three months working on. 

Around the Galle Fort in 80 Lives.

Writing a book in three months is nothing like you’d think it would be. There’s no time for relaxing, no time to compare notes and deliberate over whether you may or may not have made the right decision. Every second, every hour is precious and must be used wisely. Conversations are had on the go, yelled above the noise of a tuk tuk weaving around huge buses and old men on spindly bikes or hurriedly discussed over a sandwich as you fuel up ready for the next task. And because the people you are writing about have their own lives to live, they are not always as accommodating as you might wish. Children have to be picked up from school, the vegetable man pushing his cart of rainbow goodies has to be caught before he rounds the corner or a sudden impromptu trip to Colombo occurs, pushing your interview back by several days.

Around the Galle Fort in 80 Lives is a book that was written on the back of unpredictability. We never really knew, even up until printing, whether we had everything we needed or who was to go where or even if we had the right photos. But over the three months, there became a level of organisation that hovered above all this chaos. Somehow, although no day ever stuck to plan and no interview actually happened when we wanted it to, we remained calm and, to a certain extent anyway, under control, though it certainly didn’t look that way at the time. People have the capacity to both amaze and irritate you in the same moment. When one interviewee was not answering their phone for the tenth time in a row, another would appear round a corner, a friendly smile inviting you in for a cup of tea and a chat. In fact some of the most special moments I experienced over the course of the time I spent in Sri Lanka were totally unscripted. They just happened.

When I first held the book in my hands, when I flicked through the pages seeing stories that we’d worked on for months and photos that we’d captured in a second laid up on shiny, thick paper, it didn’t really feel real. Even now it still doesn’t. But knowing that our work and our stories are going to reach people around the world is the most incredible feeling. Around the Galle Fort in 80 Lives is not a guide on how to live life to the full, a self-help tome that ultimately spouts out every clich√© imaginable. It is a book of stories, a compilation of a variety of lives, which have come together to form a community stronger than most you will find across the world.

It is important to remember that you have a choice. No one can tell you what to do with your life, most definitely not me, most definitely not any book. But I think that the world today offers so many opportunities that need to be seized upon. Sri Lanka is only just realising its full potential and I think it is vital that the generations who are helping to rebuild this magical country, first address their own lives before tackling the future of their country. Maybe that means stepping outside of a comfort zone, away from all that is familiar and reassuring and into the terrifying unknown. Maybe it doesn’t. But I know that is what I did and I’d have to say it turned out to be a pretty incredible decision in the end.

Thanks for listening to my ramble.

I hope it may inspire you to take a gamble in 2015.

Go on, I dare you.

Pics c/o Juliet Coombe


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