One photo a day until I meet Jonathan Harris

19th June

This story started in Paris with a 27 year old movie whose name I could hardly pronounce, and it ends in Iceland, 104 days later with the same 27 year old movie whose name now rolls off my tongue with ease.

After a long drive into the midnight sun, I arrived in Siglufjörđur early. Considering all the things that could have gone wrong (alien abductions, recently erupted volcano's or even the simple fact that Jonathan Harris might be out of town for the day), it seemed I had the odds clearly stacked against me. The realisation I was already in dire breach of some fundamental laws of probability made me very nervous. With a pounding heart and trembling fingers I opened my computer at the only internet cafe in Iceland's most northerly town, wondering if there had been a response to the email I had sent just before my plane had taken off from Paris. Crossing my fingers, my toes and offering silent prayers to all the saints and gods I could bring to mind I saw a blessed line in my inbox that read "Jonathan Harris" and clicked on it.

He was in town!

He said we could meet that evening after he had finished working. So if I could just avoid the UFO's and falling ash for a few more hours I would be all set to start writing my first TED talk: "What can go right: rethinking the laws of probability".

In the hours that remained before our meeting, I busied myself with the task of reading every single Jonathan Harris journal entry that I might have missed - I didn't want to risk wasting any of his time by asking redundant questions. The hours flew by and I got myself to the appointed place at the appointed time: 6pm at a rather breezy but pleasant harbour-side café. I stared into the wind and tried to remain calm. I felt like I was ready to make history.

Luckily just before he arrived I got talking to some curious Icelandic tourists, this masked my nerves as before I could worry about it any more, he quite casually strolled up and smiled.

We shook hands as the laws of probability turned a foundation-shaking blind eye. History (as far as I was concerned) had been made.

After offering several profuse, but genuinely heartfelt thank you's, I launched into the very longwinded explanation of why I had come to see him.

Miraculously he tolerated my rambling telling of the tale and even gracefully accepted my gift of the still unopened envelope containing 1/20,000th of a $20,000 photograph which was cut into pieces by Bill Drummond. We laughed about the strange fact that here I was, giving him what (I hoped) was a tiny piece of a photograph once taken by Richard Long of a stone circle constructed possibly not too far from where we were sitting. That photograph had journeyed to London, been bought for $20,000 by Bill Drummond and then been cut-up into 20,000 tiny pieces, one of which was sent to me in Paris and had now finally found its way back to Iceland.

After this colossal just-40kms-south-of-the-arctic-circle ice was broken, we had a great conversation in which I asked him a good many questions about himself, his family and his work. We went walking and had some food, talking all of the time except for a brief moment spent listening to birds. I even got to explain my feelings about the last space shuttle launch and how I thought it would be important to see it.

Finally it was getting late and I thought it best that I hit the road to tackle the long drive before my flight back to Paris the next evening. I felt good driving up the hill and out of town until suddenly I remembered I hadn't even asked about the film - Koyaanisqatsi - the one he supposedly carries with him in a blue leather case wherever he goes. It was my scepticism of that seemingly preposterous notion that had started this whole complicated ball rolling, and I hadn't even bothered to check if he was really telling the truth! After a moment of terribly gut-wrenching indecision I decided it was too important. I would have to turn back and risk disturbing Jonathan Harris one last time.

So if you believe a photo, here it is.

Yes, he still carries the film with him everywhere he goes - he even carried it to Siglufjörđur, the most northern town in Iceland, just 40kms south of the arctic circle. For historical accuracy however it should be noted that the blue leather case has been replaced by a black vinyl one that was given to him by his mother. Well I guess you can't have everything.

The moral of the story?

The only thing I can say is it happened. There was no trickery, fudgery or license taken in the telling of this story. Google's blog history and those who have followed it from the beginning can attest to that. When I started, I had no connection whatsoever to Jonathan Harris, other than an interest in his work and a few bizarre synchronicities. Maybe it just re-affirms that the world is indeed small. Or maybe it shows that chance, coincidence and synchronicity are gandhi-like rebels engaged in a huge civil-disobediance protest against our conventional laws of probability.

Although so far I only have one solitary point of data to back this finding, as my friend Anna Branford reminded me, there could be two scientific reactions to the discovery of a flying pig - one could say: "clearly, I need to rethink my understanding of pigs"; or one could say: "this is of no consequence until 100 such pigs can be found".

And that's about as far as I want to push my luck with morals and the laws of probability for the moment. I don't know what any of this has to do with stolen bikes, stolen roses or stolen blessings but we'll have to leave that for another time.

Its sad when a good story has to end, but its important that they do. In one lifetime there are surely only a finite number of stories that can be lived or appreciated by any one person. If this story didn't end, how would we leave room or time for others which are perhaps more important?

If nothing else, Craig Venter has basically rubbed our noses in the fact that stories are the stuff of life. So whether or not you consider yourself good at it, we are all tellers of stories - even if that story is as simple as part of your mother's jumbled up with part your father's plus few adventures of your own thrown in for good measure.

So the up-side of ending this story here is that it leaves room for the telling of the most important story of all: the one that you write.

"Sure, O.K.", I hear you saying, "but what about Cape Canaveral and the last space shuttle launch? You still haven't got to that, have you?"

Great coincidences might be able to twist and bend the laws of probability, but I can't escape the superstition that it would be unwise to push things too far.

Do you feel like going to Florida?

If I can get a visa sorted out, maybe I'll see you there.