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PART ONE OF TWO: CHANNEL 4 IN IRAN
"I've found him, he's in Esturghlal Hotel, room 1328" said the message that flashed up on my screen. "I'm calling him now" followed the next message. "She's calling him now" I wrote in the other window. "She's a joker" replied another window. A little while later we learned that, "He's in Qom, I've just seen the broadcast". We missed him for today, but attempted to predict his moves and made plans accordingly.
Hours later I woke and left town for a business trip of sorts with my Father and his brother in law, visiting the city of Rasht, a place that the Caspian Sea furnishes with fish and gifts with a familiar salty breeze. In between routinely recalling the hotel and sharing the altering plans with my accomplice, I saw the enlarging sight of a single wind turbine on the horizon. No sooner had I begun to point this out but they multiplied before my eyes. "Dad, we're stopping to photograph" I firmly instructed, and without protest we pulled over and I disappeared out of view, leaping over think clots of caterpillars that have yet to evolve to their future obstacles and dodging the odd lizard. My only pause in this fleeting photography session was to stand below the rotating blades of turbine "5" to hear the music being carved from the frighteningly large blades. As I ran deeper into the field I united with another lone man running in my direction - he could only be security and I could only be trouble. We played our roles, mine being one of over enthusiasm - playing dumb, choosing to play down my Farsi as it suited me. "Forbidden" he told me, which was repeated by the manager that I was escorted to later. A crowd gathered as I was requested to show the photos I'd taken. "He's English!" they echoed with an odd jubilation before I went on to agree that this field was certainly better than anything in Europe. I chose the dumb-tourist approach, telling them that I only managed to get one shot for the family before being interrupted. In my euphoric state I cheekily requested that I photograph some more but my smiles were not mirrored.
During the trip I became surplus to requirements and also frustrated at not being in Tehran should we manage to get any news. I concocted a symbolic gesture relating to the week's political events and my experience at the wind farm - choosing to purchase a dove and later release it at the wind farm as we passed upon our return. This futile action, from any perspective, became a source of focus but the shop I later purchased the dove from only served to make me more depressed about matters. Many animals shrieked from the walls - I was mostly upset with the caged monkey that lashed out at a small child that leaned forward to stroke it. There was an odd sense of responsibility developing, with little else for my mind to play with, every smaller details developed symbolism.
"Salam?", answered a woman in room 1328. Confused, I requested in English to speak with Mr Snow. "Salam?" enquired the following male voice. This wasn't Snow's room. Had we been wrong all along? Had reception not understood my English (the better language I decided in this case)? I called again, testing reception's possible mistake, this time asking in Farsi, "I don't know a Mr Snow" replied an angry voice from room 1328. I conferred with my accomplice who was equally puzzled. "He's in Isfahan" I was then informed. The plans were rearranged.
While stopping for tea upon our return, we were repeatedly interrupted by the car alarm sounding. After the fifth time of turning it off, we realised that the dove had actually gotten out of the paper bag and was flapping and shitting all over the car. Freedom it seemed was a strong desire. I detested our transportation methods but was happy that the journey was short. In the near darkness I rested the dove on the ground close to the wind farm. It stood still, looked around, walked forward a little before lauching in fright at my Father's brother in law's foot stomp. The maiden flight was a weak one and the destination seemed a mystery. It landed in a nearby bush in eye-shot, before being pounced upon by a fox. My Father and his brother in law flinched forward in concern but I, on the other hand, burst out with laughter. It was beautiful, nature was taking its course. Relief hit my Father's face as the dove managed to get free and fly far away. We left and the symbolism got deeper.
The following day my accomplice and I decided matters would be better dealt with from the hotel but still no response from room 1328. "No, no BBC 4 in this hotel sir" stated the reception manager. There was no "BBC ITN" I also informed him as I struggled to explain matters. "H. I. L. S. U. M" I spelt out as the manager punched it in to the computer. I knew that this lady was with the team so I tried this avenue. "Hello, am I speaking to Lindsey Hilsum?" I inquired and indeed I was. I explained my request to which it was arranged that I would meet them in the lobby before they went to shoot. "We're coming down. You know what Jon Snow looks like don't you?" she asked. "I think I can remember" I replied with a huge sigh of relief.