'If you have a perfect place in your heart, I think it should stay there'

YOUR PAPERS PLEASE

Dea Birkett

Date of birth

21 August 1958

Place of birth

Hampton Court

Occupation

Travel Writer

Travel writer Dea Birkett has a rare stamp in her passport. It looks like a large, black postmark and says "Pitcairn Island Police and Immigration". In 1992 Birkett spent four months on Pitcairn, fulfilling a dream which began when she saw the movie Mutiny on the Bounty. She says: "I was sitting in a cinema on a rainy afternoon at the Elephant and Castle. I was watching the latest of five movies made about the Mutiny on the Bounty, in which Mel Gibson played Fletcher Christian and Anthony Hopkins, Captain Bligh. I was captivated by the images of this lovely island. At the end, the credits rolled up and said that descendants of Fletcher Christian live on the island to this very day. It was miserable and grey and cold outside and I thought, 'I've got to go to this lovely place.'" It took Birkett two years. The Foreign Office is inundated with applications from people who want to live on Britain's last colony in the South Pacific, and nearly all are refused. Birkett persisted and gained permission to go, but there were other problems. She explains: "Pitcairn is incredible remote. The only way is if you can convince a cargo ship to take you as a member of crew. The ships pass within about 10 miles of Pitcairn and they literally drop you over the side on a ladder into a long boat." Luckily she had worked her passage from Lagos to Liverpool as a steersman in 1987, so she found it relatively easy to join a chemical carrier in Houston, Texas, bound for the South Pacific. On Pitcairn she found people dressed in T-shirts and shorts, speaking a language reminiscent of the 18th century - calling a gun a musket and saying "tarry awhile" instead of stay. Birkett lived and worked with sixth-generation descendants of Fletcher Christian. "I did washing, I cooked, I helped in their garden, I went out to trade with passing ships." But Pitcairn was not the island of her dreams. She explains: "The island of the movies is surrounded by coral beaches, it's palm fringed, there's a lovely blue lapping sea. Pitcairn has no beach and a violent coastline. What I thought would make Pitcairn so attractive - its smallness, it's remoteness - were in actual fact huge problems for the people there and also for me. I found that the 38 inhabitants were fallible and human like all of us, and I was enormously disappointed. It was not fair of me to project this paradise on to a very ordinary place. If you have a perfect place in your heart, I think it should stay there."

"Serpent in Paradise", Dea Birkett's book about Pitcairn is published by Picador at pounds 16.99.

Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Sport
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
News
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Sport
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Cleaning Manager - York and Bradford

    £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The post holder is a key member of the V...

    Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Breakdown Recovery Drivers

    £18000 - £28800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Breakdown Recovery Driv...

    Recruitment Genius: Processing Partner

    £15000 - £19200 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Processing Partner is require...

    Recruitment Genius: PPC Manager - SW London

    £34000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This specialist travel agent ba...

    Day In a Page

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower