Dave the motorhome seems to me to be rather too clean, but it’s absolutely wonderful to be back. Ju’s just got all excited and handed me my Xmas pressie early – a couple of espresso cups, real beauties, red with a cream coloured interior. Maybe she’s liking the mince pies I got her from ASDA, which somehow made it back vaguely mince pie-shaped.
ASDA, how odd! After all the months of driving around Europe, taking a 2 hour flight across several countries seems like nipping through a wormhole, like cheating somehow. My couple of days in the UK were like stepping back in time, seeing the country in Xmas build up (something I’d expected to despise) was lovely. I flew into Bristol, drove to Torquay, did some work (which was actually fun!), munched fish and chips (much to Ju’s disdain) and flew back again today.
I met a couple of ladies on my trip out. Elderly ladies as it happened, and fascinating. One was an Italian lady, who had moved to Cardiff from Rome in her early 20’s for a year abroad, meeting a Polish chap and getting married within months; the year turned into twenty! They never went back to Poland, either of them, it wasn’t a good place to be then she told me. I asked her about the Italian Xmas cake she had in her bag, a pandoro, a massive sponge of a thing. The best are home made, she said, get one from a cake shop in the week before xmas. The ones in the supermarkets are almost as good though. She went on to tell me how her husband had died young. Playing with their children he’d felt tired, sat down, and had a heart attack and passed away. Even after all the years she stared off into the distance as she told the story, her eyes glistened. There had been no-one else she said, she was too old now. I asked her about the Italian hand gestures where they run fingers across their faces to mean something. A thumb run down the jaw line from ear to chin means something is good, to be savoured. The back of the finger rubbed up from the throat to the chin means ‘Yeah, whatever’, ‘I don’t care’. She said they use that one a lot. Although she lived in Rome, she’d never been to the Vatican.
The second lady I spoke to was Welsh-German, and had lived in Italy for 30 years on a small farm in Abruzzo with her husband. She was a fiery character, a matriarch. Under normal circumstances I might have cursed my luck as we sat for the 2 hours in enforced conversation, but not this time. She ranted about her Italian neighbours. Living in a community of 300, she knew everyone, everyone knew her, and everyone knew everything about everyone (‘they know when you’ve been to the loo they do’). After ten years of cancer treatment she’d just been declared clear, and was making the most of it, heading off hubby-free back to Wales to meet old friends. She was also on a mission. Paxo stuffing, vacuum packing sausages and bacon, fruit and nut mix, Branston Pickle, Heinz Salad Cream, Oxo cubes and Heinz Baked Beans. For 30 years she’s either has her favourite British grub shipped over, or had gone and fetched it. I asked her about meat, and if she’d managed to get it shipped over. ‘No!’ she said, ‘The Italian post is awful. I tried to post some pork pies once and they took two weeks. Mouldy they were’. It transpired her husband was the single council employee in their village. When they went away, no-one empted the bins.
I flew back into Italy today looking down at a world of icing sugar. Snow has covered much of northern Europe. France was smothered in the stuff, making it hard to distinguish between cloud and gaps in cloud. I peered out at it, feeling elated, as though I was managing take a short cut through a long, dark winter. Rome was 12 degrees, announced the captain, gleeful at the prospect of giving us the good news of a 100mph tailwind which brought us in 20 minutes early. Being an EasyJet pilot can’t involve much good news announcements I imagine? Travelling through the city I held my bag tighter than if it were my own nipper, expecting a thief to nab it at any time. The tube was sardined. Outside the rain hammered down. I made it through the car-plane-train-subway-train-walk test with only a minor detour, cursing drivers who blatantly drove straight through the red light at the pedestrian crossing.
Back at the campsite I caught a glimpse of Ju and Charlie in reception, asking if the flight had landed as the wifi here is bust. More elation. I’m back, and more adventure calls! Another day or two here to gear ourselves up, and then we point Dave south, outrunning winter.
Cheers (and heartfelt thanks to those who posted comments for a lonely Ju while I was away), Jay