Travel as Metaphor

The blog of novelist Sue Swift.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Sunday 24 Sept…Explored the Barisano, a part of the Sassi with which I am not familiar. Went to the train station in the afternoon, walking through the modern, less interesting part of Matera. Had dinner with Eileen Dreyer at the Hemingway, the bar which put on most of the cocktail parties for the conference (and did a damned fine job).

Monday: I dreamed that Liz Slatter called me last night, telling me that she hadn’t committed suicide, it was all a silly mistake, and everything was fine. I dreaded telling her that Ethel had died, instead timidly asking, “Have you talked with your mother yet?” She straightaway said “Oh yes, she’s fine.”

When I awakened, I realized Liz had killed herself because she had ceased taking joy from life.

Tuesday 26 Sept 06: Cranking huge storm started at 3 a.m. Not a moment too soon…had been threatening since noon and spattering from 7b onwards. Town needed to be cleaned up a bit, too; lots of dogs and feral cats, and no one appears to clean up after them.

Meeting Liz for coffee today. Must get it together to find a place to live!

THE HUNT IS ON!!! Checked out four places. The first was utterly gorgeous but 1000 euros per month! Well out of my price range…but newly renovated, decorated with antiques and with a new kitchen and a wonderful sleeping loft. The second under renovation by Dottore Cinnella’s nephew Michele, who owns the restorante Bruna, and it’s near the restaurant in the Sassi. Great location near the Piazzas VV and Sedile. It would be ready in a few weeks and would be 400 euros per months. Quite nice, barrel vaulted ceilings, sleeping area set off from the main room by a large archway…but few windows and the bedroom very dark. This is not necessarily bad as one wants one’s sleeping area to be dark.

Third place bigger, less expensive but I just didn’t get a good feeling from it. It’s just north of the Sassi on Via S. Stefano with a fabulous view of the Barisano and the gorge. Lots of windows with no window coverings and NO HEAT. In a place that gets snow in the winter, there’s no way.

Place number 4: Small but immaculate, and the price is definitely right—just 300 euros per month—but the location, not. On the Via Beccarie a stone’s throw from the Piazza Sedile. I wouldn’t get a wink of sleep. It’s a busy street with a carpark a half-block away, and when I say on the street, I mean it. You open the door and you’re in the studio. Wouldn’t work at all.

Sooo…next day I saw another studio, worked my contacts and all to no avail. I nearly did make a deal with a fellow named Luigi for a studio but there wasn’t a kitchen. He claimed he was going to put one in, but as there was no sink and no plumbing…not. But I feel sure that I will find a place. When I return, it will be close to November, and the b&bs will be empty. The owners likely will be desperate to fill their rooms for the winter season.

Friday, 29 Sept 06: A long day of travel. I have to check out of the Vicinato by 10. I do so, then go to the Lionetti to say goodbye to Bruna and Michaela, who have been so good to me. Michaela isn’t there, but I give Bruna a couple pair of earrings, one set for her and one for Michaela. She is sweet and very appreciative. I go to the provincial library to work, and by 1 p.m. realize that I have really done quite well this week. Since arriving in Matera, I have edited two manuscripts and finished a third. I go to yet another that needs work and set to it.

I eat lunch, then return at 2. They kick me out…the library’s closing until the next day. Damn. I thought it would be open until 6:30, and now I have no where to go. Matera, like many Italian towns, literally closes down from 2-5. Everyone eats, takes naps, has affairs and so on.

Fortunately the weather is decent. I lounge around on the steps of the Banca di Napoli in the Piazzi Victor Vittoria, watching a green, golfcart sized truck with the logo of Il Buongiusto chug along in front of me. It stops at the store, where the driver takes delivery of a large, elaborately wrapped gift and some other parcels…all the other shops on the square are closed and the only life is a tour group crossing it and entering the Sassi.

I have nothing to do for three hours until I’m to be picked up and taken to the Bari airport for my plane flight to London Stansted. I guess I’ll read and doze…it’s irreverent, but maybe if a church is open I can nap on a back pew.

But I can’t move. I lean my head back against one of the Banco’s smooth marble pillars and close my eyes. A group of overexcited Italians, one clearly drunk, soon invade my steps, and I move to the Sedile. I drink a grapefruit juice, file my nails, drowse in the sun. It’s 3:30 and even the flies are moving very slowly.

The afternoon is graying toward dusk when I decide to buy an ice cream and take a walk.

1:10 a.m. Saturday 30 Sept 06: I want to go home. Not to Sacramento but to San Diego, where I want to live with Wendy and the boys. That’s probably where I belong. That’s where I have experienced my most clear feelings of belonging-ness, of rightness, of knowing I was where I needed to be, should be, and was doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing.

Yesterday was a bloody hellacious day. Period.

To pick up where I left off: I had an interesting conversation with the driver who took me from Matera to the airport in Bari. The trip took a whole hour. The bus takes as long. The train—longer.

So Matera just isn’t a good jumping off point for the travel I want to do around Europe. But another option is to plant myself there until the end of the year. A lady in the Bari airport, who lives in another southern Italian town, told me that the weather is decent until the New Year, but January, Feb and March are really cold, below freezing. On top of that I’d be living in a cave. Is that nuts or what?

Sooo…I get on the plane at 9:30 p.m. Tired as an insomniac bear in January, I alternately doze and read. Fortunately, Aline Tayar’s book is very good.
Get to Stansted after three hours, 11:30 local time. Stansted is now much more pleasant now that smoking is not allowed indoors…the Bari airport was OK, too.

I get a taxi to a grotty Days Inn and realize that Ryanair is a false economy. The flight, with the change I had to make, cost me nearly $300. Taxis to and from the Days Inn were about 30. The room, about $100. Train from Stansted to London, 35. I could probably have taken an Alitalia, British Airways or Virgin flight at a normal time for the same amount of money for much less hassle. NEVER AGAIN.

I evolve Sue’s rule of 9 to 9 travel: on a travel day, never plan to leave your home before 9 am.m or to arrive at your destination after 9 p.m.

The Days Inn SUCKS. I was initially sent to a dirty room. Next room OK, but because of the toiletries ban on flights, I have no skin cream or toothpaste. HATE that.

Bed’s nice, though!

Looking forward to getting to Berta’s, getting my stuff out of her cramped but nice quarters and over to Liz Swift’s. Poor thing, with Li so sick she really needs company. Her email sounded very eager.

Must decide what to do!

Sunday October 1: Roberta says smugly, England’s a green and pleasant land. She is so right. Just a half-hour on the train, looking out the window, and I’m ready to live here and never leave. Everything that has happened so far does nothing to convince me otherwise.

Noticing I had grown a potbelly whilst in Italy-no workouts and too much fatty food—I ran yesterday and today for twenty minutes per jog around St John’s Wood. No dog or cat poop on ground.

Love to hang out with Berta. On Saturday, phone calls from various cousins, and one came round for lunch. Had dinner with another cousin, his wife and their two darling little boys. Next day, more phone calls and cousin Sara Lennard has a line on a reasonably priced flat. Berta wants me to live with her J. Being embraced by my family feels good…besides, and Berta says, England is a green and pleasant land. As I stated when I started this blog, there is nowhere I feel as home as in England.


Post a Comment

<< Home