French Countryside, July 31st

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31st July, 0003hrs Saturday. Train – Rome to Nice. Rome.

It’s gone dark. Sorry.

1055hrs Nice-Ville station

Europe’s a small continent. Gemma and I have just bumped into Nicky and Brian from the ferry from Brindisi to Corfu. Bizarre. They’re bound for Barcelona having come from Cinqueterra.

Last night’s train was not my favourite one so far. We got a reasonable compartment with only four other people, but at certain stops we exchanged one short person for two incredibly tall ones. Great. I slept fitfully – when the train was moving ( a seemingly rare occurrence) it was very fast and consequentially very noisy.

We arrive in Paris at about 7am tomorrow morning. It’ll be Sunday, so we’ll ring Olivier and see if we can dump our bags/crash tomorrow night/have Herve’s flat for the night...I hope so! Tonight will be our last European train ride, and marks the end of my totting up the cost of getting home on my Barclaycard. Is it more than the cost of the Interrail ticket? Let’s see...

Italy first time: Florence-Naples £20, Naples-Brindisi £20

Greece: Patras-Olympia £1.80 (oooooh), Olympia-Patras £1.80, Patras-Athens £2.80, Athens-Patras £2.80, Patras-Brindisi £16, Brindisi-Rome £16.50, Rome-Nice £25.10, Nice-Paris £48.20 (ouch!).

Grand total - £154.80

Cost of Interrail in Spain - £167!

Hmm, that’s close, and on the good side.

1300hrs, A park in Nice

I am, without the faintest shadow of a doubt, exhausted. We’re stopped here for lunch (a more traditionally ‘us’ baguette with cheese (EDAM-type stuff from Rome)) and now we’re going to the beach so that I can crash, Gemma can veg, and we can both try to regain some semblance of normal lack of fatigue. It has been many miles and a few too many night trains and boats since Crete. It hasn’t been especially gruelling – we’ve had particularly unstressful days (apart from in Rome) – but it has meant we’ve had very little sleep. I know that if I sleep a lot today, my rhythms will be finally shot to pieces, I won’t sleep tonight and Paris will be less colourful as a result. Heigh ho.

Nice seems a really, um, pretty town. Just right for relaxing in. Aaaaaah.

1845, Back in Nice-Ville station

We’ve had a doze on the beach (a bit stony, but our roll-mats came to the rescue), I’ve done a little shopping, buying CDs of songs we learned in the mountains, and now Gem’s nipped off for some food for our journey. I only started collecting country/flag patches for my backpack in Greece, but thanks to a shop with other country’s patches, I’m only missing one for Morocco, and I think maybe ‘Au Vieux Campeur’ in Paris might have one. Cool.

The Italian Countryside, July 30th

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30th July 1255hrs Friday. Piazza San Pietro, The Vatican City.

Yesterday was a great day. Our intended siesta/repose never materialised and we did lots. After having breakfast at the pension we went to the internet cafe, got some laundry done (gleaming white T-shirt for the homeward journey!) and shopped for lunch.

We went to the Colosseum. A scaffolding-clad amount of brick greeted us from the metro station when it first hove into view, and I had a similar (but more short-lived) reaction to that at the Parthenon, but about 80% of it wasn’t under scaffold, so it was bearable. After the four of us (still us, Daena and Eric) had waded through the custom gladiators (“Can I kill you?”), we went inside. It was impressive. It must have been immense. After a brief stroll around we took a free tour and I was astounded at the amount of death, torture and destruction that took place there throughout its history.

To inaugurate the place, there were 100 days of ‘games’ with (on average) one human or animal death every thirty minutes in that time. It was horrifying, but involving. It was bakingly hot – when there were 80,000 people in there it must’ve been like an oven.

After that we went back to the hostel, cooked and ate dinner – pasta, tuna, sweetcorn with melted cheese, and a glorious bottle of Chianti ’97, courtesy of Eric.

The night tour took in the Spanish Steps, the Trevi fountain ( absolutely out of this world – I threw 3 coins in – I’ll come back to Rome, fall in love in Rome, and the third coin is so you have great sex with the person you fall in love with. Apparently.), the Pantheon and other spots of interest.

The front of St. Peter’s cathedral, the epic frontispiece of The Vatican, centre of the Roman Catholic world and the Pope’s playroom, is totally covered in scaffold. They’re cleaning it for the year 2000 Roman Catholic Jubilee AAAAAAAAGGGGGHHHHHHHH!

1500hrs –Same place.

Last night on the tour, there was wine (‘mother’ bottles – 5 litres!) and gelati (‘as big as your head’). A fantastic combination. Our tour ticket was good for 5 scoops of gelati, from a shop that had won Italy’s ‘Golden Spoon’ ( a sort of ice-cream Oscar) three years in a row. I had, in this order: Nutella, Giacuia, Coconut, Chocolate and Yoghurt. It was heavenly. Brilliant.

Afterwards, I had to shake the owner’s hand!

Also on the tour ( I got a bit rushed above) we saw the Pantheon and a couple of famous Piazzas – dei Fiori and others. It was really fun, and well worth the £.20,000!

Improv

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Um, hi.

At this point in time, I do not know what to write. Peering back over the mist-coiled archives of the last year or so, you may find this difficult to believe. I'm always spouting rubbish, serving coffee, proposing impractical measures for the future of mankind or just sticking my nose in where it isn't wanted.

So right now I feel like I'm standing centre stage in front of a red curtain backdrop, in a spotlight with a too tight-collar and tie with a heavy grey jacket that I'm beginning to regret because of the heat of the footlights...

Um, hi there. Glad you could all make it. Anyone have difficulty with the traffic on the way here? No? Well, uh, get those crazy traffic-organising guys. Really know their stuff, huh. Um.

You know my friend Wally told me that er, the internet was a pretty tough audience, I guess he was right...er...not that I mean you're tough, er, you know? You guys are great, obviously, um, yeah, great.

*pulls out cue cards*

Well times like this remind me of the time I was in a bar with my friend Wally. really great guy, you know? Good friend, anyway. He was telling me about these two guys he knows down the pool hall he drinks with sometimes...not all the time, o'course, 'cause he drinks with me some nights, but I'm not getting a whole bundle of gigs at the moment, so I can't afford to hit the bars like we used to when we both worked in Accounts, it's not that I regret the move, but you know, things are a little tighter financially and I have to give up a few luxuries...sorry, yeah, anyway, these two guys Wally knows.

No, no no, um. Hahahaha. No. Anyway.

There are these two women on their way home after a big night out, yeah? Only they couldn't get a taxi and they've been walking for ages and they really need to take a leak. They can't just squat down in the street, but they pass a graveyard and nip inside. Neither of them have anything to wipe with but one of them uses here underwear and throws it away, and the other one, seeing the big leaves, decides to use a bit of a funeral wreath, okay?

Anyway, these two guys, um, who don't know Wally at all really, but I thought that might be a good angle for a joke, but it doesn't really work sorry I should have run through this bit before the show ahahahaha. These two guys, anyway, are sitting in a bar looking really, really hacked off, like really pissed off.

One of them says, "I think something's going on. My wife came home last night without her underwear."
And the other one says, "You think you've got problems. My wife came home last night with a card wedged in her ass saying 'From all the boys at the fire station, we'll never forget you'."

How about that, huh? Huh? How about it.
Jeez.
Uh.

Anyone from Pittsburgh in the audience tonight?

Rome, July 29th

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29th July 1050hrs Thursday. Internet cafe, Via Vicenza, Rome.

After some serious platform hogging and nifty footwork getting on, we got a whole compartment on the train. The four of us pulled the seats out to form weird bed-like things (only not) and got at least 3-4 hours sleep.

We arrived in Rome at 'Roma Tibertina' at about 0730ish, missed the 0740 to Roma Termini and caught the 0803 instead. We’re staying at the Pension Alessandra – a little pricey at £.30 000 a night, but it’s only for one night, and we'll be on our way tomorrow evening once more.

By the time we arrived here I stank. Cutting no corners, pulling no punches, I stank. I’ve just had my first shower in a few days, and despite being dog-tired (couple of cups of coffee at the hostel helped – I knew it would be worth carrying the tea and coffee from St. Andeol around!) I feel great. we’re going to go and see the Colosseum and the Trevi fountain today (hurrah!) and maybe a tour later!

A Double-Barrelled Question

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Good morning, world.
What?
It's morning here.

Sorry if you were wondering where I was - the answer is that I was in bed, mostly. A summer cold. As the office anarchist I felt it my duty to try and make it into work to infect as many colleagues as possible, but the little bug-like virus won through in the end and I've been resting for the majority of the last 48 hours.

As many of you who read Krissa's site as well as mine will know, the final piece of documentation that we needed for my visa finally arrived. All that remains now is for the US Embassy in London to arrange an interview for me with a Consular Officer, for one of their doctors to poke and prod me a bit to make sure nothing drops off...and then, Inshallah, I will recieve a visa to enter the United States of America.

Hmm. Best not say 'Inshallah' in the interview.

The big question now, of course is 'How long?'
The answer is vague at best. I could recieve a date for my interview within two weeks. But when that interview will actually be, I don't know. The wait is generally no longer than three weeks. (3...4...5)
Then I have to give a month's notice for my job. (...6...7...8...)

Who knows?
We'll see.

I am in a particularly shiny happy mood this morning as an unexpected contact through work has assured me that I will have no problem getting a job with a couple of companies he works with in New York, and if I slip him my CV by the end of the day he'll take it with him when he goes to the States this weekend, and get it to the right people.

This week has been well timed, really, even down to the intensity of my cold.

If I hadn't taken Tuesday off, I wouldn't have been at home when the police certificate arrived, and I wouldn't have been able to hijack Khalil's computer and send off the final checklist to the US Embassy on the same day.

Had I not returned to work this morning, I would have missed this contact entirely, and as he only passes through these parts every few months, it would have been unlikely that I would have seen him again.

If I could, I would reach inside myself and find the last poor few hopeless virus cells under siege from my body, and pat them all on the head.

Pretty damned hard, of course, because I don't want the little bastards any more, but still.

The Italian Countryside, July 28th

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28th July 99 1300hrs (Italian time) Wednesday. Somewhere in the Med.

It’s hot, breezy, and sedate. I’ve had a dip in the pool, done some sunbathing and just had lunch on deck. We’re travelling ‘Deck Class’, but we might as well be on a cruise.

We’ll be arriving in Brindisi...at some point, probably later today, but it doesn’t really matter. It’s a gorgeous day. We met up with a Canadian girl (tanned, short, with headscarf – there’s probably a mould churning them out somewhere) – Daena – last night in Patras before catching this ferry. She’s cool.
Gemma and I slept on deck, just below the mast.

I awoke to a pink sky, pulled myself up to my elbows and caught the sunrise full in the face. We were docked somewhere, and the sun broke out through the trees on the hills surrounding the harbour.

Yesterday we arrived in Athens, ate brekkie at the Inn and caught the 3-hour express to Patras at 12. From Patras to Athens, our ‘5-hour’ journey took 7½, and yesterday’s ‘3-hour’ took 4½. I was a bit annoyed, but there’s no pace, no urgency in Greece, just a surefooted certainty that nothing really matters. Relax! It’s a nice day.

Our boat turned out to be at ten o’clock, so there wasn’t any rush anyway. We
ate moussaka in the square, bought a paper and went to a supermarket to stock up for the journey. I slept quite well and have enjoyed just lolling around chatting so far today. It looks like we’ll be going to Rome after all, if we want to get to Paris, Rome is a good starting point. Whether or not we’ll spend a night there is yet to be decided, but we’ll definitely be spending at least a day there. Good stuff! I want to see the Colosseum and the Trevi Fountain, and Gemma wants to see the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel. I’m not crazy to go there, but it does seem pretty bad to go and not see the Vatican. We’ll see.

We’ve certainly covered a fair few miles since Monday evening! I haven’t taken my contact lenses out since Monday morning, and they’re definitely starting to feel a bit manky. I know that if I do take them out, I’ll go to sleep. Not necessarily a bad thing, but I don’t know when we’re due into Brindisi. Heigh ho.

2100hrs, Train station, Brindisi.
The boat pulled into Brindisi at about three, and as a group, Gemma, Daena, Eric and I yomped up to the train station, got some money, bought some food for the journey and Rome. I am definitely feeling tired now. If we get seats on the train, I am out for the count.

The Mediterranean, July 27th

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27th July 99, 0911hrs Tuesday. Student+Traveller’s Inn, Plaka, Athens.

Just passing through Athens, and due to several extremely funny looks from cafe and restaurant proprietors when I asked if their cheese pies are the type you have with sugar, we’re in our Athens haunt, just for breakfast.
Yesterday evening we bunked down in one of the Pullman seat rooms and I got the best night’s sleep since Athens last time. Yesterday morning we got up early and had breakfast in the hostel before heading out to Knossos.
It was really cool to be round Dave again, reminiscing, cowering with fear as we uncovered each other’s cringe-worthy stuff from the past...cool.

I remember Knossos as being a lot more enjoyable when I came with my family at the age of nine. It was impressive and haunting, but it was a faint echo under the hundreds upon hundreds of tourists milling round in hordes.
The Royal Quarters and the great staircase were closed for restoration, which might have had quite a lot to do with it, but after about an hour, we felt like we’d done all we could legally do. The baking sun was telling on us. A search through all the gift shops for another key ring like my parents’ old one that I lost was fruitless (to add to the fruitless searches in Hania and Iraklion), so I came to the conclusion that they’d stopped making them. Damn.

We’re going to do a spot of shopping in a mo, before going to catch the train to Patras.

Tomorrow morning, all being well, we’ll be in Italy again.
Yesterday afternoon we walked out along the harbour wall in Heraklion, ate lunch and generally wandered about. We went with Dave to meet his parents after they’d dropped Jenny and Ari off at the airport and said goodbye. He’ll be back in the UK by this evening. That seems very weird.

After arriving in Heraklion, we managed to get into the archaeological museum, where most of the finds from Knossos are, including the genuine frieze remains, for free. Dave and Gemma had their student ID, me with an Italian police report stating that I’d had my student ID stolen...same thing at Knossos!

1250hrs - Train to Patras.

Long walk from Omonia to the train station, and after a pedantic seat-swapping fiasco, we’re on our way back to Italy.
Coming back this way gives me the opportunity to appreciate the views in a way I couldn’t when I was talking to Mikas on the way to Athens. Sea views of massed chemical tankers, moving onto sea framed by hilly islands covered with low, olive-green scrub. Cliff-top rails, and a spectacular drop, secluded coves and fishing villages in white.

A Solitary First

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I went to the cinema on my own over the weekend for the first time. I confess it felt a bit odd doing something which has in the past been so intrinsically social...just...on my own, because I wanted to.

I wanted to see the new Spiderman film after hearing people rave about it... I was aimlessly wandering into Hatfield proper and decided spur of the moment to go and see.

As I sat down in the cinema's half-darkness I came to be aware, as you do in these situations, of the people around me. Behind and to my right there were a couple of women discussing their diet...there were other people around me but I couldn't hear them because there were a couple of women just behind me, discussing their diet. When I say 'diet' I mean 'the food that they eat' not any particular plan or scheme.

W1: Well I tried that Atkins and I loved it. Ab-so-lute-ly loved it. Couldn't stay on it though. I would just want a tiny bit of toast with my bacon and eggs, or a leetle side of rice with my chilli. And it just didn't work! I piled on the weight.

W2: Terrible.

W1: I know! You'd think that would be allowed. I just...love being full, I suppose.

W2: Well, you could have a big plate of salad?

W1: Yes, but when I start having big portions of salad, I just want big portions of something else afterwards...

W2: Oooh! Have you tried that Taramasalata?

[continues in same vein until credits begin to roll]

At this point a concerto in rustling sweet wrappers began from their seats.

They had me grinning, anyway.

As the film ended, Spider-man swung off into a sunset-lit New York.
I'm moving there, I thought.
Cool.

As I walked out of the theatre (to the obligatory post-film toilet stop - whoever remembers their bladder when they're ordering pre-film buckets of drink?) I swear some kids were staring at me.

I was wearing, having not planned to go to the cinema to see that particular film, newish bluejeans and bright red sailing-style t-shirt, collared with blue denim. Two children whispered behind me.

They were just being silly, as kids are sometimes.

There's no way I could fit all my hair under that mask.

The Aegean, July 26th

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26th July, Heraklion, 1930hrs. On board ‘Rethymno’ in port.

A cacophony of revving moped engines, car horns and a mixture of firecrackers and pistol fire has surrounded our ferry for the last half hour. A newlywed couple are boarding the ferry opposite and there is a crowd amassed in what we’re learning to be true Greek style. The sun is going down, the boarding is complete- the foot passengers ramp is down. A group of young men race to the top of a platform on the ramp with a moped held aloft between the four of them, the engine held at full throttle, waving illuminously coloured flares with their free hands. The noise is almost deafening as the lines are being cast off at the stern. More flares are lit and horns sounded as the ship gets underway.
It’s not a wedding I’ve just asked a frantic-looking guy in ship’s uniform what’s going on, and he explained that the men of an age of Iraklion are being taken into the army for national service. In answer to the cars, all the ships in harbour sound their whistles and horns...WOW the noise is impressive – I can feel it in my chest. The noise is echoing and resounding round the bay and the whole city as the other ferry pulls out ahead of us. The decks of the other ferry- the ‘King Minos’ are packed with waving figures. For us, the opposite is true, and those who would wish us well are far away.

We’re turning around and heading for home.

But the crowds are massed for us as well. They’re there because they know what it is to be away from home, and they’re there as a testament to that feeling. They know what it’s like to miss someone, to be missed. Goodbye chaps, thanks for the send off.

2010hrs – North of Crete

Ari and Jenny were due to fly out of Iraklion airport just as we pulled away from the harbour. There was only one plane as we cast off, so Gemma and I said a silent goodbye and good luck to them.
Love, and do what you like.

There is an air of beginnings surrounding the end of our travelling. Ari and Jenny are flying off on their honeymoon as a married couple, hundreds of men setting off on their national service, and we are turning home. New lives.
For the first time, I feel like a traveller.

The colour of the sea and the light in the haze of the mountains, the breeze, the sunset. All of this is a journey. All of it is part of me, of everyone who witnesses it. I have travelled. It doesn’t matter how cheaply, whether in youth hostels or ferry cabins, in hotels or by plane. I have travelled to travel. To experience, to see, to meet people and to learn. I feel now how reading Jules Verne made me feel when I was younger. Excited, thrilled, revelling in the colours, the smells and the feel of the world around me.

It’s all so beautiful.

The American Adjustment And Adaptation Package request response has been extremely encouraging.
So far, you guys have suggested:

Books
~ The Intrepid New Yorker: A Guide to Turning New York City into a Manageable Small Town (Some kind of shrinking solution?)
~ Low Life: Lures and Snares of Old New York (Ah. To know my way around. Excellent.)
~ 'Speak American : A Survival Guide to the Language and Culture of the U.S.A.' by Dileri Borunda Johnston (To avoid those hilarious cross-culture misunderstandings. Ah well. I was rather looking forward to those)
~ How to Lose Friends & Alienate People (Um.)
~ Notes from a Big Country - Bill Bryson (I've read this, but I'll give it a re-read, given my current situation is rather...different)
~ Gotham: A History of New York City (This looks pretty interesting)
~ 'Ragtime' by EL Doctorow
~ 'Tepper Isn't Going Out' - Calvin Trillin
~ 'The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay' - Michael Chabon (I left New York with a copy of this book in my pocket, with a penned note from my fiancée inside the front cover. It's brilliant)
~ 'Dave Gorman's Googlewhack Adventure' (Um, Adrian, what?)

Films, or "Movies" as they are sometimes called
~ Gone With The Wind (Never seen it, although from all the parodies, I have a pretty good idea what happens)
~ To Kill A Mockingbird (Brilliant film, love it)
~ Mickey Blue Eyes (I've seen bits of this film...how does this help? Also, I plan not to have to use my secret weapon very often if I can help it - going into Incredibly Polite and Inoffensive Stuttering Englishman Mode)
~ Bull Durham (Never heard of it, will look it up)
~ Field of Dreams (Um. Do you mind if I skip this one?)
~Annie Hall / Manhattan (Watched the first with Krissa last weekend...definitely bears a re-watch...I'm curious about the B/W and Gershwin I've heard of about Manhattan.)
~Office Space (Again seen only bits -oh, the curse of the compulsive channel surfer! - but I think this is one of the staple cult sources for images for fark.com photoshop competitions..?)

As this is purely about me wanting to get my mind into America before the rest of my body follows suit, I'll leave out the recommendations for stuff to do once I arrive, but be sure I'll be checking out pretty much everything people suggested!


Thanks people...

Iraklion, July 25th

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25th July 1999 1230 Sunday Coach Station, Hania. en route to Iraklion.

The wedding was last night. It was the first wedding I have ever been to, and very different to what I was expecting. On Friday we rose late, went into the town, had a look round, came back, slept and went for a swim before eating a la Grec at Palazzo on the harbour. Lazy days...

Yesterday we rose late (again!) and went into town (to get out of the way of all the preparations; we are staying in the house of the bride’s family, after all...) and I bought some presents, postcards etc. We came back too early to get ready, played Goldeneye until we could get ready without feeling stupid. With Dave wearing a suit and Gemma looking disturbingly feminine after all these weeks in shorts and her light canvas trousers, and with me feeling rather wrong in a shirt and slacks after travelling for so long, we strolled to the church. We were still early.

The church was unusual. The altar was in the centre of the church, and when Ari and Jenny arrived, the congregation surrounded it and them. Ari and Jenny met each other outside the church and went in together. Quite a lot of the guests stayed outside for the first part of the ceremony – it was very hot in there. The church was very bright, lit by chandeliers, and decorated with religious icons. Gemma, Dave and myself, surrounded as we were by jubilant Greeks, found ourselves clustered unintentionally underneath St. George.
Another thing that differed a lot from my expectations was that everyone, and I mean everyone, talked. The guests, the bride’s parents, the grooms family, and even Ari and Jenny had a bit of a natter whilst the ceremony was in progress. Two of the three priests shared a joke while the third was in mid-chant. It was all very relaxed, which while good, seemed a little too casual to me.
The priests sang and chanted, harmonising beautifully in places, and blessed the couple before they kissed a large silver-bound bible with icons inlaid on the cover. After more singing, the priests laid two silver-ring like coronets joined by a ribbon of white, on Jenny and Ari’s heads. They were then given wine from the same glass. As the priest spoke to them, not from a book but seemingly in his own words, Jenny suddenly and without warning stamped heavily on Ari’s foot, and he winced. Everyone else thought this was great, and there was laughter and a light smattering of applause. This, according to Dave’s Aunt, the mother of the bride, this was Jenny’s defiant (but fast becoming a modern tradition) reaction to the priest’s advice that the woman should fear the man!
Some more of the priests’ lilting song, and the priests took each others hands and led the bride and groom around the altar three times while we all threw rice and confetti. After shaking hands and accepting everyone’s congratulations, the couple came out of the church under a hand-held tunnel of tennis racquets – Ari is an instructor.

After driving out to the hotel for the reception, we were disturbed to note that Dave’s, Gemma’s and my names were the only ones in English – not just on our table, but anywhere! Thankfully the people we were sat with spoke English, but only rarely.

David waxed lyrical on the potency of the Svakian home-made wine whilst we ate (Oh my God the food here is gorgeous!), so I had none whatsoever and stuck to the Cretan white bottled stuff. Wise move as it turned out –very unusual for me where alcohol is involved. Ah- the food.

We started off with bread and prawns, moved on to cheese and spinach pastries with meatballs and rice in olive leaves. next came the meat - the tenderest beef I have ever eaten, accompanied by rice which had been boiled in the meat juices – superb. Followed by more meat, potatoes and then a whole table of Greek desserts so tempting it made me want to cry that I’d already eaten my fill. I had a little of everything anyway. Emmental (or Greek equivalent) with honey, a sort of shredded wheat biscuit with spiced honey, yoghurt...with honey, peach slices in very thick sweet stuff (not honey), cake, and a sort of sweet fried pastry ball.
I had an amazing evening.

We danced the ‘ten e-leven!’ dance, and were at a distinct advantage because hardly any of the Greek people knew it at all, so we ACTUALLY LOOKED LIKE WE KNEW WHAT WE WERE DOING. Blimey.

David had been to a Svakian wedding in the hills the Saturday before, where they all fired their guns into the air. Jenny and Ari expressly asked that people didn’t do this, a they weren’t in the hills that night, and it was a residential area, and also they didn’t want guns to be involved in their wedding. There was laughter, and the father of the bride from the previous wedding loosed off three shots from a pistol into the sky.

Needless to say I wasn’t expecting any of this – just a small shock! The last time I heard gunfire was when I was at Newtown range on the Island, with the Air Cadets.

1420: Our coach has been going for about 2 hours now, and we haven’t lost sight of the sea for more than a few minutes in that time. The sienna hills and the bright blue sea – we’re skirting a bay where a schooner is anchored. When we do go away from the coast, there are mountains through the haze inland. It’s a beautiful day.

I think Dave is feeling slightly more human again. He didn’t eat much last night, and the Svakian wine he warned us away from got the better of him. He was a bit ill. Mind you, I was far from sober – I managed to smash a glass on the sink in the upstairs flat, smashing the corner of the sink into pieces in the process. Whoops.

I don’t think any of us have hangovers, which is lucky considering the coach ride is three hours long! We’ll stay in the hostel this evening and go to Knossos tomorrow, and catch the ferry to Piraeus tomorrow night.

Notes from the Eastern Front

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Quick post.

Worst.
Day.
At.
Work.
Ever.

When even the phrase "I've got a wedding reception to get to," may not be sufficient to free me from the nightmare.

Last week I had a request to take today off denied because of various shits hitting various fans, and now I'm wishing I'd just gone sick.

Chania, July 22nd

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22nd July. Eveningish, Thursday. Room, Hania.

Yesterday evening we went out in Hania and were enticed into ‘Bar Klik’ with the promise of free drinks and then buy-one get-one free. We had a cool time, drank too much, and Dave and Gemma kissed. Aaah. Really happy actually – they really suit each other.
Fingers crossed, eh?

Today we went to Limonoupolis, a huge water park, which was fantastic fun. More holidayish holidays than we’ve been used to, and it’s a great change. It’s great to see Dave again, and I’m really looking forward to the wedding. Gemma and I attempted to learn the steps to an apparently compulsory dance from Jenny, the bride, and hopefully were sufficiently bad to plead exemption on Saturday night. (Masses of seriously injured guests are likely to put a bit of a downer on proceedings...).

We’re planning a night in Iraklion to see Knossos (it’s about a 3 hour journey there and back) after the wedding – we’re leaving on Monday evening, so we may catch the ferry from there.

We had souvlaki for dinner this evening – like the ones we had in Athens, but not as nice – thicker bread, no paprika and small pieces of meat rather than the fried shish-kebab chunks. I learned that the white sauce stuff is actually yoghurt. They have yoghurt with everything out here.

In retrospect, then, the sauce in the souvlaki in Athens must have been some sort of garlic yoghurt, which is a bit too surreal a consideration for this small a wee small hour. ‘Night.

Adaptation

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Memory...
I am mindful of an outstanding and beautiful piece of writing which I read not too long ago...before I met the woman who had written it.

"What most prepares me for the world...is the benefit of knowing the difference between fitting in, and fitting into yourself."

It struck me as a candid and truly given piece of writing, rare enough despite the blogging revolution. What a person, thought I, could live through such complexity and change, and see the simple lesson, no matter how difficult it was to learn?

Now I've never emigrated before. I've travelled a little, in a scratching-the-surface sort of way, but I've never moved out of the UK.

Idle Thought...
The guidebook I bought prior to my trip to New York is, possibly, the worst piece of tourist or guide literature I think I have ever read.

Even before I went, I was pretty sure that New York was one of the most exciting, vibrant, and lively cities on the face of the planet, and my enthusiasm was best measured on a galactic scale. But somehow, as I devoured the guidebook, I felt a slight waning of interest and excitement. This was a subtle thing, but built up over the course of the book.
Examples:

New York Aquarium: Dark halls connect the aquariums, which feature sea creatures in a fairly interesting display.

Bloomingdales: Big, brash and busy, this is probably the most-visited department store in town and sells everything from make-up to mattresses.

Macy's: The world's largest department store is also the most difficult to get around. Skip Macy's...

The Strand: ...be prepared to dig a little in the cramped, stuffed aisles.

Earth: Mostly Harmless.*

* One of these is not from the Guide to New York, but continues in the same vein.

This sort of gentle, disparaging description of the city kind of took the edge off things. Of course I just stopped reading it, and my excitement took off again, which is good, because New York knocked my socks into an elliptical orbit of Saturn.
Nevertheless, it has a recommended list of books and films to do with New York in the back. Included in the movie list are Annie Hall, Breakfast at Tiffany's, French Connection, King Kong...and the book list has The Gangs of New York, New York Trilogy, American Psycho, Invisible Man, and The Beautiful and Damned...

The Project...

I need some sort of programme. I need....An American Adjustment and Adaptation Package.

It can contain books, films, music, food, mental exercises...anything.

Suggestions?

Chania, July 21st

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21st July, Morningish, Wednesday. Beach, Hania, Crete. With Dave!

Beeeach.
Sunny, fish in the sea, ubiquitous dzee-dzee-kahs rasping in the trees, and cheeringly stupid conversation.

We’re in Crete at last, and it looks like it’s going to be cool. We’re going to be here for the breaking in of the marital bed this evening...sounds interesting...

The ferry from Piraeus was no problem – we slept on deck, and I watched the sunset, and later the moonset, and the stars, and the people in the ship’s disco/bar, which was funny.

Dave and his Dad picked us up from the ferry at ludicrous o’clock in the morning as the sun was coming up, in fact, and took us to a cafe in Hania town for breakfast. The cafe was a speciality cafe, said Dave’s Dad, that did something unique to Crete. We sat down, and Dave’s Dad ordered four coffees and, then, just four. We watched as the man went behind a tiny counter, lifted out a large dish which seemed to be full of a pastry of some kind. He sliced four pieces out, and brought them over.

“It’s kind of a cheese pastry, but filled with milk whey. Here, have some sugar.”
After the initial suspicions of having the piss taken, Dave’s Dad pointed out that it was 6am, and that no serious piss-taking could happen until at least nine. It was delightful. So unusual, the texture of the whey, the pastry and the sugar was feather-light on your tongue but filled you up.

So after cheese pastry with sugar for breakfast, and after sleeping out on the deck of an overnight ferry on the Mediterranean, here we are...

Two Years Of Words

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The Autoblography is two years old today.

Two years ago, I was newly graduated from the stage-light fun of Warwick University, unemployed, living back at home with my parents wondering what the hell to do with my life, and slowly coming to the realisation that it probably wouldn't involve quite so much beer as the previous three university years.

One year ago I was relatively new to Hatfield, was embroiled in my own internal wranglings over a novel which despite all the work is probably best left to one side as a learning curve. I was also discovering that, in fact, graduate jobs mean that you can afford much more beer than you could at university, only you don't have the free mornings to recover from it.

Now?
Now I am engaged to be married to the woman of my dreams, and I am preparing to move to New York to begin my life with her.

2002, 2003, 2004...

Hop, skip, jump...

The Lovers

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One Saturday in July on a round rough wooden bench underneath a horse chesnut tree in the middle of a beautifully green garden next to one of Elizabeth the First's palaces, two people, dizzily in love, take photographs.


I cannot wait to be married to this woman.

One Weekend In July
Originally uploaded by Kidsturk.

The Summerhouse

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A small outhouse in the front garden of Hatfield House...taken with the cameraphone whilst peeking through the lead lined window into the gloom with the unused wicker garden furniture...and the glorious sky, reflected.
summerhouse
Originally uploaded by Kidsturk.

The Outbuildings

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On Saturday, Krissa and I went to Hatfield House, the old medieval palace and stately home which sits atop a hill in Old Hatfield. There was a jumble of red brick outbuildings, and there was a wedding in progress and some of the House's visitors stood around and watched the bridal party. Miss K and I, after a brief period of deeply evil mocking, ignored the happy families and took photographs of odd fixtures.
blue shutter
Originally uploaded by Kidsturk.

The Aegean, July 20th

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20th July, 1425hrs Tuesday. Acropolis, Athens, facing the Parthenon.

Yesterday on the train we met Makis, who told us to regard the Parthenon as ours, as a European monument, not Greek. I am having difficulty. It was built before there were countries, according to Makis (he was scarily intense, so I kept quiet about the city state of Athens) and so was built not to the glory of Greece, but of the goddess Athene. This and Stonehenge, he opined, were the only two true European monuments.

I was so excited about seeing the Parthenon for the first time that when I raised my eyes to it, clad two sides with scaffolding and with a crane protruding from the top (not a ubiquitous crane, but a seemingly malicious one), that I was shaking. I don’t think I’ve been so...pissed off in my life. (Pissed off is the only fitting description, sorry.) They’re cleaning it. Thankfully the two side I couldn’t see are free of scaffold (where I’m sitting now) and are as beautiful as I imagined. It is magnificent. The precision involved must have been phenomenal. The base is not flat – it’s curved to counteract any non-aesthetic optical illusions, and the pillars taper toward the top – in a curve – and the overall effect is of perfect straightness (to the not-too-enquiring eye) and balance. The stone is not white, it is a golden cream. I had no idea that the Acropolis has had such a turbulent history. One thing that pleases me about all of the restoration, cleaning, replacement and rebuilding in places, which seems to me rather...not blasphemous, but close, is how part of one of the buildings was destroyed. During the Turko-Venetian war (when the Turks used the Acropolis as a fortress), the Turks kept their gunpowder in the Propylea (entrance palace). It was struck by lightning, destroying one wing. Nice shot, Zeus!

The museum displays models of the portico marbles, which were removed by Lord Elgin in 1801 and are in the British museum - London. Damn.
The pollution of Athens is frightening– acid rain is damaging the buildings, so all of the statues are in the museum. In the morning when we were up here, the view was clear. It’s now slowly blurring over and has taken a greyish tinge. In spite of this, the view of Athens’ sprawl is impressive.

We bumped into a familiar American couple – after spotting them at Brindisi, Corfu, Patras (on our second time, just passing through) and here, are worth a mention!

Our hotel, the Student and Travellers’ Inn, is five minutes walk from the Acropolis, and okay value at 3000 drachmae, but worth it for the position! It seems brighter and cleaner than Napoli, despite pollution.

1835hrs: Café, Piraeus.

There was also a great place just down the road from the Inn that sold Souvlaki (like shish kebabs, but Greek and nicer) in pitta bread, rolled up with tomato, onion and a garlic salad dressing. A sprinkle of salt and paprika, and the pitta bread rolled into a cone, and the ingredients were transformed into the ultimate snack food. They were GORGEOUS. We had two each last night for dinner (great value at around 400dr) – one chicken one, one pork, and one as a farewell to Athens snack as we left the Inn. If the guy that runs it ever thinks about expansion, McDonald’s had better watch out. (Hurrah!)
(Oh – I’ve made a point of not going into McDonald’s through Italy, and haven’t yet in Greece – I think I’ll keep it that way!)

Waiting at the Gate

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Krissa left on the 6 o'clock flight last night.

She was able to come because she and I saved for it, and because of your generosity. Thank you.

She is not coming back again now. When I next see her, in a few months' time, I will have sold up, moved out, left my job, and I will be walking across the smooth floor of a certain airport in New York trailing a heavy suitcase. I will be looking for her beautiful, wonderful face behind the white steel rail amongst the dead-featured chauffeurs and taxi drivers holding cards with names on, staring through the crowds, unseeing.

The next time I see her, hold her, kiss her...I will be there to stay.

I made it back to Hatfield by seven in the evening, wondering what on earth I was going to do with the place now that it is so much more empty.

The absence of Krissa is normal for Hatfield. It is de rigeur.
Hatfield had no paths recieve her footfalls, her laugh did not dance among the trees, the place was not lit by her smile.

So now her absence is more pronounced; it is stronger.
But in another way, she is here now.

I am going to follow her to New York...just on a later flight.

That's all.

A later flight.

As she walked through the gate she said, "See you at JFK."

Athens, July 19th

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19th July Monday 1615hrs, between Patras and Athens. Hot

Yesterday we breakfasted on bread and honey before seeing the ruins, and we said goodbye after touring the museum with the remains of the porticos from the temple of Zeus.
Today has been a flurry of potential destinations. First Delphi, Crete, now Athens, where we’re DEFINITELY going now. We’re going to see the Acropolis tomorrow and go to Crete in the evening.

Olympia, July 18th

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18th July, Sunday 1815hrs, Temple of Zeus, Olympia. Site of World Wonder.

The ruined temple of Zeus where I am sitting, was the site of a wonder of the world. Pheidias’ chryselephantine statue of Zeus, made of ivory and gold, was large enough to hold a human figure in its hand. The pillars must have been enormous – on one side of the temple, the sections of pillars lie as if someone had only just pushed them over, and this temple dates from 460BC. They are really wide, too. One pillar section, resting on its side, was wider than I am tall – over 6’2”. Fragments of mosaic remain, grass grows where worshippers would once have supplanted themselves in front of the wondrous spectacle of the Lord of the Gods of the Greek world.

2210 – Hostel, Olympia

The not-so-hot drawing opposite is of the Stadium, where the races were run. Walking down the course, everything seems to focus you on the track. When Gemma had sat down, I went back to the marble starting line, removed my shoes and socks and took off across the baked clay in just my shorts (as close to the Hellenic dress as I could legally go). Running there felt right – not like the courses at school that called out be lain on, or where it just seemed like too much effort. The entire focus is on the track, and the track is your focus when you run. Despite the stones and not-quite feet friendly surface, it felt fantastic. I started at a typical ‘lumbering along’ type pace, and that felt wrong – this track pulls you to your fastest. I swear I was getting quicker and quicker the whole time I was running - from the start to the finish and back. I ran on my own, so I had no way of judging my speed (not being particularly athletic) but I felt like the wind.

Yesterday after we said goodbye to Marian and Alexandra we caught the train to Pyrgos, where during our hour-long crossover, we met Angela, Judith and Baika from Holland, and stuck with them on the train to Olympia. We got a room, the five of us here in the hostel (1700 drachmae). When we were coming into Olympia, we could see a wall of dark cloud, but nothing prepared us for the absolute deluge and earth-shaking thunder that greeted us off the train. We ran into the station until it relented, the entire complement of passengers from the train, so it was a touch crowded, wincing with every explosion of sound. Helpfully, a sheltering taxi-driver told us the story of how three months ago a 25-year-old man got struck and killed by a lightning. He also thought that the government knew everything that was said on mobile phones, and-he leaned closer for this bit – that’s why this guy was killed...hmmm. He must have picked up my misgivings, so he explained; everyone else under the tree was fine, but he had a mobile phone, so the lightning went for him. On the orders of the government, apparently. Seems logical...

After the rain, Gemma slept (we were both exhausted from the ferry) but I was enjoying the Dutch girls’ company (ahem) and so we went for a walk round the souvenir shops and pottery shops, jewellers...I must admit the old ‘shopping with women’ weariness came over me, but learning a few halting words in Dutch (very halting the pronunciation is horrendously difficult-like Australian/Scots/German – I spent 5 minutes on the first syllable of ‘jeugdherberg’ – youth hostel!) and doing a bit of window shopping myself made it easier.

In the evening we ate at the Taverna Apollon which was great – I had Moussaka, Greek Salad and melon. We got given a free bottle of retsina on the house! It was a good meal, and cheap at 1550 drachmae. From there we went on to try and find a bar and ended up having a free rum and coke in a club before discovering the bar prices and promptly leaving! We enjoyed a can of Amstel in the town square ‘til 1am.

Olympia, July 17th

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17th July 99,Saturday,0910hrs,Café Stathmos,Patras,GREECE.Going2be HOT!

Urgh. The 3 ½ hour ferry was terrible. That ‘fresh breeze’, once out on the sea, made the catamaran roll and pitch like a mad thing. I was sick, the first time I can remember ever having travel sickness of any kind, but felt instantly better, and to my own surprise, fell asleep almost straight away. Gruelling would be a good word. As soon a we rounded the island of Corfu, the wind dropped and the sea was calmer, thank god.

At Corfu itself, we were met with a barrage of people pushing places to stay –The Pink Palace that we’d heard so much about, (much touted as a haze of beach, pool, sex and alcohol – tempting, but too pricey at about £10 a night...!), camping places and stuff.

There was a chap telling us, in no uncertain terms, to get the hell out of the terminal, really aggressively. Not, we learned, through generally loathing the sight of backpackers, or xenophobia, but for the more socially acceptable reason that there was a bomb warning on the building.

Supposedly Albanian in origin (everyone more or less assumed that it was), a telephone call had alerted the police, and they had evacuated the terminal. So naturally, the logical place to dump a load of backpackers off a ferry, in a giant harbour with moorings every hundred yards, is right smack bang (sorry) outside the only building in the immediate area that’s likely to go skywards any second.
It was a false alarm.

Our overnight ferry fare to get here to Patras cost a ‘NEVER TRUST A GREEK IN A TRAVEL OFFICE’ 5800drachmae = £11.
The ship was the ‘Daedalus’, which I took as a good sign. We’re with a couple of girls – Marianne, who is Portuguese, and Alexandra, who is Columbian. They’re really great fun, and good to talk to – we met them in Brindisi, and they’re coming with us to Olympia today.

Anyway, when we got on board the Daedalus, we were rushed unceremoniously upstairs to the upper decks, which were romantically open to the night sky, and rather less romantically open to the funnel smoke. I would have liked to have slept under the stars, but the smoke was bad, so we went below decks to a room with aircraft-like chairs, where I rolled out my roll mat, got out my pillow and sleeping bag liner and slept quite well for about five hours. I managed to get on deck for the sunrise – it was beautiful. The mountains of the Pelopennese through the haze, Patras coming into view, and everything bathed in pink and orange light.

We’re catching the train to Olympia at 1050hrs.

We’ve just been sat here, outside a cafe on the harbour in Patras, in Greece, none of us speak Greek, and yet we’ve just been offered a copy of Watchtower magazine by some Jehovah’s witnesses. It’s a crazy world.

Mediterranean, July 16th

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16th July 1999, Friday 0820hrs. YOUTH HOSTEL! Brindisi.

Last night when we arrived was very odd. A crowd of Anglophones in the ferry port all believing there was a ferry that night, except us. The next night’s ferry was a 20-hour jobby, but there was a 3½ hour hydrofoil that goes to Corfu. Apparently, if the wizened old guy in the ferry office is to be believed, the local ferry from Corfu to Patras on the Greek mainland will be very cheap and a lot quicker than the combined 20 hour ferry. Apparently.
There was a free minibus to bring us here last night which sounded worryingly dodgy over the phone yesterday from Caserta.
We’re going to hunt for breakfast now. We’re catching the Corfu ferry at 12.

1145hrs – Bench, outside ferry terminal, still Brindisi.

Make that at 2. No-one seems to know (or really care) when the ferries are. We’re sat right smack in front of the port, so unless it sneaks out the back way when we’re not looking, we’ll be okay. The ferry leaving late means that we’ll arrive in Corfu at 1815hrs. Gemma and I think that we’ll probably then catch an overnight ferry to Patras, which should be free for Gemma on her Interrail, and about 2000 drachmae for me. The overnight ferry kind of defeats the object of avoiding the 20-hour ferry direct from here, but hey, at least we’re doing this the interesting way.

There’s not a cloud in the sky, the water is blue and the breeze is fresh. I can’t wait to be on the ferry.

Gah.

Long.
Weekend.
With.
Krissa.


Mmmmmmm.

Bye.

Krissa Is Coming

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Ye-es.

No posts 'til Tuesday.

I'm not sure what has happened to me today.

I woke up at 4am, and then fell asleep again holding my mobile mid-text to the love of my life. Ths meant that when my alarm went off at 7.30am, a reflex thumb movement turned it off without me even approaching full consciousness. When I eventually woke up, I didn't check what the time was and had a long lazy morning involving two insanely strong espresso-lattés and a decadently long shower.

And I left the house at 9am, accelerating, having idly checked the time five minutes beforehand.

BUT SINCE THEN:

(a) Not had any more coffee.
(b) Finding cognitive faculties severely reduced
(c) Find myself wondering about whether or not I've thought of everything, despite (b)
(d) Shit, I've just realised I forgot to get a haircut.

Brindisi, July 15th

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15th July 99, Thursday, 2055hrs. Somewhere in Italy. Dusk.

My Barclaycard is safely in my shoulder wallet, along with my Connect Card and Europe opens up to me once more. We’re in transit to Brindisi, and the ferry leaves tomorrow night at either 2030 or 2230, depending which we catch. Lucky that there’s no ferry tonight or we’d have missed it because of our missed connection at Carseta from Napoli Centrale. We’ve a hostel sorted (nice and cheap at £.18000) (Hostels in Greece are even cheaper! Wahey!) and a prospective day vegging at the beach planned tomorrow.
On Saturday morning, we’ll be in Greece.

Yesterday was enjoyable, but very tiring, and the ever-present atmosphere of death and mortality in Pompeii got me down once or twice. There’s so much of the city left that it still feels like a city. We had to give people directions once or twice! I could feel the ‘lack’ of the place – it isn’t alive. It was an enjoyable day, it intrigued, interested, fired my imagination, but the town was dead.

We had a good time, and took a photo of us crossing a roman pedestrian crossing a la Abbey Road. It’s a magnificent feat of archaeology – Pompeii’s been being excavated for over 200 years. I can’t really sum up how I felt yesterday. In the arena when we first arrived, I thought of the crowds, the gladiatorial ring, the life and the glory of the town. The streets of house after house, empty and ruined, with pumice littering once mosaic-ed floors spoke of mortality despite the grandeur of Rome – and spoke it over and over. The garden of the fugitives with the figures of thirteen Pompeians who tried to dig their way out of the ash only to be suffocated, and the more traumatic postures of the casts near the Forum were horrifying. Magnificent and terrible, beautiful and morbid. Pompeii.

After we left we got back to the house at around 9:30pm and cooked and ate dinner. The conversation got around to ‘The Fast Show’ , so after dinner we watched a video, and went to bed late.

This morning I was up and showered early, and we said our goodbyes outside Pozuoli at about half nine. Out in the suburbs by myself, hunting for the DHL courier’s office where my Barclaycard was waiting for me, I wandered with absolutely no idea where I was going, with hardly any pavements, huge roads and no passers-by to ask for directions, and I only eventually found the office by pure luck. We managed to catch our train at 1400. Tonight we’re staying unexpectedly in Brindisi. The ferry is tomorrow night – DOH!

All The Ones...Eleventy-One.

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Several things to report.

Last night's company cricket match did indeed go ahead.

For reasons unbeknownst to this here chronicler, our batting order was decided by drawing lots, whilst the opposing team chose their best bowlers to go first.

Unsurprisingly, this here chronicler drew out a small piece of paper bearing a:

1

Lead batsman. First over, first ball.

At this point several years of maturing and social graces were stripped away and I popped the cap on the can of traditional schoolboy prejudices.

The guy squaring up to bowl at me was wearing glasses and brought to mind what Billy Bunter might look like if he lost a lot of weight.
With this as the only evidence of what was to come, I felt happily smug and confident..until Mr. Bunter took a very long run up indeed.

In fact, for a while, I thought he was going home.

Out of that first over I can put my hand on my heart and say I saw three out of the six deliveries as they went by, and I scored a less-than-thrilling 1 run.

This was a short game of 20 overs, where you're meant to push your luck, take runs where you can, and generally twock that little hard red ball all over the place.
The spectators began to moo. Presumably to illustrate their displeasure, but I can't be sure.

In the second over my batting partner also managed to score a less-than entertaining single run. Facing our post-Atkins Billy Bunter, I blocked a couple more deliveries and decided that something would have to be done. I would try A Tactic. I would show the bowler the wicket and drive the bat hard across it to attempt to score some runs.

I was informed that this didn't work by the sound of leather on stump, followed shortly after by the pinking of the stump rattling to the ground about three feet away.

As I was on the walk back to the pavilion, the bar opened, which was nice.

So, in my innings as an opening batsman, I scored an epic:

1

I sat on the white plastic garden furniture and watched the sun through the clouds and the wind high in the poplars around the edge of the playing fields. Small children played giggling around their parent's feet, rolling a red cricket ball up and down the white concrete strip in front of the pavilion. One of our batsmen made good contact, and the ball bounded angrily towards the pavilion. Conversation stopped. There was a toddler on the grass in its path. His father, chatting idly after batting, literally dropped his drink to the floor and dived over his son, rolling a couple of times after stopping the ball. There was a moment of silence as everyone took a deep breath. The toddler's mother spoke.

"Darling, you stopped that from going to the boundary."

She picked up her son and walked into the pavilion as everyone looked at each other open mouthed. The game continued.

After a couple of pints and, as luck would have it, our regular cricket players who actually were batsman playing against their bowlers who weren't, our score was a respectable 120 runs in 20 overs and we went in to field.

More schoolboy prejudice swung into play as our loud and boisterous captain dished out the bowling. My less-than-inspiring wicket had not instilled him with confidence.
But this is the thing, you see. I can bowl.
God knows how, as my Dad told me the basics at the age of 12 and I practised with a tennis ball bowling up a crazy-paved path, and not much since then, but I can.

It might have something to do with being 6'2" and having long fingers, I have no idea. But as the bowling was divided, that old familiar hollow feeling crept up from memories of Games and summer lunchtimes; Picking Teams.

Back then I was generally left in the embarrassing red heat of peer selection until second to last, with the kid with pint-glass spectacles and a wheeze you could hear three pitches away, and last night I was going to be damned if I wasn't allowed to bowl. I told the captain I was going to. He didn't contest it.

So I did; just one over, because Captain Courageous wanted to bowl against his old boss, but in that one over, in those six balls, the number of wickets I took was:

1

And, rather satisfyingly, it was Post-Atkins Billy Bunter.
There. The excessively unlike me sports-boasting is done with.

Oh, and we won, by the way.

Next up on the list of Quintessentially British Things To Do Before I Leave Britain: Play a round of golf.

Naples, July 14th

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14th July 99 Wednesday 1340hrs. A noble’s box, amphitheatre, Pompeii.

From where I am sitting, I can see Vesuvius, shrouded in cloud despite the hot sun. The view I have evokes colourful clouds, the glint of sun on a brooch or clasp, the sound of the crowd, talking, shouting, laughing, an air of anticipation of the coming sport. The red-robed gentleman next to me passes me a goblet of wine. I taste it – it’s good. The soil around here is good for the grape...the crowd below us increases its volume as a figure emerges blinking into the sunlight. Over his shoulder are heaped the folds of a net, and he carries a trident. An answering roar from the opposite gate, and the sound of sword on shield challenges the cautious air of the Fisher...

Another group of American tourists emerges into the arena, filling the expanse where before a girl walked alone and took a bow, to be startled by my applause floating down from the top of the boxes. Grass has grown over stalls and Vesuvius is a startlingly different profile against the sky, but the imagination runs riot with the scene. Dust scurries away on the wind from the feet of the last straggling tourists in the arena. It flies over the open space in a wraith-like guise. It grows, expands, fills the air, "I am Rome!", and disperses, falls. Ash and dust in the arena.

Yesterday we went into Naples, looked around a couple of exquisitely ornate and very large churches. Wandered around underneath the city in the Sotterrenea and enjoyed a cold coffee. In the evening we went into Pozuoli to a friend of the Goddard’s – Assumpta, for an espresso, then back to near the house for a pizza in a fantastic restaurant – ‘Pommarola City’ on the edge of a dormant volcano lake, where the Romans used to winter their fleets. Marvellous day.

I’ve been here for about an hour already, and I haven’t seen any of the rest of the town. I wish I could wander at my leisure, with no times to be out by, trains to catch – this all means to much to see it, absorb it and understand even part of it in an afternoon. I realise even more now that I’m not a ‘whistle-stop tour, tick in the box’ type tourist. I want to experience everything to the full, carry it with me when I leave. I want to explore...

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