In 2002, I sold everything I owned, obtained a month's leave from my job in publishing and went on a sojourn through Italy. I returned with a heap of photographs and a journal full of romantic scribbles. I've put together a book that matches pictures with words and is called "Where Here & Now Cease To Matter" and you'll find the first part of the short story along with some
of the photographs below. The book itself is a gorgeous object: exquisite colour photographs, luminous 190gsm pearl paper, 8x10 inches. It's a perfect gift and will publish and ship at the beginning of November, just in time for Christmas.
I'm accepting pre-orders now, so click here to reserve your copy
"Where Here & Now Cease To Matter"
My fingers flicked the edge of the postcard I used as a bookmark for my journal. For the past twenty minutes, I had been waiting at the ticket window in Genova’s train station. The backpacker couple ahead of me engaged the man at the counter with a strange mix of German and Italian. I wasn't in a hurry, since the Italian trains never left at the posted times, but I was anxious to finally see the Mediterranean. While I waited, I glanced at the assortment of vistas on the obverse of the postcard. "Cinque Terre, Manarola" was printed in block capital letters.
A few weeks ago I found the card under the leg of a chair in the crypt-like cellar of Gordon's Wine Bar in London. Even by candlelight, the card's saturated colours made an impression. Pictures of the geometric patterns on beach umbrellas, villages draped along the mountainside and irregular, pastel façades all popped with a vibrancy I desperately wanted to experience.
For the past couple of years, I spent my time flitting from job to job. Various women and different types of work passed through my life. By the time I reached thirty, I somehow I forgot to mount that exhibition of my photographs and finish those old short stories. I didn't want chuck away my steady job as an editor to become a photographer, but I wept later that night when I realised half of my negatives were ruined from neglect and poor storage.
Finding that postcard spurred me on to ask for a month's leave. It was granted and I flew off to Italy a few days later in search of those iridescent colours and to rebuild my photographic portfolio. One week into my month abroad and I had already exposed a dozen rolls of B&W and colour film. As I queued at the Genova ticket window and leaned against my pack, I thought to run off the remaining couple of pictures on the roll in the camera and reload while I had the time. Taking the Nikon from my pack, I pointed the lens toward the sparkly bit of water in the fountain outside. The camera's automatic rewind function kicked in after only two shots.
"Allora!" The man behind the desk shouted at me. I was up and didn't notice!
"Which platform for the train to Manarola? The Cinque Terre?"
The man muttered something and pointed down the steps with a further turn of the wrist. I assumed he was trying to convey the exact left, right, left - or right, left, right - turns that would take me to the platform. Surely it wasn't an obscene Italian hand gesture. Hard to tell, really but I made it to the proper platform for the stopping service headed south.
Every available surface on the train was covered in people or baggage, so I slumped down in the corridor against my pack. Three English girls with pink champagne complexions flitted about the carriage and rearranged their tightly packed luggage and leather "Venezia" shopping bags. They brought out their journals and started scribbling.
"What were those quotes from last night?"
"Gosh, gosh, Macintosh."
"Never drink the last one."
"How do you spell the name of the bar?"
"So nice to faff around on the campo."
"I ended up with an Italian from Pisa or Padova or, somewhere. Yum!"
"Well, la de da for you."
"Meow! Don't be so catty. Who did you wind up snogging?"
"Oh, the Yankee."
The two lucky girls gave smiles of commiseration to the one who bagged the American. After a few more rounds of cross-referencing, they soon settled and wrote in silence.
I first glimpsed the Mediterranean fifteen minutes into my journey. Stripes of bright and dark colour creased the water's surface. Intense sunlight gilded objects in hues of salmon, aquamarine, beige, ivory and gold. I reached for my camera, but the landscape flashed by far too quickly for a photograph. Perhaps I could write in my notebook? No, I wanted to remain in the moment. The light burnt, bled and burnished my thoughts. I wasn't focussed; I was lost.
[ to be continued next month ...]