Monday, September 19, 2011
I drove off the ferry and onto Mussolini's 'Ponte Littorio' which, since 1933, has been the only road link over the lagoon between Venice and the mainland. Heading west towards Milan, I passed by many interesting towns and cities worthy of my time; Padua, Vicenza, Verona, Mantua.
Because I decided, on this occasion, to ignore the undoubted charms of these places I was at Milan far earlier than I had expected so chose to press on further. Beyond Turin the motorway runs through more scenic country than hitherto and it began to rise towards the Alps. By late afternoon I had reached the entrance to the tunnel that would take me through the mountain and bring me, within half an hour, into France.
The trip on which I am presently prosecuting was conceived at some time during the days immediately preceding the twenty-fifth of August when an inexplicable notion, a notion of wanting to get far away from my home for a while, struck me. So strong was this notion that, within days of it penetrating my psyche, I had booked a passage from Patras to Venice for myself and my car for the earliest date on which I could reasonably leave.
Initially I dreamt of arriving in Venice and allowing the breezes of fate blow me where they may but through the two weeks or so following my rather sudden rash booking I did essay to give my trip some skeletal form. I gave it an ultimate destination. For most of my adult life I have toyed with the idea of visiting Ireland. Ireland being the birthplace and occasional home of many of the writers I most revere, I have wanted to experience something of that from which they drew their inspiration; to seek their shades in in their mortal stamping grounds. Yeats at Sligo, Green at Achill Island, Synge on the Aran Islands and so on. When I was younger my time away from the income-mill was limited and the need to escape for the summer to places with reliably fine weather strong. Through the years during which I have chosen to exile myself in Greece I have felt bound, when leaving home at all, to honor family commitments in the U.K.. The loss of my mother last year, together with the fact that all my children and grand children have only recently been with me has eased my need to be in the United Kingdom. Only my sister and her family have I not seen this year. She, sister Susan, lives in Scotland, not too far from Troon from where a ferry runs to Larne in Ireland. En-route for Troon I shall take the opportunity of calling on her and resting for a while in the delightful, “Wee County”; Clackmananshire.
I have given this post the title of ‘All at sea’ because that is where I am. For too long I seem to have been living in a state of dissatisfied contentment or, perhaps, contented dissatisfaction; happy enough but regretting not doing any of those creative things that give substance to, and justification for, being; blogging for one. I am hoping that, among many other things, this trip will break the mould of contented lethargy that I have, over recent months, allowed to shape me. Θα δουμε (Tha thoumae) is a much hackneyed phrase here in Greece; it means ‘we shall see!
When I left home early yesterday afternoon I had driven only a few hundred metres when I remembered that I had turned off neither the power supply to the house, nor the water pump, nor had I locked the front door. Bothered that I should need to, I turned back to deal with these things. When I finally did get away my thoughts turned again to considering why I was doing what I was doing. Why was I leaving? The sea was a beautiful shade of rich royal blue, the gentle swell high-lit here and there with brilliant white crests. The sea here is invariably a beautiful shade of blue but yesterday as I drove north beside the Messinian Gulf it was as beautiful as I have ever seen it and the mountains that back it, usually rather hazy, were unusually clear. It was as if the mountains and the sea were conspiring to change my mind; to make me consider the folly of leaving all of this for a place notorious for grey skies and all but incessant rain. As I drove on beyond the coast my route took me on winding mountain roads through delightful landscapes of olive grove, fig orchard, river valley, ancient forest, vineyard and villages, hardly changed for centuries, with wonderfully exotic names. Somewhere on this country road between the Messinian Gulf and the Ionian Sea I came upon a T-junction at which I could turn either left or right. WrongIy I chose left but it did not matter, it just meant that I joined the Ionian coast road to Patras a little further south than I had intended to.
I arrived at the port at sunset, seven-thirty, and was scheduled to board the ferry at ten-thirty. I boarded at midnight. But traveling was ever subject to delay and disappointment and rather more than that which we complain about nowadays; at least I did not have to wait for a favourable wind! Patience, surely, is a prerequisite of all travel.
And so, for better or for worse, my trip is underway. Sitting here writing this post in the privacy of my comfortable cabin I am rather pleased that it is.