s t o r i a

23:04 thursday 7 september – via solferino , milano

one of the too-numerous fears which hang over me is that by trying to do a million things i will render myself incapable of achieving anything .

there is this extraordinary drive in me which compels me ever to challenge new boundaries , not just one at a time but many at once . somehow it seems i must be a great musician , photographer , writer , social theorist , entrepreneur , philosopher , revolutionary , adventurer , all at the same time . it is absurd , i know , but i do not know how to stop it .

19:48 saturday 9 september – via solferino

it was perhaps predictable that the theft of those tools which enable my nomadic existence would trigger a period of lively introspection . readers should be grateful they have been spared more passages like the one above !

but i must tell the story . i arrived at palermo’s central station , where i met gabriele . he drove me to the family house around the coast at capaci . i had a shower , changed my clothes , then we made a plan . we would drive back into palermo , collect two of gabriele’s girlfriends from a tango club (they happened to be architecture students as well as dancers) , then i would be treated to an introductory tour of the ancient city .

it was i who proposed we should park the car and make the tour on foot . it was i who removed my small rucksag from inside the large one in full view of whomever’s eyes chanced to be observing the goings-on in piazza marina . i who slung the small bag on my back and left the large one in the boot of the car , beside the case containing my computer and its accessories , without a moment’s thought . the time was about quarter to two in the morning . people were still dining on the terrace of a restaurant in the piazza . the streets were otherwise empty .

for an hour and a half the four of us walked about , carola and lucia maintaining a torrential commentary on the history and stylistic characteristics of each building , each street . we stopped for gelati for half an hour . it was all delightful . then we returned to gabriele’s parked car .

i was walking slightly ahead of the others . arriving at the vehicle i noticed a small cardboard box on the front passenger seat where i had been sitting . i was puzzled but thought no more of it . the others arrived . i do not remember if the doors were locked or unlocked . the box was observed . it had been in the glove compartment . in a moment the thought was given breath : someone had been inside the car . but the car remained , we were lucky .

then i felt a chill . i asked in a quiet voice , a voice without emotion : could we have a look in the back , please . the penny dropped , i saw gabriele’s face freeze . the back was opened . every degree of the tailgate’s ascent remains fixed in my mind as the truth i knew already was confirmed indupitably . none of my belongings remained .

from my friends erupted declarations of horror but i was silent , motionless . ever since i started travelling with a computer this moment had been with me , a nascent possibility . the knowledge of consequences was pre-prepared , ready to flood through me , ready to shift my world a little on its axis .

i said : ok , can we go to the caribinieri please . then for half hour i did not utter another word . we ran to the nearest police station and gabriele launched into fevered discussion . then he realised that the keys to his family house in palermo had been taken and we had a new alarm to contend with . we ran back to the car , sped through the deserted streets to the house . it was undisturbed , but until the locks had been changed the threat persisted . i remained there , sitting with my thoughts , considering everything i had lost , whilst gabriele drove carola and lucia back to their houses . several of gabriele’s neighbours stayed there with me , but sensing my need to be alone they remained talking amongst themselves in the kitchen .

surprisingly i slept deeply and without anxiety that night . when i awoke it was lunchtime . in the early morning gabriele had been called by the carabinieri to tell him that some clothes had been seen lying in the gutter near piaza marina . he had driven in and collected what he found . a shirt i bought in malaysia , another from madeira , a third particularly precious one which my grandfather bought in brazil , a fourth i had bought in a sale in milan just a few weeks earlier . also my shaving things , my towel . to me this was a small miracle . a handful of those things i had counted lost now returned to me .

i sense that i have learnt more than i could have imagined through the events of the past weeks but it is too early to attempt description . i daresay i shall reflect further on this in future paragraphs . my losses have been considerable and inconvenient but quickly i picked up the threads of my work again . in the end what i lost were just objects and i do not think we should care too much about objects . the financial implications are not comfortable for me but i shall survive . in retrospect i understand that this situation would have affected me far more severely had i been alone . it is to the company and the understanding of gabriele that i owe my easy forbearance . therefore i thank you , my friend , with all my heart .

by ship and by train i returned to milano last sunday/monday . my arrival happily coincided with my friend roberto protei , on his way back to london after a weekend with his family in arezzo , participating in an annual festival celebrating an ancient victory in the crusades . we spent an hour or so together , though i was like a sleep-walker after my long journey . he gave me a jar of fantastic sugo prepared by his mother which formed my supper with some gnocchi . then i slept .

there is just one week now before i return to britain , albeit briefly . tomorrow i depart for one last foray , to the island of giglio , with my friend hans ektvedt who arrived from london last night .

life goes on .

: cH

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