[ 21:55 saturday 17 november – piscita, isola di stromboli ]
as i wrote the header i wondered when i wrote my last despatch so i looked in my mail archive and checked the date stamp. one month, to the very same minute. uncanny!
enough spookiness. i’m sitting on the wall in front of my and landon’s house in the darkness. powerbook on lap, caving torch on head. i’m connected to the internet via an 802.11b wireless link, and thus able to listen to a splendid arabic web-radio channel as i sit and write.
it’s been a perfect day here in the islands. clear sky, soft fragrant air, strong sun. everyone’s been drifting round with a dreamy look on their face. just a week ago there were two-metre-high waves crashing over the quay and 120kmh winds. every day is different, i love it.
i spent just over a week in london, but that was an eternity ago. i felt great apprehension at making the journey. perhaps i expected to find the city under martial law with machine-gun-toting storm-troopers at every street corner. but from the moment i arrived at rome airport and found things as lackadaisical as ever my anxieties were confounded (yes sir, take anything you like on the plane…). i looked out of the windows during the descent into london to see a fine autumn evening with trees casting long golden shadows on the grass, possibly the first time i’ve ever returned to britain and not found it saturated in soggy greyness.
arriving on the heathrow express (a chillingly efficient service) into paddington actually provoked a small thrill of excitement. the sense of bustle and commotion remains very much like all those victorian paintings of grand stations. really this set the tone for my time in london. i stayed with mark and celyn in oval and enjoyed being in the city tremendously, all the more so for its unexpectedness. there was a little more tension in the air but nothing overwhelming.
my main mission was to gather together everything landon and i need for the next six months, pack it up safely and get it despatched to stromboli. predictably this was all rather hectic. new equipment to buy, old equipment to gather, several million lira to arrange, courier services to organise, clothes to sort out, lots of packing. bit by bit it came together until on friday 26 october six boxes were collected from my old home in shoreditch and loaded into a parcelforce worldwide van, which came complete with its grumpy-cockney-with-a-philosophical-side driver. it seemed like an excellent service. guaranteed delivery anywhere in europe within four days, door to door.
this afternoon, 22 days later, five of my boxes arrived here in stromboli. the sixth box arrived last week, in london. nobody has quite been able to explain why. my dealings with parcelforce have plunged me into a horrifying nether world of spatial indeterminacy and circular bureaucracy. rarely have i come across an organisation quite so flagrantly incapable of discharging the humble function it professes to serve. i would go to quite phenomenal lengths to avoid further engagement with them, ever again, ever. i pray their compensation regime will cover a few months in therapy.
thankfully this torment has been offset by some excellent news. i came here to stromboli, and moreover dragged landon from a good job in seattle, without having managed to secure a single penny of funding for our work. this gives some indication how determined i am that these projects shall be undertaken. but last monday we heard that we will have £13,500 from the uk community fund over the next six months. and yesterday news arrived that the gulbenkian foundation has awarded us a further £10,000 (bless them all). it’s not a lot, and it’s taken a ridiculous amount of effort by james smith and me to get it, but it will be sufficient and that’s the only thing that matters.
landon knows neither that messrs gulbenkian have smiled upon us nor that the boxes have arrived. having spent a solid month on the island and completed the first piece of development he left yesterday morning for a week in amsterdam, relaxing and getting a fix of urban culture. it does seem very quiet here without him.
my aunt clare arrived to visit last monday and departed this afternoon, on the same hydrofoil which delivered my boxes. having lived for three years in italy, principally in florence, she put my stumbling italian wholly to shame. her first days here were wet and stormy but these last two days have been serene. the volcano performed well for her. she too received good news on thursday, informing her that she had succeeded in getting southwark council to reject an ill-conceived planning proposal. having visitors is definitely a good marker of the transition from being a tourist to being a resident. i look forward to welcoming others in the coming months.
now it is time for me to silence the audio stream, close the powerbook, extinguish my lantern and turn my eyes to the brilliant stars. tonight is predicted to be the peek of intensity for the leonid meteorites. viewing conditions could not be more perfect.