r i t m o

[ 13:05 thursday 27 june – piscita, isola di stromboli ]

i’m sitting on a rock in the corner of a plot under beating sun (for the last week the temperature has hovered between 35 and 40). about thirty members of a film crew are milling about preparing to begin shooting. the principal actors are in position, my friends matias and eugenio have been enrolled as extras, there is the usual faffing about. shhhh. silence. and everything’s ready. the cameras roll, eugenio delivers his lines. stop stop stop. the sound wasn’t good.

the production is a glossy four-parter to be broadcast on rai uno, italy’s main state-provided channel. half of the fourth episode is set on stromboli. on tuesday the crew was filming a scene at sea. antonio was commissioned to hover around in the background in his traditional sicilian swordfish-hunting boat. i spent the day working as his assistant.

i’ve been fortunate to spend a fair amount of time on the water with antonio recently. a couple of weeks ago i made an overnight trip with him on his eight-metre wooden catamaran to lipari, two islands hence. we left stromboli at one in the morning on a mirror-flat sea ablaze with phosphorescent plankton, the dark mass of the volcano brooding above us. dawn broke just after we had passed panarea and its outlying rocks. as the sun reached the horizon the colour of sky and sea changed every moment. deep purple, pink, silver, azure. we arrived at lipari at seven, reaching the quay just as a fishing boat came in and its crew started offloading the swordfish they’d caught overnight. a deal was done and we breakfast on swordfish and squid, grilled in an old bronze brazier suspended from the rigging. we set off for the return journey around three in the afternoon and reached stromboli just after nine.

a few mights later we went out fishing for totani, a locally-prized variety of squid with a reddish flesh and a particularly delicate flavour. for this a long line is used (200m), at the end of it a vicious hook baited with rotting sardines and a battery-powered flashing lamp (totani are attracted to strange things). after half an hour maria hauled in a monster, thrashing and squirting and vigorously changing colour as we hauled it up onto the deck. all the while the volcano, highly active at the moment, sent fountains of fire into the sky above us.

i’ve taken to sleeping afloat whenever possible. i find i sleep more deeply than on land, and the possibility to awaken and leap straight into the water is a delicious start to a day. next i need to get hold of a 12v adaptor for my computer so i can work for longer periods afloat.

barbara, in charge of costume for the production, comes up to me and invites me to join the crew in the shade. i’d been hiding here on my rock hoping not to get in anyone’s way. but it’s much more comfortable under the trees!

a week ago i moved house again, this time to the mountainside above scari. i’ve got a room to myself and share a terrace, kitchen and bathroom with matias, sara and their baby carlos. above the house is a field with fruit trees and vegetables. to the side are grapevines. beyond this is wild bamboo stretching up the mountain.

after eight months living alone in a large house in piscita this is a big change. suddenly i am much closer to the quay, the piazza, the bars and restaurants; and further from the sea. to my delight however it is still possible to hear the waves lapping the shore at night. and in the summer one passes the majority of one’s time outside, so it is really not important to have lots of space indoors.

after about twenty takes the scene is completed to the director’s satisfaction and everyone relaxes and prepares for the next one. eugenio is a natural, maybe this will be a new career for him. matias’ job is to sit munching a panino. after all these takes he’s already got through three or four. i hope they were good.

tomorrow morning i’ll take the hydrofoil to napoli (four hour trip), to connect with a ship bound for porto vecchio at the south of corsica (sixteen hour trip) on which i have a cabin. with any luck i”ll find my parents there at the port when i arrive. they have already been traveling round corsica for a week. i’ll stay with them another week (it’ll be a complete break from my computer) before coming back here.

life’s not too bad eh.

: cH

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