p a s s a g i o

[ 23:30 tuesday 4 february – mt vittorio carpaccio, porto di napoli ]

sitting here in the ship’s deserted saloon, only the hissing and inane chatter of a badly-tuned tv for company.

i arrived last night in florence to be met by seb and ardis, who whisked me off along ever-diminishing roads until we bounced along the dirt track to seb’s house. supper was a magnificent artichokes risotto (seb’s a fantastic cook). we stayed up late talking, listening to music and knocking back weird italian liquors. around three in the morning a strong wind arrived out of nowhere and started rattling the windows and doors. i slept like a log.

today i planned to get the 15:54 eurostar from florence down to napoli, but seb’s sister amanda visited with her partner and two-month-old baby and they proceeded to get their land rover firmly stuck in the mud. this delayed our departure long enough for me to miss the train. i took the opportunity to buy some duck tape for makeshift draught-proofing and a box of face masks for the task of sweeping ash out of the house (both suggested by my father). after making my goodbyes to seb and ardis i got on the next train, an hour later than the one i’d intended.

the ship for stromboli was scheduled to leave napoli at 21:00, half an hour after my train’s scheduled arrival. from the railway station to the port takes about twenty minutes in an aggressively-driven taxi. i spoke to pasquale from the train and he proposed meeting me at the station with his old suzuki motorbike. this seemed like a perfect solution so i started trying to figure out how i was going to carry my huge rucksack, roll-up bag of books and slides and my precious hard drive on the back of his bike.

the train pulled into napoli at 20:35 with me hovering impatiently by the door ready to leap off. the door hissed open, i ran up the platform and around the front of the station, but no sign of pasquale. back into the station and there he was, very dashing in bright yellow waterproof trousers and a himalayan woolly hat. shouting his name i ran to greet him and together we stumbled out laughing to his waiting steed. with my rucksack on my back, the roll-up slung over my left shoulder, hard-drive clutched under my right arm and my left arm around pasquale’s waist it was possible to achieve some semblance of equilibrium. with a whoop of excitement we accelerated off into the rain-filled streets, dodging between maniacal cars and buses.

ten minutes later we pulled up at the ship’s stern and the crew explained that the sea was very rough and they wouldn’t be sailing until five in the morning at the earliest. so i went for a quick drink with pasquale, came back to the ship, waved him goodbye, and here i’ve been since then.

i followed paolo’s advice and bought a ticket to panarea (the next island after stromboli). i’m hoping there won’t be any difficulty sneaking off at stromboli.

[ 14:00 wednesday ]

sitting once again in the saloon, this time accompanied by six other passengers and as many crew. the passengers all have their faces pressed against the windows. the sea is breathtaking, beyond description. i’ve never seen anything like it. a libeccio of quite extraordinary ferocity is blowing from the north-west, i’d say force eight. the waves are white-streaked mountains of grey, five or six metres high. this is not a small ship but we are being thrown around like a toy. typing is tricky because my chair and table keep sliding across the floor at different speeds.

after all my efforts i rather doubt it’s going to be possible to dock at stromboli.

: c*

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