Category Archives: Stromboli

g i n o s t r a

[ 23.38 saturday 25 august – ginostra, isola di stromboli ]

some scene-setting. i’m sitting on the white-washed stone terrace of my house looking out over the quiet mediterranean. a crazily-tilted half moon descends towards the horizon in a sky strewn with stars. above me the black bulk of the volcano. far to the south the lights of panarea and salina glimmering across the the water. vines drape from the wooden framework overhead, weighed by bunches of wizzenned grapes. pomegranites and lemons grow beside the house. water is pumped from a cistern with a big lever. from time to time a siamese cat called felice winds herself around my ankles.

this is ginostra, a tiny village on the opposite side of stromboli from the main settlement. a year-round population of about 30, rising to a couple of hundred in the summer. no electricity. no telephone. no motor vehicles (there is a mule to bring supplies up the vertiginous steps from the tiny harbour).

by now i expected to be in sicily. but this feels like the right place to be. each day i clamber over the rocks to join friends swimming and playing. i’m doing a little work, but not much.

: cH

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r e p o s i t i o n i n g

[ 23:53 thursday 23 august – scari, stromboli, italia ]

i’m crouched on the little quay, people milling around in a good-natured way under the only street-lamps on this island. the ship back to napoli was scheduled to arrive at eleven. it hove into view about ten minutes ago. high high above us are the twinkling lights of a party heading up to the summit of the volcano. it’s a clear night with a less-than half moon. the view will be spectacular.

fabrizio is leaving for positano. i am here to say goodbye.

things have moved very quickly. on monday i bought a ticket to rome and collected a new passport (in that order). the whole night was spent packing in preparation for two months life and work in italy, conducted in parallel with clearing out the flat ready for mr vajra spook to arrive from new york in september.

a car came for me at 05:10. i took off from heathrow at 07:50, was in rome in time for lunch, napoli in time for tea. i boarded a ship sailing from napoli at 21:00 and arrived at stromboli at dawn on wednesday. i took a cabin on the ship. my sleep was deep and wonderful.

the ship edges up to the quay as i write. people prepare their goodbye gestures and words. luggage is coralled and balanced.

all change please.

: cH

c o n t i n e n t a l s h i f t

[ 22:19 wednesday 13 december – sandhurst , gloucestershire , uk ]

twenty-four hours ago i was walking across the tarmac at accra . twelve hours before that i was playing in the atlantic surf beneath tall palms . now i am sitting in my parents’ house on an island amidst cold grey floodwater .

very tired now . i’ll write more in a day or two . thanks for all your messages . the last couple of weeks have been fabulous .

: cH

p a s s a g g i o

10:22 sunday 20 august – fico grandi , isola di stromboli

it is almost a week now since i arrived on this extraordinary little island and picked my way through the narrow streets as the sun rose . the town is stretched out around the base of the volcano , with on circumferal street near the water and another higher up , connected by innumerable radial pathways zigzagging between the white-painted cuboid houses .

my directions from fabrizio were simply ” find your way to the splash disco , we live underneath it ” . having spent perhaps quarter of an hour of rewarding but tiring random exploration i passed a house outside which half a dozen young people were sitting , looking a little dazed . i stopped and turned to them , provoking some rubbing of eyes , bemused peering and chuckles . scusi , dove il disco splash ? more laughter : you are a bit late now , it is closed . eventually i was offered some directions but they were no more than half coherent and it was a little while before i found the place up a steep winding path above the town , surrounded by tall cactus and oleander. i briefly greeted fabrizio then unfolded a rusting sun lounger beneath a vine on the terrace , covered myself with a blanket and dozed for a few hours with the flies nibbling at me .

by noon that day i was in an open boat with fabrizio and viola , three of fabrizio’s childhood friends from napoli , two more from sweden , baby kiriku in a wicker basket and an enormous great dane called guapa , pushing off from the jet-black beach beneath the town .

[ continuing 11:23 – latartana club ]

we crossed to strombelichio , the rock which rises perhaps a hundred feet , vertical and jagged , from the water to the north of stromboli . here we anchored and swam . the water around the island is the most astonishing colour , a blue so deep and clear one’s eyes are drawn to stare into it endlessly .

after a while here we proceeded to encircle stromboli , stopping at a beach from time to time for a swim or a picnic . we passed the volcano’s active flank , where smoking rocks tumble constantly down into the sea . we landed briefly at ginostra , the village on the opposite side of the island from the main town , whose inhabitants continue to survive , i believe , without electricity .

it was dusk when we returned to the town beach . milano seemed already a million miles distant . after some pasta , some beer and some jovial conversation i stretched out happily on my makeshift bed and …

… had one of the most horrible nights of my life . the moment i lay down a swarm of mosquitoes descended upon me . not the big , whining monsters of milano but tiny silent creatures . the first warning one has of their presence is a thorn-like jab on the skin , by which time it is too late to do anything . seconds later the insufferable itching begins . despite putting all my clothes back on and burying myself completely under my sheet i managed only an hour or so of sleep . the whole surface of my body was peppered by the morning . i could only half-open my eyes in consequence of bites on each eyelid .

i was in a state of shock after this existential horror , particularly coming after such an idyllic day . i was gripped by an antisocial temper which lifted only when i ate a couple of the odd-shaped flat peaches grown on the island , possessing a degree of perfection entirely beyond my descriptive power .

i spent two more nights on that bed , sleeping with a small mosquito net over my face my face and reluctantly setting a noxious tablet to burn during the night . then fabrizio’s researches bore fruit and a beautiful house was found , at the other end of town , close to the cleanest beach and in an area unbeset by mosquitoes . into here i moved with sasi , a sculptor from napoli . having slept like an angel for the last four nights it was time to leave this morning . once more i am uncertain where i shall find myself sleeping tonight but quite relaxed about it .

each day i spend a few hours working on my document for the sse , my project for this period , framed by swimming and walking and lounging . the words and the ideas come freely , it is scarcely any effort . i will stay for a few days more then take the hydrofoil to palermo . i spoke to gabriele yesterday , the fellow i met on the ship from napoli . he has invited me to stay for a few days .

: cH

n a v e

05:05 monday 14 august – mv carpaccio

i’m sitting on the top deck with the stars bright above me , the wake disappearing in the darkness , a hot breeze caressing my face and arms . the last of the scarlet moon , close to full , slips beneath the horizon . i have slept for a couple of hours . within another half hour we shall be at stromboli .

the excitement which began to rise in me as we drew into rome is still growing . we drew into napoli punctually at half past eight . i leapt into a taxi and asked to be taken quickly to the quay for stromboli. the driver laughed and pointed out that final check-in was half an hour before sailing , ie half past eight . i shrugged and joined his laughter . he drove as only the the neapolitans can drive , dodging in and out of tram lanes , disregarding any notion that certain parts of the road were for use in one direction or another . as we pulled up at the quay he sprang from the car and into staccato conversation with an official . he gestured to me : it’s okay . i was so happy i allowed him to charge me what was clearly a ridiculous sum without caring in the least .

ah ! i can see the lights of stromboli twinkling on the horizon .

i approached the official and asked him if he spoke english . he replied that he spoke very good italian . eventually we reached an understanding that i should go aboard and we’d sort out a ticket once we were underway .

i spent the first part of the voyage speaking with a young neapolitan called gabriele who is off camping on salina . i showed him some of my pictures from st agnes . the mood on the ship is terrific , full of laughter and anticipation , a sense of escape . the complement consists largely of young people , who soon had their sleeping bags and lilos arrayed on every corner of deckspace . several people pulled out guitars and started singing . i managed to speak to mum in england before the mobile reception deteriorated .

the sky is becoming light now in the east .

i turn round from my writing and gasp . rising hazy from the sea is the steep cone of stromboli , with even a menacing glow of orange peeping from its crater . i don’t know what i expected , but this … it’s beyond belief . fofo’s urgings come into perspective .

the light strenghtens quite quickly . i can see white houses clustered around the base now .

wow ! a cry goes up and i look round again to see a burst of lava burst from the top of the volcano . it is time to stop writing i think , too much to look at !

: cH