Thursday, 13 April 2017


Lot's wife looked back when it was expressively said she shouldn't and now so have I, more than once. Although, I sincerely hope what happened to her doesn't at some point happen to me; after all, my psychiatrist did warn me not to. He advised me strongly to resist the urge to revisit the scene, in words or mind, but he knew I had to and would do it: finish what I had started for a following of one or many. And my friend, the acquaintance that pitched me into the unknown, did deserve the full, honest truth of my early return. Verbatim.
I already have to live with the knowledge that I unfulfilled my promise: my casual acceptance of the task as sold, since the whole travelling experience was such an eye-opener that I haven't been able to repeat or confront it, at least in body if not in mind, and so, this disclosing is as much for my friend as for myself and is by far the lesser evil, which is to state, ineffably, that in doing so that I also escaped my friend's overbearing attitude, which somehow presided over me from miles away. Perhaps if Milan hadn't happened in quite the way it did, I would have persevered.
In a sense, I have borne witness to my own destruction and not my restitution. In Paris I began to relax, until Milan, then WHACK! as if I'd been suddenly hit by a fast-bowled cricket ball and socked back into my retiring shell. No, I couldn't have stayed or continued on, but then that wasn't an option as you will in good time discover.
After an uncomfortable night, barely raised off the floor on an unrolled mattress and with the door to the cell propped open, and still I might add in my own creased clothes, I awoke to the harsh light of day, or what I took to be day, as it actually turned out to be the overhead lighting, as well as a cup of tea brought in by the duty officer. I must say they did seem very well equipped for English visitors who weren't their run-of-the-mill, but in truth, nothing by then really surprised me. I was even allowed a quick wash and a shave, before being made to read over (for the umpteen time) and sign my statement; the translator the night before having ensured it was accurate.
Unfortunately, though I was allowed to go the paraphernalia I arrived with, a holdall and a fine, sturdy walking stick, were not. Both items I learned were being held for further inspection, for what reason or to what purpose I don't rightly know, but that was the explanation I got; that and the fact I would be sent almost immediately home, which I was initially offended by as it smacked of deportation when I was a legal visitor. However, on reflection, an instant after receiving this news, I realised this plan was welcome.
I'd had enough and I'm not a person that kicks up a fuss, particularly when it's delivered with such gracious manners, and so I was relieved to follow their lead, but when I'm without the aid of my stick I quickly develop a limp and, therefore, was escorted to a car, which I thought would take me straight to the airport and on the first flight home, but no, I was given a whistle-stop tour.
We rattled through as many back-streets as we could, though in retrospect I often think this must have been an hallucination – it has the qualities of one – caused either from over-tiredness or doctored tea, but I do remember feeling rather exhilarated by the flashing scenery. And the speed we were travelling at brought back childhood memories of the funfair, like I was belted in a flying chair or a spinning teacup and screaming 'Faster!' If it was meant to scare, it didn't. But as with rides, it decelerated, and the drive that eventually wound up at the airport was a much more sedate affair.
Once there, I was met with a wheelchair, passed through the necessary pre-boarding checks which I barely have any retention of – the accompanying officer holding my papers – and steered to the appropriate departure gate. The only true memory I have of this moment prior to boarding is acquiring a Homburg which I remember accepting with a quizzical brow though I don't recall the face of the conferrer, as it's here with me now: on my head, squashing flat my receded salt-and-pepper hair.

Picture credit: The Navigli, Milan, 1965, Ferdinando Scianna