On the 4th November, 2005, my 19 year old self wrote in her blog:
Our story begins on a small island off the coast of Sicily. Polkadot stood still and looked out to sea. To her left was a small village nestled in a lush green valley below. To her right was the huge crater, its white clouds of gas still billowing up. She could smell the sulphur and hear the dull hum of the ferries pulling into the port below. She scanned the horizon. For the haze it was hard to tell where the sea ended and the sky begun. She took a deep breath. She knew what she had to do. Although she knew good people make bad mistakes, she would need to leave her boyfriend and her best friend behind for a while. Polkadot wouldn’t do anymore, she needed to assume a new name. She had been in contact with her very old comrades and with them behind her she could not fail. With all her strength she stepped back onto the path and with her head held high returned to see what new adventures lay in waiting at the base of the volcano.
I met some friends in Naples then when they left I worked on an olive farm in Tuscany, chatting with the farmer as we harvested olives in the sun. We went to a market in an old walled town and for lunch all the farmers shared their produce – fresh bread, sun dried tomatoes, fetta, basil, olive oil, salami. It was the best meal I’d ever had. While they had a siesta I went for a wander around the town, turned a corner and stumbled across a full brass band and 20 men dressed in maroon and white silk uniforms, spinning huge brightly coloured flags on sticks, dancing with them, waving and throwing them high in the air and catching them with precision and grace.
We finished the harvest and pressed the olives, but there was barely enough oil for the farmer’s family for the year. There were arguments I couldn’t translate over the dinner table. It turned cold and cloudy. As I put mulch around the cabbages I jammed my headphones in and listened to songs that made me miss home, miss my family and friends. I missed my best friend and I missed my boyfriend.
We spoke on the phone. He told me he had booked a plane ticket to come and see me. He’d sold his car to pay for the it and he’d told the hospital he’d quit if they didn’t give him the time off. He’d meet me in London. I remember being excited and angry and confused and overwhelmed.
We decided to meet on December 14th in Oxford at the Bridge of Sighs. In 6 weeks time.
I began making my way north. I went to Bolonga to eat bolognaise and missed the last train. The only hotels with rooms available were 300 euros so I hung out in Hungry Jacks until 2AM then tried to sleep at the train station. Old men grumbled at me in Italian and snowflakes began to fall that were so big I could see the patterns in them.
On the stairway of a youth hostel in Florence, somewhere between the second and third floor, I stopped to read the graffiti that covered the walls. There were initials in love hearts, detailed portraits and fantastic cartoons. There were bits of advice, bragging and warnings. ‘Take the road less travelled’, ‘I shagged a hot Italian chick here today’, ‘Don’t eat the breakfast bacon’. But the bit that caught my eye was in plain black texta in a corner, simply saying ‘DO IT FOR THE STORY’. Someone else had drawn an arrow to it and added ‘You must!’
Whilst in Milan I got an email to say I’d been accepted into my uni course in Bathurst. Whilst in France, the Cronulla riots happened back in Australia. Back at my uncle’s place in London, I went to the Portobello Markets and bought some black steel cap Doc Martin boots for ten pounds. I started to feel a bit more invincible again. I planned what I’d say to my boyfriend when I saw him.
The night before I left for Oxford, on December 12th, 2005 I wrote in my blog:
I was watching MASH on TV and it was a really moving episode where the old main guy met this old nurse woman. Anyway they hung out heaps and went on picnics and sung songs and then she tries to take it a step further and he’s like no I have a wife back home. Later he’s talking to Radar and he says like yeah I’ve met a lot of nice ladies that were nice to talk to, but I married the right one. And he was so sure.
How can you ever be so sure? How can you know that the decisions you make are completely right? How can you ever do the right thing when you could convince yourself that doing anything was the right thing to do? I remember my friend saying to flip a coin. If it turns up heads and you are disappointed, then you’ll know for sure that it’s the tails option you really wanted. I wish it worked.
To be continued.