VIII: The Apartamento at the End of the Rainbow

Tonight there will be a parting of the ways. My erstwhile, & long-suffering travelling pal, Victor Pope, will be heading home to Auld Reekie, where he’s gonna gorge on Indian takeaways while playing his x-box non-stop for at least a week. Tomorrow morning he’ll be catching the 6AM flight to London Stanstead from Brindisi, just as me & Paul should be watching the sun rise up over the Ionian islands, off the shores of the Greek mainland. In honour of his services to companionship, I’d like to present his version of recent events;

Cioa mi amica,

From our sewer we made our way to Leche, still itching slightly from all the mosquito bites. In Leche we found a library for internet, similar simplistic south American / African style buildings surrounding us. Then we decided it was time to hit the beach for one of the towns circled on the map by a guy we met in Calcata as a nice place to go. It was pleasant enough. Kind of another dead seaside resort, all modern but pretty enough little apartments and bars. Kind of a little Italian Costa del shite. Damo went in search of a cheap place for a few nights but once again bore no fruit. However there was a little uninhabited Island just off the coast and thoughts of a romantic Robinson Cruso type excursion excited Paul and Damo. So who was I to poop the party (dubious as I was)? However, doubts arose in Paul’s mind when a number of the locals gave him worried looks, bringing up the caboniari and the predicted nasty weather. After some deliberation we felt it wiser to set up camp on the mainland.

After a brief walk up the coast we found a quiet patch of beach and pitched the tent. But it wasn’t quiet for long. Pretty soon the heavens opened and we were bombarded by a torrent of tiny wet fists beating away at us and Damo’s attempt to make pasta on a fire fueled entirely by a grass skirt type thing (decent wood being in short supply). Miraculously he pulled off a reasonably edible dish and we retreated to the tent to scoff it down in relative comfort. But pretty soon the fear of God and nature was on us once again as sky splitting roars blasted from the brooding clouds, accompanied by fork lightning, the very spears of Zeus striking barely off shore in all directions (including, bizarrely enough, horizontally). This was too much for Paul to resist and he rushed into the torrent to tempt fate and admire the wrath of the Gods in all its glory. He didn’t have long to wait. Barely a few yards from him a lightning bolt struck a tree and he nearly fell back into the tent pale as a sheet with eyes as wide as saucers. Was this the end? The next bolt was so close it shone bright red and I swore I could feel the heat from it. We quaked in the tent with the reapers seethe swiping barely inches from our heads until finally, after the longest half hour of our lives, the storm swept over. But what a rush! I was almost jealous of poor Paul.

In the morning we decided to walk the twenty K to the next town. It was all going swimmingly until, just as we hit some beautiful, pixyland forestry the heavens opened once again. Shivering briefly under a tree we managed to blag a lift of a kindly woodsman who took us a k or so down the track. But it was out of the frying pan into the fire as a desperate scramble up some wet rocks was required to get back to the road. Nature may be beautiful but it’s also the most indiscriminate and merciless killer on the planet. But finally we arrived in Santa Maria al Bagro, wet, exhausted and badly in need of a B and B. Although it seemed as though our luck was finally turning. One of the first buildings we came to was an estate agent with apartments available. Damo worked his dubious magic and pretty soon we had a whole villa for 225 euros for five days. I say villa, the place is a fucking mansion. Massive kitchen, three bedrooms, Bathroom, two showers, living room with TV, garden, washing machine…..WASHING MACHINE!!! Finally we had struck the gold at the end of the rainbow. Damo had finally delivered on his promise, and the previso for me joining him on this insane quest in the first place, with days to spare. All was, for the time being at least, forgiven. I would end my “Holiday” in style with an actual Holiday. But hey, as Bill Hicks once said, life is just a ride.

Today has been luxuriously spent sunbathing, reading, cooking (full English of course) and chatting with a delightful local Hippy who sent Damo and Paul on a whitey and told us all about Belesconi finally being ousted a couple of days ago. So it seems we had arrived at quite a historical time. And the madness isn’t over. Our estate agent has apparently sorted us out a gig for Saturday night with a local musician in the nearby town of Nardo. One last date on the Saraswati grand tour of Italy and hopefully the fuel for one last blog. But until then,

Cioa per addesso,

Cheers man! Since he wrote the above blog, I spent a day wandering the coast & woods of Portoselvaggio, a small national park just to the north of Santa Caterina, where we were staying. It was saved from hotel developments by the martyrdom of a local politician about 20 years ago, who got a mafia bullet to the head for her troubles. It a beautiful place, from the rocky shores to the hoary woods, including grottos where Neanderthals etched crude hieroglyphics into the rock 10,000 years ago. On the walk, & my first real solitude for a month, I got stuck into Axis & Allies, which is coming along nicely to its concluding stanzas.

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Just as our timing at Calcata could not have been more perfect, so was our arrival in this part of the world. It was the Festival of Santa Maria over the weekend, which is essentially a celebration of new wine. On Friday we noised up some noisy young neighbors, who were having a wee party a few villas up from us. On Saturday we played our second gig in two weeks. This time we were driven by cool-as-fuck Antonio, the sassy middle-aged boss of the estate agents, up to the nearby town of Nardo. En route we popped into a wine shop, for nibbles & a spot of wine-tasting, then arrived in the central piazza. There, Antonio opened up a small-ish room stuffed with instruments, for us to have a wee practice. The place is dedicated to Luigi Stifini, a famous local musician who invented Pizziche – a mesmeric, foot-tapping traditional acoustic music with amazing gypsy undertones.


During our jam the daughter of Mr Stifini – perhaps 65 years old – turns up & starts jamming along with us on a ukelele. Funny as fuck! Then we wandered thro’ the beautiful narrow, baroque streets of Old Nardo to a local bar ran by some cool young ‘uns, where the Pizziche music was in full flow. This was enhanced by two very cute, young Italian birds who were dancing a wild, spontaneous, sensual & elegant whirl of movements & hand gestures – total quality. Not long after we played a few numbers, with the crowd loving it & the musicians joining in. Then the table of covered plates was uncovered to reveal a veritable banquet, the highlight of which was horse-meat stew, which had been cooked for a full nine hours by our ukelele playing Madame, sending my palette into the realms of culinary heaven.

Yesterday was a quiet one – watching the grand prix & a dubbed Spartacus among other things, washing clothes & generally mentally preparing for our movements on. I really can’t wait… for several months through the summer I was researching Homer in the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh, & for the past month have been assembling the information & turning it to cohesive & readable prose. In the next few days I shall be in Cephalonia, which island I have good reasons to suspect houses the site of the palace of Odysseus, in a place nobody has ever conjectured before. My month in Italy has been more of warm-up… practicing my Italian, enjoying the sunshine, preparing notes, tossing off a few sonnets & tryptychs, seeing a few new places, etc. But Greece is a different prospect altogether, a quest in the real sense of the word, beginning soon with a voyage across ancient waters. Interestingly enough, Spartacus was also once in Brindisi with his slave-nation. He had paid some Phoenician sailors to ferry them all to safety, but they had reneged on the deal. I’m just hoping the same thing won’t happen to us with our ferry company!

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