October 19-21

Friday October 19th

Woke up to a cockerel crawing for Dawn & the scent of wylde mint permeating my tent. Walk’d to the abbey & spent a lovely hour there, until the tourists turn’d up & spoilt the serenity. After looking thro’ the museum I caught a bus down into Cassino town. This time the shops were open & I bought myself some supplies for the day.

Lunch’d al fresco in the park. It was full of students, but my quest for ganja fell on deaf ears; they were all engineering students, just my luck. Spent the day rollicking thro’ my poetry by a stream. So much, in fact, that I completed the days ‘quota’ by early afternoon. This gave me space to have a go at the poem about the World Trade Centre I brought along.

After a few stanzas I made my way back up to the abbey (by bus this time), the twisting road giving various resplendent views of the Liri valley & her mountains. In the olive grove I made a table & hit the booze, writing away in the pleasant sun that skipp’d thro the leaves. After the sun had set I moved once again inside the woodman’s hut & settl’d down with the fire. It feels so good to live so naturally. Up here, on top of a mountain inhabited only by monks, I feel truly contented with life. The excitement of the ‘Grand Tour’ era, when I first discover’d my poetic fires, has been replaced by a sense of assurity as to my role in the world. If my passion for poetry will continue to bring me to such sublime places as here, I am glad I am walking the road.

Saturday October 20th

Woke to the cockerel again & was quickly pack’d up. The valley was shrouded in a beautiful sea of white mist, from which the Alpini mountains rose up like Arthurian islands. I hitch’d a lift with three young Italian guys back to town, where the mist was all-enclosing. Bought a ‘Daily Mirror’ & waited for the train. This was duly jump’d &, being a day premature with my flight, I chose some random place to chill for the night. As we enter’d the wooded vale of Velletri I thought, ‘this is the place’ & duly got off the train.

The weather was sunny & clear & I made for a mountain that seem’d to be summoning me from afar. Sufficiently stock’d up on beer & food I set forth & had the good fortune to ask directions off a cool dude. He gave me a lift almost to the top of the peak. We said our friendly arrivedercis & I suddenly found myself alone on a forested mountain & plung’d into the greenery. The trees turn’d out to be giant horse chestnut & I spent most of my time avoiding the falling conkers (it is Autumn).

Made camp with a splendid view of the plain & distant peaks, relaxing with the verdancy & the butterflies – until people began shootin’ that is (for birds probably) on all sides. Work’d out my chances of being hit were slim, but the empty shotgun cases I began to see were not exactly encouraging. After the shooters had fuck’d off I got a nice fire going for the sunset & the evening’s chill. All the gnawing anxiety that is England seems long gone now.

Sunday October 21st

Woken up by gunfire. A couple of shootahs had decided to move to just above my tent. Dress’d at lightning speed & asked them in my best, broken Italian not to shoot me. They moved away & I pack’d up for my descent into the valley. It was a lovely morning galumphing down the paths thro’ the trees, stick in hand a la Wordsworth in the Quantocks. At the bottom I was amazed to see how ‘English’ the scenery was – until I nearly got run over by a psychopathic trucker drivin’ on the wrong side of the road.

Got to Rome no problemo & then to Ciampino town, next door to the airport, a few hours ahead of schedule. Bought 6 bottles of cheap table wine, crack’d one open & settl’d down on a bit of grass in the airport for my last bit of sun b4 winter. Every now & again I had to show various police & airport officials my passport (with my new tan & beard I definitely look’d like a terrorist). It was quite comical seeing the looks on their faces when they realised I was English, & then wandering off muttering in a confused state. The only hitch getting home was the fact that 5 bottles of wine exceeds my hand luggage weight quota – but after offering to drain a couple at the check-in desk I was allow’d thro’ with all 5.

The flight was a breeze & before long I was back in England. Bryn met me at the airport & took me to the nearby village of Buntingford. Over an absinthe or to I recanted my adventures, then the munchies kick’d in. After ten days of pasta I thought I’d try something new, so bought a kebab. This turn’d out to be a wrong move as b4 too long I was puking it back up in Bryn’s garden thinking, ‘I’m sure this happened the last time I was in Buntingford!’

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