XI: Fanny & Medusa

So that’s it for Scotland Street in Edinburgh. I have persuaded Glenda to give up her abode for these seven years past & throw caution to the wind & come wintering with me. She met me in London where we hung out for a couple of days. After a mad last night on pills, we staggered bleary-eyed to the airport & a couple of hours later landed in Palermo. We had arranged a plush apartment via the internet & were soon settled in our penthouse, with a glorious view of the city. Palermo, home of the Mafia, is surrounded on three sides by gigantic sheer mountains & on the other by the sea – perfectly natural fortifications. Our wee stint in London had been too much of a rave so we spent a couple of days ‘reacquainting’ ourselves, while sampling the Sicilian cuisine. The weather was been lovely during the day, & I went topless, tho’ only on the terrace of our apartment, basking in the splendid panorama as I dined on fresh squid. It is a strange sensation to just arrive in a place you know you will be spending some time in – a mixture of excitement of being somewhere new & the need to learn something of its culture. Then, where better to begin than the second biggest opera house in Europe, where we witnessed a rendition of Schuman’s opera ‘Geneveve.’ It was sung in German, with Italian subtitles on a screen above the stage, & as I sat with my Scottish girlfriend I felt very European indeed. But however sensuous, Palermo is still a city, & a fucking busy one at that – the traffic is a nightmare. So drawn by my love of archipelagos, & remembering our pleasant visit to Lismore, we headed west towards the islands off the Sicilian coast. Not directly, though, we thought we would take the scenic route.

It was a good move. We have just spent a week in the wonderfully peaceful village of Scopello. It has everything a poet could ask for; mountains to wander with stunning panoramic views, rocky cliffs to scramble up, milk-white coves lapped by the gentle azure Tyrrhenean, & a lovely little apartment for an eventually-haggled-down nice price. The journey here from Palermo took us via train along the Gulfo di Castellamare to Castellamare itself. This used to be a Mafia hotbed – half of the men strolling about are convicted murderers – but these days is a much gentler affair, though the current Capo di Capo (Boss of Bosses) in New York was born here, so I am sure there’s still a few Mafiosi about. 10K away, thro’ beautiful ocean framed countryside, is Scopello, perched silently on top of a crag. We were met off the bus by a black dog (soon named Nero), an abandonato (a stray) & the mother of a very cute, bandy-legg’d puppy. They kinda moved into our pad eventually, along with a stray cat & far too many mosquitoes – which I took great pleasure in nakedly hunting down each night with a brush & a book, using techniques recently perfected in India. I have now grown emotionally remote from this taking of innocent life, & find much pleasure in the discovery of the new art form of mosquito murder!

The weather is great, at the moment hitting about 22 degrees in the day – tho’ it did plummet to 16 during a wild & rare storm yesterday. Our life in the nigh-deserted village has been very tranquil, & very literary! We are nestled by the sea & I even found a kayak (with oar!) which me & Glenda used to explore the quietude of the coves up & down the coast. On one occasion, while swimming, she was stung by a jellyfish. The next morning I woke up thinking it would be a great idea for a short story & said that Glenda should write it. Unfortunately this was before her morning cup of tea & I was told in no uncertain terms to piss off. However, I was fired up & managed to toss it off before breakfast. Glenda then spent the day wandering the local nature reserve & wrote her own version of the tale. This we have now merged into one, our first literary baby entitled Fanny & Medusa – rather like a human but without the nappies. The sonnets have also began to take a sweeter shape – for I am now in the true home of the form, which first found a literary expression at the court of Frederick the Second at the turn of the thirteenth century. The first one I have composed here seems to be one of my best, using the form of the French Troubadours as my model – for surely some centuries ago a French troubadour would also have studied the sonnet on this glorious island.

Castallemare
21 / 11 / 16

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