June 13-15

Wednesday June 13th

Awoke, shower’d & hit the banks. The first one refused my card but after a nervy wait the second one cough’d up some marks – great! Skinn’d up, stroll’d into town (via the free U-Bahn), found a nice café & hit the books. A very relaxing sommer’s morn trundl’d by, help’d by the cappuccinos & skunk.

Moved a few K out of the city to the Nazi camp at Dachau & was suitably impress’d. The place really invoked the despair its desperate inmates would have had to endure. I found the cremation ovens spooky, but was glad to see a huge rock erection dominating the scene, raised by the Jews to exorcise the ghosts of that terrible regime. Back in town I explored the Englischer Garten, a very nice place but chock-a-block with nudes. It is possibly the best municipal park I’ve visited, especially when sat with a giant ice-cold beer (very hot today) & a bratwurst in a beerkeller by its picturesque lake.

Back at camp I chill’d with a few spliffs & some Irish lads, who had very wisely brought a crate o’ booze wi’ ‘em. I was soon trash’d & took a walk by a river, where a very dramatic lightning storm erupted, chucking bucketfuls of rain on mi head. Raced back to camp where I composed a little in my thankfully waterproof tent, the rain eventually lulling me to sleep…


Thursday June 14th

Hung over! Saunter’d into town to work on my stanza about the Putcsh (iv) – but found it virtually closed down as there was a German holiday happening. I found myself having a coffee in a bar & tasted my first Aryan hostility, being virtually hounded out of the place. After this I used the old, ‘I’m a poet,’ blag & got into the majestic Residenzmuseum for free. I was soon stood captivated by classically painted scenes from the Niebelungen (v), then finally prising myself away at the very time it felt had come for me to leave the city.

With all my U-Bahn & S-Bahn action never being noticed once in Munich, I have decided to give myself an extra Train-Jumping point (2-0). I hopp’d local trains to Landsberg (3-0) where, munching cold ravioli, I sat by the prison where Hitler dictated Mein Kampf (vi). It is a relatively nice looking place, far from the Victorian foreboding of an English criminal incarceration. However, a prison is not an ideal place to spend one’s tour, so I headed on outta town.

Flank’d by the sunset I cross’d a very wide plain northwards thro’ Augsburg to the delightful town of Donauworth (4-0). It was had been ruin’d by wartime bombing, but rebuilt almost exactly how it was. My tent was pitch’d in a secluded spot where the Danube meets the Worlitz – a lovely poetical place. So lovely, in fact, I decided to drop 20 mushrooms. Once fully within the shroom-bubble, who would arrive but some trippy psychology student & his girlfriend upon a romantic outing. We shared a spliff & had quite a deep conversation – my first proper one with a Kraut, & very stimulating. After they left, I just chill’d with the waterflow until attempting to get to sleep – very difficult & that’s the last time I sleep on a slope!


Friday June 15th

Awoke to a fisherman stood outside my tent. He generously gave me some beers for breakfast (God bless Germany!) which turn’d the double-decker train jump up to Nuremburg into an unnecessarily difficult affair (5-0). It was nice to return to somewhere I had visited before (two years previously) but this time I avoided the cheap hotels & pitch’d my tent up in a forested camp site.

I drifted into Nuremburg on my penultimate spliff & twenty mushrooms. The old city is very beautiful, tho’ the temperature had climb’d to 34 degrees, so it was a little arduous. I took a U-bahn out to the Grand Palace of Justice where, to my muse-stricken fortune, I happen’d to ask the public prosecutor for Bavaria about the War trials (vii). He ask’d if I was a student, I said no, I’m a poet. Upon saying the magic word he took me for a private tour of that great scene from history. As usual the room was a bit disappointing, being a little small – but cool all the same.

My psychedelics on full throttle I headed to the Luitpold – that monumental legacy of the Third Reich. After checking out the hypnotic Kongressbau I went to the Zeppelinfeld, site of Hitler’s speeches. These days it’s just a hang-out for the kids, car after car blaring out tunes. I hook’d up with some lads, sharing beers & chatted about the footy. Ask’d them about England’s chances in the forthcoming World Cup qualifier in Munich – they were very blasé (viii). Had my last spliff outside the tent, underneath the Teutonic pantheon of stars, then crash’d in my tent…

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June 16-18

Saturday June 16th

Slipp’d out of the campsite without paying, easily enough, & U-bahn’d it into town. Stock’d up on wine & jump’d on an intercity for quite a big jump to Jena. After a slick, quick-shuffle I was crusin’ along on a real nice train, listening to some German baroque thro’ my chairs in built radio. At last the countryside has begun to improve, with wooded hills rising out of the plain to the accompaniment of a refreshing deluge.

As I was a bit piss’d I miss’d Jena & had to blag my way back on another train, almost losing the TJ point to the Germans (6-0). An otherwise pleasant town is dominated by a giant GDR building call’d ‘Jena’s Willy’ – a tall grotesque amidst the charming streets. I open’d more wine with a corkscrew borrowed in an Italian café, then bludgeon’d my way towards the battlefield where Napoleon kick’d Prussian ass in 1806. The road travers’d a very steep hill & I proceeded to get lost in the woods after searching for a short cut.

Stumbling upon a nice spot overlooking the town, I decided to pitch camp & try the battlefield in the morning. With tall, rainfresh forest behind me & the hills & vales of Jena before me, I relax’d with the panoramic sunset. Later, to the crackle of an open fire, in the heady mist of a couple of bottles of red, I cook’d up some meat & wrote poetry. Then, as the stars came out, I slapp’d on my walkman & had a private party, dancing round the fire – well, it is a Saturday night. To one song in particular I felt the greatest of connections; Driftwood by Travis;

I’m sorry that you turned to driftwood
But you’ve been drifting for a long, long time


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Sunday June 17th

Woke up, pack’d up & march’d to the battlefield. It wasn’t particularly spectacular, so I made my way back to town. Fully cappucino’d I smok’d the bit of skunk that I found in my shorts (bonus) & hopp’d on a train north. After a day of no weed, the green hit home & I was duly caught for the first time this tour (6-1). I tried to explain to the guy he’d done well to catch me & it was cool, to which he replied from underneath his blonde handlebar mustache; ‘Is nicht cool! Is nicht cool’ & threw me off the train.

Taking my defeat like a man I embark’d on the 35 k march to Naumberg – my personal penance for conducting a terrible train jump – even if I was stoned. It turn’d out to be a very interesting stroll, partway spent in academic conversation with a Russian language teacher. I was fuell’d by the occasional roadside beer & sausage & cool’d by the occasional light shower, but by the fifth hour of walking I was pretty fuck’d.

Luckily the jump to Leipzig was easy (7-1), & I soon found myself meandering round the city (yet more walkin’) in search of the campingsplatz. I finally found it & gladly paid my cash for a sound night’s sleep. B4 bed I dined with a New Zealand family who told me that the forthcoming ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy has been film’d in their country. Cannot wait…


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Monday June 18th

The weather had turn’d overcast for my trip to Colditz (ix). After a few stops on the train I was kickt off by a pig-tail’d conductress (7-2). I thought I’d outwitted her, but she got me on the second sweep. That’s twice in two days & one of them was a girl – the shame! I hitch’d a lift to a town call’d Grossboten, where I bought 6 beers & caught a bus into Colditz. I arrived a bit drunk & stagger’d up to the castle’s gloomy courtyard where 4000 Allied prisoners once lived & appell’d. It was cool chillin’ there, but it soon began to chuck it down, so I blagg’d my way onto a guided tour with another ‘I’m a poet!’ I was soon absorb’d in the history.

Once the rain had died off I set off back – but had to contend with a massive fore-arm’d, skinhead Nazi bus driver. When I had bought my ticket earlier at Grossboten, the driver had misunderstood me sticking up two fingers & asking for a return, selling me two singles instead. The Nazi wouldn’t accept it & we almost came to blows, but I swallow’d my anger, said to myself, ‘The wars over, mate,’ & got off the bus. Fortunately, the next but to come along was driven by the guy who sold me the tickets in the first place – problem solv’d!

The bus went all the way back to Leipzig, where I took in the city’s atmosphere. At one point I brows’d thro’ a bookshop’s collection of German poetry. It seems a little like English poetry, but there’s not much of it & written in a romantic gothic lettering. Bought a book of Goethe’s poems, with English translation, & wander’d thro’ his pages over a fine beer. I made my way back after sunset & found Leipzig to be very oppressive at night. There are hardly any streetlights & you feel like you are in a poor communist country. I was rather reliev’d to get back to my tent without being murder’d.

June 19-21

Tuesday June 19th

I shaved, wash’d my clothes & relax’d in the sun awhile until the mozzys began to bite. It seems they had been train’d by the Luftwaffe, so I buggar’d off into Berlin for my own safety. It is a very vibrant city & I enjoy’d a stirring afternoon amongst some of its sights; more impressive Nazi architecture at the Olympic stadium, the wonderful greenery of the Tiergarten & the grandiose Brandenburg Gate.

I paus’d awhile in the Bebelplatz, site of the notorious book burning in ’33, then made my way to the university library & blagg’d my way onto a balcony in order to gain a grand perspective of the square. Upon composing a poem, I set off into the neon night & buss’d it back to the campsite. There I met three young German lads & spent the night chattin’ & sharing beer. To my horror they told me the beer I’d been drinkin’ all day was alcohol free – & I thought I was piss’d!


Wednesday June 20th

Woke up about mid-day & hookt up with Thom, one of the guys from last night. We set off out into the city in fine spirits & in blazing sunshine & soon found ourselves sat by the water in the Tiergarten, drinkin’, chillin’ & chattin’. The place was full of Germans baskin’ in the rays. They seem a nice bunch. My hawkish eyes spotted a guy skinning up & I bought a bit of his hash to put the cherry on the cake; or so I thought…

Two fine young eighteen-year old fraulines turn’d up & join’d in our chill. They gave me a wonderful reading of ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’ by Gothe. It turns out they were ballet dancers. We lazed around in the sun for a while then hit a couple of bars for civilised chit-chat, martini & merlot. In the men’s, me & Thom suss’d out which  bird was whose & proceeded to pull them. Mine was a lithe young creature call’d Rebekka & I was soon enough being dragg’d back to hers.

Her room was a wonder to be within. It was decorated in pastel hues, garnish’d with polish’d wood & piney floors. After getting a graceful, private ballet dance, a huge grin slapp’d itself on mi face. Suffice it to say, I did Anglo-German relations a world of good. It was nice to taste the delights of a German woman, her passion for ballet has seem’d to have given her a tenderness rare in the act of lovemaking. Slept well.


Thursday June 21st

After a little more cross-cultural harmony with Rebekka, she took me on an expedition in her car, despite the grim weather that had suddenly closed in. We made our way to Potsdam, & being immediately enamor’d to the place we enter’d the Sans Soucci park, holding hands, a palatial place stuff’d with splendid imperial architecture. Then the sun came out & I felt delightful with life & adventure.

I had a very interesting chat with an old woman about war-time events, then we left the park & wound thro’ Potsdam’s spacious serenity til we found the Schloss Cecilenhof – site of the Potsdam conference (x). After blagging our way in (“We are poets!”) I absorb’d the atmosphere where the modern world was created, before we headed back to Berlin. On the way, Rebekka wanted to show me Wansee. The Konferenzbau where the SS order’d the extermination of the Jews was a villa by the velvety Wansee lake, & it seem’d to glow with an evil hue. The place was closed so we snook over the fence to walk thro’ its garden where I could muse on the events.

We drove to a restaurant for a fine evening meal – which made a great change from all the sausage I had been eatin’. On returning to hers she did her own little bit of sausage eatin – & I must say, what they say about German efficiency is true.

June 22-24

Friday June 22nd

Awoke at dawn & left Rebekka sleeping – women can be so distracting & I’m supposed to composing an epic poem! With my headspace fully clear’d I took a U-Bahn to Kreuzberg, follow’d by a pleasurable meander thro’ Berlin’s streets. I got a bit lost but a map at every bus-stop help’d matters. It was cool when I stumbl’d on Checkpoint Charlie in a drunken roll. For the rest of the day whenever I’d finish a beer I’d nip in the nearest supermarket & replenish my stock, I got well piss’d.

Next port of call was the Prinz-Albrecht Strasse. I spent a couple of hours with the ruins of the SS HQ. The only features still standing, however, were the cells where they kept the poor prisoners before being tortured. Next I call’d on the site of the old Reichschancell’ry – now just high rise flats but once the poison’d heart of Nazi Germany. While there I had the good fortune to talk to an expert on such matters, who walk’d & talk’d with me up to the great dome of the Reichstag. He fill’d me in on the gaps in my studies & I bought him a coffee to say thanx.

Come sunset I buss’d it back to the campsite, where to my joy the tent was still there after my tryst with Rebekka. It’s been cool hanging out in Berlin – a lot cleaner city than London & set in a pretty pastoral situation (with the lakes). However, there is a certain edginess about the place, but then again, where is not edgy in Germany?


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Saturday June 23rd

Did a James Bond sneak out of the campsite & did not have to pay – buzzin! Walk’d along the misty morning lakeside for a couple of K, feeding the ducks en route (bastards ate all my bread). Once I had reach’d Zoo station I found, to my cheer, a train going all the way to Prague. It was gonna be a long jump so I scrapp’d the beer 4 breakfast & got busy. We pass’d thro’ the hills of Dresden (xi), crossing the border to wind thro’ the Elbe’s scenic valley into the lovely Czech Republic!

The hills began to grow larger & the sights prettier as we trundl’d thro’ Czech. I dodg’d the new conductor (9-2), cementin’ the jump & lay back marvelin’ as the Elbe grew more majestic, cutting swathes thro’ carpeted mountains dotted with hundreds of pretty little houses. We then broke out into a wide, hill-fringed plain & the capital city. Ah! The sweet streets of Prague, the city of music, the city of culture, the city of the artist’s soul!

After finding a funky campsite I was suck’d into a swirling vortex of funky vibes & good time feelin’ (via some more of my shrooms). Watch’d a magnificent piece of classical music in a wonderfully ornate church, complete with glittering chandelier. I went about a tryptych, absorbing all the energy & enriching my lines with suave & style. I unwound with a stroll & a hit nice bar where, over red wine, great live tunes & dodgy English language singing, I grinn’d a pretty big grin. The journey back to my tent was a bit messy, as the combination of mushrooms & wandering a big city without a map have never mix’d well & will continue never to do so.


Sunday June 24th

Moved into a room (it’s cheap enough to in Prague) & re-discover’d the bliss of clean sheets. Popp’d my clothes into the cleaner & set off into the city. Bump’d into a couple of Scottish girls & show’d them the way to the centre. They were ‘shoppers’ & show’d me a side of travelling I don’t usually see. I got a bit carried away & ended up being the only one to buy anything – a funky, metal Pegasus for only a couple of quid. We sat down for a quiet drink, but soon a bunch of mad, loutish Mancs sat on the table beside us. I was instantly drawn to them.

The girls soon piss’d off, tuttin’ beneath their breath, but I hung around. They help’d me score some weed (fuck’d immediately – strongest stuff I’ve ever had) & even bought me a meal in a plush Italian. It turns out they were drug dealers & loaded. We hit a dingy bar where I check’d mi karma & gave them the last of mi shrooms. It was funny watchin’ them come up, abusing the Czechs with Northern money antics. One bar even shut down (til we’d gone) because of ‘em.

After open air beers & pizza we hit their very nice hotel (who sez drugs don’t pay) where two of the Mancs had arranged for a prostitute. She was fit as fuck, a very high standard, & she even let the rest of us watch (& take photos). It was even funnier when the lads couldn’t get hard-ons because of the mushrooms, asking me if I wanted to have a go, seeing as they’d paid – but I politely declined their kind offer. After she’d gone, we got stoned then hit another bar, where one of the guys was plied with absinthe. It was even funnier watchin’ him stagger thro’ the streets & collapse in a prostitute-fill’d square. It was at this point I knew it was time to head back to the safety of my bed.

June 25-27

Monday June 25th

I ended up spending Glastonbury weekend (xii) in Prague – a pretty good substitute. Spent the morning acquiring breakfast & sussing out the price of Absinth. Took my food back to the campsite, in the hills over Prague, & wrote poetry, sipping beer & smoking skunk. Happy with the progress of the poem so far – up until yesterday’s shenanigans I was completing three stanzas – 60 lines – a day.

Once I was suitably stoned I saunter’d back into town to see the orthodox church – St Cyril & Methodius – where Heydrich’s assassins were slaughter’d in 1942.  People are still laying flowers outside its crypt to this day. Further along the Elbe I climb’d a parkland slope, as steep as a Lakeland fell. This gave me a splendid prospect of the city – very beautiful amidst the Roman hills. On descending I shopp’d for the absinthe & got two bottles for 399k each (£7.70).

The day’s missions done I sat in an internet café for beers & online Kasparov chess. Met an English guy & we hit it off straight away. He took me on a mini-tour, calling at some funky bars b4 I said bye & hit the underground. I was very drunk which contributed to me smashing a bottle of absinthe. I managed to salvage most of it – only the top had been smash’d off – & carried the bottle carefully back to my room where I put the emerald liquid into plastic bottles. Of course I had a sneaky sip (my first ever) & I was soon flaked out, virtually trippin…


Tuesday June 26th

Woke at 5 AM, shower’d, pack’d & stumbl’d bleary-eyed into the early morning. I caught the 7 AM train South. I thought I’d jump the train in a new way by hiding in the conductor’s room. It was cool til she came in – but I play’d penniless (in fact I virtually am) & she let me off – so I gave her a carton of wine in thanx & was soon trundling thro’ the Bohemian hills (10-2). The idyll was disturb’d, however, when we were unceremoniously dump’d at the Austrian border.

The weather was boilin’ so I went to eat lunch in a woodland park. This was in Czech, tho,’ so I had to flash my passport in & out. I was readying for the jump down to Austria, which I breezed into confidently but found I had come up against some of the best conductors since Holland (xiii).  On one simple line I was caught 3 times (10-5) & with there being a two hour gap between trains this was pretty bad. After the second time I sack’d off the wait & walk’d a few K along the line, which turn’d out to be scything thro’ an Austrian Army zone. It was really cool with shell-fire echoing in my ear, & I figured they probably would not blow up the train line, so I stuck pretty close to that.

I finally got to Vienna, but not after being frogmarch’d to the police by the third conductor (it cost me a five – my first sting of the tour). I didn’t linger long tho,’ as the place does not fit well with me. I found myself, much to my pleasure, back on the Orient Express. The jump went off swimmingly (11-5) & I drown’d in the superb sunset, dancing over north Austria’s undulating verdure. Night fell & I grew drowsy, trying to keep awake so I wouldn’t miss Salzburg. I finally arrived there at midnight, very tired, putting my tent up on the first quiet, grassy plot available. It was right by the railway & I drifted to sleep to the creak & crunch of cargo trains…


Wednesday June 27th

Woke & broke camp quickly b4 catching the first train back into Germany & Berchtesgaden (12-5). It was very cool entering the Alps – very tall fuckas indeed. At the station I hook’d up with a Yank who was celebrating having his brain tumor removed. We made our way up the piny Obersalzburg by taxi & bus to find ourselves surrounded by tourists at the Eagles Nest, Hitler’s platform above the world. At these lofty heights we dined, overlooking beautiful Berchtesgadenland & the Austrian Alps.

After a couple of hours I said adieu to my American friend & walk’d down the mountain’s winding road so I could hop on a train back to Salzburg. Traditional end of tour slackness kickt in, however, & I was soon at a middle of nowhere spot (12-6). I decided to walk the remaining 20k to Salzburg as a sort of grand finale. My haul was heavy with the absinthe, but I enjoy’d it, having great fun with the Austrian border police & drinkin’ beer at sunset, chillin’ with the Alps.

The flight back was effortless & I arriv’d in England a little more wiser for my efforts. I had defeated the Third Reich 12-6 at Train-Jumping. To tell the truth I was disappointed at letting such a flurry of late points thro’ my defences, & absolutely gutted at coughing up the fiver. But sport is sport & ever unpredictable. I soon perked up, however, for on arriving back at the Wells I found a letter waiting for me from the bungling council saying they were going to pay me housing benefit for the entire house – £200 a week – instead of just for my room – £50 – which I feel is a marvelously timed present from the muses. The gods help those who help themselves & I really am the only guy who is going to write an epic poem on WW2 – so I feel it is only fair enough I get a little help along the way.

III: CASSINO (October 2001)

Friday October 12th

Woke up at Simon Hall’s in Hangar Lane, skinn’d up a couple of spliffs & set out for the veritable soul bath that is a trip to Italy. Just before Stanstead I call’d on Bishops Stortford, where mi ol’ mate Bryn was celebratin’ his birthday in the pub. I spent a couple of pill’d up hours over the snooker table with him then made my fuck’d up way to the airport. Being mash’d, I’d completely forgotten to hide the skunk & shrooms in my left pocket, but fortunately the security guy found the corkscrew in my right pocket & after confiscatin’ it (xiv) forget to look in my left one. Bonus!

After the recent events in New York, it was weird feelin the tension every time someone got up to go to the loo. Me & everyone else on the plane were convinced they were terrorists about to hijack the plane! The day was glorious & clear with splendid views of the English countryside fanning out towards the metropolis of London. After the channel & the North European Plain I once again reach’d the stunning Alps & we follow’d the mountainous spine of Italy to the Eternal City herself. Not a cloud between London & Rome.

On landing around 5PM I realised I’d already done Rome in ’98 & felt in need of fresher stimulation, so decided to jump down to Anzio (1-0), scene of the WW2 outflanking maneuver (xv). The town seem’d nice enough & I put my tent up right next to the delicious Med amidst the decadent ruins of an old Neronian villa. Already I can sense the English clutter melt from my mind & I feel ready to write.

 

October 13-15

Saturday October 13th

Awoke by the Med -sweet! Potter’d about for an hour on the beach with a beer & a spliff, the pack’d up & tried to find a boat to Ponza. The harbor was a delightful affair, but I had miss’d the daily boat to the archipelago. The next boat leaves at 9.30 tomorrow morning, & with a paradise island in my thoughts I decided to stick around, bought some food & wine & settl’d down for an afternoon on the beach.

The sun was hot but not too hot & I whipp’d thro’ several poems, finishin’ off the last o mi skunk in the process. I find the weed & wine has help’d me slip into the Italian way of life. Spent sunset pacing the surf, sharing in its beauty with the couples – it is a very romantic place.

I took a night’s walk into the bustling town, half way between seclusion & the city. Ah! The Italians are such a lovely people. Kept in touch with the Burnley score over public payphones, interspers’d with watching a Juventus game. Back at the camp I reflected on The Clarets’ chances of promotion beneath a glittering array of stars, beside a sloshing sea, watching the bright rotations of a lighthouse’s gleaming beams. It was also a time for poetry, & I spent the night composing a few stanzas upon 9-11, before slipping to a celebrated sleep.


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Sunday October 14th

Awoke by the Med with an hour to go before my boat. Pack’d quickly & meander’d to the harbor for a quick coffee & pastry, watchin’ the fisherman prepare for the day. Bought a ticket for 30,000L (£10) & was soon on my way, the voyage invigorating & the view full of  a mist which enshadow’d the mountains of the mainland. A few minutes after passing the magnificent monastery at Circeo, the Pontine islands came into view – great rugged cliffs jutting from the sea like the peaks of mountains. So these are my paradise islands.

The boat rounded Ponza & pull’d into a quaint harbor, from where I quickly found an apartment for tonight (60,000L). After dumping my stuff, I boil’d up some magic mushrooms, pick’d up the notes I’d prepared on the boat & set off out across this arid yet wildly romantic island. I found a terrifically secluded beach, framed by the Tyrrannean & 300 ft high cliffs, & relax’d, alternating swims with lazin’ in the sun, pencil in hand.

At sunset I return’d to my rooms, got my neighbor to open her shop for me & bought the ingredients for a fine pasta. This was cook’d up & consumed on a verandah overlooking the harbor. It felt perfect & if this is the notion of romantic travelling, then I have found it. Relax’d in my room afterwards, sippin’ wine & flickin’ thro Italian TV. My Italian is sketchy so most of it went by me – but I did enjoy watchin’ the women. Fell asleep watchin ‘Grande Fratello,’ the Italian version of Big Brother.


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Monday October 15th

Woke up snug within clean white sheets, a lovely way to begin my full day on Ponza. Woke early & took a stroll thro’ the streets of the port. I found some cheaper rooms (25,000L), a more spacious affair, but a touch grottier. Next-door was a plush hotel, so after a little altercation with a guy I snook down its private staircase onto a public beach & began a swim around the tip of the island. It was lovely & warm, I felt like a pirate with a dagger in my mouth as I pass’d by grottos & a small pinnacle of rock. The highlight of the swim was discovering roman fish farms hewn from the rock, but long since reclaim’d by the sea.

Swim over, I began the days composition, picking up a dog en route to yesterday’s beach. The mutt insisted I threw a stick for it to chase – without respite. It was very difficult trying to snatch a few lines while it paddl’d out to sea – especially with a corkin’ pair of Italian tits wobbling to my right.

I somehow managed to lose the dog en route to watch the sunset. It was stunning sat high above the sea, tranquilly gazing upon the isle of Palmora in the distance. The sky pinken’d to black & I walk’d back to port full of poetic fire. While sat on a rock, gazin’ at the stars & musin’ on a poem about Rome I realised I’d left a bag where I was sat containing 50,000 lira & mi shrooms. Walk’d back up the slope & groped around in the dark a bit, but to no avail. Then one-by-one the island’s security, their mate with a big torch & the polizie show’d up. It soon turn’d into a fiasco, everyone chattin’ at once & nothing getting done. The policeman got fed up & drove me back to my rooms to check my passport. It was cool & I decided to stay put & check on the bag tomorrow.

October 16-18

Tuesday October 16th

Awoke just before Dawn & walk’d up to the spot – no bag. My one compensation is thinking some Italian would put the magic mushrooms in a stew! After a quick breakfast I set off to climb the mountain overlooking the harbor, picking up another dog en route. Got almost to the top, baskin’ in the glorious views, working on my notes & stroking my new buddy. I took a different descent & almost lost the dog to the waves at a particularly steep bit of trail. Once in port, I bought my ticket off the island. It is a darling place but I’ve got to move on – tho’ it’s reassuring to know it’s gonna be exactly the same when I return.

Potter’d about for the next three hours, gorgin’ on the tranquility, nearly missin’; mi boat in the process. The ship was open-deck’d & very nice, but I was a little disturb’d by this wide-eyed nutter prowlin’ the ship. He decided to jump overboard half-way thro’ (molto funny!) & after the ship did a great 360 to pick him up he was then lock’d up, smiling inanely, & I could finally relax all the way back to the mainland. Formia stunk of fish, so I quickly jump’d down to Naples. A big, busy city, it felt a little strange to be among so much cut & thrust after Ponza’s serenity.

Managed to get directed to a campsite a few K down the coast at Puzzoli, right beside a former volcano. It is still spewing out Sulphur, giving the whole area the stink of rotting eggs. Pitch’d tent & walk’d about the suburb; a little dirty but the seafront is lined with funky bars. After a rowdy boogie with the locals I stagger’d back to my tent & sleep.


Wednesday October 17th

Woke late & breakfasted by the sulphuric steam of the Solfatara. I chill’d, absorbing the Doctor Who landscape til 11, when I set off into Naples. The city was bustling like mad, & also very dirty – quite unlike Tuscany’s cleanliness. Took a wander thro’ the markets & this exited me… so much energy. Today’s mission was Pompeii & I jump’d a train for the short hop, all the time watch’d by the imposing grandeur of Vesuvius.

From Pompeii town I meander’d to the ruins & managed to sneak in via the tradesman entrance! I found myself at the amphitheater, amazing in itself, but once I began to wander the city I was taken aback. The ruins are the most well-preserv’d I have ever seen, & spread out over a huge area. I was there a good few hours, one of which was spent with the fossilized remains of Romans (xvi). The ‘stone’ had chipp’d off one guys toes & you could see his bone – a pretty fascinating sight.

The jump back was easy, as are all the trains in Italy. Once within Naples’ boisterous streets I managed to stumble across a copy of yesterday’s ‘Sun.’ After feasting on English language & pasta I made my way back to camp for a pleasant evening’s de-tox & chill. Of course, if I hadn’t have lost the shrooms in Ponza I would probably have taken ‘em tonight.


Thursday October 18th

Woke b4 8 & caught a bus around the other side of Naples to see Lake Averno. Its very dramatic setting is within an ancient bowl of a volcano, & one can see why the poet Virgil thought it was the entrance to the underworld. After this, I tried to find the ruins of Camu, but got lost & steadily piss’d off as the cars on the road I was walking slowly eroded my sensibilities. Back at the site, I quickly changed, dined & set off under the mid-day sun.

Caught a bus into Naples & left the city – I’m not too bother’d about saying farewell. I read somewhere that a man should see Naples & then die – why? It stinks! I actually had to get off my arse & perform a TJ to Cassino (obviously successfully) & soon pull’d into a town dominated by the surrounding mountains, including one topp’d by the Abbazio which caus’d the Allies so much annoyance in 1943-44 (xvii). Potter’d around town for a bit, searchin’ 4 supplies (nuthin open). Cassino offers a stark contrast to Naples, very clean & reekin’ of money only.

Managed to find some bread & wine & began my ascent to the abbey. The road was a twisty one so I decided to go straight up. The climb was arduous over the broken, rocky terrain (result of the Allied bombings perhaps?) but with a final surge thro’ brambles I reach’d the road at the top. However, I was not the clean young man of the bottom of the mountain, for my clothes were torn, my skin dirty & my hair all over the place. This seem’d to put the monks off letting me stay in the abbey, & I was directed to the olive laden gardens. There, I pitch’d my tent by an old woodman’s hut, got the fire going & spent a very poetic night writing by firelight & drinkin vino…

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!’

INDIA (2002)

EPISTLE II

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India

January-April 2002

——————–

I – Ciao India
II – Mashtupville
III – Vijiyanagar
IV – Headin’ South
V – Mosquito Wars
VI – By the Ocean
VII – A brief note about headphones
VIII – Thirukural
IX – The cheapest beer in the Raj
X – Paradise
XI – Near Death Experience
XII – Admiral Akbar
XIII – Another Near-Death Experience
XIV – I Can See Dead People
XV – High
XVI – Mountain Stuff
XVII – More Mountain Stuff
XVIII – Smelly Delhi
XIX – Desert Ranger
XX – Cumin Home
XXI – The Boy is Back

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