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Travelling & the Gypsy Heart.

Ios

I was 13 the first time I travelled internationally.  It was 1971, Alitalia still flew out of Sydney and smoking was still allowed on planes.  People would dress up to fly and it was still a big deal.  We winged our way to Rome via Bombay, as it was called then, in a smoke-filled metal tube with no personal entertainment — and it was fabulous.  It was my parents’ first visit back to the country of their birth in 14 years and my first encounter with my Italian extended family.  I was hooked.

smoking-airplane

Travel has been one of the great joys of my life and if I’m not re-incarnated as a Travel Writer, I shall be bitterly disappointed.  Could there be any greater bliss than being paid to visit the far-flung corners of this glorious, diverse planet?  People dream about becoming wealthy so they can afford prestige cars, luxury homes, jewellery and clothes whereas I wistfully think I could live in a shack if only I could jet off to some new location whenever I wanted…. (School term permitting of course. Your daydreams have to be somewhat modified when there are other people to consider.)

This nostalgia springs from my girlfriend’s daughter having upped stakes for 12 months of travelling, as I did at 24. And for those 12 months I roamed the world like a true gypsy.  For 12 months I answered to no-one but myself.  No restraints, no responsibilities – just complete freedom to come, go, stay, eat, drink, take risks, learn, marvel, do whatever I wanted to do and be whoever I wanted to be.  I wouldn’t exchange the life I have now but if a time machine were ever invented, I know where I’d be going.  Plus, I was skinny.

Me on ship

Mirror, Mirror…

Reflections of a face that is sometimes not your own…

I watch your eyes like twin chameleons    change with shades of other lives.

The aquamarine of Grecian seas    when indolence was all there was

     and farmers wearing hats of straw     worked the beaches selling fruit

     to bodies baked to nutmeg brown.

The cloudy grey of Paris skies     when baguettes and brie went hand in hand

     with lazy walks along the Seine     and an angry young man

     whose Irish blood     could not disguise the poet’s heart.

You turn your head to catch the time

     and curse the need

     to run your life to dull routines

     when neon digits take the place

     of sunlight through a shuttered door.

(C) Daniela Scalcon

 “I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.”   ― Mary Anne Radmacher

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Mementos and Me

Let me be clear – I am NOT a hoarder!  But I do keep a lot of ‘stuff’ for sentimental reasons which is probably what a lot of us do when we’re single and by “a lot of us”, I am generally talking about women.  “I’m always going to keep this coaster/postcard/pressed flower.”, said no man ever.   Movie tickets, concert tickets, love letters, scraps of paper, programmes – I’ve kept versions of them all.  When you are young and life is being lived at full speed,  every experience becomes a memory to be collected….to be then shoved away in boxes or drawers that are ultimately found by our children after we die, cleaning out our houses and muttering, “What is all this crap?”

Well my dear son, this ‘crap’ is evidence of a rather fabulously spent youth.  I recently found a paper bag full of concert and theatre ticket stubs, some faded and almost illegible but it was quite a stash.  Let’s not dwell on the fact I couldn’t remember half of them but that’s not the point is it? The point is, I went to them all, undoubtedly having a blast at some and probably hating others. They represented time shared with friends, dinners, drinks, dancing, suppers…and all the things I now loathe – loud music, crowds and not enough sleep!  God I had a good time. As a measure of how change comes to us all, I recently took my husband to a concert where the support act was not only deafening, their bass notes reverberated through the seats to such a degree I thought my spine was going to shatter.  We ended up waiting outside until they mercifully stopped playing!

At the risk of blowing my own horn, I was rather popular in my younger years and had the cards, flowers and gifts to prove it. One of my admirers wrote an essay about me in Year 12, another a song. Who would be mad enough to just toss these wonderful works of passion aside?  Well certainly not me.  I have them in an album with assorted and sundry notes, birthday cards  and Lord knows what else because I haven’t looked at it in centuries – but I know it’s there.  I’m not actually sure where ‘there’ is but I know I still have it because it would NEVER have crossed my mind to get rid of it no matter how many clean-outs I would have had.  In fact, it came with me to America, where I lived for 8 years and then returned with me, I’m fairly certain, in one of the boxes that had remained unopened all that time.  If I told my husband I have kept all the cards he gave me while we were courting, his first reaction would be, “You’re kidding – what for?”.  What for, indeed.  Because they are hard copies of that first flush of love, of secrets shared, of the growing certainty that this relationship was heading down a path not before travelled.  They are time capsules made out of paper and ink.

My first serious boyfriend (at age 18) gave me a small bundle as I was about to board a plane to join my parents on holiday in Italy.  There were six small, exquisite cards – one for each month we had been together and each with a simple, sweet message.  Even after 38 years, my heart constricts just a little when I think of them.  Grand gestures have their place but it is the small, unexpected intimacies that follow us from our past to our future.

And yet I find that collecting keepsakes, like many things in life, becomes somewhat of a paradox because we think all these mementos will keep the memories alive when, more often than not, they remind us of just how much we have forgotten.