My Words, My World

First drafts – A few pages in the large wilderness of the world of writing

Archive for the category “Italy”

A train, and Ernest

The train leaves Milan Central station and heaves over the tracks in the rain which streaks the dirty windows; its carriages are packed with steaming rush-hour tiredness and anger.

The young man sits in the corner up against the window, as the rain beats time, with Hemingway’s words falling off the pages as he tries to concentrate but can’t.  For Whom the Bell Tolls?  The bell was tolling for people who want peace and quiet on a train carriage to allow them to read, he thinks.

A fat man who’d possibly eaten only garlic for lunch sits opposite, hand wrapped around his phone in some strange death-grip as he seethes and steams, letting the person on the other end know as well as the other three occupied seats around him that, Cazzo! the fucking contract has to be there by Friday or it’s not just his balls on the line, understand?.  He doesn’t say which line, which is OK; the less he talks the better, the young man thinks, his own anger rising.

Through the red mist that descends before his eyes the young man looks up and sees her, in the opposite seat across the aisle.  Her silky, shoulder-length hair is dark, and her hazel eyes strike out from her face which seems to have had the benefit of a tan recently.  In her jeans and blue sweater with white stripes (a little French he thinks: oui mademoiselle, oui), she becomes his calm in a storm-tossed sea.  He watches from a distance, as her forehead wrinkles and she glares at the woman opposite her.

This woman opposite has her tablet on her lap and has wires and a mike stuck to her head as she babbles continuously, her voice rising, informing everyone that didn’t want to know that Cazzo! how the hell is she supposed to fit in another meeting on Thursday, she isn’t a fucking machine you know.  Sat there looking like Robo-Queen that could be debated, the girl thinks, as she lowers her head and raises her book in an attempt to block out the irritation. As she does so the young man opposite gasps.  A Farewell to Arms – Hemingway; she’s reading Hemingway!

Mr Garlic is making another call but its wafting anger slips into the background as the young man looks only at the young woman across the aisle, his book held up to his chest, now half-forgotten.  The train starts to slow.

Robo-Queen finishes her call and transforms into e-bitch as she proceeds to beat the hell out of her tablet, with two fingers having some maniacal life of their own as she sends an email, probably shouting Cazzo, cazzo, cazzo!

The fat garlic man wheezes his bulk into an overcoat big enough to protect a small car from winter frost and grabs his briefcase, stuffed full, as its leather creaks for mercy, and he makes his way to the door.

The young woman looks up.  She sees the young man looking at her and her eyes drop to his chest.  She sees.  Fine lines around her eyes appear and she gives him a smile.  He returns it just as e-bitch starts to make another phone call.  He waves her over to the now-vacated seat opposite him and they whisper words of Ernest, in earnest, as the train takes them home.

Advertisements

2014: a brief writing year in review

Well, here we are at the end (well, here in Switzerland anyway) of the penultimate day of the year and a chance to look back over the last twelve months, from a writer’s perspective, or a writing perspective: delete as applicable.

Firstly this blog.  My 2014 review informs me that this little piece of internet interaction was viewed in 65 countries. I find that pretty damn amazing that I’ve had views from Saudi Arabia and South Africa, China and Chile. Thank you to all of you who have checked in and had a look around; I really appreciate it.

The ever-busy and always approachable Morgen Bailey gets my first mention, simply because it was she who gave me encouragement from the start and has continued to entertain my pieces (flash fiction and note plural…naughty, naughty!) whenever I send them.  Thank you Morgen!  She built my blog by the way, ultra-professional and exceedingly patient (Panic?  Me?) from start to finish.

2014 started with nudgings and words in my ear from my dear friend, Alex Dorici, who persuaded me to grow some balls and put myself forward for the annual 3-day poetry festival here in Lugano, Poestate.  There I stood in front of a hundred people, biting my lip as I was introduced and mumbling my opening lines until my confidence grew and my 10 minute reading was met with applause and a return request for 2015.  Thanks Alex!  Sorry, both websites are in Italian but hey; I do live in Italian-speaking Switzerland.

A short, 20 hour teaching course followed Poestate and then I put everything aside for a month or so and just chilled baby, chilled.  This cooling off didn’t last long as in August I was contacted by Accenti magazine, a Canadian publication on all things Italian, and they duly published an article I’d written on two wine-growing regions of Piemonte; Gavi and Casale Monferrato.

Upon the author’s copy landing in my postbox, I then received news that I’d won 1st placing in the monthly Writer’s Forum short story competition, which was published in the October issue.  Having my story critiqued by Sue Moorcroft was almost satisfying as seeing my name in print.

Now the rest of the winter lies ahead and I intend to put some of those long, cold, dark days to use.  I do have plans for 2015 but I’m reluctant to lay them down here in case they go pear-shaped.  Life is like that.  My NaNoWriMo was a NaNoNoGo – it happens.

Thank you to each and every one of you who has visited and contributed over the last year, I appreciate each and every one.

Happy New Year to you all.

 

 

Wave in waiting

Wavelet, gentle wavelet

Don’t call yourself

a wave yet.

The Mediterranean

is calm today

No hint of wind,

blows your way.

 

And you have to be brave

to call yourself

a real wave.

Rolling, roaring and tumbling

ride the tide in.

Just be content

to gently

 

lap the hard pebble shore

and wait for that

scirocco

wind, racing to lift you up,

white foam blowing,

to lift you up

once again.

StoryADay May day 3 – Red sister

The prompt from 3 May contained required the use of ‘vermillion’ and ‘musky’.  I think I managed it.  It’s still 3 May in New Mexico, for example so technically I can still squeeze it in.  Well, it was written before my Swiss midnight.

**********

 

Her face looks beautiful in the bright, white light.  Her musky perfume fills the air as we sit on the terrace.  The shadows of her features pronounced in contrast, her nose creating a pyramid-shape and the furrows creating trenches in her forehead as she looked away from the glare; it’s a magical moment but one doomed to pass quickly, as all moments do.  In this early evening dim I am fascinated.

The day had dawned cold but bright, and, following breakfast of espresso and a croissant we decided to take a long walk along the coastal road, up and down the small hills with little traffic to disturb the tranquillity of it.  We must have walked more than 10 miles before deciding to stop for lunch at a small restaurant just off the road, perched on a small cliff overlooking the rock-strewn beach beneath us.  We ordered a Prosecco each from the bar and sat down at one of the small, plastic tables on the terrace, pulled our coats around us and lit a cigarette.

We had a fine lunch of spaghetti with clams followed by a shared lobster – what the hell, it was a special day after all.  The two bottles of white wine went down well, so well in fact I kept nodding off in the taxi taking us back to the hotel.  We stayed in bed for a couple of hours, making sweet love and holding each other close, barely speaking; there was no need.  Finally, as the daylight outside faded in its wintry haste, we took a shower, dressed and went down to the hotel terrace looking over the sea.  I tightened my scarf around my throat while she pulled down her hat and we sat.  Our drinks arrived.

The seagulls were screaming, swooping and diving every time a wave broke and the sound, along with that of the waves, filled the evening.

The western sky still glowed a variety of pinks and one by one the stars appeared but none outshone the beautiful Venus, her vermillion majesty abroad in the evening sky.  Sitting above the now-set sun she took centre stage.

“What’s that low star darling?”  She asked, pointing to it.  “It’s so bright.”

It was in fact enormously bright, even in the frigid winter air.  The hairs on the back of my neck made a lazy, crawling motion.  As we looked, she continued to burn brighter then, suddenly, her light expanded. It continued doing so until it seemed the sun had returned from below the horizon.  Still the light expanded.  The first knot of fear appeared in my stomach.

“What is it Honey?” She asked, holding my arm tighter.

“No idea, well actually I do but it’s not a rational one”

“Tell me!”  It was an order.  She fumbled in her bag for her cigarettes.

VENUS HAS EXPLODED! I wanted to shout.  I didn’t however.  My mind filled with possibilities and ramifications of our red sister disappearing into a million pieces.  My mind asked how, yet I knew the answer, it was obvious.

“Do you remember you read that article in the newspaper the other week about the approach of a couple of asteroids, big enough to do damage?”  I took one of her cigarettes and lit up.  Bloody low- tar were not need at this moment.  I broke the filter off and continued smoking.  I had her attention.

“Well the experts said they would pass within so many million miles of us.  I think that while we’ve been looking out of our porch to see if something was crossing our front lawn, no one told us what would happen if we left the back door open.  We’ve been worrying about a rogue asteroid or a misdirected comet for years but we’ve never considered other planets, I mean, why should we?  I think something has hit Venus and whatever it was was big.”

The light consumed the night sky.  The moon no longer cast a reflection over the calm, black sea.  The only reflection came from an ever-growing light around 100 million miles from us.

“Then we’re OK,” she said, sounding fairly convinced, “I mean what harm can it do us from here?”

She had a point; I mean what was going to happen?  A huge piece of rock had thrown itself into the second planet and by the looks of it had obliterated it, creating nuclear chain reactions and sending a million pieces flying through space.  What harm could it do?  I didn’t want to analyse that question, I didn’t need to.  I knew that somewhere across the gulf of space a piece of our sister planet was heading our way.

We ignored the cold and remained seated outside.  The bowls of olives and peanuts had been consumed; the ashtray had been emptied once and was steadily filling up again.  The light was getting ever brighter, the night sky lit completely, even the birds in the trees started singing, thinking it was daytime.  We continued to sit and watch, entranced.

Her face looks beautiful in the bright, white light.  In this early evening dim I am fascinated.  They told us the world would end December.  I’m now going to order us the most expensive champagne followed by the finest cognac.  I don’t think I’ll have time to pay for it.  I don’t think we’ll be here much longer.

The Train Window

I was still breathing deeply and out of breath as the train left Milan and entered the countryside.  My heart was beating like a hammer on an anvil.  Did I really just witness someone killed?  Did I really see those men take a life?  Did those men see me as I ran for the safety of people and the station?  I was too far away to do something and hopefully to far away to be considered a witness, at least by those men.  Who were they?  What had the dead man done?  I relax into my seat, breathing under control and look out of the train window.

The flat, still-green farmlands speed by my view at about a 100 miles per hour; la Frecciarossa – the Red Arrow – is the train taking me across the northern Italian plain.  The vineyards; with vines now stripped of their fruit and displaying their autumnal dress.  Shades of green, red, yellow and brown fill my view: The window view.  Like the mother whose son has upped and left home, bearing the weight of the grapes is now a memory for the vine, which will soon be bare for the coming winter.

The low pylon wires running parallel to the track, powering the great train on its way, keep me company but spoil my view of the pale blue sky, slowly suffocating under fat, moist, grey clouds from the east.

The tilled earth of the northern plain, the soil, freshly turned, contrasting with the green, showing brown but somehow…clean.  The appearance of a hard job done well, of a tidy desk left in its place after a day at the office.  For the farmer it is his desk.  Where is that farmer now?  Enjoying the fruits of his labours?  Probably not; it’s a little early to get on the wine but I appreciate his spotless fields.

Now I’ve left the fields and entered a town.  Grey, monotonous concrete destroys any view I might have had.  It’s strange how grey feels so dismal, especially concrete, even in the sunshine.  If I can’t see out the window then I prefer the black of night, at least I can use my imagination.  God forbid it rain; there’s nothing more depressing than a miserable, wet winter’s day, with the light failing early and the concrete, sodden and cold, both to the touch and eye.  But it ends.

The fields have returned.  In the sunshine the fields come to life, even in the autumn.  The sunshine brings animation, inspiration, motivation even.  Motivation to keep moving; to follow the sun.  To not allow the autumn sun to set forever on another year and be followed with a violent sadness by the arrival of winter.  The sunlight flickers continuously from the flashing shade of the pylons and I shield my eyes.  Then relief comes as the train enters a tunnel, if I remember rightly it’s a long one.  I continue to stare out of the window.  The train roars through and I can’t hear myself think, so I don’t: I just stare, waiting. 

It’s then I notice in the window a shape behind me, blacker than the tunnel wall.  A man; standing…also waiting.  In the reflection is that a knife I see in his hand?

Post Navigation