Stirring my tea in Cornwall, I pressed the teabag against the mug’s side and old John’s face came into mind from Bristol, who told me once that the teabag should never be pressed so, but lifted in and out. I watched him tell me this by the his kitchen counter and then I watched my tea again on this Cornish table. Sometimes people say time flies, but a particular memory can hit from a past that feels so distant to seem hardly even real, and can be such a rare remembrance as to stun you in realising just how many moments it is that you have lived, while furthermore how many will never be recollected. The distance between that memory and today’s tea is five years, and watching it brew further, I in turn think to my own brewing, and how in old age a surprising memory will knock me back at another tea, all the more surreal for being selected from a far bigger and worse organised catalogue, diving deeper every year, triggered unpredictably by an act that occurs every day, as the hot water swirls and chases after itself, forging a whirlpool of memory.
I remember once seeing a girl on the tube who I used to speak with quite often at school, and I didn’t go over and say hi.
I had thought about it a long time, but ultimately shied away, afraid to confront the possibilities of awkward hellos or goodbyes, or the unknown of a conversation with someone you haven’t spoken to in a while.
“Next time” I made the excuse as I hopped off the train, hiding between the others disembarking passengers. Though I was kidding myself. I hadn’t seen that person in verging ten years; when exactly could that next time be?
I deeply regretted that decision, and it has oddly come to stick with me. It seems to replay in my head whenever I decide not to act, whenever I hide my face in crowds, or my eyes in a phone, and avoid interactions with people and the world.
It played out again this afternoon when I saw the boyfriend of the mother of the main family I work with.
As I drew near, the sun was shining, the canals were alive with a boating event, and among the shouts and rambling, sociability was the order of the day.
Yet I hid my face, and walked straight past him.
“Next time” I said.
Though I was kidding myself. I am leaving Milan in less than a month.
“Well you won’t do it with the next person then” I promised.
But why put it off? If it is what you intend to do, then you still have the chance to do it, so in the decision to continue or turn around you effectively prove or disprove if the intent is real.
In the face of this unarguable reasoning, I turned around;
“Oh Ragazzi!” I shouted, and beamed at Giorgio and his son.
They smiled back, we high-fived, and even exchanged a few minutes of niceties. All went as planned, and I congratulated myself.
However I forgot that his son, Ale, was now a new student of mine, and that Giorgio has the ability to talk for hours about his current progress in English. My self congratulations hence diminished as what continued was a painful 30 minute rant on Ale’s progress, his strengths, weaknesses, and plans for improvement.
Bar Orpheus, it was perhaps the worst idea to turn around ever.
And the residing lesson that sits with me now as I write is that, yes, one must always seek to correct unfavourable habits, however also true, one must equally not forget to employ some reason in doing so.
Jan Morris’ brilliant city biography Venice displays the most incredible curiosity and passion for the world, and it has been stuck in my head ever since picking it up last month.
In it she weaves history with the present, humanity into the entanglement of our inanimate creations, and what she sees in civilization, whether staring at its people or its walls, is hugely inspiring.
Like the city she conveys, her book is a work of art in itself, and beyond her subject, she makes you realise how much more there is to contemplate in the sights of daily life.
With some fresh pasta dough resting by my side and an onion ragu sizzling in the background, the time seems ripe to muse lyrical on some of the perfections that everyday life has presented here.
I don’t know what it is exactly about Italy that ignites this kind of passion – to be moved to even write the word – though I sometimes think it is something just as simple as the sun. It currently radiates through the large open dooorway, and sitting here for a second, I am flooded with memories of the many lunches and moments I have been lucky to experience under this embrace.
The life of the private tutor, while testing the patience intermittently, is never tough, and its finest gift is no doubt the leisurely mornings and lunch hours, which I have spent chatting about groceries in the market or with the grocer (who would have thought), and then preparing and enjoying them (immensely). I take the meals outside the front door in the courtyard, and eat while engaging the 95 year old Puglian nonna in some niceties (she neither understands my accent, nor I her dialect) or Luigi the schizophrenic who is probably showing me the spoils from his latest garbage-pilfering run. Continue reading
I once dreamed of a city so beautiful that I woke up almost crying for it not being real. Its streets were made of transparent ocean, and the surrounding sunlit villas sprung up from white stone pavements which crumbled at their edges into grains of sand. This weekend I had the fortune of witnessing a reality which could dare recall such fantasy, looking out along the north canals of Venice, as my gaze stretched beyond its liquid roads to the encircling green sea that lay waiting at its end. I was left overwhelmed solely for being able to stare at it. Continue reading