18 September 2013

(Un)Found Doors: Sicily I

There are so many great doors here - from the uniformly blue ones of the fisherman's lodges on the beach (I don't know why they are all blue, but I like it) to weathered wooden shutters on houses, peeling paint a result of the heat and salt winds and creating subtle gradations of muted colour.

I love a good door - one that's worn with daily use or abandoned and mysterious, there's something a bit wistful about the unknowability of the different lives going on behind them.

These are only a few of those we saw (I hate being a car passenger for that reason - by the time you see something it's already gone and it seems silly, even for me, to request pulling over in Sicilian traffic to look at an old door) but they captured my imagination.

16 September 2013

There's No Place Like

// shiny shiny detail from cover of Boat Magazine London issue //
aaaaaand we're home.

We made it back at midnight on Friday and have spent the weekend settling back into London, welcomed with tears of joy rained from her glorious grey skies, naturally.

Travel went pretty well overall. We somehow arrived at the airport three hours before our flight time. This is unprecedentedly early for us and gave us luxurious amounts of time to repack our bags in the check-in queue* and to explore the many delights Catania Airport has to offer including, but not limited to, riding the escalators up and down to the restaurant area (and up and down. and up. and down), eating crackers while looking at Mount Etna, eating crackers while looking at aeroplanes, and riding the lift up and down to the bookshop area (and up. and down. and, innovatively, sitting and watching other people go up and down while providing a helpful bellhop/button-pushing service.) I was looking forward to visiting the bookshop again; it used to be something of a hidden gem, a proper bookstore with literature, interesting illustrated children's stories and heavy coffee table art books, oddly situated in the lower level of an airport. Sadly it has been 'updated' since last year and is now more typical, less interesting, airport fare with the usual bestsellers and a rack of souvenir t-shirts taking up the back wall. We did get a couple of sweet books for Mister G and, on impulse, I bought PA a Meridiani Mondadori edition of Borges (ostensibly as part of his birthday, but secretly probably because it's beautiful and I can't quite justify buying fancy books for myself that I don't read Italian well enough to understand.)

Mister G was filled with all of the beans in the airport and kind of loved it - he's spent the last three days asking to go back there. He was pretty great for a good while - showing his stuffed dog the planes, looking at books, trying to hug other children, declaring the benches 'shipshape!', you know, cute stuff - but it was really the empty spaces for running that he enjoyed. There were a few other families with toddlers at our gate, but I swear they were all happily sitting quietly as I tore around after G, ducking under empty queue barriers in hot pursuit in a kind of reverse hurdles race as he cackled. The kid is quick these days, but at least I've settled on my speciality event for the Undignified Parenting Olympics. PA is excellent at airport entertaining - I've never seen a kid have so much fun being lifted in and out of a deserted easyjet cabin baggage size checker (is there a name for those?) I was convinced it would be a tough flight, but we were really lucky again and, after his milk on takeoff, G slept almost the whole way, praise be etc. He woke up on landing and stayed that way until we got home - luckily we had a clear run through passport control, our suitcase was first off the conveyor and we were straight onto the train and then home - tired, damp but happy.

In an effort not to succumb to my typical boring post-holiday rain moping (I have to wear socks?!) I'm noting some of the little things making me happy to be home.

// G's unexpected 'Yayyyy!' on walking into his bedroom on Friday night // 
// Our bed, our wonderful comfortable bed. And our duvets. I love our duvets //

// Painting with G in our pants followed by a long and quite necessary bath together (he decided early on that painting me was more fun than painting on paper) on Saturday morning // 
// G's new fascination with the hand-stitching I did when he was a couple of months old // 
// and his big red balloon //

// Drinking water straight from the tap. Marmite on toast. Coffee and my first paper in three weeks //

Guardian reader, eh, G?
// Early morning takeaway porridge eaten on a sun dappled bench after I promised a porridge breakfast then realised the oat cupboard was bare // 
// Mister G's reunion with the park and the friends of his we bumped into there //

London, you're not Sicily, but you're more than alright.

*this doesn't bother me at all - I view my initial suitcase as a first offer, testing the weight waters, and am a past master at rejigging things on my hands and knees. I'm just no good at estimating weight accurately in advance - the bag is either 'quite heavy' or 'heavy'. The key is to stash anything faintly embarrassing like dirty underwear or Jilly Cooper novels in a compartment and to have a clear knowledge of what the heavy things are - books, electronics, shoes, toiletries, rocks - and where you've put them. Also, use the scales at an empty check-in desk when you arrive so that you can do this while you queue rather than holding anyone up.

10 September 2013

Gratuitous Beach Pictures

Because that's mainly what we've been doing.  

I am pleased to say that we have managed to maintain our unambitious daily routine solidly over the last couple of weeks and have loved it. We're winding down (up?) to our return home - there's a little of that end of holiday melancholy but it's always better to come back while the going's good. 

We've been super lucky with both the weather and the absence of jellyfish tides, we've swum daily and eaten freshly caught swordfish cleaned on the street by a chainsmoking fisherman. We've read and watched Ponyo and played cards. We've impressed G with our underwater handstands, noticed how the sea is different every day, and remembered lots more than usual of strangely vivid dreams. We've caught up with a few, just enough, family and friends. And just hanging out together, me, PA and Mister G, with the focus on that rather than getting caught up in the usual day to day, has been ...kind of perfect.  I really like those two.

And if we stay any longer I suspect we might not leave. 

6 September 2013

This Is Not A Museum

Or at least not one related to its initial intention.

We drove back toward town a couple of days ago and decided to combine our trip to collect drinking water from the communal fountain with visiting the peculiar monument to human error that is or will never be the modern Museum of Messina.  The existing museum is adjacent, which we are saving for another day, but if you walk further up the main path and step around what turns out to have been a fence, you find yourself in the abandoned grounds of the aborted museum project.

The story goes that this modern museum was commissioned and designed in the 1950s as a sizeable addition to the city's museum of general antiquity. Construction was slow to start, eventually beginning in the 1960s, and slower to finish, finally being completed in the 2000s with the help of EU funding. At which point in its fifty year journey it was, quite inevitably, discovered that the design was structurally flawed such that none of the larger pieces for display would fit inside. 

In the twin spirits of "fuck it" and nothing's to be done, it was fucked, and nothing was then done. 

A few of the more valuable artefacts were rehoused in the old museum and the rest were simply left where they lay; stacked in heaps covered in chicken wire or strewn about the grounds for the plants to claim, eroded by the salt air and fumes from the nearby roundabout. The building itself remains mostly empty, but if you press your face against the dirty windows you can see a solitary madonna gazing beatifically over a crumpled tarpaulin or a pillar fragment mounted on a peeling red vinyl chair. In its poetry of absurdity there are moments of humour; a carved rectangular stone crest hung at urinal height next to a fire hose outlet on the otherwise featureless grey external wall, or a 20' archway carefully reconstructed and opening onto a puddle in a concrete corner.

We walked around the outside of the building, Mister G enjoying the open spaces for running after a park-free fortnight. On turning a corner we met a man tending a bonfire who told us that we weren't supposed to be there. Fortunately we apparently didn't look too suspicious - I guess vandals tend not to bring their toddlers with them.

Abandoned public spaces are fascinating - corners that were meant to be kept municipally pristine instead have vines growing through the cracks, concrete modernism stained brown by rain. But there's something special about a failed museum. Weird and cool and a bit sad. Disconcerting and more than a little post-apocalyptic.