Thursday, 19 May 2011

Final call

After one of the best weeks in the UK, I wasn’t looking forward to the return, especially via Stansted airport with Ryanair. Long gone is the idea of travelling in style. The pretty pictures of the late Elizabeth Taylor in a white dress on board a plane, are a thing of the past. Although a frequent traveller, I’ve been grounded lately. I completed related to George Clooney’s character in ‘Up in the Air’ when I watched the montage of the airport security area. I’m always prepared, no high heels, unless they slip off, no jewellery, belts etc. Therefore, why was I running to the gate when they gave the final call? I dodged fellow travellers in the same way a motorbike curves round stationary traffic. I should have known better, for any decent airline, you should run, but not for Ryanair. Besides, why was I such a hurry to leave the UK to return to Italy? Only to discover there was still a mass of people, like flies locked in, butting the window desperate to be free. It’s only been 13 weeks and I’ve forgotten ‘Europe budget airlines’ favourite trick. I could have kicked myself.

I might have given the impression that I don’t enjoy the UK; it’s become the place I like to go back to, it’s almost becoming a holiday destination. I’m originally a small town hick, or rather village hick. I’ve experienced a number of town/village sizes, I once lived in a place so small, the school bus was the only way in – and out. If I missed that, I had to walk 3 miles to school; hence, I don’t understand the Italian aversion to walking. I learnt the non-human facts of life via the numerous dairy farms I was surrounded by. I recall having to explain the cow and bull’s activity to my four-year brother, and I wrote stupid poems. A friend of mine, her parents rented out terraced cottages to foreigners in the summer. It was really difficult to think of things to do in the nearest town three miles away. When some Germans asked me what there was to do, and I replied, “the war museum”; I innocently couldn’t understand the nature of their stern reply “no, we would not like to visit the war museum”, for a couple of years. I haven’t seen that friend in years. The last thing I heard was that she makes pasties, but that’s what happens in small towns if you grow up and stay there.

The other issue, for good and bad, is that everyone knows you. I could never find the means to get into trouble, even if I’d felt like rebelling. I’m currently in what I would class as a medium sized town. It has elements of modern day life, the shops and some venues for entertainment, bound with the watchful small town mentality. I can’t go anywhere without greeting someone I know, which is wonderful, except first thing in the morning. I’m not so full of “buon giorno” until after I’ve been for a swim. If I ever wanted to date someone, better be sure about it, and a night out will not be without reports the next day. I’ve come to love the flexibility and anonymity big cities afford, even if it this often equates to higher crimes rates. Though I didn’t find this a problem in Tokyo, I walked through the park in Kichijoji at 3am without any fear.

I knew once I landed in London, I felt much more at ease, even whilst boarding the tube with two cases. Even on Easter Sunday, London has something to offer. I spent the last day sauntering through Oxford Street with a friend, followed by a visit to the Globe and exhibition at the Tate. The area by St Pauls has always been my favourite place to walk around. The first time I visited London, I was 17 visiting with some older friends the Notting hill carnival. For the large part, we walked around and as we were all teetotal(!), drank lemonade in Tiger Tiger. Though I was impressed to have been allowed entrance, I’ve never looked my age. It’s funny to reflect, I thought I was really mature during my first weekend in London; in reality I was still a pipsqueak. A few years later, when I worked there, I became accustomed to city life, with every opportunity available fully grasped. Considering my usual lack spatial awareness, I can’t differentiate my left from my right; tube/metro maps have never fazed me. They are just a system of codes and colours in my mind. Even though I eventually begin to take city life for granted, after spending some time back in Hicksville, I’m certain, I’m a city girl.

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