Gate-Climbing ...

It began harmlessly enough ... gate-climbing as soon as I worked out the 'how' of it. 

Another memory from long ago, quiet excitement ... a gap in the hedge that surrounded my childhood home.  They closed that up pretty quickly once they realised how I was slipping away.

Me and my trike, then my bike, traveled far and wide ... or as far as my lazy legs would carry me.  Then came the car and that seemed like the best freedom so far, until I flew over to Istanbul.  And zipped off to Rome.  Then ended up in Belgium, discovered France, Holland and every place else in Europe was easily reachable.

'Gate-climbing' on steroids.

Then Genova, Italy.  That place I keep on returning to ... since 2008.  That exquisitely ancient city surrounded by beautiful hills and the sea. 

These days I can wander where ever I want but I keep returning.

I'm flying this week. 

14 days in that city I love ...

Listening to The Sweet Remains these days, specially Ghost in the Orange Blossom Air.

On Gallivanting ...


There is nothing wrong with loving the crap out of everything. Negative people find their walls. So never apologize for your enthusiasm. Never. Ever. Never.

Ryan Adams

I read this first thing this morning, pre-breakfast, and thought, yes.   I was reading Amy's blog.

It was a quiet yes.

One of the things I have most consistently done through time  ... and it's dancing for shadows really, is defend the way I live my life.

My ex-father-in-law was an outrageous monster sometimes ... one who made everyone laugh.  He assured me that the more he mocked the more love there was.  Eyes twinkling, he pointed out how much he must care about me.  He could be charming at times.
I can still see him there in the kitchen of 40 Tyne Street in Mosgiel.  He's gone now, that man who was planning on spending his retirement near some beach where he could fish everyday.  But his most serious and real accusation was always his ... have you been off gallivanting AGAIN?
The men I grew amongst were men who believed that a woman's place was there in the home, next to their husbands.  They also believed that a husband's place was right there next to their wives.  Kind of chained together.  And that was a problem for me because I've always wandered.
My first husband gifted me an entire month off interviewing climbers and mountaineers for a book I was writing.  If the authority figures in my young world were telling me I must stay at home, then my husbands have always told me to ignore them and wander anyway.  But maybe they knew that I had to.
'Never apologize for your enthusiasm' was timely.  I have tempered my enthusiasm over time.  It is less evident although still explodes out of me on occasions but the need for flight ...  there are no apologies in me.  If anything, I'm becoming more convinced about the beauty and the need for flight.
There is the goodbye and hello of it all.  You never stop appreciating a partner when you have a little distance sometimes.  But more than that, filled with a compulsion to fix things for people, it's better to give myself a little people-less time.  To live on toast and red wine and stand on the edge of societies I'm not part of ... there's something healing about that.
I do worry that things will collapse while I'm gone but it's so good realise that it's not all about me and that the world does go on when I wander off.  I knew it as the small child who wandered.  Perhaps I was my entire universe back then.  I didn't care so much as the teenager who disappeared with her dog and dreamed dreams that she doesn't recall now.  And I needed it on becoming a wife and a mother.
Negative people find their walls. So never apologize ...  I'll run with that I think.

On wandering ...

‘every journey outside my known world is a form of often painful, sometimes euphoric spiritual growth. I have to break out of the exoskeleton of safety I’m constantly accreting in order to be born into a new world — soft, vulnerable, afraid, eager, porous. I hate it, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.’

Nikki Hardin , an extract from Longing Not To Belong.

I loved these words.  I thought to myself, I know that feeling.  That's how it is for me too.

For awhile, back at my childhood home, there was a gap between the hedge and the wire fence and there I was, that creature you see scaling the wooden gate, slipping out into the incredible world of the school next door.

And I think I remember the mix of fear and curiousity ... the need to wander that made me escape anyway.  A need that still overrides my desire to stay safely inside my known worlds. 

I imagine all kinds of things before I leave.  The night before, there  I am, wondering why I do it ... Cairo, Istanbul, Italy, and America.  But wander I must.

I love leaving.

On the other side of the ohmygodwhat haveIdone pre-departure thinking, is that sigh of happiness as I settle into the airport bus and it leaves.  There is the delight in arriving at Brignole in Genova, of opening the shutters, buying the flowers, and settling into a different life, so full of noise and colour.

And on the other side of leaving there have always been marvellous experiences ... like the market that ran all night just below my balcony in Cairo, or the gypsy festival in Istanbul where I wandered with friends, wandering Flanders Fields with prime ministers and actors.

On the other side of fear is Life in a form that I love.

And I go, knowing that it is entirely likely that I will have times when I sink into the dark pit of despair and anxiety for a few hours, where going outside is impossible, where I am left wondering what the hell it is that pushes me to leave and step off into other worlds.  But I always recover.

Sometimes with a belly-laughter-inducing-Mr-Bean-style story of what happened while I was in that place of fear.

I'm the biggest baby in the world sometimes.  I find myself in situations that are retrospectively hilarious but challenging while in the midst of them.  The ambulance in Genova was sobering but it's a story that can't be told with me giggling throughout.  The heat-seeking missile attack over Singapore is another that comes immediately to mind when reminiscing this stuff.  And the taxi-kidnapping in Cairo was also gut-wrenchingly amusing, and should I ever decide to share it here on the blog might agree.

You see, I was a writer before I took photographs ... or perhaps I thought I was a writer before I decided to become a photographer but then again, I had always been a photographer.  Maybe that means that I am a story-teller because surely both paths lead to the same place in the end.  I live with an Imagination that is as big as the Sun ... at least.

Mostly I have learned to live with that Imagination, to laugh over the stories that (don't really) happen along the way, and to leave anyway ...

The Road ...

I love this kind of view empty road opening up in front of me.

Gert informed me that this song is mine, in those days as he watched me fill with the joy of that South Island roadtrip in the little red car.

I hate leaving, dislike saying goodbye, right up until that moment I'm on my way and then I am happiness-filled.

Leaving is one of those things I do best.  And out there, I usually stretch myself to the limit of what I can stand and beyond sometimes, then it's okay to come home again.

I'm not a wild thing, I'm just a smalltime wanderer who doesn't like to stand still for too long.

Remembering Rome ...

I was looking through my photo files ... there are 1000s of images that never see the light of day.  And I found one of my Rome shots which inspired me to go wandering through old blogs I had written about Rome.  I found this which is good because I have been missing Rome today.

I remember when I fell madly and passionately in love with Rome. I had gone there expecting to be disappointed by a myth fallen on hard times but found something else ... 

Rome was a city that was more than I imagined a city could be.  It was a mix of ancient and beautiful, of sophistication and of real people who wanted to chat.

I stayed on Campo de' Fiori in a hotel with the same name.  The entrance was stunning, it was like stepping into a story. There was a daily market there in the square,where I could buy flowers and food.  There was a superb little bookshop where I found a good book and, on another corner, a delicatessen with wine and cheese for my evening because ... I was in Rome and one must have some chianti and cheese while reading that new book.

It was a city of angels.  Bernini and his students had sculpted a series of them on Ponte Sant'Angelo in the 17th century.  There was the arrogant angel by Raffaello da Montelupo.  I loved his 1544 rendering of the Archangel Michael, and Peter Anton Verschaffelt's rooftop Michael, sculpted 1752, too.

Angels and archways perhaps. I felt so comfortable with the architecture there. I spent hours in Castel Sant'Angelo, fascinated by the history and feeling of that ancient place . It was originally built as a mausoleum for Hadrian, as in Hadrian's Tomb, but was converted into a fortress for popes in the 6th century. It was magical wandering along old passages, or just sitting in the sun trying to comprehend that that really was Rome's River Tiber below me.

I had lunch with Paolo, a friend of a friend, and we wandered the city for a while.  He told me his stories of the city he loved. An old friend took me home to his family for dinner on the back of his scooter,  and his wife cooked a beautiful Roman feast, introducing me to mozzarella di bufala and prosciutto, followed by veal, artichokes and chard ... and then there was a midnight tour of Rome on the way back to the hotel.

I bought a painting from another Paolo, in Piazza Navone ... the place where the artists gather.  He took me off to a cafe for coffee and we talked for a long time.  He had been a history teacher until his art had become self-supporting. We talked of movies, books, writers, societies, children and life ... it was magical too. His painting, the painting I bought, was a titled 'Diving into Life' ... it seemed like something I had to have.

I loved Piazza San Pietro in Vatican City and bought the ticket that allowed me to climb the 300+ steps to the cupola on top of the Basilica.  You reach the top and voila, there is Rome, far below in all of her beauty.

Inside the Basilica ... the sculptures were outside of my ability to describe them. I stared for a long time, perhaps hoping to comprehend the beauty via some kind of osmosis. Michelangelo's Pieta was stunning but Bernini's monument to Alexander VII was almost overwhelming ... somehow, Bernini had made heavy red marble seem like soft velvet.

I loved it all ... the Pantheon took my breath when I turned a corner and found it unexpectedly there in front of me. The Trevi Fountain, even the Spanish Steps at midnight, all but abandoned.

I have to go back, and soon, there is no other solution.

Genovese Days ...

It's been up and down and all over the place ... but then again, that's the reality of my wandering life.

I love wandering.  It's been a passion since forever.  I must confess though, it's not all easy and fun.  And just like the good days, the bad days are kind of extreme. 

Saturday was sublime.  Sunday was spent out at Arenzano with the lovely Francesca, her children and Ashley, a New Zealander.  The sea had real waves, just like New Zealand, and the company was grand.  I'm hoping I convinced Ashley to come stay with us in Belgium at some point in the near future.

It was a delicious day that ended well.  Monday, I woke from nightmares and my mouth was sore.  I decided to walk them off.  I called in to buy salt from Francesca at Le Gramole, as I passed by on my regular walking route, and she was like this lovely ray of sunshine in my day.  Much-needed, although she gifted me the salt which was very kind ... on top of the whole making me smile thing. 

The first walk done, I returned and realised my usb modem, purchased 3 months ago, was about to run out of hours. Life without the internet ... incomprehensible.

I raced out again, all the way down the hill towards the harbour, weaving through the caruggi like an expert ... so proud until I realised I was in the wrong place.  Eventually I arrived at the right TIM shop and voila, they were closed on Monday mornings.

Back to the house, a quick shower due to the humidity here and the fact it's warmer than I'm used to at this time of year here in Europe.  I was meeting Francesca G for lunch and we wandered some more.  It's always lovely to spend time with Francesca.  She is my translator in this world but more than that, I consider her the loveliest friend.

Enroute in search of metal detectors for sons and lupini, we called by at TIM and I picked up a short term recharge on my usb modem for 9 euro.  I love TIM and their service.

Well, I arrived home about 6.30pm and realised my usb modem just wouldn't work in any way that was satisfactory.  I looked at the clock, wondered how late they were open and set off, at a brisk pace.  They were open and I can't say enough good things about the TIM assistant who worked for an hour, getting my usb modem up and running.

Dinner was cereal and yogurt because I'm terrible here.  And I worked late into the night.

Today ... the weather.  You probably cannot imagine how glorious a day can be here in Genova, Italy in the middle of winter.  I think it was about 17 celsius at one point, deep blue skies and sunshine forever. 

I could prove this, had I packed the card reader I need to transfer my photographs to my computer ... even if I had packed a spare usb cable but no.  All images remain safely here on my camera. 

You see, I don't have my everyday laptop with me.  I decided that the life of a sherpa was not for me, and I packed light.  I am regretting it but my body appreciated it on the long haul here.  The everyday laptop has everything I need on it.  This little travel laptop has very little ...

I spent a lovely few hours catching up with Karla, a friend and artist who lives here in the city.

Dinner tonight is pizza from the exquisite Pizzeria Ravecca.  The same as the one pictured in this post.  I'm kind of stuck on this one.

Things are going well ... well, except for the train strike scheduled for Friday.  That would be the day that I need to get from Genova to Milano for my 7pm flight.  It's 2 hours on the train from Genova, then another 50 minutes on a second train to the airport.  We shall see how that goes.

So ... a short round-up of news here in Genova.  I have some truly delicious news in the days ahead but let me get it all set up before I write of it here.

Ciao from Genova!


I am back in Genova and it is so unbelievably good to be here again.

I was drowning in the winter grey of Belgium, missing my great big Genovese walks round the city, missing the exquisite espresso that Simona and Marta make, the focaccia from Panificio Patrone in via Ravecca, and missing the pleasure of finding just the right food, in amongst all that is delicious at Francesca and Norma's shop.

11am, and I have walked around the old city, bought my pale pink flowers, eaten focaccia, had espresso. I have talked with people.  This place feels like the closest to home I have ever been while wandering outside of New Zealand these last 9 years.

The sky is a deep deep blue, the air is mild - unlike the freezing cold in Milano as I arrived yesterday.  People are out on the streets and, as always, they are talking to each other and greeting strangers.  Did I tell you how much I love this city?

I felt so very strong, walking the hills in a way that delights me, as it's my first time on hills since I was here last, back in November.

I'm here to put together a range of accommodation options for the photography workshop in April.  I have my favourite hotel but I need to cover all budgets.  I think it will be easy but I want to be sure of what I am recommending.  And I need just a few more specific photographs for the book.

No photos today though ... my hands were full of focaccia and flowers.  And my soul was singing too loudly to concentrate on pulling my camera out of my bag to use it. 

And yes, I am a wee bit much this morning but oh, it is good to here.

Jetlag ... and some stories from the road

Probably not jet lag ...
The flight to Milan was meant to be about 1 hour and 15 minutes.  We ended up arriving 20 minutes early ... a short-cut that boggles my mind.  How does a plane arrive 20 minutes early?

The alarm rang in Belgium 4.59am. 
Taxi at 5.54am.
Suitcase, the one that Brussels Airport broke last time I flew in there, revealed we hadn’t managed to fix it as I placed it in the hold of the Airport Bus ... 6.05am.
I may have said a bad word.

I arrived at the airport.  For a moment, I forgot I was in a country whose service providers often don’t care.  I confessed that my suitcase probably wouldn’t stay closed on the plane, due to being damaged last time I’d flown Brussels Airlines.  Fortunately, I said, I had managed to replace the suitcase strap they had lost but could he note its fragile status?

Actually, the Brussels Airline check-in bloke pulled that face that Belgian service providers pull when they don’t really want to hear what you are saying because it’s YOUR problem and THEIR company and/or shop refuses to be held accountable.

Fair enough.  I’ve been there long enough to know the impossibility of anything close to satisfaction in this kind of thing.  I have lost the few battles I’ve attempted.  Raising ones voice doesn’t help.  These guys survived the Spanish Inquisition.  Raising ones voice is NOTHING.

I had an idea and suggested it to the Belgian check-in guy.  He warmed to me immediately. 
I suggested I get my suitcase plastic-wrapped so it would stay closed.
He led me there, abandoning his post even.
He didn’t mention the 5euro fee for plastic-wrapping.

However, there was the relief of having my suitcase secured. I returned to complete check-in.  He had handed my case on to the Belgian check-in woman.

I was early but you really need to be when you tavel from Antwerp to Brussels via the bus.  You have to allow for traffic jams when you travel morning or early evening.

I wandered off and bought a bottle of coke,, looking for that instant caffeine hit.  I thought the check-out chick insane.  She kept asking me for MORE money.  I knew we would work it out at some point.  She would laugh, I would laugh, she would apologise.
But no, that small bottle of coke really was 3.50euro.
I said ‘I’ll be sure to really really enjoy it then…’  And then we both laughed.
That is a robbery, isn’t it? 
It is $4.88us and $6.09 in New Zealand money.
I wish I hadn’t made those conversions now ...

On the plane and things began to improve. I met this lovely Mexican/American woman.  We chatted most of the way to Milan and so I noticed even less of the very short flight.

In Milan, the big heavy Belgian-frost-protecting jersey had to come off but ... oh no! I couldn’t put it into my plastic-wrapped suitcase because I still had a long way to travel and dared not interfere with its hold on my belongings - there were two train trips to be made.  I tied it onto my suitcase, hoping not to stand out as a peasant there in Milan.  Found a nasty sandwich, remembered too late that I knew how to purchase them in that shop because I had been a chicken last time too ... limiting myself to simple Italian when ordering food.  Sigh. 

I decided perhaps I could make this my rite-of-passage experience.  Each time I arrive in Italy I will have one of these disgusting sandwiches to appease the gods of travel and win myself a good visit.  I ate almost all of it while waiting for my train to Genova.  Breakfast had been quite some hours earlier.

On the train, I had the most incredible good fortune ... (so I’m thinking the sandwich sacrifice may be the ritual of choice on future trips).  I sat next to a lovely woman called Germana.  We began chatting after she very kindly alerted me to the fact that our number 7 train carriage had just become a number 6, and yes, we all had to move.

My seat was next to her in number 6 carriage and so we began to chat.  It turned out that this lovely woman had, like me, had spent some time living in Istanbul.  Well, that was that.  We fell into conversation, talking of the lovely places she had lived, talking of family, talking of life.  It was so excellent!  That train trip passed so easily that I didn’t even notice the million tunnels that we have to travel through to reach Genova.

We said goodbye at the station, I found a taxi and voila, here I am, back in this city I love so very deeply.

But that’s not all.  I walked into the apartment and Paola and Simon had arranged the loveliest birthday surprise.  3 bottles of truly delicious wine!  Really!

So there I was, back in Genova, having met good people along the way, my suitcase had managed to contain itself and not spill open and now ... there was red wine waiting for me!
A huge thank you to Paola and Simon!

Today it’s 9 celsius, it’s pouring down after 3 very dry months here in the city, and here I am, wrapped up warmly and smiling that big smile that I try to control whenever I reach this place.

I hope your worlds are behaving today and I wish you joy.
Ciao for now. 

An Abundance ...

Most days we have spent 10 hours out taking photographs, returning to the apartment to organise and process them but I have never managed to keep up ... having taken 586 photographs on Saturday alone.  My photo folders are overflowing and after a hectic 48 hours of good people, a beautiful hotel, a niece from New Zealand, 2 kiwis who lives here, a little too much red wine on a warm Istanbul night and amazing photographic opportunities, here I am, processing and trying to put things back in order, having not even had time to view the images taken at 6.30am Saturday out on the Bosphorous.

Istanbul is one of those cities where I can’t stop using my camera, it’s a passion, a compulsion and a pleasure but my body is protesting. 
I fly tomorrow.