The drive from England is now a blur.
Have you ever stopped and taken a look back at your actions over a 24 hour period and questioned if you were really in the right state of mind?
With little or no preparation, I’d decided to leave England, abandon the home that I had lived in for the past 30 years and embrace my retirement with a kind of reckless abandonment more befitting a teenager on their gap year.
To my neighbours, a young family on one side and elderly gentleman on the other (perhaps a shade of my future if I had stayed?), a quick note was scrawled and hastily stuffed through the letter box:
Hello – Goodbye!
I’m leaving the country for a while, not sure how long. Help yourself to the veg in the garden.
I’m not sure if I’ll come back, if not, good luck and good bye!
Come to think of it, I don’t think I ever bothered to sign the damn thing, so it’ll probably confuse them more than anything else…oh well!
Sat here on the veranda of Joseph and Maria’s colourful terraced abode, it feels like more of a dream than an actual event that happened to me.
Throwing my things into the car, quickly tapping in the coordinates of Joseph and Maria’s place in Portofino and then setting off.
Head first into the wind and spitting rain of the abrasive English weather that I’d somehow grown to love over the years, I passed through the Channel tunnel in what felt like a second and, before I knew it, had descended into the maelstrom of sounding horns and shaking fists that are the roads of Europe.
Although I made good time (I’d forgotten how much fun it was to drive fast!) I soon hit traffic jams and road works. I was stopped on a couple of occasions by curious motorway police, but after taking 50 or so Euros off me, they let me on my way.
By 11pm I was coasting into Portofino.
The sun had long since set, the night was clear and blue, with only the twinkling lights of the harbour serving as a guide. My phone had ran out of battery hours before and I was relying on my memory of past visits to guide my little car to its destination.
The enormity of my journey didn’t hit me until Joseph and Maria welcomed me into their home. I caught a glance at myself in the mirror as I entered their quaint little terraced house – a haggard ghost looked back at me, looking not too dissimilar to the neighbour that I had just left behind.
That night I slept in their guestroom, usually reserved for Air B&B guests, feeling like I’d travelled ten times the 800 or so miles that I actually had.
I woke to the sound of seabirds calling, the rolling of wooden carts and Italian conversations drifting through the open windows.
My mouth still held the sour taste of the port I’d drunk the night before. I might have taken half of my kitchen’s worth of tools and knives, but I’d forgotten my toothbrush.
A banal thought struck me as I swung my legs out of the bed, with a little more gusto than usual: last night must’ve been the first time I’d gone to sleep without brushing my teeth in over 30 years.