Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Pyrrhic Packing

Whenever I travel, I pack my latest travel journal. Most of the time, this is a Semikolon Grand Voyage notebook. I adore Semikolon's line. No Moleskine for me!

I make as many notes as possible, writing down train times, bus schedules, names of good restaurants, prices, so that the next time I (or we) travel to a place, it will be easier. It also helps us budget. I know to a penny how much our last three visits to Italy cost. Of course, I also record what we saw, and how we felt, and who said what.

When we are very busy on a trip, I have less time to write about our adventures, and on this trip I filled up the three hour, twenty minute flight back to Edinburgh with memoirs. My writing hand was cramped by the time we were told to refasten our seatbelts. I'm now 36 pages into my new journal.

Because it is a new journal, I didn't have access to all the handy material in the last journal, which stayed at home. However, I did take the time to review and make some helpful notes on the first page. Point one was "pack baby powder, antiseptic wipes, band-aids, deodorant, cotton pants, cotton socks, wide-brimmed hat, SPF50." Every item has a sad story attached to it. Most of the calamities encapsulated in Point 1 had to do with the Italian weather which, even in October, can be darned hot and sweaty.

Breakfast in Italy for two, by the way, should cost not much more than €3.60. This represents two cappuccini and two cornetti (croissants) eaten standing by the bar.

I began my long return journey writing session by pondering our packing. On this trip we managed to get our stuff into two carry-on knapsacks, but B.A.'s mighty Osprey Fairpoint 40 was 0.5 kg over the limit (fortunately nobody checked).  Obviously there is room for improvement, and so I wrote a list of what we packed but didn't use. 

DCM: Two Umbrian hill-walking books; pencil crayons in case; whistle, compass, Italian phrasebook.

B.A.: Irish Murdoch novel, John Carey memoir, one of the shirts, some of the socks, one of  the ties.

That's not too bad, actually.  I then listed what we OUGHT to have had, had we been able to predict our detour and the weather: a map of Florence, a coat or wrap for me,  umbrellas. I sometimes wished we had brought our (small but heavy) missals; however, printing out copies of the readings and propers would have been more practical.

One of our friends in Norcia told us that it was the time of year in which anything you chose to wear was wrong. This is because in early October Norcia is terribly cold in the mornings and at night but hot all afternon. As a matter of fact, B.A. packed many more clothes than I did, and so was prepared for everything, including rain. I had to borrow a warm wrap to go out at 5:45 AM for Lauds and at 5:45 for Vespers. One morning I discovered I had forgotten it at my friend's house and so stole out of the house wrapped in a bath towel. Sad but true.

However, I was very glad of all my Point 1 items when we got to Florence. Florence was blazing, so out came the anti-sweat arsenal. (The anti-cancer materiel was in action every day, everywhere.) Other useful things included the guide to Rome, pens, the band-aids and antiseptic wipes, the "small store of Italian in head", "previous knowledge of Italian life", the money belt, the rosaries, socks (versus tights) and my handknit cardigan. Thank heavens Mum put in pockets.

Rosaries are useful for getting into doors that open only to Catholic pilgrims/worshippers, as at the Duomo. No Italian is needed: you just shake your rosary at the security guard, and all is well. Of course, this means you have to get on your knees and actually pray your rosary. But why not? Most of the art of Florence is all about the Sacred Mysteries of the Rosary. I cannot imagine what post-Protestants and pagans get out of Florentine art collections as they are 80% Rosary, 15% Greek mythology and 5% Garibaldi & Co.  This leads me to my next point: what you pack into your head before a trip is probably even more important than what you pack into your bag(s).

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