“about suffering they were never wrong/the Old Masters”
Florence… and there’s a mosquito bite on my neck, where I sat in the darkest corner of San Miniato on top of the hill overlooking the city this afternoon. I thought it was a pimple from too much red wine but I am comforted to know that it is an animal reaction. Mosquitoes still in Florence in October. Right at the end of October too.
And in the darkness of San M. I also felt dreadful. The whole facade of travelling alone, sight-seeing alone tumbled down and I felt profoundly homesick. Awfully homesick – like I couldn’t bear the huge distances between me and the hotel – let alone the distance between Florence and London.
I try and avoid travelling on my own these days. If I’m honest I generally avoid travelling. The huge journies I undertook in my 20s are long gone. I can’t bear jet-lag. Even the three hours difference in Brazil makes me edgy. But I had a week off and no one free to go with me. And besides, I thought it would be charming. To feed my brain with images. To spend days in the Uffizi. To wander the streets and eat delicious Italian food and drink fine wine.
Which I have done. And as my friend Simon said, from the outside it probably looked fantastic.
I strolled around the galleries with my notebook, sketching. I sat in the Autumn sunshine drinking latte. I ate fegatini di pollo and risotto. I drank montepulciano di nobile.
But I felt pretty dusty.
Eating on my own in restaurants brings up horrible ghosts of painful teenage self-consciousness. Not knowing where to eat makes me prone to blood-sugar collapse which adds an extra black edge to my homesickness. Too many museums make me feel old.
It’s taken until today – the last day – to really sink into the space.
After my black moment in the church – I made a switcheroo. I realised that homesickness is not a sickness. It is confirming the thing that i want. Home, a house, a herth, a familias, a dog.
HIllman talks about the crazy hypertrophy of Hermes in the modern world: the Web, instant messaging, global markets, 24-7 news. All information, no meaning. And the antidote to that is Hestia – the goddess of the hearth. Invisible, not personified, but present in two people eating, the space, the place, the shape of home. Hestia is all circular. Hermes is all winged and double-helixed.
So I came home to my hotel room and I had a long bath (something I never do) and soaked and soaked. I went out and had a lovely meal in a lovely trattoria a friend recommmended and I made some plans for the coming week. I was alone but by the magic of Hermes (an iPhone) I managed to be Vestal and organise three dinners for next week.