Wednesday, 9 September 2009
I am going to stay that night with Patrick in Southampton. Sat Nav says it's 22 miles and tells me to turn left. I do and find myself on the M275. Sat Nav immediately gets in a state - the arrows spin around and tell me to go go back but I can't do that so I keep going and leave at the next exit which is only a mile down the road - and now it's only 15 miles to Patrick's house. I think Sat Nav did it deliberately to save me going into the centre of Portsmouth and driving so many unnecessary miles. Cheeky thing! Such a joy to get to Patrick's house. The sad fact is I haven't spoken to anyone for a week and now I can bathe in his beautiful company. Bedtime.
September 6th and the ride from Southampton to Cambridge is a long one. 5 hours. Sat Nav is back on its best behaviour and we don't go on any motorways. I am familiar with the journey from Cambridge to Southampton but never on these little roads. I had no idea Hampshire was so beautiful. Got home just as it was getting dark and it feels like I left just yesterday.
Sept 7th and I go into the doctors surgery - just to say hallo and let them know I'm back safe and sound. The wall is covered in photos of me and Rosie. A hug from the doctor. A hug from the nurse. Emotions all at sea. And later today I have to go to Addenbrookes for a scan. 'Good luck,' said the doctor. And I said, 'It doesn't matter.' What a stupid thing to say! Of course it matters! Me and Rosie have got a long way to go!
Saturday, 5 September 2009
Today the new building is going up all around The Guggenheim - a whole new architecture of ovals and ellipses. There isn't a right angle in sight. The artists who created the installations have responded to the building and the city responds to the artists - no dysfunctional dreamers here - but a tough partnership between engineering, industry and design. Come back in 2000 years and The Guggenheim will still be here. The leaning tower of Pisa means nothing to the shanty town all around it. The Guggenheim is the seed for tomorrow's Bilbao. I spend the whole day in The Guggenheim - it's a treasure trove and if you live near Portsmouth it's only a ferry ride away.
I don't make yesterday's mistake and I find a restaurant at 8pm - somewhere to sit, eat, drink, and think without looking at the clock. Artichokes and a rice dish with fish. They don't call it paella round here. I've only got ten more miles to go to the ferry in the morning. Nothing to be afraid of. So why am I afraid? There's a bonus on the way to the ferry. A dear friend suggested I might like to see the bridge over the river - a bit like a horizontal Eiffel Tower and cars and passengers cross the river in a gondola that hangs from the girders. See it, my dear friend!
(This is a picture of a Scottish Pipe Band in Bilbao who may have been sent to make me feel welcome - or maybe they had another reason for being there. Who knows?)
In order to get to the ferry me and Rosie had to go on it! And now I've reached the P&O check in and discover that due to adverse weather conditions the ferry is running two hours late. Well that's better news than I heard from the chap who sells the tickets on the gondola who told me there was no ferry today. And that was a heart sinking moment. Well, there is. It's just late. And now I've just got to sit here and wait. But you don't need to hear about that. So I'll just get on with it on my own and write again when me and Rosie get to Portsmouth.
PS. I've just heard why the ferry is late. There was a sick child on board and they couldn't get a helicopter out so the captain took his ship to a French port to get the child to hospital. Isn't it good to know that time and tide does wait for a sick child?
Thursday, 3 September 2009
This is the landscape of Clint Eastwood - 'go ahead make my day'. But my day is already made and it gets better round every corner. Now the soil is white with Christmas trees growing on cement! And the Pyrenees are still there on my right with a ripple of an echo of hills to my left and we drive through a broad valley with a hilltop village in the middle.
And now the road descends through an alpine landscape _ green with running water and birdsong and we're driving down to Bilbao and I wonder if we haven't really driven from sea to shining sea - from New York to San Francisco - Atlantic to Pacific - instead of Mediterranean to Atlantic.
Bilbao is not Barcelona - it goes to sleep at 10 pm. But it is very pretty and very clean. I try to take a picture of a street sweeping machine - Bilbao's nightlife - because I want to try and please you but it is driven by Michael Schumaker's other brother and the photo is a blur. And now I'll join in with the rest of Bilbao and put out my light. Hasta La Vista!
Tuesday, 1 September 2009
On the map the Mediterranean looks small. There's land all around it. Well I can't see any and we've been steaming west all day and now the sun is setting right in front of us. You can sit on deck and take the sun - or go up another level and take the wind. Right now I'm taking the wind.
Getting off the boat was just as stressful as getting on it. Maybe the problem has to do with leaping into the unknown. I don't know where I'm going to stay - don't know what I'm going to do - but here we are driving up Las Ramblas and 'There's a Small Hotel' I know right in the centre of town. Maybe they'll have a room? Rosie's overheating. So am I.
Have they got a room!! Only my very favourite room in the world!!! This is where I wrote the Picasso show (and when I got stuck I just nipped across the road to the museum). The balcony overlooks the cathedral and that's what it looks like from my balcony with a Spanish moon beaming down on us all.
I browsed in the bookshops and then decided to go to Livorno - went back to the hotel and picked up all my luggage, packed it all onto Rosie, and set off. That was a mistake. I should have thought of this before. I can lock up Rosie but I can't secure the luggage. So I can't leave her and I can't check in for the ferry until 9pm. And the problems are mounting. The Sat Nav fell off. I have become totally dependent on it. I trust it's every instruction. Something is missing in the mounting. I don't know what. I'm driving with it in my left hand. This isn't safe. And the oil light keeps flashing and now the fuel light has come on. Calm down, Mike. Stop at a garage and refuel and get an elastic band to secure the Sat. Nav. Refuelled at a self service, cash only, no mechanic petrol station where a kind Dutch camper van driver gives me an elastic band. I try and find the ferry. Livorno is buried under a million huge containers with large lorries everywhere. They know where they're going. I don't. Thank goodness I'm so early. And then I find the ferry at the end of a maze of unfinished road building. And look what happens to the roads when a little yacht wants in. The arrows tells me where to go. The cones tell me I can't go there. Then I find it. That's when the guy says, 'Come back in six hours.' So I drive into Livorno. Everyone in Livorno rides a scooter. There must be a Vespa dealer. I drive around until I find it. He checks the oil. 'Basso!' And he tops it up. No more problems left for today. It's only stupid o'clock and I'm still far too early. But I find a dirt track that takes me down to a place by the river. You can see the boats go by - you can spend a life forever.