“My name is Luca” were the first words that our Sicilian guide said to me when I met him by the arrivals area at Catania airport. “Do you live on the second floor?” were the first words I spoke to him but he didn’t respond so I immediately assumed that either he wasn’t familiar with Suzanne Vega’s 1987 hit record, or he didn’t have a sense of humour or he had already gathered that I was a bit of a prat and well worth ignoring. He pointed me in the direction of two more members of our group who were waiting nearby and told me to go and talk to them. So I did. They introduced themselves as Bev and Michael in a way that didn’t immediately bring to mind the opening line of a song, so the conversation flowed much more freely than it had with Luca. Bev and Michael were botanists from Oxford so I knew straight away that we were going to get on like a greenhouse on fire.
The soundtrack to the first three minutes of my trip
to Sicily and the Aeolian Islands.
Shortly afterwards I met the other group members but all in quick succession so I forgot their names in less time than it had taken them to tell me what they were. It’s always difficult to get to grips with so many new faces and names in one go at the start of these trips but they do eventually sink in and by the end of the trip I always feel like I have known them for a week or two.
All of the people who had just jetted in from Britain were present and correct but Jo, who had arrived in Sicily with me exactly twenty four hours earlier, was missing. She had dropped me off outside the airport terminal to struggle with my bag and hers for the ten metre walk into the building while she went off for a little tootle around on her own to top up the petrol in the car we had hired before returning it to the Hertz office via several kilometres of the motorway whilst enjoying the cooling effect of the afternoon thunderstorm and the torrential rain. Such selfishness! Luca was cross and said that we would miss the 4.00 p.m. hydrofoil from Milazzo to the island of Lipari and as punishment we would have to sit in a bar at the hydrofoil terminal and drink beer until 5.00 p.m. At this point it dawned on me that I might have been right about his lack of knowledge of the muse of Ms Vega and about me being a prat, but I was quite wrong about him not having a sense of humour.
Jo turned up eventually and, having not heard everyone’s names in the first place, she didn’t need to waste time forgetting them.
There then followed a two hour coach trip along the coast during which travel weary travellers fell asleep and snored and dribbled with their heads pressed against the snoring and dribbling heads of people whose names they had forgotten. I thought that the hour in the bar at the hydrofoil terminal would provide the ideal opportunity for us to be woken up by a beer fuelled getting to know you session. Unfortunately we weren’t late after all so we hopped on the 4.00 p.m. craft, sat down in seats very similar to those on the coach and promptly went back to sleep.
The holiday did eventually turn out to be a very exciting one though so, until I post the next instalment, please try not to fall asleep or snore or dribble. I know that most of you, my dear readers, will be able to stay awake but I fear that you might not manage to avoid dribbling. And don't go looking over your shoulder . . . you know who you are!
What we missed by not missing the hydrofoil to Lipari.