Saying goodbye to ghosts…

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After a week in Rome I feel like it’s time to go, it’s been a week of letting stuff go, thinking heavily about the past, reliving it. It’s time to leave, and to leave the memories behind.

It was lovely to experience the memories, revisit past places, remember things I didn’t know I still remembered, but I can feel it’s taking its toll a bit today. I know I’m leaving, so in a way I suppose I feel like I’m leaving parts of my mum here without me, like I should stay and think about her, keep the memories company. Like leaving here is really leaving her. I can feel her all around here, I think about her constantly, things we did, little things that happened, I don’t want to desert all this, and desert her memory. It sounds a bit mad, but kind of makes sense in my head, but I know it’s not logical. She’s not here anymore, I know that, but all the memories here are happy ones, and nearly all the ones I remember in London are still mainly all about her illness, here is different, here she was happy and doing something she enjoyed, and so was I.

There were so many things I would have liked to chat to my mum about my time here, and that’s still a sad part of all this, that she’s never going to be around for another chat, but I think I’ve got used to it now, or getting more used to it then ever, though your brain never really learns to switch off that part where you think for a split second ‘oh I’ll ask her that’, it just hits you quicker than it used to that you can’t.

There were many ghosts here, but perhaps it’s about time to say goodbye, or at least arrivederci…I’m off for a holiday!

x

 

Wanderings.

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Last night wandering around Foro Italico, the place I spent lots of my childhood playing and hanging out with friends, I felt like I was in an empty film set, all the actors had left. All that remained were traces of a former life. An empty feeling, not a sad one, just memories of that time. I looked over into the running track and saw groups of young Italian kids hanging out, I kind of expected to see myself. I couldn’t quite work out how I was feelings, it was like some kind of jealously for those kids,  jealous of their life, that care free lifestyle I once had. Living in a beautiful warm country, happy, content, with their mum around, I wanted that again, I wanted to go back to that time and never leave. Life wouldn’t get much better than this time, as a kid you don’t realise that, you’ll angry and frustrated at times, want to be older and have more freedom etc etc, but really it’s the other way. I’d be quite happy going back into that life as an 10 year old in Rome and never leave. Life as an adult is pretty disappointing and hard, being a child was easy. We spend our lives as children wishing we were older, and as an adult wishing we were younger. The ‘human condition’ (I hate that expression!) is fucked, it’s like we are born to make ourselves miserable, always wanted something else, never content, it’s shite but it’s hard to get out of that pattern, I’m trying, god knows I am…

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I remember as a child picking up a just fallen pinecone from this tree to take home, when dozens of Earwigs came racing out, I screamed and drop it and ran away, my mum thought it was hilarious. Obviously I didn’t at the time, but was a lovely memory to experience when I saw this tree still there.

Right back in that moment.

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As I wait for the plane doors to open at Fiumicino airport in Rome, I feel the same sense of excitement I did back in 1988 aged 8 years old, waiting with my mum for the doors to open to the first foreign country I had ever visited.

As the doors opened today I felt the hot breeze on my face like I did back then and I was right back in that moment in 1988. Standing on the airplane stairs walking down the steps with my mum right by me, feeling that hot air like I had never felt before. The smells of the airport were the same, and that along with this heat made many lost memories flood back. Things I didn’t know I still remembered.

The airport looked exactly the same, still as chaotic and as disorganized, it was quite fitting to wait as long for my bags as we did in 1988. I suppose many things don’t change, which is quite nice really.

On route to Ponte Milvio, the neighbourhood we lived in back then, where I’m staying this time too, I remembered so much of Rome I didn’t think I would. I left 25 years ago, I assumed I wouldn’t remember much, but I do. I suppose a city like this doesn’t change, 25 years is nothing to a city as old as Rome.

Life here seems so similar, the smells, the tastes in the air. On my first wander around my old neighbourhood that evening it was like I was living there again, the smell of our bakery, the scent of familiar Italian food wafting around, it felt homely, like I knew it so well. A few things have changed here, different restaurants, and new bars have popped up, but ultimately it’s the same as when I was here. The water fountain mum used to take us to cool down is still here, the granita stand I loved is still going, our old road with our old flat still there like it was yesterday we lived here.

It didn’t make me sad or long for my mum being here, I thought it might, it actually makes it seem like she is still around. All those familiar things, all these smells and tastes that remind me of her. After the first bite of my spaghetti alle vongole that evening, I was right back sitting in our local restaurant with mum eating it for the first time as a child.

Food is amazing for bringing back memories. Smell and taste are the most powerful senses when it comes to memories for me. They take me back to that very moment, similar to the way music can, they bring me right back to that spot. This keeps happening here, every mouthful of melon sorbet, fresh pomodoros, roasted artichokes, watermelon and I’m eight again experiencing it for the first time, it’s lovely and something I didn’t account for.

I wonder though how do I photograph something like this? Something that doesn’t exist in any physical form. It’s just a feeling, a very personal feeling, how do I show this physically? Perhaps I don’t, I just enjoy it and write about it if I want. I think this trip will be much more about emotions and feelings and not so much photography, but that’s fine, I’m enjoying it so far.

Pilgrimage of grief?

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As I set off for Rome, a place I lived as a child, the place my mother moved us to when I was 8 years old, I’m wondering why I’m coming here? What is it I’m chasing? She’s been dead for four years now, over these painfully long years I always thought I wanted to come back here, but now I’m on route I’m unsure why. Is it to retrace the place we lived, the places we spent happy times together, or is it to cause myself more pain, more upset, more longing she wasn’t dead. What is this pilgrimage of grief all about.

As I continue on this journey after her death, I feel the need again to photograph things; the things I feel, the things that continue to remind me of her. The project I’m doing, and have been doing in someway or another since she died, has food (she was a chef) as the central theme, in the way flowers were the central theme in my Tulip book. So what better place to continue this than in Italy I suppose, that bit at least I know I can look forward to…

More blog posts to follow over the next two weeks of this trip.