Once we were back in Cairo Renata and I parted ways. She headed off to
Cyprus and beyond, whilst I boarded a plane bound for Rome. It was my intention to spend a few days taking in the sights of Rome before heading down to Sicily to meet up with Luke and his family. Luke's uncle had his
finger in many pies around the city of Catania, so I thought that my chances of finding work there were
The temperature change from the hot streets of
Shit! What was I going to do? I exited Leonardo Da Vinci airport, with my tail well and truly between my legs. Even if I would have had any money I felt too sick to think straight. So I did the only thing that I knew how to do in these situations. I found myself a nice patch grass somewhere near to the airport entrance, where I cocooned myself into my mummy sleeping bag and went to sleep. I briefly considered that the security of my bags was in jeopardy, but I was feeling so terrible that the theft of my possessions seemed to be the least of my worries. Although I have to admit that I was glad to see that they were still there when I woke up eight hours later.
My bags, it turned out, had been guarded as I slept by two random Algerian guys. The guys, whose names I've long forgotten had chanced up my mummified body sprawled across the grass and decided that they would protect me in my sleeping hour.
"Hi my friend," they called out to me, as my eyes opened.
"Erm hello," I returned, feeling more than a little confused.
"We saw you sleeping, and thought we'd guard you, my friend," they informed me.
"That's really kind of you," I told them, whilst trying to conceal my mistrust of their actions. It's very sad that kind acts in this world are always treated with suspicion. But that's the way that we protect ourselves, especially when travelling.
We got talking, and it turned out that the guys had tried to emigrate to England a few years earlier but the immigration officers had turned them back at Heathrow airport because they couldn't prove that they had enough funds. Once the conversation started to head in this direction I had a suspicion that I was going to be involved in their future travel plans in some context. By now they were really babbling on and my mucus infested brain could not begin to take in their words. My mind drifted off and it was only brought back round when one of the guys shook my arm and said "so what do you think?"
"I'm not really sure," I told him. I had in actual fact, not got a clue what he was talking about, which made things more than a little awkward.
"Well, will you help us then?" one of them asked me.
I couldn't help but notice the look of sheer desperation in their eyes. Something was amiss. I could have kicked myself when I heard the words, "Yeah, OK then," slip out of my mouth. What the fuck had I got myself into?
The boys were onto my words before I even had time to finish my sentence. In the bat of an eyelid, their looks of desperation had turned into looks of ecstasy. They turned to face each other and I could almost see the jackpot symbols lighting up in their eyes. And who could blame them? They'd just stumbled upon a 20 year old English meal ticket, who was immobilised by sickness and therefore extremely vulnerable. Looking back I can almost share their joy.
To cut a long story short I had just agreed to be the sponsor for their lifetime dream to live in
The next day, when I finally gathered the strength to leave my grassy patch, I bid the guys farewell, deposited their details in the nearest bin and headed for
I arrived at the British embassy some time in the late afternoon and I was shown into a small office. This was to become the stage for my amateur dramatics, which flowed with such perfection that I actually ended up in tears. Or maybe I really was in a worse state than I imagined! Over the years, I've learnt to fully embrace disasters of such calibre and I must admit, I am quite fond of them. But on this day, some time in mid May 1989, I was a gibbering wreck. Not that my crying reaped much reward. For my efforts, I was allowed one free phone call to my parents. Fortunately they were at home, and I spent the next five minutes crying uncontrollably down the phone at the sound of my poor mum's voice.
As a result of my visit to the embassy Luke's uncle booked me on a flight from
In the mean time I was able to book myself into a nearby pension which the embassy sorted out for me. The bankers draft came through a few days later and I was able to move on. That is, I would have been able to move on had I not locked myself in the shower. I spent an hour in there and had practically given up when I realised that to open it you had to pull the doors in the middle. I'd never seen a shower like that before. My inexperience had lead to my temporary incarceration. By the time I'd escaped I was almost late for my flight.
I had big ideas for
By the time I got there, Luke was indeed working for his uncle, as a delivery guy at his furniture business. And his uncle certainly was wealthy. His house was the first and possibly the only house that I have ever seen with a lift between the different floors. This fact impressed me very much and was to become my overwhelming memory of
My own chances of finding work were practically non-existent. I spoke zero Italian and all the crap jobs seemed to covered by low paid immigrants from the
Money or no money it was easy to see that
Miraculously, somebody offered me a job as a waiter and I accepted the offer without a second thought. It was only when I got back to the pension that I started to reflect upon this situation in a more negative light. The main question that sprung to mind was; how was I going to be able to wait tables when I didn't know how to speak Italian? With a few days to go before the job started, I convinced myself that I would be able to learn the language. An hour later I could count to five, but I was bored shitless so I read my book instead. And the book was so good I didn't want to put it down. The book was Different Seasons by Stephen King, one story for each season, and all totally brilliant. Two of my favourite films came out of that one book, The Shawshank Redemption and Stand By Me, both absolute classics. I ended up staying up all night to finish the book in one go.
The following day, I went around to the restaurant and told them that I didn't want the job. I'd made the decision; I was going to go home. With my money dwindling and with no skills to offer in the work place I was ready to be pampered by my mum. The kibbutz had been an easy way of living but as soon as I'd left I realised the reality of "normal" life. Accommodation that had to be paid for, the prospect of a shitty job, and only an inflatable doll to love.
The next night Luke came over to visit me and we had one last drinking session. We'd intended to sneak him into my pension at the end of the night but the manager of the place had different ideas. After several attempts to sneak past him past reception, and a warning that I was going to get thrown out of the pension, we gave up and resorted to plan B. This involved throwing a duvet out and pillows out of the window for Luke so that he could sleep on the beach in comfort.
As the plane touched down at
And that was it; the journey was over, almost six months after it began. I'd left Manchester back in January with plans to conquer the world, as I stood there and stared at my fatigued mum it felt that the world had conquered me. It was time for the "real" world again.