I once took a job as an English tutor to a 12-year old Italian boy called Cesare. The tutoring was to take place during a 6-week sailing holiday around Corsica and Sardinia, on Cesare’s dad’s yacht. I flew from London to Milan on a Sunday evening, spent the night in C-Dad’s flat, and was flown by private helicopter to Cala Galera the next day.
Cesare, the boat, the skipper, and C-Dad’s 18-year old girlfriend were all ready and waiting to set sail. Also waiting at the docks, however, was Cesare’s recently-divorced mother, who had got wind of the new fidanzata and had swooped into port to remove her son from the sleaze of the situation.
Cesare was whisked home to Milan, and I was jobless. C-Dad apologised for the mess and paid me handsomely. I had a return ticket to London but it seemed crazy not to take advantage of being in Italy with time and cash in hand, so I asked to be dropped at the nearest train station and boarded a train for Rome.
I knew no-one in Rome, couldn’t speak the language, and had no idea where I would sleep. But being only 23 at the time, none of this actually worried me. I figured I wouldn’t starve, and in fact my most pressing concern was to find cigarettes and coffee.
Wondering why this episode from 30 years ago has been on my mind all morning, I think it is because the whole experience was both unusual and liberating. I knew no-one but at the same time no-one knew me or where I was (pre-internet, of course). It was a kind of freedom. No responsibilities except to myself, no-one waiting for me to call, no-one to worry about. I’m sure it can’t hurt to dream of those days occasionally, can it?