It was 1986 and I was studying in South Wales, in Llantwit Major. I was 19.
It was spring and the sun was warm and the grass was green and the sea was peaceful.
I had high hopes of travelling and studying and making art and dance and act and sing.
Those were my dreams and I lived them as much as possible. I was volunteering, travelling, writing, creating, singing and acting and studying.
I was in love (his name was sweet and his voice was deep) and everything felt perfect.
Every Saturday, I used to walk to Llantwit, catch a bus to Cardiff and then a coach to Bath. There, I felt cosmopolitan, universal, eager, adult, professional, mature and very, very independent.
And there, in a shop, I bought a woollen shirt: white, soft, warm.
I used to wear it everywhere.
No one back home, in this provincial town in Italy I was coming from, had anything like it.
I was unique, I was exploring, finding and defining me. Me and a chunky woollen shirt.
And then things changed, plans fell apart, dreams got reassessed and life placed on hold.
I have been going through university interviews lately. This process, so unknown to me, felt alien and daunting. I sat, for the first time in ages, to think and plan for my future with the idea of living, this time, and not just surviving. I felt the call for those dreams I always wanted to pursue, the life of a performer, a creator, an artist. I was re-living those warm spring afternoons and the green grass. I was up and down trains, chatting to other students, bouncing ideas off. Then, at times, very tired I was feeling more like the mother of a prospective student than the student herself. All these girls with their nervous dads, dangling feet off the chairs and waiting for their names to be called.
When my name was called I stood up, went in, had my interview and walked out. And no dad was waiting for me in those halls, no dad smoking outside under a shed.
There is a melancholy of a time that there is no more, for a time that was lost, for years gone, and the knowledge that it could soon end. There are 30 years in my past, which now I would like to have in front of me, now that I am really starting.
And then yesterday I was in Blackburn town centre, at the Mall, and there, in a shop, on sale and even further reduced, a woollen skirt. Soft, warm. Mine.
I am wearing it today with pride, on top of my jeans. Knowing that whatever happened, happened. Knowing that I am trying, I'm working, and hard, for my future. Knowing that I like my journey and I appreciate the path I am on. Grateful that I still have the opportunity to do it. Actually, more thankful than grateful. Grateful that I have good friends who support me. Knowing that whatever happens, I will be ok. Knowing that the spark I had in me those years ago has not disappeared. I just had a 30-year detour. Now I am back on track.
And I have my woollen skirt.