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  • Writer's picturematilde tomat

IB 07 | [inner] travelling : Oxford 03

24/06/23 : SAT

Good lord, I could have bought anything and everything in this shop; but I contained myself and treated only to 5 glass spheres [which are now on my altar, right in front of me while I am editing this].

I spent last night looking for a place to vomit. I spent lunchtime with my head stuck in the sun, was way too tired and tried to eat something that got clung in my stomach... all of these contributed to my walking silently bordering hedges and tucked away corners of the campsite looking for a place to kneel. I tried the toilet block, but it was full of people talking, and laughing and it wasn't conducive to my vomiting. Hence, my faithful little camping spade and I walked around avoiding waves of nausea till I found the perfect spot. Anyway, kudos to me because I have learned to vomit in silence, which is a bonus. Plus, I was giggling to myself while getting ready to sleep prepping for an imaginable impromptu need to vomit again: hide the keys of the car, leave one of the doors' zips slightly ajar because you never know, ...

I did not vomit, but I also did not sleep at all: at about 3 am I tried to remember the surname of a guy nicknamed Pigi who owned a sailing boat at the beginning of our pontoon in Aprilia, named Magoga (the boat, not the pontoon) around 1990. I can see him and see his sailing boat but I cannot remember his surname... and what would I do even if I recollected it?! Anyway, one of those nights!

I am at ch. 4 of The Travel Writer’s Way di J Lorie - Tell a Story - holy Paul Theroux suggests that I “reflect hard on the reason for taking the trip”. This was written as an en-passant kind of note and still: so so important! Why I am out and about: what is the reason for taking this trip? I cannot believe that I have to think hard about it! Don't get me wrong: I am happy to be here writing about learning to vomit silently or about this first "adventure with a denture" [I cannot believe I am actually writing about it!]. These are all the "side stories" of this main narrative but probably what really make this trip real. More personal, And also funny. Because, I can promise you, I laughed.

I mean: after my walking accident of 2 years ago in Scotland, besides learning not to be scared of walking and falling again and learning to trust myself outdoors - or even to cross a road in Manchester without freezing in the middle - I have now learned to live with a denture due to the damage to my face and teeth. I have learned to adapt, the change, to plan days out, to choose what to eat; but also to smile and talk with confidence. I never thought that I had to learn how to camp! Meaning : what about the toilet block? Where do I change, brush and rinse my denture? Where do I leave it while I sleep? What if I need to go to the toilet in the middle of the night and there are other people walking about? What if I just could not be bothered to wear it one day? All these questions are now answered very easily, but it never occurred to me to ask them before I set off from home. I mean: I remember reading a blog about a guy who does solo hiking and camping in the snow and he was suggesting to store your denture in water in a Tupperware [as you should] inside a sock and then inside your sleeping bag so that it would not freeze but I knew that that would not be a possibility in June in Oxford, UK. But what about an amazing 50-something Italian woman solo camping for studying and research pacing about the campsite with a makeup bag and a well-hidden Tupperware?!

The first couple of days you would have seen me walking around the campsite, clocked in my famous grey scarf that comes with me everywhere I go, or sporting a COVID mask even if I did not really needed it, waiting to have the whole block of sinks in the female toilet area just to myself. In and out, back and forth, monitoring the other campers - and wasting so much time! [And giggling all the time...] Then, I asked myself if I could have used the disabled / family toilet and bathroom: is wearing a denture enough of a disability? I spent hours asking myself these questions: camping with an ethical conundrum! In the end, I did: I felt more comfortable, and I am sure that I avoided potential issues with other campers by hiding my morning and evening ablutions. To be honest, the wearing of a denture is not a disability in itself, but my adapting to a life with it, alone, learning to eat / speak / live / converse / engage with others while sharing communal spaces partially is. I made sure that no one needed the facilities and that I would use them for the shortest time possible. So : I have learned something else about myself!

I have also noticed that I have barely spoken to anyone since the Saturday before I set off. And today, for some reason, it hit me v hard. Sunday was prepping, and then it has only been "hello, good morning, thank you, I don’t need a receipt", and lots of other thank-yous to bus drivers, takeaway people, or the ones holding doors. There has been smiling and nodding. I think that the longest conversation I had was : "Hello, I bought this ticket online with the student discount and I have now realised I left my student card downstairs in the locker and…” and the guy just shrugged his shoulders and scanned my QR code.

That’s it.

That’s all.

You see: when I am writing these happy, funny things, like the "adventure-with-a-denture", I feel the flow going while If I’m trying to write something interesting and deep about drawing and the haptic experience, I can only think about me kneeling and vomiting in a bush. I do really think that my stories have colour, flow and depth - not in a moral and ethical kind of way, but in a concreteness I don’t think they would have otherwise. There is location, there are people, there’s the hero or antihero [me and all those corollary figures]... For example, I am thinking about the juxtaposition of my silence and not talking, with the mother, yesterday, reading the description at the Pitt Rivers to her disabled teenage daughter whose eyes were closed and taking it all in. I’m not making things up: I’m just observing and putting things together.

Another question I could ask myself: whose feet am I following? I am thinking Nonno Romano who was always travelling and then Min : our Giacomino Anzil, the explorer: my second cousin. He brought back spears and artefacts and I bring back people, observations and experiences. I don't know why I just got this mental image of Bruce Chatwin in Patagonia... there is something you don’t have and then something you have at the end!

I know I am searching for something, but I don’t know what I am searching for. There is a sense of restlessness, or itching that needs scratching and that does not allow me to feel at home anywhere...

[oh, before I forget: what did sweet Helen say yesterday

about dancing and drawing

movement, people moving as dots drawing

clouds moving are drawings in the sky

people walking are drawings on the soil

fish swimming are drawing in water

<<< all of this needs to go into my Polyhymniades!]

What is this sense of restlessness telling me? what am I looking for? A sense of peace, inner peace. Maybe all my looking for outside peace and quietness is a mirror of inner restlessness, a sense of looking-for-a-purpose, something that would quench this thirst. But this thirst for what? Inner knowing… actually Inner Knowing.

2:22 and I am at the Radcliffe: in that Radcliffe-thingy library place, THAT place you see in all the movies! THAT building! Hold on a sec: I have to take a step back: I just came out of the Shelley Memorial: and I was there alone… ALONE… I just asked permission to go in. It is not marked: if you don’t know, you don’t know. Nothing! Even on the door. I just tried and pushed this heavy door and I got in… I asked permission from the porter to go and see, he told me to wait a little bit and then he told me to go in but not to put my hands in between the railing. And that was it. I wouldn’t! So, I walked, slowly and deferentially along the wall of the inner garden and got in.


No one else but me and him. I didn’t know if I had to bow, kneel, sign the cross, or declaim something, but only tears came up.

I felt moved by a sculpture. I don't know what came over me.

Moved by someone who fell heavily, washed by Tuscan waves and just rested there, on this cold piece of marble.


Now that I am here, at the Radcliffe, I actually found the courage to stand up and walk about and see what’s on offer here. Do you realise that this is really the place to come and study? THIS is IT. I still cannot believe that I am sitting here.

p.s.: I am sitting here and touching these 5 glass spheres I bought, in their blues and greens. I have always felt fascinated by spheres. I just got this memory of these ivory white and black spheres and a leather pouch, in Grandpa's living room [what's with me and Nonno Romano, today?!]… but I don’t remember the game, only these beautiful spheres… I remember the hapticity, the tactility in my hands. But somehow also they projected something sinister: an aura of masonic decisionality… well, I just found out online that there is such a thing as a black and white ivory ball masonic voting system. Why did Grandpa have to do with them? I remember the texture of holding these balls in my hands; the expectancy of being warm {wood} but instead they were cold [ivory]. White was not really white, and black was really ebony… what a feeling, sensation. What a memory! Anyway: time to go, it’s 3:33 now.


I just realised that tomorrow I am going back home. I have mixed feelings: I would like to stay but I am also in pain and I - strangely - miss my bed. I feel a tad ashamed that I haven't written as much as I wanted to, that I do not feel 100% invested in this writing-down-south academic thing, and that I do not feel detached and fully instilled into studying, head down on all these books. On the other hand, I felt sucked into an emotional rollercoaster of memories, tactility, experiences, new faces, new places. I feel drunk on physical automatic responses. And I haven't been to the river yet!

How can I leave, tomorrow, while I feel that there is still so much more for me to experience?

onwards + upwards,


Following stats referring to the whole day:

Dates : 24 JUN 2023

Journey : car : 25 miles + bus : 7 miles

Steps : 6,187

Entrance : Shelley Memorial : free [you will need to ask permission to the Porters]

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