2nd September, 2016
Leaving family is hard. It just is. There is no salve that can diminish the nasty pain of saying goodbye. You can suggest, as I did, that we will return in two years time but that doesn’t stop the wrench on the heartstrings, the feeling of despair deep in the solar plexus that rips and twists and asks why must families live so far apart on separate sides of the world? Why? Why did we have to go global?
I don't feel ready to acknowledge that this grand/small European tour is drawing to a close. My mind is in revolt. But wait a moment the plane, en-route to Rome, is flying over the Swiss Alps and there is snow on the mountain tops like folded egg white beaten into peaks just before you put the meringue mixture into the oven.
4th September, 2016
Everybody rushes here. When we got off the plane last night, people were pouring through the airport. They were eating too, delicious food, in restaurants that lined the walk to the baggage carousels and they were promenading past the shops and talking on their phones, and a child was picking out the tune, in a very laboured manner, of ‘twinkle twinkle little star’ on a grand piano, and this seemed to be tolerated and welcomed, by the Italians who love and value their piccolo bambini.
The men at our hotel are smooth-tongued and very courteous and have names like Alessio and Mario and Francisco. When I thanked Francisco for showing, on a map, the exact location of the Maxxii, Zaha Hadid’s 21st century of museum of art, he said, ‘Oh, all the pleasure is from you, Dr Shepard.’
5th September, 2016
I don’t want the good times to end. So I will put them on hold and continue the feeling of still being on holiday by writing about the last hours in Rome. Our friends met us at our hotel and we walked through the balmy night air, down the narrow streets of cobblestone to a restaurant where we sat outside at a long table and caught up on several years of living and working and also on their children, who accompanied us.
The eldest has grown into a young man who is an intriguing mixture of both his mother and his father, with all their enthusiasms for living and an aptitude for study. My kiwi friends work for the World Food Fund and last night I listened with interest to the stories of despatching and conveying food and people into Syria and getting supplies and aid to people in the most vulnerable parts of Africa and my friend Julie’s involvement designing policies that will empower people on the ground, on their own terms in their everyday lives. We learned about the struggle of achieving goals with never enough funding to cover the needs, too.