Blue Sky Mine

Blue Sky Mine

Read More · 15 September 2007

Under the Volcano

My first encounter with Naples was supposed to happen twenty years ago but never did. Towards the end of our Grand Tour in the winter of 1985-86, my family had been dazzled by Florence, toppled by Pisa, and overwhelmed by Rome... perhaps a little too literally in the last case, as the combined effect of rain, crazy traffic and taxi drivers adding noughts to all those fares in lira had worn us down at the end of a long trip. But we pressed south to our ultimate destination, until the bad weather took a turn for the biblical and showered us in hailstones the size of marbles. Dad pulled off the highway into a motel, where we sheltered for the night and decided that it was time to start our return journey instead of pushing on to Naples.

The place I was most sorry to miss, though, was Pompeii, which had lingered in my imagination since I’d read the Reader’s Digest book of Strange Stories, Amazing Facts at the age of nine. Something about those plaster casts of the victims stuck in my impressionable mind, and Pompeii became my idea of the ultimate archaeological site. Sure, the pyramids were big and pointy, but Vesuvius was too, until its top blew off and spewed boiling lava over the hapless Romans, aiiiieeeee! The story of Vesuvius only grew in stature as I learned about Krakatoa and Thera, visited Hawaii’s Big Island, and followed the eruption of Mount St Helens on the news in the early ’80s. Volcanoes don’t muck around, and being part of the greatest empire of the ancient world was no protection.

So once I knew I was definitely going to Naples for a conference this June, it was no surprise what was uppermost in my mind: would there be enough time to see Pompeii? I booked a flight back on Sunday to be sure of having at least one day free. Then I saw the schedule and found I was presenting on the Saturday morning, my supposedly free day. Maybe I could get the gist in a few hours...

Read More · 21 July 2007 ·

Saw Naples, Now I’m Dead

I got back from a conference in Naples a week ago, but came down with a cold a few days later so haven’t had a chance to turn my impressions and photos into the usual post for posterity. (Fortunately, the little guy seems to have escaped infection.) While I was away the North Sea decided to take a holiday in Britain, and now everything feels damp and un-Mediterranean.

Read More · 24 June 2007 ·

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