A Tuscan adventure / by Laura Ward

Recently I was on a train bound for a northern city in Italy . People were boarding like they were on a Ryan Air flight, desperate to cram their suitcases into whatever space they could. They stood in the aisles and muttered to one another in tense and tired tones. At one stage the train stopped inside a long, dark tunnel and the lights went out. Heat began to rise and I forced myself to take deeper, slower breathes. The train would start moving again and the lights would come on soon, surely.

By this point I’d been in Italy for 6 days. It may have been September but the heat was still pounding the low 30s and I’d been bitten by mosquitos almost 50 times. On day 3 I had started to sleep more soundly than I had for a while. It was probably all the cycling I’d been doing through Tuscany. It was as idylic as it sounds and worth every mosquito bite.

 5 minutes away by bike

5 minutes away by bike

I’d been out of sorts for a few weeks. Books, music, gardening and walking were not really helping. During the tense, dark moment on the train I had just about enough time to have a stern word with myself. What was wrong with me? <edit a month later: I figured out what was wrong but that’s a whole other adventure>.

A year ago I decided I really wanted to go to Norway but for some reason found myself in Italy. This, of course, was no hardship. I casually discussed Italy with an Italian colleague and then found myself going to her neck of the Tuscan woods, doing photography work at an Air B&B in Torre del Lago. A later blog post on that will follow.

I don’t normally travel with my heavier camera gear but this gave me a good reason. I had a job to do. I could take as many pictures as I wanted of the apartment, Torre del Lago and the places I visited from that base including Lucca and Florence. I also traveled up to Como via Milan and then onto Zurich to celebrate another landmark birthday (and to photograph that too). This was a lot of travel so I packed lightly and made sure I could cycle with my camera gear.

All was well until I lost my Olympus Pen EE-2, gifted only two weeks before on my birthday. Foolishly it had dangled from my handlebar. Foolishly I had only shot one roll through it. I was so angry with myself and didn’t talk for hours.

 My lovely camera, now lost.

My lovely camera, now lost.

I took around 850 photographs on my trip. I was surprised to take so many. There are around a roll of film’s worth of photographs I’d like to keep, but the rest don’t really do very much for me. I found myself pining for film the entire time, wishing I’d packed differently and mourning the loss of my Olympus Pen EE-2 hard.

When I finally came back from my trip (with the mandatory flu caught on the plane home, which I still have 2 weeks later), I found myself back in waiting rooms with surgeons deciding what they’re going to do to me. There will be a bit more of that going on it seems. I am not fed up, nor do I have post-holiday blues, but it’s been an interesting time of reflection. A lot of clearing out.

There’s a lot of good stuff though. More writing, books through the post (thank you Hannah!), trees through the post (I love you CB), a friend on my doorstep with a plant and in need of a cuppa. And a staggering evening watching Kathryn Joseph. We hugged, chatted a little, she made me blush and wrote me a love note. A perfectly timed tonic.

There is also the fact I am helping out and taking part with the Shutter Hub Open at Truman Brewery for East London International Photography Festival which is going to be brilliant. I’m exhibiting at the British Museum staff art show and I am curating something for Shutter Hub at Bridewell Theatre. I am ridiculously excited about that. More posts about this soon.