This month I have managed to escape twice the grey wet duvet which hangs over the country at this time of the year.
My first escape was taking my 9-year-old son back to school in Lisbon.
We had celebrated an early Christmas in Portugal with “Bacalhau com natas “ (codfish with potatoes), before returning to Gloucestershire for a second UK Christmas and New Year with family and friends.
I bought my son a game of Monopoly for Christmas. I had forgotten what a harsh and realistic experience of capitalism the game is, with its ups and downs and bankruptcies.
Escape number two, was a trip last week to Naples for the opening of my son’s godfather Thomas Dane’s new art gallery. The gallery at 69 Via Francesco Crispi is on the first floor of a 19-century palace with a view over the bay. Thomas is recognised as one of the leading and most respected art dealers in the contemporary art world – representing the Turner and Oscar prize winner Steve McQueen, Cecily Brown, Caragh Thuring, and other art “greats”.
As well as being busy with his art work, Thomas is my neighbour in this beautiful valley outside Painswick.
My betrothed and I flew out to Naples from Luton, two days before the opening, to stay with some new Neapolitan friends that I had met by chance at a lunch last November.
Our new friends do not like to eating things with souls, and are vegan. They collected us from the airport and feasted us on mozzarella and fresh vegetables, before dropping us off at our hotel on the Bay of Naples which overlooked the volcano Vesuvius and the island of Capri.
Thomas had a big turn out, with important art people like Sir Nicholas Serota and his successor at the Tate, Maria Bashaw attending – as well as Bryan Ferry and the beautiful model Kristen McMenamy and her fantastic daughter Lily McMenamy, who I had the good fortune of being seated next to at dinner. Lily, I discovered later, had a part in one of my favourite recent films “ A Bigger Splash ” directed by Luca Guadagnino and staring Ralph Fiennes and Tilda Swinton.
I found Naples to be a gritty, strong, and proud city, close to a dangerous volcano which in AD 79 and erupted, destroying the towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum and 15,000 souls.
My father as a soldier in World War 2 had witnessed Vesuvius erupting in March 1944.
And following in my father’s footsteps, my betrothed and I went round Pompeii. Pompeii had been rediscovered in 1748 under the Bourbon King Charles III and excavations of the 4 meters of soft puny stone and ash having been going on ever since.
I found the level of sophistication of Roman civilisation humbling and proud making. It is definitely worth taking a guide. We had been recommended a great one through our Neapolitan friends. The train from Naples to Pompeii costs less than 2 Euros.
I feel that I have been incredibly blessed.