Tuesday, January 25, 2011
This morning I went to pick up my mother's x-ray results. I walked there but on my way back it started raining just after I'd gone past the point where I could have got a bus, so I decided to take a shortcut.
This brought me through the old psychiatric hospital grounds. It's a beautiful place, really, huge grounds, almost a little citadel surrounded by a huge park. Not a bad place to be mad in, if you ask me. Anyway, the way I took was a shortcut all right: to the wrong part of town. I walked in the rain in the wrong direction for about 1/2 hour before I started to suspect that maybe I was going the wrong way. It was about lunch time and, with the rain, the place was deserted. It's not been used as a psychiatric hospital for ages now, although I think some of the buildings still house mental health patients, but I could still feel some of the old atmosphere. When I was a child the place used to emanate scary vibes. Your parents would go out of their way to give it a wide berth when they took you out for a walk. They probably did the same even whithout children being with them. Just because the place and part of the area around the grounds would be teaming with bedraggled weirdos walking around like zombies, looking lost and talking to themselves, twitching and looking over their shoulder.
Anyway, no more of that, as the place has been turned into a different kind of medical centre (mainly admin, I think). So, today, I had to laugh when I found myself in the deserted park, looking over my shoulder at those imposing buildings behind closed shutters, muttering to myself that I'd been walking around in circles and checking the time to see how late I was, a little bit nervous and very much soaked by the rain, my hair plastered around my face. I laughed and I wondered... "is that all they were? Were they just a little bit lost? Is some direction all they needed when other people were giving them such a wide berth?"
Changing subject. I could write a guide book to the best toilets in Florence. I don't know if it's part of getting older, or if it's just the cold, or whatever, but since I got here I've been having a "bladder autonomy" of about 5 minutes, it seems at times. All public toilets in Florence require payment, but all shops where food and drinks are served are required by law to have customer toilets, so I've been planning my walks in a way that I'd be close to a nice cafe' at least once per hour. Since I have to pay to use the toilet I might as well get a coffee thrown in! The other day I was caught short while I was in Florence Central Station. One minute I was walking without a care in the world, the next minute I was dying for a wee. I didn't have time to look for a nice cafe' so I quickly made my way to the station cafe' toilets while rummaging in my bag for change. I approached the attendant with an outstretched arm proffering the coins as I couldn't waste precious seconds. The guy looked at me with a strange look and hesitated before coming out from behind his desk to get the payment. As soon as the coins had left my palm for his I veered left in the direction I knew the loos to be in. And walked straight into the wall. I'd forgotten there was a wall between the entrance hall and the loos. In my haste to get there quickly, I'd completely missed the attendant's puzzled look and hesitation - of course he was looking at me funny, why would someone not take the last few steps to both reach him and pay, and hit the doorway instead of the wall?
I left the guy bent over laughing - difficult not to as I was almost in tears too while running past him :D