Two of these sketches were done in the café at the swimming pool while my kids had lessons. They were drawn in my smallest pocket sized notebook in conte crayon and grey brushpen. I realised I had covered the table with pigmented dust and mopped it up with spilt tea.
They were inspired by photographs I had taken in Pompeii and archival photographs of the last eruption of Vesuvius in 1943.
Some weeks before we went on holiday to see Pompeii, I chanced to see an man in his 90s and it came out in conversation that the reason his skin was so prone to cancer in old age was it had been chronically exposed to sun working outdoors in Italy as a Royal Engineer. What was that like, I asked. It was great he said, we blew things up. He found himself on the beach near Naples when Vesuvius erupted, the ground shaking beneath his feet and ash dropping on them. What did you do, I asked. We just stayed there, he said, the army didn’t really know what to do. This is corroborated in the archival accounts on line. The Allies were gradually winning the war and pushing up through Italy but were a bit nonplussed by a volcano erupting.
When I was a teenager, my mother’s partner, then the age I am now, had spent his youth driving a tank through Italy in that same campaign. He had clearly fallen in love with Italy, its women and wine. He went on to learn the language and imported Italian wine and lingerie for a living. From him I learned to love crisp dry Prosecco and that not all right wing anarchic Tories are bad.