I am a wanderer. Yes, I slump into the same red chair each morning at 8, my head a day ahead and my liver twitching from last night. But every twelve years or so, those bits feel a need. A manic itch. Even if everything at home fulfils me physically, mentally and all else-ally.
Paris is a love, and I think it loved me. But the city of love it may be, Paris takes its time to love anyone outside its progeny, especially when they’re two metres long, actually say yes, drink New York martinis, work beyond 7 and sing Bach on the street, but I got there in the end. But its time was up. It wasn’t lockdown versus joie-de vivre, two divorces, cancer, bureaucracy, an unrequited love or the final French “non” that broke the camel’s back. Just the ping of the Jolliffe clock.
I’ve moved on by moving back. Before being a copywriter I made church organs, as one does. And some fine and huge ones are made in a tiny little town in Northern Italy. I did just that, right here in 1986 as a gangly unshaven oaf. So whilst Ad-land was in its conceptual and most beautiful heyday, I was surrounded with characters of another kind. It served me well later on. But even then, I vowed to come back. The moment I got off the train two months ago, warm spring rain dousing my neck and beyond, roadside ferns unfurling like mini welcome banners and ash-white woodsmoke casting stripes on army-green mountainsides, I knew I had.
There are no screening rooms, cinemas, delis, gyms, concert-halls, recording studios or hanky-panky clubs in Cuvio. The shops sell few Bang & Olufsen speakers, silk dressing-gowns, Lalique or 300-Euro truffle oils, but ample lemon trees, huge blood oranges, copper furnaces, vine eyes and goads for stunning adders. The one and a half restaurants offer free handshakes, hugs (from May 8th), ones for the road and perfectly dry-cured sincerity. The four cheese shops do it all themselves. It’s where God might go for half-term, a place where wild boar, green geckos, rosaries, pines, hopes and bandsaws live on equal terms with humanity. A village-town hybrid where folk adore you before they’ve even met you. Where ciao means ciao, not what can I sell you.
And yet on day two, jackdaws, poplars and old ladies in black waving my way, I dug out my red chair from a crate, put the Mac on the other, wrote a manifesto as nearly as I ever could. I’m not going to become a boar-hunter, an adder-stunner or even an organ man again. This isn’t so much a revolution and escape, but a new, delicious, kind, green and pleasant way to answer briefs, thank the world I’m still alive, and carry on.