I loved the magical faraway tree when I was a kid. In fact I’m sure it had a profound influence on me wanting to live in England. I used to love imagining worlds that could appear at the top of the faraway tree. And my favourite world was Downhill World. This Mirinda designed world (inspired by Blyton’s Bouncy World in which everyone wore cushions tied around themselves to stop being bruised by the bounces) was like a giant magnetic blancmange that moved so that your feet were always at the highest point and therefore you always walked down hill – never ever ever uphill.
Well today we visited Positano. And hardly 5 minutes went by when I didn’t think of my Downhill World with ever increasing fondness and regret ….
Positano was Dad’s idea. He denied this at several points over the day but the truth is he has mentioned Positano many times over the last couple of weeks, and Ronny’s visit to Positano, and how attractive it is meant to be, and the need to compete with Ronny and so on. I tried to push Ravello and Amalfi into the conversation, but he kept coming back to Positano. So Positano it was. My reticence was that I knew Positano is famous for its stairs, its steepness and its general very sharp downhill and uphilliness. But what can you do? Maybe it wouldn’t be that steep. Wrong. It was much much worse than I had ever imagined!!!!!!!!!!
But firstly there was the bus journey. This twisted and turned and followed the edge of the cliff so closely that I had an almost constant adrenalin rush and braced myself for impact pretty much the entire time. Dad sat beside me saying “look at that view! Gosh that’s a steep cliff face! Heavens look all the way down there!” and so on. Again, I kid you not. I admit everyone else looked perfectly relaxed, but I focused on the bus ceiling and tried not to look…or listen.
We jumped off at the first stop at Positano. Actually the wrong stop but by that stage I would have got off anywhere. The bus left, and everyone else walked off in different directions. We stood there and peered over the edge of the road and saw a long long long way down the town centre. So we began to walk. Down and down we went, twisting and turning and noticing all the closed cafes and hotels and the complete lack of buses or taxis or funiculars or anything that would bring us back up again. We started to make contingency plans: calling our hotel for a taxi (they had collected us from Naples after all), hiring a car to drive back up the hill; feigning a heart attack to get the ambulance to take us; and getting arrested by the police. And still we kept going downhill. And no open cafes and no toilets anywhere in sight.
It has suddenly gone very low season and even in Sorrento many restaurants have closed for the season (including Café Fauno) and all the Christmas lights have been turned off. We began to think Positano, which is a very small place, may simply be closed. We were briefly distracted by a Nativity built into the cliff face at one stage – very steep and Positano like.
But then we kept going down down and down. We got very excited at a taxi sign – but as there was no taxi anywhere it was a bit of a mirage as a sign on its own is absolutely no help at all!
I needed the loo by this stage, and Dad was getting a bit toey for some coffee and both of us didn’t want to think about the ever increasing ascent behind us…
Finally we came across a delicatessen just closing, and popped in to ask if they knew if anything was open in town. Imagine our joy when they turned on the lights, reopened the place, sold us coffee and a sandwich, let us use the loo and best of all told us there was a bus at the bottom that would take us back up!!
After this we cheered up enormously and Dad stopped denying Positano was all his idea.
Refreshed we still had another half mile or more to go but finally we made it all the way to the bottom and a black beach made of volcanic sand. Sounds awful but actually it was spectacularly beautiful. We found a bar at the very bottom and sat drinking GnT and looking over the water. Positano rose behind us, lots of colourful houses built into the incredibly steep cliffs and stacked almost directly on top of each other.
After a very pleasant rest and with the gin now flowing through our veins we found the bus stop, picked up a bus to the very top and then watched the sunset over the Amalfi coast until our Sorrento bus arrived to take us back.
An interesting exercise in anxiety. My mindfulness books say most of what we worry about does not come to pass. Today I worried about the bus going over a cliff, being unable to find a toilet, having to climb back up Positano. being unable to find coffee and not getting any lunch (in that order). Not one of them came to pass.
I guess in an odd sort of way I actually found Mirinda’s Downhill World just when I most needed it.