Wednesday, 19 August 2009

AUG 18th - ROME

Me and Rosie set off for the centre of Rome with Diana in front leading the procession. The roads are quite busy. Clearly the word has got out that I'm on my way. The road takes us first to The Vatican and sure enough there was a huge crowd waiting to greet me. We took a picture of Rosie outside St Peter's.

Maybe the Pope wasn't feeling too well but he didn't come out to greet us himself but there were lot's of other people including a team of Portuguese Vespisti who had driven all the way from Lisbon on vintage scooters, over 2,000 kilometers, to welcome us to The Vatican. There they are in the photo standing beside their scooters all of them over 40 years old and still going strong. Me and Rosie have got a long way to go to catch up with these guys.

Then we went to Piazza Venezia to take a picture in front of the Monument to Vittorio Emanuele. Romans refer to it as the 'macchina da scrivere' (typewriter) or the 'wedding cake' Look at the photo and you will see what they're thinking off. What was Mussolini thinking of when he built it! Don't know - but he was thinking 'big' (Little man thinks big? Napoleon? Hitler? Mussolini?) But then nothing in Rome is small. Huge monuments built in the fascist style go back to Roman times. Fascion? A charming young carabiniere called Umberto was there to welcome us and took a few minutes off from controlling the no parking zone where we had parked to talk to us and shake hands. That's Umberto in the photo. He was very pleased that I had driven from Edinburgh to park Rosie right here under his nose in the no parking place in Piazza Venezia and have his photo taken. Umberto is now a friend and Diana and Umberto have started sending e-mails to one another.

And then we went to The Pantheon and that's where we met another arm of the law. We never got to find out her name or exchange e-mail addresses because she just wanted us to move on. She was a Vigile or something - whatever. Her lot are nowhere near as smart as the Carabinieri. I tried playing the 'cancer card' but that cut no ice. Then we told her about Umberto at Piazza Venezia and what a nice carabinere he was. And that was it! We very nearly got arrested! That's why the picture of Rosie is not in front of The Pantheon but from a street just beside the Pantheon.

And then Diana went to visit her mum and I went to Ristorante Abruzzi which is just round the corner. Thank goodness it's not Saturday - Ristorante Abruzzi is closed on Saturdays. But it is August and the restaurant is closed for the whole month and does not open again until Sept 1st. I went to the restaurant next door and was served by a beautiful Romanian lady called, Lavinia. The other waiter, a young man whose name I don't know, was clearly puzzled by the arrival of such a handsome young man on a Vespa with no woman on the back and he wanted to know why. I told him 'La vità è brutta!' and he shrugged a Roman shrug and suggested I take Lavinia with me. Lavinia didn't seem to be totally disinterested! I waited for Diana and then we wandered up and down the Via Corso: I needed a hat because my scalp was burning and I needed 150 stamps for the postcards I had written and braces to hold up my trousers beause we're going out for dinner tonight. I got the braces and the stamps but I think we probably spent an hour too long in the baking heat. Showered, dressed, shining new orange braces on and - off we go to dinner with Diana's sister and the whole family. There was an awkward moment when I was telling them all about the Italian community in Edinburgh between the wars etc... and Diana's sister asked me if I was a fascist. It was a gentle enquiry but I think I did have to put her mind at rest. We are eight of us around the table alfresco and we start dinner at 9pm. How civilized! The supportng cast are me and Diana, Diana' sister, Beatrice, her daughter Cecilia, her husband, Fabrizzio, her niece, Suzie, and Suzie's fiance, the lucky boy, Barney who comes from Manchester, and the star of the evening is Antonia, Beatrice's youngest daughter - she's doing a project on The Beatles' and knows everything that can be known. We swap Beatles stories. I like the one about Ringo Starr. When John lennon is asked 'Is Ringo the best drummer in the world?' John replied, 'He isn't even the best drummer in The Beatles!'

I came home and lay down clothed in the same warm breeze as last night. It has been a long and beautiful day and I haven't thought at all about what any of this means - I mean what I have done - driven from Edinburgh to here on a scooter. What's it all about? And I go to sleep thinking of the surgeon and his wife, who is my GP, and all the people at Addenbrooke's hospital who have treated me and Ali and I fall asleep in a flood of tears and I don't know why but I could drown in the peace and joy that I feel. It's a funny way to say 'thankyou' . There was a piece of kitch at the newspaper stall in Via Corso with the surgeon's name on it. A stupid little notepad that had the word 'Emmanuel' on the front and it was such a stupid thing and it cost two euros and I didn't buy it. Maybe tomorrow morning I'll go back into the centre of Rome and get it. Now that would be a funny way to say thankyou. Buona notte a tutti! Buona notte.

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