Rome stag and a complicated British Airways sandwich

Outside the Pantheon

Outside the Pantheon

On Saturday I caught an early flight to Rome for a friend’s stag night. Our hotel was close to Rome Termini and I walked there from the station. The Italian at the desk told me: ”Your room is not ready. Come back at 2”. After returning from the United States I had commented on how the English appear terse and rude. Obviously the Italians are no better.

I dropped my bags and took a taxi to Castle Saint Angelo where I met my friends and had a beer. Rome is quite a contrast to the United States and efficiency takes a second place to ancient history. Central Rome is stuffed full of the ancient world and from the top of the Castle one can look out over Rome. The view is fantastic.

In our younger days we may have done a through-er. That is to say, we may have started drinking in the afternoon and continued drinking through into the evening and early morning. However, our advancing years dictated a return to the hotel where a short siesta allowed us to catch our second wind.

On regaining consciousness three taxis carried us to the Pantheon where we found a restaurant and settled at an outside table. The waiter was a comedian and kept us laughing all night as we sat eating pasta and drinking red wine. A street performer ran through Pavaroti’s standards and memories of the 1995 world cup returned. After receiving the bill we realised that our waiter really was a comedian but having had a satisfyingly enjoyable evening we coughed up and headed for the bar near the hotel where we talked bollocks with a couple from the Czech republic.

On Sunday morning we visited the Colosseum. The area was thronged with all the trappings of tourism: Guides, souvenirs, us etc. I guess ’twas ever thus and in a way that is part of the fun. I thought of the Edwardian tourists in in A Room With A View and The Life of Brian when they sold stones and bags of gravel just prior to the stoning. When we gaze upon wonders of the ancient world it is tempting to imbue the creators of these artefacts with awesome and ponderous spirituality. Thankfully Monty Python have shown us a vision of the reality of these people who would have been more akin to modern day builders. While the architects of Canary Wharf and the Gherkin may well hob nob with royalty and have their heads up their arses the actual builders probably supped tea from a saucer, whistled at passing young women and had their arses sticking out the backs of their trousers. Likewise with the Colosseum, it is comforting to realise that the Colosseum building site would have had more in common with Auf Wiedersehen Pet than with Spartacus.

I noticed one “guide” muttering into a microphone and a friend explained: “That’s how it’s done now”. Each member of the tour group wears headphones to receive the wisdom from the droning self appointed guide. Not very sociable if you ask me. Having been on guided tours in the past I enjoyed comments and banter from the audience to supplement the, sometimes dry, rhetoric of the guide. This obsession we have with individualism renders us all spectators. We mistakenly believe that entertainment is something that is done too us rather than something in which we engage – I fantasised about obtaining a transmitter and interrupting the guide’s monologue with musings of my own.

As we reached the restaurant the skies opened and the rain poured down. A canvas canopy protected most of us and a party of Americans sitting nearby hoisted umbrellas but refused to budge.

On the aircraft home I am handed a sandwich with a label listing approximatively 200 ingredients. After landing I queued interminably at passport control in the UK to be greeted by a jolly English passport control officer who apologised for the wait and hoped I had a good time in Rome. We English are not so bad after all, I muse, though, obviously the officer is the exception who proves the rule.

Gatwick Airport have now engaged the services of two separate companies for North terminal Long Stay parking. Two separate buses ferry passengers between the terminal and the car parks but, predictably, none of the passengers, including myself, know which company run the car park in which they have parked. The driver patiently points this out to each and every passengers who boards the bus and each passenger then engages in a short period of confusion before realising that the company name is printed on their ticket.

After arriving at the car park I found that I had not recorded the location of my car an spent five minutes wandering around pressing the button on my car key and listening for my car to beep. It did and I returned home.

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