YERP 2 12 May 2018
Fear not. I won’t deluge you with blography, but we leave Rome tomorrow to board the Floating Apartment Block (hereinafter referred to as the FAB) and whilst at sea will be cut off from the internet. I’ll keep writing, though, so there may be a book sized blography at disembarkation time.
The organisers of FAB have put us up in the used-to-be-grand-in-1940 Mediterraneo Hotel not far from the train station. Jet lagged and confused, we wandered the streets last night looking for a local nosh. The trouble with Rome is that it is full of Italians and not enough of them understand Australian English. However, we did find a little well-linguisticed restaurant where Michelle got stuck into a spaghetti mountain and I into a cheesy pizza the size of a Ferrari wheel.
We got chatting to a couple in the next table and ma goodness! they were from Bondi, not far from where we live, and ma goodness again! they were booked on the same FAB voyage. How nice, we thought, as he told us his great love was to sing and that he used to have his own band but no longer gigged. However, we grew apprehensive when he said that whenever he saw a band he always offered his services for free – whether they wanted them or not, I suspect. From his pocket he drew a piece of paper with a long list of songs he could sing. They were all up-beat, feet-aboppin howlers that I particularly dislike. He dashed off a few samples, much to the immediate discomfort of his wife who told him to put it away – a comment usually reserved for other unwelcome activities. I feebly muttered that my father used to sing ‘bye bye blackbird’ which set him off again. As he stood to leave, promising that we’d jam on board, I realised that we may have come across a Tourette’s singer. Maybe this wasn’t his wife with him, but a carer armed with a chunk of wadding and a syringe for a bad attack. We wrote down their cabin number so we could spend our time at the other end of the FAB.
During the night some urgent knocking on the door awoke us from travel-drugged sleep to find a room boy standing outside offering an empty ashtray he said we’d requested. I’m suspicious of that, especially on a non-smoking floor. Are we being investigated? I’ll be extra vigilant.
The Roma Growler
A big moment at breakfast: my first hotel toaster upon which to report. The Roma Growler stood before me on three original and one rear prosthetic leg, its interior glowing and growling with expectation. But as the sign says, it will only accept sliced bread. That must have history. Did a past diner try to roast prunes in there, or maybe a whole loaf of bread? I obeyed the sign in case the toast captain was watching, and submitted two slices. Quite a bit of time and growling later warm bread slid into the out tray. Since it took another pass to make it into toast, I give the Roma Growler six and a half out of ten, having deducted half a point for the prosthetic leg. Tough, I know, but I’ve seen Derek Breadchamber disqualify a toaster altogether just for unruly crumbs.
We took a walking tour of the Jewish quarter in the morning. Part of it was a stop in at the main synagogue, a magnificent building that could become a Catholic cathedral with a simple makeover of statues, red lights, more candles and a few puffs of smoke. While our guide recounted the dreadful treatment of the Roman Jews during the Second World War, what struck me was that the end of the war did not mean unqualified redemption. In many ways, the suffering went on. Today there are only 16,000 Jews living in Rome and its suburbs which have a total population of around five million. And here’s the real irony of Rome: this city, which glorifies Roman Catholicism, and was conflicted with Judaism, adoringly worships a man called Jesus who was a Jew.
Last night, a special moonlight tour of The Colosseum with dinner had been organised by the FAB for its upcoming sailors. However, it morphed into an unspeical tour of the Colosseum by hot afternoon light along with about half a million other people who had come for unspecial tours of their own. I interpreted this as a FAB fitness test in disguise. Because most of our group are of surplus years, many with aids such as flashy adjustable walking sticks, there is a possibility that some them may actually be unfit for travel and expire during the voyage, their bodies having to be committed to the deep. Better to have them fail on a route march around the Colosseum, including a few sets of punishing steps. To their credit, our sailors survived the Colosseum, but then had to pass a final test of steeply sloping cobbled streets and multiple stone staircases to get to the restaurant. Again, they came through and were rewarded with an excellent Italian meal, including wine.
Today we set out by bus to go to the port where the FAB awaits its passed-fit sailors. Lurking among them is the Tourette’s singer, but also the promise of very interesting people.
Near the synagogue is Not The Trevi Fountain. It has replaced the horses with tortoises, the water is not blue but beige, the male appendages are bigger, and there is a bowl at the top instead of a huge bloke with a beard. Apart from these differences, Not The Trevi Fountainis identical to the Trevi Fountain. Both accept three coins, unlimited wishes and swimmers on a hot day.