Volume 6 part 037 Relearning
Spring 2010, was reserved for renovating Chelsea court. Peter was getting well again. The bungalow was a shit-hole when we bought it but by the time we returned grannies gear from storage in May of 2010 it was worthy of her christening it her “Beautiful bungalow”. Having little concept of space and already few memories of Cromford she had no recollection of the compromise on size we had made or, indeed that the new house had no upstairs. The profits were topping up the thirty thousand plus a year she was spending on the residential home and her upkeep. The running costs for the house came on top but she liked her things and needed to see them occasionally. The Bungalow provided a pad for Joe and the family to stay without the need for a daily twenty-five-mile commute between Cromford and Sheffield. Joe came to help with the unpacking and unveiling in May 2010. She returned with the Carla and her family later that summer although generally visits became increasingly infrequent. We sold the bungalow in September 2012 through general lack of interest.
To make up for the lack of an early season break in 2010, and much against my guilt at binging during a recession, we did New York for ten days in early September, taking the middle seven days for our first stay at the Belvedere in Cherry Grove. (refer previous Blogs)
We left Bubble in the residential home while we did the traditional autumn week in Italy in late October. I booked a long week-end in Rome. Neither Pete nor Joe had been to Rome. The only time I had been was with David in spring of ’72 when we did the tampon-run. In almost forty years of ripping-off countless millions of tourists, little had changed in the city. The pavements remained decrepit. Where the roads had been diverted away from the coliseum, concrete blocks delineated the new route. The original crumbling roadway and pavements, which should have become a grand piazza, remained visible.
We had hired a BMW. Driving on the wrong side of the road in the wrong side of the car is more precarious than being on the wrong side of the road in the right side of the car. The body doesn’t compensate for having the bulk of the vehicle on the right. A few Lambrettas went home without wing mirrors that week-end. Nadia loaned us her Sat Nev. The only pre-set alert was for restaurants. At first I thought the crunching noise was static on the radio but soon correlated the sound of someone eating a bag of walker’s crisps open mouthed, with the incidence of road side eateries. The car ate its way through a couple of boxes in the three hours’ drive from Pesaro to Rome.
I had reserved two rooms at the “Chambre d’Ore”, “The Rooms of Gold”, located only two short blocks from St Peter’s because it had both location and parking. We repeated the Italian version of an irate satnav berating us with “You are now at your destination” a couple of times, removing an equal number of wing mirrors in the process, before Pete Spotted an isolated doorway sandwiched between a Café and a Cake Shop. The hotel reception comprised a single room about four Meters Square decorated in Florentine Baroque and full height polished walnut wall panelling. The only furnishing was a small ornate desk set parallel with the rear wall. Strangely, there appeared to be no exits from the lobby and certainly no lifts on show.
How does a Hotel obtain a four-star status when the bedrooms are single bed apartments in a residential building built by Mussolini between the wars located two blocks down the street from reception?
Correctly, the reception was two blocks from St Peter’s as advertised. The Bedrooms, however, were four blocks from the Basilica. The car park was an alley a further two blocks closer to the River Tiber and alongside a sister hotel which looked altogether more hospitable. If you don’t mind the walk you can breakfast with your car.
Tapestries adorned the bedrooms walls. The view across an enclosed light- well not unlike the one in Oslo, gave an aerial view from our room into Josephine’s. A tiny, totally internal hall-way leading off the main central terrazzo staircase constituted the sitting room. The bathroom completed the suite. The sliding doors to the shower cubicles were so narrow that Joe reported having to enter sideways, one tit at a time.
We did St Peter’s square but not the Cathedral or the Sistine Chapel. We did the Forum but couldn’t be bothered to venture inside or, indeed into the Coliseum despite pressure from touts to buy fast track tickets that simply exchanged one queue for another. On the walk along the Tiber we bought a shirt and Leather coat for twenty Euros from a man strapped for cash needing to buy petrol. The shirt was backless. The leather melted in the autumn sunshine. We had walked from the hotel almost to the Forum before we found a bar for Pete to have a pee. It had not been a leisurely stroll, not least because we were now carrying crap contraband, knock-off, clothing. The Pantheon would have been nicer had the municipality spent some money fixing the pavement pot holes still there since my last stopover in ’72 when it was possible to park in the square. At the Fontana di Trevi, Joe narrowly missed taking out a China-man’s right eye throwing coins backwards into the fountain for good luck.
We dined twice in the Piazza del Poppollo served by a pig-ignorant Italian clearly in the wrong Job and in dire need of people skills. The food was good and the view spot-on. Giving him a tip and a second chance broke the ice. We got free bread on the second visit.
At the top of the Spanish steps Joe fell in love. Although denial developed into something of a protest she must have been staring at the waiter serving us drinks in a street café to a very smart Hotel. She had unwittingly attracted his attention whilst rebuffing his offer to refill half-full glasses by blurting out, In English, that she “was only looking at his name badge”. “What an interesting Name”! … to which the waiter replied in equally precise English, “I’ve always been named Emile”. Half way down the Spanish steps, kicking our way through the infestation of “crusties” from every part of the globe, Joe was still arguing that she had read “Emily” and not “Emile”. The waiter’s “package” had also not gone unnoticed by Peter or myself!
Peter snoozed in the evenings while Joe and I would promenade the streets at the back of St Peter’s taking in a glass of wine and reconnoitring restaurants …frequented by a largely local crowd… for dinner when joined later by Pete. We had done the designer restaurants down town, during the day. Peter had no interest in repeating the walk along the Via Veneto in the evening just to be seen eating with the very people who had pinned us against the shop fronts with their oversized soft top, super cars earlier in the day.
I was glad to leave Rome. Rome is a city that has little appeal. Joe will go anywhere whilst Pete hates to move everywhere. Travel for me is part of the holiday. Travel for Pete is an evil to be exorcized at every possible opportunity. Stopping for a spot of sightseeing in Assisi pushed all the buttons. Joe shopped, I snooped, and Peter scowled. We got the last table in an out-of-the-way side street restaurant carved out of the rock face, serving food to die for. Another meal on that trip and it probably, and literally would have been the meal to die for. It was an eating holiday… no doubt initiated by Nadia’s satnav.
Christmas was cancelled in 2010. We cremated Bubble on the twentieth of December. Joe only just managed to avoid the winter snow by getting home through Stansted early on the twenty second. Our dear friend Howard, “Mother” to Pete, died on the twenty-third. Three days earlier and we could have done a double burn… after all, Howard got on the Syb who was interned in a basket tied up with pink bows. Howard liked pink bows.
Ma’s funeral flowers decorated the barbecue table visible from the dining room window. They added colour to an otherwise bleak winter.
Joe returned to England in spring of 2011. There was much to be agreed. Fragile reminders from Bubble’s lifetime of hoarding were shared out amongst the family. A good deal went to Italy by Landover that year. Some went to charity shops. Some stayed at home. Fur Coats went to Italy, boxed and by first class post. (see blog for Landrovers)
The April Trip was so much a final farewell.
It had been forty years since David and I braved Europe in an Austin Maxi. Nearly half a century later and we were still retracing the steps carrying a truck full of cargo half way across mainland Europe. We left Bubble alone by scattering her ashes under a bush in the Belvedere in Aachen. She was home but alone. All her life, Bubble hated to be alone. As we re-joined the ferry in Calais two weeks later I resolved never to return. Things change. People change. Memories are so often richer than reality. Ibiza was not alone on the list of places least likely-to-return-to.
Irony is an interesting concept. Was it ironic that we returned to the Belvedere on Fire Island that year? Was it ironic that the sleaze pit shared its name with Bubbles final resting place? Was it Ironic that an unexpected hurricane ruined the holiday that year and also put the Belvedere off-limits but onto the “Ibiza list of things best not repeated” for life?