Otherwise, I am currently on the horns of a dilemma: be a sensible citizen, and re-enter the world of work. Or finish off my Italian odessey, with Sicilia, Calabria, Basilicata and the Adriatic coast until I once more cross the Alps to Austria...oh! the choices!
Monday, 6 July 2009
Monday, 15 December 2008
Hello there all !
Sorry it has been a while, and sorry that this is not posted from Italy. As many have gathered, I decided to return to England after the Citta Eterna, following a gruesome few days being treated rather less than charitably by nuns. It wasn't just the nuns fault, but it felt like the final straw after two months of exalted and terrible extremes: Italy is a lovely place, but my it is disorganised. To be frank, negotiating The System was driving me insane. Nothing works, or rather nothing is predictable, so one is constantly trying to stave off disaster. Since the Italians are individually extraordinary, disaster was always averted, but not being able to count on anything has its downside. So, given the warnings of death and kidnap, and one or two rather unpleasant encounters in Lazio, plus the sense of the mort de la saison, I decided to come back, cultivate a little patience, and hope that the army deal with the Comorra before the spring. Then, I shall fly into Rome, pick up the Via Appia, and continue where I left off.
Just in case you perhaps don't understand why I despise and love this country in equal measure, I should like to share with you what happened as I left to fly home.
I took the Via Appia south, which was a hideous A road and dual carriageway, but, according to the (rubbish) maps, the only route to Ciampino. Once there, I asked the man behind the counter what I needed to get my bike home. The man from Easy Jet said I had to purchase a bike bag. The man from Ryan Air told me to turn my handlebars around. Hence, i phoned my brother (therefore saving 200Euros) and got a flight the next day with O Leary's (alleged) charlatans.
On returning, naturally enough, it turned out that it wasn't so easy. Ryan air were keen to charge me 15euros per kilo over the 15kg limit. Since I have a bike, you can imagine this turned out to be quite expensive. Like many others, I duly spent some time digging out the heaviest things and putting them into carry on luggage.
As I stood, at the counter, frankly pretty furious with Mike O Leary and the intransigent rudeness of the silly bint at the desk, a bald headed chap emerged from somewhere and began to take a keen interest in my bike. Giving it the once over, he confessed he used to be a cycle racer, and asked me what I was doing in Italy. We got chatting, as ever, as I told him my adventures, and he asked me why I was going home.
Now, since he was nice, I toyed with the idea of lying, but eventually, I decided to be honest: I was sick and tired with Italian bureaucracy and inefficiency. I longed for (can you believe it?) Germanic orderliness and things that worked. I was going home to recouperate and marshall my forces to enable me to tolerate another two months of extreme joy and despair.
Rather to my surprise, he shrugged and agreed with me.
"Even for the Italians, Italy is exasperating', he said.
Having given me advice on where to go and what routes were interesting, he was about to leave, when it suddenly occurred to him that the contents of my panniers were all over the floor. He asked me why, and following the honesty is the best policy ethos once again, I told him,
"Because of the bloody, mercenary, deceitful S**!!ts at Ryan air. "
Nodding in understanding, the man turned to the woman behind the counter.
'If this girl is over the weight limit, forget it' he said.
I goggled in horror, only now seeing the little Ryan Air badge. He merely winked and smiled. When she protested about 'the computer' he snapped back, apparently totally disinterested in her excuses.
"Just fix it! There is a queue."
Thus I checked my luggage, free of surcharges, and was kissed on both cheeks and sent home.
It didn't end there, amici: passing through security, I was stopped. A handsome Customs officer informed me I had a knife in my bag. Dash it all! I had unloaded my first aid kit into my hand luggage, and my Swiss Army knife was in the box! I shook my head and explained,
"I had to unload my baggage. Is there any way I can go back and check another bag?"
The guard, looking rather handsome and dashing, may I say, in his uniform, shook his head, "You haven't time."
"Can I send it by post?"
He shook his head again.
"But it was a present from my brother!" I wailed. "I need it for my bike: its got a bike tool on it!'
This, it seemed, was the secret code word; the Open Sesame for the Italian Customs.
"You have a bike?" His eyes gleamed.
"Yes, I just checked it through security."
"Have you, by any chance, any tape?'
Since, like all cyclists, I carry gaffer tape like a security blanket, I fished in my pocket and drew out the cyclist's answer to all ills. He took it off me, tapped his nose and winked.
"No promises; but wait there, Signorina. I'll be back."
With that Terminator announcement, the Italian custom's man disappeared whilst I awaited the fate of my knife. Ten minutes later, he returned, giving me the thumbs up sign.
"I have taped it beneath the luggage label, so they won't see."
And thus, the wonderful Italians _ for the second time in Ciampino - reminded me why I love and loathe this place. Nothing works, because no one obeys anything inconvenient. They love nothing more than doing exactly what they want. If what they want is against the law, rude, inconvenient...well, its unfortunate, but that's just life. Rules are mere guidelines, there to be assessed in individual circumstances. If they don't roughly concur with what suits, they can be ignored. As a result, the System, usually byzantine and stupid on paper, becomes even more utterly unworkable in fact. I doubt I have ever been to a more ill-disciplined country, nor a country with a more healthy sense of pragmatic tolerance. Everything about Italy is unmanageable, mad and infuriating. I have never been so emotionally labile than in the two months I spent here. But neither have I seen people so ready to help. People rise above the madness with a charm which is infectious. It is chaos, but it is rather marvellous, too. I both despise and adore Italy; it certainly isn't boring. It really is, on all levels, a place of operatic extremes.
Ciao for now. Watch out for the springtime!