The Girl with the Edinburgh Tattoo

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Archive for the month “April, 2014”

Last night I dreamt of the inevitable

Monday 21st April

Here we are in the countdown to home return and after three weeks of successfully relegating all thoughts of home to my deepest subconscious visions and images started to appear in my dreams last night. And did I feel homesick for the grey understated grandeur of Auld Reekie with its wide streets and pavements, general lack of grafitti and litter and its cool, genteel air? Not really, maybe because I know my return is inevitable so what would be the point of squandering my final days on some daft abstract concept like ‘home-sickness’. Now there’s a bourgeois conceit if ever there was one..

It’s Easter Monday and I can’t over-emphasise how quiet everything is – there’s marginally more going on than yesterday (Tuodi and Conrad were both open in the morning and Circolo delgli Artisti has an all-day Pasquetta Festival on but it all looks a bit Glastonbury without the music or any of the entertainment – that may happen later but it’s a blisteringly hot (to us honkies!) day so we return to the refuge of the flat. And as even the mighty Yeah! is closed – where sanctuary could normally be found – tempers get fraught and the day ends on a bit of a downer.

Tuesday 22nd April

In a semi-desperate effort to mop up some of the ‘must-do and see’s’ before our time is up (stupid really, we will be back) we venture into Rome centre after buying 4 x 100 min travel tickets at the local Tabacchi. That gets us to Testaccio no problem – the new ‘improved’ market looks new but not improved so we have a quick scoot around but tempers start to fray and bladders start to bulge so the inevitable search for a toilet ensues – we end up at the Protestant Cemetery and use theirs (top tip when at Pyramide!!) We then make our way to Ponte Milvio – way up in the north of town where we’ve never ventured before – to view the padlocks symbolising lovers’ declarations and the site of some battle involving Constantine (I’m being very flip here – I know it’s staggering significance re christian and western history). We then take the tram down the lengthy via Flaminia, sweating as the 100 mins on our second lot of travel tickets ticks away. We get off at Piazza del Popolo, wander around the Augustus Tomb area – decide we’re too tired to view the new museum there. We try to buy to two tickets to get back to Pigneto but draw blanks everywhere – it dawns on me later that the tickets must be becoming collectors items as they feature various popes. Even by Rome standards the centre is looking pretty mental (all to do with JP2’s sainthood thing) so we decide to walk all the way back to Pigneto. If nothing else it was a good (and much needed) workout. So focused was I that I apparently walked past Denzel Washington carrying a shit-load of designer bags (Richard told me later). Quite depressing really that he was fulfilling that complete stereotype but then I went off him when I read that he would only do love scenes with ‘women of colour’ after bowing to pressure from certain groups of narrow-minded people. Sa-a-a-ad.

Knackered in extremis so get a very early night.

Beyond holiday – a lesson in social experimentation

Over the half way mark now and have gone well and truly native – I know when the grumpy check-out people work their shifts in Tuodi (there’s only one really) so have arranged my shopping routine accordingly, we don’t stay in of an evening accessing old British sitcoms on Youtube and playing them through the telly in the flat, we know to scrape together the exact money when paying for things in shops and when we don’t have the change we give an Italian-like shrug, we cringe whenever we venture into the centre of Rome and hear Brits or Americans speaking or looking clueless.

Highlights so far:

1. Lucilla – who has gone from landlady for the month to dear friend – showing us around Castelli Romani and introducing us to her lovely family and showing us the most staggering hospitality.

2. Richard and I putting together a seven hour playlist of classic British tracks that was unleashed in Yeah! last Monday and will exist for all eternity on Spotify – just waiting for the touch of a hipster’s finger to release the Brit genie from the bottle.

3. Any night with Alessandro and his unbridled passion for all things British. Even when he’s only being fuelled by green tea his enthusiam ignites the room. What a guy!

4. Ciak pizzeria – forget what I’ve said about any other pizza place – this is the real deal! It may even be as good as The Jolly… with the added bonus that it’s in Italy – wow!

All these things have made me feel like my little heart is about to burst.. hopefully there will be more experiences in the next week and a half…

Remember – ‘Don’t worry that your life will end – worry that it may never start… ‘

Seven days in -flagging, waving or drowning?

Sunday 6th April – One week into the social experiment (don’t call it a holiday – right?) that is my four weeks in Pigneto, Rome. Okay you backpackers, world travellers, ex-pats and exchange students – that may not seem that impressive to you but it’s four weeks out of my healthy comfort zone of one day fasts, limited caffeine and dairy diet, fresh (in comparison) Scottish air and soft Scottish water – so to me it’s a big deal. But apart from that I (we) are taking to it like ducks to water. So on this lazy Sunday afternoon as we sink a couple of beers in Yeah! to a consistently brilliant soundtrack – alternating between Morrissey and Pulp – here are some (general) observations so far:

1. Social capital is key – forget your northern european stay indoors culture. People get out and about, to see and be seen, even if it’s just to down an espresso on the way to work or back home – it’s five minutes of chat and goss. Totally invaluable!

2. There are a lot of very cute dogs and they seem to like eating bread when it’s chucked out for the birds in the park – what do the birds eat?

3. Everyone wants to practise their English which is a disaster for learning Italian – hey ho…

4. Everyone smokes and drinks coffee – along with the pollution – how does everyone look so healthy? It must be having access to loads of fresh fruit and veg and a good old mental attitude.

5. There’s a brilliantly integrated vibe whereby younger people, older people and cute little dogs can chill out together into the wee small hours. There’s no hint of aggression or any pressure to drink yourself silly (one week in we’re still working on that one…) Maybe it’s because the sanctified surroundings of Yeah! are something particularly special but I get the feeling that’s just the Italian way.

Pigneto in particular:

The Energy Park is a great place for chilling out, people watching and one cheeky little Jack Russell with a fondness for bread (see above). Today there was a demonstration to save the lake in the park from developers who want to build a shopping centre there. The demonstration was passionate with loudspeakers, banners and people banging on a padlocked gate. The gate did seem quite flimsy so I’m sure the banging was more symbolic than anything else but as two Jocks we were tempted to offer to kick it in for them if that’s what they wanted…  The police were there and even though feelings were passionate it did seem good natured with pregnant women and little kids in the crowd. Also there seemed to be no paranoia re filming the event. It seems like a good cause and I hope the people of Pigneto triumph!

We went to Marguri for a pizza the other night with our new good friend Alessandro. Checked tablecloths; people from little kids to really quite elderly crowding in quite late on; strangers sitting close together (gasp!); bright lighting (eek!) and just the complete Italianess was like The Jolly turned up to eleven (is it possble to feel nostalgic about an Edinburgh pizzeria when in Rome?) In short though – well recommended for a great quality Neapolitan style (puffy base) pizza.

Above was actually only our second eating-out night. First off was Food Art just down the road from Yeah! Highly recommended with a yummy veggie antipasti, Roman style (crispy base) pizzas and a litre of house red for only 5.50!!! They apparently make ther own seitan which I’ll try later as we’ll definitely be going back.

Tuodi is our local supermarket, just across from Food Art with a bigger branch just at the top of the pedestrionised bit of via del Pigneto. There’s also a Conrad half way between the two but think Tuodi has the edge for prices and choice. Finding it pretty hard tho to source any spices other paprika, luckily we brought our own packet of curry powder and Richard cooked up a spicy storm last night. We’ve invited Alessandro around for a curry night – R has told him (ironic humour here) it’s a national Scottish dish and I think he believes him…

Saw a terrific local band called Zman (there’s an accent on the ‘a’ which I can’t do on this keyboard) in Yeah! the other night. A four piece – guitar/vocals, bass, percussion, keyboards/saxaphone – playing sort of psychedelic folk-rock. A bit like early David Bowie meets The Doors with touches of Gruff Rhys’ Candylion and The Coral in their more acoustic moments. Well worth checking out.







Two Jocks in Pigneto

Well, one Jock and one Jockette trying to put as much distance between themselves and the endless Independence debate trundling on  back in Jockland – for at least a while. So what better place to hide out for a few weeks than the marvelously happening and creative Roman suburb of Pigneto. Prettier and with much more of a village feel than the neighbouring university-centric San Lorenzo; and much, much more authentic than the Notting-Hill-like-stop-on-the-tourist-trail that is Trastevere. Yeah! cafe has already become our second home in Rome – reliable wi-fi, charming staff, a staggering range of refreshments from super healthy veg juices to less healthy super measures of Talisker via tea, coffee and all manner of sweet and savoury tarts served up unbegrudgingly whether it be 7am or 2am – yes, you read it right – which means that surly ‘the coffee machine’s been turned aff, it’s after 8pm’ attitude is going to piss me off even more when I get home. Yeah!’s main thing is their devoted presentation of a constant and eclectic soundtrack – The Stones Sympathy for the Devil is playing as I type but we’ve already had Beady Eye, Jimi Hendrix and David Essex (!) this afternoon. And I had my mind well and truly blown when Peter Cook’s Bedazzled emanated from their speakers the other day – I thought I was back in my front room!

Pigneto may be a little village size but there are numerous cafes, bars and clubs which will just have to be visited before the end of April. Watch out Pigento – the Jocks are in town!!

Perche Roma?

Why indeed? As I start my fifth full day in Rome I realise that’s probably four days and a good few hours more than a lot of tourists / holidaymakers spend here. But – shock, gasp – I still have another 23 days to go. So – almost a month more than your average tourist / holidaymaker. So why am I here for that length of time – when there is no ‘reason’ as in work, study, family? Well, I don’t know if you’ve come to that general time of life when you are struck by the whole meaningless mess of it all… things that used to make you happy no longer have that same resonance, a simple trip or a few days in a new city might have served in the past to recharge your batteries and made everything right again – all that stuff just doesn’t seem to work anymore. So do you go somewhere new or go somewhere you’ve been before and loved and try for that ‘authentic’ experience? So – deep breath and fingers crossed – I’ve gone for the latter. Will keep you updated with all the tears, trials and  tribulations (hopefully some happy times as well!) Stay posted!



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