Stet by Ria Bacon

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Mobbed by knee-high witches

I saw the first Xmas decorations on sale today and we still haven't had Halloween. My own little spider-man and bat-woman had their party at school yesterday; my son having a second party at another one of these millionaire pads my kids frequent via their rich little Italian friends. The house yesterday was done in mafia pimp style, with hand-painted wallpaper and gilt frames holding large paintings of frowning popes or ingenues with flowers. The indentured staff were all grace and helpfulness while the other mothers slouched in super soft sofas and bitched. I was in and out in fifteen minutes, party bag and all.

I know you think of all the beautiful and stylish things you would buy if you had a little money, but I can assure you that most rich people I've met have the most appalling taste. I mean really tacky, like six full-size pony statues roughly carved in soap stone (it was dusk and they seemed to part of a giant chess set under the trees). And there's so much of the crap they buy. First they never throw away all the stuff they inherit (the gilt-framed portraits and the solid oak dressoirs that would fill a normal-sized room), then they just shop shop shop, in stores that cater only to the most frivolous whims. Be glad you have to save up for something you really want. And that thing you just can't afford? Bet you've forgotten about it next year, or at least smile fondly about your mad passion for it.

Today we made the mistake of going to Oviesse department store, never a good idea late Saturday afternoon, and definitely not when they were offering free face-painting and candy. My GOD! After five minutes the throng around the table was four deep and the parents were yelling at each other to respect the queue (??!). Ten minutes later security closed the doors and started filtering the screaming mob of witches and ghosts. We left by the emergency exit and made it back to the car just as the first sirens were approaching ...

Friday, October 29, 2004

EU leaders sign new constitution...

... and cause massive traffic jams in my neighbourhood. I mean, couldn't they have done it on another day? Saturday morning was good for me; I don't get up till ten and there are plenty of parking spaces for their limos.

All roads approaching Campodoglio were blocked off by chainsmoking Carabinieri, while the riot police read the sports pages in their armoured buses and the lowly traffic police chatted to elderly residents, ignoring the gridlock forming behind them and the blood transfusion ambulance wailing to get through... Just another day in Rome.

Beware of vultures

One of the best things about living in Rome is learning its history. For history read legend, if not gossip, self-promotion and smears. Politics as usual, then as now.

Here's how Livy describes the founding of the city in The History of Rome:

As [Romulus & Remus] were twins and no claim to precedence could be based on seniority, they decided to consult the tutelary deities of the place by means of augury as to who was to give his name to the new city, and who was to rule it after it had been founded. Romulus accordingly selected the Palatine as his station for observation, Remus the Aventine.

Remus is said to have been the first to receive an omen: six vultures
appeared to him. The augury had just been announced to Romulus when double the number appeared to him. Each was saluted as king by his own party. The one side based their claim on the priority of the appearance, the other on the number of the birds. Then followed an angry altercation; heated passions led to bloodshed; in the tumult Remus was killed. The more common report is that Remus contemptuously jumped over the newly raised walls and was forthwith killed by the enraged Romulus, who exclaimed, "So shall it be henceforth with every one who leaps over my walls." Romulus thus became sole ruler, and the city was called after him, its founder.

An image suddenly came into my mind of Berlusconi shouting the same thing into the television cameras this morning. Not that he wouldn't like to, mind.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

John Peel's in heaven

He was one of those people you imagined would always be around, just because he had always seemed to have been around; there when I was getting my first teenage kicks; there when I dreamt of playing my guitar for people outside my bedroom; there when I danced around the house in West Africa, happy in the knowledge of getting divorced!

He was like the voice of God on the radio, mumbling away late at night about bands that only their members cared about - them and Peely. He could be boring as hell but was always good for name-checking, "Yeah I heard their first session on John Peel 4 years ago." Some nights it seemed like The Fall were the permanent resident band.

For what it's worth ...
I've got a T-Rex album with Peel reading a fairy story for Marc Bolan and Peregrine whatsizname; also an Undertones' session with Feargal Sharkey reading Noddy and Big Ears.

Anyone suggest Peel's playlist for his first heavenly gig?


Can you read this? Hello? Is anyone there?

How can I know if anyone can read this?