It all happened one dark and stormy night

8 Mar

Actually – it wasn’t a dark and stormy night when I first arrived in Rome, many years ago. It was a very cold January. Here are some diary extracts from that time.

January 15th

Well – I’ve made it to Rome at last. Here I am, in the middle of winter. It’s freezing cold – in fact it’s snowing. They say it’s the first time it’s snowed in something like twenty years. That’s great – Rome and snow. Feels so strange, so foreign – don’t really know what I’m doing here, but I’ll give it a try. I’ve told myself, six months and see how it goes – then it’s back to London if it doesn’t work out, to do what – I don’t know. I’ve got this horrible, queasy feeling in my stomach about my future. In fact, ‘future’ is far too big a word to use. So here I am in Rome, with a suitcase the size of a small house, which my dear, thoughtful mum has given me as a Christmas present.

I’ve got an address to go to -it’s a friend of my dad’s, who has agreed to put me up until I find somewhere to stay. But when I turned up at her door with my enormous suitcase, she let out a shriek: “But I thought you were coming for the weekend!” Panic – how could she have forgotten? One of dad’s loony friends, and I thought she’d already have found somewhere for me to live. She pulled herself together and ushered me in. Her flat’s just off Piazza di Spagna, one of those poky dwellings in a narrow, 15th century house – with small rooms leading off two larger, central ones. All of them piled high with clutter, books, and unnameable wooden objects.

Giovanna is slight and elderly, with hennaed, fluffy hair. A kind hearted, eccentric, irritable woman – who is clearly irritated by me from the word go. Helpless me and my huge suitcase. And the fact that I have problems understanding her doesn’t help matters; she speaks a fluent, picturesque English with absurdly rolling ‘r’s.

January 16th

Here I am, day two – gut-wrenchingly, agonizingly homesick. It’s just so bloody foreign here – especially the smells – that pervasive, unmistakable smell of drains everywhere. And Giovanna’s so weird. I long for a cozy, comforting mother figure, not this spiky, artist type. I long for mum, for home. What on earth am I doing here?

And then there’s Giovanna’s terrible dog. Giovanna calls for her constantly, in a high-pitched, near shriek “Mimi!” And Mimi comes running, with that fearful sound of the eager dog’s claws on parquet floor. The sound is fearful because of what it announces – a psychopathic mutt with halitosis. Mimi hates people – she barks and growls and bares her teeth and runs for you. It takes hours just to get into the house because Mimi has to be calmed down every time.

(to be continued…)

When in Rome

8 Mar