It's a whopping great relief to me that I don't have to write this in a seedy, nicotine drenched, muzac blurting internet cafe/manga library/porn archive. This time I’ve gone post-millenium.
This little spluttle of grunt babble is being transmitted to you from my air borne Pimpmobile, as it circles the streets of Gotham, searching out the deliciously weird and the logically squiffed for the entertainment and titillation of my army of battle hardened onion bargees. In front of me a bank of monitors digest cultural siphons from around the world, while an intravenous digital drip pumps me with tales of intrigue and petty perversion from my international ground troops of eaves-dropping hospital porters and curious badgers.
Actually I bought a laptop, but the other stuff let me use my thesaurus a bit more. It doesn’t have an internet connection yet, cos I’m a tight arse and I can do my web sledging at work.
The reason I’m pointing this out to you is because there may be a slight delay between my verbal flossing with certain subjects and there eventual appearence on the world wide whatsit. I’m only telling you because I care, and I know how stupid you are. So, to reiterate, this is all pre-recorded. Much like Match of the Day or kiddy porn.
I suppose I should add a bit of backstory for those of you who didn’t see the initial TV adaption or read the serialisation in "Distressed Pine Quarterly".
Last week I started work as a teacher of defence against the dark arts at Eton school of languages in Civitanova Marche, a town on the east coast of Italy. Civitanova is quite the throbbing industrial port, and serves as the purpley light thing for all the flies who reside in the Marche region. Except they don’t actually burst into flames if they come into Civitanova, they just get a wider selection of cake shops. Fuck it, I wish I could get the hang of metaphors.
The Marche region is principally known as a shoe producing region and as the birth place of the novelty tie pin (nah, I made that up, but I felt the sentence needed some jazz). Plonked between the Apennine mountains and the Adriatic sea, the area is famous for it’s gorgeous coastal vistas, it’s enchanting hilltop villages, and it’s dust. Especially the dust.
Civitanova is made up of approximately 40,000 proper people, 247 blacks and a gay. It’s principal industries are fishing and shoe production, although camel smelting is a burgeoning market.
There we go, so you’re filled in. Here, sit on this inflatable cushion. You’ll soon start walking straight, once you figure out how to remove the pump.
So, initial impressions:
What, you need more?! Damn, you and your insatiable curiosities. Very well then.
Italy kinda crept up on me. In all honesty, it wasn’t my premier choice of destination but eventually required less paperwork, injections and false beards than my preferred routes. Since I arrived I’ve been trying hard to make up a credible backstory for my choice and create an air of informed opinion.
“Why did I choose Italy? Well of course I’ve always felt at home in Pizza Hut, and I’ve seen the Godfather twelve times.”
“Well, obviously Rome is the ulitmate destination, innit. I mean, the Colosseum……… the, erm…. oh, and Italian football. It’s just…………. well isn’t it…………. compared to the English game……….. Totti………… Del Piero………. erm……… is Baggio still around?……………. erm…………. Goooooooooooooaallll Laaaaaaaaaaaaaaazio!!!…………….. plus, all that art………… Michaelangelo……………. Raphael………. Splinter and Shredder……….. oh, and you can’t beat a bit of DaVinci…………. you know why he painted that funny smile on the Mona Lisa don’t you?……… yes, she’s sitting on the holy grail apparently…………. digs right in, I should imagine…………. Oooooooooooh and I’m a big opera fan……… Puccini……… Rossini……… Fettucini…….. “Issa lovely day, shaddapa yer face”…………..erm……… And the Romans, the could build roads, eh!……… Isn’t Berlusconi shiny.”
Stereotypes? Yeah, of course I brought them with me. As usual I spent my first few days going out of my way to find evidence to disclaim them all, so I could then settle back for the rest of the year and collate enough observations and experiences to re-confirm them. That’s when you know it’s time to leave; when you’re smug enough to.
Actually, considering the haste with which I accepted this job (“I can’t stay in England too long, it’ll create an unecessary hiatus for my biographer”), I’m surprisingly content here. The town’s quiet but beautiful, and I still haven’t grown jaded to the thrill of opening the curtains every morning to be greeted by a sea vista. The school is small, but values the personal touch over the clinical corporate make-up which has been foisted on me in previous jobs. The director, Marzia, is a dream of a boss. Despite bearing an uncanny resemblance to the wicked witch of the east (or west, which one was wickedest?) she is the personification of good humour, patience and kindness. Plus, she lets me wear jeans to work and forces the students to take me out drinking. What’s to complain about?
My flat is a spacious three bedroomed jobby, in a block comprised mainly of fishermen and out of work garden gnomes. I share the flat with Rosa, who hails from Birmingham originally but has Italian family, leading to a curious collage of pronunciations depending on what she’s talking about. So far Rosa’s been the perfect flatmate, and doesn’t even seem to mind me drowning goats in the bidet, just as long as I don’t leave any carcuses drying on the radiator.
I’m writing this lyrical flob on a Sunday, so let’s discuss Sundays. Then perhaps we’ll have some biscuits, and sit round the ironing board.
I’m still adjusting to the Italian way of life, and moulding my lifestyle to fit their timetable. The siesta culture, which sees everything grind to a halt between 1 and 4, then crank slowly back to life and drift unhurriedly into the evening, is just one unfamiliar terrain on which I’m still finding my feet. Still not having quite shaken off my reliance on the uber-convenience of Tokyo’s 24 hour society, the weird bar has been raised even further by now being utterly unable to purchase brie in the mid-afternoon.
Sundays are another breed of things which are, well, simply not British. Or even Oompa-Loompan.
I’ve always hated Sundays. Even now that quite a few of the shops are open and the brothels have happy hours, I just find the whole thing a bit miserable. I seem to spend half the day recovering from Saturday, the the rest of it waiting for Monday. Plus, The Observer always gives me papercuts.
I have to admit though that Sundays in Civitanova are quite a charming affair. The atmosphere seems a nice encapsulation of what little I’ve gleaned so far about Italian life.
Venture on to the streets of Civitanova at Sunday Roast time and at first you’ll find plenty to mesh with the British way of celebrating the holy day (when our Lord didst twat around with his Black and Decker work bench, and gotteth pissed whilst watching Last of the Summer Wine). Houses are shuttered and still, shopping centres sit darkened and lifeless, apart from the occasional group of teenagers setting light to some Nuns. Piazza Septmebre XX, the focal point of the town, is deserted, but for a lone Transit van selling a strange mixture of nuts, deli meat and plastic guns to….. well…. no-one. The pebble beach on the east of the town is deserted, and a solitary old man’s club provides the only life overlooking the sandy beach of the west side (where Scooter-by shootings are an increasing worry).
Four O’clock is ushered in by an appalling collision of bell chimes from the local church. Clearly Sunday is learner bell ringer day, and I-think-I’m-a-bus-shelter Dave is first up this week.
Slowly the town begins to stir. The locals, having laced their digestion with a round of ponce portioned coffees, a moan about the newspaper and a good stare at anyone walking past the window, now venture out for a stroll. Italins are dedicated strollers, and on Sunday it seems to be the national sport.
A strange assortment of shops choose to open this afternoon. The supermarkets remain closed and most of the tobacconists keep their shutters down. The shop on the corner of the station, however, which seems to trade principally in umbrellas and hat stands, is doing a roaring trade. Most of the clothes stores are open and by five o’clock nearly every one of them is full. A newly opened jeans emporium even manages to attract a queue of eager customers, lining up out of the door and past the little picture frame place (also open, of course). The CD shop, Disco Parade begins to blare out Eminem’s latest whinings, while down the street a trendy shoe shop competes with its own piping of Italian ballads and wobbly chinned divas. Joining the melee comes the inevitable stream of cars, all advertising their own choices of musical identity.
By six o’clock it seems that the whole town and several small continents have taken to the streets, and with no particular purpose. The shops are packed, it’s true, but there are few signs of anyone actually buying anything, or even intending to. Strolling around the book shops, boutiques and inflatable mammal stores seems to be just an extension of the social dance that plays all around the town. There are also few indications of the social barriers that the British automatically erect. Teenagers gossip and flirt in clusters, then turn to share a joke with their parents, also ensconced in their own nattering gangs.
The whole atmosphere is addictive, and the overwhelming joie-de-vivre penetrates even my general demenour of morose indifference. I almost begin to understand those awful chartered accountants from Slough, who come out here to buy a roofless shack and stave off their mid-life crisis.
I’m still a stranger here, of course, but I have a sneaking suspicion I could feel quite at home in Civitanova.
Fucking hope not though, I’ll have nothing to write about.