Tag Archives: Rome

Retrospect

This time last year we were just getting ready to come back from Rome; my wife, two friends and me.  It had only been a brief visit, but was nevertheless very enjoyable.  Although the  weather was not exactly tropical it was far from that experienced last weekend when our television showed the fountains in St Peter’s Square with frozen cascades!

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My first visit to Rome was back in 1973 when my parents took us on a family holiday.  For my father it was in the nature of a pilgrimage because he was in Italy during the Second World War and had memories of Rome – virtually undamaged as it had been declared an open city  – but more especially of Salerno and southern Italy.  We went by train, and early in the morning we passed Monte Cassino, shining brightly in dawning glow. “Last time I was here”, said Dad, “there was barely one brick standing on another.”  One of the reasons Dad booked us on this particular trip was that it was a two centre holiday, and part of it was spent in Amalfi.  During the war my father had had the task of driving troops there for R&R and had got to know the place – and one particular family –  well.  It was very moving when we managed to meet up with the family again.

Then in 1999 I had a consultancy post with the United Bible Societies which meant that for a year I had to travel to Rome for about a week each month. Do try to sympathise – it was work! 🙂  There was a major reconstruction project going on at Ciampino airport which made leaving the place quite exciting at times: there never seemed to be any consistency about routes!

There wasn’t much consistency about the places I stayed in either. (Autocorrect had just replaced ‘places’ with ‘palaces’ but I didn’t get to any of those!)  My favourite was the Casa dei Cleri on the via Scrofa, which was quite near the Pantheon.  Another was a guest house run by a German order which was on the other side of the Tiber.  Walking to work in the Spring mornings with the city waking up was a magical time.  Then the traffic started!

One favourite guidebook claims that there are only two sorts of pedestrian in Rome – the quick and the dead! – and that is not far from the truth.  There was a pedestrian crossing that I needed to use to get to the office on the via IV Novembre, and it was absolutely no use waiting for a driver to stop and courteously let us cross.  The only way was to march boldly on, avoiding eye contact but being very aware of the scooters who were going to challenge one’s machismo.  But don’t try that if you hear police or ambulance sirens in the distance: they are not that distant!  I was quite bemused one day to find that I had somehow attracted a party of Japanese tourists in my wake as I made the crossing.  Alas, that sort of thing will not happen now as the  crossing has been replaced by lights and the motorists – even the scooters – must stop

Starting again

When your blog writes plaintively that it’s missing you and would like to hear more, then you have to be pretty hard-hearted not to respond, and to tell the truth I did not intend the hiatus to be as long as this.  The problem is that I am finding out that the old cliché is true: retirement is a full-time occupation! (My old English master back in the day used to instruct us that a cliché was only a cliche because it was both true and over-used!)  And whilst I’m in confessional mode, I should say that it was early in 2015 that my blog wrote to tell me it was lonely, and I have only now got around to doing something about it.

So, there is a lot to fill in and I have some perigrinations to revisit in this blog over the next few months.  I may even be able to find pictures!  The only problem is that since my last entry WordPress has updated everything and I am going to have to learn how to use it again.  I may even find out how to put an acute accent in the correct place in cliché! 🙂 (Found it!)

But where to begin? Chronologically? Geographically? On a whim?

For example, I spent January and February 2015 in Nicosia, Cyprus as a locum during part of the vacancy for the Dean at St Paul’s Cathedral.  That was a very interesting time coinciding with the coldest, wettest winter in living memory!  I even have a picture of snow falling on the Cathedral.  Or last January when my wife and I and two friends spent a few days in Rome.  The huge Christmas tree was still up in St Peter’s Square with a life-sized Nativity scene.  Or back a couple of years when we stayed at Harrogate in the hotel where Agatha Christie was found after she had gone missing.

Most recently I have made two trips to the battlefields of the Somme.  The first was in August as part of the Dorothy L. Sayers Society’s Convention where we traced some of the places associated with DLS’s husband ‘Mac’ Fleming, culminating in attending the ceremony at the Menin Gate.  The second visit was with members of the Cambridgeshire Regiment Association, visiting the sites where they fought and in particular the Schwaben Redoubt where we unveiled a new memorial commemorating the action.  As the Honorary Chaplain to the Association I had the immense privilege of leading the Service of Dedication. Again we ended the day at the Menin Gate for the Last Post ceremony, with Association members on parade.  I was again privileged to be asked to lead the prayers at this event, where some 2,000 people had gathered.

So there we are!  The end of the year may seem an odd time to start again, but it is, I think, a good time for retrospection!