21 April 2007


Rome, the eternal city… on the first night of my visit, naturally one was inclined to promenade the network of narrow streets around Piazza di Spagna, one of the most exclusive areas in the city, drawing droves of tourists and Romans to the elegant shops around Via Condotti. The square and its nearby coffee houses have long attracted those who want to see and be seen.

In the 18th century, the area was full of hotels for frivolous aristocrats doing the Grand Tour, not to mention artists, writers and composers, who took it all much more seriously. When Mr Dickens visited in the 19th century, he remarked that the Spanish Steps were crowded with 'models dressed as saints, emperors, and Madonnas, hoping to attract attention'... so imagine my distress upon discovering that in the 21st century, the area was over-crowded with impressionable Roman sylphs in varying states of undress, perhaps inspired by music videos featuring La Cicada... even off-season!

It goes without saying that however desperately one was seeking attention, one certainly did not stoop to that level. Nor did one feel remotely inclined to join a long queue of badly-dressed tourists outside Caffe Greco (once frequented by Goethe, Byron, Liszt, Wagner… and, last but by no means least, Mr Keats himself) waiting to pay an exorbitant sum of money for a cappuccino. In its time, one suspects this venue will have had a certain quiet charm, but long, long ago, before appearing in every guidebook that has ever been printed, featuring in every tourist’s itinerary. How bewildering to cast a glance through the window at a room crowded with miniature tables, packed so close together that there was barely room for the impatient and over-worked waiters to squeeze through and slap down your order before demanding a generous tip. One stood in wonder, asking oneself what impels the general public to take leave of their common sense before leaving home.

Instead, as one wandered the streets of northeast Rome, lonely as a… suffice to say, one's mind continued to linger upon the lives of the great Romantics; how could it be otherwise, standing in the shadow of the house where Mr Keats wrote his last passionate letters before his untimely death?

In this day and age, particularly among members of the Gay League, there is little in the way of romance: an original approach before an indecent proposal is probably about the best one can hope for. Gone are the days when one might reasonably expect to be courted... although one ought not complain, having a swashbuckling pirate queen prepared to defend my lack of honour at a moment's notice; but still, one sighed to learn that on display at the little museum inside Mr Keats’ home, among his most treasured possessions, there is a lock of hair that belonged to his beloved Fanny Brawne (what an unfortunate name!)

Have any of your suitors ever proffered a lock of hair, gentle reader? One thought as much- and a friendly drag queen inviting you to try their wig is not quite the same thing. Certainly one wonders if Ms Brawne's personal stylist advised her that a hair sample is best obtained from those regions of the female body that, for those unfortunate enough to live in the northern hemisphere, rarely see the sun... but I digress!

Romance, gentle reader! First-class passengers like it very well, printed and bound in neat little Mill & Boon or special weekend-away travel guide books; but one does not speak of such quirks and turns, the loves and doves they dream; goodness, no! Send me a man like Robbie Burns to sing the Song o' Steam, I say! One has certain needs: one needs certain things... not just to be loved, wanted, cherished, sought after, wooed, flattered, cosseted, pampered. One requires sympathy, affection, devotion, understanding, tenderness, infatuation, adulation, idolatry… that isn’t much to ask, is it?

In the midst of all this melodramatic rambling, one continued my nocturnal stroll, past Babington’s Tea Rooms (founded by a couple of English spinsters, a cruel reminder of my own situation) While sauntering gaily, one started to appreciate that quite a lot of attention was directed in my direction- what balm to relieve my inner anguish! For Italians, as they walk along the most fashionable streets in the city, suffice to say that the male of the species (no need to distinguish gay male and heterosexual male varieties; they are one and the same in this advanced culture) take full advantage of the opportunity to observe fellow citizens of the eternal city… to ‘check one another out’, to put it bluntly.

So imagine my reaction to find a particularly well-formed gentleman (in the process of locking his moto-scooter, or whatever they are called nowadays; speeding death-traps, if you ask me) allowing his steady eyes - unfathomable, dark brown pools in which it was impossible to see anything but one's own reflection - to linger long enough to be called a gaze. With a broad stride and a winning smile he approached, ready to take the liberty of introducing himself... the first of many liberties! His handshake was warmly and firmly returned, gentle reader; one was quite pleased to make his acquaintance, let me assure you.

For the purposes of this anecdote, we shall refer to this gentleman as G 1 (not to be confused with my good friend who features in the cast) After a quick and ready exchange of introductions, we established the existence of a mutual fluency in English and Spanish; the former ideal for the purposes of clarity, the latter ideal for the purposes of seduction.

After a few preliminary enquiries as to the reason for my sojourn in his native city, G 1 proposed escorting me to a nearby place for a quiet exchange. Never coy, having established that the location in question was merely three minutes away, his kind and generous offer was gladly accepted... an impulsive decision; would it subsequently be regretted?

1 comment:

Cap'n Dyke said...

Me Delicious Ms. Qrisp, now ye have me on tinderhooks waitin' - unless I take into account th'journal-entry above this one. Ye entice me, ye little Minx.

Forgive me inability t'correspond with yer elegant self; I was away on piratical business t' th'East. Please, continue yer story...

With Eternal Delight,

Th' Cap'n