Travelling can be a right arse ache with regard to loneliness (violins to the ready, please). While having no responsibilities beyond your own continued existence, the beauty of Rome, Florence or Venice can be marred somewhat by traipsing about on your tod.
So, the promised joys of a website called couchsurfing.com have proved to be real over the last few weeks. Run by some Canadian bloke who realised that travellers like to meet like-minded folk the idea is that you create a profile and then state whether you are up for hosting, guesting or just meeting up for a coffee with other couch surfers. It's all based on trust and doesn't cost you a penny, cent or baht in rent.
The Rome group has over 4000 members, many of which use it for flirting purposes, and there is always something going on including a regular Wednesday aperitif and usually a party or dinner on the weekend. An Irish woman named Caroline posted that she was coming to stay in Rome indefinitely and would appreciate any help with finding work or a flat.
I sent her a load of info and got her an interview at my school where she was given 4 hours work straight away after the DOS took a shine to her. In gratitude she invited me to a couchsurfing party on Friday evening in one of the oldest areas of Rome, Trastevere. The front door of the flat had more graffiti on it than I've ever seen in my life and when we got up there the apartment was tiny, with about 30 people crammed in.
I got offered some shallow-fried meat product on a tray, that looked like a chicken nugget. After I'd swallowed it Caroline casually mentioned that it was fried cow brains. I tried not to let this fact spoil what had, 5 seconds earlier, been a delicious hot snack.
Some mad woman from the flat next door then turned up with her hair looking like she'd stuck her finger in an electric socket and a duck under her arm. Assuming it was maybe her gift for the pot luck, it turned out to be her pet and its name was Arturo. It crapped on the floor and pecked me viciously when I tried to hold it so the old dear buggered off and comes back with a guinea pig, a Chincilla(sp?) and a budgie. All quite surreal and according to the party host, her flat is a veritable petting zoo of spoilt animals.
Next night we hooked up with a Scottish lassy from couchsurfing. All we need now is a Taffy to complete the UK ex-pat teacher's society. Found an Irish bar near Piazza del Popolo which was well nice apart from the prices. One pint of Guinness is 6 Euros and the cheapest beer is 4. Ironic in a country where a litre of decent wine will cost you about 2 from the local supermarket.
Having worked at about 15 different schools I've seen a fair slice of quality with regard to how they treat teachers. The British School that I'm currenty working at held a staff meeting and training seminar last Friday. Most schools don't pay you to attend staff meetings and one particularly wretched old hag I worked for in Milan years ago, insisted we all came in without pay and rejigged our timetables so we could attend. British School not only paid us for attending but also laid on lunch with pizzas, pasta and fried veg plus wine. Nice to be working for people who realise that staff work better if they feel motivated.
The tube trains in Rome shut down at 1.30 on the weekends but night buses take their place. I caught a bus from Termini station after a session at a friend's house, with a female friend of mine and was completely steaming drunk and thankfully don't remember much of the journey especially as the 'short' walk I'd envisaged from the tube stop to my house took an hour and it was 4.30 when I finally threw myself down on my cot as the sun was coming up.
Something I noticed this week that has REALLY pissed me off is how the Shilpa 'Poppudum' Shetty bollocks from Celebrity Big Brother has now been retconned because Jade Goody has cancer.
The pathetic, PC overreaction to what was basically an offhand comment made in 'private' to another housemate meant Jade was villified in the media, had to lie low for around 6 months, had effigies of her burned by morons in India and was made out to be racist which she clearly isn't.
Having been a cop in England it's only too depressing how far the pendulum has swung to the other extreme. I've heard of officers who lost their jobs for ONE comment made in jest (sometimes to people who found the remarks funny) as the rules state now that it is wrong if ANYONE present deems what you say offensive with regard to race or diversity, NOT just the person you said it to.
So...after being labelled a white supremacist scumbag by single brain-celled twats all over the UK, people have now decided to make out that even though she was naughty she was obviously aware it was wrong and tried to put it right. All true, however at the time she was made to feel utterly miserable by the same folk now trying to retrospectively make out she wasn't such a bad old stick.
It all boiled down to one thing. Jade is gobby and looks like a chimpanzee and Shilpa is beautiful and Asian.
Hopefully the situation will make people open their eyes to the more important issues surrounding human interaction and not this type of shitty crud.
My book was rejected by a publisher last week. Still, the bloke who emailed me said that it was good just not what they were looking for and reccomended another publisher and gave me about 5 paragraphs of good advice which was decent of him. I emailed Sophie Lancaster's mother Sylvia asking if she wanted to get the book published together with a percentage of profits going to the trust fund set up for her murdered daughter. She wrote a touching reply saying that, after having read my synopsis, she cannot personally endorse my opinion of the English police as she was treated very well by them after her daughter's death and does not have an “axe to grind”. She said she is still happy for me to dedicate the book to Sophie though.
Went for a long bicycle ride today to shift my hangover. When I was 18 hangovers lasted a couple of hours. Even after a 2 hour bike trip round Rome, salad and a nap I'm still feeling the effects of last night. Oh well, you only live once.