Easter weekend in Rome was sizing up to be downright dull.
Not being religious (I used to be but by the age of about 7 realised that it was odds on that God didn’t look like my dad with long hair and a beard) and having a 3 week month at work due to the students selfishly having an Easter holiday, I was quite prepared to mope about the flat all weekend, procrastinating on my childhood rage issues and surfing the Net.
Then I checked the magnificent site that is Couchusuring.com and found info for a picnic in Villa Borghese park, about half a mile from Piazza Barberini. It said to bring some wine and a bit of grub if you felt like soaking up the booze so I bought 2 bottles of Eurospin’s best plonk and a packet of smokes and made my way to the rendevous point. Only problem was that the girl who organised it and posted the notice clearly wasn’t an Apache war scout in a previous life as the designated spot was in the middle of a busy roundabout (typically for Rome, going through the arches of some ancient walled thingy from circa 103 B.C). I finally managed to get an SMS to her and some bloke who looked vaguely familiar kept pedalling past on a mountain bike looking at me quizzically while I hung out near some kid’s carousel smoking Camel Blues.
He finally dismounted, red in the face and went “Lance? Didn’t recognise you with your bandana on! (actually it’s a Buff but that would be being pedantic). He took me over to a well secure spot about 200 yards away (which wasn’t “first field on the left near the gate” despite her denials about being a lousy navigator) and spent a very pleasant 3 or 4 hours sitting with about 15 to 20 people of various nationalities taking the piss out of each other I point out that “I love you” is knicker-drenchingly romantic in French but utterly libido obliterating in German. The German couple point out that English food is lousy. I ask who won the World Cup 1966 not to mention the war? Her boyfriend starts to flare his nostrils. I giggle. We continue to get drunk.
A VERY cute and very drunk Dutch girl sitting next to me starts doing Yoga movements. I lament the fact that the battery in my camera is dead as she is able to get both legs behind her head and is wearing loose jogging bottoms. She doesn’t batter an eyelid at my candid requests to “do that again, I’m enjoying this” and sits there with her crotch on display for a good ten minutes until I have to open the wine to distract myself from the thoughts whirling through my already alcohol fuelled brain.
I am offered a glass of red by a French woman who then gets the arseache as I proffer a glass that is contaminated with inferior Italian Merlot, swilling about in the recesses of its white, plastic depths. She hides the bottle behind her back and tuts, “you may have sum when you harv feenished tharrt”.
I later offer her some of my wine with the line “would you like some of my horrible, inferior shit? I just may have to wear a hair shirt and flagellate myself I feel so guilty even offering it to you”.
She glared at me and said “hmm…English humour I theenk”.
At about 6pm we shut up shop as it’s getting dark and make our way to St Peters to have another beer. The Vatican was building up to Easter mass so there were many eager tourist scurrying about the square, weaving between the “people separators” they introduced about 15 years ago due to everyone surging forward at the first site of his holiness. For some reason the guy we were with assumed a “brisk” walk (4 fucking miles) was a good idea after 2 bottles of wine each and the French guy we were with spent the entire journey chatting up the Dutch Yoga girl. He was then slightly miffed when I started snogging her just as the plasma screens round the square started beaming over pictures of Benedict the 16th doing the “warm up mass” (if you’ve seen these things they are a 5.1 Dolby nerd’s wet dream, about 40 feet high and flat screen).
We went to some Humphrey Bogart themed bar and I had a lovely time washing down a Guinness while noone seemed to notice I had one hand under the table, stroking the Dutch girl’s leg and rubbing her panties. I swapped arms after a while as I was getting cramp in my wrist and managed to carry on a conversation about the Champions Soccer League with three guys while kneading her thigh and crotch and having her squirm in a forcibly controlled way and grind against my probing digits while remaining poker faced.
We then went for a walk after the guys went home and I asked her to come and see my favourite angel on the bridge near Castello di St Angelo, which was merely a cynical attempt to get her up against a stone surface. She wasn’t stupid though and despite being 3 sheets to the wind went “you juust waaant to kisss me agaiiin don’t you?” and being brought up to believe lying was a sin (particularly in sight of the capital of Catholocism) I had to say “well…errr…yes actually”. I was as drunk as she was and after a pleasant 15 minutes nuzzling against the bridge we said our slurred goodbyes and I then had to take the 2 hour train and bus journey home alone, getting in to my bed at half past cunt in the morning.
Next day was the usual hangover from Satan’s rectum so I had every intention of spending the entire day in bed I finally roused myself at 4pm and went to Termini station for another couchsurfing meeting, this time up in Latina for the Easter Sunday to Monday “pasquetta” that they celebrate in Italy. I had originally envisaged this was an empty house with just a handful of us getting drunk on the beach but got there to find tons of peeps in a very classy holiday home, with tons of booze and loads of food. Had a very pleasant evening, which I remember right up until the host got out a bottle of homemade blue stuff (to set the scene, this concoction was in a 5 litre mineral water container) and began filling glasses with a homemade brew called BABA BLU. I was just glad that my mate Flavio had said I could share his blow up mattress (my last memory is of trying to inflate it with a foot pump and being told off for going too fast) and woke up at 11am fully clothed and feeling like death warmed up.
The next day was originally a trip to the beach but as the weather threatened to pee down again we stayed in and opened more wine and barbecued a few bits of dead pig and cow (plus the odd turkey wing) and after 4 or 5 glasses of Merlot I was free of the previous night’s hangover and had a pleasant day chatting up Latina women and trying to snog some cute girl with corn rolls in her hair.
Finally at 7pm we decided to call it a day and made our way to the train station, meeting up with various other drunken guests and finding that the train was jammed with other Romans returning from their Easter hols and was even worse than British Rail. Michele (again, that’s a bloke, pronounced Mik-el-ay) got his guitar out and we had one of those wonderful Breakfast Club moments of everyone in our bit of the carriage singing along to “Baby Can I Hold You Tonight” and three quite adorable little kids, aged about 4 or 5 wandered up all wide eyed and sat on some woman’s knee (that they weren’t with and didn’t know) and joined in. Makes a change to England where everyone would have stood there in sullen silence and the kids wouldn’t have dared talk to a stranger and the woman wouldn’t have dared to suggest they sit on her knee in case someone thought she wanted to have a fiddle.
Michele went and spoilt it after about 4 songs by snapping his A string and like a true professional, refusing to play with only 5. I spent the remainder of the journey trying to ponse cigarettes and nipping some brandy from my hip flask.
My hangover lasted until Tuesday evening and a bit of Wednesday morning.
Thursday and I took a class in Krav Maga, a wonderful self defence technique, derived from the Israeli Special Forces. Bloke who ran it said I could come for one class for free, just to try it and I had a jolly good hour and twenty minutes learning how to block and return punch. The idea of this technique (they refuse to call it a martial art) is that you inflict as much damage in as short a time as possible in order to incapacitate you opponent. It’s basically a modern version of most old martial arts as the days of respect for your opponent and showing quarter are no fucking good at all if your opponent is some chavvy little Asbo who just likes kicking fuck out of people with nine of his mates in tow.
Doing this, even for just one lesson, reminded me just how piss poor and lacking in any real emphasis on officer safety is UK Police training. Engish cops are taught ONLY to use the absolute minimum of force a test which can only be applied in hindsight anyway as how the fuck are you supposed to know, with adrenalin, fear and anger in your veins, whether the person was going to slap you or punch you just before you belted them with your baton? It still makes me angry that the UK Fuzz have effectively created a world where their cops are shit scared of using force and will not be backed up by their own senior officers if accused of overstepping their remit. Reasonable Force is subjective at the best of times.
To sum up how crap this all is….
During the Angry Man training (big bastard in a padded suit who comes at you aggressively while you wield a rubber baton) I was repeatedly punched, kicked and mauled by the AM and he twice dropped to his knees and ignored my instructions to remain there. The second time I got him on the floor I belted him twice more with the baton, accompanied by me shouting “AND DON’T (WHACK!) GET UP AGAIN! (WHACK!)” I was officially bollocked for this as at the point where I gave him the extra blows “he was not a threat”.
This stupid policy basically means that the Force themselves are unlikely to be sued if individual officers are accused of using “excessive force” as they were only trained to use “reasonable force” and if an officer gets hurt or killed they can say “well, we trained him to defend himself”.
I love my life.