When the moon hits your eye
Like a big pizza pie
Those few of you who take an interest in these things, and who glean all sorts of delight in the numerous mishaps which befall me every time I rub shoulders with my fellow European Citizens will be amazed, if not a little disappointed, that our Italian Campaign passed without incident. Almost.
But like so many things — Ben Elton’s funny period or a solid stool — it all seems to be a distant memory…
We arrived in Sorrento on a bright, hot September morning. The place was buzzing. An enormous cruise ship had relieved itself of its cargo of fat American pensioners, making it nigh on impossible to purchase any over-priced beer, linen or lemon-based products, try as I might. Rumour has it the Costa Concordia flipped over when a couple from Wisconsin leant over the rails to feed the seagulls. I don’t believe this. I think they were trying to eat the birds. So, taking their lead, we settled down to the first in a series of pizza & ice cream snacks, enjoyed the hot September sun and decided we’d chosen the right spot for our first break in a while.
It’s not what you’d call a beach resort, and my eyes lit up when I discovered there was only one ‘disco’ in town, and that was at the other end of town. I would just have to put up with great food & wine and a lack of boozed-up bastards from Barnsley and Bournemouth wrecking the town every night. That’s not to say that the Brits aren’t catered for. There is a “English Inn” on the main street, right opposite an Oirish Bar (both doing a ‘Full English and Guinness on tap”) which, for the most part The Incumbent and I gleefully avoided. For the most part.
For most of our stay, the sun shone, the booze flowed and the food arrived by the skip load. But we weren’t the only ones enjoying a regular bite. So were the mozzies. If there is one breed of animal that The Incumbent attracts more than Neapolitan handbag salesmen it’s mosquitos. Every morning we would idle away a couple of hours counting up and applying ointment to the previous evenings mozzie bites. She even got bitten on the verandah, which brought tears to her eyes. After a while, the critters had had their fill of the missus, and started on my extremities.
In an attempt to put off these little bastards, we’d brought from Blighty an industrial-sized tube of Deet insect repellant. I would carry it around in my pocket when we went out for a stroll of an evening — or at least I did until a passing scouser pointed at this long bulge in my pocket and decided to ask his cap-tee’d mates if they could see the size of “that fat bloke’s knob end ?” We continued our promenading activities at pace, diving into the nearest Trattoria for our seventh meal of the day. As the insect repellant was with us (though sadly we were out of scouser repellant) we decided to apply another layer as we waited for the menu. The whiff was overpowering, and I extinguished the table candle as a precaution. She needed me to cover her shoulder blades in the stuff, and I made sure I had some Deet for my Feet (Sugar for my Honey). I wanted the fish, which was something of a speciality around those parts. The waiter arrived and I ordered in my best Engtalian “Carbonara for bonna Signora, and oh, Sole mio”. It was all he could do not to spit at me.
They brought us whisky, and gin and beer… I’ll leave you to fill in the blanks. Though they didn’t get to play with my 4 x 2.
But please don’t get the impression that all we did was sit around and eat. No, no, no. That was only 85% of the time. We went on day trips too. No visit to the area would be complete with a visit to Pompeii. It’s really worth a visit, if only to escape the endless piped Opera music (if you’ve ever been to the West Indies and suffered Bob Marley overdose, you’ll understand when I say I never want to hear Caruso again. Neither him nor his Man Friday).
But the ruins of the once thriving city, sadly lost to the world in 79AD due to the huge eruption of nearby Vesuvius. Our guide Paula, pronounced PouWla, was a local girl who had clearly grown up on a heady diet of Benny Hill Shows and Bunga Bunga parties. She was a fag paper away from snorting fnarr fnarr as she concentrated and pointed out to us each and every “Three Dee Willee” on the road or on the walls. These protruding pointing penises might, she mused, have indicated the position of a brothel, or historians now think Pompeii residents could have used the phallus images as a protection against evil spirits. (Tonight, try getting your willy out in front of your missus and telling her it’s for her own protection. It doesn’t work — believe me.)
What would have been much more interesting would have been if she had told us about the popularity of cricket in this ancient roman metropolis. I myself saw clear evidence of a thriving cricket culture in existence. Who knows? If it hadn’t been for the devastation of the volcano, Italian cricket might now rival that of Australia, or perhaps even one of the major Test-playing nations ?
My exclusive and World’s-1st discovery of the Pompeii Ageas Oval was, as you can imagine, pretty much the highlight of the tour. There was of course the time in Napoli itself. We travelled there by boat, and on our arrival at Naples docks, two Australians with placards were shouting “Send the Boats Back”. We assumed they were lost. Later we sat outside a cafe in one of the less salubrious parts of the city (as opposed to all the many, many, lovely areas….er…) chugging away on bottles of Peroni and listening to Funiculi, Funicula for the 28th time that day. A grin burst across The Incumbent’s face as she watched and listened to the two rather vocal young women behind me.
I hadn’t realised these girls were of the working variety and that every tourist, workman or delivery boy who walked past were treated to the sight of them pulling down the lurex boob tubes and flashing their gnocchi. The going rate was, apparently, “10”. We didn’t hang around to find out if that was Euros or Lira: I glanced over my shoulder and it was a terrifying sight. It was clear to me that at least one of these birds was once christened as a geezer and those chicken fillets he was waggling at the lads were new additions to her being, (matching nicely with her adams apple which was the size of The Vatican). Any version of Funiculi, Funicula playing once he/she got a victim back to her/his gaff would be merely to accompany him being mashed, bashed and slammed on the floor. Speaking for myself I’d rather hold it in my hand.
It could truly be a case of see Nipples & Die. (© National Joke museum 1923).