People are Basically the Same Part II

Nothing brightens up a morning trudge to the tax office quite like Daniel Craig having his humourless brooding aura pierced by a micro cock making sweet fuck with his conk. Wonderful stuff.

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People are Basically the Same

I’ve gone on a bit about how sometimes the cultural and liguistic differences of Rome have me either flummoxed or exasperated or just plain upset. But sometimes you’re reminded of just how similar we all are, deep down. Today was a classic example; I was waiting for the metro up to San Giovanni when I spotted what was ostenisbly some sort of insurance advert. Only I looked a bit closer and saw something glorious:

You just can’t beat a good cartoon cock drawing, can you? Notice how they draw the comedy member just like what we do, with neat lines referring to both the helmet and the eagle eye of this particular cherry leaving you in no doubt about what’s up. And although they do get minus marks for no comedy spurting of spunk, our graffiti-ing heroes garner a good 8/10 for making me laugh very hard in front of a load of bemused commuters. It’s a winner, no?

War of the Roses

I don’t know what it is about cup draws, but whatever competition they’re in they contrive some how to fuck me over. Last season we had just every single round of both domestic cups at home; ‘why are you complaining you Big Four fuck?’ the chippier among you might ask. Well as good as it was for the team, for the lowly programme staff it was just about the worst thing that could happen, especially as it usually meant that we would go from have two or three deadlines in one week to four. Aaah, how I look fondly back on those days when we had a Champions League programme, two home league games on each weekend bookending that match and if we were lucky, a magazine deadline on top. Fun, fun, fun. And now this season’s Champions League draw, which has pitted Chelsea against Roma, a scenario that is a trifle uncomfortable for me in the following ways:

  1. Spangles is of course a devoted Romanista. If either one of us knocks the other out of the group it will cause South Ossetia-style conflict.
  2. Uncomfortable conversation with those around me on Sunday. I can already hear the question; ‘ Sei inglese? Quali Squadra?’ Doin’t make me choose lads, you’re only going to come off second.
  3. I don’t want to be stabbed in the arse by badly dressed urchins passing on their scooters.

Now as things stand both teams should easily qualify from a group that contains dead rubber like Cluj, but there’s something about this I don’t like. Maybe it’s the ghosts of St Gallen’s passed, but I have a nightmarish vision of the pair of us squaring up on 4 November, both having slipped up at some point and needing a result to advance. May I refer you back to number three?

You Make Us All Look Bad

An old friend of mine came to Rome for a couple of days with his girlfriend recently. The pair of them are coming over to live for a year after Christmas and they wanted to check the place out. As you do we went out a few times for a couple of beers and something to eat. Nominally a Celtic fan, he’s been living in Portsmouth for a while and has developed a bit of an affection for them, we found somewhere to watch the Charity Shield. It’s a nice ‘Irish’ pub that I’ve done some shifts for that is popular with Brits and Americans and shows pretty much any sport you can think of. So naturally it was full of Man United fans.

We sat near the only screen showing the match, which was alongside one showing the Tottenham-Roma friendly from White Hart Lane. ‘Oh good,’ I thought to myself. ‘I can keep one eye on my adopted local side while everyone else watches the Charity Shield.’ There were a couple of problems; one was Roma’s performance, which was less than great. Being hammered five nil by a side as mediocre as Tottenham is a pretty poor show, even if Spurs were a whole month ahead in their pre-season preparations and they had a few key players missing. But that paled into insignificance when faced with a much bigger issue; a Tottenham twat sitting immediately to our right. This spectacular bell end thought it was a good idea to dribble on loudly about the following things (I’ve cleaned the language up for those of a more sensitive disposition):

  1. This Tottenham team is most definitely superior to the one of north London rivals Arsenal, who I consider to be a bunch of lady’s genitalia.
  2. We are *this* close to being in the top four.
  3. This is our year.
  4. Our sulky centre-forward is infinitely more skillful than your less sulky centre-forward
  5. These nefarious Italians certainly don’t know how to play fair, do they chaps?
  6. It was jolly bad form of AC MIlan and Juventus to cheat like they did, maybe if they ban both clubs from every competition forever that would adequately compensate the other clubs.
  7. I don’t agree with that decision referee, and you can open your sphincter and place that ruling up there, where there is no sunlight.
  8. This pre-season friendly result proves that the italian league is essentially worthless, and that the Premier League is most definitely the very best in the world.
  9. CAAAAAAHHHHHHHHMMM OOOOOOOONNNN YOOOOOUUUUUU SPUUUUURRRRRSSSSS!

He was an absolute weapon, in other words. Right the way through both matches he sat on his stool while same thing came out of his mouth, leaning forward and squinting at no-one in particular in a way that said; ‘you know what I mean don’t you mate? It’s common sense innit?’ It’s how I like to imagine Christopher Hitchens writes his columns, only at least he doesn’t start every sentence with ‘I’ll tell you what though Kev,’ while waving his pint glass around like like he’s pointing at a blackboard. Although come to think of it, he might do. Anyway we’ve all been around pub experts like this before. Hell we’ve all probably been that pub expert before. Nevertheless this chap took the biscuit; he was loud, rude, obnoxious and ratarsed by half three in the afternoon.

The drunker he got, the more of a cliche he became; loud exaggerated cockney postering, pint glasses under his top as makeshift tits, repeatedly calling everyone a ‘mug’. Then later on, as my friend’s girlfriend came back from the cashpoint, he was was doing that sort of weird Pearly King strut that only a complete try-hard ever does. ‘Tell them they’re a pair of Pompey maaahhhgs’ he dribbled in her ear, like the fat Spurs supporting arsewipe he was. Then a slurred cry from the safety of another room.

‘Oi mate. I heard all Pompey fans go bald at around your age hur hur.’

‘I’m not Pompey.’

‘Oh.’

What is it about people like this? Why do they feel the need to express their phoney machismo by attempting to belittle complete strangers, or better yet, entire countries? What makes it more annoying is that he’s the sort of tool who people immediately think of when the term ‘English football fan’ gets chucked around. He’s the public face of thousands of people who love the game and don’t think it’s an convenient vessel for their prejudices, or an excuse to puff their chests out and throw tinly veiled and ultimately empty threats of violence around. It’s arseholes like him who stop me properly supporting England; the type of arse boil that leers at intimidated foriegn woman and chants ‘get your tits out for the lads’ in the safety of a pack of similar apes. He’ll be around somewhere tonight no doubt, booing the Czech national anthem and embarrassing his mates. I hope they lose, frankly.

Adultery, When is it acceptable?

When your girlfriend encourages you to do it, that’s when. Ever since the move to Rome became concrete one of the things that I looked forward to was the chance to watch regular top-level football in another country. I’ve always had a soft spot for the Italian game ever since James Richardson stole my football heart all those years ago with his witty wisecracks and big gellati. I’d been to watch the giallorosso a few times already and almost always seen a truly shite game, bar the thrilling 2-1 comeback against AC Milan last season but always enjoyed the atmosphere; the constant singing, the passion for their club and the fact that groups of mates went together and weren’t all doddery whiny 40 year olds. In short, what it used to be like for me at Chelsea. There were even some fascists to make me feel at home. Then the chance to actually buy a ticket in the Curva Sud came up and I had second thoughts. Buy why, asked Spangles (my girlfriend, who from now on I shall be referring to thus)?

The Curva is supposed to be the place where the most passionate fans gather and sing and chant and bounce and all that. But more than that, these people really care about their team the same way I care about Chelsea. I used to hate it when people would sit in the Matthew Harding end and not join in with the singing or not look like they cared that much. Don’t get me wrong, I want Roma to win and everything and if I was going to pick a team in Italy it would be them, but they’ll never be my team, not really. I’ll never feel that level of dejection with Roma as I did when Liverpool knocked us out of the Champions League last April and I’ll never experience the unadulterated joy of getting our own back a couple of months ago. I’ll never be able to really hammer out Grazie Roma the way I used to bawl Blue is the Colour after a great win, or join in pre-match with Roma, Roma, Roma like I did with The Liquidator. What right did I have to be in front of some kid who’s wanted a season ticket in the Sud all his life in the queue? If the roles were reversed I’d be fuming.

Nevertheless, on Wednesday morning I found myself in the queue for season tickets, which went on sale at at midday at all eight Roma shops in the city and at various shops that were authorised ticket sales points. As there was one of these shops two minutes walk from the flat we walked past it on the way to the market; at 10am there were a grand total of four people outside. Contrast that with the number of people who had gone to the Roma stores the previous night to queue for tickets and I was pretty confident of getting my hands on one. I thought I was onto a winner, and come September I was going to be feeling slightly uncomfortable in other people’s territory, maybe even getting bundled every time Roma scored.

So I stroll back there at about ten past 11 and the queue has stretch to a humongous nine people, including three really fit girls. I was feeling bold and had a croissant for breakfast so I decided to ask people what the deal was, in Italian, but instead of being flirted with by three hot young things who just love shiny pates and the lived in stomach a short, portly middle-aged man pointed me to the piece of paper on the wall with a list of names on. I plonked mine at number ten and thought I’d proffer some sort of conversation, even though he had a wild stare and dribble down his chin. This is your chance to translate along with The Liquidator! Go on, get Babelfish on the go and please tell me if I accidentally offered my arsehole up to a bunch of strangers.

‘Sono di Londra.’ (this provoked a look of shock and awe in him)

‘Wow, Londra??’

‘Si, sono tifoso di Chelsea’

‘Woooooooow, Chelsea.’ (he gave me the same look, I was starting to think he was taking the piss.) Perchè sei qui?’

‘Mi ragazza è una tifosa della Roma, e nella Curva Sud ogni stagione.’ (this provoked a laugh from everyone there, I just realised I’d told everyone I was firmly in the position of ‘bitch’ in my relationship.)

‘Lei è Italiana?’

‘No, mezza Italiano e Inglese. Abito sulla Via ***** ****.’

Buono eh? Before I’d let myself get too far over my head I slipped my iPod on and made myself look like I was listening to the most totally happening and latest London sounds, when in fact I was listening to the Buzzcocks. As the minutes ticked by and midday inched closer to us with everyone fell into a nervous silence, worrying about whether they were going to get a ticket or not. The three girls’ cheery chit chat died out and was replaced with cold, hard and stony stares at the door, broken only when one of their mother’s came over to hand them the money, before being shooed off as soon as she tried to strike up a conversation. Nothing like an uncool mother cramping your style around tall sexy strangers I suppose. While the girls were basically on their marks by the door, the rest of the group switched between stalking the pavement, sitting on their scooters and peering in expectantly through the doorway, blocking it for people coming in to buy fags or scratchcards. The dribbly guy kept looking at me.

Halfway through More songs about Chocolate and Girls by the Undertones I was barged into by number one on the list, a tall (well, shoulder high on me) and rather fat guy who had no idea he’d even walked into, as though everything in his vision had become blurred around his target; the counter in the shop. He had a mildly disconcerting stare that wasn’t dissimilar to Javier Bardem in No Country For Old Men. I was half expecting him to passive-aggressively toy with the girl in the shops’ life, fuck knows what would have happened if he hadn’t have got the five tickets he wanted.

By now everyone was practically twitching on the spot. It was taking ages to every person, partly because everyone was trying to get tickets in the central section (no chance), or with their mates, and also because the woman dealing with the ticket queue was arse-clenchingly slow. All we could think about were the people at the Roma shops being dealt with quicker and more efficiently, whizzing through customers while we watched this poor thing struggle with the buttons, the forms, the money, everything. Fifteen minutes later we were still only halfway through the tiny queue, with the silly cow stopping midway through serving the hot girls to help an old lady choose a notebook. ‘Jesus woman, what’s she gonna write on it, her will? Make her wait!’ I would have said if I had the balls and the language skills. Then a woman came in for some photocopying, and another came in for a wallet…. Meanwhile the man on the other till just stood there and watched, laughing, enjoying our anxiety, like the massive twat he was. ‘Anyone for the Curva Nord?’ He laughed from his big crusty gob. Very fucking funny, look at us cracking up over here, you bullock headed tosser. Yeah, so I was tetchy about getting a season ticket to a club I don’t support, so what?

A full forty minutes after opening sales we got down to me, the tenth customer. My knees were wobbling with exasperation and we had been joined by a couple of Lazio fans, who clearly have never had to worry about not getting tickets for anywhere. I was expecting a horrible strangled conversation where I try to explain that I want to be *here* and she looks at me blankly, horrified by my missed definite articles and wrongly gendered sentence cappers, while the one poor chap behind me suffers the coronary he’s been threatening since plonking himself practically up my backside. Instead less than 30 seconds later I have a ticket in my hand and weird feeling in my stomach. I feel a bit dirty that I cared so much, that I got swept up in the desire for a place among the ultras, the flags and the general rowdiness. So here it is; my season ticket for the Curva Sud at Roma.

I can’t wait for the new season.

Italians and Their Cars; No 1 of literally 000,000s

Italians have a weird relationship with their cars; No matter how small a place is, how congested the roads are, how much a threat climate change is, there  isnn’t a place in the world that they won’t take their car with them if they can. Take Rome, for a particularly convenient example. Here is a city with 2.7million people living on top of each other, with huge congestion problems and parkng problems so bad they’re digging underneath historical monuments to build underground car parks. It has very decent transport links during the day (at night it is a very different matter), with buses, trains, trams and tubes taking you all over the city and the surrounding areas. In our part of town there is nothing you can’t get to within walking distance, be it bus stops, a metro station, a train station, supermarkets, shops, bars, restaurants – you name it, we’ve got it. And yet despite all of that, and the fact that you can’t walk these days without finding some sort of threat to Italy’s climate on the immediate horizon, they remain wedded to their four-wheel polutomobiles. Presumably because the wine is good. This, combined with their collective tendancy to drive like maniacs makes Italy’s roads interesting, to say the least. Take a look at the picture I took from my balcony today, for instance.

Creative road use

Creative road use

Now, these cars aren’t waiting for a green light, they’re parked. Parked on a two lane carriageway which frequently sees young men proving just how big their cocks are by racing down it on their motorbikes/scooters/silly little FIAT thingies, straight through the main crossing. So what you do is park you car right in the middle of it. Of course. Or, you do what this little cheeky chappy did;

Thinking outside of the box there Gianni, buono.

Thinking outside of the box there Gianni, buono.

You just slam it onto the pavement. Capito? But more than just being a hilarious manifestation of the Italian tendancy to disregard pretty much any rule there is, this attitude make Rome one of the most dangerous places to live in the world, especially for me. This time last year there were 36 deaths on the roads in a single weekend, with many of them alcohol or drug related. More than eight pedestrians per 1,000 are killed or hurt in Rome every year, a meaning I’m 10 times more likely to be killed by some coke-addled sunglass wearing tosser than in London and 20 times more likely than some haughty Parisian bint addicted to pill sandwiches. The BBC article from which I took most of my facts also has this cheery little anecdote;

The Vatican, criticising what it calls the “collective madness” on Italian roads, issued a document cataloguing “Ten Commandments” for motorists, which boil down to showing respect and compassion for others on the roads, and never failing to stop in case of an accident.

As though a hit and run isn’t enough of a disgusting thing to do without making sure you’re not late for that really important meeting with Claudio down the gelateria. ‘Mi dispiace ragazzi, must dash!’

One of the basic causes of the horrifying slaughter on Italian roads is that there are more cars per inhabitant in Italy than in any other country in Europe – 680 per 1,000 population. In Rome, for example, the figure is even higher – 2.4 million cars for 2.5 million inhabitants.

Apparently the figure could be skewed by the huge number of dignitaries and fat cats with massive car pools at their disposal, but even if you take that into account, and the fact that we don’t know if he hasn’t bothered to check whether the number of cars is just for the city or includes the suburbs (upping the population to four million) or not, that’s still at least one car for every adult, most of who think nothing of rattling around the place pissed out of their heads or coked up to their eyeballs. Or both.

Meanwhile the night time drink driving is exacerbated by the fact that trains and buses simply don’t run late enough, which is a recipe for disaster, especially in the summer when all the nightclubs relocate some 15 miles away at the beach. The roads therefore get jammed up with young people driving while mortal, which wouldn’t be a problem if the police enforced the current limit of 0.5g/l (0.2g/l for bus drivers), but the number of random roadside alcohol tests is piss poor compared to the rest of Europe; the police ran a campaign last year aimed at doubling the number of such tests from the current 500,000 to one million per year, compared with eight million in France. One sixteenth the number of test that France carry out. A country that practically injects wine into babies as they’re slinking their slippery way from their mother’s pudenda.

I could take these statistics and attitudes and talk about how quickly drink driving became something that just is not done in British society, but I can’t be arsed. Steve Coogan says it much more effectively than I can;

The search for work

Currently I am jobless, which having been made redundant twice in four years as a professional journalist, isn’t exactly a new experience. The most important thing to do when you’re not working is carry on finding things to do, and if they earn money then all the better. Over here this is even more true than at home, because I can’t sit in bed drinking tea and watch Frasier re-runs on Paramount, but thankfully I’m not short on things I need to be getting on with; Getting some kind of paid employment or regular freelance gig is top priority, only just beating out learning the language well enough so I can actually talk to people who I’m not buying ham from.

Today I need to ring a man from a TV Company called Press TV, who broadcast in English to places in the Middle East and are looking for English language journalists to do three freelance reports a week. This involves a screen test which I may or may not have to take; when I spoke to Mr Sacchi the producer in my best written-down-on-a-notepad Italian he explained that they had already given a screen test to a girl (surprise surprise) and they were waiting to see what kind of response she got before asking for any more. However they are looking for researchers to work alongside these reporters so I should keep in touch. The vast majority of this conversation was conducted between him and my girlfriend, who I had handily placed on standby should he become too incomprehensible for me. He seemed keen on hearing from me again and told me that I should call Lorenzo, the first point of contact I made and thankfully someone who I can converse with in English. As a contigency I also sorted myself out some work at one of those bars that is always filled with Brits and the Irish; not ideal, but it’ll do while I sort out something better.

However, should neither of those options not come through with the goods there is another possibilty that I spotted in the jobs section of Wanted in Rome. See for yourself.

MOST INTERESTING JOB IN ROME

Show business journalist needs personal assistant for office on beach front at Focene beach Fiumicino. Swim and sun between work breaks, wage negotiable, previous assistants have become famous. Tel. 0665088152.

Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that our hero is looking for an overweight, balding Englishman to join him for pool-based frolics do you? Now I would put this out to a reader survey, but seeing as the only people reading this blog regularly are me and my girlfriend it would seem like a pointless excercise. So here goes. Should I;

a) Ring him and enquire about the job? After all he does need a journalist and it’s only your prejudices about Italian men all being slimey olive skinned sex pests with short man syndrome that’s making you think he’s after a niave and pert teenage girl looking for her first break.

b) Ask about the job, then after he tells me to sling my hook get my girlfriend to ring him up and put on her most husky, flirtatious voice while asking for an interview in between chatting about underwear?

c) Stop imagining him chilling out poolside (in swimming trunks so tight pubes are sprouting from the top and sides, stroking his slightly greying chest hair while drinking a cocktail just brought to him by a tanned 80s caricature), living the life of riley and move on?

d) Ask him if we’re swimming and sunbathing between breaks, when does any work get done?

e) Tell him I’ll take one for the team as long as it’s our little secret?

Answers in the little comments box please.