Some More Thoughts On Rome
I’ve been back in the UK for a couple of weeks after two months in Italy. I hadn’t spent that amount of time there since I was a resident in 1978. A lot has changed. When I left there was no McDonalds or metro system. There were hardly any immigrants. I remember there being only one Chinese restaurant in Rome. I took a friend there to dinner one night as a thank you for helping me catalogue all my negatives and slides before moving back to the UK.
Now the Chinese are everywhere. Together with Africans, Indians, Bangladeshis, Pakistanis, Serbians, Russians, Rumanians, etc. etc. Every nation under the sun seems to have moved to Rome.
There is nothing wrong with immigration, my parents were immigrants to the UK. It is natural for people to want to better themselves. But getting on a bus not so long ago made me think I had just walked into a scene reminiscent of the intergalactic bar in StarWars. People of every shape and size and from all corners of the earth seem to have come together on the 446 bus. Little four foot nothing Filipino women, to giant six foot five black men and everything in between. I couldn’t see hardly any Italians.
The amount of beggars also seem to have tripled over the years. The truly mutilated and the fake cripples who pick up their crutches and walk home after a day of begging, the bad musicians and the good musicians, the Indians who, if you have the misfortune of sitting in restaurant with a lady friend, will try to sell you a red rose, are all there. All of the time. You just can’t get away from them.
Some will take no for an answer, some are persistent in their requests for money. There are illegal street vendors of sunglasses, imitation designer handbags, hats, bottled water, miniature sewing machines, disposable cigarette lighters, big packs of pocket sized paper handkerchiefs and so on. I know they are trying to make a living but they are a major pain in the arse.
On the metro a little gypsy girl wandered through the carriages with her Casio keyboard playing a demo song continuously. Now you don’t even need talent to be a musician. It was an electronic rendition of Wham’s “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go” that stayed stuck in my head for the rest of the day. She held a McDonald’s cup to collect coins with. She was largely ignored and, by the vacant look on her face, didn’t seem to mind.
On the other hand one evening we were sitting outside at a restaurant and a Chinese guy came by who played a two string instrument called an erhu. This guy was seriously good. We politely invited him to our table and he played for us for a full ten minutes. We were fascinated and listened in total silence observing every move of his fingers and bow. When it was time for him to go we remunerated him accordingly. Every now and again a gem of an individual is to be found and should be complimented and rewarded.