I’m here nominally for tomorrow’s Italy v Scotland Six Nations match at the Olympic Stadium, but actually the game, although I am looking forward to watching it – and hope that Italy beat Scotland – is pretty much just an excuse to do something different. Really, it was just an excuse to do something different, in this case to ‘have a weekend in Rome, although there is one not quite so small drawback, which I shall come to later. It kicked off 13 months ago when I was discussing the Six Nations with the landlord of the Brewers Arms (no apostrophe, I gather, so I don’t know how many of them there are) and talking about the price of Six Nations games tickets.
He remarked that the prices for the lesser games, i.e. those featuring Italy and Scotland, who in most people’s univers must surely with the best will in the world qualify as lesser nations (each of them sets itself the task of not getting that seasons’ Wooden Spoon) would undoubtedly be cheaper, so there and then I decided to treat myself to a trip to Rome to watch Italy in one of its home games.
I looked up the prices of flights, hotels and tickets and they weren’t too bad. But I let it slide and by the time I got around to trying to book they had risen to such an extent that I really wasn’t prepared to cough up for something which was pretty close to a whim. But I resolved to keep an eye on the fixture dates for the 2016 Six Nations games and book as soon as possible.
o last September I booked a flight, hotel for three nights and a ticket for a game. It was a toss up between Italy v England and Italy v Scotland, but as the latter game came later in the month, and I reckoned the weather would be that less colder, I opted for that one.
The drawback is that for the past six, seven, eight, if not nine weeks, I have been suffering from a curious affliction which consists of my upper torse itching everywhere like fuck. A tripe to my GP two months ago concluded with being given a large tub of cream to smear on my front and back whenever and a course of anti-histamines. That didn’t help at all. A second trip a few weeks later (and this time I consulted his locum, a Chinese GP called, I suppose nevitably, Dr Lee) concluded with being prescribed another tub of cream, a different brand. That hasn’t helped, either.
Two weeks ago I was at the surgery again and this time was told I shall have some blood tests. Meanwhile, the itching continues and continues and continues and it is not pleasant. Some nights I can’t get to sleep, and on other nights (as last night) I get to sleep, only to wake up and having to scratch myself mercilessly. And, of course, that doesn’t help. It doesn’t help that I am of the species home hypochondus, which means I always fear the worst.
Then, in the Daily Mail’s Good Health pages last week came across the case of a woman who had a similar itching problem and was eventually diagnosed, far too late to save her life, with liver cancer. It seems her minute bile ducts had become blocked with cancer and the bile, not having anywhere else to go, for some reason travels to just under the skin where it causes the itching. The upshot is that I am not quite enjoying my break as I might because I have got to the age where when things are amiss all I want to do is be ‘at home’. Well, I’m not, I’m in fucking Rome. But being the – reasonably cheerful sort – I am trying to make the best of it.
This morning just after ten I took off and headed for the Colloseum. I found it – it’s not easy to miss, being quite big – and then carried on with a view to walking to St Peter’s. However, my sense of direction rather let me down and I ended up walking pretty much in circles, or rather as Rome’s streets are pretty straight, though often at a diagonal, in squares. I like walking, but after about two and bit hours I got thirsty and spotted and ‘Irish pub’ – they are everywhere – so I stopped off. For a coke. I really didn’t feel like drinking (apparently another sign of liver cancer, as well as losing your appetite – check – but that is the last ‘joke’ I shall make about liver cancer in case Life takes me to task about it and says, right, sunshine.
. . .
After a great deal more walking, I got back to my hotel, the Hotel Napoleon in the Piazza Vittorio Emmanuelle II, and crashed. That was because the walking and the fact that I hadn’t been able to get to sleep until about 2am meant I was bloody tired. Tonight I had planned to find one of the many ‘British pubs’ to watch the Wales v France game, and took myself off to the nearest, the Druids’ Den in Piazza Esquilino, but when I got there it just wasn’t what I wanted, loads of Brits, many in kilts, standing shoulder to shoulder downing pints of Guinness and being very noisy. So it was back to the hotel, except on the way back I came across a small Roman bar up the square which was also showing the game. There I stopped, discovered Vecchia Romana brandy, and watch Wales beat the shit out of France. And I didn’t really notice the itching.
. . .
I am now sitting on the terrace on the sixth floor, the only spot where you can smoke. It is mild. The game tomorrow is at around 3pm. I’ve decided to get to the are early, have a lunch beforehand and get along to the stadium. Sunday, well, Sunday I must leave the hotel by whenever, but my flight isn’t until after 9pm, so I thought I might go to Ostia, the old Roman port, for a late lunch and make my way to Fiumicino airport a little later. Whether there is an direct transport from Ostia to the airport I don’t know, but as I shall have finished lunch by 3/4pm, there’s still plenty of time to cock things up, then salvage the day. Pip, pip.
Had good night’s sleep – who wouldn’t after several glasses of what I had and despite the coffees – but this morning this sodding itching is back with a vengeance and really pissing me off. Does did a quick self-diagnosis on the net and it might be chronic hives. No real treatment except anti-histamines and cream. Doing that already.
The thing is that I’m not really enjoying these few days in Rome at all and am just counting the hours until I can get back to Britain and my usual home/work routine as it’s just a question of getting your head down and biting the bullet. Biting the bullet ain’t too easy when you are in a strange city with time on your hand. Oh, and although the hotel is fine, the shower is tiny, about two and a half feet by two and a half feet. Bend over to pick up the soap and you stick your arse through the Perspex doors.