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'Rome never changes...'

Said the landlord as he showed us round the gorgeous flat on Via Nazionale. He avoided mentioning the way not one single door actually fitted its frame well enough to close properly, or the bizarre noises of the upstairs loo, but the flat was still beautiful, its shutters and balcony a matter of delight to the smallest member of our company, with all the city bustling below. And of course, he was right; Rome in essence is as she was when Larians and I first visited 17 years ago, and as I hope she will be when we are long past visiting.

This time I enjoyed it more, I think. The usual suspects turned up again, the Colosseum, the Forum, the Palatine hill, views of the Circus Maximus, the Vatican, St Peter's Basilica,the Sistine Chapel, the Trevi fountain, the Pantheon, all in the benign sunlight of a Roman Spring.

There were added beauties this time. The National Museum of Rome was full of realistic busts of famous gents about town; Nero with a supercilious grin, Tiberius looking like a goggle eyed psychopath, Julius with a strangely gentle expression. There were galleries of mosaics and murals, glorious depictions of the fanciful and the real, women standing on columns or cuddling their masseurs, leopards emerging from flowers, fish, pigeons, flowers, life... Livia, a character I have always despised from Roman history, had a painted garden room that was breathlessly lovely. My companion and I were looking forward to decrying the awful woman's taste; it was not to be. I took no photos because I have no way of doing it justice.

New to me also was Ostia; I wouldn't have bothered had not one of our friends been a secret archeologist with a powerful flame for the place, because I've 'done' Pompeii and couldn't think this would be different. I was wrong; Pompeii was a city, with grid-like streets even as you might see in a modern example. Ostia was a port town. There were the shops, the warehouses, the posh places, the poor streets; there was the fish mongers, the coppers' pub,the pub with live music, the office of exotic animal importers; there was the theatre with stone masks, there was the shipwrights, here were the baths, the barracks, the cemeteries, the feeding troughs, the temples. Quiet treasures were everywhere; I found it easy to imagine the life of the place once upon a time when the Tiber rolled close by, and the breeze was undoubtedly more pungent. Ostia is still now without being depressing at all. And Rome, we learned, has strata that go back to 900 B.C, though they are afraid to dig it up for fear of what they might destroy. The Palatine gardens would almost certainly be a casualty. My Romanophile friend shrugged it off; 'They could always replant the gardens,' she laughed, 'Give me a spade!'

Love among the ruins in the house of Cupid and Psyche, Ostia.

Prepping for Rome...

Much running around to be done.

Two dreams of my mother, one forgotten, one vivid. We were headed towards that place in my dreams with the yellow castle,and the sinking cathedral. I had inherited a big modern house near there, with a dark garden full of beasts including a huge snake (I know, I know!). Saw it a moment, then it was gone as we tried to visit the sights of the city or wherever we were; Mum and I were going down a tunnel, Bro wouldn't join us as it made him feel claustrophobic. Mum and I went together, and found ourselves in a place full of light.

It's about Rome, it's about endless repeats of that Jungle Book clip with Scarlet Johannsen as Kaa, it's about many things.

Back later.

Beautiful Days

Martin McGuinness is dead.

Of his life, others can comment with more knowledge; years gone by when we went to visit Olivia at Clonegal Castle, she was ordaining a new priestess of Brigid, and this new priestess, it was whispered, had connections to Mr McGuinness himself. What they were I never knew, and my accent alone ensured folk didn't say much of such things in front of me. Olivia wouldn't have cared even if she was aware. The irony of her jolly indifference, in the wake of her family's past as Anglo-Irish Protestant aristocracy who had hung Catholic Jacobites from the trees in the driveway, escaped her entirely.

But one person spoke something of it to me. He was a sad eyed man in polyester/crimplene trousers. 'That's Oscar,' someone said and then went on to inform me that he had been in the IRA, again had something to do with the priestess and McGuinness, and had been tortured by British police. 'Don't get sentimental about people like this,' my companion said to me, 'Think of what they've done...' She tried hard to avoid him, as did I, simply by dint of wishing to keep my accidental association with any friends of Martin McGuinness as non-existent as possible, quietly cursing Olivia for never judging anyone on anything.

Oscar however, wasn't having it. He caught up with me and spoke for a while.I can't recall what he said beyond the day in his youth he saw graffiti on a wall reading 'IRA I Ran Away.' Who he knew and what he did, I can never know. My recollection is of looking at his eyes and believing he had been tortured. I was staring at the pain that doesn't leave, and even as a right fool, recognised it and let him talk, knowing that it is wrong for anyone to torture, even if it's Us. Especially if it's Us.

The day came for my companion and I to return to Dublin airport; we got to the bus stop in time to learn that the daily bus had come and gone, nor were there any taxis to be had. Oscar, in some junked up little car came to our rescue, and much to my companion's mortification the only option was his car or missing the plane. So he took us to the city passing by Bono's house,and entertained us all the way there.

'He had an eye for you,' my friend said, once we were in the airport, 'Probably thought you were an easy target for sympathy. If they tortured him,it won't have been for nothing.'

I didn't say anything. It had been so magical this time at the castle, like being close to fairyland, like Narnia; or going down to the river and watching the swans' nesting beyond the wildflowers of the bank.
And I wished Oscar didn't hurt anyone and no-one hurt him; that people just let each other be and enjoyed beautiful days.

From Wales

Well, that was fun.

At some point I need to explore Wales more fully. It's been years since we visited Cardiff Castle and I would love to do it again, but that city and a bit of Newport is really all I have seen of the country,apart from one excursion long ago to a meeting of travellers on the hills above Flintshire. What a place. No pubs open on Sunday, barely a soul on the streets,and those we did see looked at us and all but crossed themselves. Bright stars though, and in the grass up along the hill trails, a toad crossed our path. Later we saw a wasp fighting a firefly. Mark was with us then; we set up our tents and neither he nor [G] had brought one, but someone found room for them anyway. What they lacked was sleeping gear, and it was damned cold. I recall in the middle of the night hearing him burst out of nearby canvas yelling, 'I can't stand it any more!' Another old friend slept in the crook of a tree,in nothing but his leather trousers, shirt and leather coat, and had no problems at all. The celebration lasted a couple of days and nights, in which Whimsy and I found ourselves thoroughly pixie-led in a small copse of trees, out of which we simply could not find our way...

All long ago.

I have not yet been to Snowdonia or the Gower... This weekend was all about friends in their new and rather lovely house along a very posh road in Cardiff. Complete with droll toddler and terrible weather, the only exploring we did was of the pantry and booze supplies. The rugby was on, and it was truly rubbish. But the company was most fine.


Next time if the weather's good, I've been promised Castle Coch. That 'if' is quite a condition. Sheets of grey rain followed us out of the station and back again. 'Spring is beautiful in Wales,as soon as the sun shines,' our host told us, 'But that's one day in three if we're lucky.' I hope we can get back there in June, and this time get out of town... I'm ready for an adventure or two.

Naturally, On Saint Patrick's Day...

We go to Wales.

Looking forward to it, been a long time since I visited Cardiff. I may try to persuade our hosts to take us out into the country - or knowing us, we'll just spend time drinking, talking, watching the rugby and basically goofing around. It's all good.

Yesterday was interesting, what with the Tories getting the electoral commission's largest fine for electoral expenses fiddling, Geert Wilders' failure demonstrating that Netherlanders have a lot more sense than we do, and May making it clear she won't give permission for a Scottish referendum, using, of all things, polling evidence as a justification for Scottish people not wanting it - as if polling has been a reliable gauge of anything over the past two years!

I have things to do before we go, and I'm stalling. Time to get things done... After another coffee.

My Turbulent Nose

[CT Sinuses]

'The frontal sinuses are not developed. Extensive disease involving the ethmoidal sinuses and there is lobulated mucosal thickening with polyps seen involving the maxillary sinuses. The OM complexes are completely obstructed. There is thickening of the nasal mucosa and turbinates reducing the nasal air passages on both sides. There is deviation of the nasal septum to the right side. There is mucosal thickening of the sphenoidal sinuses more so on the left side. Narrowing of the sphenoethmoidal recess is noted. No further abnormality.'

Bloody hell! I am hoping all this is just medicospeak for 'bunged up nose,' but one reads phrases like 'extensive disease' and immediately feels like a plague carrier.'Frontal sinuses not developed' apparently covers around 5% of the population. Why am I always in the special group for pointless crummy things? How on earth can my nose be so unhelpful? It's quite small, how can it possibly be so b*ggered up? Of course, it isn't always like this. Takes a lot to KO me for three months - which in itself is something to be thankful for - and it can't happen again. Next we need the blood test results to see what,if anything, I am allergic to. I still haven't worked out the connection to my lungs; the doctor tried to explain it but I did not quite understand.

Anyway, there's lots worse out there; today it's down into town to deal with a few bits and pieces.

Saw Logan last night; Good end to a series of films best explained as uneven in quality.

Do not go to Fiji

There's a part in 'The Truman Show,' where the protagonist decides he wants to go to Fiji, and finds himself in the most bizarre travel agency:


Do not fly


It reminds me so much of the general indignation against #indyref2 or #scotref or whatever people call it. I have no idea about the general Scottish appetite for another referendum, though I admit to a little laughter at the same arguments that worked anti-Europe being applied anti-UK. But there's always something dodgy in the desire to silence dissent. Surely, if there's no appetite for it, another Scottish referendum will ruin Sturgeon, so from the PM's point of view, what's not to like? It means that she can't use Scottish resources as bargaining chips, but she shouldn't be doing that without the Scottish government's agreement and knowledge anyway. So then, why isn't she relishing the prospect of a demolished rival and humiliated SNP?

I suspect press and polls doth protest too much, especially when retweeted by Russia Today...Much as I would love to visit Russia,I don't want their government getting involved in our politics. From cyberhacking in the States to mysterious money funnelled into the Brexit campaign via the DUP, some very odd things are happening. It can't all come from one source, but one source is universally strengthened by what we are seeing across Europe and the USA. However crazy it may sound, Cui Bono is always a useful question.

Tin hat aside, when one is being discouraged from doing something, yes, said activity may be genuinely bad for you. Lightning can strike planes. But should that put you off going to Fiji?

The Cat Among The Pigeons

Well here we go.

As a daughter of the Union, I recall my fierce anger at this idea of splitting the UK the first time round. I didn't want to lose Scotland. Now England is becoming to all intents and purposes a one party state led by an intransigent authoritarian politician who no-one has voted for, and who has clearly decided to go the way of hard Brexit in order to placate the far right in her own party. Last year I heard stuff coming from the Tories that froze the blood under my skin, and when they weren't suggesting frankly horrible changes to our society, they were keeping specifically quiet about the outrageous responses to the High Court judges.Oh, something was said...in time. I was horrified,still am. The SNP are a bunch of nationalists, but they stated the possibility of a new referendum in their manifesto with specific reference to this potential situation, a manifesto that got them into power. And here they are keeping their promise. No wonder the tories are shocked.

But I do not think they can be that shocked. This has been on the cards for a while. There is a loud irony in Brexiters making the same arguments against Scottish independence that they ignored for Remain. My feeling is that all this froth and fury stems from the basic ingrown imperialism of seeing the states around them as should-be vassals, when Scotland is an equal partner in the Union, a fact lost in historical nostalgia that always paints us as wonderful winners who taught everyone how to be good. Books got neglected for press and pictures. We always win,we're that amazing. Everyone looks up to us blahblahblah...

Ignorance puffed up by flattery could ruin our very real gifts.

If May wants to make this worse, all she has to do is refuse the next referendum, then the SNP have their justification for an Universal Declaration of Independence, a gift if Sturgeon couldn't care less about any possible benefits of Brexit. If, however, she is taking other Brexit options seriously, a refusal could force her hand immediately.

One way or another it makes EU negotiations next to impossible. Maybe that's the point.

Scotland is my father's country. I love the place, and hate the idea of being parted from it. If Scotland chooses independence, I want it to succeed and worry that the SNP show no gift for money management.

And I'll get a Scottish passport if I can.


Unicorn

New Times

Good news from relatives on Friday night; looks as though a new addition to the family will be joining us in November. No-one mentioned issues of citizenship, possibly because there's nothing to know yet, though the overjoyed parents are trying to work out names that sound good in both English and Spanish.

And after that, the weekend cruised past with ease. Our holidays were arranged... after thoughts of Morocco and Estonia, we settled on the Loire Valley;together with Rome and visiting Mum, it's going to be all about Europe til we go to Oz again.

And last night? Strange ideas for new manuscripts filtered through my head, I don't know if I could make them work. I can't work out a pitch to make them sound good, so perhaps they're not. But one at least is a very different idea, I have never heard of anyone writing anything like it.

Sleep has been excellent, until last night; strange dreams about [G] testing me on the whereabouts of planets in the sky; I could only get the sun and moon correct with certainty. We were under a duvet for some reason. I recall noticing [G] had no clothes on; it was all perfectly safe and respectable. Whimsy turned up too. In real life I have matters that need to be discussed with her.

My mood stays sanguine until I read the papers. May will probably trigger article 50 this week, and I suspect Sturgeon will call for another Scottish referendum at some point. I have always been against Scottish independence out of sentimentality and a real worry about Scotland's economy; Salmond's claim that Scotland could be independent and yet still tied to the BoE's pound seemed like a non-sequitur to me. Obviously they could use the currency, but what's independence without control over the money? But given what is happening to England, more, given May's hostility to voices that disagree and expectation of silent obedience from Sotland, N.I, and Gibraltar, I wouldn't be surprised if it happens.

A decent night's sleep...

cures a lot of problems.

My dreams were strange,my mother riding on a beautiful white horse to which she was occasionally cruel. She told me she had googled how to train it by hitting it with rocks. A friend explaining about another friend in words I couldn't understand. Picking out a dress that was a lovely shape though slightly wrong colour,only to realise at the last minute that it wasn't mine; clearing out a car boot of old food and empty meat packets. Finding that I was part of a Hogwarts House called something like 'Lachesis' with mottoes that were positively Blakean in terms and length, and talked about being humble in the face of one's passion or hatred. Ice and worms were mentioned. Finding out that we were sneaking through the house, and not part of it at all...Leaving the place in time to see a parade of its representatives including clergy in red crossing a field. Eschewing the temptation to join them to get back to where we were meant to be...

And yet it was all as peaceful a night's sleep as I can remember, refreshing and pleasant.

Another night out tonight. Must try not to KO myself with good food and drink.

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