We’re back. We’ve been away to warmer climes, and are now back in cold and grey Sheffield, where our flat has developed its very own water-feature and everything smells damp and possessions are growing white stuff.
Our apartment is quite big, but its condition is not that far removed from a garret. It’s a big old house, with very high ceilings, terrible decorating, no damp-proofing to speak of, and now the apartment above ours has been blighted by some really dodgy plumbing on the boiler, thus resulting in a constant stream of orange water coming down the wall in the hallway. I’m just glad we don’t own the flat, and it has made me think twice about buying one. You just do not have control over your surrounding environment as much as you might with a house… Some may disagree, though. But we’ve decided we must move out, and quite soon.
Anyway, needles to say, our house-hunting has struck some urgency at a very busy time right now. We’ve just come back from Rome (see below), the first draft of the new book is two weeks away (please ignore the news item on the website – it’s a little presumptuous!), the gossip on The Secret War is escalating (see next blog entry – and it is very good news indeed!); and house-hunting is almost a fulltime job these days… Oh well…
“When in Rome…”
We did not say the above once. Why? Well, I was too busy attempting Italian to say such clichéd phrases - something I thought I was mastering before a bewildered out-of-town Italian lady just stared at me while I attempted to show her how to use the metro ticket machine. Eventually I just asked her if she spoke any English but to her it probably sounded like “speeky Anglishy?” After three attempts, she just smiled and shook her head, either because she didn’t speak “Anglishy” or because she thought I was a sad, deluded tourist, one of thousands that flock to Rome every week.
My advice, if you can’t speak Italian, don’t try. They already think English people are pretty ignorant anyway, to think we’re pretty damned stupid too…
Language barriers aside, I really enjoyed Rome, even if it was mental. Having been to London countless times, and also New York, I know big cities, yet Rome has the touch of the crazies. For instance, there are no rules on the roads. Drive where you want, mow down who you want, and minimise how many dents your car gets. Pedestrians too seem to fling themselves in front of cars with sheer abandon hoping the drivers will stop and show them some mercy. It’s called being “an assertive pedestrian”, apparently.
Driving aside, the city is an abundance of beauty. Apart from the odd barrel-chested elderly gent sitting forever in a dilapidated café - sipping an espresso, the Romans themselves are pretty much like the models you see inside the covers of men’s or women’s magazines, and they in turn are surrounded by the greatest buildings erected, from a wealth of history that puts all other countries to shame. You cannot go anywhere in Rome without finding a ruin of that fallen empire, or some great latter-day building of utter extravagance engraved with saints, sinners, gods and leaders. Art and extravagance oozes out of every doorway, every window; from the painted high ceilings of a simple chapel, to the utterly spellbinding décor of a stately house, there is a severe attack on the visual senses.
I could write all week about the experience, which was largely a researching one, but instead I’ll post some photos with a few words, over the coming week. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and I won’t attempt to write about it in such a small time-scale!
On a final point, I believe in fate. I do. So when we walked out of our hotel that first morning, and saw this…
…I believed, wow, Fate has done it again. Why? Well, the Secret War revolves around a single artefact known as the Scarimadaen, a bronze pyramid that acts as a doorway to Hell. The pyramid in the book is a symbol of great power, and utter terror, and one that drives the story forward. And it is an omnipresent symbol, so much so that during the ideas for the first designs of the book-cover, the pyramid was the central icon.
So to actually stay near the only pyramid in Italy – and by chance…
… well, I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.
Needless to say, I’ve discovered a landmark that will find it’s way into the pages of the third book - so going to Rome was definitely not a wasted trip!