Shortly before Xmas, a webcam was installed on top of our building, ostensibly as part of a weather monitoring programme. However, I’ve become addicted to tracking the changes in the sky, watching the hot air balloon rise and fall over Villa Borghese. The satellite feed of global weather movements from the Naval Research Laboratory in California is even more impressive. Unfortunately for you, our webcam seems to be available only on our intranet and I don’t want to infringe any copyright by posting snapshots of the feed, so instead I’m posting an excellent photo by a friend here at work*. It shows the edge of the Aventine, St Peter’s in the distance, the synagogue, Circo Massimo, the Palatine, the Colosseum and finally Villa Celimontana and gardens. This is our view when lunching on the terrace.
* The original photo is 1.03 Mb, with incredible detail.
When I started at the UN, I was taken to the stock room and given one red pen, two pencils, a pad of post-its, a roll of sellotape and a stapler. I didn’t have a desk or a computer, and the seat of the spare chair in my shared office tipped over if you leaned too far forward. On the second day I got a desk. After three days I was given a PC on loan. The mouse had no trackball and looked like a gouged eye socket. I still managed to use it by wiggling my finger around its insides…
Hey kids! There’s a Residents’ Association Meeting for the Preservation of Historic Aventino/San Saba going on!
The short walk from my apartment to work is along Piramide Cestia and Via Aventina. It’s a cobbled tree-lined boulevard with a tram line running down the middle. On the lower part, there is a park opposite, named after the Resistance uprising of 1942; then comes Piazza Albania. At first no one knew what I was talking about when I said “Piazza Albania” – then they would twig and say, “Oh, Albania!” Like that’s a completely different word. What can I say … we used to give our French teacher hell when she shouted at us “Zis noise is not necessary!”
Anyways, Piazza Albania had no charm; it was bare concrete, exposed to the elements and the pavements were jammed with cars. In autumn weather (like now), it meant a soaking dash to the other side to get out of the rain, and in the summer it felt like you were walking in Death Valley. No more. In a few months it will be transformed into part of a green artery running from the Piramide to Circo Massimo. The too-wide pavements (used for illegal parking) will be narrowed and covered with grass and strolling couples and frolicking children. (They put up an artist’s impression of it – so that’s how I know). Of course, the architect knew that plain grass would be ground up within days by cars hungry to park, so all along the pavements the flower beds are mounted in concrete walls. The walls are irregularly rhomboid, with the high side, almost a metre high, by the road. That’s what the architect figured it would take to keep the cars back!
As soon as the first trenches were dug, the first signs of trouble appeared – badly photocopied typewritten ALL CAPS tracts stuck on the walls and shop windows.
[Time out – better do some work….]
What do you know … no work. Tant mieux.
Back to the tracts … posted in the name of the Residents’Association for the Preservation of Historic Aventine/San Saba, signed by Professore A. C.
[Deference to one’s betters is still such a powerful social force here that no one without a title can take a stand in public. Inginiere, Dottore, Professore are used with the utmost respect, which suits me fine since I often get titled, particularly when I’m wearing my glasses.]
My friendly neighbourhood pharmacists bent my ear for 20 minutes about the aesthetic outrage being committed before our eyes and pressed me to attend the first committee meeting. I signed their petition and nodded in agreement while being non-committal about the meeting. (That’s quite a tricky nod to master.) Since then, new tracts have appeared, following the successful first meeting of the local bourgeoisie, unusually Ã©patÃ©e and solidaire. The result of which is a second meeting, with the architect and the councillor in charge of the project. I hope they’ve made some notes, otherwise they’ll get eaten alive.
We shall fight them in the trenches!