Last exit for Italy

Last exit for Italy

Someone once wrote that war was composed of long periods of utter boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror. That pretty much sums up my trip north from Rome to Friesland. The moments of terror came when an overloaded and swaying lorry suddenly swung out in front of me to overtake another slow-moving lorry. I can sympathize with the lorry drivers, however. I’d go stir crazy if I had to sit behind another lorry for hours at a time.

I hadn’t imagined my trip would be so boring. I had images of road trippin’ with Neal Cassady, Bird blasting from the dashboard. I guess the main reason was that I was doing it alone.

So by the time I’d hit Umbria, I was already yawning and wishing I was anywhere else but there.

Tuscany … ahhh, what can I say about dear Tuscany that hasn’t already been said? How about BORING BORING VERY VERY BORING. Florence? Ugly sprawl of warehouses and 70s apartment blocks.

I thought as a symbol of my blasé-ness and of the tedium of the scenery, I’d photograph road signs of the illustrious places I passed by. However, I was too bored for even that, so there are big gaps between Florence and Germany.

Road sign - FlorenceRoad sign - GenovaRoad sign - KarlsruheRoad sign - FrankfurtRoad sign - KolnRoad sign - Arnheim

I used to drive quite tensed on highways, never moving my head, gripping the wheel with both hands, in the textbook 10 to 2 position. Although in central Rome I drove with one hand always on the gear stick, ready to flick gears and zip into a crack in the gridlock. Roman drivers abhor free space in traffic.

Not long into this trip, I was slumped back, my right arm stretched across the back of the passenger seat and steering with two fingers and thumb loosely hooked round the wheel. My left foot was completely redundant, since I hardly ever needed to change gear. And not a single traffic light for most of the 1700 km.

I was happy to note that Padre Pio was still beating off the soft porn on Italian lorries (read previous post on Pio).
Just after Florence, I got caught in a torrential downpour and could barely see where I was going. Hell, I’ve driven in worse in West Africa. It’s best not to pull over in case you get washed away – just slow down and follow the white centre line.

Rain

Shortly after that, I was brought to a standstill for two and a half hours when a lorry carrying pallets overturned and caught fire. Commendable blitz spirit was shown by all. I finished the last of my water and wondered where I could pee.

Traffic jam

I didn’t have a map with me, and as the night was drawing in, I wanted to see how far I’d got. At a Modena service station (Tip: the best balsamic vinegar is from Modena), the only maps available were of Milan and Parma, the two nearest towns. Further proof that Italians don’t travel far. Unlike the Dutch, who formed a constant stream of caravans and campers heading north.

I spent the night just south of Milan, having done less than 500 km. The next day I did 1200 km, crossing four countries.

Switzerland, also boring

In Germany, I passed the time by playing word games with licence plates. German plates are the most generatively heuristic. Favourites were BOT FK 26 and FFS GO 54.

Thinking ahead to the end of the trip, I imagine I’ll have to be levered out of my seat with a pole, I feel bloated and pasty. The long-distance driving diet is very poor in protein and fibre and high in those hard-to-cut-out carbs, while the sugars are off the charts.

As I neared the Dutch border, I smiled to see the Dutch drivers enjoy their last burst of speed (200 km/hr) on the autobahn before going back home at half the speed.

I was struck too by the brilliant colours of the fields, proving that the grass really is greener on the other side of the border, the result, no doubt, of the liquid manure that Dutch farmers are so partial to.

The stench has the same effect as smelling salts and keeps me alert for the final two hours.

I use the image of a very top-heavy woman as a mnemonic for the last three highways to take: 50-28-32, until my headlights hit the sign in full beam:

Wolkom yn Fryslân

Girl-on-girl housework

There’s an ad campaign in Italy at the moment for endermology treatment that looks as if you iron away your cellulite.

I like the picture because I can imagine it embodies a doubly erotic fantasy for many men.
Girl-on-girl housework
I love the levitating table, but close up, the endermologicky machine looks scary.

Exterminate! Exterminate!

Exterminate! Exterminate!

Tits ‘n’ bums, kids ‘n’ mums

Peeling postersThe city council has put up extra billboards to host the thousands of posters for the forthcoming regional elections. The regular billboards are overloaded with dozens of posters stuck on top of each other by the busy glue boys working under cover of darkness. In their hyperactive haste they seem to drip as much glue on the ground as they do on the board, judging by our sticky tiptoeing to the car each morning. By election time there may be as many as fifty posters on a single board, the edges curling up and creating a confusing collage of political messages. Eventually the heavy mass falls to the ground, lies in the rain for a couple of days and dissolves in a glutinous mush.

But we’re not there yet.

Most of the election posters are head shots of the candidate. Occasionally the communists will put up one with text only, shunning idolatry for the purity of the true word – as if anyone can read a paragraph of text from a speeding car. From the driver’s seat of my own speeding car, I carried out an extensive survey of the image of women in the posters lining the route to school. It may not bear up to scientific scrutiny, but so what? – it was raining heavily and my son kept wanting me to turn round and admire his glow-in-the-dark shoes.

This is what I saw:

-No turning back-

Election poster #1
Big-haired brunette beauty, bare shoulders, beaming smile, her arms protectively around a little boy

Election poster #2
Small child with his head against a naked pregnant belly. Woman’s head and legs cut off. (Reminds me of the tits ‘n’ bums photos in porno mags, and of the Meat Manual that we produced recently.)

Election poster #3
Young mother standing side-by-side with man and two small children

Election poster #4
Girl, aged about 9, backpack on, heading for school

Election poster #5
Beautiful blond woman, head thrown back, laughing loudly on the phone

Election poster #6
Middle-aged woman in hospital scrubs, smiling softly

Message to the female voter:
Get a basic education
Gossip & flirt
Get pregnant
Look after your kids
Stand by your man
Take care of sick people.

. . .

Is that all there is?

How does the commercial world present women on my drive from school to work?

Ad #1
Intimissimi, with their new winter range of push-up lingerie for teenage girls

Ad #2
LookAtMiHonda’s new scooter, with a perfectly sculpted woman’s face in deep shadow, bee-stung lips and a wide-eyed side glance at the shiny SH125i. Look at mi is the caption, in English.

Ad #3
Casaidea, the interior design exhibition, showing a zany mussy-haired woman with an apple on her head

Ad #4
Where's the jack, Jack?Telecom Italia, promoting a double-speed ADSL connection by using the obvious image of a gawping raven-haired beauty lying naked with phone cable wrapped round her breasts and hips. Double-speed ADSL :: near-naked woman. Gosh, the copywriter really pushed the envelope on that one.

My caption: “Find the jack, Jack”. I should get paid for that, don’t you think?

What message do you get from these ads?