Thursday, 20 August 2015

Black hole. You have to laugh....

I am hoping this report will make my fans cry – with laughter. It’s been a bit of a bummer today. Started off ok, my answerphone password problems apparently to be resolved by a text which the service providers said they’ll send in a few hours. (12 hours later, it hasn’t arrived yet). Cross fingers.
And we had a smooth journey to the airport.
But – Andrew’s new Android phone proved to be broken, despite the best efforts of the guys at Dixon's in the terminus.  And, because I had decided I would, really, here and now upgrade my phone – and spent a nawful lot of money to do it, I then found that password glitches etc had wiped out all my contacts and photos, and masses of apps, and the  promised ‘two hours’ of battery in the new phone turned out to be 40 minutes.
So, as we boarded we knew we were going to be a bit incommunicado when we arrived.
Luckily, the threat of delays caused by French air-traffic controllers proving to be nothing more than a rumour.
But, during the flight which was pretty well perfect, I somehow managed to drop my reading glasses off my head and onto the floor somewhere under or behind my seat. No amount of wriggling or squirming on my part brought them within hands-reach. I tried facing backwards, but no good. I was stretching out into all the cramped spaces round the seat – nothing. Andrew, in the middle seat, tried. Nothing. We got up and tried to see where the spectacles had gone. Couldn’t see them.  We asked the poor girl in the third seat (by the aisle) to get up, and then I, and then Andrew, tried to lie down in front of the seats to find them. Nothing. We attracted the attention of the cabin crew. A beautiful and very calm young woman looking more like a film star than a stewardess said she would get them. She lay down on the floor as if she did this every day, and with one elegant flourish of her tiny wrist, she pulled my precious glasses out from their hiding place. Really it was balletic. She just smiled sweetly.
As we approached Trieste, a thick blanket of dark cloud obscured the whole landscape below us, until we came down to a couple of thousand feet. Then it was quite clear that the whole area was being drenched with rain. It looked like – well – England in November. Getting off the plane was like stepping fully-clothed into the shower.
We went through border control, got our bag, bought our bus tickets, found a dryish route to the buses while the rain slammed down around us.
Andrew’s preparatory research showed we needed bus 51 – and there it was. We queued and queued to get on…. The rain pelted down. The driver seemed to be having a deep philosophical conversation with someone ahead of us in the line. There was nowhere else to stand except in the monsoon. Andrew tried hiding under the luggage department lid, in the side of the bus. He may have kept slightly drier but had to stand hunched up like Quasimodo. Eventually the driver opened the second set of doors, and a grateful but sodden line of passengers got into the coach.
Our journey into Trieste was pretty mysterious because it was pouring rain outside, and the windows were all steamed up inside. Nonetheless it was a smooth and quiet journey, quite a  different experience from the great Jan Morris’s description of what the approach to Trieste is like. I cannot in any way compete with her remarkable, erudite and brilliantly written account of the city, and I thoroughly recommend it to you, pausing only to point out that it’s currently cheaper to buy it in paperback than it is to download it on Kindle, which is a degree further in the economics of publishing than I can aspire to understand.
We passed through small town and suburbs, then could see little glimpses of the sea to our right, and went below and though great rocky cliffs, and finally arrived in a dry but dark bus station. The loos were clean – somehow I got in and out without paying. Our little map lured us out into the rain, to find our apartment.
We had two pull-alongs, a backpack, and two umbrellas. The way to cross the roads here is rather German – wait for the green man. The rain poured down. We were splashed with puddle spray, somewhat.
We carved our way through the slightly weird streets – cobbles, utterly grand and knob-covered facades, tramlines, zebra-crossings which overlap at the corners, lots of closed shops, black guys trying to sell umbrellas to the masses of people who already held umbrellas of every possible design and colour…. Worrying, really, as it seems to indicate that it rains a lot here, which none of the guidebooks said.
We went up and down, back and forth, looking for Via de la gimmnastica…. But it was nowhere to be found. Back and forth. We asked. We asked again. And again.  We walked to and fro, up and down.  Eventually we found it, labelled as Via Cornorio della Cornorio, or something. The rain kept coming down.  Sirens wailed.  We found no. 13, which was described on as ‘a hotel’.  It is a dark entrance, narrow stairs. No-one in sight. We tried various doors. We retreated, and being phone-less, asked in the adjacent hair salon if we could telephone the owner of the apartment. The ladies, who were having a party with large glasses of pink wine (or gin?) were very helpful, let us ring, tried ringing the number themselves…. No answer. We tried ringing England and after listening to a lot of music, got through. The owner had left a message – long after we had left home – explaining that the key is in a little box, with a pin code.  We were in!
But – oh deary me! The flat stinks of cigarettes. There are no windows – just two openings into the bottom of a lift shaft. It is pitch dark. There is no wifi. The air conditioning appears not to work. In its way, this is as horrible as the notorious Hotel Moderns in Paris, which is rated as one of the ten worst places to stay in that formidably sanguine city. True, this place is clean and modern inside, but it’s a pit.
We dump our stuff, venture out to find something to eat, out into the interminable Mancunian rain. Oh Italy! Oh Trieste! Everywhere seems to be closing down. We collapse into a trattoria – Andrew has a dish of utterly divine carpaccio di tonno, and I mis-choose with some very salty ham, and then a very al dente pasta.
Back into the smokehouse of the apartment, there is a message asking if things are ok, and I  back (now that my new phone is partly charged up)…. I say it is not alright, and I say why. Back comes a reply – he thinks I am being aggressive and threatens to call the police. I repeat my complaints, say we will find somewhere else tomorrow. Andrew is disgruntled. We have had a long day.
I know it’s still raining because I can hear the traffic on the wet roads nearby (can’t see them, of course). There is loud laughter, thumping and banging from elsewhere in the building, a loud ping-pong announcement noise which we used to hear in airports, the clash of pots and pans, furniture scraping on the floors, men talking loudly, keys rattling in doors, the smell of fags all through. Oh, Italy!
This morning, the sun is shining. We have had a lot of very shouty emails from the landlord, threatening TO CALL THE POLICE.... But we have checked out and found a nice little hotel which claims to have wifi in each bedroom. This blog is posted from a cafe. Now we are off sightseeing. Andrew says the loo here is in the Turkish style....

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