Sunday, 6 May 2012
English Pensioner Frisked at Rome Airport
Intro: This new Blogger format is confusing me. I can't get it to accept paragraph breaks. I apologise for the unbroken block of text that follows. I will try to fathom it out for next time. We have just returned from a holiday in Rome. Not a pilgrimage, more of a general exploration of the city, and we enjoyed it very much. We stayed near the Vatican, and on the day of the weekly General Audience we walked over to St Peter’s Square at about the time when the Holy Father was due to appear. We watched at the back of the square while he was doing his tour of the passageways between the blocks of seating. He was only a small figure in the distance, but we probably had a better view of him than if we had been in the audience and surrounded by a forest of people standing on their chairs. It was fascinating to see this little figure dressed in white, visible only from the waist up, buzzing along quite quickly from right to left, then disappearing for a few seconds at the side, then suddenly reappearing and motoring along equally briskly from left to right. He sawed back and forth until everyone had had at least the theoretical opportunity of seeing him. That was our only sighting of him during the holiday. On the Sunday we could not get into St Peter’s basilica, and had to be satisfied with participating in the Mass from the square. It was an ordination Mass, as on our last visit three years ago, but on that earlier occasion we had been able to go inside. Rome seemed much more crowded this time. Considering the world’s economic woes we had expected the place to be a good deal quieter. Our plan for the holiday was to look at some of Rome’s buildings, and generally to get the feel of the landscape of the city. I now feel a lot more confident about exploring it on foot. For me there was also a personal, religious dimension to our visit. Other Catholic bloggers have written far more knowledgeably and effectively than I could have done, on the recent intensification of the effort to re-establish the Society of St Pius X clearly and visibly within the Church. I made a private commitment to stop at any churches or basilicas we visited or passed, to say a heartfelt prayer for the intention of this major restoration. In fact we passed hardly any churches – at least, open ones – during the course of our wanderings. Sant’Agnese in Agone; Santa Maria Maggiore; San Paolo fuori le Mura; and there may have been one or two others. I think this was the first time I had ever prayed to St Paul. We both liked his basilica very much; lovely in itself, and set behind a charming courtyard garden; green and tranquil in its remoteness from the bustle of the centre. EasyJet used to fly to and from Ciampino, which we now think of nostalgically as a friendly little airport compared with the exhausting maze of Fiumicino. This was our first experience of it, and we will have to steel ourselves if we ever go there again. Our experience of the security area felt rather frantic: I think we used three or four trays, because they kept being whisked away on the conveyor belt before we could sort ourselves out with watches and mobile phones and jackets and so on. Talking of steeling ourselves: Dear Husband has metal implants, which always set the alarm off. In addition, since our last flight I have acquired some metal screws in one of my feet. I had already looked up the Italian for screws, and warned the security man about them, but he looked at me blankly. My appalling accent? A likely story? I will never know. I went through the frame, and off went the alarm. A young female security officer stood in front of me, with her arms held out wide, and her hands encased – worryingly – in latex gloves. Having become rather confused by then, I assumed at first she was directing me onward, and went to step to the side of her; but she very politely forestalled me, and waggled her hands, at which I got the message. I stood there very calmly while she did the patting-down routine. Could have been worse. On reflection, I think she must have had a quota of certain more or less shifty types to frisk; I suppose I came into the category of “Deceptively harmless-looking old Englishwoman who is Probably Not What She Seems”. Dear Husband said afterwards that our progress through Security reminded him of the fugitive Mel Brooks and Madeline Kahn in the film High Anxiety, pretending to be an elderly Jewish couple going through airport security very, very noisily, on the reasonable ground that the most effective disguise is to be as flamboyant as possible. We’re not really terrorists. I thought I’d better say that.