I wanted to show Lucy the Infanta Margarita, the little princess in the white dress in the Velázquez painting Las Meninas. But I’d missed the chance; as soon as she hit her 6thbirthday, princesses went out the window, as she suddenly ended her 3 1/2 years of dressing only in chiffon Disney costumes from Woolworths. Now it was all leggings and Scooby Doo t-shirts. Lucy was not going to go to Madrid to see a princess. Not even the one in the white dress who she’d discovered long before Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty.
She was so adamant about not going to Madrid, that I asked Lucy where she would like to go for Easter break.
Out of budget, sorry..
Um… really? She’d seen the ancient ruins on Scooby Doo. So Pompeii it was. I had never been there either, and always wanted to see it.
8 April 2011
As we get off the plane in Naples it strikes me that we are being met by friends of a bouncer whom I met in a crypt. It was an art show called Flashier and Trashier, organised by the fabulous outsider artist Sue Kreitzman, in the St Pancras Church Crypt in London. Although no one ever uttered the word “bouncer”, a tall, wide Neopolitan hovering around the doorway for the duration of the exhibition implied that his job was to keep out any trouble.
So, this bouncer said he would be our “gigolo” (!) during our stay in his hometown. But at the last minute he had to go away. So he was sending friends to pick us up at the airport.
I was expecting a middle-aged man holding a sign with my surname on it, like the taxi drivers who wait for passengers at customs exits all over the world. As we emerged with our suitcases I squinted at the small crowd of waiting onlookers. I felt like I was on a stage, all of them looking at me while I tried to find the magic sign. But no one had anything resembling my name.
As we walked out the final exit, Lucy and I were approached by two drop-dead gorgeous men in their mid 20s. They could have been movie stars. One whispered “Guru” under his breath, barely audible.
Of course they wouldn’t know my real name. Who does? Both men wore shiny black jackets, the sort of plastic synthetic jackets popular in that part of the world. The bouncer had told me these guys spoke English, but in fact they did not.
Soon we were zipping along a motorway at 110 kph. It didn’t surprise me that the boys in front didn’t wear seatbelts. Nor did it surprise me when they quickly pulled the belts across when spotting a cop car at the toll road. But I had to laugh when they immediately went to the effort of removing their seatbelts as soon as the cops were out of sight.
The shadowy, mountainous shape that Lucy and I recognised from Scooby Doo was soon visible outside the car window. We pointed, and the boys confirmed: “Vesuvio.”
Our hotel was down a dusty street a few miles along, still well within the proximity of the volcano. After some language confusion, the bouncer phoned the driver, and Lucy and I found ourselves in our hotel room. It was clean enough, though plaster was peeling a bit here and there. They had put in an extra bunk bed for the child, so, the room could have slept four. We ordered a pizza, ate it, and were soon fast asleep.