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Monday, 17 March 2008

What is this noble lion doing?

Not a very clear picture, I'm afraid, but you must admit he is a magnificent beast.

He is lying at, or rather carved into the bottom of the staircase at the Hotel Plaza in Rome, an extraordinary place which epitomises early 20th century Italian manic-baroque.

Very few surfaces are left unornamented. There is much purple and gilt, there are fancy curlicues and plasterwork, plump maidens recline and laughing bacchante caper joyously across the painted ceilings. It is beyond overdone – the kind of decor which usually summons up words like “extravagant” and “riot”, but riot seems quite inadequate; perhaps “insurrection” is better.

Even the shower is an elaborate affair, with so many dials and levers it took me full five minutes to work out, more or less, how to operate it. I love the place. I hope some shrewd entrepreneur comes and takes it over, carefully restoring it, because it really is magnificent and wonderful – and the world will thank whoever does it.

A kind friend invited us to come over here to watch the Scotland-Italy rugby, and I thank him wholeheartedly. The game was magnificent and Italy won by a whisker. I was quite amazed when I read in an English paper that the Scots had "thrown it away". They never had control - any more than the Italians did.

As my partner is Italian I always feel it wise to support her team, and anyhow after ten years of being misruled by lying, corrupt, incompetent Scottish politicians, I feel increasingly inclined to hope they lose anyhow.

But I confess that the skirl of the pipes still stirs me; it’s a terrible shame we’re no longer one nation.

The meals, as usual in Italy, were magnificent. France just doesn’t compare any more.

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