Blessed to be a witness

Sunday, 9th October

Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood

We got into Heathrow very early. We'd been able to bag emergency exit seats at checkin in Newark, so we had loads of legroom: just by the bar for Upper Class, a trip through which seating class elicited an enormous amount of envy, since those 'seats' are actually pod-like enclosures that can be converted to beds, and even have a visitors' seat.

Then the Heathrow Express back to our friends' house in the early north London morning. There had been so much good entertainment on offer on the plane that I didn't bother sleeping too much, so we crashed out for much for much of the day. That evening my brother and a few other old mates came round, and we were treated to a delicious, albeit undeserved, dinner by our very generous hosts.

The next morning we rose early again to get a flight to Italy. I've been thinking that the ideal time for a flight is about three in the afternoon. That way you don't have to wake up early, can have a leisurely breakfast, then travel to the airport (which is invariably just over an hour from where you are staying), check in and then have an overpriced lunch before boarding the plane. Alas, this rarely, if ever happens. Instead we were bleary-eyed and blinking, eating breakfast on the Stansted Express. Then off over the Alps in a very bumpy style, before descending to Rome's Ciampino Airport, the Luton of Italy ("more like Baldonnell", M said).

At the baggage carousel we bumped into a large number of Irish friends and acquaintances, all arriving on different flights, and all heading to the wedding. The wedding is that of A, my ex and travel partner from ten years ago. Some may find this weird, but M and I both maintain good relationships with most of our ex partners - we recently attended the wedding of one of M's exes, and A came to my nuptials despite a few misgivings, so we are heading to hers.

We rented a car from Avis, and picked up a few strays without their own transport, before heading to Borgo di Tragliata, an hour north of Rome. The place is a complex with an absolutely amazing mediæval mansion, built as a real defensive building rather than a folly, on top of a short but very steep hill, and converted into apartments. Ours was a large room with a kitchen and table, and the bed up a ladder on a mezzanine floor. The church abuts the mansion, and on the other side of the small valley, down the vertiginous hill, are more hotel rooms and a restaurant.

The next few days are a blur. Of all the debauchery I have encountered in my life, no group of people comes anywhere near the friends of my ex for sheer hedonism - indeed this is one of the many reasons we split up. "Misunderstood" was how the best man described them. There was skinny-dipping in the pool, climbing up and down dangerous balconies, all-night drinking and carousing, dancing to the sound of empty Coke bottles being whacked off a wooden table, the repeated smashing of bottles and glasses. The broken glass and the steep cobbles provided a few minor injuries but thankfully nothing serious, despite the potential dangers. We attempted to join in but couldn't really keep up. Thankfully the general partying was not the most "misunderstood" group the hotel had seen: apparently a wedding of Finns this year had fighting, and the dawn broke on bodies slumped everywhere, up the hills and under the trees. It was a lovely wedding all the same, and despite the constant rain. I am delighted for A and her new husband - I desire nothing but happiness for both of them.

The effect of all the booze and the jetlag meant that our sleep patterns were completely astray. On the day after the wedding, when we had retired at 3 am, we slept until 3 pm and awoke feeling surprisingly refreshed. Alas, the party began again that evening, so by the time we left on the third day, we were feeling extremely delicate.

To comment on this, or just to say hello, mail me at jim@crowaptok.com.