So here he is. An old man who wears his trousers rolled - if only for
cycling. At 50.
Here we are on a birthday trip. Sitting on the Spanish Steps suddenly burning under the same unfiltered sun as Caesar, Caligula, Hadrian, Nero...and all those other bling covered fated genius nutcase despots. Huge, everything. The legacy of their egos is still astounding. In the Colosseum Russell Crowe winces as metal clashes and glints. He squints at the soft robed Emperor. He wrestles with tigers.
Saints have been carved. Gods have been carved. The gods have become saints. Writhing on the banks of the Tiber, a mess of Tritons, sea gods and odd looking fish. In St Peter's, in a space really nearly as big and planned as some people's kitchens round here, shrouded Madonnas lean out of the dusk. Living liquid marble billowing like silk.
High Renaissance nonsense cascades in a gold swarm of cherubs from Bernini's altarpiece. Everywhere bluish stained glass light. Candles illuminate a row of Popes. The priest emerges from the multi lingual confession box, choking on his dog collar....The nun in supplication palms clasped, slyly checks her BlackBerry. Emails from Jesus. A trillion years of religious hysteria. You could cut the air with a candelabra.
Scorched and blistered we pour water on our heads in the shade of another stone church. Traffic hums around the piazza. Richard Scarry mousemobiles. Scooters appear from nowhere, rumbling trivially over the tarmac skin of doomed, buried civilisation. How could you even wield a hammer in this heat - let alone conquer continents.
It's a short trip but cold beers and pizza are swallowed as the world turns on it's axis and A contemplates his miniscule previous five decades - and those yet to come.
Enclosed within the Colosseum's arches, vaulted like the dead sockets of a gladiator's skull, we reflect on the legacy of those gaudy emperors. Pomposity and amnesia. In the garden of broken columns and climbing weeds, an American woman rests her head on a slab of marble and sleeps.