NO doubt you will be eager to know what I did on my holidays.
Accompanied by the Home Secretary, I spent a few days in the eurozone, keeping an eye on fluctuations in the (fruit and veg) markets and wondering whether I should invest a few bawbees in Facebook shares, which were going for $38 a pop. (Having watched the film The Social Network, which describes the origins of the company, I decided these were overpriced and bought a leather belt instead.)
We were in Tuscany following the Piero della Francesca trail, which begins in Arezzo and takes in Monterchi and Sansepolcro, where Piero was born. We reached Arezzo on a Sunday and while the Home Secretary haggled over the price of cappuccino I people-watched. There were, literally, thousands of them, young and old, clogging the narrow arteries, all looking as happy as Lorenzo.
There could only be one reason why they were there and my suspicions were confirmed by an old man wearing a yellow baseball cap. They had all come to see the Papa Razzi. We hastened to say hello to my old friend, whom I last spied at Glasgow's Bellahouston Park two years ago, but he was nowhere to be seen, the only sign of him being the Popemobile, parked – I would not be surprised to learn – on double yellow lines.
EN route to my mixed-gender club for a preprandial libation, I am stopped by a young woman who is wearing tights and not much else. "Are you, perchance," she asks (I am paraphrasing), "the Real Radio Renegade?" Thinking that I might well be if I knew who, or what, the Real Radio Renegade is, I ask her to repeat herself. After she has done so, I decide that much as I would like to be any kind of renegade I must send her on her way disappointed. A few paces further on I am stopped again – this time by two teenagers carrying motorbike helmets – and asked the same question, to which I reply quite curtly and negatively. At the club, Nigel, its owner, says that he was pursued by another young woman wondering if he was the Real Radio Renegade. Much as he would like to have obliged he, too, had no option but to tell her he is not the person she is looking for.
Like the Sunday Post's legendary Hon Man, the RRR goes about his business incognito. If, however, you manage to unmask him you may receive a reward or "bounty", which could be as much as £1500. According to Real Radio's website, no-one did today though obviously it was not for the want of trying.
Back to Italia. Florence to which we next repaired, was heaving with hoi polloi. There were so many day-trippers that the Ponte Vecchio, which survived Nazi bombardment, was buckling under their weight, like my Ikea bookshelves. The Home Secretary had sourced our hotel, which pronounced itself "gay-friendly". I'm not sure what to make of that.
Be that as it may, Florence was a tale of two shoe shops. In the first, I spied shoes in the window which looked like they could be good for my feet. Ingress was achieved by the ringing of a bell. Try as he might the owner could not find shoes in my size. He did, however, have the perfect solution. He could make me a pair.
The next shop was on the left bank of the Arno, on the street up to the Palazzo Pitti. Normally, it is the preserve of a sour hombre who wears a leather cowboy hat and regards customers with a contempt bordering on comic. On this occasion, it was staffed by a woman who had obviously been trained at the same charm school. "You want to try on a pair of shoes? You better be serious about buying them. And quick. I don't have all day. What, you don't want to buy them? Then why bother coming into the shop? Oh, you'd like to try on that shoe in the window. Have you any idea the hassle it will cause to get it out?" Get me out of here!
THE photography collection of the National Galleries of Scotia is to be named "in honour" of Robert Mapplethorpe after his foundation stumped up about £200,000 for the privilege. Mr Mapplethorpe's work was exhibited at the NGS in 2006, after which it was seen in the likes of Dunoon and Perth where one would have dearly liked to have been a fly on the wall. My dear amigo Mike Wade, who scrieves for The Times's teuchter edition, describes Mr Mapplethorpe's images as "vibrant" and "bohemian", which is rather stretching the elasticity of these harmless words. As I write, I am flicking through the catalogue of Mr Mapplethorpe's 2006 show. One picture, a self-portrait, shows the photographer with his bare backside to the camera. In his right hand he appears to be carrying a whip, which he is attempting to - More I dare not say lest you choke on your quail eggs and kedgeree.
THE Fall Of Singapore, broadcast on BBC2, was that rare thing: an exemplary documentary. It showed in compelling detail how One Of Us, William Forbes-Sempill, the 19th Lord Sempill, in the years before the second world war, betrayed secrets to the Japanese and helped train and equip them to such an extent that they were able to destroy the American fleet at Pearl Harbor and invade Singapore, which led to 100,000 British troops being captured and dumped in concentration camps where a quarter of them died. Despite all of this, and despite the Establishment and Churchill knowing about Sempill's nefarious activities, he was never brought to book. Amazing. By the by, the present Lord Sempill, the 21st, is our old, oddly kilted friend Jamie Sempill, who was in charge of The Gathering, the highlight – ahem!!! – of Homecoming Scotla, about all of which the least said the better.
ATTEMPTING to add milk to my muesli I poured orange juice instead. Not a combination I'd recommend.
SHOCK horror! English actress Agyness Deyn is set to play Chris Guthrie in the movie of Sunset Song. Will she be able to speak the Doric? Was Mel Gibson?
Pope Benedict XVI was keeping a low profile in Arezzo, bless him
Robert Mapplethorpe's name is worth almost as much as his snaps
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