Just as we were getting used to Roma, it was time to move on to pastures new. We packed everything, somehow, back into our bags, disposing of whatever stuff we thought was surplus to requirements (those two huge books all about the pasta museum, for a start) and set off for the station.
On the way I took what would be the last chance in a while to get a picture of an "SPQR" drain cover. I remember as a kid reading The Eagle Of The Ninth, and wondering what SPQR stood for. And now I think it’s so damn cool that 2000 years later they still use the same initials for the government of Roma.
Termini station seemed a tad more chaotic than usual, but we found our coffee-company-sponsored airport train, and lumbered aboard. It was standing room only, and given the service is only hourly and earns the FS (Italian Railways) about 14,000 lira for every man woman and child aboard, I bet it’s a pretty good money spinner.
A friendly and knowledgeable American on the train helped dispel the cliche we’d seen a little too much of in the previous few days – that of hordes of elderly Americans wandering around Roma, loudly looking for a steak house to stuff themselves in.
Despite the train leaving late we made it to the airport in good time, and sauntered over to the terminal, echoing those classic old Telly Savalas promotional films for UK cities that he’d obviously never been to, by declaring "So long Rome, you’re my kind of town!".
L was to tell me something rather unnerving a little later: that while queuing for check-in, she had noticed the laser target of a police sniper’s machine gun cross her chest. I can tell you now, that would have absolutely scared the shit out of me.
The plane ride was a noisy (well, until Jeremy fell asleep) two-and-a-bit hour jaunt to Heathrow. We found our luggage, zipped through Immigration and Customs, then headed for the tube station.
I tried to negotiate with the booking office man for a family Travelcard, which would have been slightly cheaper than two adult Travelcards, but because the kids are both under five and would travel free anyway, he wouldn’t sell us one. Hmmm. Ah well, it was only about 10p difference.
So we rode the tube into London, amused for a while by the driver’s constant reminders to mind the gap (the gap?! You call that a gap!?) and to not give money to beggars. This was followed by a train ride (which is, of course, a completely different thing) to East Croydon, where we climbed into one of those ol’ London black cabs and I quoted my uncle’s address in South Croydon, giving away no clues, just to put his "knowledge" to the test. The driver didn’t come through with flying colours.
"Ahh, now, I know I’ve been there before, but…", he hinted.
"Off Haling Park Road."
"Oh, right, of course. Thanks very much", he replied, sounding as if he hoped I wouldn’t tell anybody at all that he’d ever needed to ask.
Uncle Hew arrived from work in his tiny VW Polo just as we got there. He was, as ever, most hospitable, setting up the rather cosy spare room, which we fitted ourselves and our luggage into with a shoehorn. Then we ate, drank and made moderate merriment until it was time for bed.