Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Roma - The Fiddler's Elbow - 40 Years On

Through a glass, darkly.....





Once upon a time, perhaps, we thought we would live for ever.....






Once upon a time, democracy seemed a reasonable idea.  The world made sense, especially when the leader of the Italian Communist Party went to his funeral, accompanied by two million people, in a Catholic Church....






Humdrum office work was not satisfying for some.  The old ways, the world where an aged gentleman would kneel to kiss the hand of a young boy in Aversa, thanking the boy for his grandfather's personal sacrifice, was giving way to a world of business opportunities built not on privilege and patronage but on initiative and creativity.







Music was the food of love, whether bluegrass








Or traditional greengrass Irish, as performed by Róisín Dubh....





At first, The Fiddler's Elbow,








Was to be found half way down a nondescript side street, the Via Sforza, which led steeply up from the Via Cavour,








But after a couple of years it had outgrown the premises, its tiny bar being filled late at night by musical priests from the Irish College, encouraged by our Mother Superior, Gino's Irish wife, Mary.  And then there were miscellaneous strays, like me, or Heinz, to name but two.....  






So it moved to more spacious rooms in Via Dell'Olmata






adjacent to the Polizia Tributaria, now La Guardia di Finanza (they tried to arrest me once for driving my Triumph Trident the wrong way up the street, but that's another story), and close to the bells of Santa Maria Maggiore....








We were perhaps a motley crew. Some of us looked a bit shady:







And some of us may have slept in cars, or wherever, both by night and by day:








Of course, the majority of the Fiddler's patrons were clean-living young things whose preference was for party hats, candles and holding hands.....









Though some of these may have changed their ways (if not their looks)....








The venture flourished, though Antonio





Took a separate path..... However the Fiddler's was replicated in Venice and Florence; Gino's brother, Tonino, joined in with the Druid's Den, and several other venues followed (though one, The Stables -  in which I had a share - was not so successful, possibly because Remo served burgers with the plastic still attached, or, more likely, because foolishly I served a member of the Brigate Rosse in the presence of Commissario Manari and his squadra mobile.....)








Anyway, that's all behind us, and we have made our ways through this vale of beers, with all the excitement that comes with children and chocolate....







There has just been a week of celebration for the 40th anniversary of the Fiddler's Elbow, Rome. Now there are more Irish Bars all over Italy than you can shake a shillelagh at, but once there was only one, and that pioneering spirit deserves applause.






Grazie a Dio, the team are still together, and Antonio still plays his mandolin in Genazzano, when he's not involved in literary or horticultural pursuits...








While Orazio divides his time between the financial side of the business and his daughters,







Tonino cultivates his beard, and Richard appears at ease,







The celebrations involved music, music, music (and the occasional drink):








Music fills the back room; stentorian Roman voices shake the entrance like an earthquake, while dogs and drinkers gently fill the spaces in between, carrying on the sleepy traditions of millions (literally) of passers-through over the years.




I reminisce with Big John; we used to sip a few here in the late evening, then, at closing time, some time after midnight, we would mosey on down to the Falcon, a bar that never saw daylight, nor breathed fresh air, until that closed at two a.m.  





From there it was a brief stumble across Piazza Barberini to the Little Bar, where, if you were lucky, the piano was in tune and the toilets were free.... For me, very often, the exquisite barman would shake a cocktail and then the lights would go out for a while, until, when woken, I would traverse the cobbled sidestreets to find a bakery with hot cornetti, before wandering home as the dawn broke, beneath the biggest, yellowest moons you ever saw.... 

And sometimes there would be two....








But for now it is over. The next one, if there is one, will be the fiftieth, when democracy may indeed seem like a good idea.....  

Who knows? The world may soon be ruled by referenda controlled by an octogenarian Donald Trump..... (supported of course by the loyal wife Ivana, sorry Maria, NO! Melania.....)







Though not if Gino has anything to do with it.....






Nor, if the firm continues, with Connor at the helm of the next generation:








Forty years on, growing older and older,

Shorter in wind, as in memory long,

Feeble of foot, and rheumatic of shoulder,

What will it help you that once you were strong?




God give us bases to guard or beleaguer,
Games to play out, whether earnest or fun;
Fights for the fearless, and goals for the eager,
Twenty, and thirty, and forty years on!









What a great way to celebrate forty years of living!  So good to see friends and to meet forgotten faces.....




Grazie Gino, and Mary (and family) and Cin Cin! to all the others who have made this a safe haven of friendship: Antonio, Orazio, Richard, Tonino, Donna, Heinz, Sylvia, John, and Colm et alios










Saluti!  And here's to the next time - whenever: wherever.....








For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.....


1 Corinthians 13:12



[And none of us have changed a bit!]



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