VIVA MILANO! - PART 4 r R & R - THE FINAL COUNTDOWN
During my stay in Milan, I visited the cinema three times. Once with my Italian friend Anna, when I had my first viewing of ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’, which I believe came out the year before. As was usual in Italy, the film, originally in English, had been overdubbed in Italian. Consequently, title became ‘Shitty Shitty Bang Bang, a source of great amusement to me, a joke which was quite hard to explain decently in Italian to my mate.
The next film was ‘La Monaca di Monza’, which I saw with Aegidio. This was a rather sexy Italian film of a book about a young nun having an affair with a nobleman. We did one day drive out to Monza, where we saw the famous racing track, but no sightings of any convent-related hanky-panky. No hanky-panky at all actually.
The third film was ‘Teorema’, starring a young ethereal Terence Stamp. This was made in Italian, so no dubbing required. I think I saw this in the company of both Milena and Aegidio, but am not sure. I can honestly say this was one of the most disturbing films I had ever seen then or now. It was a strange mixture of sex, witchcraft, psychological horror, murder, homosexuality, paranoia and more sex. Stamp played a chap who arrived at the home of an Italian family, had sex with all the family members, and left them with a strange legacy of paranormal disturbances and madness. My main memory is of the teenage daughter of the family floating up to sit on the roof of the cottage. I have never seen nor heard of this film since, but would like to watch it again to work out why it had stayed with me all these years.
The final new friend I made as my stay in Italy was coming to an end was Ivan. I met him whilst I was manning my Company’s stand at the vast annual Milan Trade Fair. Ivan was English, and we were introduced by one of my firm’s reps, who sent us off for a coffee and chat. Which of course became a chat-up, and I agreed to dine and dance with him that night.
He picked me up in a flash Italian car, and I was duly impressed both by the car and the smartness of his appearance. He made little attempt to disguise his motives, but I didn’t mind as he was actually very personable and a good conversationalist. He too was a Londoner, (albeit from Norf London, whereas I was from the Sarf), so we had much in common, including the fact that he was married and I was engaged to be. However, neither of us let those small facts trouble us much, it being the 60s, and we had a nice meal, loads of wine and a bit of dancing. A bit of this and that in fact but not the other. As my Mum used to say, I wasn’t as green as I was cabbage-looking. He told me he was tied up with business for the next few nights (Yeah right!), but would love to take me out for a special meal at the end of the week.
Sounded good to me, so I agreed to be ready at 7 on Friday. The only fly in the ointment there was that I was due to catch a coach near the Duomo at six o’clock on Saturday morning, to take me to the airport for my flight home. Still I reckoned that if I packed my stuff throughout the week it should be possible.
This turned out to be less of a good idea than I had thought, as all the girls at work and my other friends wanted to take me out for farewell celebrations, and I spent the next few days in a whirl of activity; meals at people’s homes, shopping, night clubs and so on; even a formal afternoon tea date with the Marchesa. As a result of this by the time Friday came round, my stuff was nowhere nearer being packed that it was on Monday, and in top of this I had amassed much more than I realised, including a huge traditional Dove shaped Easter cake which I was determined to take home to Mum and Dad.
Oh the confidence of the young! I had saved my very best dress, short floaty rainbow-coloured princess line number, a la Cilla Black. Quite demure at the neckline but really short in the ‘Swinging London’ manner. Panda eyes done, using the wonderful farewell gift of an individually chosen box of Helena Rubenstein make-up given me that day by my colleagues, there being a H R factory in Milan where you could choose a box and it would be filled with makeup colours and types of your choice, I stepped out to meet Ivan, who had been equally painstaking with his own toilette and smelt almost as divine as me.
A peck on the cheek, and we were in his car on the way to the most fashionable restaurant in town – or at least that’s what he told me! It was modelled on the theme of a huge barn, with rustic furniture and bales of hay all round. The menu was extensive and impressively expensive, which I had no qualms about as I had by now realised most of Ivans’ bills were being paid by his expense account. I had no idea what to order, and left it up to him. He chose a starter of mixed shellfish, including caviar, lobster and oysters, accompanied by a rather suspect bottle of champagne. Being only 19, this was my first taste of oysters and I thought they were disgusting, though I swallowed a couple bravely, helped down with a large gulp of vino. I didn’t think much of the caviar either. Give me a good pie and mash from Arments any day.
I enjoyed the other shellfish though, and the main course which was a very good steak. The sweet trolley was a triumph too, and I tried several of the dishes, always having had a sweet tooth - which I am paying for now with diabetes. Needless to say all this was washed down with bottles of various wines, and by the time we moved through to the night-club, we were both definitely merry. In fact when we left at 3 a.m., we could hardly stand. These days I would never have got into a car with a driver in that state, but then it was par for the course, as the standard of driving in Italy may even have been worse still without the help of a little alcohol. We arrived back at the YWCA, and a little drunken snogging and groping later, Ivan evidently having given up on anything more, we said our goodbyes and I crept up to my room, where many weeks worth of packing awaited. But with the resilience of a 19 year old, I shoved everything willy-nilly into my 2 suitcases, and filled about4 large carrier bags with the overspill. I put on my travelling clothes, then fell into bed for 2 hours sleep before departure.
My trusty friend Anna arrived in a taxi to pick me up round about 5 a.m., bless her, for I doubt my head would have stood a trip on public transport with all that baggage. She was however about to go away on holiday herself and was unable to wait with me until my departure. We said our tearful farewells and I waved her off in the taxi, standing forlornly amidst my mess of luggage. Others, mainly students like myself, began to arrive. All were waiting for the coach to the airport to catch the cut price Student Travel flight to London.
Suddenly I heard a loud, throaty, Italian voice call out ‘Linda! La Linda!’ and I found myself enveloped in an ample and highly perfumed bosom. Looking up I saw a mass of black curly hair crowning a heavily made up face with masses of pointy eye-liner and thick scarlet lipstick. It was my teacher from Grammar School, Signora Conti. She had performed the almost impossible task of teaching me Italian from scratch in two years; one year to do the ‘O’ level (passed with a grade A) and the second to achieve a good B pass at ‘A’level. A lovely, warm, flamboyant woman, she had been adored by her class of about 7 students. She never tired of telling us that she was a friend of the film producer Franco Zeffirelli, and had coached the very young Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting in Italian when he was directing them in his ground-breaking film of ‘Romeo and Juliette’. We had a few moments chat about my experiences, then the coach arrived and, with much dramatic hugging and kissing, she went to sit with her friend.
I was feeling a bit lonely by then, and overwhelmed with belongings; but was cheered up and helped by an outgoing and friendly bloke a little older than me who was on my flight. We sat together for the whole journey to the airport and on the plane, I lent him two ten bob notes which he promised to return, and we exchanged addresses before taking leave of each other in London. His name was Keith, and he was to become a significant part of my life for several months as the after-effects of my stay in Milan lingered on. But that’s another story!