Eight months in and the ghost of my New Year’s resolution is mocking me yet again as the power shorts out in my apartment. Last New Year’s Eve while savouring a wedge of vegetarian haggis, I resolved to improve my efficiency in 2011. Evidently the gelid Edinburgh wind had brought on an attack of the perverse given that this planned increase in personal productivity was being scheduled to take place in what many conceive to be the most inefficient 580 square miles in our solar system, otherwise known as Rome. Rome, the Eternal city, where one can’t stand in one’s nightie, toasting bread under a grill while simultaneously boiling a kettle to make a cup of tea without turning one’s fusebox into firework display. This could explain why most Romans choose to stand in a bar and eat breakfast. (see above!)
As I flick the power back on and unplug the kettle, I consider more deeply a population which thinks well-run only applies to marathons, and streamline to fast red cars. Multi-tasking is viewed as a suspicious practice involving slight of hand and time-saving devices are more mythical than the Lord of the Rings: it took me years to track down self-raising flour, unaware that as a result of the time saving properties found in the supernatural mixture of flour and yeast it goes by the name of “magic flour” in these parts. I switch off the grill and as I plug in the kettle, I remember enthusiastically buying it then shortly after, back at home, throwing myself deflated onto the shredded packaging when informed I should have also bought a “presa Siemens” adapter as Roman plugs don’t necessarily fit Roman plug sockets. I also remember on the same shopping trip the look on the tobacconist’s face, handing me a tube of glue as I spat out the pieces of a non self-adhesive postage stamp which hadn't responded to licking and I can still hear the inconvenienced tone of the pharmacist’s voice, intermittently recommending cough mixtures whilst balancing on her lover’s knee.
As I finally sit down to my breakfast, it dawns on me that unless I stop exaggerating the importance of reaching a goal without wasting time or getting sidetracked by pleasure, I will always stand out as a Briton. As a new Roman I must focus on glorious results and not foolish timekeeping. It’s doubtful Michelangelo was ever scolded by a Pope for dithering over the Sistine Chapel ceiling, for sure Turner could have wrapped it up in half the time had he been sent up the ladder. But who cares. The result is there for all to marvel over and in the end my toast with Frank Cooper's Fine Cut Oxford marmalade was a triumph and now I’m running hideously behind but perfectly in sync with the rest of Rome. Result!