A&E on a Friday night is not to be recommended*. Happily I had Fiona Pitt-Kethley’s Journeys to the Underworld with me, recommended by my friend S, which was about the most calming, cheering book I could have picked (much more cheery than the gruesomely biological narcissism of Charlotte Roche’s Wetlands, the other book I had on me).
Journeys to the Underworld is a travel book about F P-K’s visits to ancient sites where there were supposed to be sibyls. It’s oddly downbeat as a travel book – she doesn’t gush or even enthuse very much – but hilarious as a record of the casual sex she has with various Italian men along the way. It does the Italian reputation for sexiness no favours – all the men she meets are revolting: clammy hands, tight polyester trousers and sex in cars, as S put it. F P-K is completely unflappable, though, and her tart little observations about blokes are lovely.
As for sex itself – [Italians] are certainly more willing than the British, but then everybody is. The Englishman is not an easy lay. It’s not that he’s any worse sexually, when you get him down to it. It’s just that he takes a devil of a long time to get there. It’s arguable whether he’s worth waiting for. It’s not flattering if someone isn’t sure he wants to have sex with you and needs a few drinks to pluck up the courage.
* I fell off my bike and gashed my elbow open, so went off to A&E to get it stitched. After four hours of sitting around they x-rayed me and said I’d chipped a tiny bit off my elbow bone. After a further three hours they bandaged me up and said they want to admit me overnight. After another two hours they found me a bed. Good old the NHS.