Il Duomo and Strangers on a Train 2

Before leaving this morning we did a very short visit to the Duomo – Milan Cathedral to you and me. We’d been there before but I’m afraid it’s melted into the mass of churches I’ve visited in Rome and Florence and God knows where. At the same time I don’t know how I forgot it, because it’s hugely impressive. There’s a massive piazza in front of it – acres of space, as though this wasn’t in the middle of a big international city. On it Africans and a few Asians flog little stuff – the Africans appeared to be selling small bundles of cords. Instinctively I said ‘No, thanks’ and instinctively I felt guilt for so doing, especially for failing to even establish eye-contact with them. The entrance to the Duomo is manned by a few soldiers and police – a bit like airport security or shops in Belfast in the bad old days. A chap with a metal detector, a list of things you can’t bring in, a line-up of people waiting to be OKed. We couldn’t bring our suitcase in so we had to take it in turns looking inside. I went first and searched out 10 .00 a.m. Mass. It was said at the back of the main altar and you had to approach an official chap who stood beside a ceremonial cord barrier. You then had to ask him where the Mass was on; he repeated this a number of times as though he’d never heard of anything remotely like it, then repeated ‘La messa’ (I think) a number of times, then pulled back the rope and gestured you in and up some steps. The congregation wasn’t nine but it wasn’t more than thirty. Nearly all old or older. Two priests concelebrated – one an older man (about my age, God help him) and another in his forties – thin and dark-haired and slightly stooped and glasses that were too big and showed magnified eyes. He moved slowly and intently and wasn’t really too inspiring. While the Mass proceeded, a chap with a mop moved around the altar, near enough requiring the priests to lift their feet so he could do under them. We just made the 12.05 pm train. A nice Aussie-Italian in the queue offered to be interpreter and let us go ahead of him, but it didn’t stop the small and quarrelsome young woman issuing tickets from giving us change very slowly and when I asked her (admittedly a second time) what platform we’d get the train on – we were down to five mins to go at this stage, she squawked ‘I do not know what platform!’ I do not know what stopped me reaching for her noise-making neck. We ran along the various platforms, gawking at the signs; the last one was ours and we hurled ourselves on board, making it by…two minutes maximum. On the train I got talking to a young couple, the woman of whom was reading ‘The Tipping Point’. They were from NY and she was on a sales thing in Italy and he was tagging along. He said he was in real estate, then he said he wrote plays or at least comedy. He knew of Martin McDonagh and Conor McPherson, and as he left he allowed that he’d have a play on Broadway in about a year’s time, called ‘Fat Camp’ – so if we were in NY we should try to catch it. ‘Was that an invitation to call backstage afterwards and then go on to Sardis with him and his crowd?” I asked Maureen. She said she thought it probably was.

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