Infamy, Infamy, they've all got it infamy
Carry on Caesar is close enough, sadly I can't spell "Et toi Brutai" and my functioning Italian is limited pretty much to the crucial "Un Biglietti alle e ritorno a stazionale termini, per favore" (One return ticket to central station, please).
I returned yesterday evening from a week in Rome. Or rather, about 1 1/2 days in Rome and the rest of the time in an industrial estate on the edge of a small town called Frascati, about 20 minutes out from Rome on the train.
The boring bit
I was, of course, at the aforementioned CryoSat conference at the European Space Agency ESRIN facility. It was a passably interesting conference: more relevant bits than the cryosphere (ice) conferences I've been to, a few pictures of satellites (always fun for a technophile/sci-fi type like me) and I found some people working with my instrument with whom I can hopefully do some informal email exchanges. The poster session was a dead loss - the posters were crammed onto foldable stands about 50 cm away from each other so that only one person could view any poster at any one time provided they didn't try to turn around and they were thin. The rest of the room was empty and had food so, needless to say, no one looked at my poster. The conference was free so they didn't bother providing any food most of the time and although the staff canteen was ok for lunch, I did spend a long time eating chocolate digestives, crispbreads, babybels and an assorted fruit and nut selection and raiding buffets (a skill learnt at Lib Dem party conferences).
Frascati was about 2 km away down a road with no pavement and, although pretty, had few entertainment options, a disturbing amount of white power/fascist graffiti and lots of teenagers loitering about snogging one another, staring threateningly at passersby (me) and smoking. The most interesting thing there that you could get to without being run over (no pavements or I'd have headed into the hills) was the supermarket where I spent an hour on Thursday afternoon (I was bored, ok?). I amused myself by making up tourist slogans for the place and generated "Frascati: more palm trees than Grimsby", "Frascati: visit our supermarket, it sells octopus" and "Frascati: close to Rome".
In general, I spend an awful lot of time hanging about so if anything goes wrong I have plenty of time to sort it (this has not prevented Alitalia losing my luggage :( ). I spent 5 hours hanging around the airport because I unexpected shared a taxi with some researchers from the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge who were trying to catch a 9:30 am flight (mine was 1:30 pm local time).
This was an advantage to some extent because I discovered and purchased a rather excellent replica Venetian mask in the airport. My favourite film is The Honest Courtesan and I've read Song for Arbonne by Guy Gavriel Kay. The whole 'drifting about in provocative but elaborate costume showing lots of cleavage and having frenzied assignations anonymous due to said mask during sultry Mediterranean night' business really appeals but sadly, erm, in real life I wouldn't be able to stay awake long enough and wearing the mask I look rather more like a red indian than a mysterious lady who drifts about tantalisingly between Corinthian pillars in the misty twilight. I am going to persist - I shall make myself a rather elaborate corsetted gown (like this one) to go with the mask at some point. It will be midnight and black velvet with gold lame, low cut square neck (like the one in the photo), tight waist, lots of skirt gold panels and some exposed leg, probably gauze sleeves but with slits in so I can wear elbow length black velour gloves. Preferrably they would be elbow length fingerless gloves so when I grow my nails back (and my hands stop being chapped) I can paint them gold... [SNIP]. Where I would wear this outfit escapes me but I'm sure I can find somewhere wholly inappropriate.