Sunday Times - - VOICES -

ACK in the ’90s, my hus­band and I hap­pened to be in Rome dur­ing an Easter weekend so we thought when in Rome and all that, it might be nice to see the Pope giving his Easter ad­dress, even if we didn’t un­der­stand what he was say­ing and we weren’t Catholics. We would prob­a­bly never have the op­por­tu­nity again.

We were told by the lady at our ho­tel re­cep­tion that the pon­tiff usu­ally ap­peared on the bal­cony at about 10am so, come Sun­day morn­ing, we set off for St Peter’s Square. We were warmly dressed to keep the chill at bay but en­joyed the blue sky and sun­shine.

We ar­rived at St Peter’s Square ear­lier than we ex­pected to find lots of peo­ple milling around in large tour groups or in­di­vid­u­als look­ing at maps and guide books. As we still had about half an hour be­fore the Pope was due to ap­pear, we made a bee­line for the Sis­tine Chapel.

We were so busy mar­veling at the beau­ti­ful paint­ings and sculp­tures that we lost track of time. The next time I checked my watch it was al­most 10am.

So we raced as quickly as we could with­out at­tract­ing too much at­ten­tion from the Vat­i­can guards back to St Peter’s Square. We were ex­pect­ing to have to squeeze our­selves into the crowd in or­der to see the great man. But no, there was no crowd, in fact there were far fewer peo­ple than there were ear­lier. We looked up at the bal­cony where the Pope should have been but the door was closed. Had we got the wrong day? Was he sick?

I de­cided to ask some­one. The first per­son I ap­proached didn’t speak English and merely shrugged, the sec­ond avoided eye con­tact and ig­nored me.

So we went into a nearby to­bac­conist as we were sure the owner would be able to en­lighten us.

“Si, the Papa, he speak at 10 o’clock. No prob­lem,” said the el­derly man be­hind the counter.

“But it’s just gone 10 now and he’s not there,” I said.

“No, eet eez af­ter 11 now,” he said point­ing to his watch. “Last night we move to sum­mer time. Clocks move one hour for­ward.”

My hus­band and I looked at each other and shook our heads. “No one told us that,” I said to the lit­tle man, who smiled apolo­get­i­cally and shrugged.

“Eez too bad. You come back Christ­mas to see the Papa, no?”

“We’ve come all the way from South Africa and I’m not sure we’ll be able to come back at Christ­mas,” said my hus­band.

“From Sous Africa! You know my cousin Gino? He has a restau­rant in in … I think ees Dur­ban.” “Near the beach?” asked my hus­band. “Si, si. You know it?” “No, but next time we’re there we’ll go and visit him. Maybe we’ll have more luck see­ing him than the Pope!”

Back in the sun­light, we got the gig­gles. We couldn’t be­lieve we had come so close to see­ing the pope and missed him be­cause of a time change. In fact, it must have been all over by the time we’d ar­rived at St Peter’s Square and we never knew.

We stopped to change our watches to the cor­rect time and re­alised we had bet­ter get a move on or we’d miss our train to Aus­tria. — © Caro­line Ed­wards

Do you have a funny or quirky story about your trav­els? Send 600 words to trav­el­[email protected]­day­times.co.za and in­clude a re­cent photograph of your­self for pub­li­ca­tion with the col­umn.


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