Those Romans are roamin' all over the place


Journalism. After some years in this crazy old business, I have noticed that the trick is being able to spot what marketing people call "trends". And I think I'm on to one now: there's quite a lot of stuff around about the Romans at the moment, isn't there?

Journalism. After some years in this crazy old business, I have noticed that the trick is being able to spot what marketing people call "trends". And I think I'm on to one now: there's quite a lot of stuff around about the Romans at the moment, isn't there?

Not that I'm complaining. You won't get any of that "What have the Romans ever done for us?" here. Fascinating people. I had a plumber round the other day, who was in awe of their underfloor central-heating systems and their way with a bath and hot water. Indeed, he agreed that in many ways my heating system was inferior, to use the Latin-based technical term, particularly as it didn't seem to be doing any heating.

Unfortunately, my cleverly pointed little sally about probably rather fewer sesterces required for a call-out to the Appian Way fell on deaf ears, as he was busy tapping a pipe, sighing and shaking his head. Don't ask.

And they were pretty good with the tiles, too, weren't they? All right, those little ones are pretty unfashionable at the moment, I'll grant you, but there's no denying the workmanship, the remarkably clean grouting, even if some of the motifs are just a little repetitive.

Roads: yes, the roads were, are, remarkable feats of engineering, straight, strong, even if they were asking for a little bit of trouble, making them all converge on Rome like that without a thought for a ring road. Not much sign of a dual carriageway, either, although you will go a long way before you come across a finer roundabout than the Circus Maximus.

But I don't think we should get too carried away. The clothes, for example. A classic, timeless look for women, agreed, but you don't see too many men in togas today, do you? A pity in many ways, as they can be very flattering, especially if you have good arms. The statues of 18th- and 19th-century statesmen dressed in them clearly demonstrate the benefits.

The Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, for example, has always seemed to me to be the sort of man who would look rather splendid in something flowing. But, I fear, the memory of Frankie Howerd is far too fresh.

What we need is a complete rethink, for somebody to do something clever with zips and large amounts of Velcro. But it would still take quite some poise looking good in one while running for a train.

Hair? Well, I think the speed with which Tony Blair abandoned his Nero tribute cut illustrates the problems with that one.

Entertainment? Pretty tame, I'm afraid. Pace Russell Crowe, it's not quite the same without a ball and a league table, is it? Lions and Christians? Just a touch monotonous, I should have thought; rather like watching Portugal play England every week, or, for a more recognisable comparison, St Helens against the Huddersfield Sheffield Giants.

There was a bit of class further up the culture scale, what with the likes of Terence and Plautus, but we're certainly not talking Andrew Lloyd Webber, or even Channel 5, let alone Big Break with Jim Davidson.

And the language. Pace pace, it doesn't exactly trip off the tongue, does it? That fixation with putting the verb at the end of the sentence has always bothered me. What about all that was? No wonder it died. Sorry? The Germans do it? No excuse. And why did they want to talk to a table? Sorry? The Poles have a vocative case? It's worse than I thought. Anyway, most of the English borrowings based on Latin are very ugly. Still, the lawyers would be speechless if we got rid of them. And Robin Cook.

So. To my other skill. Predicting the next trend. And if I were you, I would give the Angles a look. Or possibly the Jutes. Fashionably European, big in Kent and Hampshire, terrific knitwear. All right?

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