Sixteen nuns and an umbrella

Share
Related Topics
"I was in Rome last week," I said, as I took my foaming pint from the landlord and paused in order to get people's attention before launching into my travel tale.

It was a fatal move. The man beside me in the pub stirred and said:

"I was in Rome briefly 10 years ago. I had an unfortunate encounter with a party of nuns, one of whom still writes to me regularly with marriage proposals."

Everyone turned away from me, towards him.

"Has anyone here been to St Peter's Square?" said the man.

"I was there only last week," I said, but no one paid me any heed.

"It's a huge concourse," he said, "a great open space like an airport terminal, because wherever you look there are different groups moving about, criss-crossing each other like trains in the dark, but they are not looking for their plane departure; they are looking for their coach, or their next cup of tea, or their guide, or the lavatory, or maybe simply the way out.

"Anyway, I was all by myself and I had taken my umbrella along because it looked like rain, and at one point I was walking along trying to get it unfurled, holding it up and shaking it, and I suddenly realised that I was being followed by 16 nuns. I stopped. They stopped. I started. They followed me. Have you ever had the feeling you're being followed? I know that feeling. It's an especially strong feeling when there are 16 nuns after you."

"Why were you being followed by them?" asked someone.

"That's obvious," I said. "If you have been to St Peter's, as I was last week, you will notice that all the group leaders have some sort of rallying object held up in the air. Actually, a funny thing happened to me ..."

"Often it is a walking stick," said the man, "or a red umbrella. Anything to let the group spot the tour guide from a long way off, if they have strayed away. Obviously the nuns mistook my waving umbrella for the group beacon."

"How did you get rid of them?" asked somebody.

"I didn't," said the man. "I pointed out to them that I was not their group leader and they told me - they were all American nuns, so we understood each other passably well - that they were well aware of that and that they had followed me on purpose because I looked more interesting than their own leader, who was a bully and a bore, and they now wanted to stick with me.

"There I was in St Peter's, with 16 nuns looking to me for a good time. So I said: 'Follow me, ladies,' and into the great church we went. If I know one thing about large Catholic churches, or museums, or anywhere, it is that the most interesting parts of the building always have signs like "Keep Out" or "Staff Only" barring your way. So I made straight for a door marked "Private" and went through it. Some papal official, a Swiss guard or something, made an attempt to stop me, but when you see someone followed by 16 nuns, you hesitate, because you think they must have clearance, and while he was hesitating we were through like a flash.

"I don't know if you have ever been behind the scenes at St Peter's," said the man, looking challengingly at me. I said nothing. He had outsmarted me here and he knew it. "But it's a cross between a well-appointed golf club and one of those London livery companies. Lots of changing rooms and wardrobes, and lots of relics in glass cases - bones and skulls, mostly. I think they keep the relics there as going away presents for important Catholic visitors. The nuns were certainly very impressed, so I told them to take one each as a souvenir, and they needed no second invitation.

"Meanwhile, I had been looking round for some clue as to where to go next - we were all alone in these back quarters and there was no one to ask - and while they were sorting out their souvenirs, I chose at random a door at the far end of the hall. I opened it and ushered them all through, and then followed them out - and found myself with 16 nuns on the Pope's balcony overlooking the Square of St Peter! And the crowd all staring up at us and waving!"

There was a dramatic pause. It was broken by the ringing of the man's mobile phone. He took it out. He answered it. He looked concerned. He said he would come at once. He put it away.

"Sorry, gents," he said. "Must dash. Finish the story some other time."

So saying, he left. Personally, I think he had made the whole thing up, just to ruin my story. Some people are like that. Can't bear competition. Anyway, as I was saying, I was in Rome a week or two back and ... damn! Run out of space. Some other time, I hope.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing & Sales Manager

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
British Prime Minister Tony Blair (L) pictured shaking hands with Libyan leader Colonel Moamer Kadhafi on 25 March 2004.  

There's nothing wrong with Labour’s modernisers except how outdated they look

Mark Steel
 

Any chance the other parties will run their election campaigns without any deceit or nastiness?

Nigel Farage
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee