Metro 82

Richard Herring sees a mouthful in Vesuvius

Friday 20 Sep 2013 
My wife and I have just returned from the Amalfi Coast in Italy.
It’s a stunningly beautiful part of the world and we saw many memorable things: the Blue Grotto on Capri, Amalfi Cathedral and the tomb of St Andrew, and the ruins of the ancient Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum – ironically preserved by the volcanic ash and lava that destroyed them.
But it was on the train back from Herculaneum that I was treated to the most unforgettable sight of the fortnight – and it’ll be the first thing to pop into my mind whenever I think of this holiday.
I glanced idly out of the window as the locomotive pulled out of some tiny provincial station to see a white-haired man being enthusiastically fellated by a brown-haired lady by the side of the tracks.
They had the consideration to hide themselves from the people in the town but were in full view of all the trains going past. It was so flagrant that I had to laugh. But I was also impressed. It was 3.30pm and not only was it broad daylight but the sun was powerfully hot. Most old men would be having a siesta and, personally, I was too knackered to even read my book, but this silver fox was up and at ’em and making the most of his day.
He was considerate enough to have his back to the tracks. He might have been an exhibitionist but he wasn’t going to show off about it.
I only saw this for an instant and there is always the chance that the young woman was considerately helping this older man to loosen a belt that was causing him pain. But, if so, she was doing it incredibly vigorously and, in my opinion, had chosen the wrong body part for the task.
It’s dangerous to make assumptions and it’s possible that these two people were deeply in love in a May-to-December relationship and unable to control their lust but I think it’s pretty likely that a financial transaction had taken place to create this charming tableau.
Really, I should have found the whole thing indecent, offensive and sleazy but somehow it felt charming and life-affirming.
These people live in the shadow of Vesuvius, a volcano that once laid waste to the whole region and which could do again at any second. They were seizing the day (and that’s not all one of them was seizing) and squeezing every drop of pleasure out of life while they were still here. If you fight fire with fire, can’t you fight eruptions with loads of smaller eruptions? It’s worth a try.
Does anything symbolise Italy more than an old man getting an al fresco blowie in a railway siding and damn the consequences? They should put it on their flag.
I can’t really explain why but it filled me with hope and a love of life when it should have left me cold and empty and wishing for death. It made me happier to witness this than it would have done to participate (especially had I been the one on my knees). My enjoyment was spiritual rather than prurient. Our time here is short and might be snatched away from us at any second. Let’s make the most of every opportunity, whatever our age.
The best thing was, if Vesuvius had blown its top before this man could and they had been instantaneously vaporised by the pyroclastic flow, then future archaeologists would get a pretty spectacular plaster-cast statue from the resulting void to put in their museum.
Richard Herring embarks on a British tour with his brand new show, We’re All Going To Die! on October 8.