All has been slightly quieter on the Rhubarb Front over the last few days – despite the relative ‘civilisation’ of the EU, it appears membership of this presitigious club requires obscene charges for the use of internet. 8 Euros an hour? Do you have ANY idea how much that is in real money that is since the Stirling spluttered and lumbered lazily on in its death throes?
The general readership (those who weren’t there, of course) will be rivited to learn that the event for Improved Rhubarb Education of the Wider Population of Le Marche was declared to be a monstrous success. Not only did the cries of BRAVO! (plus whatever they say for encore! in Italian) continue long after I had successfully traced the ‘barb from its Gansu homeland to the Rialto, but the crowd – entranced – demanded news of future books, films and Facebook groups. There are already rumours amongst the middle-aged female population that this bearded explorer will be lured back next summer, largely on the promise of yet more Rabarbaro Zucca – about the only exposure poor Italians have to rhubarb, it appears.
It has been a curious blend of reverse culture shock and exhausted relief to have reached the mountain villages of Le Marche, lapping up the impossibly generous hospitality of my hosts, esteemed writers, chefs and expert conversationalists Adam and Hong Ying, friends from Beijing.
It was Adam’s suggestion, back in April, that I Rhoute through Le Marche on my way to Venice. I don’t think either of us thought for one moment that I would actually take him up on it – but spending a couple of days discovering this little-known but extraordinarily beautiful part of Italy has made this the most relaxing part of The Rhoute.
Sadly, getting hold of rhubarb as a real-life, no-it-actually-exists-type prop for the grand address has proved incredibly difficult. At least in this part of the world people actually know what I’m talking about, a step up clearly from pretty much everywhere I’ve been on this trip. These Italians, you see. So damn cultured.