Thursday, 9 August 2012

Thanks Again, Mr Rossi

On Wednesday, we (myself, Jean, and Jean's carer, Anna, a retired volleyball player from Slovakia, who lost an eye as a child) went to Weymouth on the train to watch the Olympic sailing. We took with us the huge, heavy, leather-cased binoculars, made the year I was born, and bequeathed to me by the naval war hero, Harold Bunt.

It's a fair walk from the station to the Stone Pier, from where without a ticket one can get a good view of the sailing (yachtovat in Slovak); the pedestrian route goes past the clock tower, along the sea front, and right past the very spot where, on the forecourt of Rossi's Icecream Parlour, I set up as a Lightning artist, drawing people's portraits with a newly-invented felt-tipped pen, almost 50 years ago. I had never been back there since.

Mr Rossi had taken pity on a student with a pregnant wife who was down on his luck, so he allowed me to use this pad to accost passers-by, sit them on a stool, and execute a rapid likeness. I did 100 of these a day, and made a great deal of money, but he never asked me for a penny.

His grandson runs the business now, and smiled to hear my story. He said that his grandfather died several years ago, but still visited them quite frquently. When I asked him which kinds of occasions he attended, he replied that he came to all kinds, mainly to play practical jokes, such as locking people in the toilet. He had been a bit of a joker during his life. I asked if he would mind thanking his grandfather for the help he gave me back then, when he next turned up.

The weather became quite splendid as we reached the pier, and we had a better view than I expected. The atmosphere was great, and everyone was friendly and helpful.

I don't have the remotest grasp of sailing, so I had no idea what I was watching. Perhaps Anna is quicker to learn such things, or maybe, like Nelson, she has keener vision with her one eye and the aid of Harold's field-glasses. Anyway, she said that New Zealand were winning, Sweden were second, and we were third.

Rossi's Ice Cream Parlour was doing a roaring trade when we passed it on the way back.

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