Interview With a Roman
"Excuse me - hello - sorry to interrupt you. I'm Mary Beard from the 21st century. I'm making a program for the BBC - that's a kind of entertainment we have in the future. And you must be a Roman!"
"Yeah, Roman, that's me."
"Oh, I'm so excited to meet you! What thrilling times you live in! And what an exciting city! Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?"
"Dunno. What's in it for me?"
"I've bought you a bar of chocolate all the way from the future. I'm afraid it's melted a bit. Here, try a piece."
"Looks like shit. What's it for?"
"You eat it."
"I ain't eating that. The food's bad enough round these parts without eating dirt. Get out of here before I give you an Aventine kiss."
"Wait! Wait! Here, try this instead. It's a sausage."
"You're really are taking the piss, aren't you? What am I supposed to do with that? Take it 'ome to the missus? She's got an 'usband; she don't need one o' those. And if you tell me to eat it I'll..."
"No, no, of course you don't want that. Silly of me. How about money?"
"Well, why didn't you say?"
"The thing is, we haven't found a bureau de change..."
"If it's got Domitian's 'ead on, that's good enough for me."
"Ah - no - it has heap big powerful queen..."
"Who the hell do you think you're talking to? Tell you what, give me your hair. I could do with a new tail for my donkey."
"What? No! I mean... Oh, I suppose it's all in the cause of history."
"Who are you calling history? Today's today. Ain't no history about it."
"Yes, but from my time you live two thousand years in the past."
"Yeah? And I suppose time's stopped where you come from? I suppose you live in the present and things is going to stay that way forever? I might be history but I ain't fick."
"But aren't you thrilled to be living in ancient - I mean, in Rome?"
"Why? Look at the place. It's a shit hole. And it stinks."
"But you have the Colosseum..."
"Don't go. Ain't never nuffink on. Nuffink worth seeing. And the bloody queues! Nah, I'd rather stay at home and curl up with a good slave."
"That was a pretty second-rate joke, wasn't it? Sounds like something from Frankie Howerd. Who writes your scripts?"
"Guy called Footsius. He's usually better than this."
"Well, tell him to pay attention. I'm facing imminent baldness and so far I haven't got anything worth the price. Isn't there anything you can get enthusiastic about? The market place! The dentists! The thieves!"
"Oh, sure, the dentists and the bloody thieves. They're what makes my life worth living. If not for dentists and thieves I'd bloody top myself. How was that?"
"But what about your language? Aren't you thrilled to be speaking fluent Latin?"
"It's just talking, innit? Do people still speak Latin in your day?"
"There you are, then. I talk a language so crap that in two thousand years time nobody speaks it any more. What language do you speak?"
"Aren't you amazed to speak a language that, in two thousand years from your time, will be two thousand years old? Aren't you thrilled to be living at the time when all the things that happened in your day were going on? Aren't you gobsmacked to be wearing the clothes of your period?"
"It's not the same thing at all!"
"Of course it's the bloody same. What do I think of our politicians? The same as you think of yours. What do I think of living in poverty and squalor? The same as you would. What do I think of some idiot coming here and asking me stupid questions? Make a guess. If you think Rome's so great, swap places with me. You and my missus can have fun with your sausage and your students can have lectures about Rome from somebody who knows what they're bloody talking about."
"Thank you very much, mister - ?"
"Mister? Don't you know the first thing about Roman naming conventions?"
"Thank you - ah - sir. About the hair - do you happen to know whether scissors have been invented yet?"