Rosaria from Gozo (Aunt Maria and Priapus)


The Bovims and Rosaria with Joe, Aunt Maria and the gallery owners lingered on and breakfast rolled seamlessly into a lunch. Huge bowls of pasta and carafes of wine would be carried to their table with lively conversation whetting appetites. Frank departed from pasta and ordered a plate of freshly grilled sardines, garnished with fresh coriander and lemon juice.

‘Why don’t you all come back to London with me and have a look at Wendy’s gallery’, Frank asked? ‘She is having an exhibition of her own work and there is also an ongoing show on lace’. It was an exchange exhibition from a gallery in Belgium’s Ghent. The gallery in Ghent is highly specialised, world renowned for its hand- made lace. Wendy was lucky to get the lace exhibition in her gallery in London. ‘Not lucky’, Wendy retorted, ‘you knew how to manage and talk to the gallery board, gain their trust and influenced them to try England as a venue for their next exhibition’; she smiled knowingly.

Frank had been to Paris recently to once again see his Euro Disney project which finished a few years before and made a side trip to Ghent to see the lace exhibition. While there he showed them a catalogue of the lace dolls including those he had bought from Rosaria.

The excitement of catching a plane to look at more lace in London was very tempting to Maria. She had no qualms in accepting. Joe, with his easy nature had no trouble; the flounder could wait and swim a little longer, he thought. What about Aunt Maria? ’Don’t worry about me, I can sing anywhere and besides, I’ll visit my brother in Naples’. ‘I haven’t seen him for ages. I might even go to Pompeii, have a look at that famous brothel where a visit to the girls of love used to cost the equivalent of an erect penis’s weight in gold’. ‘Now, there was female liberation, she added’.

Maria had never married but was rumoured to have many lovers. No one was sure, but many young men would visit her cottage on a rocky outcrop in Gozo to take singing lessons. In fact, it became a bit of a standard saying, when, some young person who spontaneously burst out into a song, was asked; was it a good lesson from Maria today?

When the group finally finished lunch, they decided to fly with Frank and Wendy to London the day after. His plane was on stand-by and so were the two pilots who were booked into a local hotel. The convenience of having the means to do all that was none more obvious than to Wendy and Rosaria. Rosaria was still a few weeks away of giving birth and the idea that her dolls with lace had sold filled her with joy. It was not just the sale, but that her work was now so much appreciated. All those hours and days of moving bobbins around with the lace finally getting a motive that was hers alone and totally unique.

Next day Maria was already on her bus to Naples which drove direct onto the ferry at the Messina wharf. At the same time the plane took off with Frank, Wendy, Rosaria and Joe on their way to London.

Maria felt a warm anticipation not just to see her brother in Naples but also the chance to see Pompeii. Her knowledge of Pompeii was mainly through studies and magazines. She was intrigued by the idea that an entire culture ‘in situ’ had been re-discovered and that so much was still being unearthed. Of course she had seen the picture of Priapus’ fresco from the House of the Vettii but felt that to actually see this scene in front of her at the place where it all had happened was something she looked forward to almost more than seeing her brother.

Maria was more than a little interested in men’s sexuality. When the singing lessons sometimes strayed to a more intimate level, she did respond in kind. This was never predetermined or deliberate and always followed a natural flow of events. The singing lessons could end up in the young man bedding her down. She liked men as much as singing and somehow thought that art and sex could well be mutually dependent or symbiotic. Looking at some erotic art from Picasso and others, there seemed to be that sex and art often had a common bond. They certainly were not mutually exclusive.

The trip to Pompeii would involve the tour to the erotic Priapus fresco which, she had been told, could only be shown to males. Why women were excluded wasn’t explained but someone told her, that this little sexist oddity was only reserved for English and American tourists. Apparently, the board of tourism had received complaints from some of those that weren’t quite prepared for the sheer size of the phallus. Some high heeled ladies even fainted and had to be brought back by generous sprinkling of Eau-de Napoli mixed with holy water which was put near the fresco to revive those faint hearted.

All in all, those tales of giant erect phalluses, the Pompeian history and cultural habits of the inhabitants, (irrespective of phallus size) was enough for Maria to keenly look forward to her visit next day. She knew the tale that the giant phallus had outweighed the bag of gold coins but had some lingering doubt how this giant upright member could be weighed. She had a practical side to her! She was at the same time also told not to miss the nearby Herculaneum, an excavated snack bar which has a painting of Priapus behind the bar, apparently as a good-luck symbol for the customers.

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