“With the possible exception of an Olympic marathon, or a world boxing championship the race between the Dark and Light Blues represents the most brutal, harsh and uncompromising struggle in all sport.”

-Patrick Robinson, Foreword to True Blue


The Chief Taster had never visited Rome and we therefore determined to attack the basic must-dos…. the Coliseum, the Circus Maximus, the Forum and the Pantheon.

Having, by some miracle, managed to find a parking space we headed off purposefully…. and fell at the first hurdle: the Coliseum. The queue seemed to wind around this massive building and then on into infinity. And everywhere there were tawdry, tatty men dressed as Roman soldiers and gladiators, posing, for a fee, for photographs. “I think I can see as much as I want from here” said my beloved, craning through the packed line of waiting tourists. Moving on, we searched for a temporary haven from the heat and the hordes and entered 0,75, a wine bar in the Via dei Cerchi, right in the heart of the eternal city.

We entered, a little numb, away finally from the madding crowd, into the calm and welcoming, cool and shaded, bar. There were TV screens strategically placed so both of us, distracted, could watch the random flickering but after a moment or two we became aware that there was a very different, all too real gladiatorial struggle taking place before our very eyes. We were watching the sculling championships at Bled in Slovakia. It brought to mind that other titanic rowing struggle – the annual Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race – and in particular the race of 1987 which become a gladiatorial struggle both on and out of the water. The action out of the water on that occasion raised rowing politics to the level of an extreme sport. The account of it, the book True Blue, reads like a thriller, and anyone interested in office politics will find it both riveting and enlightening.

And while we were watching the competition, ruminating on the nature of combat both in sport and in the course of every day life, we were chomping on this crispy, sweet-bitter salad.


Recipe for apple and pecan gladiator salad

Serves 4


  • 1 apple
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 red endive or a small radicchio, shredded
  • 1 floppy English lettuce, shredded
  • 1 packet of rocket
  • 120g/4 oz Délice de Bourgogne cheese… or failing that Tallegio or Bel Paese; 0,75 (the restaurant) used Tallegio
  • 90g/3 oz Parma ham
  • 100g/3 oz pecans

Ingredients for dressing

  • 1 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 5 tbsp walnut oil
  • 1 tsp smoked salt
  • 10 grinds white pepper
  • 1 tsp grainy mustard
  • 1 tsp honey


  1. Chop all the salad ingredients, and put in a large bowl.
  2. mix the dressing ingredients, and shake. 
  3. Serve, if possible, with raisin bread.


This post is dedicated to Dan Topolski.