I have applied for Italian citizenship, the forms are submitted and now the long wait begins. Hopefully Italy my home for ten years will accept me. It is an application I should have submitted years ago, Italy is my home, I feel comfortable here, the majority of my friends are Italian, I have an Italian business and pay my taxes here. I have integrated. Being ever so slightly eccentric I will of course retain dual nationality, I kind of like the thought that in the unlikely event I am in trouble that Liz and Phil or Charlie and Camilla or preferably Harry will come to my aid, I see them as stability in this time of flux.
Sitting at my kitchen window at Bellaugello Gay Guest House overlooking the sun flooded Chiascio valley, the light soft, a slightly steely grey blue, the column of smoke from a distant bonfire rising languidly to the cloudless sky, I am listening to the BBC. Why I still listen to the British radio is a good question, perhaps it is habit, perhaps I normally can remain unattached, knowing that this political turmoil is all happening 1,600 km away in another far flung land, and I can do nothing about it, so remain passive, or maybe it is because Rai the state broadcaster is not to my taste. This is all about to change.
Recently I met two guys from Paris and I was asked what encouraged me to move to Italy and what I miss about Britain. I looked back to the years when the move to Italy was being mooted. Some of the motivation has been consigned to the back of the (now decidedly slowing) memory bank, some remains bright and up front. One motivation that was recently dredged up, was the to my mind, hideous culture of ‘celebrity’, so aspirational in Britain and a real motivator for our decision to become immigrants in Italy. Having lived a gilded life, I found myself at one point living on the ‘wrong side of the tracks’ something I strongly advocate everyone to experience at some point in their life, rich and valuable were the experiences. One of the huge sadnesses was when asking youngsters what they wanted to do in the future many girls answered “to have a baby so somebody will love me” of course that tragic sentiment is not unique to this social class, it cuts across all social and economic stratas.
However the oft given answer that also had me depressed was; “to be famous.” My reply was as ever cheeky; “famous for what?” to which the repeated reply was “eh? I want to be famous…. u wot?” etc. The consistent refusal of politicians to invest in schools has spawned a generation mesmerised by the cult of celebrity, the need to be famous, instantly recognisable, relentlessly promoted by the media, red top rags, and glam mags, dog eat dog is now the accepted and aspirational norm. This cult is rife in the seedy world of politics, and once again I am disturbed. Ok Italy is not perfect, and kids here also want to be famous (the lack of investment in education is a global shame) but there is still an overwhelming reality of community and of family, people eat together at one table, chat and discuss, and have pride in the food they serve. We may not be financially rich but we are rich in so many more important valuable ways. Anyway back to the BBC this morning, I found myself getting heated, almost shouting at the radio, but instead of chucking it out of the window – shame to spoil the view I decided to rant.
The BBC reports (presumably not fake news possibly as tweeted wiretaps from GCHQ set to blindside the public whilst controversial policies are quietly enacted) the Scottish First Minister, I will not write her name (she does not deserve any more celebrity coverage in the ether) a mere three years since the ‘once in a lifetime’ vote is battling on for yet another Scottish independence referendum. Oh, it is so tiresome, distracting and such a waste of energy. Now Italy is far from being innocent in the referendum game. Last year we had a referendum on changes to the Italian constitution, the make up of the senate, centralisation of power and patronage, the losing of which saw prime minister Renzi resign. There was also a referendum on granting renewal of offshore oil drilling licences, where if you wanted to deny the renewals, insanely you had to vote ‘yes’.. only in Italy, and this May 28 there is to be a further referendum planned, on changes to work practices. The last referendums were hugely expensive, and somewhat pointless. The oil licences renewals ‘yes’ vote won decisively yet, because there was a low voter turnout for the referendum it was deemed irrelevant and the licences were granted… Just read about the tragic rise in xenophobia in Britian post Brexit. Referendums, as summed up in a letter to my great aunt on the occasion of the proposed entry to Europe by a former MP of Galloway do not work:
So to Scotland. What trait it in the DNA of Scottish politicians that needs them to be ‘famous’? The Scottish parliament supposedly democratic, and egalitarian, reflecting honest Scottish values resides in a building opened in 2004 was the brainchild of the dour late Donald Dewar whose hunched statue cowers the entire length of Buchanan Street in Glasgow, was designed by a Spanish architect who had unlike Scotland clearly never seen rain, and squeezed into a plot next door to Liz and Phil’s Edinburgh house. With seventy four nuclear bomb proof underground car parking spaces it is hardly ecological, and to me whilst the site of the former steelworks of Ravenscraig closed by the milk snatcher remains undeveloped, and the town of Motherwell so centrally placed geographically economically depressed I am left wondering why if the politicians were so altruistic the parliament was not built on this sad site as opposed to the celebrity royal mile. Add to that the cost initially mooted at 50 million pounds but escalating to near 500 million, it is a dizzy expense.
I lived through a Scottish independence referendum in the 1970s, Scotland voted decidedly to remain and did so until the rise of celebrity. The previous leader to the current incumbent of the Scottish Nationalist Party, which party incidentally in my childhood was decidedly right wing, was obsessed with making Scotland independent, and as a result we suffered years and years of this rant, to my mind such a senseless ambition, we really want more politicians? His sole objective presumably so that him as leader could have fame and celebrity for posterity, his statue erected in the capital for all future generations to see. Oh blast Mel Gibson, if it had not been for that film, so much expenditure and societal schism would have been avoided. The argument for the recent referendum was based economically on oil revenues, now they are severely depleted so the argument by that woman turns to the Brexit vote, Scotland voted to remain, amusingly London also voted overwhelmingly to remain but I don’t hear her call for a ‘ScotLond’ independence;-) I very much doubt if any Scottish leader cares for the justification or viability of independence, their motive is to be the ‘braveheart’ forever remembered as the celebrity who took back Scottish independence, and it makes me mad. Blair planned it when he went to war and then expected to be president of Europe and became ‘middle east peace envoy’.. recorded for posterity in the history books his statue on the fourth plinth of Trafalgar Square or replacing the Victoria memorial. A current look at the upper chamber of the British parliament makes me cry, I so miss the barmy eccentric hereditary peers rolling up to vote, their out-dated frocks and their corduroy trousers held up with bailer twine, there not only for a miserable pittance, a damn good hot meal never found in their ancient decaying baronial piles, but a sense of public duty, what has replaced them is a gaggle of ex ministers and controversial businesspeople their by paid patronage, feeding on a deep gravy train. Long gone are career politicians who did what they did because they genuinely believed the decisions they were making (whether subsequently discovered to be right or wrong) were for the benefit of the population, not for creation of book deals, tv presenter opportunities, stonkingly huge appearance fees, biography advances for 20 year olds, statues and memorials.. What have we done so very seriously wrong that people have this desperate need for poisonous celebrity and to accelerate the destruction of community? I so wish to speed my Italian citizenship application, celebrity can fly over me, I wish to be able to continue living my life as a peasant farmer half way up an idyllic Umbrian hillside.