The inspiration for this post started with the pretty icing sugar snow tumbling down outside my windows, but possibly because today I am alone and isolated it has turned into a rant about my inability to influence change. Since my last post on my glorious if tiring walk to Assisi much chaos has continued. I hate to recap on events most of which that I am sure you are all aware of, but my frustrations are getting the better of me. Some visibly impinge on my life here in the peace of Umbria, central Italy, and although I know in negative ways they do, I kid myself, fortunately much does not. The insanity of the world continues apace. Like all I increasingly have difficulty in differentiating fact from fiction, true journalism seems to be a historic remote concept, but the devastating shooting and killing at yet another school in America and the carpet bombing in Syria I believe to be true and must rank against some of the worst atrocities ever for a world that supposedly has learnt from the past horrors of previous ages.
Posts quoting a highly media savvy, but illogically reactionary seemingly flip-flopping American President have filled my Facebook feed, yes, in these long dark winter days I do admit to occasionally dipping into and reading Facebook. 45’s reported suggestion to train and arm teachers had me crying at my computer. More guns the solution, how can that be? Hey, was the security guard at the school not dismissed for inaction, and were some of the local cops not guilty of the same, their guns did not save lives. Yet when re-education is what is needed 45 wants to give selected teachers guns, more guns in circulation? Can you imagine the reaction if the legislation is passed and a black muslim teacher fires… The suggestion of arming selective teachers is like a call to more war.
I just do not understand the logic of the argument for owning guns in any shape or form and “Semi automatic” rifles what is the point of them how oh how in today’s world can they exist? What multinationals have a vested interest in their promulgation? Selecting just one example of the many reactions to the mind-blowingly illogical NRA’s ensuing publicity I came across; “If it’s people not guns that are to blame for killings then, why, when we go to war do we not just send troops, why give our troops guns, which according to you do not kill and troops evidently have no need of?” The US Republicans who react to yet another mass shooting by offering “thoughts and prayers” just makes me sick, it does not cut the ice for me.
The UN resolution for a thirty day ceasefire in Syria was passed a few hours ago. The country and more importantly innocent people are being destroyed and for what? Who is profiting? A thirty day ceasefire to allow for humanitarian aid to get through to those whose lives are being destroyed by many of those states represented and hypocritically profiting from the bombardment. Thirty days, thirty days, only thirty days. If we can do it for thirty days then why not forever?
Despite living happily indeed joyously in Italy for over ten years I still dip into British news. Sometimes I am never sure why. Is it because of a quirk of the EU for another four years that gives me a British political vote, or because I can trace my maternal Gallovidian family back to twelve hundred and something and so have deep roots in the country? I am not sure if that either of these wacky reasons justify my continuing to listen to the BBC but listen to it I do and they are the first plausible ones that come to mind. Brexit, huh! I voted ‘Remain’.
I used to be a keen skier and was fortunate enough to be able to spend several winters in the Valais. I used to go by car. Drive south from Galloway grab a birth in the bilges of a dirty tired overnight ferry from Newcastle to Zeebrugge, and then drive through Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Germany and finally into Switzerland. My early trips were made pre-Schengen and the waits at the borders and required changes of currency were to say the least mildly irritating and seemingly pointless. In the latter part of the nineteen eighties the Schengen treaty removed the borders and made driving across Europe at first somewhat surreal but so much easier and more pleasant. The sense of harmony, hope and co-operation was warmly welcoming.
Having grown up just across the sea from Northern Ireland, and if memory serves me correctly, at the height of ‘the troubles’ even hearing bombs in Belfast going off, I remember my fearful parents forbidding me to go to the Emerald Isle.
My first eagerly awaited trip to the republic was in the mid 1980’s. In those days in the UK there were only a handful of vehicle registration plate recognition cameras. 1984 had been and gone but there was still no ‘need’ for the blanket surveillance of the entire population we are told we need today. There were cameras at the port of Dover and one set of cameras was placed on a bridge on the M6 motorway just north of Carlisle – at the gateway from England to Scotland. A third set on the entry to the Scottish ferry terminal in Stranraer the exit port for sailings to Belfast. Now like all port towns the world over Stranraer is a place of transience, an uncomfortable town, but living some twenty five odd miles away was a place I knew reasonably well, or so I thought until for the first time turning right at a roundabout, driving through security gates in a high wire fence and entering the ferry terminal, the world changed. Here was a huge long shed with security cameras and intimidating uniforms asking a myriad of questions, a scary frightening world. On arrival in Larne, the car was searched and more uniforms asked more questions.
The border between the north and the republic was still in existence, and the crossing patrolled by soldiers could take as much an hour and a half to negotiate. With the Good Friday Agreement the hard border went, and in its place there is so much good. There is a sense that harmony and integration have happened since those war-torn days of ‘the troubles’. I have been back many times and delight in the sense of community and freedom of movement over what was a barricaded border. I do however fear the peace is still fragile, and I so despair of the insanity of Brexit one consequence of which seems to want to turn history back on itself.
Flicking through YouTube I came across a British publicity film from the nineteen sixties which reminded me exactly how we have forgotten just how complicated life was and in a funny sort of way why European integration came about:
Here in Italy we are in the throes of another election, this time to elect the eighteenth legislature since 1948. The road from Bellaugello Gay Guest House to our local town of Gubbio is currently, in part like a tunnel in a no go zone, sheets and sheets of metal hoardings have gone up ready to be plastered with election posters that will inevitably blow away in the wind. Italy is a delightfully whimsy country and ever changing of politicians has become a national trait. The more politicians and governments the more people on the gravy train benefit, and they all benefit hugely. Although there are a myriad of political parties posting candidates I learn that effectively there are few parties to choose between, only three in the running are likely to be able to win; Linked to the xenophobic Northern League the Forza Italia party led by the scary destructive Cher aspirant Berlusconi, himself legally blocked from returning to the senate, but if the party wins, as in the past laws somehow will mysteriously be changed and he will inevitably return. Matteo Renzi’s (if I lose the referendum I will exit politics forever) PD party which represents more of the same, and the 5Star movement with its vague and polarised policies. None of my friends have an inclination to vote, they all feel disenfranchised and whatever party they vote for nothing will change for the better. Democracy is an illusion. Yesterday La Repubblica reported massive aggressive rallies in many cities throughout the country, fascists, anti-fascists, xenophobes, anti-xenophobes it is all turning very unpleasant, the war drums are beating.
So today Russia has sent Italy a gift; Il Burian, the bitterly cold snow bearing wind that is born in Siberia. Temperatures are predicted to slide to minus five during the day and minus sixteen through the night for the next three or four days. The impending arrival of the Burian has been headline news and anticipated for some time. The schools in many parts of Italy are closed tomorrow, Gubbio made the announcement early last week. The past days I have been busy wrapping plants and water pipes, putting out strings of nuts for what will be hungry freezing wild birds, covering and protecting everything I can in the hope of preventing too much damage. Friends throughout the country are equally concerned, it is a tough spell ahead but we will survive.
I draw the inevitable conclusion that humankind is being manipulated by huge multinationals each fixated on with their financial profits and greed, with absolutely no regard whatsoever for common decency and a happy humankind. Maybe I am slow on the uptake! The multinationals only look to growth in financial returns and control, and increasingly we are all being sucked in to their vortex. Here at Bellaugello, it is different, it is a small business, and you are able to escape all, be it just for a holiday, or as a work post, or a partner. Here you will find a harmonious place to holiday away from the ‘madding crowd’. To me, a simple immigrant peasant farmer living half way up an Umbrian hillside it is a huge pleasure to be able to offer guys from all over the troubled world an ‘island of peace in a sea of insanity‘. My guest house is small, five individual suites, each with super comfortable bed, large bathroom, kitchen corner and private terrace. Some suites have also an outdoor shower, and of course our infinity pool is the place to soak up the sun. Guests make friends, be it over breakfasts served with everyone seated together at the same table or poolside. Be naked if you wish. Stripping off your clothes gives one a great feeling of freedom, and freedom is so very important.
Thanks to @andykeith_ for the photo.