Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

Those Maleficent Men ‘n Their Mud Machine

15/05/2014

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

There can be few things in this world as baffling (and as terminally depressing) as Italian politics.

I have now been in Italy for almost four and a half years – a period of time that was sufficient to endow me with a reasonably fair understanding of the way the political tides ebbed and flowed in Spain and then subsequently in France – but to my shame, with regards to this country I have long given up even trying to work out what’s going on.

Recently, however, I inadvertently brought a small smidgen of political machinations into my own life… and oh how I regret it.

It all started with a Facebook spat about immigration – far from the first of that nature I have had on that particular forum, and unlikely to be the last given how I seem to enjoy giving myself angst-filled and sleep-deprived nights whilst I mentally harangue people whose attitudes make me feel ashamed to be human.

I won’t rehash the discussion for fear it may instigate in some readers a similar desire to throw themselves from a high building as it did me, but here are some of the salient rejoinders to my argument – paraphrased in the interests of succinctness:

- Certain people (me) are ignorant, impolite and lacking in good sense for pointing out that the person loudly posting about how “Italy is for Italians” is married to an immigrant.

- Certain British people (me) shouldn’t call Italians racist (I didn’t) when there are armed police protecting the Channel Tunnel from illegals.

- Italy is a country that welcomes those from all walks of life, such tolerance stems from the traditions and teachings of the Catholic Church (???).

- Certain British people (me) have no right to express an opinion on the subject of racial intolerance (I didn’t) as the concept was only invented when the British imported slaves into America (???).

- Certain hypocritical conformists (me) are only shouting about racism (I wasn’t) in order to indulge in a bit of pre-electoral mud-slinging.

Aha! So that’s what it was really all about: on the 25th of May, My Little Italian Village will be voting for their next mayor.

The current mayor, my neighbour/friend/ex-landlady, is completing her third (non-consecutive) term at the helm of the town hall, and for the last few years at least, has been greatly looking forward to hanging up her tri-coloured sash now she has reached her mid-sixties, and settling down to enjoy a well-deserved retirement.

Local politics, however, was not about to let her go quite so easily.

For as the elections loomed, it quickly became apparent that the only pretender to the throne, together with a number of his merry band of councillors, are of  the opinion that anybody a whisper to their left is a communist, whereas if they themselves shuffled any further to their right it is highly likely they would topple straight off the edge and into the arms of Il Duce.

And although there are many around here who are of a similar persuasion, there is an equally high number who view such monochromatic political leanings with great concern and were therefore unanimous in their insistence that she stand again.

Playing against the newcomers is their lack of experience in the political arena, something that becomes painfully obvious when scanning their scant “manifesto” – little more than pointed and rather libellous digs at the opposition (a few examples of which are paraphrased below):

We promise that if we win these elections we won’t hog the town hall for twenty years! Was, unbelievably, their opener.

We promise that under us, the village will be managed for the people, by the people! As opposed to the current dictatorship, I presume.

We promise that we won’t misuse our powers to give favours to friends! Just… ouch!

We promise transparency in our actions! Especially interesting, as my new Facebook bestie (one of the would-be councillors), rather than creating his own profile, instead uses the profile of his mild-mannered foreign spouse to harangue the “friends” she has amassed through her school and playground interactions with his political issues.

As in between incessantly posting and re-posting variations on a theme that certain people (me) should keep their traps shut, he has also undertaken to swell the party votes by incessantly posting and re-posting variations on a theme that politicians who hold on to their power for too long, are anti-democratic.

Because apparently the democratic thing to do to a village unfortunate enough to have only two candidates, one of whom happens to be long-standing, would simply be to pass the keys of the town hall to the newcomers regardless of majority opinion.

One would hope that the overt mudslinging that has so far been offered in the place of real and attainable goals, plus the vitriolic lack of self-control shown by this particular councillor on his internet platform of choice, would perhaps make people think twice about the newcomers’ suitability to administrate. But perhaps that is just how politics works.

Either way, individuals capable of demonstrating such complete lack of humanity and compassion in their opinions on the human tragedy such as the one ever more frequently unfolding in the waters off Lampedusa, might ask themselves why on earth they feel qualified to look after the interests of others at all.

This is Status Viatoris, not looking forward to the 25th of May very much at all, in Italy.

Plodding Towards the Finish Line

11/12/2013

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

I honestly never believed I would be a mother.

In fact, having made peace with the unlikelihood of ever meeting a suitable life partner; a future filled with foreign languages, travel, writing and the occasional empowering but short-lived sexual fling with a modest succession of mysterious strangers came to seem like a pretty reasonable alternative to family life.

So it is with repeated and overwhelming surprise that I greet the swollen, irrefutable evidence of how very much things have changed each time I happen to cast my eyes feet-wards.

The Incredible Bulk

The Incredible Bulk

I am full of baby. How wonderfully barmy and improbable that feels.

And the side effects no less so; one of the most unexpected being that I have at long last made peace with this lumpy, bumpy body of mine.

Such a visually unimpressive mishmash of flesh, bone, fat and sinew which has caused me nothing but shame and regret for so many years finally seems to have come into its own as it goes about, without any apparent help or guidance, building a brand new human being.

A little person, who despite having been gifted half of my DNA and lent the use of my innards for almost nine months, is already an individual in its own right; hardwired with its own personal strengths, weaknesses, preferences and potential for opinion.

In fact as I feel the determined kicks, wiggles and stretches – perhaps the most bizarre, occasionally unsettling but often wondrous, aspect of late pregnancy – I find it hard to imagine that this creature, so apparently purposeful and in control of its destiny, will pop out of me as vulnerable and helpless as any other newborn.

(Although in retrospect, if it instead popped out and strolled from the room in search of coffee and a newspaper, that might be more disconcerting…)

Having largely managed to avoid the whole preparing-for-motherhood behemoth so popular in the UK (I’m utterly intimidated by those gangs of pregnant women and/or new mums often to be found lurking in Starbucks et al) my midwife recently ordered me, on pain of anesthetic-free episiotomy stitches, to attend at least one antenatal meeting.

A meeting in which a group of fat, knackered-looking “ladies” with bumps of all dimensions, sat around in increasing horror as it was explained how best we could assist our poor bodies in expelling their oversized burdens, and what drugs (not as many as I had hoped) would be on offer to us in the event of the whole unlovely process smarting a tad.

Naturally there are always those who loudly declare their intention to eshew any type of pain-relief – does wanting to really feel the burn mean you will be a better class of mother? These declarations certainly release a sort of smugness into the air which is indicative of such an opinion.

Which would therefore mean that I am destined to be a pretty crap parent, given that I would be more than happy to take a needle to the back if it all gets too much.

The conversation then moved on to breastfeeding, another touchy topic offering mammas-to-be a hint of the ruthlessness of future motherhood-related peer pressure…

Personally, I do want to breastfeed: even as I recoil from stories of cracked nipples, mastitis, and dodgy latches, I still find myself hugely looking forward to those intimate moments with my child.

Going the boob route also seems (to the lazy layperson, me) to be a far more convenient arrangement than faffing around with tubs of powder, bottles, teats, sterilisers and microwaves at 2 o’clock in the morning.

And as for the miserly layperson (me, again), she is very much swayed by the lack of any financial implication involved in swinging her breasts around.

But all in all I feel that it is a matter of personal choice, and not a potential guilt-stick with which to belabour women already made vulnerable by the physically and emotionally arduous impact of pregnancy and childbirth.

In fact I know plenty of people – the Mothership, my lovely husband, and all of his siblings to name but a few – who were not breastfed. And who all enjoy health far more robust than my own boob-nourished, asthma-riddled, allergy-beleaguered, sinusitis-whipped, IBS-slapped, migraine-mangled-immune-system-of-a-newborn-kitten.

Hmmm…

Drug-free birth, only breast milk will do – could this be just the tip of the iceberg in the game of guilt-ridden parenthood chess??

This is Status Viatoris, thirty-five weeks and counting (and hoping and praying and loudly pleading with sproglet not to leave her trapped in this penguin-waddling, back-aching hell for too much longer)… :-)

“There is No Such Thing as an Honest Romanian”

12/11/2013

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

Declared some daft besom apropos of nobody seems to quite know what, at the Mothership’s Italian class recently.

And had I been there personally, I would have hauled my pregnant bulk over the desks and taken enormous pleasure in bopping my fist right onto the end of her nose.

Of course it’s hardly surprising that she, and many others like her, feel utterly entitled to verbalise such prejudice in the righteous foghorn tones so beloved of the rather ignorant, given that their only information on it (and a vast many other subjects) comes from the criminally irresponsible British media.

And it would be a delightful thing if people actually backed up some of the “facts” they absorb from their Daily Rag (right or left-wing, tabloid or broadsheet – they are none of them free from the stigma of politically self-serving partiality) with a dash of thinking-for-themselves and a pinch of additional research, but hey, blindly following somebody else’s neatly packaged ideology-for-idiots is so much easier on an already overstretched brain cell.

(I wonder if any of them, media or media follower alike, has ever given a moment’s consideration to another time a country allowed itself to be whipped into a frenzy of distrust and hatred against a particular group of people. No? You know, way back when a significant proportion of an entire First World nation let themselves be convinced that all their socio-economic problems could be laid firmly at the door of an easily identifiable scapegoat? Still nothing? Oh well.)

Even the Italians, with their long history of fleeing Italian shores in times of crisis in order to seek their fortune elsewhere – North America, South America, Australasia, Germany, France, the UK… loathe these modern-day economic migrants just as much as the British, with their long history of pinching other people’s land and plundering its natural resources whilst oppressing the natives for their own good.

What a pair.

So what of the reviled Romanians?

Well first of all – and this might come as a surprise to much of the British media: all Romanians are not gypsies and not all gypsies are Romanian. Something I can only assume to be a well-kept secret when I note that 90% of articles talking about Romanians in the British press, clearly feature Roma gypsies.

The Roma, or Țigani, have been in Romania since before the 14th century, and, like their cousins in Bulgaria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Spain and many other places, originate from Northern India. They have a rich musical tradition – usually one of the only aspects of their culture that finds favour with their host countries – but in most other ways they tend to be disliked outcasts due in part to their disregard for the local laws and social norms by which the rest of the local community abide.

They do emigrate, and all over the place, but sadly begging and pick-pocketing often remain their employment of choice (and necessity – prejudice rendering most other doors closed to them).

A Romanian is a different sort of character altogether.

Whilst keeping a strong sense of family and community, many are well-used to travelling to find employment, especially when it comes to construction and other manual labour. Sometimes within Romania itself, but very often further afield: Germany, Italy, Greece, Spain, the UK, Israel, Saudi Arabia… Men leave their families, sometimes only returning once or twice a year, in order to work and send money home.

And not just the men, there are also plenty of Romanian women who opt to work (often as carers for the elderly or infirm) far away from their loved ones, so that they are in a position to be able to support them financially.

It is far from an easy life – and certainly not one the comfortable, media-led armchair critics from wealthier nations would consider sullying themselves with – but many Romanians just get on with it.

Because they have to.

Because they don’t have a government that will give them money if they can’t find employment in their home town.

Because there is nobody to complain to if they can’t find quite the right sort of job to suit them, or if the little work that is available doesn’t pay enough to keep on top of the bills.

Because they exist within the harsh parameters of the real world.

Yes; there are dishonest Romanians, just as there are dishonest Brits and dishonest Italians.

And yes, maybe a few might take advantage of Britain’s absurdly generous benefit system – after all, there are plenty of British natives who feel not a jot of loyalty to their country of birth, and happily plunder the loopholes presented by the lumbering welfare state.

But that is absolutely no reason not to accord respect to the vast numbers of hard-working, honest Romanians out there. As well as the Bulgarians, the Czechs, the Poles, the Ukrainians, the Serbs, the Albanians and indeed whoever else is just trying to do what every other human being has tried to do since the dawn of time…

…keep crop, feathers and family together.

It is, after all, a basic human right.

This is Status Viatoris, hoping that her honest, hard-working, kind-hearted, lovely Romanian husband never has to hear the sort of crap her countrymen are capable of coming out with, although after nearly five years in Italy, he is probably getting used to it… :-(

Condemned to Solitude

07/11/2013

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

No sooner is a woman in the position to pin on her twinkly primigravida badge (yes, they give them away free with each plastic pee pee stick – didn’t you know?), a surprisingly high number of curious bystanders begin to request information regarding her future procreational intentions.

It can be a little disconcerting, especially when her mind is rather full of other things: the anxiety involved in assisting this embryo through the gestational minefield before ushering it into a healthy babyhood, for starters. Questioning her sanity at placing herself in such a responsibility-laden situation, for seconds. And lastly, the dawning realisation that she has just willingly compromised her rights to being entirely her own person for at least the next eighteen years.

But regardless of the mental gymnastics that appear to be delivered – along with nausea and a tendency to easy tears – by the victorious spermatozoon, many women do already know the answer to this rather inappropriate question and can confidently state, “I plan to have two, three, four children…” (delete as appropriate and biology willing, natch), thus apparently satisfying the informationary requirements of the question poser.

However there is an answer that does not seem to satisfy, and – typically, I suppose, given my contrariness in most matters – it is the only answer I can offer.

“I only want this child. I have no intention of having any more.”

A statement that even in Italy, where the birthrate is one of the lowest in Europe and where there are more sibling-less children than one could shake a rosemary and olive oil grissino at, is greeted with a surprising lack of respect for my capacity for rational thought.

So, just to prove to the sceptical masses (ok, to the nosy few) that I have actually given the matter some consideration, I shall now list my reasons for feeling that one child will be my lot in life:

1) Although the statistics on overpopulation vary, there can be no doubt that many of the more serious current and future world problems are/will be caused by there being far too many human beings on the planet. My conscience simply would not allow me any peace if I had more than one child.

2) I would be able to afford educational possibilities and horizon-broadening opportunities for one child, that I would not be in a position to offer to two. Important considerations (I feel) in a world that is becoming evermore competitive and complicated.

3) Similarly, as I am English my husband is Romanian and we live in Italy, much of our holiday time over the next years is going to be spent travelling hither and thither to keep sproglet in touch with far-flung relatives. Not something that we would be able to do either financially or logistically with any ease in the case of multi-sprogs.

4) A child needs to be loved, sheltered, fed, clothed, educated and tirelessly cuddled. Having a sibling is not a need, it is a circumstance. A circumstance which plenty of us have never found ourselves in and not suffered as a consequence. And as an afterthought, it is important to remember that just as there are people who have wonderfully close and supportive relationships with their brothers/sisters, there are plenty of others who would happily cross continents to avoid them.

5) I don’t actually want more than one child. Seeing women walking along with a toddler at her side, another in a pushchair and a third “on the way” (for example) makes me want to run as fast and as far as I can. Watching friends juggling two or more children with their different and often opposing requirements – baby’s having a nap, four-year old is clamouring to go to the park, got to pick her up from ballet, take him to football practice, we’re late for school but the toddler’s just filled his nappy… simply reinforces my conviction that it is not for me.

6) And to the wagging fingers that are accompanied by: “Just you wait and see. As soon as you’ve popped that sprog you will be swept away on an uncontrollable sea of biological impulses that will have you planning the next three before the umbilical cord is even severed!” I would say: whilst I do not doubt that at some point during what remains of my fertile years I may well have a brief hankering for a second baybeeeee, I sincerely hope that I have the strength of character to take my present concerns into account and not be dictated to by my hormones. After all, what woman would seriously consider placing her hormones in the driving seat when attempting a spot of rational decision-making?

Exactly.

So there we have it: the reasoning behind my inability to offer curious bystanders a satisfactory answer to their queries in six explanatory steps! Now all that is left to do is translate it into Italian and post flyers round the village ;-)

This is Status Viatoris, who maybe one day will have a strongly held conviction that people actually approve of! Unlikely, I know…

AKA – just life

23/09/2013

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

So, as I mentioned briefly in another post a while back (almost certainly in the guise of a flimsy excuse for not keeping this blog up to date), over the last year or more it has been getting harder and harder for me to view “Life In Italy” as anything more exotic than “just life”.

Now this is not a serious problem in itself, nor is it difficult to figure out how things might have reached this point, bearing in mind I am fast approaching the big ONE EIGHT (18 years in the UK, 18 years out); but it does make writing saccharine articles about the wonders of La Vita Italiana a little tricky. Especially when adding the pressure involved in being financially remunerated for such services…

Thus I find myself ringing the death knell on yet another paying job; although I shall continue churning out a few more words until a suitable replacement is found – probably in or around Tuscanyshire, as a writer more inclined to throw themselves wholeheartedly into La Vita Italiana alla Ex-pat seems to be what is required.

Actually I am rather astounded that I wasn’t given my marching orders, and long ago, when taking into account the rather negative slant I often give to much of my article writing.

Not that it has ever been my intention to be a party pooper just for the hell of it, but I do feel that presenting people with the simple exchange of Life at Home for Life in Italy as a recipe for the perfect existence, is misleading in the extreme.

Life is pretty damn hard wherever you go, and moving to a country in which you barely understand the language, know little of the culture and even less of the struggles and concerns of the locals can only make it harder, especially if a heartless article writer has deliberately hoodwinked you into believing that you would be walking into the warm and welcoming embrace of a Peter Mayle novel.

On the flip side, my conscience has frequently prodded me over the last three years over my complicit involvement in encouraging a certain sort of foreigner to view Italy (and much of the rest of Southern Europe) as little more than a retirement village, not forgetting those would-be holidaymakers who contribute to the ghost village phenomenon by buying up property in picturesque areas, only to inhabit it for a paltry few weeks a year.

I have seen the housing market in many parts of Spain being ruined for locals due to an influx of wealthier foreign buyers unwittingly pushing up the prices. I have seen villages in France, and Italy (and even touristy corners of the Scottish Highlands) that now remain predominantly empty for most of the year – with those who actually live and work in the area unable to get onto the evermore pricey property ladder and equally unable to find anywhere available to rent.

Being asked to write articles that actively encourage readers to take advantage of a country’s dire political and financial position in order to pick up second homes on the cheap quite frankly turns my stomach, as much as it might make financial sense to the wily investor.

And obsessing over what the local ex-pats do, and when, and where – celebrating the royal wedding! celebrating the royal birth! celebrating the Queen’s jubilee! celebrating the London Olympics! – churns my innards yet further.

I thought I was writing for people who dreamt of life in Italy? Who gives a tinker’s cuss what the other bloody ex-pats are up to! Probably the same thing as they got up to back in Basingstoke, just with a bit more of a tan and a gut full of chianti… Either way, I think we can all be pretty sure there will be a fair number who fit into the following category: An Eggz-Pat Rant.

This is Status Viatoris, who has luckily been offered some sort of badly-paid joblet with the local wildlife rescue organisation – much more up her strada, let’s just hope it can been undertaken with a bulbous mid-section and then a sproglet in tow, in Italy.

Popping Out From Behind the Fandango…

07/01/2013

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

… to say HAPPY NEW YEAR!

A bit late, I know, but I wanted to see Mallorca through to its natural conclusion before breaking the spell ;-)

I imagine the sudden change in subject from Current Life in Italy to Distant Past in Spain may have come as a bit of a surprise to some, especially as I chose not to usher it in with even the smallest parp of a fanfare.

In fact posting the book chapter by chapter on Status Viatoris was an idea that came to me in the dead of night whilst I was mulling over a lack of success in locating my blogging mojo; and in typical SV fashion, no sooner had the thought popped into my head than I found myself seated expectantly before the computer in my pyjamas…

Although I had long since resigned myself to never making a peso from An English Fandango (unless the clamour for an e-book reaches intolerable decibels, natch), I find I do regret choosing the point of lowest reader traffic in my blogging journey so far to launch it into the bogglesphere.

It feels as though I’ve let it down somehow, and, despite the relief of finally having made a decision about its destiny, I can’t help but worry that I am ill-prepared for the possibility of seeing my little creation sink into oblivion without even a small flurry of bubbles to mark its passing…

Oh the ego is a terrible thing, so it is!

So, 2012 has been and gone since we last spoke, and I for one was a little sad to see it leave.

Because without causing a flap or creating a fuss, it turned out to be a pretty fabulous year for me (poorly Pooches notwithstanding): the house, all bar the leaky roof, is finished; I seem to have landed myself with a highly entertaining business venture; English-teaching is turning out to be a lot more satisfying than I found it nine years ago; I have spent the last two months being paid to translate descriptions of thrilling things to do in Kenya; An English Fandango is slowly being released from the prison of its word document; my relationship with Tigger is growing – although the last time I wrote something similar that part of my life temporarily went tits up – and my previously incorrigible itchy feet are now made conspicuous only by their absence.

Challenged and yet content, ferociously busy and yet fulfilled: it’s only taken thirty-five years for me to be able to cautiously stick my bonce over the parapet and declare that I might, just might, be settled.

And as I doubt very much that I would have been able to reach that point without the increase in confidence gained from the writing of this blog, and most especially from the encouragement and affection of so many of its readers, I want to thank you all hugely for sticking  with me over the last thirty-three months and 328 posts.

THANK YOU!

This is Status Viatoris, wishing all SV readers, their families, friends and loved ones much health and happiness in 2013 – take care of each other and make every day count, in Italy.

P.S An English Fandango – Granada will have its first airing on Monday 14th January. Don’t miss it!

Bling from Beijing

23/03/2012

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

Very popular, certainly in my area of Italy, is the phrase “andiamo dai cinesi!”

You need some socks/knickers/shoes? Andiamo dai cinesi!

Fancy something sparkly for your finger/ears/nose? Andiamo dai cinesi!

Need some threads for a night out? Andiamo dai cinesi!

Running short on household items? Andiamo dai cinesi!

From tiny shops, hidden away down the back streets, selling Rolax watches, Yves Son Loran bags and “high fashion” at one hundredth of the price, the Chinese in Italy have started branching out into superstores full of practically everything you could possibly want or need.

Providing, of course, you don’t happen to mind that it is utter shit:

Socks that are so synthetic they make your feet pong before you even put them on, plasticky trainers masquerading as suitable footwear for sporting activities, children’s toys than reek of chemicals or petroleum and leave a tacky film on your hands, rings that turn your fingers black, chipped photo frames that won’t stand up, bedsheets that are practically see-through but still manage to sandpaper your arse, raunchy peek-a-boob French maids outfits made out of a garishly coloured and whiffy dental floss/fishing line hybrid… the shelves are crammed with temptation for those who don’t seem to consider or care about the concept of false economy.

I am not by any means a big spender, but when I do hand over money, I expect to be handed something of quality in return: something that will do its job properly or something that looks attractive, and certainly something that won’t fall apart in the blink of an eye and require me to shuffle back to the shop and get another one.

And I suppose those expectations do cost a little more at the moment of initial outlay, but surely it’s worth it?

These Chinese one-stop-shop-superstores worry me on three different levels.

- Firstly I think they encourage the belief that anything costing more than peanuts is a cynical rip-off on the part of greedy and ruthless manufacturers. Whilst it is a given that anybody going into the retail or manufacturing industry is after a profit, it does not logically follow that their only aim is to deceive their customers.

Quality raw materials cost, labour costs, marketing costs, overheads cost; only by shaving corners off any or all of these expenditures are you able to significantly reduce the cost to the customer. So for those unfazed by sub-standard consumables, the dismantling of the Western manufacturing industry, and the resulting exploitation of Chinese factory workers; I suppose the Italo-Chinese hypermarkets are the places to go.

- My second concern is an environmental one. The developed world is only just starting to look for answers to the ravages of a throw-away consumer society, but recycling can only go so far. Is it really responsible to encourage the manufacture of items that are both difficult or impossible to recycle, as well as being doomed to an early grave in our already overflowing landfill sites?

- Thirdly are my worries about China itself. I don’t doubt that it is a rising power and I have nothing but respect for the work ethic of its inhabitants, but whilst it continues to be the primary cause of big game poaching, bear bile “farming”, ivory smuggling, fatal shark maiming – often for motives no more weighty that medieval and utterly unproven medical “cures” (I won’t even go into the human rights issues) –  avoiding supporting its economy where possible feels to me like a responsible course of action.

What are you experiences of Chinese commerce in your countries?

This is Status Viatoris, just checked, and her tea mug was made in Thailand, so hoping that is a slight improvement, in Italy.

The Gaily Male

28/02/2012

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

When a post starts stubbornly and persistently writing itself in my head whilst my body is trying to get on and do other things, I have come to learn that there is little point trying to fight it.

That this particular post comes at a time when people have been hinting – on my Facebook blog page at least – that I am getting a smidgen tedious and opinionated, is simply bad timing. Besides, I rather enjoy the chance blogging gives me to elucidate my view of the world to people who cannot interject with their own until I have finished. And quite honestly, who wouldn’t?

The subject that has been tying my wee brain in knots recently is homosexuality. Or rather, the attitude of many heterosexual people towards homosexuality.

International debates on gay marriage, and a photograph of a gay marine  kissing his partner having returned from a stint in Afghanistan, are just two of the news items that have revealed a truly nasty side to “polite” society.

Of course, everybody is entitled to their opinion; but frankly, some opinions are so utterly without merit or validity that they should not be given even a semblance of credence.

The statement that homosexuality is “wrong” and “unnatural” is as blatantly ridiculous as opining that left-handedness is “wrong” and “unnatural”.

Which of course it was considered to be only a few generations ago.

How absurd does it seem to us now, that some of our grandparents had their left hands smacked time and time again with a ruler until they had laboriously defied and overruled their natural instinct in order to write with the “right” hand?

What on earth was the point of that?

What harm were they doing to themselves or anyone else by writing with their left hand?

Those who decry homosexuality on religious grounds are only to be pitied; as is anyone who allows the writings of a merry band of ignorant (who wasn’t in those times?) superstitious, middle eastern peasants to override any semblance of humanity or common sense.

Common sense, because as we well know, homosexuality has been around since the dawn of man and what could be more natural than that?

And I sincerely hope that those people who piously insist that sexual relations are only meant for the purposes of procreation strictly abstain from any type of recreational sex with their spouse, which would smack inconveniently of hypocrisy.

Does allowing two same-sex adults to marry really cheapen the institution of marriage? I think heterosexuals have done a pretty good job of cheapening it themselves, marrying people they don’t love just because they got knocked up, getting divorced and remarried, then divorced and remarried again, committing adultery…

Of course it may well be that to some heterosexual people, the idea of homosexuality is an anathema.

And that’s ok to admit.

I find the idea of sleeping with a soft, squidgy woman as opposed to a muscled(ish) hairy bloke most unappealing, but then I find the fact that some people love marmalade utterly perplexing too. I also can’t understand those who chew off and swallow their own finger nails, and then there are even heterosexual sexual practices that turn my stomach a bit but which I know many friends and acquaintances are absolutely fine with.

Finding what other people do strange, or even unpleasant, is not reason enough to attempt to deprive them of their basic human rights, amongst which is the right to enjoy sex, love or marriage with whomsoever they please. They are consenting adults whose feelings of attraction are no less valid or “natural” than anyone else’s.

So, yes you are entitled to your opinion, but that does not mean your opinion has any merit and I would suggest that the world would be a much nicer place if you just relaxed and allowed consenting adults to enjoy the happiness that you take for granted and which has been denied them for so long by a judgemental society intent on imposing its prejudices on what comes naturally.

This is Status Viatoris, if anyone tries to talk about a “connection” between homosexuality and paedophilia I will seek them out and brain them, in Italy.

A Not So “Family” Family House

22/02/2012

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

In My Little Italian Village, right next door to the still unsold epitome of turn-of-the-last-century gorgeousness, one can find what is locally known as the “casa famiglia”.

The concept of a casa famiglia, is essentially a foster home for children who have been orphaned, abandoned or removed from their biological families. It would normally consist of an already established family unit of a married couple, perhaps with children of their own, who receive a government allowance to assist them in taking in and caring for two or three children in need until they can either be returned to their real families, or placed in adoption.

Our casa famiglia is, sadly, nothing of the sort.

It is instead a source of income for an apparently unscrupulous owner who piles in as many children as he can – probably twenty plus – and leaves them in the care of young adults barely old enough to adequately care for themselves, let alone be responsible for the emotional well-being of some often extremely troubled youngsters.

Practically no effort is made to place these children into loving homes – why would there be, when they are such a great source of easy cash? – and so the vast majority of them just fester there: devoid of even the hope of one day experiencing a normal childhood, and with no choice but to wait around for an adulthood that their experiences will leave them ill-equipped to deal with.

An incident in the village earlier this week brought these children’s unhappy situation into sharp relief, when two of the boys from the “home” decided to set fire to the papier-mâché carnival figure.

Other than the obvious dangers associated with this act of vandalism: the carnival float was pulled up alongside a block of flats in a carpark that was full of cars, also perturbing is that despite living in the village for some years now, and knowing full well that the carnival statue is traditionally part of a procession and ceremonial burning on the evening of Mardi Gras, these lads saw nothing wrong with ruining the fun for an entire village.

Just youngsters enjoying some ill-judged amusement?

Possibly, but who will be on hand with strictness born of love to make them appreciate that their behaviour is utterly unacceptable?

Nobody.

Who will explain to the fourteen year old; arms already full of home-made tattoos and face a-glitter with piercings, but who still greets me politely when we meet in the street and makes a fuss of Pooch – that throwing a lit firecracker at my Mother when she was out walking Pooch, is utterly unacceptable?

Nobody.

So what hope do these lost, confused and angry young people possibly have of being able to overcome their rocky start in life?

Let down grievously in childhood, too many of them will simply go on to be vilified as adults for their utter lack of understanding for social responsibility and their inability to feel empathy for others.

But how can they be expected to learn what they have so rarely observed, and almost certainly never been taught?

This is Status Viatoris, who despite all the set-backs is able to announce that the village procession took place regardless – completed with brass band, silly string, confetti et al; simply sans bonfire finale, in Italy.

 

Time Management Can Be Tricky…

07/02/2012

status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage

…when you don’t have a boss to tap his watch and glare at you sternly.

Being my own boss, I am rather more inclined to throw myself an indulgent smile and comfortingly murmur, “Take your time. There’s no rush; life is to be enjoyed don’t you know.”

And although I usually manage to rise promptly from my slumbers at seven o’clock – any earlier feels like a crime against all that is right and natural – it tends to be also the exact moment at which my interest in timekeeping fades.

A bit of yoga, the consumption of breakfast whilst perusing the news, getting washed and dressed; all these minor activities somehow unfailingly preclude me from leaving the house until after 9h.

Bugger me if I know where the time goes. (Turn of phrase. Please don’t.)

There follows an approximately three-kilometre walk around the village, which takes in the region of 35 to 40 minutes.

Or at least that is how long it would take if it wasn’t for the profusion of friendly faces with whom to exchange news and views along the way.

(At the moment we are all about the weather, here in My Little Italian Village. Those who claim an obsession with discussing meteorology to be a purely British trait, are grossly misinformed).

Pooch and I pop into a bar on our way home for a quick cappuccino and a catch-up on local gossip.

But then someone we know might pole up, and it would be only natural to offer them a caffè. If the nattering goes on long enough, they will eventually return the favour.

And before long it is dangerously past 11h, I am at least three cappuccini down, and I still haven’t written a single word.

Thus we continue the journey home, where I feed Pooch, before settling down in front of the computer; quite brimming over with purpose and good intention.

At 13h, a  rumbling crescendo starts to indicate that it may well be time for a soupçon of lunch.

At 15h, a crescendo of grumbling starts to indicate that the previously supine heap on the sofa reckons it may well be time for another walk.

So off we set.

We might be two-thirds of the way round, when a small puppy pops out of a property to bounce up and down in front of Pooch’s unimpressed nose. So intent is it on capturing Pooch’s resolutely averted attention, that it continues to bounce merrily alongside us as we carry on our way.

So we have no choice but to return to the property and inform the owner of his puppy’s fruitlessly misplaced affections, at which, this rugged man of the land promptly invites me in for a drink; no refusals brooked.

A  convoluted putting-to-rights of the world ensues – people need to get back to basics, people are too materialistic, people no longer feel a connection to the natural world, hunters are evil shysters whose crap smells atrocious… can’t quite remember how we got onto that particular subject.

Anyway, before long it is dangerously close to 18h, I am half a large bottle of home-made wine down, and still nowhere close to reaching my writing deadline.

So we hot foot it zigzaggly home, where I feed Pooch (again), before settling down in front of the computer; quite brimming over with purpose, good intention and fermented grape juice; and proceed to tap away with cross-eyed, panicky concentration until pumpkin hour or deadline are reached.

I may one day get the hang of managing my time more efficiently, but in the meantime I shall take note of my boss’s wise maxim:

Life is to be enjoyed, don’t you know ;-)

This is Status Viatoris, who would certainly perish if she was ever obliged to return to the level of timekeeping required  by the average employee :-o , in Italy.


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