Grebe and dabchicks (Google says that’s what they’re called) in the moat at Sirmione castle
Ancient Rotondo church at Mantua
Torri dei Benaco
Cathedral in Cremona, home of Antonio Stradivari
St Anastasia’s church, Verona
Painting in the dome at Mantua cathedral
View down Via Mazzini, the main shopping street
Bougainvillea at Torri dei Benaco on Lake Garda
Colours of Verona
View over the terracotta rooftops from Piazza del Erbe, the old vegetable market.
John under the bell on the Torre Lamberti, which had just struck the hour. Luckily it was only one o’clock
Fierce looking MsDD just before her concert
Final view of Verona past and present
Chez Lilas Pastia
Swan family on Lake Garda
Mantua cathedral: this is paint not plasterwork
First scene of Carmen at the Verona Arena. The young men waiting for the cigarette girls to appear look like characters from Henry James.
Concert in the Valpolicella area.
Valpolicella vineyard. Yes, we tasted. Call it intellectual curiosity.
View of Mantua
Mantua cathedral and its painting
Church of St Zeno, Patron saint of Verona
They used real horses and donkeys in Carmen. At times this caused some consternation
These “swallowtail battlements are everywhere in the area. To me they look like centurions on guard
View from Torre Lamberti towards the Arena.
Here’s another overview of Verona photos. Please excuse the rudimentary nature of the gallery: it’s partly the software, I think but also my lack of creativity.
I loved Verona: it’s clean and quiet and generally very civilised, and the surrounding countryside is predictably beautiful. I loved the ochres and sienna colours, which were set off beautifully by the blue sky, and the feeling that around every corner would be a beautiful vista.
We went to the opera in the arena. I’d say that this is more an experience for lovers of experiences than for lovers of music. Although we paid quite a lot for our tickets, we were a long way from the stage and the orchestra, so the wonderful nuances of Bizet’s music would have been lost to anyone who didn’t know the piece well. My recommendation: take a warm wrap with you. Even on the hottest of days, the arena can get very chilly as the night wears on, and performances don’t finish until 1am. This is mainly due to the intervals: opportunities to pose in one’s gladrags. If you are lucky enough to have stalls tickets then no outfit is over the top, and plenty of people were obviously there to show off their finery.
Of course the band did themselves proud. They are great ambassadors for the skill and dedication required to play classical (and popular) music at such a high level. They are truly ambassadors for this country, and I couldn’t help feeling that such young people should not really have had to deal with being the focus for the aftershocks from the stupid EU Referendum vote. The message resounded, however, that music and culture are the things that can bring peoples together, that can help us foster friendship and understanding in the future. The tour was overshadowed also by the murders in Nice and the carnage at the attempted coup in Turkey and the shocked band were keen to commemorate this with one of their pieces..
What is always astounding in the places that welcome our young people so warmly, is the audience’s thirst for culture, and their joy at the glory of music. The standing ovations were proof of this. I feel proud and privileged to know these young people and to be able to share in their some of their adventures. Long may their tours continue. And Verona? Oh yes! I can’t wait to go back.
When you think about it, the more you know, the more there is to know.
I’m in Verona, to shadow the Bromley Youth Concert Band on their concert tour of the area. I’ve been doing this for a couple of years now: attending enough concerts to offer our support to the band and yet not so many to cramp their style. It’s an opportunity to get away and see places that might not be full holiday destinations in themselves but are usually packed full of beautiful old buildings and flower-filled balconies. Soaking up the atmosphere is an important theme of these little breaks, and it’s a great chance to re-connect with Europe, where I feel so completely at home despite currently feeling so alienated from such a large slice of my own countrymen and women. Indeed, arriving at Verona airport this afternoon, we were filtered into two lanes: Citizens of the EU/EEA/CH and All Passports. “I want to be a European Citizen,” I wailed and a small, hot tear tricked down my small, hot cheek.
I want to know all about Verona now: the Soave and Valpolicella; the nearby rice fields; the path of the river Adige; the Duomo. I want to know all about the Scaligere family and why they were so devoted to dogs that their first names had canine connections. I want to know all about the statue of Dante and the Piazza del Signori with its swallow tail battlements. Why were they shaped like that?
There is far too knowledge in the world for anyone to absorb who also is part of the modern world. I’ve always said so. Who has the time to sit down and read for hours and hours between cleaning and ironing, and taking out the dogs and making supper? If only there were some sort of knowledge injection that you could just buy online and take down to a local clinic and have someone expert spritz, say, a history of the Etruscans or a quick rundown of the post-reunification economy of Italy straight into your arm and then you’d have all the knowledge you’d need. You could have boosters every couple of years as updates emerged.
Were these available, I’d have ordered a comprehensive guide to photography and the ability to speak Italian years ago, and a How to Sing my current set of solo performance songs would be up there too. Imagine if an economic and social history of Europe had been available as a compulsory ampoule just before the Europe Referendum.
Anyway, here are some photos of Verona.
(Please accept my sincere apologies for the total mess in which this blog has found itself over the last couple of weeks. Elegant Themes are releasing new modules in a piecemeal manner, and I was adding them as and when, which resulted in a total dogs dinner of a layout so I’ve reverted to this form for my blog. I’m still finding it really difficult to get my head around it, not being a web designer, but I hope this will come together eventually.)
Your reaction to last week’s Referendum was ecstatic. “We bloody done it 😂😂😂 [sic] ,” said one Facebook “friend,” “Independence Day!” trumpeted another local business echoing the Shakespearian pronouncement of that nicotine-stained, ale-steeped, racist scumbag, Nigel Farage. Your jubilation was unconfined and your smugness at rubbing our noses in it knew no bounds. Glad you gave us a bloody nose, are you? That you gave us Metropolitan Liberal Elite a right old kicking? Fine. But do you appreciate exactly what you’ve done?
The result has dismayed nearly half of the population. You have seen fit to ridicule and castigate those of us daring to express our sadness and trepidation on Social Media. Not all are as nasty as the woman I know slightly who privately sent me a meme with a toddler throwing a tantrum, to represent those of us who had been on the losing side. Democracy is fine, it says, until the result doesn’t go your way.
Actually, for what it’s worth, though somehow I doubt you want to listen, many of us had expressed extreme doubts about something so crucial and irreversible being put to the people as a divisive Referendum choice which, in plain English just for you, means that we think something as important as this is a bit too complex and focuses on too much entrenched bitterness to be distilled into two non-reversible alternatives. But that’s life, isn’t it? Complex, subtle, full of nuances.
We were furious with Prime Minister David Cameron for trying to resolve an issue that had divided his party for decades by allowing the country to express its bitterness and generate an enmity that won’t go away in a hurry. For what it’s worth, even if the result had been the other way around, as appeared would happen when we turned in for bed last Thursday night, many of us would have been extremely uneasy that half of the country did not agree, and the result does in fact cast light on a divided Britain where one side has little in common with the other. I would not have behaved like you, though. I was all set for a quiet, conciliatory post to try and pour oil on troubled Leave waters. But then we are being reasonable and thoughtful and perhaps that is old-fashioned these days. You choose instead to shriek at us.
Your chippy Facebook memes tell us that you don’t want to talk about it anymore. Enough, already, you say. Let’s talk about something else. This is boring. Let’s be optimistic and face the future. So, having whipped up your audience into a frenzy by uncritically parroting repeated campaign slogans that now appear to be complete fabrications, lies and already broken promises, you no longer want to think about what you have done. You want to bat away our anger with a breezy wave of your hand, so refusing to acknowledge your responsibility for the chaos you have caused. Perhaps it’s a little too difficult for you to face up to the implications of your choice? What you labelled Project Fear was actually Project Reality and now it’s all coming true. We told you so but you refused to listen. Well I’m going to tell you anyway. Why should you not take some ownership of your actions?
Was it racism? Fear of immigration? Sovereignty? Red tape that caused you to vote the way you did? You certainly didn’t want to listen to the plethora of independent analysis and facts. “We are tired of experts,” you said. You were frightened of being overrun by Turkish culture even though there its absolutely no chance that Turkey will be ready to join in the next few hundred years. You didn’t want a European army despite undertakings that there will be no European Army. One man, interviewed on TV after the Referendum, said he voted to keep the Muslims out, such is the root-grubbing mentality of the farcical referendum. Well, there will be still be immigration from non-EU countries, though, which is just as well since we need the skills of these people to run our NHS or to pick our vegetables or clean our offices. Taking your jobs? If that were YOUR job, you’d already be doing it.
You don’t like regulations, despite that fact that regulations are there to protect the consumer. Perhaps you haven’t heard about the food contamination scandals that have killed people in unregulated India and China? I’m writing this from India, where there appears to be no consumer protection legislation against cosmetic products that contain bleach to whiten your face or against a substance called Peado Sure that guarantees that your child will grow tall. I’d rather consumers had some protection against this sort of thing. I don’t suppose you bother about EU consumer protection or protection of the rights of workers do you? But you do realise that if we are to continue trading with the EU, our products will have to meet their regulations? No? Ah.
You chose to get into bed with racists and scumbags and liars instead of believing the pleas of anyone who had any expert insight into the situation. You would not be told, you refused to hear. You dragged your country into ignorance and that makes me furious.
Boris is still blithely trotting out quips about currency and equity markets recovering from their initial shock. That’s a lie. They’re not. If we go into recession and drag Europe with us, that will have been your doing.
Maybe you remember that 1970s children’s programme The Changes, where society somehow rebelled against technology and reverted to an almost Stone-Age society. This is how that feels: that through refusing to question the lies and propaganda with which you were fed you have cut the more outward-looking people off from an important part of themselves and regressed to the 1940s where, perhaps, you feel safe.
So much of the country was split along lines of age, geographical location, extent of liberal social attitudes, exposure to immigrant populations. As this report observes, the areas of the UK that benefitted most from foreign investments whether it was EU farming subsidies or EU development grants to Japanese and Indian inward investment in industry, rejected membership of the EU most vehemently. Hubris, was it? Biting the hand that feeds you? Cutting off your nose to spite your face? What will they do when those funds are no longer there? Did you even think about that?
On a personal level I am bereft and angry and anxious for the future. My husband has worked for a large European bank for 19 years. Logically there is no reason whatsoever for foreign banks of corporations to keep a large presence in a London that is no longer in the EU. Major banks are already moving their employees’ jobs overseas. I can hear you rejoicing: Great! Let’s kick the bankers out. Good riddance! So how exactly do you propose to replace the 25% to 30% of total UK tax take that comes from the City of London? Claim back the erroneous figures of £350 million EU payments per week? Yes, well that was a lie too.
People like me and my family will be forced to move abroad sooner rather than later. It looks likely that my family will be split, that my husband will move and I’ll stay behind to support my daughter complete her studies in a stable environment. You don’t care? Well, you might when we are no longer spending what’s left after tax in our local areas. My new kitchen was planned, built and fitted by Beckenham contractors because we believed in supporting our local economy. You can forget about that now. We’ll be spending our cash overseas in the future when we have to move. You might think none of this affects you but just wait until you start feeling the pinch when your European clients and employees of EU companies, Eastern European builders and care workers and cleaners and, yes, experts, are no longer spending their cash here.
Our immediate finances have already taken a hit. You probably will have no idea how it feels when the non-guaranteed part of your income, that is deferred for years and paid according to an arcane calculation of share values and currency movements suddenly plummets due to markets that have fallen in shock and disbelief that people could act against their own interests in this way. We have some serious concerns now about our ability to fulfil our normal financial commitments. You’re not bothered by the Pound falling to its lowest level for 31 years? Well, wait until you go on holiday and you no longer feel quite so wealthy. And just have a look at how it will affect your pension, your investments, your house prices.
Whatever happens next we shall just have to suck it up but do not dare tell me to cheer up and move on when you see fit to go into hiding rather than face the consequences of your actions. You have turned our life upside down. We’ll forgive, in time, but what you did is not something that can ever be forgotten.
Last week I wrote my post on the EU Remain/Leave Referendum and my angle was that not all vote Leavers were racists but all racists would Vote Leave. In this image is a compilation of tweets from people reporting racist incidents against EU citizens in the UK following the Leave vote in the Referendum.
It bears out, I think, my point about hostility to people from different countries being fundamental to the way many people voted. Racism has bubbled to the surface and become almost respectable. Don’t tell me that the vote was nothing to do with racism. There were other important factors, of course there were, but “take my country back,” or “take back control,” are dogwhistle terms. Many Leave voters seem to think that, having got their way, all EU citizens and British citizens of colour would be deported somewhere and they’d be left with an all white UK. And suddenly Germans, French, Italians have felt unwelcome in this country. Funny, that. But really not funny.
What surprises me, however, is the horrified reaction to these tweets combined with the disbelief on people’s faces, in people’s voices when I talk about some of the racism I have encountered in my life. None of this stuff is new. None of these attitudes is new. They have been there all the time except that people suddenly choose to be shocked when it’s directed against Europeans. What about the suffering of people of colour, British Citizens, whose families were invited as economic migrants to help rebuild the UK and its new infrastructure after World War II? Why are most people so willing to look away when we talk about that?
I am incensed at people’s sudden outrage. When my life was ruined by what was called ‘teasing’ at school, people told me not to take it seriously. When a colleague would pointedly use phrases such as tat everyday expression “Nigger in the woodpile,” in my presence, my boss suggested I take him out to lunch to talk about it in a civilised way. I’m not trivialising the incidents above against EU citizens in any way. They are shocking, of course, but why is racism suddenly horrific because it’s directed at white people?
I have been ruminating for some time over what to write about this wretched, binary, reductive Referendum. I’ve read and read all sorts of articles and opinion pieces; I’ve looked at the statistics used by both sides and considered their viewpoints as best I can. Of course there is no way of knowing exactly what will happen in the next few years, whether we decide to Leave the EU or Remain part of one of the world’s most influential clubs.
It is mere speculation of course, but I heartily disagree with a popular view that politicians have presented the public only with spin and no facts. Facts are there but far too many people reject out of hand or choose to ignore things that don’t fit their own viewpoint. This enrages me: you present people with facts or expert opinions and then they deride the expertise of the people presenting them. Or it becomes some sort of Establishment conspiracy. Or it’s scaremongering.
One person on Twitter memorably presented me with, “I am fed up of the educated elites making decisions for us ordinary people.” An expression of the culture of mediocrity into which we have descended, as if all opinions, no matter how uninformed, no matter how crass or simply plain wrong were as valid as informed comment from PEOPLE WHO KNOW WHAT THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT.
As it is, I voted with my postal vote almost as soon as I received it, almost three weeks ago and, it’s no secret, I voted Remain. On balance of probabilities, and not being a top economist or EU Commissioner or CEO of the NHS or a Global bank or Head of State myself, I’d rather trust those people who know much more than me about these things. Here’s a list as a reminder. It’s not definitive:
NB. This is an updated list as at 19/6/2016
Anyway, many other people far more articulate and well-versed in these things than me have written at length on their views and I have reposted them on Facebook and retweeted them on Twitter in order to make the information available to those people who say it is not available. I think there is no point me going over them again here and it’s not what I’d wanted to write anyway.
My thoughts eventually started to crystallise in my head yesterday morning, after a truly horrible week when the escalation in tension and mutual loathing between Leave and Remain became palpable. But then the murder (killing, manslaughter?) of Jo Cox, a young MP, mother of two tiny children, with a career record of standing up for the refugees and people of Syria, made it seem tasteless to give yet another view.
There’s no point in wishing that good will come out of the the gunning down of a defenceless woman who wanted only to help people and make the world better. I can only hope that grief over what has happened and the respectful pause in campaigning will give people time to think about how this nation has become so divided and so stupid, so spiteful, so reckless with the truth, so content to perpetuate downright lies. Jonathan Freedland’s piece in today’s Guardian sums this up beautifully. I never want to see a referendum again, pitting neighbours against each other, splitting families. We have a parliamentary democracy, imperfect as ours is: let us rely on that in future.
Goodness, I’m struggling with this post. There’s so much I could write and I’ve typed and deleted, typed and deleted so many times.
I have been horrified at the antics of Boris Johnson – I actually voted for him to be Mayor of London TWICE: what a disappointment – who has thrown away his erstwhile “progressiveness” and resorted to populist racism in his quest for power. President Barack Obama is advising us to Remain in Europe because his father was Kenyan and he’s therefore got a grudge against the British? Really? Who else would you tar with this same brush, Boris? All the sons and daughters of people invited by the Mother Country from the Indian subcontinent to help run the NHS? Are we somehow a fifth column of malcontents with a grudge against the UK, just waiting for our moment to sabotage it? I can’t believe my ears.
The problem with this sort of rhetoric, which often seems like merely a game of spin to those with their eyes on real political power who can change direction on a sixpence, is that it taps into a nasty, latent undercurrent of xenophobia. With one or two, easily refutable exceptions, all conversations I have had or heard about or witnessed have come down to xenophobia and thence to raw and crude racism. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t believe that racism ever disappeared, but at least people realised that there was something less than respectable about it. Now it’s overt, crude, loud and shocking, culminating in this disgraceful, mendacious poster above, with its direct references to Nazi propaganda, launched only a few hours before Jo Cox MP was killed.
I have spent my life second guessing people, excusing them for repeating the anti-foreigner filth in the Daily Mail; trying to ignore patronising remarks about massing Romanians or not being able to wear crucifixes or lamenting the lack of Gollywog tokens. In many cases, people who say these things have never had to consider the implications of their words or actions because they’ve never been directly affected by racism themselves. They’ve never had to think or imagine what it’s like to be shouted at by drunks in the street; to stand in the changing room of an exclusive West End boutique and hear the assistant serving you referring pointedly to “Paki shops” BECAUSE YOU ARE THERE; to sit at the backwash in a high end West End hair salon and hear Lady This and Baroness That suddenly change their conversation to “IMMIGRANTS” just BECAUSE YOU ARE THERE.
You might never have been excluded from a neighbours’ party to which everyone else in the street was invited; you might not have had a neighbour turn up on your doorstep with a basket of dirty clothes assuming that you took in laundry. You might never have had to hear an elderly woman at the brush counter Boots remarking, loudly enough for you to hear, “Who would want that if THEY had had their hands on it?” You might never have witnessed the look of disgust on the face of a cleaner meeting you for the first time after previously having spoken to you only on the telephone. You might not, but I have.
I have spent my whole life second-guessing people’s actual feelings toward my brown face, my Indian name. So I find myself wondering about people’s real intentions in this wretched Referendum of dog whistles and innuendo, where xenophobia has become somehow almost respectable again.
Now, you might have an entirely reasonable concerns with our membership of the EU which makes you side with the Leave campaign. If you do, though, remember that you are putting yourself on the same side as people such as Michael Gove and George Galloway and Ian Duncan Smith and Katie Hopkins and the Rupert Murdoch and the Sun and the opportunistic Boris Johnson and, most odious of all, Nigel Farage. There is no escaping that. You might be holding your nose for the sake of democracy but you are making a conscious choice to be on the same side as these people. Which means that you are willing to excuse, or even endorse, the lies that they have told; the vicious racist atmosphere that they have regenerated.
I can’t get past this.
You might not be a racist yourself but you are on the same side as these people. You are on the same side as people who are voting for them because they have made their own racism less egregious, more acceptable, more easily voiced in public. As many have said, not all Leave voters are racists but all racists will vote Leave.
If you vote on the side of the obnoxious, squalid, odious Mr Farage and his seedy UKIP companions I’ll have to question how racist you are. I no longer want to smile and indulge you when you forget yourself and say “Oh we don’t mean you!” or “I’m not racist: I have black friends,” or “We know you. You’re OK.” I shall say something, to make sure you know I don’t approve and I don’t agree. To make you uncomfortable, for a change, instead of meekly accepting your filth. I shall take myself and my custom elsewhere. I am 50 years old. I don’t need to take this any more.
The lovely Abel and Cole, my weekly furnishers of fruit, veg and now fish and meat, saw fit to include some rhubarb and some ginger in my box this morning. I’ve wanted to make a rhubarb version of Mamma Moore’s Apple Cake for a while, so I seized the opportunity.
This pretty tart is pretty tart but would go well with a dollop of clotted cream on the side. Or, indeed, rhubarb ice cream. One minor self-criticism is that next time I’d grate the ginger rather than chopping it up, for a smoother bite. Otherwise it’s delicious.