On this portentous night when, to quote the newspaper La Sicilia, "the fate of Europe depends on the mood of the British", how is it all being viewed here? With incredulity, puzzlement, dismay and a little grudging admiration, it seems to me.
To understand the first two reactions, you have to understand that in most EU countries the organisation is still seen, notwithstanding its faults, as the best guarantee we have of peace in the region. This is a view to which I subscribe, for you cannot spend most of your life studying and teaching French and Italian without being influenced by the literature those countries produced during the Second World War and its aftermath, nor can you ignore the ideals of Jean Monnet.
Dismay enters the picture because most people here think that if Britain leaves the EU, it will signal the beginning of the end, with Italy, a country which has suffered greatly during the recent recession, exploring the "out" option next. It has to be said that many people I have spoken to would not consider this a bad idea.
I am, as you will have gathered, culturally and emotionally European and this would be the case whether I still lived in the UK or not. However, as an expat Brit living in the EU, I have other concerns about a Brexit, for the jury is still out on whether or not the "acquired rights" of British citizens who have settled in EU countries would be affected. I have read two contradictory articles about this in two days and have concluded that actually, no one has a clue. Italians and other EU citizens who have settled in Britain
have similar worries.
Yes, it is unlikely that Italy would deport all the Brits and that the UK would deport all the Italians - what would happen to the UK restaurant trade?! There would probably be an agreement between the two countries and indeed, I have a feeling that there already is one, which pre-dates Britain's membership of the EU. However, a country like Italy, never happier than when it is inventing new bureaucracy that in the end even its authors do not understand, would surely create new legal hurdles for expat Brits to jump. As I have often had to deal, here, with officialdom that thinks that because Britain is not in the eurozone it has never been in the EU, I am not hopeful that the average Italian town hall clerk would be familiar with the terms of any international agreement on my status.
My impressions of this referendum campaign and of my countrymen during it come mostly from the media and obviously, I am viewing the situation from afar but tonight I want to make a plea: Both sides have, in recent weeks and for different reasons, used the slogan, "I want my country back." Well, I want my country back too and, before I get shouted down, in some quarters, because I "don't even live in the UK", I would point out that I pay taxes there and still have UK voting rights. and of course I care what happens to the country that made me.
I want my country back because I want the fun of being British back: what happened, during this campaign, to our healthy scepticism about almost everything, to our understatement, to our sense of irony and our ability to find humour, but not at the expense of those unable to take it, in all but the bleakest of situations? What happened to our ability to laugh at ourselves [a characteristic we share with the Italians]? I also want to be able to say that in my country racist posters are illegal, that we can have a disagreement without name-calling or yelling untruths at one another and that politicians are not gunned down in the street for their beliefs. I want to say that I come from a nation that cares about the fate of those less fortunate than its own citizens, that takes pride in diversity and that is, above all, tolerant.
Whatever happens later on tonight and in the early hours of tomorrow morning, I want my gentle, self-deprecating, tolerant country back.
toutes les superstitions, la plus dangereuse, n'est-ce pas celle de
haïr son prochain pour ses
tutte le superstizioni, la più pericolosa non è quella di odiare il
prossimo per le sue opinioni?
all superstitions, is not the most dangerous that of hating your
neighbour for his opinions?
Voltaire - Traité sur la Tolérance / Trattato sulla tolleranza / Treatise on Tolerance, 1763
On Tuesday evening, off I trotted to Modica's annual Fiera della Contea and came back with ..... Calabrian food! There were enormous olives, taralli biscuits in various interesting flavours and dinamite - a condiment made from chilli pepppers and other vegetables which, I can confirm, fully lives up to the promise of its packaging! It was especially good on a fresa calabrese:
I was delighted to be invited to watch the Festa del Sacro Cuore procession from my friend Marisa's balcony on Sunday and here she is with her husband [with me in the centre]:
The procession takes a slightly different route every year so that, if you have sufficient Sicilian pazienza, you will eventually see it from near your home!
There are those who scoff at the Mediterranean habit of carrying saints' statues around towns and villages but to that I would say that it is no bad thing to gather together in peace and spread a little joy. Everyone is free to join in the prayers that are said along the route, whether from their balconies, sitting rooms or down in the streets - or you can just watch and enjoy the atmosphere. And, if you were a statue, wouldn't you want some fresh air once a year?
We had a little party on Marisa's balcony and of course, there was pizza. Then there was Marisa's cake and I had made some marshmallows to take along:
It was with great sorrow that I learnt of the passing, in Kentucky on Saturday, of my blogging friend Nicholas Temple, the "Sometimes Saintly Nick" of Nick's Bytes.
I never met Nick but felt as though I knew him personally, for we shared a sense of humour, a love of animals, many a political opinion and a birthday. We also knew what it is like to fall upon hard times, both financially and healthwise. Sadly Nick had been very seriously ill for some time and he knew the end was near, but even as recently as January he found the strength to try to cheer others up on his blog, with his "Too Bad it's Monday Humor" posts and "Friday Funnies". Those posts helped me to face the coming day many times and I shall so miss Nick's daily "Good morning, world", accompanied by a beautiful picture, on facebook. Somehow this greeting made me want to get out there and cope.
A military man, social worker and later a pastor, Nick's life experiences enabled him to understand others and reach out to them in friendship. You only have to look at the tributes to him currently on facebook to realise that.
Central to Nick's life was his beloved cat Alex, now being cared for by Nick's granddaughter, I understand. Alex even had his own blog and oh, it made me smile! So I'm thinking of you and your pals Midnight and Sugar too, Alex.
Peace was very important to Nick and I am sure that all who remember him will be comforted, in the coming days, by the knowledge that he is at peace now.
I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere condolences to Nick's family who can be assured that he was, and is, loved by people all over the world.
The other evening I was watching a jolly historical romp on TV, namely Versailles, whrn I turned round to find that Bertie-Pierrine had taken my copy of Nancy Mitford's The Sun King out of the bookshelf! You won't believe me but I kid you not. I've always known she can understand everything and now she has proved that she can read as well!
"Plus je vois les hommes, plus j'admire les chiens."
As it's the cherry season, I decided to use some with pork loin [lonza] and, as I like fusion cooking, to spice it up with ginger. Here's what I did:
Pork loin with cherries and ginger
To serve four people generously, you will need a 1 kg piece of rolled pork loin [lonza]. Either ask an Italian butcher to season it for you with some garlic and herbs, including thyme, or rub it all over as best you can with a cut clove of garlic, some seasoning and some mixed fresh herbs yourself. Ask the butcher to enclose it in butcher's netting or tie it in the normal way with cooking string. Grate a knob of fresh ginger all over it.
Put the lonza in a glass dish and add 200 ml Prosecco, 1 tablesp pomegranate molasses, freshly ground coarse seasalt [I think Himalayan pink salt works best] and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Leave in the fridge to marinate at least a couple of hours or overnight if you like. I must say, I am becoming quite a fan of using Prosecco instead of dry white wine in marinades and I like using pomegranate molasses so much that I have to resist the temptation to chuck it in everything!
When you are ready, put it all into a small, foil-lined roasting tin. Peel about 12 shallots, halve them if large, place them around the pork and cook for 45 mins at 180°C . Baste the pork occasionally and cover with foil if you think the top is browning too much. [It is not meant to look like a British roast!] Stone about 30 fresh cherries and put these in a pan with 2 tablesp. pomegranate molasses and another grated knob of ginger. Just before the cooking time is up, bring this mixture to the boil, stirring, and simmer for 1 min. Pour it over the pork and let it continue cooking for another 5 mins at 150°C. Remove the pork from the oven, let it rest 5 mins, then snip off the netting or string It will be perfectly cooked. Slice it thinly and spoon the cherries and some of the sauce over it. Place the shallots around it. Serve the rest of the sauce separately. You can also garnish the pork with a few sprigs of thyme. Buon appetito. This is a variation on lonza recipes I have featured here and here.
To end the week on a positive note, I thought I would show you this new baby bomboniera - a traditional gift for family and friends which is sent out with the announcement - which a friend brought me the other day.
I cannot help comparing the birth circumstances of this baby and little Favour but can report that the latter is now being well cared for in Palermo and that the whole of Italy is in love with her after seeing heart-rending pictures of her on television. The kind women of Lampedusa brought her clothes, teddy bears and other gifts before she left the island and I'm sure that she will receive others from all parts of Italy.
Let's hope that all children grow up in a better world.
Almost unbelieveably, tonight I find myself writing about the third migrant boat tragedy to have occurred within three days and I am wondering, not for the first time, how many people have to die in this way before politicians the world over show the shame they ought to be feeling.
Earlier today an Italian naval vessel went to the aid of a migrant boat which had half sunk 35 miles off the coast of Libya. The Navy and other vessels called in to help managed to save 135 migrants, some of whom were children but ten bodies were found at the bottom of the boat. Altogether 45 bodies have been recovered so far but dozens more may have drowned.
La Repubblica reports that at least 200 people have died in the three disasters of the last three days and that 15,000 have been saved at sea over the last five days. Of these 2,000 were saved today alone in operations led by the Italian Navy and Coast Guard.
"The G7 recognizes the ongoing large scale movements of migrants
and refugees as a global challenge which requires a global response. We commit to increase
global assistance to meet immediate and long-term needs of refugees and other displaced
persons as well as their host communities. The G7 encourages international financial institutions
and bilateral donors to bolster their financial and technical assistance."
So, Mr President, Mme Chancellor, Messrs Prime Minister, Messrs President of the Council and Commission President: which one of you is going to start?
I have just commented on twitter that the "migration season" so often referred to by the media has never actually stopped for Italy, but even I did not think that I would be writing about another migration tragedy 24 hours after this one.
Today's sad event happened 35 miles off the Libyan coast when an inadequate fishing boat carrying migrants capsized. La Repubblicais reporting that 96 have been saved but 20 - 30 could be dead. A five-year-old boy whose parents died in the tragedy has been airlifted to hospital in Palermo and he is in a poorly condition.
The number of survivors from the migrant boat that capsized yesterday is 562 and these have been brought to Porto Empedocle. Among them are a couple who lost their six-year-old son at sea.
Meanwhile, the nine-month-old girl whose mother died on a migrant boat from which the baby was saved on Tuesday has been taken from Lampedusa to a specialist facility in Agrigento. There, says, Dr Pietro Bartolo, Lampedusa's ER doctor, she will find no lack of potential mothers but, should she need a father, he is ready to adopt her himself. He and others who have looked after the baby on Lampedusa have given her the name "Favour".
The Italian Coast Guard have coordinated 22 operations in which 4,100 migrants have been saved in the past 24 hours. The Italian Navy, Frontex and Eunavformed vessels, plus tow boats and commercial vessels have also been involved in the rescues.
I am not going to comment further tonight - the figures speak for themselves.