Thursday, July 02, 2015


Today is the 75th anniversary of the Arandora Star tragedy, one of the most shameful episodes in British wartime history and about which I first wrote on this blog in 2009. Since then, due to the tireless work of campaigners, memorials have been unveiled in Cardiff and Glasgow and public awareness has been raised but no British government has ever apologised.

Today, in memory of those who died and their loved ones , I am re-posting this:

At the outbreak of World War II "enemy aliens" living in Britain were divided into three categories: those in class A were deemed to represent a high security risk and were interned; those in class B were "doubtful" and were subject to some restrictions; and those in class C were thought to pose no security risk at all. However, following the Fall of France in 1940 Churchill decided, in his own words, to "collar the lot" and the majority of class B aliens were interned. When Italy declared war on Britain and France on June 10th the internment of Italian males was ordered. Many of the Germans interned had opposed the Nazis or were German Jewish refugees. Most of the Italians interned had lived in Britain virtually all their lives and many had sons who were serving in the British military. Others were in Britain because they had opposed Mussolini and later fled their country in fear of their lives. The majority of the men were detained in internment camps on the Isle of Man or Orkney, where they were treated inhumanely.
A policy of deporting internees was in place and on 1st July 1940 the SS Arandora Star, a converted cruise liner, sailed from Liverpool for Canada with 1,864 people on board. Of these 734 were Italian internees, 479 were German internees, 89 were German prisoners of war and the rest were guards and crew, 80% of the crew having been newly signed on that morning. The internees were forced to sail in appalling conditions, packed onto a ship built to carry only 250 passengers and extended, in wartime, to carry 200 more.

The ship was painted battleship grey, making her look like a troop carrier, and displayed no Red Cross flag, which would have distinguished her as a vessel carrying civilians. On her second day out from Liverpool the ship was torpedoed by a German submarine off the west coast of Ireland. There had been no lifeboat drills, the rafts were immovably strapped to the sides of the ship anyway, and few lifejackets had been issued. In addition, the decks and the lifeboats were separated by walls of barbed wire - a measure which the Captain had protested about before sailing. Most of the Italians did not stand a chance , as they had come from mountainous areas of Italy and had never learnt to swim. Those few who did survive the freezing sea were again harshly treated after being rescued and some were then deported to Australia.
When the British media reported the tragedy, the public were told that Nazis on board had dashed for the lifeboats knocking everyone else out of the way. No mention was made of the fact that respectable people who had made positive contributions to British society had been on board, along with refugees who had risked their lives, in their own countries, for the very freedoms the British now claimed to be fighting for.

In total 486 Italians lost their lives in this tragedy.  No apology has ever been made by a British government.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015


This is my fantastic hairdresser Margherita Bramanti of Saloni Di Successo, Modica
 and this is my summer chignon:

And here I am again in that t-shirt!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015


I've often said that gel al limone must be among the most refreshing desserts in the world and this is one of the most elegant presentations I've seen of this dish:

Monday, June 29, 2015


It's always nice to be appreciated so I was really touched to receive these lovely gifts from students last week:

And look what my ten-year-olds can manage in English, all by themselves!

Grazie, carissimi studenti.

Saturday, June 27, 2015


Here's a pretty song which was a hit for Ron in 1992. I didn't know it but liked it when I heard it on the radio this week.

Ron - Non abbiam bisogno di parole

Friday, June 26, 2015

SUMMER TIDES, 2015 - 2

First France closed its border with Italy at Ventimiglia, an act which led to migrants protesting - and living - on the rocks there and to Italian police forcibly removing some of them.  Then Hungary closed its border with Serbia and announced its intention to suspend the so-called "Dublin rules", under which migrants arriving in the EU have to be processed and apply for asylum in their first country of arrival. Meanwhile you will all have seen the shocking pictures from Calais of hundreds of migrants trying to board UK-bound lorries in any way they can. Not a good week in which to be a migrant, then - or a lorry driver. Whilst I accept that it must be very frightening indeed to be driving towards the Port of Calais in any kind of vehicle at the moment, it remains true that desperate people will resort to desperate measures and people who have been treated brutally will themselves become brutal.

The world's media focus may have temporarily shifted from the sea to the land drama but migrants continue to die in the Mediterranean: On Thursday the Port of Pozzallo again saw the sad sight of a body being carried ashore, this time from a Panamanian ship which had rescued 292 migrants. The dead man is reported to have been from Gambia and it has now been confirmed that he died from gunshot wounds.  A man who had travelled with him and who was injured told Italian police that the shots had been fired by Libyan militia who had boarded the migrant boat. This has not yet been confirmed.

Yesterday morning a Swedish patrol boat brought 497 migrants who had been rescued in three operations to the Port of Catania. The patrol boat was also carrying the body of a woman and one of her fellow-passengers had been injured.

My own country, of which I am ashamed in this matter, has not only refused to take a migrant quota but has made it known that HMS Enterprise, the replacement ship for HMS Bulwark in the Mediterranean, will concentrate on intercepting people traffickers rather than search and rescue missions. I do not mean to imply that it would not participate in rescue missions if necessary but surely saving lives should be the priority?  And does the Royal Navy really think it can do what the Italians, who have a good record in bringing people traffickers to justice, cannot? That is, at the very least, arrogant.

At Thursday night's Council of Europe dinner Premier Renzi has, rightly in my opinion, lambasted EU countries which have refused to take a migrant quota [a share of 40,000 migrants who have arrived in Greece and Italy] and has said,

"If you cannot reach agreement on 40,000 migrants you are not worthy of calling yourselves European. If this is your idea of Europe you can keep it.  Either show some solidarity or stop wasting our time."


Update: 26.6.15 at 13.23:
It seems that, after a long night, agreement has been reached on migrant quotas. Mr Renzi has called the agreement "modest" and the UK has, shamefully, opted out.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Saturday, June 20, 2015


And now here is the real Renzo Arbore:

Renzo Arbore e l'Orchestra Italiana - Ma la notte no

Friday, June 19, 2015


Se sei a Modica e vuoi imparare l'inglese quest'estate, chiama London Town - Centro Linguistico Internazionale ora!

English speakers in Modica for the summer may be interested to know that London Town - Centro Linguistico Internazionale offers Italian courses too. Please call for details:

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


On Sunday evening a friend invited me to enjoy the festa del Sacro Cuore - the parish festival organised by the little church on the corner, which I hold in great affection - from her nearby balcony and I was delighted to accept.

The festa consists of special prayers and religious services and then, in the evening, the statue of Christ is carried around the district to joyous music and with a crowd following it.  On the route, people put up charming little altars where the procession and passers-by can stop for a moment to pray or think. An hour or two later the statue is brought back to the church, to the accompaniment of even louder music but the celebrations are not finished yet!  Christ is taken for three speedy turns around the square before he can rest!  Then the fireworks begin and I must say, what Modica lacks in population it makes up for in producing noise on these occasions.  

Luna Rossa, a Renzo Arbore cover band, played in the church courtyard throughout the proceedings and were still going strong when I left, just before midnight.

My friend, her family and I also enjoyed these magnificent pizze, from left to right, a wild boar sausage and rocket one [which I hadn't tried before and which was delicious] a Margherita and a capricciosa:

A cynical stranger might say,

"Is that it? A few stalls, a band and a statue being carried around?"

This, however, would be to miss the point, which, apart from the religious aspects of the event, is to be together.

Luna Rossa, Renzo Arbore Cover Band - Luna Rossa

Saturday, June 13, 2015


This week I've been reading the autobiography of the soprano Katia Ricciarelli, so let us hear from this interesting lady in Sicily's favourite opera:

Katia Ricciarelli - Casta Diva [Norma di Vincenzo Bellini]

Friday, June 12, 2015


"Una busta, cinque euro; un assaggio, non si paga! - Five euros a bag and you don't have to pay for a taste!" calls the fruit seller from a lorry teeming with melons on a hot morning.

Then he carves off an enormous, juicy slice for me to try and even offers to carry a bag of six melons home for me if I buy them.  I was convinced at the first refreshing bite and, as he is carrying, I buy a bag of his potatoes as well.

I see that he is sold out by 10 am and the next day he is there again, with piles of large, shiny black cherries. ..... 


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