Today is Holocaust Memorial Day and I am sad to say that never has the danger of such horrors happening again been greater and never has it been more important for us to reflect upon the words below:
First They Came
First they came for the Communists And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist
Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist
Then they came for the trade
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist
Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out Because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me.
The words "storm" and "hurricane" are often bandied about in Modica to describe any winter weather that is not sunny but we certainly had a storm at the weekend. Starting on Saturday evening, relentless rain fell in sheets throughout the night and all day Sunday and did so with quite frightening noise. A girl from Cardiff - Britain's rainiest city - does not scare easily when confronted with the wet stuff, so I'm sure you will agree that it must have been quite something to terrify me and confine me to my flat!
The area where I live escaped the worst of it but there were floods in Modica Bassa [the Old Town], Modica Alta, nearby Scicli and the surrounding countryside with considerable damage to property, cars and goods in shops. In via Fontana in Modica Bassa - a street to which I am sentimentally attached because it is where my dog Simi and I lived when we first settled in Modica, twelve years ago - several cars were swept away. In the early hours of Sunday the Mayor of Modica, who had been out on reconnaissance for most of the night, announced on facebook that all schools in the city would be closed on Monday as a precautionary measure. Later. we were told not to drink the water until further notice.
Flood in Modica Bassa, 22.1.17
The rain eventually stopped on Monday but more is forecast for next weekend during i giorni della merla - the days of the blackbird [29th - 31st January], traditionally the coldest period in Italy. There are several legends that purport to explain the reason for this name but the one I prefer tells us that, long ago when January had only 28 days, a proud blackbird [who was actually white], fed up with the cold, asked January if he could cut a few days off his "reign". January, it seems, got in a huff and asked his friend February to lend him three days so that he could use them to make the blackbird's life even more miserable. February agreed and when the blackbird, thinking that the weather would be warmer and drier now that January had gone, next went in search of food, mean old January blew up a snowstorm. The bird found shelter in a chimneystack but when he emerged three days later, his beautiful plumage was black and thus it remained, with all but a few blackbirds, forever, the rare white blackbird being a sign of good fortune. Let's hope that one appears on via Fontana soon!
Today the Mayor of Modica has met with Regional President Rosario Crocetta, who has thanked Modicans for their fortitude and determination to carry on with business as usual after the storm and it is likely that some regional funds will be directed to the city to help with the clear-up.
When Simi and I left via Fontana, I bought this souvenir of our time there:
Take it away, Dino:
There is a lovely Juliette Gréco song called Un Merle Blanc but I cannot find a video of it.
Both Britain and the US have had a good, or a bad, week, depending on your point of view but there is no doubt that Italy had a tragic one:
As further eathquake tremors again brought fear to Central Italy, on Wednesday an avalanche weighing 120,000 metric tonnes and travelling at 100 km per hour struck the Rigopiano Hotel in Abruzzo. So far six people have been declared dead, 23 are missing and 11 have been pulled out alive. Among the missing is a young Senegalese, Faye Dame, who had refugee status in Italy and was proud to be the factotem of the hotel. I keep thinking of this young man who had, like so many others, come to Europe in search of a better life. He must have been so happy to have been granted permission to stay and to work and to be able to live in a little apartment near the hotel.
Geologists say the tragedy was caused primarily by three strong earthquake tremors combined with heavy winds blowing in from Siberia, much heavier snow than usual and ground that was already wet.
We were all cheered when the Rigopiano's's Abruzzese shepherd dogs, Lupo and Nuvola, were found alive and well in a village 11 km away, where they are being cared for. Lupo and Nuvola, who are symbols of the hotel, always greeted guests and enjoyed their attention. Fortune was also smiling last week upon this young man, a member of the singing group Il Volo.
On the same day, another earthquake hit Amatrice, the town that suffered so badly in the quake of 24th August. "What, in God's name, have we done to deserve this?" asked the Mayor on Italian radio. The people of Amatrice could certainly have done without Charlie Hebdo's cartoon [not for the first time] but the Mayor's response was, "We will reply to this macabre provocation with life."
Better news from Amatrice was that the first 25 wooden houses have been allocated, by ballot, to some of those made homeless by the 24th August quake.
Tonight my thoughts are with all affected by the avalanche and tremors, all who grieve and all who wait for news of their loved ones. I'm sure that yours are with them too.
Update at 16.34 on 23.1.17: Lupo and Nuvola's three puppies have been found alive and well in the wreckage of the hotel.
Most of my regular readers will know that I view Brexit as a disaster and I explained why on the night of the referendum. I have to say that my spirits have not risen regarding the matter since then and I have spent the past few days in shock and disbelief at what the UK Prime Minister said in her "Brexit Plan" speech on Tuesday.
What, though, is the general view in Italy? We all know that members of the European Parliament- with a few exceptions including one notable British one - are fuming but reactions within Italy have generally been calmer than those in many other EU countries. But then, the Italians have not yet been insulted by Mr. Johnson.
To say that the Prime Minister's speech went down well here would, however, be overstaing the case and the threatening tone she used towards the end of it did her no favours. Il Giornale di Sicilia asked how the UK can expect to enjoy free trade with the EU post-Brexit but not contribute to the EU budget and commenters on the article ranged from those who called us selfish and wanted us "chucked out now" to those who congratulated us upon "freeing" ourselves.
Several papers highlighted the fact that work permits are likely to be necessary for Italians working in Britain post-Brexit and it is ironic that this comes from a country that still demands documentation which should not be necessary under European law for non-Italian EU residents here.
La Repubblica reported that we are going for "hard Brexit" and will therefore be "out of everything". Il Sole 24 Orecalled our insistence on border control and withdrawal from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice the "British Maginot Line" and I empathise with the incredulity implied - freedom of movement of people is, after all, one of the founding principles of the EU and we signed up to the organisation in full knowledge of that.
Alessandro Barbera, writing in La Stampa yesterday and referring to Mrs May's Davos speech [she's having a busy week!] asks how we can close our borders and, at the same time, claim to be a champion of free trade. He suggests that Mrs May, "the new Iron Lady", dreams of a "global Britain" but would rather it wasn't too global. Spot on, I'd say!
Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni has been measured in his comments, welcoming a commitment from May to cooperate militarily with the EU [made prior to Tuesday's speech and I can find no details as to the extent of such cooperation] and saying that Italy would discuss the issues with Britain in a spirit of solidarity and friendship.
Meanwhile Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano said, while Mrs May was speaking on Tuesday, that the Italian government will defend the interests of Italians living and working in the UK. Now wouldn't it be nice if the "new Iron Lady" showed such concern for British citizens living and working in other EU countries?
Tonight I would like to pay tribute to two great artistes, one Italian and one Welsh, who are eighty years young: the Italian, Paolo Conte, celebrated his big birthday yesterday:
Paolo Conte - Via con me
Now, can you guess who the Welsh singer is? That's right - it's the one and only, amazing, Dame Shirley Bassey, who celebrates her special day tomorrow. I've chosen this track because it's always been a favourite of mine - I still have the vinyl album pictured at the beginning of the video - and because, no matter how old we are, every time we fall in love it's like this, isn't it?
Dame Shirley Bassey - I've Never Been in Love Before
Many of you will know that I am a great fan of MasterChef Italia, which has recently made a welcome return for its sixth season on Italian TV. I am also an admirer of Joe Bastianich, whose biography I reviewed here and I did laugh at the pronunciation lesson that Joe gave an unfortunate contestant last night. You can see the video clip here.
However, it has to be said that Joe is not teaching British English! For those of you who are confused, the term shire means county and is usually used as a suffix, as in Gloucestershire or Yorkshire. In this case, the i is pronounced like the er in her in British English. It is pronounced in the "Joe" way in the term the shires, meaning counties.
Having to deal with the eccentricities of Modican Englishitis every day, I do empathise with both Joe and the poor contestant!
Worcestershire Sauce, by the way, is a British ingredient which is readily available in Italy and I was glad to see an Italian being adventurous enough to use it.
The year which drew to a close yesterday was the one in which it became clear to me that the world has learnt nothing from the tragedies and disasters of the last century. Here, a little late, is my review of it:
Most unexpectedly, falling in love again.
Spending Christmas in Norwich with the sister I have known for only two years and walking through a bauble in that fair city!
The down side of falling in love - being dumped. It is a much worse experience, I have discovered, than it was when I was young, for there are now so many places to be dumped from, such as social media.
Of those I have invented myself, this is the one I like best.
Chicken with cedri and Prosecco
Books of the year
The two best books I read in Italian during 2016 were Pesce d'aprile and Lacrime di Sale, Dr Pietro Bartolo's account of migrant tragedies as they affect Lampedusa. I'll shortly be reviewing Lacrime di Sale on Sicily Scene.
The most interesting book I read in English in 2016 was Half of a YellowSunby Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Besides telling a gripping story, the book explained to me a conflict which took place during my lifetime but which I knew next to nothing about.
Film of the year
This is related to my second book choice above. It is Fuocoammare.
Italian logic prize
This goes to Rai and the Italian government for this scheme and their strange definition of the term rata [installment]. Predictably, after July consumers were required to pay not one "installment" for the TV licence fee but the remaining six in one go!
Hopes for 2017
Once again, I hope the world wakes up to the fact that we are all migrants and I want to see safe corridors for today's migrants and an end to migration tragedies. I want to hear more from the voices of peace and less from those of belligerance.
I wish you all peace, health and love, wherever you are.
Happy New Year and thank you for reading Sicily Scene!
Buon Anno e grazie di aver letto la Sicily Scene!
You can find links to all my migration posts here and to my adoption posts here.