The Black Dog

A local neighbour told me the very sad news. At the age of 54, Remo Menchini from our nearby village of San Cassiano committed suicide last week. He’d gone into the bathroom of his house and fired a bullet into his head. Another friend said to me ‘he could have chosen to go into the forest to do it!’ I only knew Remo slightly but he seemed to me to be a very personable and, indeed, positive person.

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It’s so  terrible – Remo leaves a wife (who was the first one to discover her dead husband) and four daughters..

Remo’s funeral was last Sunday at 3 pm  in San Cassiano’s beautiful parish church. I did not attend – I’d already promised to be a helper at Ponte a Serraglio’s chestnut festival and, besides, I’m not particularly one for funerals. All the same, it must be said that a considerable number of people who would have attended the festival were at San Cassiano.


Remo Menchini worked in the area of care and maintenance of the countryside including parks and gardens. His firm was on the Via del Brennero at Bagni di Lucca.

What immediately strikes me about the terrible act R did to himself is that I thought that suicide was something much more frequent in northern climes where the relative absence of sunshine, decent wine and greater sociability all impinge on emphasizing a sense of individual isolation. Perhaps I should re-examine the statistics.


(Suicide rates from European countries and some more. Evidently, the worst place for this sort of thing is Lithuania)

In my area I know of three other suicides, two of people I knew rather well.

I’ve already described the suicide of the desperate young woman who threw herself off the spectacular Vergai bridge in my post at

When teaching English at the Istituto Comprensivo of Gallicano, in one of my classes there was an extrovert and very amiable student, Sergio Fini, who presented me with a beautiful book of poems he’d written and with illustrations of magical trees that he’d drawn. Just two years later in Fornaci di Barga I passed by a black-bordered poster which stated that Sergio’s family thanked all those who’d sent condolences or attended his the funeral. I just couldn’t believe it! Again, there was nothing to herald the self-immolation of this incredibly talented and seemingly happy family man who left a grieving wife and two young children. I just found it so difficult to believe that someone who seemed so much at peace with himself, who worked successfully with special needs pupils and who was deeply versed in oriental philosophy and yoga, could have hung himself – at home!

For some years we would have a brilliant pizza at Libra’s in Chiffenti – that is until Libra himself was found lifessly hanging in his own restaurant. Again, totally unbelievable. San Cassiano’s (and Lucca’s) most promising young organist was then a pizzaiolo at Libra’s restaurant and earned enough money to perfect his divine art at the Vatican City’s conservatoire and our evenings there in the company of friends were truly memorable. Later, when delivering English language courses at a well-known paint factory I re-met Libra’s daughter who was receptionist there and became one of my students. She’d seemingly made the greatest effort to come to terms with the family tragedy – even mystery, for Libra had been involved in some shady dealings with eastern Europeans and, just one day before being found dangling at the end of a rope, he’d gone to the local hospital because they’d jumped him. (Nothing, however, was found to incriminate them).

One of the most lamented suicides was that of my schoolmate and university friend Ian McCormick (pen name McDonald) in 2003. He was perhaps one of the most brilliant writers on music I’ve ever read,  Ian’s range was amazing – from his seminal book on Shostakovich to his definitive survey of the Beatles songs. Yet, just after the critical success of his last book of essays on British pop icons (he’d been in a band too) Ian was found gassed in his kitchen with a sign on the front door stating ‘please call the police’.

Depression, Churchill’s black dog, is surely largely to blame for all these mournful situations – exacerbated, of course, by money and emotional problems.

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It just doesn’t matter whether you live in a beautiful earthly paradise surrounded by green hills and in close touch with miraculous nature (like where I live) or within an inner city tower block in a drug-infested housing estate, the black dog makes no distinctions. It chooses its victims with equal disregard for their loved ones and their friends.

May the ghastly animal never bite me, not even on Friday the thirteenth!

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8 thoughts on “The Black Dog

  1. This is an extreme view of suicide obviously not to be liked how can anyone really say one likes a morbid blog about matters which touch only a small section of the population important as this may be in our society but my view has been all along of these cases of people that we have known to be rather suspicious suicides ie two supposedly hung themselves from trees most ironic especially as one in particular was far too heavy to have carried out such an ignominious act. The terrible fact is that only last week I read that in the UK a young 24 year old decided to end his life as he felt he had wasted his parents money as he had been on marujana and ketermine throughout his public school days if he had reasoned through his argument he would have realised as he had anyway that he could have made up for lost time by doing some good deeds voluntary work helping his parents this was certainly no help to anyone. It seems that most genuine suicide cases are caused by disturbed minds distorted thinking and feeling of no hope there is always hope in life just think of the success stories of some genuine refugees! My view on this is to never give up hope prayer is a very good antidote meditation work even at home ! It has often been debated about Norma Jean alias Marylin Monroe so tread carefully when talking or writing about such black dog subjects!

  2. Pingback: A Public Hanging at Casabasciana – From London to Longoio (and Lucca and Beyond) Part Three

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