Of Cabbages and Kings … and whether Pigs have Wings

A recent post on FB asks the question: when couples separate what happens to their friends? In the eleven years that I’ve been here I’ve witnessed several couples’ separation and I sadly conclude that in the majority of cases their friends become an embarrassment to the separated pair, principally because it’s those friends who remind them of the time when they were still an item.

Of course, it’s possible for items to separate and still conserve ties of amity between themselves. In this case it’s easy to remain friends and continue an amicable relationship with them.

In a small town environment like Bagni di Lucca it’s not easy to dissolve into the crowds as one can so anonymously do in large urban centres like London. No matter how careful one is there is bound to come a time when one is likely to meet with those who may cause an embarrassing situation. In many cases, therefore, the separated couple will go their different ways to other parts of the world.

Recently, some good friends have decided to call it a day with their relationship and, once more, I have to visit two people not on one visit but on two separate visits. Soon they will have sold the house, departed for pastures new in different areas of the world. It’ll be increasingly doubtful whether Alexandra and I will meet, with any frequency,  persons who have dined with us, enjoyed events and walks, supported us morally and generally contributed in a considerable way to our social and intellectual life.

In acrimonious separations former friendships are definitely largely discarded. This happened to us a few years back with a couple who’d always offered a place for us to sleep at when visiting Lucca for an evening event. Now we meet each one separately but no mention must be made of former times. In a gloomy variation of this scenario there’s the situation where one of the items dies and the remaining partner takes up with someone who, despite all our efforts, seems to a considerable extent to usurp the memory of the deceased in our minds because, frankly, they just don’t come up to it.

It’s said that one of the worst mistakes that those escaping from the UK to Italy make is to expect all their friends and relatives to rush to the idyllic place they have bought under the Mediterranean sun and visit them. This is, of course, quite true. What generally happens is that many UK emigrants (let’s not insist on calling them that euphemism ‘expat’), dismayed at the fact that they get fewer visits from friends and relatives than they expected, at some stage become homesick for their families and will return to be nearer to a newly pregnant daughter or an ageing mother. At the same time they must not expect that the friends they have left by the sunny shores of the Med will rush to visit them in their damp semi in Solihull or whatever else they can manage to find (that is, if they succeed to sell their former continental residence in a continuing deflated housing market and afford to buy something in the UK).

These are sad but true facts. However, you might disagree with my prognosis. Human beings remain ever a surprising and generally inscrutable species. And none more so than in their options on the forthcoming Brexit referendum…

My postal vote envelope has been received, duly marked and sent off (no points to guess where I decided to put my X). But what views do my friends and acquaintances exiled from their mother (or father) countries hold? I am amazed, but not too surprised, at the increasing polarization of political viewpoints that is occurring everywhere in Europe. One moves either further to the left or further to the right (witness Austria and certain parts of Germany, to say nothing of northern Italy). Brexit has the same effect so that I get even more turmoiled by the opposed and vehemently held outlooks of those I know here.

The big issue, disguised behind talk of increased taxation, possible visa requirements, European Union budget payments, penalties and health services remains the migration question. However, Britain’s present situation on this is nothing compared to the Italian one. In 2003 when I was first thinking of moving here there were 1,464,663 immigrants in this country. Now there are 5,014,437. Some cities, like Milan have moved from 2003’s 5% figure to today’s 20% in just over ten years. Adding to this statistic that of the reducing Italian population (less than 2 children per family) and the increasing immigrant one (more than three children per family) one does not have to be a statistician to see that by the middle of this century native Italians will be in the minority. But then Italy has always been prey to foreign invasions and is indeed a very mixed blood population starting from the Goths, Huns and Vandals to the Normans, Saracens, Teutons, French and now those poor, desperate souls fleeing across the temperamental Mediterranean waters. Recent figures from the Italian Panorama magazine put the number of arrivals this year to Europe as over 200,000 with 33,000 arriving in Italy alone, of which around a thousand have perished in the sea. (Clearly, one in 33 chance of not reaching terrafirma). On one day alone (26th May) over four thousand emigrants were saved from the waves!

At least the rest of Europe realises now that immigration from the developing world does not only affect Italy. This country has had to bear the burden of saving lives from the Mediterranean at least since the middle 1980’s with little or no help from other EU countries until today’s establishment of Frontex.

One thing is sure. The participation in the Brexit referendum must be of major concern to all those who are eligible to vote (i.e. including those who have lived abroad for less than fifteen years – what a stupid rule!). Brexit will affect those who live in Italy and those who don’t, those who are just getting married and those who are in the throes of separation, those who work for voluntary associations helping refugees and those who want no part of it.

I sincerely believe that the outcome of the Brexit referendum vote could have far-reaching consequences for Britain, Europe and, indeed the whole world.

As the immortal Charles Lutwidge Dodgson wrote:

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”




2 thoughts on “Of Cabbages and Kings … and whether Pigs have Wings

  1. I enjoyed reading this post Francis, as do all your readers. Sometimes, (if i’ve got something useful to say) I add a comment. This morning i’ve had an email from a currency trader in the City of London. The email advises readers that Sterling is falling against the dollar and the euro.
    The reason this is happening is because two weekend opinion polls have put the Leave vote ahead of the Remain vote. Regardless of what happens in the vote, Sterling will rise or fall as it always has – no change there. But the much bigger consideration will be what happens to the people of Britain and its citizens living abroad in the event of a decision to leave. I think the UK leaving the EU would be a bad decision and one which we will long regret. I just hope that some of the migration figures which you mention in your email (to demonstrate that migration is an EU wide issue and not just a British one) are discussed in the ongoing debate. There are sections of the UK media who are getting away with falsehoods and misinformation to put it mildly, thus whipping up anti migrant feeling; the problem is that the Remain camp have put across a negative message which seems intent on frightening people rather than putting across a positive message on the EU (one can be crafted despite the problems!). I’m voting Remain and am urging all my friends and contacts to do the same. I cannot help but feel that if voters understand the bigger picture, then they will make the right decision, and vote Remain.

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