Festa della Mamma / Italy’s Mother’s Day

Today it’s ‘Festa della Mamma’ in Italy’ (and many other countries). = Mother’s Day . Mia madre, emigrante dall’Italia in Inghilterra (mio padre dell’armata Britannica che liberò l’Italia) ed io:

Mum and me.

Dad in Britain’s Eighth army liberating Italy from Nazi-fascist oppression and Mum (Red Cross nurse from Milan but stationed in Sud Tyrol) met in 1945 and the rest is history.

….

A mother with her baby begs

peace in our time.

….

and branches rustle in the wind

‘peace in our time’.

……

 

 

(From ‘Peace in our Time’ FP)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Guardian Angels

In case some of my blog readers were still unaware, our pretty little Fiat 500 ‘Cinquina’ – Sergeant pepper vintage i.e., fifty years old – is, alas, no more.

Hit by a T. I. R. on the night of May the first on the rear left mudguard, it was pushed over on the right and skidded to one side of a stretch of autostrada that was in a tunnel in the Apennines. The T. I. R. did stop some distance down the tunnel. The driver had no option: there are video cameras throughout this stretch of road – but didn’t even step outside his vehicle to see how we were.

Thanks to Sandra’s foresight (she was driving and holds an advanced driving license together with years of driving experience, especially with our Cinquina) she realised that it was possible to extricate ourselves from the car through the roll-back soft roof. Goodness knows what would have happened to us if the car had actually rolled onto the roof or not been catapulted into the emergency lane…

We phoned emergency services and stood trembling by the side of the autostrada for what seemed a long time (although it wasn’t more than around ten minutes). The police arrived and halted the traffic while they took photographs and measurements of the accident scene. The ambulance came and strapped me onto a bed. Sandra was content just to take a seat in the vehicle which travelled alarmingly fast.

The venue for us was at the Ospedale Maggiore, Bologna. Tests, including x-rays and blood samples, were taken from us and fortunately, apart from concussion, a cut lip in Sandra and scratches and bruises for both of us we were declared out of immediate danger and fit to leave the hospital by morning.

The following day we had to get to San Benedetto Val di Sambro, the scene of the awful terrorist attack on a train at the start of the tunnel there in 1974 which left twelve dead including the courageous railway man, Silver Sirotti, who helped in saving many people before he too succumbed to the flames. Indeed, in San Benedetto station there is a plaque to his memory and his award of a Gold medal for civilian valour (equivalent of the UK’s George Cross) with the wording:

Controllore in servizio, in occasione del criminale attentato al treno Italicus non esitava a lanciarsi, munito di estintore, nel vagone ov’era avvenuta l’esplosione per soccorrere i passeggeri della vettura in fiamme. Nel nobile tentativo, immolava la giovane vita ai più alti ideali di umana solidarietà. Esempio fulgido di eccezionale sprezzo del pericolo e incondizionato attaccamento al dovere, spinti fino all’estremo sacrificio. Alla memoria.
— 14 maggio 1975

Sirotti was just 24 years old when he died.

At San Benedetto we made our dichiarazione or witness statement to the police who’d come to our rescue.

The following day we managed it to Sasso Marconi to see our poor car which had been transported there by a branch of ACI (the Italian car rescue association) of which we are members.

It was a very sad moment for us to say goodbye to a car, my christmas present to Sandra in 2008, which had taken us to so many beautiful places in Italy and beyond. In particular, we remember Sardinia in 2009, Corsica in 2012, La Maremma and Friuli-Venezia-Giulia. We bid the wreck of the car adieu, at the same time remembering that a guardian angel had prevented the same act from being administered over us by those who care for us. That Cinquina was such a good friend to us and we had such happy memories travelling in it. I believe that in some mysterious way our Cinquina had sacrificed itself to help save us just like that guardian angel.

(La nostra bella Cinquina in tempi più felici)

It was an immense relief when we finally got home to Longoio and found our cats, fish and ducks ready to greet us and, of course, waiting to be fed!

Grateful thanks are due to the Italian emergency services, the police and, especially, to the country’s great public transport system.

 

PS As the Roman poet says: ““Pulvis et umbra sumus.”

 

Fly Past in Bagni di Lucca

The solemn procession consisting of dignitaries, including the mayor of Bagni di Lucca, family members of Italy’s first licensed pilot and ace aviators from the past wended its way down Bagni di Lucca’s high street to line up before the Villa Gamba. The occasion? The unveiling of a memorial plaque to Mario Calderara, Italy’s first pilot, on the façade of the house he lived in in BDL, together with the blessing of our local parish priest on the proceedings.

A private invitation from Pietro, the highly personable descendant of the Gamba-Calderara family, enabled us to visit the gardens and the piano Nobile of the villa, which is otherwise strictly closed to the general public. Pietro showed us some valuable blueprints of his ancestor’s airplane designs.

It was a marvellous event to take place on Italy’s liberation day, a national holiday commemorating the freedom from Nazi-fascism and liberation also in terms of the Italian pioneer and mankind’s ability to fly free from the constraints of gravity into the air and the blue sky such as the day blessed us with.

This was a day to remember for a very long time. The villa, with its immortal connections with Byron and especially Puccini (see my post at https://longoio.wordpress.com/2014/01/23/turandots-carillon/ is now graced by a plaque that  commemorates Calderara, Italy’s first aviator and inventor of its first flying boat. (For more on this do look up my post at https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2017/04/24/bagni-di-lucca-takes-flight/ ).

My sincere thanks to the Gamba-Calderara family and their generous kindness towards us, enabling us to enjoy a very special day of Italian Liberation.

 

 

PS It is only so sad that Italy’s flag airline company, ‘Alitalia’, is in such dire trouble at present. (Their ‘Etihad partnership, which I used to fly to Vietnam a couple of years ago, broke down).  I’ve flown with Alitalia on several occasion in the past (indeed it was the first ever airplane flight I took at the age of seven and alone….) and never have I been served better by the stewards and been offered such eatable, indeed delicious, food on board – a rare occurrence, unfortunately, on most airlines today.

 

 

About Trolling

In my schooldays a little magazine was brought out by Nick Totton (who is now well-known as a therapist and poet – see http://www.nicktotton.net/) and friends called ‘Troll’. I had some things published in it – now all vanished into the dust of time. ‘Troll’ was meant to be a provocative and mischievous publication reacting against the orthodox school magazine and it lasted for at least three copies. I wish I knew where I could find one now. I wonder whether anyone reading this post may know?

In those technologically innocent days we little knew that the word ‘troll’ would come to mean something other than the ugly cave-dwelling creature which was depicted as either a giant or a dwarf and generally wearing a pixie-like hat. Now when ‘troll’ is mentioned it brings out for younger people the experience so many of them have had of having their on-line virtual self attacked by maligners. So many have now been bullied (some have even committed suicide) by trolls who spread discord on the internet by posting malicious comments or starting arguments or just by upsetting people in bizarre psychological variations such as posting messages which are completely off-topic or incendiary. Often these messages are sent using email addresses which may only last as long as the message is sent. Try and reply to them and your reply is returned with the message ‘’unknown address’. These trolls will then continue their action, which can only be described as criminal harassment, by inventing another email address to which, naturally one is unable to answer because it’s already been wiped off.

All of us who write a blog have received spam which by-and-large is filtered off. You know the sort of thing. Here’s a typical example: “Internet site an individual’s content %BT% is very well-accepted currently. How could i find out about information technology to start out my own vlog and as well web resource?”

I don’t quite understand the point of spam. It’s a sort of spamdexing; that is it is the deliberate manipulation of search engine indexes for purposes which may range from simple confusion in searching from terns to downright sabotage, infiltration of mal-ware and even phishing.

Trolling is not spamming. It is not generated against a general community of bloggers but is aimed at upsetting, menacing, harassing and threatening individual bloggers for purposes which are only known to those who indulge in an activity which is essentially internet bullying.

Recently I’ve been a victim of trolling and I think it’s important at this stage to let you know what my experience of it is. Forewarned is forearmed, as they say.

I set out here some examples of trolling which I’ve received. Fortunately, since trollers can change their email addresses so frequently, it’s still possible to block them and never allow their comments to be authorised on the web.

Here are three examples.

The first was received on 2017/03/29 at 6:59 pm from email address Semprealforno turisti_x_sempre@gmail.com
79.43.203.46 and says

Gentile Signora,
Abbiamo letto con interesse il vostro affisso… Ci siamo però chiesto perché mancava la firma.
Se mi vuole per favore confermare che viene da voi possiamo pensare a presentarci il giorno di Pasqua in piazza Le ringrazio’

Translated it means ‘Dear Madam, we have read with interest your notice. We asked ourselves, however, why your signature was missing. Please confirm it comes from you so that we may meet on Easter day in the square. Thanks.

This refers to a notice the troll put up in various places in our village of Longoio and the square is the village’s car park. What is disturbing about this one is that it refers to Easter day which is traditionally supposed to be a day of peace and highly valued as such in a still largely Catholic country like Italy.

The second troll was received on  2017/04/13 at 4:12 pm  again from Semprealforno turisti_x_sempre@gmail.com79.51.91.228.

It reads ‘I Heard IT Was THE last one’

and refers to my post at https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2017/04/06/my-wifes-illustrious-ancestor/

In that post I gave a talk about Giovanni Battista Cipriani, a famous eighteenth century artist, painter of the Royal Coach and ancestor of my wife. I have been giving talks to the University of the Third Age of Bagni di Lucca since 2008. As for being the last talk one there were two more speakers to follow in subsequent weeks. (Am I supposed to get done in before I give my next talk I wonder?)

The third one was received on 2017/04/16 at 4:11 pm from nonceranessunoinpiazzaoggi? (meaning t’here was no one in the square’, presumably referring to the message in the first troll.)
turisti_x_sempre@gmail.com 95.247.200.46

It says

?’Ma la donna vestita a stracci faceva parte del gruppo???? (But did the woman dressed in rags form part of the group?)

and refers to my post at https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2017/04/15/easter-pilgrims/

The woman is my wife and she was part of a picture taken with Easter week pilgrims as described in that post. Here is that picture which normal people gave such a favourable response to:

The troller always wants to be found out in the end. It is the crowning moment of self-gratification in his miserable life which is filled with envy and ignorance in equal measure. The fictitious title ‘semprealforno’ has a double significance. It means ‘always at the oven.’ This can refer to the fact that the troller spends much of his time cooking at the barbecue. It can also mean that the troller has a fixation with the death camp ovens of such places as Auschwitz. (I can reveal the troller is German. Being a German is not a condemnation – even if Basil of Fawlty Towers warns us about ‘mentioning the war’ to them. But alluding in jest to the dark past of that nation certainly is).

The troller has in the past poured dirty water over Sandra (true!!) and used bullying tactics with me, especially with his dangerous breed dog. What utterly confirms who he is, however, are his emoticons in at least two posts at the Bagni di Lucca University of the Third Age facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/UniTre-Bagni-di-Lucca-126411907831457/

Every time there is a mention to me or my wife the ‘angry emoticon’ with his name appears.

As someone who graduated in computer systems and as a former lecturer in the subject for close onto twenty five years I have confirmed, if the evidence wasn’t enough, through the I. P. addresses etc. who this person is.

I will not give his name here. It would give this specimen too much importance. You can find it for yourselves on the Unitre page mentioned above since the troll fails to understand that a ‘like’ etc emoticon can only be removed or changed by the person placing it there. (Perhaps this is a shortcoming of ‘facebook’ which admits ‘there is no option available right now to remove negative emoticon or feeling’).

Why should I have to be writing this post?  I could just shrug the whole thing off and think that the trolling guy is a sad sort of fellow who desperately needs to get a life of his own. However, I feel obliged to write this since, for number one, no-one insults or in any way hurts or disturbs my wife of forty years standing, Sandra, with impunity, and number two, for someone who is both a troller and a teacher of young children at a local school, this behaviour is all the more unacceptable, indeed disturbing, and the children’s head and parents should know about it.

(My last lecture?)

Bagni di Lucca Takes Flight!

Bagni di Lucca’s Villa Gamba has already been the theme of one of my posts where I described the meeting between Giacomo Puccini and Baron Fassini Camossi. It was here that Puccini listened with fascination to certain Chinese melodies played on a carillon (or music box) belonging to his friend the Baron. Camossi had pursued a diplomatic career in China, was a veteran of the 1900 Boxer Rebellions there and probably acquired the box and other souvenirs in China at the notorious “loot auctions” that followed the Boxers’ suppression, when they met at the Baron’s summer house: that same secretive villa Gamba at Bagni di Lucca in 1920. Evidently Adami, the opera’s librettist, was also present.

To find out more about this extraordinary encounter which led to Puccini’s final, sadly incomplete, but certainly greatest opera, ‘Turandot’, you can read my post at:

https://longoio.wordpress.com/2014/01/23/turandots-carillon/

Tomorrow, Tuesday 25th April at 11 am, in the Sala Rosa of Bagni di Lucca’s Circolo dei Forestieri, Villa Gamba will feature again. This is because there will be a presentation of finalists for the Premio Corsena (prize) for 2017. It’s the first national literary competition on the theme of aeronautical history. What’s the Villa Gamba connection this time then? It’s because the full name of the villa is Gamba-Calderara and Mario Calderara (1879-1944), one of Italy’s greatest pioneer aviators, lived there.

Calderara was the first Italian to get a pilot’s license in 1909 and was the builder of Italy’s first flying boat in 1911.

He was the son of the Alpini regiment General Marco Calderara and Eleonora Tantini. Attracted to a life on the ocean wave Mario joined Livorno’s naval academy where he graduated as midshipman in 1901. He became fascinated by the problems of flight and studied avidly the pioneering efforts of Lilienthal and the Wright brothers and corresponded with them.

Calderara began his first aeronautical experiments in 1907 and, on a biplane towed by a ship, managed to reach a height of over 50 feet, almost risking his life. Calderara got to know French inventor Voisin and worked with him on aeroplane design. In 1909 he managed his first unassisted heavier-than-air fight at Buc in France.

The big breakthrough occurred when Calderara and Italy’s aero club invited Wilbur Wright to Rome. Wright gave Calderara some flying lessons and, consequently, Calderara’s flights increased in length.

In 1911 Calderara built his flying boat, the largest in the world and managed to fly three passengers on it in 1912.

In 1917 Calderara started a training school for pilots and became one of the founders of what would become the Italian equivalent of the RAF.

There’s absolutely no doubt that Mario Calderara is yet another feather in the cap of those greats that have established Bagni di Lucca as a centre of past excellence. For example, our town was the first in Italy to have electric street lighting, the first one to found a Scout troop, the first to pioneer hydro-therapy, the birthplace of Puccini’s ‘Turandot’ (as well as the place where most of the maestro’s ‘Girl of the Golden West was composed. It’s great that Bagni di Lucca will now be remembered as the home of one of Italy’s greatest aviation pioneers and founder of its air force.

The programme for tomorrow includes, besides presenting prizes to the finalists, the unveiling of a plaque to the memory of Mario Calderara at the villa Gamba with a visit to the villa itself (an occasion not to be missed!), a lunch at the Circolo dei Forestieri and a conference on the great aviation pioneer who was Mario Calderara. Don’t forget to fly there!

 

 

 

 

 

Election Fever?

Election times are looming. No I’m not talking about that incredible Mayan volte-face in the UK but our own local elections in Bagni di Lucca. If you are resident of the comune then you have every right to vote not just in the European parliament elections (something which may soon be denied to those citizens resident in the UK) but also in your local elections.

All you need to vote is

  1. Proof of residency – your Italian ID card is best
  2. A voting card
  3. Any further proof of identity e.g. an Italian driving license is useful.

What you need to know is

  1. When you can vote (elections are promised for the end of May start of June – final date to be established).
  2. Where you can vote. The polling stations are usually in local schools.
  3. Who to vote for.

You are, in fact voting for the sindaco or mayor who is not, unlike so many UK boroughs, a ceremonial figure but someone more akin to the Mayor of London or the leader of a local council – someone who has the power to change things in the community.

I am certainly not going to tell you who to vote for but if you are entitled to vote and don’t bother then don’t complain about what happens to Bagni di Lucca after the results.

I can, however, tell you something about the political history of Bagni di Lucca. In one word it is conservative with a small c. It’s, indeed, one of the southernmost outposts of right wing politics. One of BDL’s most distinguished visitors in the past was Irene Pivetti. At age 31 Irene was the youngest President of Italy’s chamber of deputies and has been closely associated with  Forza ItaliaMovimento Sociale ItalianoLega NordCentro Cristiano Democratico. In her favour Pivetti did oppose independence for Padania (the Po valley) and was thrown out of her party for her views. A strong Roman Catholic, Pivetti has associated herself with another strong right-winger Salvini in her bid to become mayor of Rome last year.

This right-wing bias in local politics has distinguished BDL from such comunes as Borgo a Mozzano who have tended to be rather more leftish in their ideologies, especially with the highly popular Francesco Poggi who was mayor for two mandates of five years each (the standard period one is mayor) from 2004 to 2014.

What’s important to concentrate your mind on the forthcoming elections is whether the candidates are supported by so-called ‘angels from heaven: i.e. the ‘big’ from the major Italian political factions, or whether they are ‘lista civica’, a special designation which denotes that there are no direct connections to these factions but, instead,  that candidates have a locally promulgated aim to do something about the situation in the comune. This is why ‘lista civica’ always goes with mottoes like ‘andare oltre’ (go beyond), ‘rinascita’ (rebirth) or ‘progetto rinascimento’ (renaissance project) as the present lista civica mayor Massimo Betti christens his project.

Anyway, so far there are four candidates for election as Mayor of Bagni di Lucca for the next five years. It’s a real disappointment that there is no woman among them.  (Although there was Sabatina Antonella for a short while in 2007 when the comune was put under unelected administration).

Here is a list of the candidates:

NAME PHOTO PARTY LINE MOTTO AGE POLITICAL EXPERIENCE
Massimo Betti   Lista Civica ‘Progetto Rinascimento’ Middle Mayor since 2012
Claudio Gemignani   Right of centre with strong backing from the ‘big’ of Forza Italia and Lega Nord Toscana ‘Un Futuro per Bagni di Lucca’ Young Worked as counsellor under two previous administrations
Quinto Bernardi   Right of centre. Oldish Associated with Casa della Libertà.
Paolo Michelini   Lista civica ‘Uniti per cambiare’ Oldish Partito Democratico – Renzian centre-right. Long political administrative experience.

 

Interestingly all four candidates want to carry out the same types of policies among which are:

  1. Big boost for tourism industry in Bagni di Lucca
  2. Better use of limited financial resources
  3. Job creation, especially in tourism, to stop flight of young people from the area.
  4. Improved public transportation and major road repairs
  5. Stopping corruption and tax evasion, particularly from foreign workers and those involved in private B & Bs and unregistered holiday lets.
  6. Enhancement and new use for the wonderful properties the comune owns such as Villa Ada, Villa Fiori etc.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating of course and the purpose of this post is not to influence any of the hard-pressed and worthy citizens of Bagni di Lucca in their voting. It is, however, worth meeting up with the candidates and quizzing them to see how genuine they are in their promises. Regrettably, Italian politicians, like most politicians in the world, are not famous for their consistency and promises. Yet it is precisely these qualities which are most needed to lift Bagni di Lucca up from the enchanted spider-webbed castle it still seems to sleep in oblivious depth.

 

 

 

 

Mshiha Qam

In all the years we have been passing Easter here in Bagni di Lucca there’s no better way to start off this day of hope and peace than attending Easter Mass at the Convento dell’Angelo, that incandescently beautiful building on the hill above Ponte a Moriano. The convent is Nottolini’s masterpiece and, until a short while ago, was the home of the Passionist fathers so closely associated with that neglected Lucchese Saint Gemma and now Maestro Kuhn’s musical academy.

I’ve written so much about the convent that I won’t repeat it here. If you want to know more about this stunning place see my posts at:

https://longoio.wordpress.com/2013/04/02/an-angels-monday/

https://longoio.wordpress.com/2014/04/21/easter-morning-on-the-mountain-of-the-holy-grail/

https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2015/12/25/reaching-the-holy-grail/

https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2016/03/28/how-we-spent-our-easter-2016/

https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2014/12/25/its-christmas-day/

https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2016/12/26/our-christmas-eve/

The programme of the Easter Mass, which was as usual officiated by Passionist father Giovanni Battista accompanied by the musicians of the Academia di Montegral, was as follows:

The Mass was so beautiful and enhanced by the most wonderful music on earth,

After this, in in every way, high experience we returned home to enjoy our Easter lunch. What with Sandra’s true English lamb chop, her delicious lasagne, and two cakes one baked by each one of us we celebrated this most important event in the liturgical year with joy.

Yet we could not sadly ignore the fact that in the world at large this has been one of the most violent Easters on record. How could anyone, for instance,  blow up buses containing refugees from that horrifying conflict in Syria when all they were trying to do was to find peace in some part of this increasingly vicious world? The picture of that girl with her cat boarding the suicide bus will for ever haunt me. Where are they now, I wonder?

My Easter card poem this year reflected this tragic Easter.

 

GOODBYE EASTERLING*

 

The day is crying

our hearts are sighing;

is our soul dying?

 

There is such lying

such false replying

such gross betraying.

 

The world’s belying:

we are all shying

from those denying.

 

Yet death defying,

falsehood decrying,

our sad eyes drying,

 

our fears allaying,

our hope supplying:

ever undying

 

our True God and King

gifts us our life’s spring

anew helps us sing.

 

 

Mshiha qam**

 

 

*Evil servants of Sauron in Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings’.

**Aramaic, Christ’s language, meaning ‘The Messiah is Risen’.