Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Distinct Impression of a Lunatic Asylum

While shopping centres have a car park fit to accommodate a deluge of immigrants from Romania, many hospitals don’t seem to have woken up to the idea yet that people might need to drive to their offerings. I’ve heard a number of stories of hospitals where there isn’t anywhere near enough parking. I have an image of people sitting around in committees and arguing that there’s a perfectly good bus service, we should be encouraging people to travel by public transport. Which is all very well, but in many cases there may be a good bus service to some places, but not everyone who needs to go there lives in those places.
Last week Hilary had an appointment at Lancaster Royal Infirmary – one of the two main hospitals covering north Lancashire and south Cumbria, and Lancaster hospital has a car park that is far, far too small for the number of people who need to use it – people such as us, who cannot go on the bus, for there is no bus. We were aware of this so I drove Hilary and dropped her off while I circled round and round trying to find somewhere to park, among all the other cars doing much the same thing. Eventually, after about half an hour, I found a spot in what I thought was a two-hour parking bay.
Hilary was to have an injection and then a hour-and-a-half wait followed by a scan. She was told it would be a good idea to go and get a cup of coffee in the canteen during the wait time and maybe take a bit of fresh air, but to try and stay calm. Don’t do anything that might make you hurried or stressed. We went outside to find that I had a parking ticket! I had failed to spot, in my near desperation that there would ever be anywhere at all to park, that I had parked in a disabled-only bay. I don’t get too bothered by this, I just pay the fine on the basis that the meaning and purpose of life is to play silly practical jokes upon a person, and there’s no point in trying to fight that. Hilary, by contrast, was brought up middle class. She was brought up to to believe in fairness. That life for the virtuous should be fair. So she gets peeved that the hospital is failing to provide sufficient resources for its patients to attend their appointments.
We went to the hospital canteen where there was a self-service coffee machine. Whatever button I pressed, including one marked ‘expresso’, I seemed to get a coffee with milk in. I called a member of staff over: ‘Everything I press seems to give me a coffee with milk; I want a black coffee’.
‘You have to press ‘Café Creme’, that gives you a black coffee’. And sure enough, it did! Well of course, how silly of me!
We detected five staff on in the canteen, doing what, was not entirely clear. Needs outsourcing, Hilary and I agreed. Or if not then properly managing but then why should a hospital be putting all its management effort into the canteen? But I suppose outsourcing would cause ructions and uproar; destroying a perfectly good service for the sake of faceless profit, the arguers would categorically shout. The Danish pastry I bought to go with my coffee was stale. But I decided we’d had enough aggro this morning, especially for someone who was supposed to be staying calm for health reasons, so I ate it stale.
Walking back to the ‘nuclear medicine’ unit there was a group of people partly blocking the hallway. An elderly woman had fallen and cut her head, there was blood on the floor and all over her hand where she had held it to her head after falling, and people were milling round trying to get her upright and bandaged. The place gave the distinct impression of a lunatic asylum.
Anyway, Hilary had her scan while I watched daytime telly in the reception area, and then we drove home without further incident. And I paid the parking fine, £35, online.

Pigs’ Willies and Hungarians

In Manchester we ate our lunch in a Carluccio’s restaurant, in the banking and commercial district of Manchester called Spinningfields. A special on the menu was Lenticchie e Cotechino, which was subtitled in English a traditional Italian winter dish of Umbrian lentils and Italian sausage. I was a bit unsure about it, as the finest lentils come from the plain of Castelluccio, which is indeed in Umbria, though not the part of Umbria that people tend to go to on their hols. It is a rather particular place, a bleak plain high in the mountains which gets very harsh weather; the people who live there look more like Cumbrian farmers than Italians, all permanently ruddy-cheeked from exposure to the biting winds, and many of the front doors in Castelluccio town – which sits on a steep mound at one end of the plain – have reinforced metal shutters to try and keep the weather at bay a bit. We take visitors there sometimes when they stay at our house in Italy, you drive up and up beyond the tree line and then over a ridge and down into this plain, which is probably still above the tree line – there certainly aren’t any trees there. In the summer the lentils are harvested by what look like gangs of itinerant workers, possibly gypsy. It can be very hot and exposed there in the summer. So just describing the lentils as Umbrian sounded a bit doubtful.
And also cotechino. That is not really a sausage, it is the bits of the pig left over when the village has feasted on all the meatier parts; it is the ears, noses and willies and trotters. If you buy cotechino in a supermarket in Italy it has a picture of a pig’s trotter on the box. It comes as a sort of soft sausage about three inches in diameter and you slice sections off to eat it.
I was delighted to find, having decided to take a risk on the lenticchie e cotechino, that it was Castelluccio lentils (brown lentils that stay firm with cooking) and it was cotechino of the type you see in supermarkets, typically gelatinous, and in among the lentils were some sliced leaves of cavolo nero: black cabbage, which is actually dark green. But I thought: no doubt they can’t describe the dish as Castelluccio lentils with pig’s-trotter pâté and black cabbage as no one will have heard of the lentils and cabbage and they’ll say ooh, I can’t be eating pigs’ trotters, so they wouldn’t order it. They’ve heard of or been to Umbria, and Italian sausage sounds innocuous. These bloody Brits! Knowing what it was and having had it before in Italy, though never with cabbage, I found it very good.
I wondered what the nationality was of the waiter. At first I guessed French because of his somewhat sour countenance and offhand manner, but his accent did not sound French. I puzzled over it during lunch and then it came to me. When the waiter brought the bill I said ‘I’d like to guess at your accent is that OK?’ He looked a bit resigned and uninterested so before he got a chance to refuse I said, ‘I think you’re from Hungary’.
‘Yes!’, he exclaimed, ‘How did you know that?’ He was delighted. Apparently I am the first person ever to have got it right. People ask him if he Slovakian, Austrian, German; all manner of things but no one before has correctly identified his country of birth first time. Suddenly he was very excited and wanted to know how I knew, ‘Do you speak Hungarian? Do you have Hungarian friends?’ I just said that I was as delighted as he was as it’s always nice to be proved right. How could I tell him the real reason? That it was a process of elimination, someone with all the French characteristics of stroppiness and disconnection, but without a French accent. How could I tell him that it was because he was so characteristically humourless?
Hungarians have good reason to be dour; as good if not better reasons than any other nation in Europe. I wished him good fortune and gave him a moderately good tip.

Famous Italian Naked Statue

We were travelling to Manchester to do some shopping. On the busy train on that line – trains on the line into Manchester are always jammed to the doors – sitting behind us, were three young women, one of them said she was thirty. Another of them had a baby, not with her at the time though, that the other two made the mistake of allowing her to get onto the subject of. Mostly the women talked about boyfriends, mothers, brothers and sisters. The girl who had a baby reported that someone – a great aunt or something –- had sent a congratulations card to the hospital when she was having the baby, with a picture of Michelangelo’s David on the front, which she thought was a bit inappropriate, for a new baby, though at least the baby was a boy. Except she did not know that the statue was by Michelangelo, she said some Italian bloke, famous, was it Leonardo? Leonardo da Vinci? ventured one of the others. Yes, that Leonardo, I think it’s that Leonardo.
But then one of them had the bright idea of getting on her tablet computer and typing, at the others’ suggestion, ‘famous italian naked statue’ into Google and in that way they got the information they were looking for, complete with picture which, as one of them said, really, when you see that, where’s the first place you are going to look? Dunnit though? They then got into a discussion about how small the penis is of the boy in the statue, and whether his dick really was that small and if so why Michelangelo chose him as a model.
These three women were not, I would say, intellectuals. They were what you might call ordinary, middle of the road, verging on the uneducated. But their tablet computer helped them along that day, just one little rung further up the knowledge ladder. Young people a low standard of reading? Less so than in the past I think. And a discussion on the motivations and proportions of Michelangelo’s David on the shopping trip? Can’t complain about that for the hopes and future of the world.
The girls then managed to steer their conversation away from penises and onto boyfriends – not a very great leap – and the one who is thirty said she wanted to be sure she had her first child by the age of thirty-five, but her boyfriend – we almost were going to get the size of his penis but she managed to bite her lip – all he seemed to want to do was lounge in front of the telly. You might say well find another boyfriend then, but I can understand that she might think that is not so easy.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Westmorland Names

First names from the Little Cuties 2013 competition, vote for your favourite little cutie, a bonny baby competition in the Westmorland Gazette, 31 October 2013. Interesting to note that very few of the names are shared by more than one baby, and that in contrast to just a few years ago, there are very few what might be called traditional names. I have put an asterisk, *, by the traditional names.
There aren’t too many ‘eee’ names, names ending in the eee sound, not as many as there would have been a few years ago I think. I have marked the eee names with (eee).
Alianneahmiddle names:Jaicey Amanda, surname: Moore
Ariamiddle name: Farah surname: Ali
Cameronsurname Batty – that’ll be why they called him Cameron!
Ebonymiddle names: Helen Dorothy, surname: Robinson (Ebony is white!)(eee)
Emily* (eee)
Emily* (eee)
Heidimiddle name: Louisa, surname: Knowles(eee)
Holly-Maesurname Woods – is it wise, if your surname is Woods, to name your daughter after a tree?(eee)
Kaceymiddle names: Hazel Tracy(eee)
Latoyahsurname Wheawall, Latoyah is white English-looking
Lily* (eee)
Ruby* (eee)
Tilly-Jmiddle name: Brenda(eee)
Codymiddle name: Lee – what else, to follow Cody? Surname Wheawall, the same as baby Latoyah(eee)
Harleymiddle names: Derek Alan. Surname Overend, the same as baby Tilly-J Brenda (eee)
Lexisurname Grace, same as baby Kacey(eee)
Lily* (eee)
Toby* (eee)
Among the children, none are black. Macie could be from a dark-skinned mother or father – possibly.
Of 57 names, then, 22 are what I have classed as ‘traditional’. 38 per cent. Possibly the name Ava might be called traditional too, that would make 42 per cent.
Of the 57 names, 23 are eee-sound names, 40 per cent.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Food for False Promises

In a way it doesn’t matter, you expect to get offered rubbish in a motorway service station café don’t you? Well, yes, but in 21st-century Europe I would like to think that you expect an accurate description of the rubbish you are being fed. And it seems an especially British failing, to be expected to gladly accept something different from what it says on the label. Charnock Richard Services on the M6 in Lancashire, 7 October 2013
The label said ‘Cheese and Onion Toastie’. Subtitle: ‘Cheese and onion in thick-sliced bloomer bread’.
And it wasn’t what it said. The sandwich filling was a milky vinegary substance with a small amount of cheese mixed in, and an even more minuscule amount of onion. Where’s that trading standards officer? What’s he doing, sitting on his backside in an office somewhere. Is he being paid for that?
Looks like vomit. Tastes not a million miles from what you might imagine vomit tastes like if you think about it. Which I couldn’t help but do, as I drove away up the M6. Couldn’t get the sickly taste of the little that I ate of it from assaulting my nostrils.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Collecting Signatures in Support of a Bizarre Idea

The idea that Silvio Berlusconi might make a suitable president of Italy after the present one, Giorgio Napolitano, retires. Signatures being gathered, in Red Bologna, of all places. 7 September 2013.
Preparing the table for the collection of signatures from passers by. A somewhat thuggish-looking man in purple shirt and grey gilet; a frowning man in dark glasses and dark-grey sports shirt with white fringe on the collar and cuffs; and a bespectacled youth with loo-brush hair and wearing two-tone trainers. And whose is that expensive BMW? In the pedestrian-only area.
A few people come by to offer their name and address such as the blond woman with red-framed glasses. The youth duly logs her details.
I stood watching this near to a man who was sitting on the street flagstones begging, with his dog on a string. Some people stopped to give him a few coins, and sometimes offer his dog a biscuit or a piece of chocolate. The begging man looked puzzled by what it was I was so interested in. Looked at me quizzically.
I was not going to get into explaining to the begging man that from a foreigner’s perspective, the idea of a man who is recently convicted of tax fraud and who is notorious for putting his own needs above those of his nation, while loudly protesting his innocence and his devotion to his beloved country above all else, gaining support for mediating matters of state objectively – as Giorgio Napolitano has consistently and impressively shown his ability to do in a very statesmanlike manner; indeed the very concept of Silvio Berlusconi acting in a statesmanlike way – just seems so absurd that it challenges belief that anyone would even consider lending their support.
But in Italy there are people prepared to do that, clearly. People who believe that Berlusconi will work to uphold the moral fibre of the nation and will behave in a fair and balanced manner. The blond woman with red-rimmed glasses for example.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Civitavecchia, Flashpoint between Church and Local Council

Eviction of immigrants from a church refuge in Civitavecchia. A very Italian story, in so many ways. From Corriere della Sera, 13 August 2013, article:
Civitavecchia is a port about seventy kilometres north-west of Rome. Cruise ships pull in there and people are taken by coach to see Rome from behind the bus windows. The town has a beach and lungomare with cafés and an old centre. Aside from the port area it is not too bad a place.
In what is called the suburbs of the town, though little more than a kilometre from the old town centre, is a church dedicated to Padre Pio, or San Pio as he now is. Writeup on who Padre Pio was: The parish church of San Pio is quite a modern building, photo at http://www.asiweb.biz/popian/.
The church of San Pio has been giving shelter to immigrants from north Africa, for as the bishop, Monsignor Luigi Marrucci, says, remembering the bitter story of San Pio: ‘A point of reference, a place of welcome, a refuge.’
Which is all very well, when you have a few people seeking refuge, but when more arrive almost daily, then the refuge has a distinct tendency to become overcrowded and insanitary, which is what has happened at San Pio. It is called by Corriere della Sera a ‘lager’, the newspaper uses the German word for a camp, I find on the Dictionary pages of Corriere della Sera that by extension from a concentration camp, the word lager is used in Italian to mean an institution or community managed in ways that are inhuman. That is the first time I have come across the word used in that way in Italian, but seeing as it is in the Corriere dell Sera dictionary, I assume it is fairly widely understood like that.
And when you welcome people of all sorts, you will get some who may be less than law-abiding by nature, and in the area around San Pio local people have been complaining of ‘violent episodes such as bag-snatching and assaults’.
On the night of 10 August the carabinieri moved in and evicted fifty people housed in the church, handing them over to the local authority, the Comune. This being Italy, the police did not inform the Comune that they were going to do this, so the Comune suddenly found itself with fifty migrants on its hands and was totally unprepared to deal with them.
The Comune found an empty warehouse at the port for the migrants to stay in temporarily, but as deputy major Enrico Luciani says, ‘None has the status of political refugee and many have a permesso di soggiorno. For them the assistance of the Comune is finished. The town has always had a robust and humanitarian approach to those who arrive on the territory in search of help, and the hospitality given to Nigerians near to the diocese is an example – unfortunately however when charity gives way to social disorder, it is in the natural order of things that the primary needs are those of the residents - of putting residents first.’
So the position of the police is clear, the stance of the Comune is clear – the migrants are in the warehouse for now but we’ll have no more to do with them. What about the Church?
Well that is equally as characteristically typical as the police and local authority are typically firm and distant. Typically it is a bit hard to follow. The archbishop is perhaps the clearest in saying that the disinterest being shown by the authorities with regard to people who are clearly vulnerable and in a state of distress is a disgrace and wrong. Though aside from criticism of others he does not appear to be offering much by way of solution himself. That fits. The local diocese – is that the bishop? – formally asked for the evictions to take place on the grounds of sanitation and hygiene, though the bishop himself seems to be going on about how those who follow the teachings of San Pio should welcome anyone who is in need. Meanwhile the Curia, the local management of the church, are suggesting they don’t think there is a problem, they say they have never been approached with complaints by any official – all that is if I have understood what the newspaper article says correctly.
Among the things that make this so Italian are the disinterest of the authorities, the lack of communication between official bodies, the muddled and mixed messages from the Church, and riding above all of that, what Italy is going to do about its immigrants, who grow in number by the day, as do the stories of squalor, riots, lawlessness and distress. Which the politicians in Italy seem to be turning their backs on, apart from the Lega Nord whose pronouncements suggest that they have little idea that there are human beings involved here. For those such as me who take an interest in the future of Italy this is all very poignant, though not very pleasant to watch, as whichever way you look it seems it will only get worse.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Would a Daily Mail Reader Do This?

The 15th of August, the main summer holiday in Italy, called ferragosto, a boat beached in shallow water close to the shore near Syracuse in Sicily. The boat was carrying 160 illegal immigrants, among whom women ‘in stato interessante’', literally ‘in an interesting state’, i.e. in plain English, up the duff, (Italian euphemisms are so quaint!) and about fifty children, most under three-years-old. Someone on the beach called the coastguard and others swam out to help them, the people from the beach formed a human chain to get the migrants safely to shore, assisting the coastguard boat that arrived quite promptly.
Giorgio Neapolitano, the president of Italy, has said that this episode gives credit to whole of Italy. While the undersecretary of the xenophobic Lega Nord, Matteo Silvini, has said of Neapolitano’s expressed solidarity with the migrants, ‘What bollocks! Now they are being honoured by Mr Neapolitano?’:
But I wonder. I wonder what Mr Silvini would have done, had he been on the beach at the time. Would he have let the children drown?
He might have run away, but I don’t think he would stand and watch people die – for migrants have died, even that close to shore, this happened only last week:
Words are easy, when you are at the other end of the country.
And yes, I think a Daily Mail reader would do this, if it came to it. Throwing all prejudice aside. But what’s the betting the esteemed bringer of all significant world news don’t report it? The Mail reports tragedies and dramas from around the world, but selectively; people showing human empathy towards immigrants, especially illegal immigrants, and especially especially black illegal immigrants, would be a step too far for that newspaper, would negate so much of what it professes to stand for, so it is understandable, looked at from their point of view, that this event stays unreported. Yes I can quite understand that.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Police Attacked in front of a Holy Shrine

Police attacked in front of a holy shrine – it says in Il Messaggero.
The newspaper report, in Italian:
This was at the Santuario Madonna dell’Ambro in the Sibillini mountains in the Marche region of Italy. Wednesday 14 August 2013. Madonna dell'Ambro is a large church, or maybe not a church, maybe it just looks like a church, set in a valley in wild, wooded mountain countryside. It gets lots of visitors, coach parties as well as people driving there in their own cars. So . . .
It will attract those people who want to sell something to the visitors, which these days will include migrants from Africa, the so-called ambulanti abusivi, unofficial street traders.
According to the newspaper report, street traders from North Africa turned up, and the sales concession-holders, some of whom have been established there quite a long time, called the police to have them removed, whereupon the unofficial traders attacked the police, it says. Well it is quite a long way from anywhere to get to Madonna dell'Ambro, and we do not know whether these unlicensed traders walked there or got a lift from some minders, quite possibly the second and they will be in trouble if they come back having sold nothing, so perhaps they thought a fight with the police the less painful option.
Anyway, at the request of the concession holders, a patrol of carabinieri from Montemonaco went to the location at about 11 in the morning, following reports of tension between the itinerant traders over the assignation of places, they were occupying spaces that were assigned to the licensed traders. When the patrol arrived the unofficial traders ‘manifesting a strong disappointment’ attacked the police, but were stopped by the other traders who ‘intervened to block the hotheads’.
The police called reinforcements, who came from the carabinieri stations at Comunanza, Force and Amandola – quite a force. Two of the aggressors, both Moroccans living in Francavilla d’Ete – a fair old walk from Madonna dell'Ambro, about thirty miles – were identified and taken to the police barracks in Amandola. They will be arrested for violence to a public official and for aggravated injury and are due to appear before magistrates in Ascoli Piceno on 16 August.
The two policemen who were injured have reported, ‘fortunately’, abrasions that will get better within a few days.
The investigation continues to identfy others who were responsible for the agresssion towards the carabinieri.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Send Them Away, No Ifs No Buts

Gianluca Pini, vice-president of the parliamentarians of the Lega Nord, the xenophobic party of northern Italy, has today repeated that immigrants who are in the country illegally, that is to say unofficially, should be sent away, ‘senza se e senza ma’, or in colloquial English: no ifs, no buts. A new expression in Italian for me to use when occasion calls, thank you Gianluca, for that.
Gianluca does not say how the bloody hell he thinks this is going to be achieved, when there are tens if not hundreds of thousands of ‘clandestini’ in Italy, from a large number of different countries, no one knows where they all are, the only thing that can be said for sure is that they are not all in one place, they are everywhere, so this no if, no but statement is actually pie-in-the-sky, for whatever Gianluca might like to think and say, the reality is: if we can find them and but how are we going to organise and pay for this?
This has been sparked by the refusal of Malta to allow a cargo ship to dock that had picked up some migrants whose boat was in trouble off the coast of Libya. Italy agreed to take the migrants. Gianluca Pini thinks that Italy should be taking an example from Malta and have turned the boat away, though the boat is going to have to dock somewhere at some point, everyone can’t turn it away.
But I suppose if you are a politician for a xenophobic political party you rely upon your supporters not wishing to, or thinking to, ask fundamental questions such as: how?

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Greased Thief Pushed Into Sea

Today at Marina di Massa on the coast of Tuscany a member of staff at a beach concession saw a young man rifling through people’s belongings while the customers were at lunch. Seeing that he had been spotted the young man legged it, so the girl who had spotted him phoned another concession along the beach in the direction he was running and two blokes from there went and grabbed him. But the youth had greased his arms and legs so they could not hold him, he slipped out of their grasp. So . . . they pushed him into the sea. I would have thought that would make him even more slippery but somehow, when he got out of the sea, they pinned him down. Being a North African (from an unspecified country) he may have been a bit afraid of the sea, which is how they managed to hold him. In the struggle his rucksack spilled open and lots of wallets, purses and designer sunglasses fell out. The police were called and now he is in custody awaiting an appearance before the magistrates.
Here is the article (in Italian) with a picture of the two ‘heroes’ with a very typical beach concession scene in the background:
This is one of the daily stories concerning immigrants upsetting the norms in Italy, but I thought this one, unlike many, was quite funny. Well, not funny for the people whose purses had been nicked and not funny for the greasy youth, but funny as a scene.
This one might even make the Mail, possibly?

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Migration Watch UK

On the Migration Watch UK website there is a statement on its front page that I think sounds rather funny. ‘A migrant arrives almost every minute but they leave at only just over half that rate’, sounds like it takes them a minute to get in but only half a minute to get out. Probably they intend to achieve the opposite message of what they are saying there.
And also their sums are wrong. The figure for net migration they give of 163,000 per year for 2010 has dropped a bit since then but even using that number, that is 18 per hour, not the 30 per hour that one every two minutes would be. One has to be constantly vigilant about statements put out by those with an axe to grind.
And when the migration watch website says that a new home has to be built every seven minutes to accommodate the influx, well that is based on two rather spurious assumptions, one is that there are no empty properties in the country, which is not true, and the second is that there are 2.1 people per dwelling, which there may be in the respectable middle-class households occupied by people who follow Migration Watch, but in the language of those same people one is tempted to say, ‘Ah, bless!’

Friday, 2 August 2013

Unlicensed Street Traders in Italy

The unlicensed street traders (mainly African) have come to the point where they have set up a 'casbah' at the entrance to one of the main hospitals in Rome and try to sell things to people going in and out; they have been selling on the beaches in Italy for some years and it has got to the point now where on summer sunny days on sandy stretches of beach they set up their stalls at the water's edge from six am, so that sunbathers are obliged to lay out their towels and umbrellas away from the sea and anyone going to the sea for a paddle has to pass them and be asked if they want to buy a hat.
Oddly, the Italian public doesn't seem to mind this too much, for they can buy a hat or frock from an unlicensed trader much cheaper than they can in the shops, as the beach traders pay no rent, rates or taxes. And Italians like shopping for a frock, more than they like swimming in the sea, for the most part.
The legitimate traders in the towns are complaining, loudly, bitterly, and quite reasonably, but the police seem either overwhelmed or powerless to do much about it. It requires organisation, and Italian organisation is an oxymoron.
And on the beaches south of Rimini last week the inevitable happened, there was a big punch-up between the Senegalese (from Senegal) and Sinhalese (from Sri Lanka) over who should have the pitch. Someone called the Carabinieri and when they arrived all the traders legged it, knocking tourists' beach towels and picnic baskets over in the pandemonium as they ran. It will happen, can only get worse.
Journalists on the Mail must be looking south with envy, made doubly galling by their not being able to report much or any of this in the UK as it would undermine the message that Britain has the severest immigration problems in Europe, which it most decidedly, definitely and determinedly, doesn't.
In the context of the daily reports from Italy the approach of the British police to the Romani gypsies camping out on the central reservation of the road at Hyde Park seems the height of professionalism and pragmatism. A dawn raid, get them all out with a free flight back to Romania or a deportation order. Just do that every so often whenever the problem builds up. That plus lots and lots of reporting and photographs. They'll come back, but you have to keep on chucking them out from places where they cause a social nuisance. That coupled with waiting for rain, wind and freezing temperatures. The hot summer has probably aggravated the problem greatly.
Now I know that the Daily Mail tells its readers that free flights to Romania for troublesome migrants is an affront to the dignity of the great law-abiding British public. To which I would say, if you want to see how not to do it, mate, just go to Italy. The cost of the air fare is peanuts compared to the costs of all the other options. Why can't the sodding journalists be a bit more responsible over this? Just moving them on, with no structured plan, does not work. And stopping them from coming in in the first place would work, but the process would so inconvenience the millions of legitimate travellers that it would be arse about face, it would be disadvantaging the law-abiding for the sake of a relatively small number of miscreants to a far greater extent than is the case now. Again I wish that certain journalists would have the moral responsibility to report this in a balanced way.
And the other thing is, that blaming the policies of the previous Labour government, when the problem exists far worse in other European countries where no British government has any influence whatever, is to rely upon the inexperience and ignorance of one's readers. Despicable, really. But I suppose it sells the paper, which is their main goal. Bring on the celebrities I say, they're relatively harmless.
And rather like David Cameron's muddled and impractical plans for reducing access to pornography on the internet, it is dangerous to underestimate the knowledge of the great British public, for what the eye doesn't see the heart has a definite tendency to find out about, later on. Though perhaps his main aim at the moment is to try and pull the carpet from under UKIP, and he'll think about how you actually go about limiting access to extreme porn later, in conjunction with some advisers who know what they're talking about, if that's what he really wants to do as a priority.

The Church with a Bouncer on the Door

In addition to lots of other places, gypsies are causing problems around Mestre, the mainland part of Venice, and at the church of san Lorenzo in Mestre they are seriously hassling people who try to get in and out of the church, jostling them while begging. The police move the beggars on, but they simply come back. To try and deal with the problem the ‘archpriest’ (not sure what we’d call such a person in English) has arranged for Brother Michael, a sacristan of the church, together with a parishioner who speaks the Romani language, to stand outside and ask them to move away. This is being reported as ‘the mass with a bouncer on the door’, which is even funnier in Italian as the Italian word for bouncer, ‘buttafuori’, literally translates as ‘chucker out’.
Of course some people are complaining that it is in the tradition of the church to give alms to the poor, while others argue that this isn’t giving alms, it’s an organised begging business, which is in fact the truth of the matter.
But in some ways it’s quite funny, the church service with a bouncer, though in other ways isn’t. Violence erupted outside a hotel in Mestre when Romani beggars attempted to jostle some Italian tourists who were leaving a tourist bus and some of the Italians thumped them, which caused a bit of a fight on the spot. So far as I know punch-ups are not yet a feature of the entrance to the church of san Lorenzo, though it sounds like a thin line. 
The Italian police are at a loss to know what to do about all this. The chief of the civil police in Rome – for one of the problems is that Italy doesn’t have a single police force – resigned last month. He was described in the paper as ‘a man of a piece’, the Italian expression for a citizen of respected standing, but he resigned because the new mayor of Rome had told him he must get rid of the growing numbers of illegal street traders plaguing the city. The police have been trying to do that for some years, and failing, and so the chief of police admitted defeat and resigned rather than continue to be shouted at by the new mayor for not doing something he didn’t know how he could do.

The Pope and the Immigrants

In some ways it is funny, and in others quite sad, the Pope having been to Lampedusa where he said a blessing over the sea where so many would-be migrants had drowned and quite laudably sought to raise awareness to a wider world audience of the tragedy that unfolds by the day.
Il Messaggero in Italy reported on some phone-ins to Radio Padania, which is a radio station in the north of Italy that is linked to the Lega Nord, the very xenophobic political party that wants, among lots of other familiar-sounding xenophobic things, to split Italy into two countries, north and south. 
‘It’s easy enough for him to open the doors of Italy and live in the Vatican’, said Cristina of Bergamo  (no h in Cristina in Italian).
‘Why doesn’t he take them to live in the Vatican where there’s lots of room, instead of in Italy where there’s hunger?’, asked Luigi of Milan.
‘I would have expected’, added Giovanna, ‘some words about how they rape and murder’.
‘We shall see the piazza at the Vatican empty this Sunday’, said Laura of Brescia, ‘As a Catholic I am outraged, I have not heard this Pope or any other express concern about the carnage wrought by these people’.
Which is a bit tough on the poor old Pope, it’s hardly his fault that Italy is seeing a massive influx of poor immigrants, and at one level the people phoning in have a point, Italy is facing massive problems with immigration right now, immensely greater than the UK and greater too than Germany though that is primarily because the Germans are organised and the Italians aren’t.
But blaming the Pope for encouraging illegal immigration when he’s trying to show compassion and attempt to raise the profile of the issue can only really be described as rather thick. Kind of sick amusing.
Meanwhile, almost every day during this summer another boat arrives, or is rescued from sinking up to fifty miles offshore, or is not reused and bodies float in the sea, boats containing anything up to five hundred migrants per vessel. Italy is being overwhelmed.
While at the other end of the country Roma gypsies drive in and cause more urgent problems, for despite the comments about murder, rape, and carnage by the people who phone in to Radio Padania, there is little evidence of this with Africans, such murder rape and carnage that exists by immigrants is predominantly Eastern Europeans and especially Roma people. 
How do I know that Africans commit relatively few crimes? Well I do because there is a website, http://tuttiicriminidegliimmigrati.com the url of which literally translates as ‘All the Crimes of the Immigrants’.com, where someone, or someones, in Italy collects together stories they find in newspapers online and off- about misdemeanours, riots, or anything else they think is noteworthy relating to immigrants, and reports them, they pick up on dozens of stories daily. It’s kind of the Daily Mail Plus-Plus, in Italian, with a harsh and garish design. Probably would be jumped on by the right-on lot in the UK, but in Italy there are more pressing concerns. I look at it from time to time, I find it quite informative.
I know that Migration Watch UK does daily summaries from the British newspapers about immigration issues, but they’re all rather distant and political, all somewhat out there and arms length, it doesn’t much report on what is happening with the people, daily and on the ground. The all-the-crimes-of-the-immigrants site gives something of a picture of the lives of the people, or some of the people, and oddly in its human-story emphasis it has somewhat the opposite effect from what it is trying to achieve, but then it is Italian, so not so oddly. 

The White Van Factory in Italy

I would guess there are no reports in any British newspaper of any shape of colour about the plans for development of the light industrial manufacturing section of Fiat, the Italian car-maker, or more precisely Fiat-Chrysler, the name of the company these days. Which is a pity if so as it should be being reported really, even if I don’t explain it in easy-to-digest terms I’m sure a practised journalised could:
At the moment Fiat-Chrysler has a factory in the Val de Sandro south of Pescara that makes vans. It makes vans that are badged Fiat, Citroen and Peugeot that are all essentially the same but with a slightly different-shaped front and different names on. That way Frenchmen can swear by their favourite national make, for the most part unaware that what they are driving is a Fiat by any other name.
Fiat are proud of the Val de Sandro factory as it is modern and relatively productive, and they want to invest more money into it. To this end they plan to form a joint venture with an American company, Case IH, that makes tractors under various names such as Case, New Holland, and David Brown.  The factory at Val de Sandro will then be called Sevel, as it already is in fact, but currently it is owned by Fiat, in future it will be owned the new joint-venture company called Sevel, a separate company from Fiat. PSA (Citroen-Peugeot) also have a financial stake in this.
The new company will be listed on the New York Stock Exchange to raise American money, and the current plan is that the head office will be in the UK. Presumably the UK is country of choice for the head office as there is good access to strong management and IT skills.
That’s very good for the UK isn’t it? Quite a thing to crow about I would have thought. Though I can see that this is a bit complex to explain and even more can I see that those who argue for Britain’s exit from the EU would in effect be arguing for putting this sort of thing in jeopardy, so it is in the interest of newspapers with a tub to thump not to report it. Note that I’m not saying it couldn’t happen with Britain outside the EU, I’m saying that Britain leaving the EU would put such things in jeopardy – in reality no one knows what might happen in the highly unlikely event of Britain ever stepping aside from the EU. But the EU-antis won’t want the jeopardy aspect of their case to be too well known. Jeopardy would be because of uncertainty, and the last thing you want if you are setting up a new automotive business is head-office uncertainty, that will be the main reason why the management are planning to put it somewhere other than Italy. 
There is still something of a mountain for the chief exec of Fiat-Chrysler, Sergio Marchionne, to climb, for as you might imagine the unions and a number of politicians in Italy are kicking up a fuss about this. If Berlusconi were to get in as prime minister again - which is not entirely impossible just yet - he would almost certainly block it and insist that all aspects of Fiat remain in Italy, at least in theory, thus giving Sergio Marchionne an even bigger headache, though Sergio, who though Italian was brought up in Canada, is a remarkably laid-back sort of chap, he looks like he might be a schoolteacher from the 1970s, with his open-necked shirt, pullover, and five-bob haircut. He was taken on by the Agnelli family that owns Fiat to prevent it from going bust, and he seems to be making a fair fist of it.

Who Reads the Mail Online?

Now the thing is if you run a company that makes radio-controlled hair curlers and you want to put an ad in the paper to stimulate sales, there’s nothing to stop you contacting a daily newspaper’s ads section and, assuming your product is not associated with escort services or bondage whips or something, they’d be delighted to accept it for a fee.
But that is not the way most big companies do it. A big company will use a media buying agency, who places the ad on the company’s behalf, and tries to advise on most effective marketing outlets for the product based upon evidence and statistics. Just because the MD of a company swears by Gardener’s World does not mean that’s the most appropriate place to advertise a hair curler, so a big company will try and be more scientific about it and will use a supposedly unbiased professional agent for the job.
On some publicity from a media buying agency I was intrigued by what it had to say about the Mail. Or actually not so much the Mail as the Mail Online. The Mail paper version is fairly much as one expect: median age of readership fifty-seven, preponderance of social classes C1 and C2 with fair amours of disposable income, no surprises there. 
What’s more intriguing is the Mail Online. This has high readership, it is possibly the most read online newspaper in the world, and according to the media buying group has a high click-through rate from people in their thirties and forties via social media such as Facebook and Twitter and with an especially high concentration in the USA. So who are these people? So far as the media buyers are concerned it doesn’t matter who they are, they and their customers will be looking to tick the right boxes to say they have directed their advertising at the most appropriate audience, if you asked too many intellectual questions you probably wouldn’t be doing that job in the first place. The question is for people like Cy and me, who find it intriguing and puzzling.
What is fairly unlikely is that the people who are clicking through are reading the articles. I think that’s unlikely because much of what is there is domestic to the UK, and I cannot believe that thirty- to forty-somethings in America are rushing to look at UK news, whatever paper it’s in. But if you look at the Mail Online the right-hand column is entirely filled with stories about celebrities, many of whom you will never have heard of and even if you were into celebrities you still may not have heard of them as a great number of them are known, if they are known at all, only in America.
It’s also entirely possible – even likely I would think – that if the Mail Online pages detect that your internet service provider is US-based it will send out different articles on its front page from what it does if your ISP is UK-based.
But still it raises the question: who posts links to Mail articles on their Facebook and Twitter pages, especially given that in the UK the median age is fifty-seven with a preponderance of social classes C1 and C2 (who will be considerably less likely to have a Facebook or Twitter page that would many other sections of the population)? There are of course those who post links saying, ‘Have you seen this? It’s outrageous’ or disgraceful or amusing or whatever. I and others see a fair number of these being posted round quite frequently. Similarly there will be those who post links because they want to point out something to their friends that they especially agree with. But these two types won’t account for much, the second type definitely not, the first there are quite a lot of but not so so many.

Perhaps it’s the celebrities. Are they what is generating the links?  They will certainly get a lot of Google click-throughs, which will be one reason why they’re there on the page to begin with.  

But it’s intriguing altogether – at least I find it so. Clearly the Mail Online is doing it right in terms of getting a very high hit-rate from what appears to be high-spending younger-age groups, but who are the people that form the bulk of this and what are they looking at?  That’s what I’d be fascinated to know.

As regards the hard-copy paper, that median age of fifty-seven is a bit higher than it was a few years ago; when I last looked it was fifty-three. The same people getting older, almost certainly, which itself is a bit interesting, it means that within not too many years the Mail is going to need a major change of format and emphasis.  It won’t just yet, there are plenty of grey-hairs available to fill the tills for now, but I’m quite sure the management will have their mind on the future and I will be interested to see how they swing this. Possibly that celebrity focus in the online version is a pointer to the future for the hard copy paper. I shall continue to observe with interest.

By the Weissensee with a Man in a Kilt

Driving back through Germany this year, what did we eat? Ah yes, the first night in the hotel we both chose cod. The hotel restaurant advertised itself as specialising in fish, but it wasn’t a very good restaurant, the hotel was in a lovely setting though, on the shores of the Weissensee. On the second day I walked into Füssen, 7km along a pleasant wide wooded footpath, and found myself lunching thus:
The King Lüdwig Hell was the best bit, but all interesting nonetheless.
In the evening we walked along the lakeside to the area where people swim in the lake and sit on the grass, and found a festival going on, so we ate there:
This was a somewhat bizarre experience that I have written up on http://rand-yerrup.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/formation-walking.html.  As you’ll see, the food was fairly unchallenging (except for anyone who is a veggie), a pork steak done on the grill in a roll. Alternatively we could have had sausage.  There was music and dancing – though not by the audience.
While walking round the lake in the morning we came across a man in a black kilt, complete with sporran and skein dhu, with his wife and daughter and a friend. I detected from his German that he spoke natural English and so asked him about the kilt. It's an everyday kilt, he said, he only wears his tartan one for special occasions. He came from near Edinburgh but lived and worked in north Germany and was married to a German woman. He was taking a short hol at the Weissesee.  He had recently been back to Edinburgh, the first time in nearly forty years, and was deeply shocked. ‘By the wealth?’, I asked. ‘No’, he replied, ‘by the poverty’. I can see where he’s coming from. Edinburgh is a very polarised city, and he was a man who I would guess works in a manual labour job. Such work in Edinburgh will be in short supply, whereas in Germany, depending on where you are, there is plenty to be had, as Germany still has quite a lot of manufacturing industry. There are areas of deprivation in Germany too, though less widespread than here, especially when compared to a place like Edinburgh. He was horrified by his visit, and wonders why the country has allowed itself to get into such a state. I couldn’t really say much to that.
But he was very friendly, encouraging us to take lots of pics and tell everyone what they’re missing by not visiting the Weissensee.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Italian Women

We are noticing on the beaches – and elsewhere though you notice it more when people have little on by way of clothes – how fat many Italians are. This may be a new thing, the diet has not changed but the levels of exercise have. Italians seldom walk anywhere. That’s not entirely true, some walk in the hills and some, predominantly men, cycle enthusiastically complete with all the fancy gear, but many on the beaches are overweight. Yet the diet is essentially quite good, apart from all that salt, it is probably just that they eat too much of everything. Hilary also comments on how big the boobs of many of the women are and wonders whether this is an Italian characteristic. Before she mentioned it I hadn’t noticed.
For the most part I do not find Italian women very attractive. Brits, Germans, Dutch and Nordic women – and Poles certainly – appeal to me enormously more. Maybe I just like the natural look. Less pose. And maybe I am not alone in that predilection, the birthrate in Italy, excepting immigrants, is low and falling, though there is also the abortion pill, which seems to be widely available if the periodic reports calling for its tighter control are to be believed, though countering that argument are the frequent ads on the television and in the newspapers for pills that are supposed to help with erectile dysfunction, which if the reports are half true is especially a problem in Italy.
And there is another thing that might help in putting me off Italian woman. We were sitting on one of our favourite beaches on Friday afternoon and I looked around. There were Italians, Dutch and Brits, one British group very rough-and-ready, a man and three women, London accents and with the man’s arms covered in tattoos and they had arrived in an rather battered old orange Ford van, but they, like all the Brits and the Dutch and unlike every Italian woman that I was able to see and detect were not doing something that all the Italians were: smoking. Every single one of them.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

For Someone who Finds Variety of Diet a Bit Disconcerting

For someone who finds variety of diet a bit disconcerting, travelling in Europe may lose some of its appeal. France is probably little problem, we find that we are eating steak frites in France unless we take care not to – not that we have anything against steak frites, nothing whatsoever at all, it just can get a little boring. And to be fair a French restaurant will always have something other than steak frites, it’s just that for those who want it, it’s usually there, and sometimes you need to search the menu for the alternatives.
Germany is more varied, though you can almost always get a piece of meat and some potatoes, often bratkartoffeln, which I am rather partial to, that is potatoes fried with onions and bacon fat, though in Swabia, in south-west Germany, you are more like to get spätzle, which are pasta noodles. Quite why spätzle should be a speciality of that area, a kind of joke speciality like Welshmen eating leeks, I have no idea. 
Meat or fish can sometimes be drowned in sauces in Germany, sometimes grossly so.
Italy is more particular. Pizza and pasta are available everywhere, though pizza often not at lunchtime. And fish restaurants tend to serve mostly just fish. As with everything, Italy does need a bit of expertise or luck.
Our local taverna here in Santa Vittoria does typical, ordinary, non-fancy food typical of this area. For antipasto there is slices of prosciutto crudo, that is cured uncooked ham, sometimes in Britain called Parma ham, even if it doesn’t come from Parma, which you can have with melon as an option; slices of different types of cured meat, called an affetato or sliced; bruschette, little bits of toast with something spread on them, my favourite is very simple, you can do it at home, it is butter and a couple of small fillets of tinned anchovy, surprisingly tasty yet so simple. And also, very local I’ve never seen it anywhere but this area, corata, which is lamb’s heart and possibly liver chopped small in scrambled egg.Not everyone likes that but I do. At the taverna you choose what you want, each item is priced separately, eg one piece of bruschetta, one euro.
Then there’s pasta, different types of pasta with different flavours of sauce. My favourite is what the older folk all say they were fed on as children, when there was little money around, spaghetti with olive oil flavoured with garlic, with a few flecks of peperoncino, dried chilli. Very simple.
Then there is meat, which in Italy tends to be served by itself on the plate, and you order a side plate of vegetable or salad separately. The meat might be some lamb chops, or, my favourite if they have it at the Taverna which they don’t always: grilled pigs liver. In Italy there will never in my experience be a sauce with the meat.
Red meat – i.e. not chicken or rabbit – is always served with a wedge of lemon, and it’s amazing how nice that is. Squeezed over the grilled meat – I don’t know why you never see that in Britain. Though actually I do: in Britain the tradition is to serve meat hot in thin slices. In a restaurant this is practically impossible without a gravy as the meat would cool before it got to the table and then the customers would complain it was cold, so meat served in that way will always have a gravy on it, which being water-based retains the heat. You wouldn’t want lemon with gravy. In Italy it’s more likely to be a chunk of meat, which therefore stays hot, or if it isn’t then it’ll be acceptable to serve it cool. 

Salad in Italy is often too salty for our tastes (and in Germany it is too much covered with some slimy dressing, though you tend to get a big portion which mitigates the gloopy substance a bit), in fact eating in restaurants in Italy always sees us glugging gallons of water during the night. The Italians eat too much salt.

Vegetables are whatever you ask for.  Thin green beans, fagiolini, are in season at the moment. Then there’s cicoria, which looks a little bit like rocket when on the shelf but is cooked and has a bitter greens taste. Italians tend to love it because they were fed it as children. Brits find it a bit too like bitter greens, but I quite like it. You normally order vegetables individually, none of this rubbish of a half-moon dish with a bit of carrot, a bit of cauliflower, a few East African-grown sugar snap peas. If you think you have problems with food overseas, imagine what it’s like for an Italian coming to Britain.
And of course for the children and the Brits, there are patatine, chips.

There is, probably, something for everyone – in Italian restaurants there’s little formality, if you want just a main course you can have just a main course. But finding that something can be, as I suggested, a little experimental.

Friday, 5 July 2013

A Birthday Dinner with Rabbit

It was my birthday so we decided to go to our local restaurant – not the Taverna, the hotel restaurant. Unbeknown to me Hilary had been in earlier and ordered and paid for a bottle of prosecco from Valdobbiadene – the best – and Giampiero the owner brought it to the table with a ‘tanti augurai a te’ (happy birthday to you). All a bit embarrassing, bit I gave Hilary a kiss and Giampiero said, ‘eh che moglie’, which means either ‘what a wife!’ or ‘that wife!’, the distinction in English is a subtle one.
Giampiero speaks no English, though he gets lots of English-speaking customers who speak no Italian, because his restaurant, Hotel Farfense, is well known among the Brits and he has had a write-up in The Guardian. He has been handling the language difference perfectly well for a decade or more. Giampiero married into the hotel trade, his parents-in-law opened the hotel restaurant in 1969 and when they retired Giampiero and his wife, Daniela, took it over. They have two children, the older one, Frederico, now seems to work there full-time, since we’ve been going there he has been the pizza chef, originally as a teenager and now as a young adult, for Farfense does proper pizza, where Frederico rolls out the dough, chucks it in the air spinning it round a few times (proper pizza chefs seem to have to do that) and puts it on a shovel into the wood oven, that is to say an oven where the heat is supplied by burning logs at one side of the open-fronted oven. If Frederico is not there there are no pizzas and we can see from our house when he is, by smoke rising up from the oven chimney at about 6.30pm, then we sometimes say, let’s go and get a pizza.
But though the pizzas taste wonderful, there is salt in the dough, possibly a little too much salt for our liking. And the last pizza we had there I asked for one with pancetta on, which turned out to be speck – German salty bacon – I think Frederico might have muddled the orders a bit – and while it was very, very, tasty, I had yet another night getting up several times for a glass of water.
And of course you know you are eating freshly-cooked ingredients, for you can see Frederico kneading and rolling the dough.
Work in the restaurant trade is relentless, as we know from experience, and we wonder how much longer Giampiero can keep it up, he’ll be around sixty and has been complaining of a painful knee for at least five years. Possibly Frederico will take on the business though before he can do that he’ll probably need to find a wife. He’s quite a good-looking chap.
Anyway, on my birthday both Hilary and I chose the same dishes, which is maybe a bit worrying, though we were in agreement without feeling the need to make a point one way or the other. We both started with ravioli stuffed with dried figs, and covered in a sauce of melted sheep-milk cheese with pieces of sundried tomato. This sounds rather odd, and we have never tried it before, and it is a surprisingly wonderful dish. It helps that the ravioli are handmade by Daniela, and are so very light, we suppose it is the years of experience that do that.
To follow, rabbit alla marchigiana. ‘Alla marchigiana’  in this context means cooked in white wine, garlic and rosemary; on each plate was half a roast rabbit cut into three with a light gravy or ‘jus’ as it is sometimes posily called. We have had rabbit in Hotel Farfense before and sometimes found it too salty, but we took a risk and it did not taste too salty, though it probably was as yet again a night of regular water breaks.
To do roast rabbit to order means that you must have pieces of rabbit ready-roasted that you heat before serving, it would take too long to cook from chilled or frozen, even with time to eat a starter. At least I think that’s right, I am ever ready to be surprised. Whether Giampiro buys in the rabbit ready-roasted I don’t know – he might do. It was extremely tender though, so possibly not. In the UK now all rabbit comes from China, unless you breed them yourself or know someone who does. Is that true of Italy too?  It might be, though rabbit is often on the menu in restaurants in Italy so maybe there are rabbit farms. Yet something else to try and find out. 
Giampiero suggested what vegetables we might have with the rabbit, he more or less told us what we should have, which was a plate of roasted potatoes, chopped small before roasting and not oily, quite dry, if I roast potatoes in that way, which I do sometimes, I have difficulty in preventing them from sticking to the dish unless I put enough oil, so I don’t know how Daniela does these, they were very good, and on a separate dish what Giampiero called a ‘meex’, made that day by Daniela. He seemed to be proud of having learned the word, ‘meex’. It was a plate of diced courgette, aubergine and capsicum pepper cooked in a thin sauce that we could not quite identify, it might have been meat-based (vegetarian in Italy means: you’d better stick with pizza) and we thought with rosemary. But tasted very good however Daniela had done it.
That plus a bottle of mineral water and two ridiculously tiny Italian coffees, forty-eight euros. Can’t complain at that, in a decent restaurant.

Sunday, 12 May 2013


Lowestoft is a poor and crumbling town, much poorer and more crumbling that it was in the early 1980s when I owned my house there. It has some industry. You possibly did not know that most if not all of the fish fingers that form the staple of your diet are made in Lowestoft, there's a sizeable Birds Eye factory there that employs about 700 people. The headquarters of an offshore wind turbine company is located there, there's the fisheries research centre, and the docks are active, I'm not sure what is being docked but boats go in and out, and something large is being welded together in the shipyard.
With all of those things Lowestoft in any other country might be thought quite well-endowed, but the high street is shabby, large numbers of people show all the indications of fitting the description of deprived. I guess that there's not enough work for all the population, and much of the work that there is is low-paid, though that is purely speculation, I really don't know why it should look so downmarket.
In Lowestoft I detected that a woman selling bric-a-brac in the - are you ready for this? Benjamin Britten Shopping Centre (he the well-known retail and commerce magnate - you've heard of him I'm sure, Britten was born in Lowestoft)   - I detected from her accent that the woman was Polish so I thought I'd like to know more about her. How did she find herself to be in Lowestoft, blond and smilingly attractive as she was? though I omitted the judgemental part for reasons of shyness. She said she had a British friend whom she came to visit and this friend happened to live in Lowestoft. She was staying with her friend and could find no work in Lowestoft so started up this second-hand junk business. It doesn't make her much money - I'm sure it doesn't - but it gives her something to do - and indeed from my perspective greatly brightens up the rather dreary shopping mall. I didn't want to pry into the nature of her relationship with her friend as that would be nosey, instead I found out that she - the bric-a-brac seller - comes from the south of Poland, near Krakow and Zakopane somewhere, and there isn't much for her there, which unless she were to work in Krakow is no doubt right. I did not feel bold enough to take her email address in order to find out more - probably wisely - but I would still love to know more.
I spoke to another attractive and friendly young woman in Lowestoft - it was worth the trip, obviously - this one dark-haired and English, she was standing outside a shop that sells marginally trendy knick-knacks and on the fascia board there was a sign that said 'Supporting Abstinence Recovery'. Aha! A dreaded gerund slogan for my collection. I was even more pleased I came. It's that word 'supporting', if they hadn't been seduced by that they would probably have made a slogan that makes sense.
The young woman was dressed strikingly in white and drinking a cup of coffee and, to the detriment of both her personal image and that of her organisation, smoking a cigarette. 'Does anyone need to recover from abstinence?' I asked her. She did not get the point of my question and explained that upstairs there was a centre where people come to deal with their drug and alcohol problems and this shop supports that. We had a jolly chat and I said that I must take a photo of the front of the shop, with that slogan that I found so amusing. 'I don't want to be in it?', she laughed. 'Oh why not? Your charm and good sense will be a lovely counter to the shop sign.' One can do this sort of thing so much less self-consciously I find, with grey hair and creases, than when younger, though perhaps that is just me, maybe some have been able to switch it on from adolescence. I expect there are some who could.

Anyway, with the sun in the position it was a picture would have been no good at the time so I told the young woman that she wasn't going to be famous today after all, and I was sorry about that, and I thanked her for the moments and went on my way.  I returned to photograph the shop in the evening, which was better than nothing but not as good as it could have been.