Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Doing craft


I am now wearing a necklace which I’ve made out of shells I found buried in the sand on Itaca Beach. I guess these are the sorts of activities you do when you finally start to relax. It took a couple of hours to thread them, painstakingly, one by one, onto a piece of yarn; time, which, under any other circumstance would be spent panicking that I wasn’t doing something more constructive.

Italy smells rather wonderful. This is something I’ve only just started to realise. There’s an incredibly sensual cologne or perfume that people wear here which makes me go a bit cross-eyed and sleepy; particularly when it’s combined with the aroma of coffee and cigar smoke and the glorious musical cadences of people nattering in Italian. My dream-like state has been further activated by the arrival of the man, who I now know to be called Angelo, with the lowest voice in the world.

We went for supper last night with our new friends, a trio of film makers from Rome. One edits, one directs and one is a screen writer, so they have most aspects of the “behind the camera” process covered! They summer in a rambling house on the hillside above a seaside town along the coast. The house was built by Franca (the screenwriter’s) grandfather in the 1920s. It’s basically three floors of Italian bohemian decadence with roof terraces galore looking out to the sea on one side and the mountains on the other. The house was commandeered by the Nazis in the Second World War, and rumour has it that a German officer is buried underneath a tree in the front garden.

We were joined for the evening by a whole gang of Italian gay people - actors, architects, osteopaths, art dealers - and we had a number of slightly worrying conversations about quite how difficult it is to be gay in the country where the pope lives. Homosexuality here tends to happen behind closed doors. The clubs and bars are all in locations where people can slip in without being seen. Of course the unfortunate consequence of pretending gay people don’t exist is that many married men end up cheating on their wives with other men, people get black-mailed, people live unhappy lives and only the Pope feels truly happy. One of the couples we met last night had got married in Spain; but their union was worthless in the eyes of Italian law. One assumes that the Italians have signed up to various European declarations of human rights, and it will be interesting to see what happens when politics - out of necessity - is forced to start kicking these blatant breaches of human rights - in the name of religion - to touch.

We sat on the terrace behind the house and ate pasta and cheeses at a long trestle table, before retiring to an art-lined sitting room to sing songs around an out-of-tune piano. I don’t know if it’s just the Italians we’ve been meeting, but everyone here appears to love to sing. Perhaps they now have the same impression of the Brits, as Julie, Nathan and I will regularly burst into three part harmony. The great game of today was to lie on lilos on the still choppy sea, and sing rounds as the tide dragged us slowly back to the shore. As we hit the line of breaking waves, the singing and the lilos would disappear into foam, and we’d dissolve into hysterics at the sight of at least one of us being thrown off the lilo and into the whisked-up watery abyss.

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