Eagle eyed followers may have noticed I am throwing myself into project-Suey-makeover with zeal. After all, if you don't *look* sick, you can't *be* sick, right?
I have positioned myself in the path of every sun ray that has sparkled through the Italian clouds, baking myself like a pasta al forno. I have had odd but quite pretty gel nails plopped and moulded onto my broken, split stumps. I have forced myself back into heels to get my flobbity legs a little less flobbity.
But yesterday, I went to a Genius hairdresser for what I called an Uma-Thurman-Surf-Girl-Bob. Getting this across in a foreign language requires a large degree of fluency I was rather proud of.
Amusingly, we did the "Are you here on your holidays?" "Have you got kids?" convo which is the pre-requisite of hair appointments the world over, and then, to complete the standard patter "What do you do?"
I said I was a writer. He asked what I wrote and I said "politics and stuff" breezily, like you do when blogger/activist/scourge of government is a little too much info.
Suddenly, we went from speak-slowly-to-the-poor-afflicted-foreigner to setting the world to rights and I re-adjusted my Italian to "proper-chat" mode.
As all Italians do, he asked with a cringe what I thought of Berlusconi. I laughed and kept things light, saying only the Italians could re-elect a mafia associate with a penchant for multiple young porn stars for the best part of three decades. I added however, that at least they knew where they stood with him - in the UK we get mafia posing as nice, upstanding Christian Lords of the Manor - then feign to be shocked when they shaft us.
This is usually the required response in any Italian chat about politics. A curious mix of searing shame and niggling pride in a system that is staggeringly corrupt, but with enough style to be admirable.
But he didn't smile, didn't tap the side of his nose and grin that Berlusconi was indeed "furbo" ( a wonderful Italian word that sort of means "I'll shaft you over breakfast but you'll almost enjoy it")
Nope, he launched into a 40 minute treatise on how the world could be, how it should be, that was so thoughtful, so bang on the Euro, that I felt it worth reproducing here :
"Ah the Euro - what a joke that turned out to be eh? The minute times got tough, suddenly the French were the French again, the Italians the Italians, the Germans the Germans. No central bank, no unity, just "pull up the gangplank and look out for yourselves". It was a joke, an absolute joke. United Europe? Yeah right, a bit of a crisis and unity was just a memory.
Not like the US. However bad things got there, they were the United States. Stronger together, wealthier states in exactly the same boat as poorer ones. But we weren't united were we? We dropped the poor Greeks like hot coals, hid our money under the mattresses and looked the other way.
I'm not just an Italian!! I'm a citizen of Europe - no I'm a citizen of the world!!! If we'd all just remembered that, there would be no more crises would there? But people don't like change. Didn't the politicians realise it would take another 100 yrs to truly unite? Maybe 200?"
I mused on how the Germans must have felt, pumping Euros into a failing system in what must have seemed and endless stream, trying to fill a black hole that could never be filled. I laughed that their love of rules and saving and growth must have seemed a bit pointless - galling even.
But, even more serious, he pulled me up.
"Hmmm, it's not so long they've followed the rules though is it?? What happens when one group of people believe they are better? Stronger? Cleverer? Have we really forgotten so soon? Do we really believe it can't happen again? That a group with all the power won't try to hold it over the weaker - or those they believe to be weaker, simply because they value different things?"
"People are dying today as they died then - is there really very much difference?"
I started to like this guy very much. He was right. I've been saying similar things in a microcosm of our own free-for-all political massacre for a while now.
"It's just so EASY" he spluttered, through a mouthful of hair combs ( challenging my linguistic fluency still further.) "All we had to do was pull together, not pull apart, we had to care for each other, not blame the weak or the poor. Did we feed our older neighbours? Did we support our fellow man to keep his business or his home? Did we pool our money and our resources and our talents to make things better?? No, we hid in our cellars, stashing our wine and our mushrooms, (it's an Italian thing, bear with me) hoping the storm would hit others and pass."
"But it's always the same. We don't think about the African children dying for want of the food we waste do we? Not as long as our own children can eat. When will we do this? When will we ever learn that we cannot live this life alone, like islands?"
He has a point or two, don't ya think??