last moon

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Memories of London - 6



In 1979 I was back on the road to work for the B.B.C., a company that, apart from the initials of its name, had nothing else to share with British state television. In fact, the Brian Brook Company did not afflict people with boring programs, neither it  talked with shameless lies about national and international political events. Finally my Company did not even put its nose in the lives of the Queen and the other members of the Royal Family,  generally speaking.

The company I worked for delighted their customers  by selling ice cream and drinks, logistically relying on a chain’s shop of souvenirs, sweets and tobacco’s  strategically located at several points in the great London area known as West End.

 This vast and famous London metropolitan area, which also includes Soho district and numerous small and large parks, is bordered by a perimeter that runs through the important streets of Oxford Street, Charing Cross Rd, Shaftesbury Av and Regent's Street, forming an irregular trapeze whose four tops pass from Tottenham Court Rd to Oxford Circus; from there to Piccadilly Circus and  finally end at Leicester Square, couple of yards   from Trafalgar Square, where Admiral Nelson's statue, according to the likely intentions of the public authorities who wanted it so powerfully high, witnessed  the  British’s greatness and glory to all those who would walk from there: French people, foreigners  and British from all over the Empire.

 In those years, the greatness and glory of England, after the almost total depletion of the British Empire,  seemed more remote and far from the statue of the great conductor of the seas. And nostalgia, it’s all over known, is a feeling that more acutely manifests itself, when the best times are over and  a crisis is bound to come.

 And that Great Britain was in crisis at the end of the seventies of the twentieth century, it immediately became apparent also to the "street traders" who, living among the people, felt the moods of the average citizen in an emotionally direct way.

 On the street, they felt discomfort and nervousness, though the real troubles were still to come, shortly thereafter, with the irresistible rise to power of the Conservatives headed by Margareth Tatcher (later known as the “Iron Lady"), which would mark the end of a cycle in London's administrative life, characterized by a policy of traditional securing of democratic freedoms and sympathy for the weaker social classes.

Moreover, the English metropolis had represented since the rising of the first music liberation and protest groups (born on the wave of the American Hippies movement, also known as the "beat generation") a decisive cultural reference point, helping to make London the Capital of the Rock Movement, where refugees disappointed by the illusion of the failed revolution of 1968, could find a safe refuge escape from the backflow of the reaction which  had gone through  the whole world.

And it was right there, in London, that they could still see the last glow of brightness before its definite sunset. So, in a good way, I agreed to resume my job and sell ice-creams and drinks in the street. By my side I had a refrigerating machine that turned milk into ice cream and a refreshing machine dispensing orange and lemonade.

Where  else could I work, let alone  the road? And to do what? Maybe to get into some office with air conditioning in the summer, heating in the winter, and the stench of paperwork under my nose? There was no other world for me, now, if not that; no other destiny, no other life I could have wanted, than the free life  of street's traders.

 Returning to the road meant for me to relive from the very beginning my adventure in that mysterious and fascinating city that, unfortunately and superficially, is too often considered cold and inhospitable, considering also that never or almost never come into you get a direct contact with English or British people.


 This story is devoted to London and to the dear places where I have lived in.  But it is also dedicated to all the peoples that those places with such variety and vivacity animated in those years who will pass through the main scene of my story: the streets of London.

6. to be continued...

Monday, August 14, 2017

Momories of London - 5




5.
When the springtime came I decided to search for another job. I was grateful to the pizza’s factory ‘cause they gave me the chance to start a new life in London but I needed to change.
 I needed to stay at open air and I started walking on the streets, aimless, enjoying the people going on, the shops, the parks and all the life which ordinarily goes by.
One day, along  Oxford Street, in one of those tourist’s shops which sell with sweets a lot of Londoner’s souvenirs, I saw a notice like they were looking for staff. I got in and questioned the boss. It was not for his farm, he said, but for another firm which used his entrance for selling fresh ice-creams and drinks, made by personal machines on the place.
He gave me a phone number. After the interview and a three day training , just to learn how to use the machines for making ice-cream (an Italian made Carpigiani) and properly clean it, I started working on one of the pitches they had placed exactly where the shop chain had its selling points.
I was happy to stay finally outside and the weather was  nice and mild. The wages increased as the hot season advanced, so I could save some money to go away, may to India or to Mexico, who knows?
I met a lot of good people staying outside.  Susy, who introduced me to some English poets and her friend Angie, a nice, blond, blue eyes girl.
But not even her kindness could prevent my departure ‘cause nobody can stop the will of leaving, the desire of traveling, the search of someone’s way.
After the summer season, I decided to leave.
In that time I was profoundly fascinated by the Indian culture. I went through the reading of several books like Hermann Hesse's Siddharta, The Indian Upanishads and Tagore's poems.  As a matter of fact I had a lot of confusion into my mind but when you fall in love with something you easily lose your reason. So I thought that I had to go there, where the quintessence of spirituality resided.
In  a certain way it occurred to me  what happened to the great traveler Cristobal Colon: as he did, I landed to America while searching for India.

After wandering for six months between Miami, Panama, Caracas and Bogotà I was back to London, as I’ll count to the patient reader hereinafter. 


6. to be continued...

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Memories of London - 4


4.
At that time I felt like a stone in a river. I rolled by as the water flowed down. And if the river was dry, I stood still, waiting for the rain to come.
To be raised in a large family, had taught me, at least, to survive trying to be invisible and escape or fight at the right time.
I became a close friend to Erminio and  all his friends became also my friends.
Franco had a wonderful girlfriend, half Italian and half French. They had a nice flat in West Hampstead (or it might have  been in Finchley Road), where we often were invited for diner. We had clever conversation, while dining.
But mostly we  spent the evenings smoking and listening to music. My thought flew in the air following the guitars’ sounds of blues songs or twisting happily around rock’s riffs of skilful fingers. Then I soared over the world and I thought there were spaces for my soul to be discovered or detected, somewhere in the world .
Then I would abandon myself to the currents of the wind like a wingshed bird, hoping to applaud in a timeless land where my soul could dine for ever.
There must be such a land somewhere ! I dreamed of that, evening by evening, day by day, night after night! I didn’t dream of money  or richness assumed that I had enough to live through. I was spirit more than flesh in those days. I had a vacuum to fill up but I didn’t know how.
There were a lot of people, coming and going in that place, at any time. Though Franco and his girlfriend could be considered a conventional, may be even a bourgeois couple, they were very opened mind and always ready to add a dish at their table or to open a bed in the guest’s room for anyone who might enter in their house.
Once Marco came with a girl. A nice one, named Susanna or Simona, I can’t remember now. She was supposed to be his girlfriend, for they said were going to get married. Nevertheless, after diner, she wanted to make a dance for us; a sensual dance, so sensual it was that afterwards she took off even the last of her clothes, looking wonderful as her mother had made her. I enjoyed that very much but I knew she was Marco’s girlfriend and anyway I thought since then that making sex was a matter of  love and affection, not just a carnal contingency. There was also a friend of Franco’s  (named such as Rocco, or some similar name) watching that sort of Salome’s dance. He didn’t see the thing like I did and so made some rude advances with Marco’s girlfriend, assuming she was looking or provoking for something. He totally  misunderstood that strange behavior. He never showed up again in the house, after that. 
Another friend  of   Franco’s came one day, along with his girlfriend, from the wonderful Liguria land. This was a better one; a man of  good spirit, a searching soul, like I was. I'll name him later on in the story.We sympathized immediately.

He  handled some books of Carlos Castaneda to me. They were three books.
I fell in love with those three books. They spoke of the initiation of a young Western intellectual by an Indian wizard, somewhere in the Sierra Madre’s mountains of Mexico.
Though they are called Huichol, they called themselves “The people walking with the Gods” because so they feel through the ingestion  of a green mushroom, called  peyote, which contains a lot of mescaline, a powerful hallucinogen.
We spent a lot of time, talking about these books and planning to go to Mexico together. He also talked to me about a book he knew very well:  Aldous Huxley’s The Doors of Perception. But he told me he never wanted to take LSD, because it was a chemical substance, and as a such,  he didn’t trust it. He wanted to go to the desert land of central Mexico, where those mushrooms grew. May be it’s thanks  to him if I never wanted to tried LSD or other chemical stuff that in those times were in vogue among young people. May be he was the river that moved the stone that I was in a certain direction, instead of another. But he never reached Mexico. He died in a strange way, somewhere in Italy, though I knew it when I came my back from my trip to  America.

4. to be continued...

Friday, August 4, 2017

Memories of London - 3

Working upside of the factory meant an improvement of my mood.
At least I had multiple company.
The Egiptyan guys made a club on their own but the Italians, were an open group.
They were all friendly and nice though outside the factory they had different acquaintances on their own.
There were really some special characters among them.
Arturo, for instance, looked like he were  out of his mind. And actually he was.
Someone told me he had taken too much of lysergic acid ( I never knew if it had been a wrong pill or taking too many pills on the going  time, which got him out of tune for ever).
He worked hardly, nonetheless. he was a sort of stakanovist worker, cause it seemed that his mind could only see the job, with no distraction at all. Only he seemed out of context, except for the strict connections in the chain production.
- "Trolley"- he used to shout very often, showing he needed more pizzas to get inside the oven.
He was a thin, spirited man with hallucinated eyes, almost out of their orbits. He wore a long pendoulos earring which had extended his right lobe;he had small teeth with smoked stains that he showed all the time in a strange, almost silly smile. I never heard him make a meaningful speech though he was still nice and jovial with everybody.He appeared to be happy, but of that kind of happiness producede by the vacuum of your mind.
Also Natale was a kind boy but in a different way. Although he was smoked all the time he never failed a reasoning and was  very brilliant and emphatic in conversation. Like Arturo he had different acquaintances outside the factory. He had two great loves: motobikes and smoke. They have led him to the end too soon.
Erminio and Marco instead were very close friends. They were both from Rome though, as I discovered in the following, they had knew each other in London and showed up to be a very different characters. Marco was a tall and slouching figure, with sweet, brown  eyes and very calm manners; Erminio was quiet a low man, yet strong and well proportionated; he had a clever, quick look in his eyes; he showed to be a nice rogue later on.
Franco was the third good Italian friend of theirs. He was from  Genoa or may be from some other place in Liguria. It was he who told me, later on, when we became close friends, that they had thought I was escaping from someone or something, since I had that long, thick beard and did not talk to anyone but old Jim downstairs.
Marco was the first who approached me, a couple of days after ascending the factory's floor.
- "Do you want to take part to Erminio's present for his next birthday?- he asked me at lunch time.
-" Yes, of course, I do!"- I answered nodding. In my shyness I was happy someone was talking to me.
-" Very pleased!" - he added. " I'll let you know your share. We're going to ask Natale for a small hashish quantity or some green grass. He likes very much smoking good stuff and Natale he's a good pusher"- he added  keep on managing for his lunch. 
- "Do you want a pizza for yourself?" - he asked after a while.
- "Yes, thanks; it's very kind of you!"
He was very skillful handling upside.
After a couple of days, when it was supposed to be the Erminio's anniversary, I asked Marco how much money I had to give for the common present. He smiled at me and told me Natale didn't want any money for a good piece of black pakistani he had presented to Erminio himself.
- " Why don't you come alone this evening? We have a party in my place, for Erminio, 'you know?"
He gave me the adress and I decided to go. Though I was not interested in smoking (as a matter of fact I   had never smoked at all any other thing but cigarettes) I decided to go to the party. 
When I arrived it seemed the party was already going at his top. A girl opened the door and I only said "Erminio", or some words with it. She let me in with a smile and told me to follow her. I entered a large room. There were a lot of people over there. It was all much unconventional, with people sat on the floor or lying in the carpet which occupied the centre of the room. Every body was drinking, smoking  and  laughing. I could not see Marco or anyone known. The girl who had introduced me told she was going  upstairs. I notice some going up and down from the stairs.  I took a sit in a sofa closed by the central carpet.
There was a lot of smoke inside and a pleasant yet tough smell. All around  I could see some people passing each other a strange cigarette.
Everyone, after aspiring deeply once or twice,  passed it away to the next, often   without looking at; it was a mechanical gesture, though all the rest seemed so spantaneous and natural.
I wondered if I was also going to  be passed it and what  would do in that case.
Without thinking too much on it I decided to do as the others. It was not way to break the chain and there was no reason to do differently.
After smoking in that voluptous and fast way I've already tried to describe I start hearing a soft music an the background; I also could hear a cheerful murmur of voices that I didn't heard before.
I started focussing around me; I could realize and appreciate some particulars did not noticed before: the dress colors; some  funny expressions of face; strange movements of the bodies on the carpet; tune of voices; but all in astounding way, as if everything was slowed by a camera.
I felt my throat was dry and I decided to go upstairs; I was hoping to find my friends and something to drink. I found both things upstairs.
"Come and see Erminio"- told me Marco after serving a frsh glass of beer.
We went to a small sleeping room; there were two bunk beds at the side of the room; I sat in  the lower right bed. In front of me I saw Erminio; he cheered me laughing and gave me to light a smoking thing he had in his hands: - This is from Natale, 'you know? Can you light for me, please?"
So I did, and I passed it straight to him after  a quick shot.
Then I lay in the bed. I woke up the  day after, which  was a saturday. I only remember a lot of laughing and a great sleep. 

3. to be continued...

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Memories of London - 2

The next Monday I started working for Emilio’s Pizza Factory. The factory was set in Farringdon, East London, somewhere in Smithfield Rd, if I’m not wrong. We made packaged pizzas for big markets, Sainsbury, Tesco, things like that, if you know what I mean. The staff was all made by a small group of Egyptian Copts, a bunch of Italian guys, an old Portuguese named Pinto (who was often kidding the Egyptians in a mixed of Portuguese and   English but  spoken  with marked Iberian pronunciation ) and a retired old Easter Londoner, who was able to mark with  three or four fucking  a speech of five or six words. It was him that I first started with my job that Monday of August 1977. Our duty was to cut the cheddar cheese (which took the place of Italian soft mozzarella in packaged pizzas, and not only, as I quickly learned in London) and send it upstairs, through the lift.
-“ Fuck you, and fucking shut, ‘you know, the fucking door!” he used to shout from
underground space, in order to call the elevator and send the cheese up.
The cheese was kept in a large fridge, down there. Old Jim (that was his name) didn’t allow me to get in the fridge. He did, all the time. It was stocked in big packages of fifty pounds. We were busy on cutting them, by means of wooden handles sharp iron,  on strict, long  slices to be shred in the electric grater before to be sent upstairs on big plastic hampers.

Upstairs there was the production chain.
In a large electric mixer they put flour, yeast, salt and water. After an hour and a half the kneading was ready. Then it had to be pressed to obtain a plain leaf from which they made a circles of five inches diameter. With a trolley they had taken and put in the oven for about ten, fifteen minutes. With the same trolleys, after the baking,  a boy took them
on the assembly chain where the round pizza was flavored with tomatoes juice, cheese and some spices ( besides the plain pizza, we made mushroom and yellow or red pepper’s). In the end we put a brown preservative powder (the only ingredient we avoid when, at lunch time, we made our own pizzas). Finally they were wrapped in cellophane with the seller’s mark, and good appetite.
We went on that way from height  a.m. till 4 p.m..
At that time I had a thick beard and I talked to none, a part those few words with Jim, needed for unroll the work.
When later, I made friendship with the Italian colleagues, they  confess had thought I was a sort of fugitive man, hiding himself to escape from someone or something.
As a matter of fact I was just escaping from myself, and  I was too shy and insecure to make friendship easily.
After a couple of months I asked the boss to go upstairs and he wanted to please me.

2.     To be continued…

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Memories of London - 1



1.

The first time I went to London it was in 1977. A long time ago. I still remember the day I landed at Heathrow airport. It was the day Elvis Presley died. I remember from my bus, in the endless one which was to lead me to Victoria Station (according to my ticket bus), the supporter’s march in honor of the great song singer from Memphis. They held in their hands signs of their idol: “Elvis will never die” or “Elvis forever”, “You still live in our hearts” and things like that.
I was a young man full of hope and sorrow, at that time. I was going to London to forget an unrequited  love; or maybe I was just searching for something I had not found yet.
I had at present left my university’s studies, with no money, no job, no love at all. Lonely as a stone can be.
I had not been really very fond of Elvis; surely much more of Jimy Hendrix; Elvis was a too controversial myth at my eyes; a great singer of course, I wouldn’t say he was not; but sometimes I felt like he had been exploited by the American industry of success; that kind of business able to create (and also destroy, if they wanted) any kind of myth, any kind of star; ‘you know? That sort of star’s system victim like Marylin Monroe or James Dean. I was quite a critic of capitalism at that time.
But indeed I had already too many problems by my own to be a critic of anything.
I only had an address on my pocket, of a friend of mines who had previous gone to London and I was in contact with. Through this friend I was introduced in an Italian Grocery, in King’s Cross Road. I’ve recently there. Where the shop was there’s now only an insignia, covered by dust, left. I found good help in there. A friend of the owner, a good marchigian guy who sold Italian hams, cheese and other special Italian food, found me a job in a pizza’s factory, somewhere in Farringdon Rd. And George himself, I mean the marchigian shopper, found me a place to sleep in: a room in Keystone Crescent, just around the corner his shop, where I was charged with 5 pound fee per week while in the factory my first wage was a good 40 weekly wage’s pounds .
Not too bad for a beginner.

1.     To be continued…

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Money, health and law

As anybody else I have suffered watching Charlie Gard's hospital pictures.
 Who can say what kind of world there is behind those closed eyes?
And why does he tight so strongly his little hands?
Nevertheless I wondered, as a man and as a lawyer, why his life was going to be stopped against his parent's will.
The High Court's sentence has given me the right answer.
 The GOSH (Great Ormond Street Hospital) made an application  to the High Court in order to know if it were lawful for the hospital to withdraw the expensive  artificial machines which keep Charlie alive. 
The doctors  say in their application that any  decision would be taken, as in the past,  in the best interest of the little boy. 
But still the same question rose on my head: why against the Charlie's parents? 
Why don't they have a say in their boy's life? 
Well, though the good Mr Justice Francis has tried to overlook the issue, I must say that the real origin of the whole affair is the money. 
As a matter of fact if Mr Gard and his wife Connie had had the money to pay the Charlie's expensive treatments, then the hospital would have never applied the High Court. 
They can now mix the cards otherwise but since the beginning it was a matter of money.
And when Charlie's parents rose a fund to transfer their son in USA it was too late:  the voice of law had already spoken.
Nobody would have allowed to make such an application to High Court if little Charlie was not kept alive with the National Health Security's money!
And the bitter truth can't be hidden anymore: You can live only if you the money for! If you can't afford it, you may surely die! In the name of justice!
I'm not saying the High Court's sentence was unfair or, in some way, wrong. That's not the point! It has even appointed a Guardian in the interest of Charlie,  though it was clearly  against the parent's will! And the reasons of the sentence were well balanced; and even drenched of human compassion.
We may talk a long while about euthanasy or about the fair ethic of keeping a live attached to an artificial machine's treatment, but I underlined once again that this is not the focus in Charlie's affair. 
The justice has been promoted in the name of the public interest: with that money we can save more other lives, likely to be saved more than little poor Charlie's.
But how many kind of lives do exist? Are we making a range in the right of living? And wher do we put the equality principle in this heartbreaking affair?
It's difficult to answer only one of these questions. But we cannot hide the truth behind a finger: the law, in this case, has taken the supremacy against life because the lack of money; the poor has been crushed under the obscure formulas of law.
I hope the law finds the courage to step back. 
If they don't want  God saying the  last word, I hope they leave Charlie's parents decide about their own flesh.