Alla Spiaggia

To the beach ! July 2nd was the last time we went. Since then we have had cloud and rain but  the forecaster promised a “un po’ di bel tempo ” “a bit of summer” and so we took a chance. Seems it will all fall to pieces again on Sunday.

This was our bit of beach on July 2nd

Beach July 2nd

 

That was our umbrella so way in the distance was another person.  Now you can imagine there has been a little pent up demand from holiday makers who came to enjoy a beach vacation. This was the same bit today.

Beach 24 July

 

Most of the beach has gone in the storms of the last 2 weeks which made finding a spot even more exciting. For the Italians of course this was finally paradise. Everyone on top of everyone else, beach chair to beach chair, umbrella touching umbrella. They were in seventh heaven.  Let’s turn our music up and share it with everyone was the order of the day. Let the dog loose ( strictly forbidden on the beach of course but hey rules are for breaking) everyone will love him like we do. Get the beach tennis set out there’s no room  here but people will love us playing over their reclining bodies won’t they. Oh a football lets stand 100 metres from each other and kick it as hard as we can to each other. Whoops, well I’m sure the kid will recover.

Billboard voted this “Best Summer Song Ever” this year.

We were Italian though in buying focaccia for lunch at the local bakery on the way down

Forcacia I was sitting so close to an Italian that he took a bite out of my piece as you can see. He said it was good so that was okay.

Here is Gordon making focaccia the Bari way with toms and rosemary and not a swear word in sight.

I saw a birthday card the other day with a woman on the front of the card kneading bread and saying ” god this is so boring no wonder Gordon swears so much.”

Eating focaccia on the beach is very Italian and almost everyone brings it or buys it from the lido bar.

Well it didn’t cloud over as they forecast nor did it rain at 1600hrs either. In fact the sun was out all day and tans were topped up, Italian children got to strengthen their lungs screaming at the top of their voices, dogs barked in unison with them, food was served, beer drunk, conversations shouted between two people sitting not 1 metre from each other, mobile phones bellowed into to tell Mamma all about it ( the guys ) or the neighbour what she was missing by not coming too ( the gals) . Bodies were rubbed with suntan oil, couples cuddled on one bedchair, almost not a single book was read by an Italian but all went home happy from a great day at the beach. Roll on August they all said then it will be even more crowded. Oh the joy. Let’s bring six bats to play tennis next time.

Moving Shop

 

Some people of course had to work and this guy carries his shop up and down the beach everyday. He actually seems to do quite well selling to the crowd. The Africans on the beach do less well as most are selling beads. Didn’t we take them there in the first place ? Anyway now they are bringing them back for us to buy but we are probably as disinterested as their ancestors were.

 

 

 

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Paestum

I popped into Villa Castelli today to visit  the barber’s for an haircut.

IMG_0014

The place was busy and the locals were chatting away about the most important subject of the day. It wasn’t the reforms of Renzi that interested them as Rome is a long way away and in the main of little consequence to them. The reform of the Senate merely induces yawns from everyone. It wasn’t the rather pleasing fact that Uber the phone app booked taxis have arrived in Rome causing the usual protests by official taxi drivers and the ubiquitous Italian union solution to every threat to their price controlled competition free  status quo, a strike.

Actually just staying on that subject for a moment, Uber started just a few weeks ago having already stirred the market up in Milan. They are seeing double digit growth figures each week and have just launched some amazingly competitive taxi fares to and from the Rome airports. The taxi union is having kittens because the airports originally promised they would not allow them in showing that luddism even exists in a more modern airport environment. However they then did a 180 on the union.

It will come as no surprise to my brother in law Dick that Rome taxi drivers are rated bottom of the all the European continental countries for customer service, knowledge and friendliness.  They are also the most expensive taxi drivers in Italy apart from Milan so you can see how Uber target cities now.

No the subject everyone wanted to talk about was the weather and the storm that swept through in the early hours of this morning dropping 3 inches of rain on my house alone.

Yesterday morning after that memorable breakfast we went to Paestum ruins via the railway station.

Train Arrives

If you are in Naples or Salerno the train service to Paestum is excellent and the station a 5 minute walk from the ruins so amazingly convenient too.

Paestum Gate

From the station you walk through this old gate and down to the ruins.

 

Paestum is one of the world’s best kept secrets and the local council seem determined to keep it that way. There are many articles by distinguished archaeologists bemoaning the fact that so little is done to improve facilities or even let the world know it is there. the comune on the other hand make their money from the fly or drive flop brigade that arrive in their droves in June/July/August. They are easier to please, and require almost no outlay by the local citizens.

Paestum was built by the Greeks in 600 B.C.   who named it Poseidonia after the Greek god Poseidon ( the Roman god Neptune). They built a town there and  three temples.

in 273B.C. the area now run by the Lucans after the Greeks left was invaded by Romans and taken. The Romans renamed it Paestum..

As a result of deforestation on the hills surrounding the town the rivers that ran to the sea silted up and the area became a marshy swamp. Malaria became rampant and the population that didn’t succumb to disease left the old town and moved off up the hill.

The Greek and Roman town disappeared into the swamp and was covered over by vegetation .

It was not until the 18th Century when excavations began at Pompeii that archeologists began to also look for this lost town and began to excavate.

They were amazed to find the three temples almost intact and in far better condition than the parthenon in Athens or anywhere else in the Mediterranean .

Big Boy

 

This is the Temple to Poseidon built in 450 B.C. and is the biggest of the three.  The photo is taken from the roadway that runs along the site and from which you can saunter down snapping all the various finds without paying a single penny. The amphitheatre for example has the road where the stage should be so you are right in it.

In 1957 further excavations uncovered the Roman town built close to the Greek site. Pathe News covered it though on this clip the sound was lost.

 

I always say when there can you imagine if this had been found in say Arizona, what kind of tourist trap would it be.

Indeed Paestum reminds me of Stonehenge 30 years ago when you pulled off the A330 parked on a grass verge, strolled around the site, sat on a few of the stones for a photo and to both drink your hot chocolate from a thermos flask and eat your cheese and tomato sandwich. Then back in the car and on to Devon for your real holiday.

Just think this picture above was taken yesterday the 22nd of July, high season, on a cloudy but as yet dry day when most people were at a loose end and  just after midday.

What can you see ? Three people that’s all wandering in and around the huge temple. I wonder what the Parthenon in Athens ( which incidentally you can’t get close to anymore) looked like at the same time yesterday or Pompeii ?

I always park alongside a bar just a 2 minute walk from the first temple. Cappuccino there is still €1 a cup . What do you reckon a cappuccio is that close to Pompeii and good luck drinking what the Greeks might give you that they call cappuccino.

It is alway nice because guests you take see the first temple and if you haven’t explained the place they assume that is what you have bought them to see. Wow they go fantastic and start taking loads of pictures. Because of trees the other two are not seen from the first. Then you walk them on and past the line of trees they see the monster in front of them. Their faces are always a picture.

The heavens then opened and the drive back to Martina Franca started.

 

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Meteo Peggiore

Weather worse

Worse Weather

Rain till August is the latest forecast .

We drove to Paestum yesterday afternoon and arrived there at 6 p.m. . I had booked an el cheapo hotel on line as it was high season. Most hotels were over €150 and many over €200 reflecting the height of summer. The weather had been threatening all the way to Potenza and once over the mountains the heavens opened .

However just after we arrived at the Hotel Clorinda a storm of biblical proportions struck. The noise was intense and the rain came in waves almost as if the sea itself was throwing itself at the area.

We checked in and went to the cupboard the hotel believed was a room and decided not to bother unpacking. Maybe 2 nights is going to be too long here given the weather and the fact that noise wise we were sharing our room with the lovely Italian woman next door who was on the phone to Mamma and the four girls on the other side who were having an interesting and what they thought was a private conversation about the boys on the floor below.

Time for a beer I said and we headed down to the hotel bar on the ground floor. It was under 2 inches of water. It seems that when they built the hotel nobody thought about drains and the only drains were merely soak aways. Well with 4 inches of rain in minutes there was no time to soak away and in it came.

Kindly one of the mopping staff left her brush to serve us beers and then returned to the job in hand. A family of three Somali quickly joined in and did an amazing job.

Mopping Out

and quite soon as the rain helpfully also stopped progress was made as I encouraged their efforts from the bar stool

Mop Mop

More Mooping

Once the fun was over and a huge wet carpet was left with the accompanying smell we moved to the small local bar almost opposite. The friendly lady owner was discussing the weather with a couple of 60 something locals. Neither could remember a July like this one. Never they said in our life time have we seen rain in July. Maybe the odd drop but day after day never.

An excellent meal at a new find in Paestum The il principe pescatore locanda da luca and we returned to our cupboard for the night. Our room guests stayed chatting till gone midnight but the grappa did it’s trick and I left them to it and fell asleep. By the way our meal was nothing like the top review ( click on the blue type). Ours was barely €40 but we had a house wine which was in fact very good.

By 8.30 a.m. our friendly room guest was back on the phone to Mamma in Milano and clearly to have her voice carry had to shout. So my shower was spent listening to her telling Mum about the breakfast they were going to have. The four or five girls  sleeping seemingly in our room were out for the count.

Breakfast can only be described as, well how can I put this as kindly as I can,  revolting though as the rain came down it was good to see all the optimistic Italians wearing their beach gear in the dining room. Bikini’s have always been the clothing of choice for inside dining. Mind you maybe they had bought nothing else. Still some of them did take my mind off the machine made coffee.

I returned to the machine to get some hot water to try the tea instead and the thing rumbled burped a few times and then seemed almost to up chuck. The result in my full cup was a mix of hot chocolate, coffee and water. We left the others to the fine dining and checked out. At check out was the male member of the water bailing Somali family. the manager rightly was heaping praise on him and his two girls for the job they had done. Free drinks he offered. Don’t drink said the man and the girls are too young. Free food at lunch and dinner was the next offer. Okay said the guy . I’ve never felt so sorry for someone in my life.

Time to find  the train station. More tomorrow.

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Still No Summer

Well our ferryman  bringing summer only stayed a day and tomorrow normal service is resumed and we go back to rain and yet more rain

Weather

We head off to Paestum ( just down from Salerno on the West coast ) this week to meet up with our son so will blog from there when we arrive.

With this weather it is little wonder it is much quieter here this year. Last night the bar in Galante normally full of foreign tourists at this time of year was empty neither foreign nor North Italians in attendance . One felt quite sorry for the staff sitting around.

On the radio this morning the D.J. had a guy from Il Meteo the weather website and was asking him what had gone wrong with summer this year. Missing was the best he could come up with. Unstable conditions since April it seems due to the Balkan low. Boy we have a lot to blame them for.

Well Rory won the Open by a couple of strokes bur what a great day. Sky Italia actually had great coverage for a change. Golf is not high on their list of key sports and they tend to go to advertisements just when things get interesting. Normally one is on the edge of the seat as the player needing to make a putt steps up to the ball and off they go to a load of promos for their various shows. You return either with the player looking dejected or elated but you never see the putt. However we were even treated to the closing ceremony this time.

We pay €49 a month for all the sports channels, all the series like Scott and Bailey, The Good Wife, Throne of Spades, Broadwalk Empire, The History Channel etc and all the News channels. I have often looked to stream stuff in on the computer and then play it on the TV but with internet charges here so high and restrictive in terms of downloads it is cheaper to have Sky at the moment.

Spotify are now in Italy and Spotify premium is €9.90 a month so we have plenty of music as well.

What a lovely piece of music and did you see the conductor’s face as they went into the intermezzo, the pure delight on his face. I have never seen someone enjoy it so. He is Lim Kek tjiany an Indonesian Chinese and the orchestra is Taiwanese.

Well I’m off to celebrate Rory’s win. See you in Paestum.

 

 

 

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Airlines

Painting chairs and the demands of my new Italian homework kept me off the boards for the last couple of days. Well and the odd glance at the Open golf  on Sky Italia to be honest. Exciting stuff.

The Alitalia Etihad deal grinds on . If you remember Etihad have demanded all cost saving measures including salary cuts and 2,100 redundancies be completed before they take over and Alitalia has been meeting with the unions all week. Predictably the pilots union has walked out telling the other unions to find more savings to protect the pilots from any cut.

My father was a pilot but I have to say that during my time with British Airways I came across some amazing stuff from these professionals and their militant  union.

BA at one time had cargo aircraft and as a cost saving removed the steward whose only job was to serve the two flight crew a meal and soft drinks. I was based in Dubai as a traffic officer and the first cargo only without a steward came through. The new crew joined in Dubai and I went out with the flight plan and weight and balance. I also had the chit for the two meals we had put on board. Sign these please Captain. What’s this he asked picking out the meal chit. I told him. I’m not signing it he said it is not in our agreement. We need more money to sign this. I kid you not. They were already getting more money for having to serve themselves their meal.

I said I would sign it and he said he would not accept my signature as the meals were in the oven in the small galley and  he would not get up to check if they were really there. Impasse. I phoned his flight manager in London. He in turned called his boss and he his. We waited . Balpa the union were phoned by the pilots and the flight was delayed indefinitely. 24 hours later a new agreement was thrashed out and the pilots got more money for signing the chit. 28 hours later the flight took off for Singapore.

Of course all the papers here are full of MH17. Robert Mark who edits the Aviation International News has done some work on the idea that MH17 was 300 miles off it’s normal course and therefore right over the war zone. He has looked back at the Flightaware website that tracks in real time all aircraft using their transponders.

All the previous MH 17 flights over the last 20 days have tracked much further south.

MH 17 flight paths_0

Mh have denied this but there is a belief that the pilot either was trying to save fuel or maybe drifted a little.

We spent 10 weeks last winter in Malaysia and were there when MH370 disappeared. As is my wont I was in a bar in Penang and learnt more about the way things are run in Malaysia and as a National Carrier at MH. I print here an extract :-

It is a pleasant place in that everyone sits at two long tables and eats and drinks. A stall dispenses hot noodle soup with some unknown “fresh” fish in it and a friendly Chinese Malaysian dispenses beer from an efficient fridge. It means you get to chat to a variety of locals mainly over the age of 50 years. That is because in their wisdom in the early 1980′s the then ruling coalition decided to do away with teaching English in schools having already in the 1970s decided to do away with the teaching of all subjects in English. The result has been of course that Malaysia has plummeted down the league scale for English fluency ever since. They have reinstated English as a lesson but the majority of youngsters struggle with the language.

Last night I sat next to a Tamil Malay born here in 1962 just around the corner from the bar. His name was Sam and he runs a small car rental business in the big tourist area of Batu Ferranghi a few clicks up the road. He was fluent in English and told me how he had insisted on English as the language at home to help his son also become fluent. His son is a micro biologist having managed to get into a government university as part of the 10% of non Malays allowed entry. He however wasn’t able to find a job in the sector here through the quota system  and had now moved to Singapore where he was earning enough money to help Sam and his wife out by sending 1,500 ringit ( £300) a month back home for them. He had joined the Malaysian brain drain.

The bar is of course Chinese and Tamil in make up as the Malays are forbidden alcohol but they all seemed to think Malaysia was beginning to look very bad on the world stage.

Mention was made of 6/3/1 on several occasions in the bar and I asked what that referred to. Quota for jobs was the reply. 10 jobs available then 6 must be given to Malays, 3 to Chinese and 1 to Tamil or others. But I stuttered that is discrimination pure and simple . Yes they replied.

Intrigued I did some research today  on the causes of this and the big one is the NEP or National Economic Plan launched in 1970 following the race riots of 1969. So some quick facts;

Malaysia is made up of 54.8% Malays or Bumipura as they like to be called, 24.1% Chinese, 7.2% Tamil and 12.9% others. However at Independence in 1957 the Bumipura had just 2% of the wealth of the country. This was because they tended to live in Kampongs and had happily stayed an agricultural society. The British had first bought in Chinese to do the work needed to run the country and then the Tamils.

Belatedly The Brits during the run up to independence started to involve the Malays more and started an affirmative action plan . This continued after independence but with little effect culminating in the race riots.  NEP brought in quotas for jobs, university places, schools, and businesses designed to bring Malays into the body of the country by 1990 when the NEP was to be abolished.  However 1990 came and went and the quotas remained.

Malaysian politics make the Italian system look dead easy to understand. I spent all day on my bed chair in the sun trying to make sense of all the coalitions etc without any success. But basically the political parties are all based on race and certainly at their conferences aren’t wildly complementary to the other peoples of the country.

I read loads of articles by Ooi Kee Beng who heads up the South East Asia Studies group and he often makes the comparison between NEP and the old South African apartheid system as similar in objective. He continues  that such racial discrimination where  things like jobs, social security and housing benefits etc are decided by race not by need or ability actually leaves the Malays with a sense of entitlement that in the long run does them and the country no good and leads to  the brain drain and resentment that is happening now.

Malays do not need to take A levels to get into to University but a more simple truncated exam, professors often resign from universities when faced with having to pass them for degrees. They get reserved jobs and are at the top of the pile for new ones. Imagine the outcry if when Gordon Brown talked about British jobs for British people he really meant only Protestant Anglo Saxon British people . Would Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg be doing business with such a country ? Well they are with Malaysia

Where the quota system is really enforced is, of course, in government departments and it is sobering to think that Malaysian Airlines is government owned. Yes it is on the stock exchange but the main investors are the States of Malaysia. Any loss is born by the tax payer and they have been losing considerable sums for years. So are the people at the top of Malaysian Airlines really the best people in Management and making key decisions? How do they sort things like flightcrew seniority and engineering excellence given the 6/3/1 quota ? I don’t know but they seem worthwhile questions . Is the man with four stripes sitting in the cockpit the best man for the job or merely selected on the quota. Is the other person  the first officer the best or again just high on the quota.

 

 

 

 

 

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Happy from Puglia

We have a new ad campaign promoting Puglia. Despite my earlier post about the lack of computer knowledge in Puglia the tourist boys and girls have chosen You Tube as the medium to push holidays here. Forty different locations feature on this video launched on July 14th. Don’t say I’m not up to date. Have a look and if you are here or have visited try and identify them. That should keep you all busy while I bash away on these keys for a time. It was filmed in late May this year but count the anoraks, jumpers and wetsuits !!

What’s the phrase be careful what you wish for . Well I blogged about the polluting refinery owned by ENI and the steel works owned by ILVA in Taranto and today both are in the news. Eni have started talks with the unions to close their plant in Taranto.

They have a new CEO and he is described by analysts as ” Italy’s Margaret Thatcher ” as he clearly intends to take on the power of the unions supposedly like Maggie did the coal mining union all those years ago. I guess it is a reflection on how far behind Italy is in reform.  He is Claudio Descalzi and he has just got the job of CEO.

Paulo

 

The largest shareholder gets to chose the CEO and as I blogged before the largest shareholder is the Italian government so Paolo has the tacit approval of Renzi to take them on. Indeed this is the union Renzi has already crossed swords with when fighting for the tax break for the low paid. I know go figure a union opposing a tax break for  low paid people but I guess most of the beneficiaries aren’t members of this union.

So it looks like on July 31 he will announce the closure  and Renzi ? Well he said on TV the other night “The unions have to understand the music has changed,” He is also known to back any plan for companies to reduce inefficiencies and renegotiate out of date union restrictive practices so I guess watch this space.

Meanwhile the Supreme Court is soon to rule on where the huge court case against 52 executives on ILVA will be held. They are being done for causing an environmental disaster.

taranto emissions

 

which might cause the closure of that plant too.

Maybe Taranto will become a clean place to live again and the cancer cases may take a dive.

If you happen to be in Grassano ( Matera) on July 24th watch out for a cavalcade. The mayor of New York Bill de Blasio is visiting the place. Why ? Well his  granny Anna  Briganti emigrated from there and went to the USA with her husband . So he is on his hols with his family near Naples and the Mayor of Grassano has invited him to receive the keys of the town and be made an honorary citizen . I have to say I hadn’t realised Bloomberg had gone but De Blasio is in fact a Democrat and won by a landslide in 2013. He campaigned amongst other things to get rid of the horse-drawn carriages  from Central Park and replace them with antique cars driven now by electricity ( and a driver of course). Not a bad thing, they are a real tourist rip off and I was in Central Park when one horse popped his clogs or horse shoes I guess. No ill treatment just old age but it was quite distressful to watch and it took ages to get a truck to take it away. So let’s hope the Mayor of Grassono has no plans to drive him around in an horse and carriage.

 

 

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Puglia C – – -

“The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding ” Leonardo Da Vinci ( 1452-1519)

The O.E.C.D. has published some amazing figures on literacy, semi literacy and numeracy for Italy and then for the sub regions including our own Puglia.  Some 1,000 Italians were given tests lasting 50 minutes to discover their level of understanding of a simple piece of prose and some very basic maths. They then added in a test on computer knowledge. What they wanted to get to was an understanding of the capabilities of the population to be able to live in todays contemporary society and achieve ( get a good job) in it. Given to be a member of the O.E.C.D. a country  has to be considered well developed, industrial and commanding an educated and prosperous population one would expect them to do well.

Well 36 million Italians based on the findings are considered unable to face the challenges presented by todays world. Italy has the highest level of illiteracy, the highest level of semi illiteracy and the highest level of computer illiteracy in the whole of the O.E.C.D list of countries. And apart from Spain who are close to them they are bottom by a country mile especially when it comes to computer literacy.

But what of Puglia ? Not good is the answer. Just under 9% of the population is considered illiterate and 38% are classed as semi illiterate and lacking basic numerical skills. One begins to see why our politicians are so keen to keep the polluting steel, coal and oil refining works going down here. This is all simple metal bashing and grunt work. Without it the workers would be unemployable in todays world. In a separate report Italy has been critiqued for spending over 18% of GDP on pensions ( the highest of any O.E.D.C. country) and next nothing on retraining the workforce to be ready for the 21st century.

Computers? Pugliese freeze in front of them and 58% of them have no idea how to even turn one on.  Ah you say, as I did, but that’s ‘cos they are all old fogies isn’t it. Hmm. 25% of 15-24 year olds have no idea how to work one, almost 50% of 25-54 year olds would not be able to do anything on one. So no  it isn’t.  What it shows is the complete lack of compulsory computer education in the public school system here in Puglia.

School

 

Accessing Facebook is not a computer skill contrary to what many an Italian mother will tell you “oh yes my little cherub knows all about computers she is on Facebook all the time”.

And the report ? Well filed I guess at the Regional level in the pending box.

It’s a heady 18C at mid-day today with rain and wind. so my thoughts went immediately  to an English seaside holiday as the weather is so reminiscent of one.  What was the high spot well often it was having an ice cream cone or a Walls 99 despite the weather.

ice cream

Now at least the Italians can claim success on that front even if most of them could no longer write the prices up nor enter the number sold onto a spreadsheet .

No one knows the full true history of the ice cream. The Persians were eating ice flavoured with fruit in 400 B.C. and Emperor Nero had a group of slaves that everytime he espied snow on the mountains around Rome were dispatched to run as fast as they could to grab as much ice as they could and run back. Now that’s a takeaway service.

But ice cream features milk and the first known use of milk was in China in the Tang dynasty . The dastardly clever Chinese discovered that by adding salt to ice you could lower the mixtures’ freezing point. Emperor Tang employed 94 ice cream making chefs to keep him supplied in the stuff. Wonder what he died of ?

Marco Polo probably bought it back from his travels and by 1664 milk flavoured ices were being sold on the streets of Naples and by 1671 it had got to Windsor Castle, where it showed up on the menu at a banquet for the Feast of St. George. Still, only the guests at King Charles II’s actual table got to enjoy “one plate of white strawberries and one plate of iced cream”; the rest of the rabble were left to marvel at it from afar.

The USA picked up the baton and the first ice cream shop opened in Manhattan in 1777. Improvements in refrigeration  meant more and more could be developed but the break through we kids were all waiting for was again because of an  Italian. Ice cream was still served in bowls and if you bought it  from a street vendor he gave it to you in a small glass holder that you licked and gave back. A penny lick it was called and  all very hygienic.

Then in 1896 an Italian immigrant one Italo Marciony ran out of glass plates and substituted a waffle cup he had made at home and was edible. The cone was born.

The rest as they say was history.

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