It’s a small world really isn’t it. I asked my Italian teacher Stefania if she had a nice weekend as part of my conversation lesson. Yes she replied I went to my mother’s birthplace Grassano for lunch with her on Sunday. Lunch or any meal of course opens up a conversation in Italian . What did you eat is the next domanda and then you can normally sit back and read a book or look out of the window for 10 minutes, do your nails, pick your toes what ever turns you on. Meanwhile the Italian will be describing in minute detail every course and how it was cooked . Stefania is too wise and has been a teacher too long to fall for it though and I was soon back in the hot seat. As I searched for words part of my overworking brain kept saying Grassano why have I heard that name before and then in a Damascus moment it came to me. The Mayor of New York was going there to get the keys of the town because his grandmother was born there.
All I needed was the Italian word for Mayor and I had another conversational piece What was the headline it was an odd word ah yes Sindaco .
According to the newspaper it was an hugely successful visit. Bill arrived with his wife and kids, visited the family home which oddly was locked up and then returned to the town hall to get the keys of the town ( maybe they should just have given him the keys to the old house !) and an honorary citizenship of the place. Bill did a walk about and to the surprise of the press spent lots of time shaking hands with locals. He is after all an American politician.
He was given an old painting of Grassano that almost included his grandmother’s house but the artist had stopped just short of it and a CD of songs called America is Italian, written by another ex resident of the town Gianni Belfiore. Gianni now writes songs for Julio Iglesias and You Tube has no music from the CD but does have this.
Bill then made an impromptu speech and obviously had glanced at the CD because he said ” Thanks to you Italians and of course Christopher Columbus America is not English which people expect but Italian” It earned him an huge ovation.
Back in New York however the trip has been getting less enthusiastic approval. It seems the previous two Mayors never took an holiday and Bill had not only done the unthinkable but has gone abroad as well. Is there nowhere good enough in the USA for an 8 day break bellowed the New York Times. Worse still ” he enjoyed in Sant’Agata de’ Goti, birthplace of his grandfather, black pork, ricotta cheese and pear cake, at a lunch that lasted three hours, a concept unimaginable in the US.”
It seems Bill had been touring Southern Italy picking up keys to various towns and actually had the temerity to enjoy long lunches. But a visit to the isle of Capri was the last straw for critics in New York as what is ” a self-proclaimed champion of the poor and underprivileged doing in the opulent, decadent haunt of celebrities, from the emperor Tiberius to Jackie Onassis? ” Shocking .
I went to Capri in the early 1960’s with my parents. We ended up by chance in a bar and restaurant owned by Gracie Fields called La Canzone Del Mare
She popped over to say hello and when the bill arrived the waiter had added 20% because as he explained Gracie had briefly visited our table. My father insisted on it’s removal not only because we had never asked her over nor would have done ( he described her singing as sounding like a cat whose tail had been trodden on ) but also because during WWII she had in 1940 fled to America.
Yup he was right !!
The newspapers have now discovered that Bill actually gets paid vacation as part of his job. But over 25% of American workers do not, which for us European cousins used to 4/5/6 weeks paid holiday seems unreal. There is still no law in the USA requiring companies to offer paid holidays and those that do do so because they believe it leads to better productivity and a happier workforce.
For the whole of the 20th Century the US could disdainfully look down on effete, nanny-state Europe, land of obstreperous unions and the three-hour lunch, and bask in its own superiority. These days, that is not so easy. How is it that Germany, where six weeks’ paid holiday is the norm and workers and bosses actually co-operate, far outperforms not just most of Europe, but the US as well?