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In Italy being a waiter is a career, and you can see them carrying out their job with grace and profesionality you will never get from jaded teenagers in London eateries. Swirling around the tables, hips working, upper body perfectly upright, elbows tucked in and chin out it's a miracle no-one has made 'waitering' into a new fashionable work out routine for the rich and fat yet. I wonder if outside the retaurant they maintain this dancer's grace bend gently letting people pass into the bus, perhaps? Rush with those little steps around the park on a Sunday walk?
Italian Post Office.
Me: I'd like to send these packages to Germany.
Office Worker: (panicked) To Germany? How do you mean? It's very complicated you see!
(fumbles with documents for half an hour)
OW: Are you sure these are the right addresses?
Me: (stare in disbelief)
OW: (fumbles nervously, drops package, asks colleague)
OW: Mm, yes, I can send this one, for these you have to talk with the director.
Me: (roll eyes)
(ONE AND A HALF HOURS LATER)
Me: Can I pay with a credit card?
OW: Yes, of course.
Me: (hand over card)
OW: Aaah, credit card.... No.
Milan train station cafe.
Barista: They've just done this pavement, and they're doing it all over again!
Client: It's not helping your business, I had to go all the way around.
CW: They've put us on the brink of bankruptcy more than once, the last three years have been a nightmare, cutting off water, light, making us close, all sorts. The pavement, they did it a month ago, quickly, in time for the fast line opening, to show the politicians so they did it badly, and have to re-do the whole thing from scratch. This country is a joke!
The evening culminated with a bottle of Primitivo from the 1949 harvest. By then, it must have been nearly midnight, we were ready to receive it we had experienced the freshest, most surprising tastes throughout the dinner, our senses constantly stimulated and surprised. That wine has been left to meditate upon itself for fifty years in a concrete vat the producer deemed it unripe for bottling. Finally he went down to the cantina one day, tried it and decided it was ready. He died a month later. The widow was left with a fifty quintal vat of an amazing wine.
But a wine without a name, without a label, without a salesperson. By chance the owner of the restaurant came across this lady, and agreed to try it. He told us 'When I took the first sip I was transported to the day when I was still in primary school, and we were talled to go home, because a Mr. Moro has died. I was drinking history.' The wine tasted of herbs, it was clear, fresh, but most of all, it tasted of iron, it tasted of blood. That wine was alive, that wine was enlightened, the Buddha of wines!
As I'm listening to the thumping, right-into-the-veins music I can't get it out of my head. How exactly did he do it, what did it mean, the whole Yoga experience? He spent five years following the Yoga practice and thought, excercised and meditated six hours a day, explored the energy of the chakras and he talks about it all as if it were science, it is science, the results are obtainable by anyone and are repeatable. I can only nod, and imagine with excitement the inner-body and soul exploration, and it makes me hungry for knowledge.
'At harvest time, apart from the fact that a lot of people from other villages would come, maybe you know of those stories, that in Italy for example there were villages connected with rice-producing villages, because during the rice harvest all the people from the mountains, they were poor, did not have work, so they went to work the rice harvest. In the same way, here there were people from the mountains that came to do the grape harvest. At times they were not even paid with money, but with grapes, and they made their own wine at home.'
'Of these people, we had fifty come to our village. Fifty, eh? Many! And the village was much smaller than it is now. The machines for musting the grapes were very simple, and very noisy: traaaaaacccckkk, trrrrrraccckkk; I was only a child, and than a bit older, they still did it when I was twenty; you sat down in the evening at Montesoro, where my house was, above the village, and all you could hear was this noise; because during the day, as this was considered light work, in the cantina, during the day they harvested, and in the evening...'
I live in this little piece of machinery. It is the world to me, it is more precious than all my books and possessions it is my ultimate possession, it has my personality, my hobbies, my work, my weirdness and my angst and all the most personal things imaginable in it, stored, updated, alive, within reach whether in bed at the airport on the train under a tree. As long as it is in my bag, I am at home wherever I go, all I need is within reach work and play... How did we use to do without it?
I think the major attraction of reading 100 words, and the thing that makes it so spooky at the same time, is that it lets me peek into lives of not just any old people it lets me peek into the lives of Americans. Americans! So they are human! So they have real lives and thoughts and bodies! So they are not just the flickering lights of my tv/computer screen, so they are not just the plastic joke-cracking white-teeth-flashing or world-news making utterly surreal paper-thin far away images they are alive! I can't quite recover from the realisation.
Back in Poland, I convince my dad to turn the TV on and watch the news,. The People's Republic of Poland is still alive, prevented from dying by constant prodding under the guise of 'justice' and 'truth'. The half-alive beast is still being sucked on by the flies and ticks: the politicians, the journalists, the historians, a whole new layer of muck grown out of the rotting flesh and putrid blood thick with lies. My generation, I, I don't care who collaborated or not, who is guilty or what, all I want to see is results, judge by results.
From our conversations about nothing it transpires that we know so much about the world but a bit less, just a bit less about ourselves. And in the banality of silence we hide the fact that the source of meaning is not important, is not that important. We tease out the illusions, the only thing about them is they are before they turn into non-existence. Let loneliness be over. I can't get it right. The pieces dissolve into longing. Don't hold back. Because it's you, you're the one I dream of night and day, and you are my silence.
One of forgotten joys of running is that, done in the right environment at the right time, it is bound to bring surprises. Especially if the environment are Polish forests, and the time early evening, when the animals start to venture out closer to the fields to feed. Deer, hares, and, behold, a beaver! A proper big-ass completely unbothered 20kg at least beaver, munching away on fresh shoots as I come to a full stop in a cloud of dust and stare. He turns his massive back on me and continues as if I weren't there. I in amazement.
It's exciting to be going clubbing again. My boyfriend is absolutely right when he points out that clubs are just rooms painted black with booze, music and they always, unmistakably smell of vomit. Of course he is right. And yes the floors are sticky, and yes the dιcor is tacky, and yes if you suddenly turned the lights of us we would be just a bunch of pale sweaty half-naked drunks. But while you're there and the endorphine-fed imagination can do its job and take-you-away, oh-so-far-away, and the base explodes in your chest...
And yet that night was not special in any way. Something was missing. The atmosphere was wrong. It felt like we were there for a purpose to drink, to dance, to talk. And maybe that was wrong. Because in nights out like this, it's not about purpose. Sillyness, letting-go, spontaneity, mutual adoration, flirting, joking, poking fun, sharing a feeling, not an information or practice, that is what makes those events. We were all too goal-oriented, too tense to relax enough to meet others, too self-conscious, not open enough. Shame. Maybe I'm getting too old to lose myself.
Summer days have come, and I am subconsciously holding my breath in anticipation of a catastrophe. A week of sunshine is just too good to be true, in Northern England. The trees and lawns have exploded with blossom, the botanical gardens swarm with students, couples and young parents with their noisy toddlers and wild pre-schoolers. I re-wired my wardrobe, furs and wool put away, cotton and silk out in the open, hoping I have a chance to wear each item at least once, there is never a guarantee. I hope for the sake of this year's Italian vintage...
Maybe it wasn't my fault, then, the years of university loneliness. I spoke with my Bulgarian/Canadian friend, and she strongly believes she has suffered an extreme culture shock since coming to England. People make small talk, and then never call. You invite them for coffee, and they don't show up. No-one introduces themselves, or talks about themselves, or wants to have any social contact whatsoever. I try and explain this is the way things work, and realise how lucky I am to have settled and developed a network of friends over the years, that could have been me!
Spring is unusually generous this year. We were just coming back from the shop, and the street was covered in petals being blown off blossoming trees, pink and white, in bunches so heavy and thick they make the trees look like underwater coral swaying in the current. The parks have exploded with colour and smell. The city looks fresh and hopefull, dressed in bright green. It is a pleasure to walk down the street, people seem to smile more, everything is going well, and I don't feel like going to Italy at all, with its incessant heat and dusty stone.
Good habits are easily forgotten when life picks up the pace. It's weeks since I have meditated, or done yoga it's been all go-go, according to my friend I've been treating my life much to seriously. At least there is running. We ran the length of the moor edge the other day, and it was real hard work. Sheep looked at us in bewilderment and stepped aside as we puffed by, very red, very sweaty, at the edge of lung capacity. The ground was much rougher than I remembered. It's funny how running you start noticing the slightest incline!
I've never had guests over really not since I've been a little girl (lovers don't count). It feels very exciting and strangely grown up making the beds, cleaning the house, planning the dinner, prepairing the wines. Informality seems always harder to achieve, there are ever more material objects that get in the way of normal interaction, ever more norms. It's not like we're different people we don't have kids, we're still student-ish, and still poor. But we seem to have become more civilised. I miss the spontaneity and randomness of past encounters, the honesty maybe, openness. Much too civilised.
It does feel like materialism is taking over. Some of my friends, they are thinking of buying houses, having children, driving cars, settling down. It's not about the things in themselves, but about how they have come to take centre stage, how they've become necessary, important, worth working for. I'm still not thinking in those terms. I consume, certainly, but it is still all directed at my personal growth, not acquisition, not material permanence. Sometimes it scares me to think how absolutely alone we are in the world, alone of both people and things but sometimes it's liberating to remember.
The sheep must have just given birth, not more than a few minutes before. The placenta was still hanging out of it, and it was walking in circles trying to tread on it and pull it out. The newly born lamb, already licked clean, was trying to take the first shaky step on the steep hillside, and we were holding our breaths hoping it does not tumble down. It was doing well though, soon walking in circles around the mother as it started eating its afterbirth. I did not know their digestive system could deal with meet, even self-produced.
That is the first supervision session I've had in transit on the train between Sheffield and London, going down to see the Little Prince, and present some half-baked, half-interesting and more than half-made-up research half-findings. The plan is that the two of us will wear one big brain-connecting hat, not only in the hopes of being more alert this way, but also to lighten the mood at the time, late afternoon-ish, the public will certainly be in need of a pick-me-up. There is only so much bad coffee one can stomach.
Work has just started to seem to be going well when I have to pack again and go. Not so excited about it this time. Of course, once I'm there, in the South, with the people, doing my job and having my Italian life I know I will like it, but at the moment the thought of leaving, again, just as things are coming to bloom, just as everything is going so well, just as my head is full of ideas, just as I am so much in love, well, it holds little appeal. And, it will be too hot.
'It's the first time this has happened. I have to say, when the wines don't finish, you are always a bit worried, because they are still at risk; because anyway they are already a year old, and they still have yeast so on the one hand they taste of mature wine, but on the other there is a taste of yeast. [I]f your wines have finished fermenting by November, you're at peace (...) However, if there are still sugars, there is the risk the volatile acidity will grow, you're always there within shooting range, without ever being able to relax.'
I was given a pair of scissors, and Ivo showed me how to pick the bunches he put the branches to one side to get to the grapes, which grow nearer the trunk. I saw the harvesters, especially Piero, snipping away branches that were in his way, obscuring the view when I asked about it he answered it did not matter, as the vines were going to be pruned soon anyway. At first I thought it was unnecessary, but than I nearly cut through my fingernail with the sharp scissors because I could not see clearly where my hand was.
I was born in the country, my father had two brothers, they worked in a farm together, they had a barn for cows, and vineyards, the grapes they gave to the cooperative winery. In '80 the land was divided, and my dad built a house here, next to where he wanted to continue farming... And I finished the oenological school in Conegliano, and during the time at school I took part in 5-6 harvests, around the cooperative. In '86 I started to make wine here. (...) In march '87 my father passed away, and I found myself on my own.
The boy is very sweet, the way he went for my knees when he saw me, hugged them with his head in between my legs, I though that was very touching, they think he remembers me, maybe so! We played together, he is quick, walks and runs so well, his movements really coordinated, but we're still waiting for him to start talking, it may be a while yet. He is starting to be a proper person now, aware, curious, happy. I know I do not see enough of him, but it's such a pain to go there, really too far.
At this mid-way stage, our fieldwork has thrown up a number of significant themes that link all the three projects. They are: the restrictions of regulations and classifications laid down by external governmental, independent commercial or certificatory (such as organic, fairtrade) bodies; the significance of networks of knowledges and the co-existence and daily negotiation of tacit, practice-based and embodied know-how with scientific, technical, business and economic knowledge; the striking unpredictability and variability of these speciality industries, which illustrates a distribution of agency and the importance of non-human actants; and complex and contested notions of quality.
Apparently we did well, the whole presentation thing. I never believe people when they say things like that, I think they're just being polite. It was strange, the being in front of them, I was completely peaceful but kind of disembodied, could feel and hear myself speaking but felt to have little actual control over it, my mind was neither with me nor with the audience, but somewhere in between, somewhere over my left shoulder, hovering, wondering, observing. I don't remember why I decided not to stick to the script in the end, I blame Bel and her free attitude!
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