There you go! I missed my visitor from Oregon. Checking my stats this morning – they didn’t visit last night. Oh well, they will probably never know that the post below was really for them.
I notice, this morning, that hospitals can expect at least 13 stabbing victims every day/night. Couple that with, what seems to me, a shooting every couple of days and you would think that the UK is some sort of lawless land these days.
J Mum writes to me from time to time. You know, the old-fashioned way, with a pen. She has, several times, told me to stay where I am and don’t come back and, I must admit, the stuff I read, mainly on the BBC website, makes the UK seem a pretty violent place.
We talk to Italians here and tell them about some of the differences between the UK and Italy and, in particular, Milan compared with Birmingham or, even, Worcester.
The subject invariably revolves around drinking or, as many people would say, the drinking culture. Why on earth do people add ‘culture’ after drinking? I looked up the word and got this:
noun 1 the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively. 2 a refined understanding or appreciation of this. 3 the customs, institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or group. 4 the cultivation of plants, breeding of animals, or production of cells or tissues. 5 a preparation of cells grown in an artificial medium containing nutrients.
Now the drinking problem is certainly not definition 1, 2, 4 or 5. But take 3. Custom. It’s the custom of the UK population to go drinking until you are wrecked? Actually, it’s not the drinking that’s the problem. It’s the violence that follows.
When I do the comparison, my first thought is that New Year a couple of years ago. Walking back through the centre of Milan (there were no taxis available and public transport had stopped) and towards Duomo Square, we passed many people who had been drinking more than normal. Not lying in the gutter as it would seem is the norm these days in the UK, just a little wobbly.
Did anyone appear in the least aggressive? No. All we had were many shouts of Auguri (like Best Wishes) or Buon Anno.
Of course, we do drink more than our Italian friends and UKpeople do have a reputation here for drinking to excess. But it’s rare that we get rolling drunk or even slightly drunk. And that’s nice, to be honest.
Compare that to Worcester, the last time we went there on a Friday or Saturday evening (admittedly many years ago) or Birmingham<. There, after about 10 p.m. one has to be careful of the drunks. Don’t look at them or you’ll get ‘What you looking at?’ or ‘Are you looking for a punch in the mouth?’ or something similar. And, from reading the news on the web, it would seem you are as likely to get stabbed or shot as not. Makes me want to come back? Umm, thanks but not really. Even when you pass a lively bar, people outside having a cigarette, a chat or whatever (and I mean spilling into the road there are so many of them), apart from the slightly weird (to us) of not respecting a person’s private space (they will get so close or just not move out of your way), there is no ‘trouble’. It’s taken V a little time to get used to the fact that people will stare and not look away when you catch their eye. But that’s just the way they are. There’s no real harm in it. They’re not staring in an aggressive manner, not looking to start a fight, not looking to challenge you. Just looking and, in V’s case, often admiringly as he does have a very stylish way of dressing, as one would expect. Last night we went for a very nice meal in our favourite Sushi restaurant about 2 minutes from our house. We met up with some journalist friends that we have not seen in a while and, on the way, met L, our first ‘landlady’ when we came to Milan for the first couple of months to ‘check it out’. It was lovely to see L and our other friends and we had a great evening. Good conversation with people from all over the world, including a lovely girl who is Russian. It was a very good ‘catch up’ on all the happenings and gossip in theirs and our worlds. And regarding work, I think I’ve just passed a very important test. I’ve managed to work out something that, it seems, everyone has known about except me. Not only did they know about it but they chose not to tell me. They didn’t exactly lie to me, just omitted to tell me something. But, eventually, in spite of not being an engineer, I’ve worked it out for myself. And confronting the MD it was like ‘oh yes, we know’ and all I could think was – didn’t you think fit to tell me, last year, when I took the project on? But, I can’t be angry. At the end of the day they tell me that they have a plan. We should know in about 18 weeks. Let’s hope it works. Ah well, as I often say, Siamo in Italia. I’ll just have another beer :-D.