Blogs in the time of the Coronavirus (Italy): 21 March 2020


Now that I have set up a new section in the Virtual Tea Towel Museum called ‘We’re all in this together’, any Blogs/Diaries/Journals will be in this section.  This is Andrew’s sixth blog, totalling seven.  This is a bit like counting the number of Coronavirus cases.  Here is Andrew’s Story:

“Saturday 21 March 2020, it’s Spring today: Lockdown Day 11.

637 people died as a consequence of Coronavirus between 19-20 March; 450 the day before, more than 1000 in 48 hours.  Thousands of doctors, nurses, family doctors are getting infected, in their daily struggle with the disease; convoys of army trucks, packed with coffins, leave the morgues of Lombardy, at night-time, heading towards other parts of Italy, since local crematoriums can’t make it, having no more space available.  People are not allowed to mourn their beloved ones, once they are gone into hospital, if things go wrong; the next thing you’ll see of them is the boxes with their ashes.  Highest death toll in the world, more than China.  Is it because China has been hiding the true numbers?  That would be a (too) easy explanation.  Or, in a sensible alternative, could it be that the infection is much more widespread than we think, since it’s honestly impossible to test everyone?  Thus, there’s a number of healthy carriers, typically youngsters, that pass the virus to the elderly?  Or, who knows, perhaps Italy is the country with one of the highest number of aged people in the world, and those are the ones who so easily succumb.  The average age of death, 80 years old, while the percentage of deaths directly caused by the infection alone, is only .8% (point 8%)

The European Union has acknowledged the disaster in Italy.  Ursula Von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, spoke to the people of Italy, in Italian, expressing the deepest sympathy of the European Nation, and European funds have been allocated to help this unfortunate country.

When it became glaringly clear, after the UK elections in December 2019, that UK would finally leave the EU, I thought about giving a private concert in my house, a ‘Farewell UK’ concert.  I was born to an English mother and brought up in Italy, but I kept my ties with the English side of my family, especially with my Uncle Chris and my Aunt Beatrice, and more recently with my cousins.  That’s why I knew that UK never genuinely fell in love with the EU, the metrics system, the freedom of crossing the borders and the Channel.  I remember an anecdote of the days when the basic digging of the EuroTunnel ended, commenting about the ‘smell of garlic’ passing through the tunnel from France.

My wife, Elena, and I are professional classical musicians, a mezzosoprano and a guitar player.  She is French on her mother’s side, so she does understand the beauty of belonging to two different nations, two cultures and she sees my…….annoyance for all this Brexit mess.  The concert was scheduled for the end of January, with music by John Dowland and the ‘English Folk Songs’ by Benjamin Britten, but we had to postpone it until 8 March.  After all the invitations were mailed, the increasing Coronavirus infection suggested to us to further postpone it, this time ‘sine die’, when general health will be restored.

This time I display three ‘very British’ tea towels.  I don’t know how the Union Jack arrived in my parent’s house in Rome; I only know that I grabbed it one day and I brought it to my house in Florence.  The Royal Tea Towel was bought during my visit in UK in 2018, in the Gift Shop at Buckingham Palace.  I also visited the Gift Shops in Kensington Palace and the Queen’s Gallery in Edinburgh.  They are lovely and colourful places to go, full of glamorous objects, cute tea caddies, candy boxes, jewels, shawls, pottery, books and so on.  I was bound to buy at least a tea towel; I chose the one with the Royal Coat of Arms, thinking about the Queen’s speech, when her majesty wore a blue hat with yellow buttons, closely resembling the European flag.  On that occasion, we all allowed ourselves to infer that her majesty wasn’t amused by the results of te referendum.  Good luck UK

The Piccadilly Circus, worn out, tea towel is the first that I decided to collect.  I am able to trace it in my memory, back to my earliest childhood, that would be, alas, more than half a century ago.  I was always fascinated by it; it gives a very effective ipresentation of the bustling life of the site, you perceive the speed of the cars and buses, and all those neon signs and shining lights, sparkling on the top of the towel, exactly how you see in a film of te Sixties.  When I realsied it was decaying beyond repair, I decided I had to rob it from my parent’s house and start to collect tea towels.

‘Every tea towel tells story’, somebody would say.

This account has affected me at so many levels but I feel privileged that Andrew has written these accounts so they can be kept forever, as a reminder about the lives lost to Coronavirus, of the sacrifices made and of the funny, amusing anecdotes that come out daily.  For me, I feel devastated for Andrew that he lives in Florence and his 91 year old father lives in Rome.  They can contact each other by email and Skype (or similar) but that is never the same as being able to make a cup of tea and have a piece of cake.  There is that sense of Italy being torn apart and it may well happen to use in the future and thirdly, the stupidity of us having voted to leave the EU: ‘We are all in this together’.  thank you Andrew and I hope there will be more ‘Tales from Abroad’.



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