Tales of Coronavirus (Italy), Blog Number 6¾: 23 March 2020

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Lockdown Day 13

My cousin Andrew who lives in Florence, Italy, was born and brought up there.  He has been writing a series of Blogs on his experience of the Coronavirus in Italy, for the Virtual Tea Towel Museum.  I have had a lot of feedback about (a) how interesting they are (b) how they offer us a ‘wake-up’ call in UK about what is coming and (c) his observational humour is entertaining and honest.  He has always been able to link his Tales to a tea towel or two, bought in UK; it must be genetic.  But, for me, it is also a very serious way of keeping in contact with family, without just having telephone conversations which go “How are you?  Not got any symptoms?”  He tells me that he will end at Number 10; that will be a shame.

Extract from ‘The Children’s Encyclopaedia’ Volume 9, edited by Arthur Mee (no publishing date).   Andrew is an avid  reader, will read a huge miscellany of things, on many different topics, even if not in his first language.

“(…)… men, by working together, can do far more for themselves as individuals than by working against each other.  This principle of working together we call co-operation. (See the great tea towel that opens this section of the Virtual Tea Towel museum called ‘We’re all in this together’).

Co-operation, while it means combined effort, does not mean the loss of individual character, initiative, enterprise or effort.  If it did, it would be valueless, because it is necessary that the powers of every boy and girl, of every man and woman, should be developed…….

There is no better way of illustrating the true conception of co-operation than by a cricket team.  As every boy and girl knows, it consists of eleven players.  The eleven go into the field to play the game, as we say “It is ‘cricket’ to play for your side and not for yourself”.

We do not make the mistake of thinking that if someone in Scotland gets an order for business, it is bad for someone in England, or that if Wales makes progress it is bad for the county of Kent.  We know quite well that nothing could be better for England than that Scotland should be prosperous, and that London is not better off, but worse off, if Lancashire suffers in trade…… We see how interdependent men are, and how interdependent nations are.  A man trying to live for himself alone is like the boy ‘sent to Coventry’, as we say.  A nation seeking to be self-sufficing is really robbing itself of the advantage of belonging to a world which it can serve.

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In January 2020, I was taking a walk in London, admiring the two neighbouring Railway Stations of Kings Cross and St Pancras.  The latter needs no description, save the fact I was impressed by the efforts and care it must have required, much of it sculptured by hand; I suppose that was a genuine world-wide-empire-mindset, capable of such buildings.  I was, however, more attracted by the former, with its frontage of the 1930s, two large arches separated by a central slender clock tower, all made of (vintage coloured) bricks.  Loafing about in the Ticket Hall, I noticed a long queue in front of the sign ‘Platform 9¾’ (and may I say that it has taken me half an hour to work out how to put a fraction in a Blog), hanging just by the entrance to the Harry Potter Shop.  There were two employees, one with a camera and the other who supplied tourists with a wand and the Gryffindor scarf.  The tourists stood under the sign, pointed the wand towards it, posed with a silly smile and…and?  You would think ‘the clerk with the camera took the picture’.  No, not yet, the ridiculous part starts now.  The second employee then picked up the loose end of the scarf, launched it in the air and, in that moment, while the end of the scarf was still floating, the photo was taken: simulation of flight guaranteed!

I thought it was a ridiculous scene then, and even more today, when we have to queue up panicking for toilet paper, and with the whole economy will brought to it’s knees by the disappearing of tourists.  I named this Blog not Number 7 but playfully Number 6¾, as it continues the thoughts on Brexit in Blog Number 6: if “a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less” (John Donne).  (The Radical Tea Towel Company do a wonderful tea towel using this quote from John Donne).

These tea towels on London are all self-explanatory, two of them identical (red and blue versions).  They are fairly old and maybe a bit too common for my taste (Excuse me, Cousin, I have the blue one.  Did our mothers spend time in London and each buy a tea towel?)  I couldn’t resist buying the tea towel with the map of the Underground of London; its just an item for tourists.  You find it in the airports or in the ‘Cool Britannia’ chain but, what can I say, as an Italian I am fascinated by the huge network of the Tube.

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The Allan Drummond and Nicola Metcalfe’s portraits  of London are more sophisticated.   I always admire how artists manage to hoard lots of details without being messy.  Both humorously refer to the very British ‘local showers’, but only one displays the Underground of London.  I can see the Shard, I went there in July 2018, astonishing views from such a height.  The Walkie-Talkie, I visited in 2020, early in the morning, truly enjoying my breakfast on the top; no Big Ben, however, covered in scaffolding, but a wonderful visit of the House of Parliament.  I see the Gherkin (viewed under snow in March 2017) and Tower Bridge, which you can now climb; I visited in both 2017 and 2018: it can be frightening walking so high up, along  the elevated passage, from one tower to another.   The central part of the floor is glass, it seems you are suspended in air.  I didn’t waste my money to go on  the London Eye, neither I trusted a visit to the Tower of London; I was afraid it would be a sort of fake specially developed for tourists…

Neither of the tea towels show the Monument (October 2019), where I was entitled to buy my first ever Concessionary Ticket: don’t know if I must be proud of that or not.  The women in charge, in any case, were polite enough to say they thought I was younger.

My final thought for today is: co-operation in 1922, after the slaughter of the First World War; EU founded after the slaughter of the Second World War; shall we start thinking again in a more co-operative way, after the slaughter of the Coronavirus?”

I think there may be a lot of us today, in UK, thinking what was the point of driving a shaft between Britain and Europe with Brexit.  Leaving hasn’t stopped the spread of Coronavirus but we are watching what happens in Italy, Spain and France.  Working together to defeat the virus and then working together to rebuild our economy would be so much better together than apart.  Thank you Andrew.

 

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