Thursday, 29 October 2009

Berlusconi's Bluebird.

Or perhaps it was a Blackbird........

I had been singing in Palermo, the capital of the Kingdom of Sicily and legendary seat of La Mafia....and hunting country.

Palermo is a glorious city with an unrivalled history and the loveliest people.....generous, kind, it is indeed the land of milk, honey and marzipan.

I went on to Rome a year later to sing the same magnificent production and by chance, my friends in the animal world "I Verdi" the Green Party, asked if I would speak in Parliament about my experience of being on a very cruelly derived drug, and why I came off it. I did this on television, sang a little, and then was asked to sing for the birds!

It was a hugely hot day. A thunderstorm had knocked out all the electricity overnight and my hair needed organising as I donned my cobalt blue silk organza dress and hat with long silk gloves and sang for an hour or so in front of the Parliament offices. This was all about discouraging the shooting of migrating birds during the hunting season. The birds fly from Africa, over Italy and up to England. They are small and it is illegal to shoot them, nevertheless this happens.

The traffic and the Parliament offices ground to a halt as all of the windows opened and people hung outside for as long as I kept going.

A close friend who was a journalist had visited me in Sicily, and later became useful to the next government in terms of organising the hunting lobby for the forthcoming elections. I watched with interest as Sicily swung totally in favour of Berlusconi and the new laws which would allow the repatriation of assets, and eliminate inheritance tax.

I also watched, as having relinquished his chair in the Senate my friend lost his promised seat in Europe....... in favour of an MP who, in danger of being convicted by the very courageous judiciary of Palermo, went to Brussels instead and thus...... beyond jurisdiction.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Sir, I Stand Corrected.

A friend who is an ex army officer read my piece below about the conversation I had with the young fusilier, "The Hackle of Victory", September '09.

"Beware of believing everything you are told by young soldiers," he said to me.

"In my experience, most troops are extremely well informed about their role in Afghanistan. What's more, their food and clothing is generally of a very high standard. NCOs and officers are always on hand to hear gripes and complaints. Only very rarely is leadership not up to the high standard which permeates throughout the Army."

"Furthermore, great store is set by ensuring that the troops are looked after as well as is humanly possible in the circumstances.
I used to read some of the letters sent home by a few of my soldiers. I would always ask them to re-write letters which started with: 'Our plane was machine gunned as we came in to land at Akrotiri (Cyprus).......we returned fire and killed hundreds of the enemy......'

"This is not to say that service in Afghanistan is not at times, extremely dangerous. Nor am I saying that equipment is the best that it should be. There is always room for improvement and likewise there is always a case for increased spending on defence.

But beware of the individual's account in isolation.

Better to hear it from a platoon, on the ground."

Sir, I stand corrected.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Crunch Lunch.

A gold inlay tumbles out of my tooth and into my hand, happily not into my tum and I hotfoot it off to my lovely dentist, Mark Barrett.

"The last time you did this" he says, "was on a toffee in August!"

"Ah Yes" I mumble through his fingers. "It was on an Italian boat in the Med and I needed some sustenance after lunch as I sang a few Neapolitan Songs. We were soon surrounded by a flotilla of yachts. Someone offered to take the money and bookings for the evening, and then the motor boats of the Carabinieri, the police afloat, all started to surround us too, along with various swimmers.

It turned into quite a party, and I realised that I might be disturbing the siesta of the occupant of a huge yacht moored a little way off, and wondered who it could be. The shores of a nearby island had started to fill up too, and I wondered if I would get arrested. Holding tightly onto my tin of Kendall toffees.....I carried on under an enormous sombrero.

It was fun! We all laughed a lot and finally our captain decided to weigh anchor and set sail for dinner. As we left, all of the Carabinieri, and La Guardia di Financia (Customs), stood up in their launches, and caps, and saluted me.

They were guarding the President of the Republic of Italy! How grand...I waved merrily back.

Thank you dear Mark, for keeping my smile bright.