June is already upon us, 6 new calves have been born, we are treating the vineyard weekly to protect the plants against fungal diseases, and the Agriturismo season is well upon us. This year has been a fine year for the calves that have been born. The last for this year was born yesterday. All are feeding well and growing apace, none of the mothers have mastitis which is a relief as a keeping a calf alive which cannot drink its mothers milk from birth is a real struggle. The cows are gradually getting used to the new pastures that we set-up for them during the winter. We have begun rotating them from one pasture tothe other - in theory they should remain in each pasture until they have eaten all the weeds and thorns, not just the fresh grass. In reality after they have eaten the fresh grass they alternate between calling us and passing their time looking for ways to escape. Generally, they can't escape where we have put the electric fence. Where there is the old net fencing, however, they inevitably find a route out so a couple of weeks ago we had to abandon serving dinner to shoo them out of our neighbours field where they were busy trampling the mais. This week we will begin replanting a part of the vineyard where we have removed the old plants. I find new activities such as this very stressful because, not having done it before, I don't, at the beginning have a clear concept of how complicated or difficult each part of the process will be. Once you dive in and start the job it generally turns-out not to be that complicated but at 42 it can be a big tricky starting-off a completely new career. Two days ago Sabrina arrived for 3 months work experience. As part of her tourism studies, Sabrina, who is from Salzburg, must spend 3 months working in a tourist activity and, having been to La Faula on holiday she chose us. Last night we have great Weiner Schnitzel, we have discovered that she can bake strudel and other terrific cakes so we are looking forward to living well in the next months. Yetmer is being a big help - he has settled in for his 3 months of work experience and we are now trying to get the permissions through to employ him full time at the end of his exam and schooling.
One of the best things about being in Italy is that there are plenty of excuses for people to come and visit. Family members who never quite made it to England when I was there somehow seem to find time not only to come to Italy but to stay for some time! Friends, old colleagues, and friends of friends find time to come out and visit and keep us in contact with the world outside Italy!
It is Sunday,afternoon - our afternoon off. I am sitting here in front of our little house, with Nellie at my feet, trying to catch the last of the afternoon sun. Last week was Easter. And we had a very fine time. There was a good mix of guests - Italians to keep us tied to Italy (otherwise we have a tendency to drift-off and imagine we are a little part of the anglophone world adrift here in Northern Italy), Germans to enthrall all of us by taking their shoes off and going into the fountain to cool of (yes, in early April!), Vienese to win us over with their charm and urbanity and some American and English friends to remind us of the world we have left behind. Unfortunately, I had just gone down with a head-cold so I had to struggle to present myself as not being close to death but there were also a number of other guests with colds so mine didn't stand out som much. Everyone was very nice and we like to think that the atmosphere was fairly familial. Luckily, the weather was fine and warm so the kids could burn off their energy stroking the dogs or playing soccer and as we now know happy kids means happy parents which means a good holiday and good feelings about La Faula. To start the season well is important to us. As we live in our business we can't go home at night and put it all behind us so if things go well we feel chuffed, when things go badly on the other hand it tends to drag us down. This week we had another development about which we had some deep foreboding but which seems to have gone quite well and which has brought-up a series of reflections for me, grandson of Immigrants, on what it means to emigrate in circumstances of poverty to find a better life in another place. When under age illegal immigrants arrive in Italy they cannot be expelled so they are placed under the guardianship of whichever mayor happens to be in the place where they are found. All these kids are placed in care in a type of youth institution where they are cared for but closely supervised. If the kids are under 17 years they are enrolled in vocational education programmes with the hope that at the end of the two year course they will be able to find a job in Italy and integrate into the local life - if not they will be expelled as adults which invariably means moving on to Germany or Great Britain. We were approached by an Udine Agricultural college to see if we would take two of these kids - an Albanian and an Rumanian, both aged 17 and a half, for three months as part of a stage. They work for us 4 days a week each alternative week for three months, and in the time that they are away from us they continue at school. So far Albanians and Rumanians, for us, have been the shadowy figures on news reports arriving at night on the South Italian coast by zodiac or leaping out of lorries being checked at the channel tunnel. We were a bit nervous about taking them - we have enough to fill our plates without managing two extracommunitaries as they are called here. Anyway, they were both brought to meet us last week and in front of them shame prevented us from refusing the scheme so now we have these two extra pair of hands here. And, it really has been a good, if slightly difficult experience. Yesmir, the Albanian, arrived in Italy by Zodiac at night on the third attempt. On the first two attempts the inflatable was forced back by Ialian Guardia patrols. On the third, this mixture of people, known and unknown to each other, was disembarked in dark of night, loaded into a lorrie and randomly distributed along the road. So this 16 year old kid found himself in the morning alone on a road in some part of South Italy with alsmost no possessions and Lire 100.000 in his pocket. The Romanian, we call him Jack, arrived via the back of a series of lorries. Jack was picked-up by the police whereas Yesmir turned himself in to the Questura. The thing that is striking is that these kids left because of a desire to make a better life - and this remined me of my own grandparents who left the poverty of Scotland in the 1930's to find a new life in New Zealand.
It seems to me that one of the defining experiences in the last century was emmigration and that this, more than anything else defines the differences between the old world of Continental Europe and the new worlds of the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Apart from the aboriginal people (which in the case of NZ does not include the Maoris as they themselves were relatively recent emigrants) we are all descendents in these new countries - of people who left to search out a new life - of people with initiative seeking to build something new. Invariably those who stayed behind either had more to lose or more inertia - and the compromises that these people, and those with power and wealth, made to create the stable Europe of after the war has created a scheloric, if gentile conservatism that is both smug and condescending in relation to the seeming brashness and naivity of new countries and their inhabitants. Well there you have it. Maybe all these Albanians and Rumanians and Kurds and Bangladeshis are exactly what Europe needs to invigorate it?