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?