This year, 2011, saw the last Volley-Ball camp at La Faula by the Codroipo Junior Volley-Ballers. It was a nice camp and a good note to finish on. We had got used to having the camp on the last week of August; it was familiar and it was nice to have La Faula invaded by a pack of young, enthusiastic and sporty young volley-ballers. We have done it now for eight years which is a big chunk of the time that we have been running the Agriturismo. In the end, providing full-board, including lunches, and managing the volley-ballers along with regular guests got too tiring - in the hot dog days of August we too need a little nap away from the mid-day sun!
It was interesting to have the volley-ballers for another reason. By now, anyone following Italy's recent economic travails and its response to the difficulties it is encountering funding its national debt will have realised that its current national behaviour is wholly consistent with every other disastrous event that has ever happened in its history since 1860.
First, Italy proceeds recklessly with a devil-may-care attitude until it encounters difficulty. Then, it grossly misjudges the nature of the risk and the magnitude of the problem. Then, as things deteriorate, it dissembles and then what it says it will do ceases to have any relation to what it actually does. Before the reckoning arrives, in the period of calm that preceeds the tempest, the Italians convince themselves that all is well and that they really are a people who can wing their way through the most terrible of moments. And then lacking courage, steadfastness and character Armageddon is visited upon the Italians and those who lead them leave the devil to take the hindmost.
In this way Italy, as a nation, has been a wholly destructive force in Europe more than once during the 18th and 19th centuries and it seems a more than fair bet that Italy will be the straw that breaks the Euro's back.
So what has this got to do with the volley-ball girls? The volley-ball girls who came to La Faula this week past were largely young, aged mainly around 12 years of age. They could have been from anywhere. They were open and spontaneous. Friendly and helpful. They were fit and sporty, cooperative and collaborative. To be in their company was a pleasure. Their coach, and organiser of the camp, was generous in his time, means and availability. It was impossible not to contrast this with, at that moment, the despicable, dishonest, conflicted and self-interested behaviour of the politicians, unions and interest groups tussling in an effort not to lose anything as Italy tried to respond to the national debt crisis. It was, moreover, impossible not to contrast the fresh behaviour and spontaneous, natural way of being of these young volley-ballers with that of their elders soaked in social distrust, bella figura and 31 years of Silvio Berlusconi's TV.
Italy is a wonderful place, it is beautiful and many people are warm and honest and caring. But the society is rotten to the core. This is reflected in the politicians not vice versa. But one man has certainly sewn the seeds of degradation and fed its malign progeny. And, we must, if we are to be honest, confront the fact that many Italians wanted this, were comfortable with it and supported and sustained it. But now, that those very Italians find that the rot has left them precariously exposed they will, as they did to Mussolini before, turn on Berlusconi and he is right to be afraid, as he must surely be.
Post Script: Sometimes, it may appear that I am unduly harsh in my judgements on Italy. But for a truly frank assessment I can only quote the words of Silvio Berlusconi published today:
Non me ne fotte niente...io..tra qualche mese me ne vado per i cazzi miei... da un'altra parte e quindi...vado via da questo paese di merda...di cui...sono nauseato...punto e basta..."
I couldn't give a f-ck, in some months time I'm going to go away for my own reasons .... to some other place and then I'll go away from this sh-t country, of which I'm sick ... and that's that!
The photo of the day is of James climbing Black Mountain in Slovenia. James, a guest, but who has become a friend, is the principal mover in organizing visits to WWI Alpine war sites during his stays at La Faula.
This year we scaled Black Mountain, 2400 metres. We then dropped into the saddle and scaled the next mountain in the chain, Red Mountain. It was a stunning, challenging and beautiful walk of which I will write more when times at La Faula quieten down somewhat!
This week sees the last time that we will host the Codroipo Volley ball girls during their annual summer training camp. It is fun, and the girls are great, but Luca and I have decided that we need a more measured activity in the summer and the volleyball girls, who require also lunches are straining our old (and tired) bodies somewhat.
The volunteers since mid-July are Chloe and Alex from London and Margherita from Italy. They have knitted down into a great team and having them here is really great for us.
Fritzy came through his hip replacement very well. Until a couple of days ago he was never let free as time was needed for the muscles to close around his femur. To avoid him running and jumping we kept him in a cage or tied-up and took him for walks. He has recovered well and in these last days we have left him, for periods, untethered and unclosed. The great thing is too see how happy Fritz is now that he is free of the debilitating pain of his arthritic hip-joint. He his truly a happy dog and is enjoying life to the full. We really thank the many guests who took Fritz for walks during his convalescence. Without this help, at what is a busy time for us,I am sure Fritz wouldn't have returned to good health so quickly and so emphatically!
As I guess all in Europe know, the summer is as perfect as it can be. Every day hot under blue skies with warm breezes bringing the sound of crickets singing in the long, yellow grass. For us it has been a wonderful season too. Things have gone smoothly and the guests have been enthusiastic, friendly and hospitable. We have had a series of controls from the authorities, mainly of a tax nature, but have not encountered any difficulties. Of course, with the Italian State close to not being able to fund its national debt, and not able to make the spending cuts needed because of the populist nature of its political system, it can do nothing else than look to transfer wealth from the private sector. We can expect, therefore, more controls, but we are sure in the knowledge that a nation that smothers its private sector in bureaucracy and extorts from it any surplus produced, while all the time vilifying entrepreneurs as anti social tax evaders will have no future and so we feel rather distant from the upheavals occurring in Italy around us. Italy will fall over but the sun will still shine and the crickets will still sing in the long dry grass in the summer ......