I’m not sure this is even a proper blog entry …
… but I needed to explain why there was a bit of silence from my end.
I was indeed gloomy and low in my last essay, as quite a few of you noted in your messages to me. I remain so. Nothing much has advanced and I need to work out what to do. Should I fight? Should I sit back and see what plays out? Should I find (as Steve suggests) some middle ground to occupy? I have – as yet – no answer, no idea.
I want to fight. But I am tired and pessimistic. We, the people, are the Davids and the government is the Goliath. Not all stories have the Hollywood ending that the Bible gave that one. Would that they did.
So, I wrestle with all of that. It leaves me psychologically tired. I canvas the same ground in my head again and again not moving my thinking very much forward at all.
Dealing with the emotional fallout of the earthquakes and the energy required to manage the lives we all have to lead now can be a little hard sometimes. We are all on the move it seems: sort of refugees in our own land. Adriano – a friend who lives (lived?) in my street in Sarnano, now sleeps on a camp bed at one of his relatives’ houses. Davide’s wife is in a bad way, crying a lot because, yet again, they have to shift their stuff and find a new place to stay for the next ‘x’ months. Carlo’s teenage son has barely spoken a word since the shocking night of Octber 26th. An elective mute. There is not one of us who has even the faintest, approximate idea of when all this will end.
Steve and I have to move again after Easter. My much-beloved Franco (Sarnano’s cop … the hero of my Day of Rescue in the snow) is renting us (for peppercorn rent I might add) a little place he has in a village about ten minutes from Sarnano. Thank God, I say … I just cannot imagine what we would have done without that. There aren’t terribly many places left around these parts to rent or stay in. All the hotels are packed with the sfollati and most rent-able places are rented. So many towns have had their centres laid waste and all the little houses and flats there don’t even exist any longer to rent out. All quite difficult.
And add into the mix the sense that the enemy greater than the quakes is the government who you misguidedly thought would be there for you.
My doubt as to the validity of this particular blog entry is because I am writing it while in London …
I arrived here yesterday – all rather last minute – for reasons I’ll explain in a minute.
Everyone who knows me is aware that it takes either a funeral or a wedding to drag me away from Italy. I just never want to leave. I make people come here, instead. During the last months many friends have implored me to leave but their words have fallen on stony ground.
… But then something good happened. Something really good. And here I am.
I’m sure I mentioned in a previous essay that in the winter of 2015/2016 I rather rashly decided to give up working and head off to London to spend time with people who are homeless.
Homelessness is such a blight, such an unutterable misery. I packed in working on a Friday, woke up on Saturday morning, told (a rather stunned) Steve that I was getting on Ryanair flight the next day to wander the streets of London so I could talk to homeless people, record what they told me and take photographs of them and the life they lead.
On the Monday morning that is exactly what I was doing. It needed doing. After months, I returned to Italy and wrote it all up as a book. A Herculean task (I’ve never done anything like that before) but I loved it. And I certainly never imagined in a million years that one day, not six months after I got back to Sarnano, that I too would become – technically – homeless. Though let’s be totally clear here – my kind of homelessness is absolutely nothing like the chronic homelessness (plus its concomitant horrors) experienced by the people I spent that time with.
The good thing that happened? A very innovative and passionate publisher called Unbound, here in London, recently said they wanted to help me get the book made, printed and distributed (they have a relationship with Penguin-Random House, which is a powerful thing to have!).
I have left the tremors and my adopted homeland for a couple of weeks to trail around persuading people to support the book: Unbound need me to crowdfund the actual physical production of the book, which thanks to all the photographs I took is a costly business (something to do with posh paper for the posh prints, plus it’s going to be a hardback).
For the first time for a long time, I am happy. Very happy. I cannot believe that this all will become a reality. I want people to know about the homeless and maybe even grow to feel an affection and admiration for them (as I did).
So, I’m here, with my much adored step-daughter, in Highbury. So, so strange. No mountains. Anywhere. No forests. Not much keen on the air here (or the endless police sirens) but it’s brilliant, planning to see friends and spending time with Alice. We laugh a lot together. Last night we were snuggled up on the sofa with an enormous Atlas and pretending we had to chose a new place for me to live (if Italy were destroyed). I said I wanted to live in Eire – can’t face learning another new language – because it was beautiful, verdant and had leprachauns. Alice turned one of the giant pages and I said, peering across her lap, “Look – it’s gorgeous – all that nature, all those swathes of green …”.
“Tam“, said Alice, turning to me with a worried look on her face, “That’s an aerial shot of Warsaw“.
So, my eyes are clearly useless, my head is a tangle but I have got something positive to focus on now, to fight for … the book.
Now, this is where I am not at all convinced I’m not about to abuse some unwritten Bloggers Code … maybe even committing an offence under the Misrepresentation Act, 1967. I mean – you started reading what you thought was going to be an essay on earthquakes and living with them …
… but I am about to take a sharp turn and tell you more about the book and … worse … I am going to ask you to consider supporting it by going to this link:
where you can read a lot more about what I’ve done and see if you feel you want to ‘pledge’. I want to be totally clear: not a single penny of the money raised goes to me … not one red cent … it all goes to the manufacture of the book.
It’s called Four feet Under (because that is where the homeless live in relation to the rest of us) and it is amazing. My blog … I can blow my own trumpet, right? I set up a Facebook page for the book and posted this on it, as a sort of summary:
I may very well have lost my Blogger’s Moral Compass in asking you to go and find out about the book. But I can’t help myself. No defence I do see, but the truth nevertheless. There is very little I wouldn’t do to get this book into the shops and inside people’s homes.
I hope – really hope – that I have not offended you by writing this.
A promise: all future Land of the Forgotten Earthquake blogs will be about forgotten earthquakes.