Last night in bed I wrote the greatest blog…in my head. This morning none of the words or ideas are springing into my brain with the force of my night-time insomnia. It went a little like this.
I had been ruminating on how, on my visit to Rome, (glorious, wonderful, more on that later) the sculpted head of the Emperor Nero (the one who took it upon himself to have his mother murdered) was very similar to Emperor Trump’s visage. Take a look on Google. Others have made the same comparison. It’s uncanny.
We have reality television to blame for everything. If we had not been so madly addicted to watching people psychologically destroy each other, Emperor Trump would never have been elected. Most of America would not have known the famous reality TV star whose catch-phrase “You’re fired” has since echoed down the corridors of the White House. Mr Trump, and his complete lack of nuance had become a celebrity, and that is all you need to become a world leader in America.
Since then, we have all been watching the slow demise of anything possessing nuance. Mr Putin and Mr Trump and like minded individuals puff their chests out as far as they can, beat them with their large, forceful fists and make loud noises. Nuance is dead. The days of Kissinger speaking in hushed tones guiding or manipulating are over. Of course this rubs off on how society behaves. The days of job interviews in which both parties treat each other with intelligence are over. The days when a person decides to set up a business because he or she loved the product they were making are over.
In our current climate, it is more likely you will find two or three individuals who will set up a company, let’s say an insurance company. They will brand it, market it and then sell the whole thing a year later having made a mint. They will not keep the company, nurturing it and ensuring that its integrity, values and philosophy remain in tact through the years. No, they will MAKE MONEY out of it by selling it. Then they will make another one. Let’s say an online house-swapping agency. Which will be marketed and branded and sold. They will make money out of that. This story will carry on until they are lying in their death bed. Their children, if they have any, will sit around the bed. Tell us your life story, they will say. Well, I made a company, sold it, made money, made another company, sold it, made money and then made another….. REALLY? Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist, a play first performed in 1610 was utterly visionary. As far as I can see, these individuals are not even making fake gold, they are selling hot air and we, yes I am talking about you and me, we are buying it. Just like we are buying Trump. As I said, on the whole, nuance is dead. It will be a word that will not have it’s definition given in future dictionaries.
However, since the ability to sense nuance appears to be part of an ancient of civilisation, one in which people value kindness, love, culture, art, design, morals and integrity it came as no surprise to find it in Rome. I can hear you gasp because obviously Berlusconi is hardly the personification of any of the values I have listed, but remember, his endless presence has been something that the Romans have chosen to ignore as much as possible. Maybe this Five Star Movement had had some sort of positive effect. Maybe the anger at Brexit had created a flush of pride in their own nation for still being a part of Europe. I really could not say. Maybe it was the weather. Maybe the happiness of my dear friend who I stayed with rubbed off on me. I do not know, but it was my umpteenth visit and I fell in love with it all over again.
On my arrival on a Thursday evening, she, let’s call her the Italian, picked me up in her beautifully designed Alfa Romeo. The seats were the colour of red wine and immediately put me in a good mood. After parking somewhere near (parking like London is an issue) she took me to her new home. Just off from the Coliseum up a cobble road, it’s shuttered windows greeted us with crimson bougainvillea surrounding the frames. Inside was parquet flooring, comfortable rooms, her collections of necklaces and rings displayed on sculptured trees crafted in far-away-places, house plants dangled from shelves, it was all glorious. We ambled off to one of her favourite venues round the corner, drank red wine, ate their home made gnocchi and talked until the early hours.
In the morning, she bravely sat me on the back of her scooter and we breezed through the golden air of Rome passing the ancient monuments which took on a cinematic quality from where I was sitting. We had breakfast at another favourite cafe, where they served me pistachio croissant and cappuccino with a little Zabaglione in the top part. Sumptuous. A little clothes and window shopping followed, salad lunch and a cold glass of wine on her terrace that overlooked Rome and its trees and architecture, then a trip to a Hammam, designed exactly like the original Roman ones were, with a massage to complete it. We floated off to a small afternoon doze, then supper with her daughter, more white wine and a gorgeous pasta with Pecorino called Cacio e Pepe: divine, in case you hadn’t guessed. Saturday, within an hour’s drive, we were at the beach, where large charismatic, deep-voiced men with dark eyebrows looked after us, feeding us with more white wine and their latest catch of all the seafood they could find, followed by a doze on the beach. We had drinks and a late supper that night in town, all gorgeous but we had both begun to loose our voices with our jaw-aching talks (she is my oldest friend from boarding school, we have known each other since we were eleven), so we retired at a reasonable hour, ready for Sunday morning, where the Italian had booked a viewing of le Domus Romane di Palazzo Valentini, which had been worked on over the last twenty years. It combined real archaeological artefacts and CGI / Virtual Reality assisted graphics so that you could imagine and also actually see what this home of someone in 400 AD was like. Red marble staircase, a hammam, a huge pillar with a long story engraved on it all the way to the top of the wars between Trajan and Dajan. It blew my mind. Walks in a rose-filled park followed and a farmers market, lunch on the terrace and then packing to return.
The Italian brought me luck because I had a very exciting casting that week, back in London, for a telly film that would be shot in a warm, far-away place. For a delightful change, it was enjoyable and filled to the brim with nuance so we won’t be attending its funeral yet. Nuance, that is.
Weekends with the May weather, have been filled with gardening, Italian lessons, which are always accompanied with Italian food and Mediterranean walks at night along the river Thames. The Captain and I are now really excited about our summer holiday in Puglia in June. I have added more excitement by booking three days to Corfu in August, on the invitation of other good mates, so I have been prepping by watching The Durrells on TV. Very enjoyable, to the point that I think I want to read the books again.
I am on my seventh draft of my novel, about to amend Chapter Seven, having restructured it on the advice of my writing pal. I am not a natural novel writer, with a burning need to write every day. I do it if I cannot find any laundry, cooking, ANYTHING else to do. So the progress is slow. My reading it limited at the moment, to an enormous, tiny printed account of what happened to the cotton industry between this country and America, in terms of the termination of slavery. It’s a toughie and as I am not a good reader, again, progress is slow.
In terms of what I am watching, in addition to previous blogs, I am enjoying the new series Barry and also Brockmire on Sky. We loved Mindhunter and the documentary Wild Wild Country on Netflix. I am afraid that I was disappointed by Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri as I felt it to be too violent without enough dark humour that Martin McDonagh did so well in his previous In Bruges. Armando Ianucci’s Death of Stalin is very well worth watching.
So I think that’s it. You will probably conclude that I am enjoying my life despite my sense that nuance is an elusive quality that we no longer see. The key is, I find, that I will live my life with as much of it as I can, in the knowledge that many will not pick up or recognise it. That’s fine with me. If others wish to live their lives without it, go ahead. Just remember, how you live now will rear its head in those last moments. Just saying. Peace and love to y’all.