It has been a rollercoaster week here at Bellaugello Gay Guest House. Highs, lows, speed, standstill, joy, sadness, things shared, sharing denied, solitude, companionship, courage, weakness, rain, sunshine, warmth and cold; I could go on further, much further with the adjectives, but I guess you begin to see the picture.
I have been suffering a blogger’s block, unable in the disorganised jumble that is rapidly becoming my brain to find the right words and phrases to enable me to satisfactorily to put digit to keypad and express my feelings. Oh! and having now found the wherewithal to post, my train of thought has put me in mind of that great British comedian Frankie Howerd who as Lurcio the slave in the BBC comedy “Up Pompeii” always began his oration with ‘The Prologue” and never quite got to the subject …..
So, let me start with a great rant about automatic spell-checker.
I hate it, I find the blue text boxes that pop up with increasing and irritating frequency utterly annoying, and so very often quite simply wrong! They are confidence destroying. Whilst I know I speak Italian competently with a grandiose English accent, I have an utter failure to pronounce my ‘R’s. Maddeningly a friend of mine in Rome can make entire paragraphs full of “R”s fall and tumble out of his mouth rrrrrrrrrrrrrollingly long and melodiously, (I am so jealous) I cannot manage even one “R” and when I do it just plops out in an emasculated un-noticed fashion. My Italian friends mimic my accent and try in vain to correct me or adopt my ‘r’less way of speech. On the other hand grasp of the English language is reasonably proficient.
I guess I have always enjoyed words. Way back in the midst of time as a wee nipper on my Mother’s knee I learnt the joy of books, (owing to that dreaded ‘political over-correctness’ probably all now banned or censored beyond recognition). Mother had infinite patience, a joy in reading and sharing, and the skill to find books with the right amount of text, story and pictures to enthrall and entrance me. She was a consummate reader. We come from a very matriarchal family, down the generations all strong women who were avid readers, writers of letters, writers of books and pamphlets, and wordsmiths. in the 1960s a great aunt subscribed to Readers’ Digest, the World Book Club, National Geographic, the Lancet and every gardening catalogue then printed, was there wallpaper in her house? I never knew it was hidden behind walls of books, long escaped from what had been known as the library to encompass the entire house, Purportedly here aunt could quote from Chaucer, Milton, Chairman Mao, Dante and the Cornflakes packet. These are traits the gay son has inherited, (though not the quotations, as I opened this theme admitting my brain is already addled) perhaps it explains my love of blogging, perhaps not, but it does go some way to explain my hatred of the automatic spell-checker.
I was brought up in Great Britain, the language English. My parents’ spent obscene amounts of money sending me to school in England where English was drummed into me, sometimes with the aid of the ruler, sometimes with the un-nerving accuracy of a well chucked b….board duster, and sometimes with care, compassion and enthusiasm. For years I endured spelling tests, the thought of having to leave the warmth of a study for the horror of having to get into damp rugger kit and run round the playing fields after prep in the rain as a punishment for mis-spelling the simplest of words was enough to ensure I paid attention. But now all to no avail. I press keys on my laptop, or prod my iPad and all too often that dreaded blue box flashes up below my line of type. It does not like what I have typed, it objects and it has me questioning my spelling. Now why does it have to be an American spell-checker? Try as I might WordPress does not seem to want me to keep to my British English spelling, but wants me to Americanize with ‘zees’ in abundance and turn rugger into rugged (hmm not bad!) but it questions my competence and erodes my confidence, and makes me irritatingly defiant, which is not the ideal humour (yes it is spelt with an ‘u’) for me to have whilst writing. Do I spell the word like that, is my punctuation correct etc., my dictionary is ever to hand. I do like my WordPress, it is becoming a very powerful tool, but at the same time crushing the individuality of grammar.
A roller-coaster week! Sunshine and snow, but come rain or shine the perennial problem of my internet connection once again deigned to push its head above the parapet. On Off, slow, slower, stop. Enough! I cried and sat down and composed and email to the service (?) provider. This has resulted in three weeks of testing and proving of the connection. Speeds had sunk to 31Kbps download and ping of -1, not a lot you can do. Italian tv being so awful – a YouTube look at ‘Up Pompeii’ from the 1970s gives you an exact idea of just how far behind the times and sexist (but without the humour [and humour still has a ‘u’ in it]) it is so I try and stream tv. I am saddened by the inconsistency of the internet speed. Although I have recommended several new clients and many neighbours to my provider and am a client of long-standing, I do not expect any particularly special treatment, merely a service that works. A constant 3Mbps would be nice. Listening to the BBC I learn that the average rural broadband speed in the UK is currently 15Mbps and by 2017 the aim is to have that increased to 30Mbps. 15?? 30?? those are speeds only to be dreamt of here. I am simply asking 3!
And talking of special treatment, I have been privy to information regarding a carbuncle. Firstly news from a friend, then another and finally I read an article in the local paper. Alas! It is true! There is a plan approved in Comune to install glass panels in the upper level of the Logge dei Tiratori, that wonderful loggia seen on first entering the beautiful medieval city of Gubbio. I am incensed. One of the particularly splendid and often remarked things about my nearest town of Gubbio is that it is unspoilt, (not unspoiled) it retains its medieval characteristics. There is so much to admire in this sadly unpublicized and badly marketed jewel of a city, clinging as it does to the slopes of M Ingenio. Pale cream and pink stone interspersed with brick and pietra serena, the architecture is a mix of styles, that are somehow homogeneous and a joy to behold. It is not like Assisi, that city so currently fashionable and increasingly so by the multinational’s chief executive taking the name of one of its most famous sons. Assisi is beautiful, yes, but it is over-restored, too perfect. The 1997 earthquake that hit Norcia Umbra and damaged the surrounding towns and villages also hit Assisi. The multinational made sure that funds destined for the repair and clean up went first to Assisi and what has resulted is a picture postcard Disney city, not a stone out of place, perfect cobbled streets, even the geraniums are perfectly shaped, but Gubbio is so much nicer. They say it is so unaltered because historically there never was any money here, the town had to adapt and make do and mend. The result is entrancing. Of all the many guys who stay here at Bellaugello Gay Guest House only one has come here specifically to see Gubbio ( and he a fan of the Italian tv programme [no not program me] Don Matteo, even that carelessly lost to Spoleto) indeed nobody has really even heard of Gubbio, but when they visit and they all do, they are captivated.
So back to the Logge. It seems that the building was owned by Unicredit bank who sold it to a bank in Perugia that just happens to be a part of the burgeoning empire of one of our local cement magnates. This said “cavaliere” as he was called at a meeting last night has the intention to glaze in the what is now open space in the upper level of this beautiful and simple building that as one enters the town is the first thing that is seen. His intention is to create a multi-use conference centre, concert hall, gallery and exhibition space all in the upper level of the building. This involves closing in the open space with panels of glass some 3.5 m x 5 m. I understand that these panels of glass will have either automatic blinds or obscuring properties and will undeniably change the characteristics of the building. Ok he owns the building, but other home owners in the centre of the city cannot as they point out change by a mere jot the facade of their homes. Windows have to be in wood, and paint colours 4 in total are proscribed by the comune’s architectural department. Now I am actually all in favour of that, it keeps the city as it is and as I said it is intrinsically beautiful. However it seems one rule does not apply to all people. At a meeting last october the Comune (and yes in there is only one ‘m’ in Comune – it is an Italian word) approved the design. The Bella Arte architects supported the application, one of their justifications being that a restoration in the 1970s when wooden beams were replaced with reinforced concrete and the ceilings replaced was wrongly done, together with the birds flying around and crapping on the concrete has endangered the building and the only way to ensure the continuity of the building is to close it in! Think Coliseum, Stonehenge, Pont du Gard…….
Last night was a meeting of the protesters. A lengthy and rambling meeting. Why? Oh why do meetings in Italy seem to ramble on so long without ever reaching the point. In this instance although lengthy the speeches, the speakers were articulate, arguments well put. The justification for the Comune’s decision was put by the spectacularly elegant four rows of pearls, Commissaria Prefettizia del Comune di Gubbio D’Alessandro for it is she that is, since May of last year, in the absence and agreed budget and facing bankruptcy and without a mayor, custodian and administrator the city until the next elections in April this year. The meeting was getting heated the Commissaria justifying the Comune’s actions by laws long since enacted, and obfuscating replies. To me the crazy thing is why are they even thinking of this project? There are plenty of under-utilised and beautiful public spaces in Gubbio, plenty of buildings really needing repair, and pray do tell me just how they will manage to get 200 delegates into the conference centre on Tuesdays when the market fills the piazza around the loggia, or will the centuries old market just have to move or stop?
After two hours I had to leave to meet friends for supper. Outside the hall in the all too often closed public library were a handful of local police and in the street outside opposite the still unfinished after how many years multi-storey car park pulled up the carabiniere…. The iniquity of it, one rule for some another for the masses, it seems that is increasingly the way of Italy today. Decent people are no longer blaming Berlusca, they are tired, frustrated and disillusioned, they simply state he is symptomatic of the Italian mentality. Whether or not that is true, his legacy is so negative and destructive, there is a breakdown of trust, a desire to do over your neighbours, to better yourself at whatever the cost to others, the caring society is sadly dissipating, it is all very depressing.
One point that did come out of the meeting was the admission by the Commissaria that she makes a point in familiarising (no it does not have a ‘z’) herself with the issues that she is presented with. So, my being as ever totally fed up with the state of our road in Valdichiascio, huh! a joke! it is, in places not a road but a cart track or river bed, and having already decided to circulate a petition of the residents’ my neighbours, we are some 80 who live here and use the road on a daily basis, I am having a refined attack. Having thought to present it once again to the Assesore who is responsible for road maintenance, I have now changed my mind and will take it directly to the top, and before Sig.ra D’Alessandro returns to Rome in April, and in good time for her to see the situation herself, so hopefully the road will be drivable for us and you guys.
Supper with friends is for me, always a joy. We met at our local osteria, Il Panaro familiar to so many of you guys who have stayed at Bellaugello. Feasting off Crescia generously filled with prosciutto, sausages, spinach and fontina, washed down by a reasonable spumante, a convivial evening of catching up with news. This time it was me with most of the news, and continuing my roller-coaster week I had to unload.
I was able to announce that discussions over the vineyard are well progressed and if the last piece of the jigsaw falls into place this year I will be tending a few lines of vines here in the valley, and making Bellaugello wine! I am so excited. How I will find the time I am unsure, but I hate to think of the vineyard becoming overgrown and abandoned, and the chance to offer my guests our own wine is quite simply too tempting. One of my friends at supper kindly offered to come over and help instruct me in pruning of vines. Add to that the possibility of you guys coming over to help with the vendemmia or grape harvest, secateurs in hand warm sun hitting your backs, cutting bunches of plump juicy grapes, taking them to our press, and sitting down in the vineyard to a lunch of local produce washed down by our own just made grape juice… a romantic dream I wish to make a reality.
Reality struck home for a good friend of mine recently. A lovely articulate caring guy, he told me that he has been diagnosed HIV+ He is young, early twenties. Relating the story of course anonymously, I knew exactly what my friends were thinking – a gay guy playing around and having unprotected sex, it is the obvious conclusion. However the reality is different he has been a regular blood donor and so he has consistently been checked, also is not promiscuous and was negative last summer before he had to go into hospital for a routine surgical procedure. Last autumn he started losing weight and feeling unwell checks resulted in the HIV diagnosis, clearly there was a lack of crapulous (how does spell-checker make crapulous out of scrupulous?) hygiene or some contamination during one of three routine procedures. He is remarkable, stoic, and although hurting so very much is upbeat, I am so proud to call him my friend.
And talking of friends and family, a wonderful email hit my computer this week. I have yet to answer it, so to my cousin who I now know follows my blog I will, of course, be replying personally, but I hope you don’t mind me sharing our news so publicly. Two years ago I received another email on my business account. Depsite what I wrote earlier about my Mother, she was where distant family were concerned a lousy correspondent, and far flung relatives were lost. But these relatives are canny, hence this email of which I, at the time blogged. Pam my, as one of her daughter’s so succinctly put it “Mum tells me we are some strange sort of distant cousins” is once again with her husband planning a Europe trip, and has scheduled to pass through Umbria this August and wants to stay a few nights at Bellaugello. She writes asking me if I will accept a couple of “straight guests?”. Of course I will, Bellaugello whilst being a Gay Guest House, does welcome everybody. I may not actively advertise outside the gay guys market, they are after all my target market and the reason for this business, however I do feel strongly that us gays have fought long and hard to be included in mainstream life and it would be hypocritical of me to refuse heteros to stay at Bellaugello. I am utterly delighted that I will be able to show my antipodean cousins around Umbria for a few days.
And talking of repression, I too am saddened by events in Russia. Like most gay guys I have a few Apps on my iPhone that put me in touch with other gay guys worldwide. Some recent chats have been with guys in Moscow, purportedly professional middle aged guys. Incidentally who knows until you meet who you are actually talking to and how on earth in the world can there can be so many perfect physical specimens out there, and not here in Umbria, surely one of them would like to be my husband?!?! Tentatively I ask them about the truth of gay life in Russia today, and alarmingly often their reply as if rehearsed or being intercepted is that ‘if you keep hidden and don’t disclose then all is ok. In Moscow gay bars and saunas continue to diction, but are now very much under the radar. It is ok, no problems’ With the release of the film ‘Twelve years a slave” we are currently more aware of the wrong one human does to another, of injustice and prejudice. I cannot help but feel that theirs and my sexuality, like everybody’s for which none of us have any choice is being persecuted the way colored people were in the era of apartheid and until recently the southern USA. What is it with the persecutors? Are they scared of their feelings and own sexuality, and if so why? What are they trying to do? Does the world population really need to be more controlled? I do not at this point want to go into this issue in depth, it must be the subject of another blog post when my brain is more focused.
Right now as I look out of my kitchen window, sun streaming in, snow dusting the tops of the Apennines, I am focusing on two great packages….. steady on guys! alas! not what you are thinking;-), I am on my own 🙁 I am referring to two holiday packages we will be offering this year at Bellaugello Gay Bed and Breakfast in Umbria, Central Italy.
HIKING WEEK: Check-in Saturday 3rd. May for 7 nights. Guided walking with a professional guide in the delightful Monte Cucco regional park, a trip to the Valnerina, and leisurely wandering the hidden paths in Valdichiascio, finishing off with a wine tasting here at Bellaugello. Places limited to ten.
SINGLES WEEKENDS: Two such weekends are planned. 4 – 7 April and 6 – 9 June, Friday through Sunday, a three night stay. The weekends will include indoor carting at a racetrack, a wine tasting held at Bellaugello, dinner on the Friday and Sunday evenings, use of the sauna, and Saturday evening in Gubbio. Accommodation is open to singles only, a choice of twin, single or double accommodation – you are welcome to bring a friend but no partner! A chance to meet new guys, make friends and socialise and who knows, maybe meet the love of your life…..