THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
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June 2017

A pedestrian day in Florence

Today was the first of two full days in Florence. My photo workshop begins this evening and I am looking forward to meeting up with friends from previous such events as well as making, I hope, some new ones. I had breakfast with the organiser, photographer and film-maker Liza Politi. This is the fourth of her photo workshops I have attended and it was good to catch up. Our "sensei" for the week, Joe McNally, stopped by to report on his early morning location scouting and showed us this photo, which sets the bar distressingly high.

I then braved the heat to haul my own camera gear around Florence. It's one of my favourite cities and, once I had bought myself a new Panama hat to shield my pale Brythonic features from the fierce sun, I enjoyed my stroll. It brought back happy memories of a family trip here with the late Mrs P. and Misses P. the Elder and Younger.

There was some kind of Ruritanian parade through the Piazza della Signoria and after watching the tourists vaguely wave phones over each others heads to produce thousands of what must have been dreadful photographs, I worked my way to the front to snatch some shots of manly Italian gents carrying off truly bizarre attire with such aplomb as only they can muster. In fairness, their outfits were only marginally more elaborate than the police uniforms here. If nattiness tended to effectiveness then this would be the best-policed country on Earth.

Tonight our workshop begins with a kick-off briefing and setting of assignments, followed by a get-to-know-each-other dinner. If the organiser's choice of Florentine restaurant is half as good as her choice of hotel, we are in for a treat.


I took the coastal option to drive to Florence this morning. It was a little disappointing. It's not that the scenery was not pleasant, but rather that from the autostrada it was mostly obscured by the brutalist transport infrastructure oddly favoured by one of the world's most stylish nations; home to many of the best designers. I guess I needed to get off the motorway but I was mainly concerned to make progress  

I theorised that perhaps Italy's bridges and tunnels are like the plain friends ladies take to clubs to set off their own beauty. Maybe they are there to make Italian cars look even prettier? Speranza certainly looked very shapely against a background of girders, bent into ugly shapes.

Or perhaps it's because, as I had noticed following a sexy new Alfa Romeo through the tunnels beneath Genoa, Italian driving tends more to flair than accuracy? As he lane-danced through curvy tunnels in city traffic the Alfa man made my lane discipline seem drably Teutonic. I couldn't work out if he was trying to follow the racing line or if there was too much play in the little Alfa's steering. While I couldn't conceive a manoeuvre rash enough to get me over the enormous view-obscuring side barriers on the many bridges, he might just come up with one I suppose, given space and a good run up!

I glimpsed the Med at times in the distance but mostly we traversed steep forested valleys at altitude on bridges not designed by Pininfarina or Prada, connecting to tunnels of no Hobbitish charm. The valleys looked pretty as did the occasional houses. As we came closer to Florence there were also hilltop settlements in typical Tuscan style. They had the advantage of being above the eyeline of the Le Corbusier-tribute infrastructure where they could be enjoyed. I hope Italy's engineers have at least made their bridges look good from a distance as they must constitute much of the view from those quaint hilltop homes. 

I don't lose my temper under stress any more since Mrs P. died. Mere traffic jams don't seem worthy of remark since I faced a real problem. Florence almost revived the old, angry me however. There seem to be lots of road works and closures and my idiot SatNav/GPS kept trying to take me back to the blocked routes.

Eventually I stopped on the right street for my hotel and called for further directions as my way seemed blocked by those up and down bollards that reserve streets for public transport. Fortunately the hotel was able to tell me that I was on the right side of the bollards. In fact my hotel was just 100 metres behind me. Had I turned right not left when reaching the street I would have been right there. 

Here's a picture of Speranza on just the kind of street Pininfarina probably imagined when he designed her. Armani, Prada, Versace all have their shops here so she and her relatively humble Ferragamo leather trim fit right in. 

I refrained from looking out of the window of my comfortable room as I heard the voiturier/valletto start her up. Memories of Ferris Bueller always return at such moments. By now she's safely stowed for the three nights I am here. She'll be retrieved when we head out into the Tuscan countryside on Monday. 

Dijon to Alessandria

Tuscany  - 1Today was bliss. The sun shone. I drove with the roof down on France's great roads to the Mont Blanc tunnel, stopping to drink in the scenery a couple of times. Rising up to the tunnel entrance cooled me down, as did the tunnel itself. Then it was out into brilliant sunshine and less brilliant roads populated by two of the three categories of Italian motorists; the ones who like to express their appreciation of my car and the ones who see her as a challenge. I didn't meet the third category — the ones in police cars.

There was a brief hold up — the first of the trip — on the Italian side of the tunnel. I don't know whether there had been an accident or breakdown but we waited for a while — long enough for me to get hot and put the roof up so as to enjoy the air conditioning. Then a kindly category #1 Italian directed me out of the line of stationary trucks and onto to a back route.

There followed a lot of "tunnelling" noisily in low gears for musical effect. This was much appreciated by category #1s but set off a couple of category #2s in (would you believe it) a SEAT and a Skoda! I was happy to provide entertainment for both categories as long as I could steer clear of #3. I can give a young man no better gift than to tell his girlfriend how he passed a Ferrari in his Skoda today. I was that young man once (though it was a Wolseley not a Skoda) and it makes me smile to think of it.

Then we reached the plains between the Alps and my destination - Alessandria. It was cool and pleasant on the autostradas and I stopped briefly to put the roof down again. Italy looked gorgeous as I sped along and having skipped lunch I began to look forward to a better meal tonight than I had last night in Dijon. That was my fault. I didn't feel like getting dressed up to eat out alone and so cheaped out on French fast food. What a waste of a day in the food capital of the world! I shall make no such error here as the hotel has a highly recommended restaurant. My progress map is updated here. Tomorrow I have a shorter run to Florence and have two choices. I can drive Speranza past her birthplace or take the coastal route. What do you think? 

Tuscany - 1

On the Road Again [NSFW]

Even I am tired of politics now. Everyone is, except perhaps Arlene Foster and her merry band at Westminster. I saw her speak about Brexit in London before the election and she didn't strike me as the monster the Left-Liberal Establishment is portraying. In fact she seemed quite Auntie-ish – albeit more in the mould of Bertie Wooster's Aunt Agatha, than Aunt Dahlia. She's more patriotic than is now fashionable on the mainland, but I have not learned to admire treachery yet. She's hard-headed on the subject of the border with the Irish Republic after 2019, but one can hardly fault her for that.  

I am not sure why I keep fact checking Leftist hysteria, by the way. If you're not them, you're a Nazi. I get it. And you can't persuade them otherwise because (a) they don't care for facts and (b) they'll scream so loud they won't hear them anyway. I guess I am just a Modern, not a Post-Modern, and therefore fond of both the rationality and truth that Post-modernism rejects.

So the blog is in travel mode again. I didn't blog about my visit to New York City last week. I was worked hard on a photographic workshop. Nary an F-stop was mentioned. It was all art theory and all the more challenging for that – at least to my practical mind which rather tends to confuse Art School-speak with bovine excrement. I was mentally stretched however and that can rarely be a bad thing. 

The only NY contribution I can offer to travelogue mode is this image from the Body Notes event in Times Square that happened while I was studying nearby. It was a very SJW-ish occasion to promote "positive body image" on the part of people for whom (and I am no work of art myself) that sometimes requires a large measure of delusion. Over 100 exhibitionists showed up to be painted with "meaningful" slogans and – though I am not sure that's what the organisers were hoping for – it was amusing.

The young lady pictured was so visibly demanding attention it seemed churlish not to give it. The bodies framing hers were rather more typical of the event. She seems to be overcoming her negative body image problem quite well. Call me a lawyer but I rather enjoyed the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled against the banning of a previous such event because paint on bodies = artistic free expression and is protected as such by the First Amendment. The City Authorities duly rolled with that punch this year, providing a fenced space where "free expression" could occur without more delicate citizens (or the children of regular ones) having to encounter it. Needless to say, a few excited exhibitionists could not restrain themselves from leaping said fences to offer naked "selfies" with passing New Yorkers.

Body Notes_09_01

After a brief break back home to launder and pack, I set off early this morning for the Eurotunnel. I am driving to Tuscany and back to take part in yet another photo-workshop. This one will, based on past experience, involve more actual shooting and I shall share some images here. I can't promise naked ladies, however, blue or otherwise. 

I had a wonderful run to Dijon, my first overnight stop en route. The weather was so warm I had to put the roof up for the hours before and after midday, but mostly it was a top-down (but not topless) experience. Tomorrow I shall set off bright and early to continue my journey through France and into Italy. If you are interested you can follow my progress here

Hope for the future

I take no satisfaction in having been right about the unnecessary election of June 2017. The voters punished Mrs May for putting party before country. In their ire they came close to inflicting upon us all a government Communist in all but name. We had a narrow escape. I was in New York and watched the result through the eyes of a baffled America that wants to like us but just can't help seeing us as has beens with baffling delusions of grandeur.

About the only lesson that everyone (but Mrs May) can agree upon is that she is an idiot. She's a dead woman walking and it's only gracious to avert our pitying gaze. So what now?

The contempt of our EU colleagues (for now) could scarcely be intensified but, having worked closely with Continentals for decades, trust me; they never wished us well. That's not to say that they can't be friends at an individual level. They can and are. But they are absolutely united in their humiliating folk memory of Britain astride the planet when (in their view) so clearly a barbarian, uncultured race far far below the salt of the cultural and legal descendants of Ancient Rome. We have put our Empire behind us and moved on but I doubt the erstwhile rulers of Europe's failed and far more vile empires ever will. 

Here is my positive take. The next phase of our history is like an FA Cup match in which all believe us to be lower league minnows with little hope of success. Good. Expectations are low and those who wish us ill are over-confident that we can be lightly regarded and swiftly despatched. We have been here before. We shall be here again. So let's play the game as best we can and take what we can from the occasion.

The Brexit negotiation has its own internal logic. There is no reasonable compromise on offer because (to frighten others who might think of leaving) the EU can give us nothing. I am more afraid of betrayal from within. Since they can give us nothing, anything we pay them beyond their strict treaty entitlement will be a waste of resources we need to husband against an uncertain future. 

I believe in Britain's prospects. I really do. But our future is ours to take — or throw away. Given the alarming proportion of young people who, on the evidence of last week, are economic illiterates, ethical degenerates and brainwashed identity warriors, there's no guarantee of success. 

At least, after Brexit, we are under our own management. Win or lose the outcome will be ours to live with.