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Glittering Shards

Glittering Shards: November 2004

Glittering Shards

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Deep thoughts about...carrier bags!

I was in a large DIY store last night, shopping for paint samples and varnish etc... We are in the middle of DIY 'heaven' at the moment - four rooms plus our hallway being done hence me writing this blog from a room piled high with all the contents of the other rooms!

As I went to check out, a friendly assistant was helping pack my goods. As he reached for the third bag, I said "Don't worry, we can get it all in two". He looked surprised and I explained that I try to use as few carrier bags as possible. He looked even more surprised and asked why. I told him how, 3 years ago, my husband read an article that described how the bottom of the sea is clogged up with carrier bags and that this was having an awful knock on effect on sea creatures, plankton and oxygen levels in the atmosphere - ie the whole of the planet. Since then, I take my own bags to the supermarket, use my rucksack and refuse bags from shops unless its impossible to carry what I have brought without them.

By this point, another assistant joined the conversation. "Are you an environmentalist then?" he asked.
Well, I've never thought of myself with that label. But I am increasingly trying to do my part and change my lifestyle so that I am planet-friendly rather than planet-indifferent or worse . 

So, I explained to my friendly assistant that we have done things like refuse to buy a second car, switched electricity suppliers to Ecotricity (who, for every unit of electricity we use, put a unit into the national grid that comes only from wind energy - so the more people switch to them the less fossil fuel energy is supplied to the national grid).

By this point their chins were almost on the floor. I have to say that I was equally surprised by their surprise. Our friendly exchange continued (by now other customers were listening in). Then came the nub of it. "Why do you do it?" asked one of them. "Because the planet is a beautiful gift and I want to treat it with the respect a beautiful gift deserves", I replied. "But its already ruined, so why bother?" he asked."Simple really, because to not care would be to show contempt to both the giver of the gift and to the human beings who are to inherit the gift when I am gone". We ended the conversations with friendly goodbye's and I was left musing on how weird it is that the simple act of refusing a carrier bag is seen as counter-cultural. At our local corner shop we are now known as 'the people who refuse carrier bags'. Ha! Now that's a label I can wear with pride!

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Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Unseen art and the One Eyed Monster

On Sunday we went to see a comedian performing his show called "Britalia". I spotted it in Time Out and thought "yeah!". The theme was all about how he grew up in Brixton (London) but in an Italian family. There were several moments of empathic delight as I sat and listened to him, relaying his experience of being told to "go back to Italy you greasy wop" and then "go back to England you English hooligan". Those moments when English folk discover you are Italian and start talking in a mafia accent (how many times....!) or they reel off all the sites in Italy they had visited when all you can say is "well, I've been to my mum's village - 16 times!". His taking the rip out of the awful stereotype of the Dolmio advert (note subtext next time you see it..."Dolmio, Made in Holland") was sharp and his portrayal of the Italian woman's obsessive calling to obliterate any particle of dust or dirt in their house was hilarious- after which I leaned and whispered to my husband "Now you know where I get it from!"

This guy was brilliant - funny, a fantastic impersonator (his skit of what it would be like if the TV bleeped every time a politician told a lie followed by Bush, Blair and Berlusconi impressions just had to be seen!) and a warm and endearing character.

But...there were only about 12 people in the audience (capacity probably about 60). Granted it was a Sunday evening, but it got me thinking about art that is unseen or not seen by many pairs of eyes. This guy had put his all into writing and performing an hour of stand up comedy - and his all was more than good enough. As you sat in the audience you wished for him that there were more people there to appreciate his work. But does the smallness of his audience devalue his art? I don't think so.

It also got me thinking about how on earth small / local artists ever survive in our mass media world. We are all hooked up to our TV's watching yet another episode of Wife Swap when in a small theatre round the corner wonderful stuff like this is going on. As a small artists, it seems that unless you have a huge marketing outfit to drag / entice people from the moving wallpaper you must accept that audiences of 12 are the norm. I've never been particularly zealous about the 'anti-TV' lobby but this has got me thinking about whether we have allowed our senses to be dulled into accepting this narrow, one-dimensional, non-community based medium for experiencing art known as 'television'.

I wonder, out of all the listings in Time Out magazine, how many of the artistic events are only seen by a few pairs of eyes - not because the art is not worthy of being seen - but because all over the land, millions of eyes (and minds) have been hypnotised by the One Eyed Monster.

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Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Double Identity

I was born and grew up mainly in the UK.

In the UK, my life was lived in the insular Sicilian minority community outside of London.

My first language was Italian. My early memories are in Italian.

At the age of five, we moved to Italy. There I learnt to read and write.

At seven and a half we moved back to the UK. My English was not as good as my Italian and I was laughed at in class at by another pupil for not knowing what some basic words meant (and then the teacher put him in his place by asking him how many languages he spoke! Hee hee!). Shortly after returning, I remember my brothers and I being confronted by a neighbour who told us to "go back to the country you came from".

My home life was 100% Italian-Sicilian - language, food, customs, culture (good bits and bad bits). I spent most of my free time after school, weekends and holidays in the shop run by my family and we were known as "the people from the Italian shop".

Yet my school life was lived in English and I was born and lived in England most of my life.

Last Saturday, we spent the evening with a football squad of Italians from Milan - they came over for the weekend to take part in a football match organised by our Italian friend, Dani (score was Italy 13, Rest of the World 6!!).

My double identity seemed to pose interesting dilemma's for them. Hearing me speak English, they thought I was English. Then, when I started speaking Italian to them, they knew I was Italian - not just Italian but Southern - and with a name like 'Concetta' there was no doubt that I had my roots in Sicily (the north-south divide is still very strong in Italy - southerners being the poor peasants). They asked me how old I was when I moved to the UK. "I was born here" I told them (in Slough, the most exotic of places!). Puzzled, they said "Your Italian is very good". "It was my first language" I replied.

In my everyday life, the converse is true. I live an English life with mainly English friends and speak almost nothing but English from day to day. For the most part, I am treated as though I were English. Yet my name and looks are very un-English and most people do not realise how differently I was raised, having been brought up in a 100% Italian-Sicilian houshold, with all the joys and struggles that entailed. (I remember someone being shocked when I told them that as a teenager I had to be chaperoned everywhere as per Sicilian custom).

So what am I? A phrase that emerged as I talked with one of the Italian footballers...

"Concetta", he said "100% Italian and 100% English". I like that.

Though I have to confess, when it comes to International football, I know which side I am on...

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