Friday, February 21, 2014

So it’s goodbye from Nichi Vendola, who has paid the price of being a ‘coming man’, and hello to Matteo Renzi. Then I consort with a cousin who insists on reminding me of my father’s James Bond years, and B. Mc. and I finally meet and discover good food doesn’t necessarily need a lick of paint

So farewell, then, Nichi Vendola, much-heralded in what seems like two centuries ago as ‘Italy’s coming man’ (by the BBC and others) and like almost all coming men since the dawn of time, he has sunk without a trace. Well, not exactly, of course: I’m sure the good folk in Italy, and specifically, Apuglia, still talk about him, nudging each other discretely when he comes into view or appears on TV and telling each other era volta un coming man, but we here in Old Blighty, where these things matter, haven’t heard a whisper about him ever since.

Perhaps he is still coming, who knows, but it is rare for a former coming man to come again. So farewell, then, Nichi Vendola, who is apparently paying the price for being openly gay, but – far, far more seriously — who wrote poetry. Can’t have that in a politician, now come we. What next? Left-wing principles? Well, blow me, aren’t they exactly what the man espoused! All in all he only has himself to blame (and me, perhaps, as I mentioned him in this ’ere blog more than two years ago, which might well be a kiss of death). Instead rising without trace a certain Matteo Renzi has agreed to be Italy’s new prime minister for the next few weeks.

Renzi, might be a tad to the left, though apparently not too much, just enough for it to be mentioned in the Guardian (who sniffily refer to him as ‘centre-left’. There’s no pleasing them, is there). Quite apart from not being openly gay, he is openly straight and flaunts his wife, two sons and a daughter; and, crucially, he doesn’t write poetry (which will comes as something of a relief to Rome’s Establishment, though he doesn’t compose operas, either, or drive badly, which is something of a black

mark against him in some circles. The Pope is said to be rather put out, but feels that as a non-Italian, it is best he say nothing).

The status of former coming man Nichi Vendola might well be gauged from the rather distressing news that his entry on English Wikipedia (‘The fount of all knowledge — no fact too trivial!’) has not been updated since November 2013. And even though there has been some tinkering to his Italian Wikipedia entry as recently as last week, the most recent news of him recorded there is that from 2011 when he was in line to take over the leadership of the Italian Left and fight the next general election for them. Or not, as we now know.

Moral of the story: if you hear of someone touting you as ‘the coming man’, do everything you can to silence him (murder might well be legally and morally acceptable under the circumstances). And if, of course, you are a woman being touted as ‘the coming man’, you have even more grounds for outrage and violent action.

. . .

From leaving work in Kensington at 6pm on Wednesday (6.09pm for the OCD sufferers among you) until arriving home here in Cornwall last night at 9.30pm (9.27pm), I seem to have spent almost all that time getting to know the lesser highways of Sussex, Kent, Hampshire and Dorset, and becoming acquainted with the several thousand roundabouts dotted around those counties.

My reason for taking to the roads was to visit a German cousin in St Leonards-on-Sea where he and his wife have holed up for a year (they are not short of a penny, he being a scion of a family which owns and runs a shipyard, but just because he’s a distant cousin, please don’t run away with the idea that I have more than two pennies to rub together).

He is always good company, though I noticed he is wheezing a great deal and as he is a non-smoker and 68, there might be some grounds for concern. It was he who, three years ago when I attended his 65th birthday party in Freiburg (a trip recorded here) who first told me that my father’s nickname among the German side of our family was Der Spion (The Spy), in acknowledgement of what I had so far thought was only occasional work for MI6.

What he told me two nights ago would make it seem that my father’s work was a little more extensive. In fact, whereas before I had always thought he had been employed by the BBC all his working life and just did a little spying to help out his pals in MI6, I’m beginning to wonder whether it wasn’t the other way around. On Thursday night Paul, my cousin, told me that when he was about 13 and was staying with us in Berlin, my father took him along into East Berlin on a trip to see a high up member of the SED Politbüro and asked him to play with the chap’s son while he and the chap went off to discuss whatever they wanted to discuss.

I shall get onto MI6 and find out whether, my father now pushing up daisies for these past 22 years, there isn’t a little more they might care to tell me. No doubt they will see me off with a flee in my ear and quote ‘national security’, but as a hack of some standing I shan’t back off unless they agree to buy me a drink.

. . .

From visiting Paul in St Leonards it was then on to The Lamb Inn in Wartling, East Sussex, to meet up with someone who went to the same school as me and who does me the honour of reading my ramblings, but who I had not met before. (I started at the Oratory School in September 1963 and he left in December 1964 and was, if I’ve worked this out, three years above me.

We talked about the usual things at such meetings between two old boys who had somehow survived boarding school — who was bent, quite why the food was so awful (actually, we didn’t discuss that but we must as it it a perpetual mystery to me who the caterers all managed to reduce perfectly good food to something akin to pigswill merely by cooking it. Correction, the chips were good, and there were always plenty of kippers and toast). I learnt one or two things I didn’t know (e.g. my house, Fitzalan, was regarded — I can’t quite remember the word he used — as the leading house. EDIT: I think this is where Zebadee things I should have said Fitzalan was regarded as smart.)If that’s true, and I can’t think my lunch companion was lying, I find it difficult to believe.

The Lamb Inn was interesting. The first thing I have to say is that the food was very good — we both had guinea fowl breast with porcini risotto.

A rare snapshot of the Lamb Inn taken in 1756 when photography was still in its infancy and colour photos
were still a distant dream

risotto — but the only way I can describe the place itself is genteelly shabby. Apparently, the place was revamped by the present two owners, but what they did is not at all obvious. It first, second and third sight the house would seem not to have been touched since the Fifties.

Actually, come to think of it, and this is something my school contemporary pointed out, the loos were very modern. So perhaps the genteel shabby look is the new look and for once in my life I am in a vanguard. We had a table in front of a wood stove and it was all very pleasant. I could have stayed another few hours, but knowing what a bastard my drive home to Cornwall from East Sussex would be, I set off at 3.15pm. But I shall most certainly go back there again, and I would recommend it. The background music was provided by a set of Sixties LPs played on what we elderly folk quaintly call a ‘record player’. Yet the two owners (who might well have been brothers) could not have been older than 26.


  1. BMc. I think the word I used was 'smart' but not in the way that the Daily Mail's 'target' readership would understand.

  2. I'm really not too sure which part of the above blog you are referring to. Any hints?

    1. You wrote: I can’t quite remember the word he used — as the leading house. I said it was the 'smart' house to be in. In those days, being good at games allowed you to side-step A levels and degrees for a start in professional career. Fitzalan had all the best games players

  3. Sorry. I should've re-read the blog before replying to your comment. [Your italicised EDIT was in the wrong place.] Your photo was subtly appropriate. It was a wonderful meal -- and your company was even better. Us OS old boys do a very good affable -- as my brother says. Next time we meet there, I'll pay for the meal with vinyl albums - if I can find how valuable they actually are