[UNTITLED] The girl in the tower

Think of those fairy tales we were told as children.

Think of how they remain impressed in our minds and stick to our memories. Think of how we grow up fascinated by those impossible stories and the romantic plots. Actually, everybody remembers those famous titles, those characters that stand out for their heroism, bravery and passion, all in an era back in the time where magic, mystery, love and chivalry were still common place.

And from a common place, one would likely expect to read about a beautiful princess imprisoned in a lonesome tower and about her long lying in wait for her rescuer to turn up; about a handsome prince who leaps into impossible enterprises to bring her to safety, purely out of love.

Fairy tales are basically common places, facts that recur almost in the same order and lead to a punchy ending. The key is probably in them to be told out and be widely known, as well as in their famous titles – as if all fairy tales had one.

Some stories from today perfectly reflect this structural refrain.
Awful news was broadcasted two months ago! A tower block burned down in West London causing the death of almost 50 tenants. The fire at the tower block was allegedly due to poor electric wiring and low quality elements. Firemen intervention was prompt, however it didn’t prevent damages to the building and the nearby area. In the tower, a young Italian couple got stuck in their apartment and had to fight for their lives in the blazing fire. They say, she called her parents for a final farewell; he could only hold her hands tight, until they acknowledged that no rescuer would turn up and that their fate was already written. They remained victim of the fire and their bodies were eventually found burned: still hugging one another in a consuming passion. The news was on the media and in London everybody learned about the one which will be remembered as The fire at Grenfell Tower.

But as said, other stories might not get to be as famous as fairy tales, and although nobody will ever learn about them, they’re still tales to be told.

The girl who lived in the tower belonged to a wild South.
The termination of her commitment left her without any certainty – aimless, careless. She mostly stood staring at the outside world from the window on that third level. Her eyes would be drawn by the contours of the typical row of English houses and would then meet the one on the parallel street where her friend – a real fortune to be found – used to live, before she gave up the city for a change for the better, or the easier. That messy backyard was a spot of wonderful memories, drinks, chats, and fun moments, and perhaps she can still picture the two of them in that safe and steady spot. Perhaps, in that backyard, she can still see their final farewell on her leaving party. Still hugging one another. Tight.

…A smile would illuminate her face.

But before long, her look would lose itself in the dense grey of that gloomy sky, full of ashes, whispers and noises she couldn’t hope to face. Anxiety got ahold of her: that being a prisoner rather than a princess started contaminating her vivid and joyous personality; the feeling of having somehow failed, of being somewhat betrayed, and having a door violently slammed in her face. All was painfully overwhelming.

Over time, her luminous blond hair turned dark brown and so too did her ice blue eyes. What happened? She was not too demanding, she was not too obsessed with her own vices and comfort zones, she was not even alone – though loneliness wasn’t late to come. That’s why she laid her hopes in that inconsistent and vanishing love, in that prince who should have climbed all the way up to set her free from those hurtfully oppressing walls. Truth is, she wasn’t tired of begging someone to love her. So she kept waiting.

Day after day, the waiting never fulfilled its promises. The knock on the door didn’t come and she remained locked in her regrets, in unwittingly unsettling indecision.

What bind kept her tied to that place? Why did she stay?

She simply couldn’t run. She remained stuck in the Pemberton tower, torn between love and acceptance.

Recently, someone passed by the tower and saw a beautiful girl staring at the window. A matter of moments, she crawled out of it and stood still on the cornice. Seeing her on the edge, the guy on the street started shouting out loud. He ran towards the tower and tried to enter the main door apparently locked. She was going to jump, ‘crap, she’s really going to jump!‘ He called for help, caught the attention of the passers by and asked for their intervention. People turned out at the tower but none of them could see anything on that cornice. ‘What? I swear to my life a girl was standing out there.

Nobody believed. Nobody could see. The guy was totally shook up.

She had just disappeared.

From a fairy tale, from a common place, one would likely expect to read…well, one would just expect to read about it. But so many stories remain untold, untitled, and nobody knew that that girl had disappeared in the July of 1720.

Facts say, she died forgotten in that common place, in a unknown fairy tale. In the one that by then had remained untold and untitled: the story of The girl in the tower.

 

Jim
The Britalian Post

I have a dream

Have you ever wondered if what you’re living is real? Have you ever thought or felt that life could be something else than what it actually is? What if it’s all a projection of our minds and things exist only because we create them? What if the people we see are just holograms that our eyes display? What if it’s all like The Matrix?

What if it is just a dream?

Despite the “profound” questions on the meaning of life, there’s nothing wrong with having a dream and believing it’s real. To have a dream and to pursue it could positively impact our lives and perhaps lead to some big changes: as a fact, a well-known man named Martin Luther King relentlessly claimed it out loud.

Wise speeches aside, a common man clearly pictured in his mind what a real (and ideal) world could (or should) look like. Segregation, integration, discrimination, acceptance, are themes that thoroughly capture the last decades, and today digesting and incorporating the diversity is up to individuals, who are supposed to come together and fight for a compromise.

For a second, let’s separate MLK from the notorious person he was and have a glance at him as a man.

A common man. A man whose blood is as red as anybody else’s, for all that matters. During the steps of his political and social activism, he goes to bed one night and lightly shuts his eyes. He starts dreaming. He starts elaborating thoughts in his mind: all he’s been fighting for, all of the failures, the rejections, but at the same time he tirelessly elaborates the opportunities-to-be and that dream becomes simply clear. That powerful refrain breached the crowd, motivated the people to pull the plugs that had them living as holograms; projections vanished and they began to properly see each other. That was freedom. That was beautiful. That was real.

Eventually, that was no longer just a dream, it did exist: for right actions do exist.

A common man. A man whose blood is as red as anybody else’s, for all that matters. In all his hyper activism, he goes to bed one night and lightly shuts his eyes. He starts dreaming. He starts elaborating thoughts in his mind: all he’s been fighting for, all of the failures, the rejections, but at the same time he tirelessly elaborates the opportunities-to-be and that dream becomes simply clear.

She came. After all that arguing, she eventually accepted the invitation. She was there wearing that miniskirt and those bi-colour thighs you like a lot, Dr Marten’s style boots, and a bomber jacket that prevents her skinny body from freezing. She was standing there – glowing, gorgeous – along with a big trolley on her right side, which meant she would stay for a while; still physically weak from the heavy flu she took but beautiful like no others.

You’re stunned! 

That was a hell of a surprise, the sweetest ever. Smiling, she would ask: “You happy I’m here?

You choked in the attempt to say something, so you just approached her, to kiss her, possibly embrace her. And while your hands were stretching towards her, her words made that vision unreal: “Cool…but this is just a dream!

All of a sudden, that feeling of when you’re leaving the dream to go back to reality, the instant return from Morpheus’ arms, the waking up and realising it wasn’t real.

It was a long journey, although it took just one day. One day, a 3 hour flight and a one and a half hour drive. A few hours to try make the dream come true, to look into her eyes and show her your love is real, to prove that it could exist, that the two of you could exist, together. To prove that the two of you could fight for a compromise and overcome the diversities. A few hours to hold her hands and ask her to marry you…

“…I can’t…

I’ll ask again.

Have you ever wondered if what you’re living is real? Have you ever thought or felt that life could be something else than what it actually is? What if it’s all a projection of our minds and things exist only because we create them?

What if it remains just a dream?

On waking up, people won’t come together and fight for a compromise. Like The Matrix, holograms reload, projections revive, and again you can’t properly see each other.

For right actions don’t exist. Nobody exists. She was just a dream.

 

Jim
The Britalian Post

One thousand and one Arabian nights

In December 2011, my family, my aunt’s and various members of my extended family, decided to spend the week till Xmas eve in Sharm-el-Sheik. A hot December was new to me and someway odd, though it was worth experiencing. 

I had never been in Egypt and that was an opportunity to visit a small part of it, at least–sincerely said, not that I went nuts for Sharm (nor would I even go today), it’s such a touristy area.

Let’s cut this short. 

The resort was fantastic. From the bar at the main entrance, you could see it stretching over for hundreds meters till it crumbled into a wide quiet beach. Pools, restaurants and bars all over – the latter were the ones we would attend the most. (Hey I’m not the only good drinker in the family, what did you think?)

We also took many trips to visit historical spots and characteristic towns, hidden beaches and the coral reef, the dreary and lifeless desert and posh casinos.

Mmm…For me, thumbs down!…

It just was not what I was expecting. Not that I believe in cliches but, what about the land of the 40 thieves? What about its magic and mysterious appeal? And the mythical characters of the bedtime stories? All ruins of a forgotten era buried under thick layers of golden western ashes. The leftovers of a population knelt to a new dominion: the green touch of a European Midas.

This acknowledged, instead of going to the sea, lying under the sun, enjoying the transparent water, I would sit in the hall and study for an exam – indeed, me! My parents definitely couldn’t believe it. At the time my focus was more into my studies and my band. We were launching an EP for Xmas and an album was due to go live asap on the new year. The Xmassy mini EP consisted of 3 songs: acoustic versions of 2 songs included in the album and a guitar-and-voice track. Cool stuff!

That aside, can’t find any other reasons to my lonesome behaviour. Either Xmas puts that mode on or I’m a kind of weirdo. I second that!

All in all, even if Sharm had no charm, the time in there was pleasant. The company was fun and the trips on the coach turned into pure comedy. 

Few days after, still before Xmas, I turned 24. On the night of my birthday – the midnight of the 22nd – we stopped at a bar straight out of the resort to open a bottle of champagne. Suddenly, all the people that worked in there, gathered around me and started singing some Arabic song. That was droll! Must say: people there still got a thing. 

And from that moment onwards, I started learning that many individuals had thrilling stories to tell, unique tales of a culture so different from mine. Our guide, in fact, would tell us of mysteries, legends, ancient uses and habits that Europeans can only admire: stories of Bedouins, of the desert’s bandits, of magic arts and connections with the afterlife, of glory and fallen kingdoms. Fascinating!

How can you not think of Aladdin? How can you not think of a flying carpet, of a magic lamp and a feisty Genie that grants all your wishes? 

I can’t say whether such things really happened in a time back then. Yet, something magnificent can simply be true.

Assuming that not all feelings can be explained in words, let me try to describe one specific night. 

A different world, a different sky, a different moon.

That moonlight. That absurd shimmering effusion radiated some enchantment and magnetism that would make one night last a thousand. It was in the air: medieval folklore and legendary myths could have arisen from the sand to interrupt the silence. No surprise.

I was by myself sitting on a short wall under a palm out of my bungalow, and although I was wearing earphones, the placid music couldn’t distract me from that huge and blazing moon – closer than ever – that along with a lucid dark blue sky were wallpapering the weird veil of secrecy that had wrapped the resort. The atmosphere was surreal.

I swear to my life that the finest European night will never be as beautiful.

Fast forward to the present day.

We often go have dinner at one of the Turkish/Arabian restaurants that give onto Harringay Green Lanes, which is only 5 mins walking from my place. 

Who is “we”? Bruna and I! Do you remember my cousin? Yep, now she also has a name. 

Anyway, the food in there has very high standards and I undoubtedly rate it 5 stars, as well as the impeccable service. One of the waiters always puts on an extra large smile to greet us and we are always treated with utmost kindness. 

Time after time, this guy started inviting us in for a mint tea and some sweets on the house–in fact, he seemed to enjoy our company. We would talk a lot. We learned about his glorious story, his difficult roaming to London, his tumultuous past, his 70-hour-a-week shifts. Nonetheless, he looked always extremely energetic and unstoppable with his can-do attitude and hard-working ethic. His appearance was more of a fit stylish European fellow: a boy of manners, smart-dressed, and in a great shape. His robust look, captivating tone of voice and fierce personality, were solid traits of his esoteric background, features of centuries of enthralling roots. He was special: he was a vivid and intriguing untold mystery.

Once, he asked us to spend a night out together and got in touch a few times to make arrangements. Unfortunately, due to various commitments, advance-planned stuff, or just being awfully tired, weekdays (the only days he was available) are not always a good moment for us to hang out. Thus, although he had asked us out several times, the night never happened. 

We stopped going to the restaurant for a while.

Going a bit off-topic. You got to know that seldom London devours people from the inside. It’s not just the long commuting, or the intensive days of work, or the unstable housing conditions. It’s the sempiternal need for rushing, the feeling of being always in the wrong spot, the lack of long lasting relationships and people you can trust; it’s the chaos, the insecurity of what will happen the next day. And all consumes you till you grow bags under the eyes, expressive wrinkles, and some hair come grey. London makes you stronger on the outside but weaker on the inside, by acting like a slow spreading cancer.

(In this moment, while I’m writing, I’m standing at the bus stop with hundreds of people in the hope that the 341 won’t be too late. History repeats itself. And I seriously need a beer!)

Back to the story. 

Few months later, we went back to the restaurant for my dad’s birthday (my parents had come to town for a week). Ali was there: all done up and smiling as usual. Only one thing had changed: his look. His eyelids were heavy, his cheeks limp, his mouth shivering. His movements were slow and his speaking almost nonsense. He told us he had started a second job – that ended him having half a day off – because he was in need of some extra money. 

His words had no more confidence whatsoever but got liquefied into an unconscious flow of tired thoughts that he would randomly throw up. 

The mysterious Arabian guy – the guy with the enchanting background and the majestic past – gave the way to a common cold European London fellow, a somebody that has been corrupted by a forced material lifestyle to survive in a different world. He was now equal, he was no exception. The unforgettable Arabian nights, the legends, the eastern wind, by now only belonged to a faraway land. 

Ali wanted only one night, just one single night. But we were way too blind… As blind as London made us.

Ali was alone. 

Ali is alone. 

But Ali is strong and won’t quit. 

Sometimes I walk by the restaurant and look inside through the big windows, and can’t stop thinking of that night.

It was too late.

In the real world, the Midas’ touch is no legend, and his body began to rust. His infinite roaming had finally stopped and he was granted a special night that would last a thousand. 

Where is he now?

Ali is now in the stories of one thousand and one Arabian nights.

(Goodbye Ali).

Jim
The Britalian Post

A spaghetti incident

Pasta. 

A handy, quick, happy and satisfying solution to feeding hungry guests. The genius of a clever inventor, the melody of a hit song, a company for the lonely evenings when you’re drowning in intense movies and glasses of red wine. A superstar of supermarkets, a natural and delicious body integrator, the icing on the cake, the… icing on the cake?!

Ok I’ve got this wrong, lets start over again.

Ehm…yes…

Pasta.

The nights we’ve spent together have always been so sweet. Well, some have. Me, the movies, and you in huge servings. Parmesan on top and bread aside to clean the plate afterwards. That’s the Italian trick!

Since advertising is by now invading most of the TV broadcasting, I’m obliged to watch hundreds of boring never ending commercials. One in particular has come to my attention: a pasta sauce named “Pormio”, a proper Italian sauce as the advertisement claims. A happy puppet family is portrayed having dinner altogether in a countryside setting or so, while speaking a horrible English squeezed in a strong and tacky Italian accent. An old fashioned family in an old fashioned kitchen – and one of the puppets (the farmer, the father…who knows?!) even had bushy moustaches and a single eyebrow!!! Terrible…

First of all, I would never buy that purple disgusting sauce in my whole life. Secondly, may the gods strike me with lightening if my family and I have ever been waving hands up in the air while speaking out loud or wearing white dirty tank tops. Is it really how people portray Italians?

YES!!!

…Ok, fine.

So that night, I started doing some zapping till I saw a program I do really like: Impossible kitchens USA.

Gordon Irvine was heading to an Italian restaurant in New Jersey with the intent of resolving the issues it was experiencing. Since he is renowned chef, I couldn’t wait to learn some new recipes while he was coaching the cook on the culinary specialties of our country. And the confusion begins right here: chicken parmesan (I don’t even know what it is), linguine with chicken, pizza with pineapple, ossobuco with shrimp, risotto with mushrooms and chicken. Wow…Seriously?! I believe I don’t need to tell you that these dishes are all but Italian culinary specialties. The worst though was a very simple dish: spaghetti with meatballs. Ok it’s a specialty in southern Italy and we love it, but that one looked hideous! 

Now, I know a thing or two about pasta and when the camera went past the dish, I could see it was horrendously overcooked. Plus the sauce was brownish and sticky, and the meatballs were…I can’t even describe.

Fair enough. Other countries have been creative with our food and it’s alright, maybe something good also came out. Those creativities have eventually become the rule about Italian food abroad till they’ve given birth to stereotypes.

Perhaps, that’s why that Friday evening after work, at the pub right around the corner, an amusing Spanish girl I had just met appeared to be pleased to get to know an Italian guy. She would then politely introduce me to her colleagues highlighting my “fabulous origins” (in her words) – for once, that was utterly flattering. Under all possible circumstances that were making me enjoy the night, the whole setting disgracefully turned gloomy when one of those guys started laughing at me, saying repeatedly that he couldn’t find his wallet–yes, a “funny” reference to the fact that I’m Neapolitan, very funny indeed. And I eventually realised that all that politeness and the appreciation I received were just acts of a wider performance they had set up to mock me.

(Between us, they could have saved the effort).

No, I didn’t lose my temper nor I’d give him a punch on the face, which I should have done. I put on a last fake and pitiful smile before wearing my headphones and walking away.

You know, I could feel discriminated, if it’s to be called discrimination. I could say they were racist, though we didn’t belong to different races. I could say a lot of things but all would mean victimising myself and letting them win.

At the end of the day, as for pasta sauce advertisements, food mis-creativity, and recipes mystifications, I’ll take it very easy and simply call it a spaghetti incident.

Jim
The Britalian Post

Another stop goes by

One who lives in London must be prepared to spend most of the daily life travelling throughout the city. An average journey can take up to an hour and a half, so you happen to listen to artists’ complete discographies, read entire books and magazines, watch movies in HD – even countdown the days of your life! – or simply have long chats with your fellow commuters. 

Many of my journeys are spent in company of my cousin on the 341 bus route from Islington up to North London. That one is actually a pretty fast journey, a journey during which we are half of the time starving to death while the other half is dedicated to guilty feelings. Why? Obviously for the amount of food we have swallowed, not to mention the alcohol waterfalls. No objections, we are a very funny couple.

Now, as many may know, an automated bus speaker calls all the stops on the route, so that you’re always aware of when you need to get off. Also, in the very middle of the bus, and on the front wind screen on the upper deck, a screen indicates the stops as you’re approaching them along with the current hour. And that’s the salvation! 

Why is that?

When you’re not an English native, although your comprehension quickly gets to be good, rather than the speaking that requires more and more practice, you will not be totally familiar with the language and words can easily sneak out of your listening.

So here we are, sitting at the first seats at the entering doors, no screen. The voice calls the next stop and here’s what we hear:

Br/$#%y!@”3d Road

Puzzled expressions on our faces! Both witlessly disoriented: Br/$#…WHAT?!

(Yes, so lost in translation… See the connection with the blog’s title?! No, no, just in case some of you haven’t noticed.)

Therefore, more than often, the name of the stops that end with Road or Street seem to us to have quite the same sound. It’s like stops didn’t have a name but only a stuttering pronunciation – at least that’s what my cousin and I agreed to make life easier and feel less ignorant. So every time we hear the name of a stop or anything else we can’t clearly figure out, we just think: Br/$#%y!@”3d Road.

Honestly, took us a few weeks to catch the real name – we didn’t get it by ourselves and just saw it on the screen if you’re wondering. 

Eager to know what that actually is?! The stop is called Brownswood Road. 

I know what you folks are thinking but please bear with us poor immigrants.

And there we are, spending the time of our life in that bus talking about our daily fun and tragic facts, our love affairs gone bad, rumours from and about friends, the impossible dreams, the houses we’ll never be likely to afford in London, the travel we should be planning and, mainly, the body shape we’ll never get into.

Then stops went by as well as our journey.

And like a fictional flashback, I recall that girl. My companion of journeys on the Piccadilly line, my desk mate, an unknown foreign colleague that turned to be a friend. My friend, my chappette. And months later, in her effort to remain part of the tight team we created and hardly maintained against all odds–to still be a partner of the mutual complicity we built–she was just sent away without hesitation. For a mistake. For she was a human being. For not giving up. 

She disappeared in a finger snap and we didn’t even get to say goodbye. 

Time went by, she went by, and people quickly forgot. 

Our good morning coffees, our Paris, our tube pictures, our last tear drops, all vanished in feeble and concealed memories so that today I’m almost sure this all might have happened in my mind. And I keep asking myself..How’s she doing? Is she still loved? What’s her name? 

…Is she real?

Oh… Perhaps I just made her up. Perhaps she never existed and she’s just another stop that went by.

Jim
The Britalian Post