And then there was Stromboli. After all the upsets, the alarms and excursions, of previous weeks, finding a billet with Stromboli was like coming home. I would still rather have been gazing up at the moon sailing through an African sky, surrounded by those I loved but, if I had to be in this strange place, Stromboli was the best place to be in it with.
He was a STRONG man all right and in more ways than one. Apart from his physical prowess, he had certain basic beliefs that he would not betray in any way. Not for money. Not for social acceptance. Not even, I suspect for his life. Yet he readily accepted the rights of others to hold different beliefs provided that they did not try to persuade him that he was misguided in his.
Despite his moniker and the occasional lapse into cod Italian he actually hailed from Wythenshawe and loved his country with a passion and magnanimity that did not require him to hate those who did not belong to it or those who had found an honest home here.
He loved his country - yes - but he was in an almost permanent state of grief for what had become of it. He didn't like the fact that much of its power had been sucked away by those who lived beyond its shores and cared little for it.
He didn't like the fact that weak and stupid and, yes, sometimes wicked people cared more for the criminal than the victim. He believed in forgiveness but he also believed in appropriate punishment. He was not one of those fools who keep confusing weakness with compassion.
He loathed the effect that the electronic window in the corner of the room that you all keep gawping at was having on day to day life in his beloved country because it seemed to promote very stupid people into the position of being experts on this or that purely because they were famous for being something else. Even worse, for every one of those so called "experts" there were another ten thousand who hung on their every word.
But he reserved his strongest condemnation for Political Correctness because he regarded it as the chief weapon of a race of tyrants who used it to make words mean what THEY wanted them to mean and not what they actually DID mean. He thought of it as an evil attack on common sense and the sort of thing that Pol Pot, Stalin and Hitler would heartily approve of.
All this makes him sound dour and humourless but he wasn't. In his loneliness, and as a way of escaping his despair about Britain,he filled his world with books, music and poetry. He used the beauty of these things to cleanse his soul and gird his loins for his letter writing campaigns which were his attempt to warn people through the letters pages of various newspapers and journals that they had better wake up to what was happening to their country before it was too late.
Joy of joys he read out loud to me although he could not have been aware of how much I understood ( most of it I, can honestly add) but I suspect that he took pleasure in having an audience and hearing the beauty of the sound of the words instead of just having them echo soundlessly in his own head.
In this way I discovered the works of Dickens, Tolstoy, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ayn Rand, Mickey Spillane and so many more. Every now and then he would stop, gaze at me for a long moment and say "You understand, don't you". I usually replied with a bashful little smile before looking away in mock embarrassment and this pleased him greatly. I wouldn't indulge in this shameful play acting, outside of a professional performance, for anyone else but if it gave this complex, tortured man a moment's pleasure that was all right with me. It was little enough recompense for all his kindness.
Truth be told, there was not a lot that I would not have done for him by that point. What's more, I'll just say this, a creature as fine and noble as he was could have had the leadership of my tribe for the taking - whether he could climb trees or not!
NEXT WEEK: My education continues. New humiliations.
Now is not the time
5 months ago