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Ukraine Red Cross
   Vol. 21 No. 17
Saturday April 16, 2022

View  from the terrace

     Geoffrey called while I was driving to the seaside on Ash Wednesday. I was supposed to meet the builders who are in charge of restoring the apartment my family owned since 1962. Geoffrey wanted to run the Easter article I wrote in 2020 again, but I am not sure the feelings and the meanings are the same. In 2020 I was trying to go back in time to the late 1950’s when we were able to use a car for the first time and drive to the fields for our Easter Monday traditional al fresco, often with rain or even snow.
Sorgetti painting and tray

     In 2020 I wrote: “There being no climate change yet, winters used to be long, gloomy and freezing, 1956 in particular, with Turin frosted and buried in snow, as though Siberia had moved 150 K’s from the Mediterranean. Spring was long in the making, so we were all hoping for Easter and specially Easter Monday, the day when everyone was out and about, trying to arrange picnics in the fields. That is where the all the fun was.” In 2022 the weather forecast leaves no doubt: the climate has changed, I am sitting here in my drawing room and outside the weather is sunny, the temperature is around 20° C and the Easter weekend is set on very mild weather.
     In April 2020, I wrote: “As it happens 1957 was also the year I experienced the first pandemic in my life and I narrowly escaped death myself, while 30,000 other Italians died of the disease in that period.” It was just the beginning of the COVID19 pandemic, April 2020 was the “first wave”. We know now, what kind of toll the world has suffered. As we speak, we are facing the greatest risk of a big scale war in Europe since 1945. We have all seen what is happening in the Ukraine and nobody can ignore this sad, sad story. I am at a loss to decide whether I was more scared of the disease or we should be more scared of a possible escalation in the warfare now.
     But I must say that in 2020 we were in complete lockdown and were quite unsure about what our future would hold for us. We are now fully vaccinated and hopeful to survive, even if we get affected, a picture that in April 2020 did not exist. Vaccines had not been produced yet and we could only protect ourselves by avoiding any human contact, not a great option . . . I am here sitting in the old “tinello” i.e. an old fashion dining room and looking out onto the valley below, a landscape I know so well.
     From the terrace I am looking at the countryside that I have contemplated so many years of my life and my memories come back in a rush. In the ’60’s the Sorgettis are a happy, small family of four. Today this could be considered a large number for a family in my country, which is probably one of the worst in the world with regard to birth rate, but then ours was considered a small family.
Sorgetti clocks      Not many faces, but we were enterprising, oh boy, relentlessly enterprising. I loved animals and at the time of my greatest engagement as a breeder we had a cat, a dog, a tortoise, four lovely hamsters (one of which insisted on peeing over my turntable where I used to spin him thinking he would enjoy it . . .) We also had many birds: there were two cages, one with canaries and another one with two couples of zebra finches. Another larger cage contained a turtle dove, a female, and she was incessantly weeping for love, at least so I thought. This was not going too well with my granny, who could not sleep because of the noise the bird was making. She also hated the cuckoo clock on the wall and she told her son, my father, that she was going to throw it out of the window, if he did not manage to stop its hourly call, in particular in the still of the night. Grandma never threatened to throw the birds out of the window, as they could actually fly away. One day we found the dove’s cage open and the bird missing. Nobody knows whether granny’s helping hand had made the miracle: fact is for many years we heard the incessant ter-ter, ter-ter that a very big number of turtle doves were making all around the house. Evidently my turtle dove had found love, indeed in Spotorno, not the only creature to do so . . .

From the island of Bergeggi

     With dogs it was another story. When my father came home with a Brittany hunting dog my mother said: “either the dog or me!” Then she walked out imperiously and strolled around the block as she would do when she was upset. Normally she would come back in about half an hour and we would get back to a talkative mood in another ten minutes. This time it took unusually longer, but the end was written in the stars: mother and dog found an arrangement and my mother actually liked having a dog in the house for many years. The same thing happened when my sister came with a cat, when I came with the hamsters, the canaries and the turtle dove. By that time my mother had already started to reduce her around the block stroll, in the end she would just get out of the door and come back immediately to fondle the brats.
Sorgetti House      We were five humans (including my grandmother) and many animals packed in a three-piece apartment at the seaside for Easter in 1962. I was up first and walked the dog into the woods that were just a few hundred yards uphill, then I was back and changed all the birds and last the hamsters, who were the laziest. The tortoise only rarely came out of its den at Easter time.
     Our car was no longer our 1957 “seicento”. In the ’60’s we were sporting a cream-white FIAT “millecento” type F. By today’s standard it would be a small city car, but it was considered a medium-size car in those years. It is a pity I have no picture of the packed-solid car on arrival in front of the house. In minutes you could have witnessed the explosion of bags, birdcages, barking dog and bottles, bread bought on the way in Vicoforte, where we stopped and visited the “largest elliptical dome of the world”, as my father would tell us for the umpteenth time.
      I am not sure what the car looked like from the outside, considering it was equipped like a mobile zoo with visitors (us). This happened regularly every Saturday after school time. Everyone worled on Saturday morning then, so we left at 13.00 sharp. We would drive to the apartment at the seaside, stay on Sunday and leave at 04.00 on Monday morning to meet work and school in Turin. Obviously according to today’s standards for keeping pet animals, we would be reprehensible, but our ignorance of better rules did not impede our love for the animals, who at the end of the day seemed to even like us. Arriving in Torino around 07:00 all animals were transferred into the apartment, cleaned and fed. I sincerely have no idea how we managed all those chores. Just thinking of it today makes me tired, but then it was the most natural thing to do.
     So Easter at the seaside prvided the additional benefit of Easter Monday and we would camp out in the fields just outside the house, which was built on the hills close to the ruins of the medieval castle of Spotorno.
     Those who know literature know that D. H. Lawrence resided for a period in Spotorno and he wrote that “just above the village and the sea. The sun shines, the eternal Mediterranean is blue and young, the last leaves are falling from the vines in the garden”. That looks so much like the place I remember from my Sorgetti radio, toaster, blenderadolescence. As my friends say, everything remains with me: so the old radio, the old blenders and the cuckoo clock that my granny so much hated are all here, in different parts of the house, used now as timeless decorations. There are no animals and I do not regret having decided to give up that habit when my last dog Zeno died. All that remains of the zoo I was entertaining are sweet memories.
     During the lockdown period in 2020 we heard tales of people trying to get hold of dogs so that they could take a walk outside, instead of being confined at home. This year, amid much angst, we heard tales of Italians who went to the Ukraine to rescue animals from the war. This was actually in the news in my country. I understand, when things become unbearable and you feel useless, you try to do what can or what seems to be the right thing to do, even though, with hindsight, it seems to be a small drop in an ocean of plight and suffering.
Marco Sorgetti     I was so happy with my hamsters rocking and rolling on my turntable and I was even happier when my canaries actually started hatching and the small chicks came out of the tiny eggs. Unlike wild canaries in the Atlantic, our local birds do not hatch at Easter, rather in the summer, but these tiny beeping chicks were such a strong message of resurrection and hope in the future, that lingers in my memory! This reminiscence befits Easter 2022 and fills my stay here in the old apartment in Spotorno with Easter hope as though nothing else in the world mattered. Whatever your creed is, I believe that the resurrection of hope in the spring is a universal concept valid for everyone.
Happy Easter!
Marco Sorgetti, Turin, 13th of April 2022.

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