Sunday, 18 October 2009


Whilst Nick's been kicking off this soon-to-be-mighty accomplishment of literary-critical world-system observation, I've been wandering about in Trieste, Italy, and Pula, Croatia. I have a little story from each.


There is a bridge over the short canal that proceeds inland from the harbour. Upon this bridge are dozens of padlocks. I asked my (girl in every port) Patrizia what this was all about. Apparently some guy called Federico Moccia wrote a book called I Want You and now all Italian teenagers feel the need to go around writing their names on padlocks, locking posts on bridges and then throwing the keys into the river as a symbol of everlasting unbreakable love. The craze, it seems, started in Rome and has caused a political storm, amazingly resulting in the following quote from probably the most romantic petty bureaucrat in the world:

"There are so many stupidly hateful people these days who want to strike out at
people who are really in love. The message of the padlocks is strong and
extremely positive," said Marco Daniele Clarke, the assessor for public works in
the municipality.
So I took a pretty picture:


Then I looked across at Patrizia, silhouetted against the moon, hair gently wavering in the light Indian summer breeze and... Yeah.


There's a small island off the coast of Pula, called Brijuni (the guy at reception in my decadent hotel laughed when I pronounced the 'j'). It was once the Summer residence of Tito, the then president of Yugoslavia (out of the ruins of which Croatia emerged last decade). Tito, when not running the Non-Aligned_Movement, or giving tangerines to sweet needy little orphans, or proclaiming the brilliance of communism, was using the proceeds of 'worker power' to fund this crazy island which boasts a now abandoned zoo and a bizarre golf course where the greens are sand bunkers.

Anyhow, my friend Rob and I were wandering around this island a couple of afternoons ago when, as though we were in some strange adventure RPG, we came across a prism of glass, about 10 metres high, with giant spolights inside it pointing outwards, as though to turn it into some sort of magic sun-prism by night. As we pondered this peculiar artefact we heard an inhuman cry come from between the trees off to one side. Glancing nervously at one another we proceeded through a break in the line of trees to discover a set of rusting, apparently abandoned large bird cages. Approaching more closely we found that one of these cages had a cockatoo in it. "Hello!" said Rob. "Tito tito tito tito!" said the bird. I laughed at the bird. The bird laughed at me. Seriously. It laughed. It was the most human laugh you can imagine. I laughed again, more nervously. The bird laughed, then said something in distinct syllables that I can only imagine must have been Croatian. Amazing! Apparently, as we later discovered from a local, this must have been Tito's legendary talking bird. The incredible thing is that Tito died nearly 30 years ago and this bird still talks about him...


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