Monday, May 23, 2016

Bella Italia

Remember the days when you used to go on holiday and it wasn't a fact-finding mission for a potential story? Oh, you still do that? Must just be me, then.

Yep, here I am in fabulous Italy, in a sumptuous hotel with incredible vistas and a fabulous staff who bent over backwards to please (not literally!). And what do I spend every waking moment doing? Scribbling in my notebook. What's even more insulting to this wonderful country, is that I wasn't taking down notes of the phenomenal food or the glorious assault on the senses in preparation for a new novel, partly set in Italy (although it is in there somewhere, and I’m hoping Bri’s 300 photos will nudge any reluctant memories if and when the time comes).
Nope, these scenes which poured out of me unbidden, page after page of close-written text (so small, I have to use a magnifying glass to read them back), were most definitely set in the UK. Including Wales and Scotland, to be fair, but mainly in Archer’s Wessex, and modern-day Wiltshire.
"Sacrilege," I hear you say.
"Sorry," is my only reply. No defence, no excuses, just "Sorry, Italy. Will try harder next time." There will most definitely be a next time.
But it wasn't 24-7. Here's my whistle stop tour of the captivating Lake Como:
Thurs: Beautiful Bellagio (no dancing fountains, but you can see where Vegas got the inspiration). A lazy half hour outside the church watching the world pass by. My tongue was hanging out for a beer, but all the couples in the bar had coffee (it was only 11am). 15 euros for a t-shirt sounded steep, but it did have a beautiful font displaying Bellagio in diamante studs.
Fri: The next ferry-stop down - Villa-tastic Verenna. After 3 hours in Monastero, we hiked up a mountain trail worthy of Cader Idris (my Welsh mountain), only to find a further four flights of knee-crippling stairs to hit the top of the tower. The views were well worth it, and the ghosts were great fun.
Sat: Knees swollen to three times the size (we Sag's exaggerate on pan-galatic levels) demanded a day chillin' by the pool. Andrea's (yep, he was my waiter, Ace!) cocktails revived me sufficiently to wander into Magnificent Menaggio (the local town). A line dancing bar playing the Eagles "Get Over It" soon convinced my legs to stop wobbling and have a boogie. You gotta love a mum dance.
Sun: A super-fast ferry up to the North uncovered Gravedona's secrets (as recommended by said waiter). A 12th century church and spectacularly ornate graveyard made the visit well worthwhile.
Mon: Rain didn't stop play as we dodged drops to explore the gardens, then stared at the ceilings in the exquisite Villa Carlotta in Cadennabia.
Tues: Another super-fast ferry to the south. Como Cathedral has rich detail which makes York (and Canterbury) pale into the shade.

The purple rose? That's what the cute maid did with my nightie - a different, more complex sculpture greeted our return to the sumptuous every day. And don't get me started on the food: not a pizza all week, but every dish was so exquisite, it even got Bri raving about the porcini mushroom lasagna - and he normally hates pasta.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Love Doesn't Care

I can’t be the only one to have come across so many of these recent social media posts. The cute ones with those adorable kids hugging or holding hands. Those kids who happen to be from different racial backgrounds. The posts where people respond: “The world would be so beautiful if we could all be like this: colorblind!” or “Yes!!!! Love is #colorblind.” No one is born filled with hate. Children learn these behaviors from adults, the media, movies, other sources. Without outside interference, people say, children don’t see any differences and, therefore, they don’t act with any prejudiced or racist behaviors.

It’s true: racism is a learned trait. And the posts are meant to be positive, but let me just say it: Kids are not colorblind. From the youngest ages, they are taught how to sort and categorize. We teach them about patterns and “same” versus “different.” Along with the letters of the alphabet, they learn numbers … and colors. By kindergarten, they are usually proficient. They use this knowledge to describe the world around them.

In fact, not only do children see differences, but they also tend to point them out. Very loudly, very vocally, and typically, very much right in front of the person in question. They notice anything and everything. On the playground, at the park, in the store. They have questions. They point these things out, not to be rude, but to learn and to understand. And often they are shushed and glared at by furiously blushing and apologetic parents.

Children definitely notice skin color. But, the difference is … while adults struggle to show how open and “color-blind” they are, kids just don’t care. About any of it. Skin color is like hair color or eye color. It’s a way to describe how something looks. Because we are, indeed, all different colors. What matters to a child is not skin, it is this: When they ask, “Do you wanna play?” or “You wanna be friends?” is the answer “Yes” or “No”? They care about whether or not another child is the type of person who will take their ball or share some blocks; they care about whether they’ll be teased or if they’ll be included. Their concerns lie within the integrity and friendliness of the person involved. Stuff that lives on the inside. Stuff that counts. The types of things people should use to navigate friendships and perhaps form judgements. To kids, skin is just something that holds a person’s insides all together. It takes outside forces to teach them anything different.

I don’t want to be colorblind. I want to see all the beautiful shades around me, be a witness to the history and the heritage of humanity, no matter how pale or dark someone is. Making myself colorblind wouldn’t make me more accepting of other people; it would be telling my eyes to ignore what they see. I want to accept people for what they are on the inside. We are obviously all different from each other, and that’s a good thing—and silly to pretend otherwise. Seeing a picture of two kids hugging each other isn’t about race. It’s about being able to see people as they are and loving each other because of it. The full package. Love is not colorblind. Love sees everything and just doesn’t care.