Friday, 31 August 2007

Fire in the sky-ai-ai (part one)

Over the top of the pass and not so far away Wagner and his brand of booted thunder is waiting: this morning's storm is just a reminder of things to come. What is less predictable is that Cha Cha Cha Town will be offering up its own metallica within 12 hours. But then this is Lynchian Land, and already I am wondering if they put something in the water...

I am sitting with the Moleskine around 8.30 pm writing a movie, as you do, with the ole boys talking Nesta, Carnivarro and Adriano over coffee. From downwind comes a punk thrash of Louis Armstrong's What a Wonderful World...only a bit of it, this is a rehearsal, so there is a lot more une-due and drum rolls. I ask the elderly couple next to me what gives. Rock concert says Mrs Football-widow.

Opposite the Municipal offices four young men have set up in the parking space of the Orlandini ice cream and booze-u-like (beer)cafe. Yup: in the spa town of the Brambana valley there are Marshall amps, turquoise Stratocaster guitars, singing drummers and wi-fi connections. Rock and Roll is here to Spray.

"We're abusive," the lead singer shouts to me. "Abusivi."

The crowd is not particularly expectant, the youngest streches out in his pram, whilst his mother orders a Machiatto coffee. The band warm up by sitting down to strudel, followed by beer, and then ham and cheese plates. They don't look phased. Mrs Machiatto rather likes the pre-show music, jiving away like it is Prince on New Year's Eve 1999 to a reggae version of "Everything that I Own." After this Steve Tyler sings that apocalyptic one about saving the world and his daughter, Liv: and I don't want to miss a thing. Abusivi seem to like this one, they sway as they snuffle, until the CD jumps and we move onto Italian chick-skiffle, KT Tunstall meets Carla Bruni - but not in a good way.

Abusivi's lead singer gives punk baby a big grin, but the young lad seems more interested in the lights of the pharamacy opposite. Some late arrivals have monkish bald pates and nice pale blue cardigans.

The lead guitarist can riff, play chords, and smoke. But never all three at the same time. The first song is named Spirato.

Song two has a bit that goes: cook cook caroo, ay ay Cadaver. It ends with the half-line, "like a lonely song." Next up "Speedy Gonzalez" as a Green Day purgation. But half way through the heavens open and that's it. Bar staff rush out and help to get everything inside. Three songs: over. Suddenly reading the Corriella del Sporto is the New Rock and Roll. I head for bed, wave at the old football men, and turn on one of those terrible buddy-buddy, black-white, cop films that lose something in translation in any language.

Thursday, 30 August 2007

Cha Cha Cha...changes

The hills are alive with the sound of thunder, lightning, not very frightening - but a few of the "Freddy" moustaches are. (They are Swiss or German - sure aren't Italian this year).

San Pellegrino makes a sparkling debut after the smaller towns of the Brembana valley. The local bus from Bergamo costs about £1.20 and after 35 minutes climbing and falling through winding roads and towns of no obvious glory drops off passengers (me) betwixt a three hundred metre long Grand Hotel (closed: dangerous), a casino (closed, now a conference centre) and a Thermal Spa Hotel (closed: renovation). The two complexes: the hotel and casino-thermal are divided by a gushing river which plunges off to the Pellegrino factory down the road. Not everything is branded with the drink's red star here, but it feels like the drinks corporation owns quite a lot. Say: Lombardy.

If the Hollywood product placers were looking for sponsors to finance its high-tech remake of Last Year in Marienbad (perhaps with Nick Cage and Keira Knightly) then here with the art nouveau mittel-europa fin de etc. vibe would be a greta place to start the pitch. "We see this movie as being about bringing the sparkle, and bubble, back to life..."

You can't miss the factory - refinery, distillery, whatever - and other SP buildings fleck the town, but this isn't a Woolfsburg (Volkswagen home) because it feels like the setting for a De Maupassant novel. Even a tiny touch of Proust.

After the "old city" high on a hill in Bergamo and the "learning the robes" somewhat confused cultural tourism of Brescia, San Pellegrino is both a step forward and back. It has long been known for its spa water, but only in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century did it become an upmarket destination. So, whilst there are no Renaissance masterpieces, or Venetian tropes, it somehow feels easier to imagine than some of the more famous Italian towns. Even if its brief emminence was Belle Epoque this doesn't diminish the faded ravishing-ness, and makes the vauguely grouchy mood understandable. The setting is amazing.

They have afternoon tea dances for the old ladies, in the evening cha cha cha lessons for the young (women) led by a Dirty Dancer in tight red trounsers with tassels. Music via a Korg synth is riffed out by Belmondo's long lost cheeky younger brother, whilst Swayse 2 shouts "uno due trei quattorse" and limbs flail around.

I should be higher now but the weather wiped the ATMs for a while this morning, so I am thinking about a belle epoque day of baths and lunches, aperitifs and assignations and chest complaints. Faro and whist and chess for the older men and younger boys learning the arts of war and whatever. This may not be "Como" but it wouldn't take so many Clooneys to re-invent San Pellegrino (should it wish so to change). Oh yes, there's is a red double decker 159 Bus that wanders around the town, amazing vistas from the bridges, clouds, hills, blue remembered or not, impossibly high villas in the distance (there was a funicular here once), and from time to time a HGV with that water passes down, as if chased away by the falling clouds, to take a tiny part of the valley to Rio or Reading, Naples or New York.

I lost this post first time around because of the storms. Outside the library linen-sodden for the first time since Padua all thoughts of mountain passes go awol and I settle down to write a screenplay. And the echo in the valley, a growling bark of displeasure for all that summer sun on Como late last week, perhaps, is enough to persuade even a two-time believer in Dawkins and his Delusion that somewhere above the clouds the God's are waiting. Maybe it is the Swiss.

Across Italy The Venice Film festival is previewing Atonement. The novel by Ian McEwan that isn't quite as bad as Saturday, but it is a close run thing...Here the only book in English in the stationary store (closed) is a hard back copy of a book called "Blog"...Really: life is strange. Even without the divine apple. My writing bump grows: soon it will be a conker.

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Re Boot - now just for walking

Up into the hill villages on the way to the Splunga pass, Switzerland and beyond. I am at last Tom, because the Apple is not booting up, and Genius Bars are few and far between. In fact the closest one is in England. So like an older generation of travellers I am now down to pen and paper: if there is an internet cafe up high I will post. There is a ton of back material too. And photographs. The lump on my writing finger grows daily. Travel 3.0 seems a way off right now.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Apple and Moleskine not Compatible

The laptop is very poorly, and that makes posting a little difficult. It's all going down on paper: pencil and the Moleskine, the red hot blogging tools. Hope to find computer doctor shortly.