I have a theory that Italians may suffer from unconscious nationalism regardless of political persuasion. “Italians have/are the best at (fill in space)” is often heard. Until the 21st century Italians had very little exposure to foreign pop or rock music, likewise only Italian opera was played by classical music radio stations. There is a common sense reason for this. Since WWII the Christian Democrats held power for many years, followed by mostly extreme right-wing governments. Tamla Motown likewise arrived 30 years late in France and they were never told its origin in motor town Detroit. The best faux pop that France could produce for decades was the appalling Johnny Hallyday.
So after seven years living in Rome, finding myself living and working with my partner in Beverly Hills, I heard and liked English pop on the radio even if I did not know the singers, never having heard them in Italy. After six months there my father begged me to return home as my mother was seriously ill, and distraught I complied. It meant the end of my relationship and my partner’s family exploited my vulnerability, robbing me of everything I had, something I did not disclose at the time. Such are fascists.
As well as caring for my mother at home with my father, I worked promoting British cars and spent several months working for BBC Look North which covered Tyneside and Northumberland with the charming, popular and very funny Mike Neville as anchor. His persona on TV was exactly as he was in life, ever good-natured. He took me under his wing and at the end of every day would pass by my office to accompany me to the Green Room to chat to the latest star following his show. The top celebrities appeared nightly, something which sadly does not happen now, and Mike and I would chat and offer them a drink. Look North now spreads itself thinly across the North East, North West and Yorkshire, BBC cost-cutting at its worst. Elton John is memorable as genuine and simply because I had no idea he was so famous. He and I were quiet and shy while Mike dazzled with his personality as usual.
My mother endured for one year, then my temporary position at the BBC came to an end, so I started scouring The Times for overseas work which always involved London interviews. Neither the North East nor Britain could satisfy my yearning to travel. In an interview in Knightsbridge I narrowly avoided a job which sounded increasingly for a worker in a harem to a Saudi Prince, more interested in whether I could dress a dinner table rather than my office skills. I envisaged having my passport confiscated once there.
The interview for the EU was also held in London, for applicants throughout the UK, though I recognised a friendly face from my home town. She sat next to me, well at a desk four feet away, for the tests. She seemed panic stricken and I gladly whispered help to her three times but I guessed she was really beyond help at deciphering spider doctor’s handwriting. The result of the tests and interview was a letter within a month inviting me to start work in the EU London Office. There, some weeks later I was told that I had the top results of all UK applications.