Aug 26. It is ten years since I first came here to Manciano. Corelli had just opened and was enjoying some success and I treated myself to a week of Italian lessons at the school here. I was quite taken by an advertisement that described Manciano as 'off the tourist track' and I came here for three lessons a day for a week, one to one, with three different teachers - Stella and I talked about families,Umberto and I talked about theatre projects, and Marie-Therese and I didn' talk much about anything. She was determined to teach me how to conjugate Italian verbs properly but she was easily subverted because she was football crazy - a Fiorentina fan 'una tifosa al fegato!' Which means 'from the heart' except it really means from the liver. On the Wednesday night Fiorentina beat Arsenal at Wembly and Battistuta scored one of the most extraordinary goals I have ever seen beating Seaman at his near post with a shot he could never have seen. So grammar flew out the window that day and I still don't conjugate. Marie-Therese married another of her students - a young German boy who worked as a cameraman and who filmed Simon Rattle's very first concert with the Berlin Philharmonic, Mahler 5, a TV programme I watched at home in Cambridge with no idea there was a Manciano connection.
Here I am, ten years later, with Stella in Bar Centrale and I learn that the school is closed. Stella soldiers on with a few private students. They don't pay as much as I did because with no school there is no middleman - no admin etc. And it just occurs to me that it surely wouldn't be difficult to find 30 or 40 students a year who would like to stay in this beautiful spot and learn Italian. One of her students, Walter, comes twice a year from Canada and he's 92. This tells me firstly that you are never too old and that secondly you will never find a teacher who is ever so patient. So I have great pleasure in introducing you to Stella. I told her how grateful I was to the surgeon and everyone at Addenbrookes and she tells me how grateful she is too ....
I spend the afternoon in Yosemite with John Muir in the middle of the 19th century. It's one helluva ride and I hope it will percolate through my odd chemistry to emerge on stage with music that scales the heights of the Sierra Nevada - maybe sometime next year.
Supper with Umberto's mum and dad. They used to run a newspaper stall in Rome but now they are retired. I remember when I first met them they told me about a customer who came every day and took two newspapers, concealed one inside the other, and only paid for one. They never challenged him and once a week the thief went to church to light a candle and pray for their ancestors. We all eat pizza together and Umberto's mum get's a poroblem off her chest. They have an apartment in Rome and water from their terrace leaked to the balcony below and now there is some litigation going on regarding the division of reconstruction costs. It's an old story. Umberto works in the rather expensive hotel in Saturnia and I have been invited as his guest to the swimming pool tomorrow.
A domani! Ciao!