Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

The Journal OF Lynton Charles

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

The Journal OF Lynton Charles

Article excerpt


Saturday. 11pm. Gatwick The flight to Pisa is delayed for up to three hours due to some piece of labour unrest somewhere on the Continent. The twins, as befits 12-year-old boys starved of computer games and footballs, are going bonkers, and the whole place is hot and fetid and smells of discontent. In the past, I used to console myself, in situation such as these, with the thought that some of the moaning travellers around me would blame the government of the day -- however unreasonably. Now that possibility makes everything ten times worse.

Later. The Villa Recta Digitale, nr Volterra Toscana! Bella Toscana! And the name of the villa -- as so often with Italian -- delights the visitor. In my imagination, it signifies the fusion of the old with the new; the thrust of the modern -- if you like -- meeting the traditional, which then clasps it deep within itself.

Signor Belpaese, a deputy from the regional assembly, has just departed, having very kindly met us at the airport and escorted us here. A dapper man in a linen suit, Signor Belpaese ("call me Antonio") was the result of Fort Knox informing the Tuscan authorities that a British minister was staying among them.

"Signor Toni down by the coast, and now you, Signor Charles," said Antonio, when first we met. "What have we done to deserve all this?"

Sunday. The Villa Recta Digitale, nr Volterra The church bells ring out in the valley, and the early haze of morning floats off among the Lombardy poplars. Overhead, the buzz of a helicopter occasionally disrupts the tranquillity, just as Antonio had warned it might. "Polizia," he said, "maintaining the security of our special guest. And all at the willing expense of the population of Tuscany!"

I am lying beside the pool, trying for the 40th time to get a handle on Louis de Bernieres (and wishing that I had a nice juicy political biography instead), when the phone rings indoors. …

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