From Amalfi to Miori by boat and bus

I struggle with the new nomenclature. I forget the current accepted term for various afflictions, races and such. I fail to see the difference between coloured people and people of colour, partly because grammatically there’s isn’t any. I read a lot of books and a slight change in the sequence of words, or a pleonasm that is an accepted norm, chosen for emphasis, excites me when I see the point of the writer.

I have owned a few hairy dogs in my time and it has often been impossible to sex the animal from the ¾ front view. Most people opted for calling my dogs ‘he’; it seemed the accepted way to go to when you don’t know. There’s a tribe in the Cameroons which has a name for every type of indigenous snake. They call a black mamba a black mamba. However, they call a snake they have been unable to type a black mamba. Sensible doesn’t quite cut it.

There’s a lot of angst around regarding personal pronouns at the moment. It leaves me cold. What’s the problem if it’s ill-chosen? If the speaker doesn’t know what you see as the acceptable term, how can it be their fault? I was once corrected by an inspector about the terminology for what now would be called special needs children, this before a multi-agency meeting. At the meeting, I used this new, to me, terminology, only to be chided by a social worker that it was typical for the police to be so outdated. It probably made her feel superior, but it’s fair to say that there was a fair bit of stifled laughter from others there, and it wasn’t aimed at me. Perhaps there were new descriptions for those in the know.

There can be few who can’t nominate what the acronym of LBGT, or rather what is now called an initialism. That’s part of the problem. Initially, everyone knew what it meant to include. Now we have a plethora of initials, and we are all at sea. But woe betide if you fail to use the currently accepted form.

I don’t want to be known as heterosexual. Being classed by one’s sexuality is, to me, pathetic. Is that the most important sub-classification of me as a person? What about husband, father, writer, and more? There’s so much more that defines me before my sexuality. I reckon I’d still be me if I was gay, yet being married and having children changed my attitude and behaviour almost from the word go. I can’t say I’m offended, just irritated.

I write on email marketing and often give advice on what criteria to use when compiling data on customers and subscribers. I normally suggest that classifying people by whether they are male or female is too broad a brush, and apart for specialist products, is probably best left alone. There are any number of other criteria which are much more prescriptive of a person.

In this I am hardly sticking out my neck. Indeed, I probably copied the basics from some other commentator. So why is the main form of title for people dependent upon their gender?

I want to go further.

I’m with Shelley. He reckoned all titles are tinsel, and life has taught me that he was spot on. A high rank in the police service is no guarantee of good sense or dedication to what the service is all about. Same goes for whether a person has been knighted, crowned or lorded. There’s Archer and Green to support my contempt for such titles. I admire people who have studied at university and achieved a high grade, but I see no reason for them to carry their titles around with them, in initialised form, for the rest of their life.

My son has completed his Masters, but I still call him son. He admits that his Masters degree has a short shelf life although it does have a certain cachet on his CV. I’m proud of him. I was proud of him before he could use MA after his name.

So why do professors profess their profession? I don’t care. In TV listings we have a dame professor something or other, and one wonders what she will do if she gets some other honorary.

I knew someone who called himself Lieutenant-Colonel whatever, and then suffixed his name with rtd. Or to put it another way, stated he was no longer a Lieutenant-Colonel. He was though, a bit of a prig and after one of his senseless pontifications on the laziness of youth today, a girl I was with asked, rather sweetly, “Lieutenant-Colonel? Is that like higher than a Colonel?”

Sillier still are personal pronouns. What is the point of he and she? Then there’s him and her. At a time where we are striving for equal opportunity regardless of gender, why do we continue classifying everyone by sex? Not only that but I defined myself as a father and a husband a few paragraphs back yet there is nothing wrong with parent and spouse. Come to that, why is the fact that I am in a long-term relationship with another person seen as important to anyone other than me and my wife, partner, spouse?

I think it would be a big step forward in equality if sex-specific pronouns were either replaced by pronouns which were not related to gender, or else just left off. I was at a coeducational school where surnames were used for boys. I was Smith and responded to that. But any thought of pioneering with regards to not being sex-specific was lost because all the girls were referred to by their forenames.

Why can’t I be Derek Smith to people outside my close acquaintance and Derek to those who know me sufficiently well? Good morning Derek Smith is no different from good morning Mr Smith in the great scheme of things. What’s the problem?

It might help with the great dilemma of dealing with people who have a specific sexuality, are of a different gender, who are seen as inferior by some for whatever reason. Surely we want people not to differentiate between the sexes and genders.

There should be an exception where sex is a vital point of whatever the person was being referred to over. Mother is quite important differentiation in the maternity unit. However once outside the confines, parent should be the preferred option.

I was brought up at a time when being gay, at least for a male, was a crime and engaging in sex between two men was accepted as a dreadful criminal act. Now it is accepted that they should be treated equally. So why call them something different to other men? I can’t help thinking that the argument over what to call a gay person does, if anything, increase the differentiation between the sort of ‘them and us’ that is the fundamental problem. In answer to the question, what would you call a gay person, I’d give the answer, ‘A person’.

It’s not a funny article, but then defining the population by their sex and even by their sexuality is funny enough I think.

Pompeii and brooding Vesuvius

Here’s something nicer.

The Amalfie Coast was everything it was advertised as. The scenery was dramatic, the villages picturesque, the people laid back and welcoming. The lifestyle seemed to transpose to foreigners as well, with the same laissez faire attitude soon being the preferred option.

My wife and I spent a couple of weeks in Miaori, encouraged by the staff of our hotel, the Reginna Palace Hotel, well recommended, to let it all go, and for me the highlight was a visit to Pompeii. I’d read a lot about it, seen films as a kid of its excavations, and it was always a destination I promised myself. I don’t know why it has taken so long but a return visit is likely, although in shorter time.

Vesuvius dominated the ruins and the term brooding was never more apt for a mountain. We went up to the crater but it was out.

Everything I read suggested that it would be hot in Pompeii and that we should take cool clothing and lots to drink. I’m glad we believed them, despite it being September and, every local told us, a lot cooler. June and July would have been a trial in the sun.

Amalfie was a bit of a disappointment, being a little on the bustling side. It was home to the main bus garage where all coastal and inland routes terminated, and this meant anyone from outside wanting to go to Napoli, Positano, Ravello or Salerno would probably have to go via Amalfie. Away from the coast it was crowded even in September.

Ravello was stunning, with a wedding going on seemingly all the time. Well worth a visit although you will leave wanting to return. We met a lovely couple, he Australian, she Irish, who had recently married, who brightened our day with their delightful conversation.

Whilst it is always invigorating to meet any young couple very much in love, it makes it so much more enjoyable when both are so personable. The very best of luck to you both.

You made our day.

The one bit of advice I hope every visitor follows is to journey from Miaori to Amalfie or back by public transport. In 2016 it was €1.30 by bus and €6.00 by boat.

I came away with a tremendous respect for the local bus drivers. The Italian stereotype of hooter sounding, aggressive driving doesn’t go for those manoeuvring buses along the coast road. My respect even remained after we drove into a mountain.

We have been held up for some time by a number of vehicles coming the other way which refused to give way to our bus. Eventually the inevitable happened and there was gridlock. For reasons which escaped me at the time, and still do, the vehicle chosen to get everyone out of the mess everyone else had created was our bus.

To assist our driver, two other drivers who had failed to use their good sense when coming towards us alighted from their vehicles and by a series of confusing, not to say contradictory, signals directed our driver to reverse into the mountain.

A side window cracked, but with an impressively loud bang. There were screams from the passengers sitting next to it, but it was double glazed so they were not at risk.

What was remarkable, at least to me at the time, although I can now appreciate it was the norm, the driver didn’t blame anyone, didn’t even shrug. He looked at the window from the inside, seeing nothing, drove off when the traffic eventually sorted itself out, and then examined it at the next stop. I had visions of having to await another bus, but he was laid back about it and we continued onto Sorrento.

There was no fuss, no bother, no great histrionics. We are told that the reason Italians live longer is because of their diet. Now much as I love Italian food – I had 13 different types of pasta on holiday, and two types of fish I’d never tried before – I reckon it is more to do with lifestyle.

Shops closing at 2pm and not opening until 5pm, now that’s got to add a couple of years extra to any shop worker’s life. Not to mention, those who shop as well, or those who merely stand and wait.

And something else. Every now and again the bus driver would pull to one side, as far as he could, to let car drivers past along the narrow coast road. How come none of our bus drivers have thought of this?

The picture shows a bridal carriage for what appeared to be a rather upmarket wedding. Is that cool or is that ice cold?

If your bride is enchanted by that as the vehicle to whisk her into your arms at your wedding, you’ve got a gem.

We went for a stroll along the promenade every evening and were greeted in any number of languages. It seems everyone is laid back.

We returned on the Sunday. At 1.30am on the following Tuesday, the mains water pipe into the cold water tank burst. So much good work gone.

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