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O Sole Mio

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Good Morning Lovely People,

This is a short and sweaty post.

We’re in Italy. We did one of those last minute dot com type trips with the family. First in 3 years like many. We knew we would be staying around the bay of Naples but didn’t know where. We’ve arrived in Las Vegas, Amalfi Coast style, alla 1980’s. We’re expecting Elvis to pop up in the hotel foyer at any moment with a gelato singing “It’s now or never”. Good food (and not a burger in sight) is never far away, so we have all we need and we’re loving it.

On Thursday we went to Pompeii. The Romans had no idea what was about to hit them in AD 79. We got our sun glasses on and know exactly what we’re facing.

We’ve been told for years about climate change and there are many sceptics that say it’s all a conspiracy. The 1976 heatwave saw temperatures reach 35.9’C in the UK and this week a staggering 40’C.It’s 30’C by 8am here in Italy. We are in an era of extremes. The High Court meanwhile ruled that the UK Government’s Net Zero Strategy breached the Climate Change Act. What does this all mean? It means our government isn’t willing to face the truth. The rhetoric is that individual members of the public need to change. Unless you’ve parked your yacht in the Med (the price of diesel isn’t stopping them filling their tanks), the majority of individuals can make little impact. This huge problem should be paid for by the big benefactors. They don’t want to and nobody has the power or inclination to make them.

As a business, sustainability in every area is important. Morally we know what the good choices are and we are making them, but it’s hard and it’s expensive. The majority of our food purchases are seasonal, and local. We import from Italy but only produce that we can’t source in Scotland. These fresh fruit and vegetables are largely organic and are transported by road. Brexit administration has made this more expensive, but environmentally it’s the best decision.

I can see the price of food here in Italy. Unlike our 20% VAT on all hospitality, here it’s 10% in restaurants. At home there is no VAT on retail food but here some retail food is taxed. The hospitality sector in the UK has been crying out for years for a more even playing field. This is now or never for much of the sector with inflationary pressures really hurting. Our governments have also not taken the time to look at the essence of our relationship with food and drink. It’s clear to see the outcomes in obesity, diabetes and other health problems, issues that aren’t as present here in Italy where fresh food and casual dining is fresh food not junk food focused. Drinking is cultural but not antisocial. We can change but no government wants to take on the challenge, a bit like climate change, they see it as a problem for the next person to tackle.

At home we can all see the choices we make and know if they are environmentally considered. In our towns and cities we can see the waste and mismanagement of resources. Multiply this globally and it feels we’re watching Vesuvius erupting in front of our eyes. It’s ironic that we’re sweating in the summer and we’ll be frozen in the winter as we won’t be able to afford the heating. The technology to harness this heat and convert surely must be there? The ability of governments to support the cost of living crisis is also there.

The UK as a nation is not food self-sufficient. Our closest market is Europe, where growing is environmentally sustainable, yet we have a policy to trade with countries at the opposite end of the planet, only adding to our climate challenge. The Brexit divorce bill, now costing £42.5 billion, doesn’t even fit on the side of a multi deck superyacht. The problem isn’t just food miles, or annual family holiday airmiles. Pollution, manufacturing, deforestation, microplastics, all the fossil fuels used for electricity to air condition us when we’re sweating and warm us when we’re freezing is part of the pyroclastic flow overhead.

No one is surprised that our “PM” has been enjoying his parties and final flings Maverick style rather than attending the “Cobra” heatwave crisis meetings. At the beginning of the week the Rouble hit an 8 year high against the Euro because of surging energy prices. Our strategy to hurt the Kremlin is clearly as successful as my suntan competition against Victor. When the PM met Lebedev, an ex KGB officer, with no officials present, this meeting was far more successful.

We’re left until 5 September to guess if Sunak or Truss will be in post until 1 May 2024. It’s looking like the Conservative faithful are favouring Truss. Both candidates resisted a final TV debate as they realised they were no Maximus Aurelius. (Russel Crowe was in Italy too this week visiting his old office, the Colosseum, probably one of my favourite tweets ever.) We’re fooling no one that this is democracy at its best.

As you leave the ruins of Pompeii, with your back to Vesuvius, a statue of Icarus is at the exit. We’ve all witnessed the fall of our politicians. Icarus the symbol for the fall of humanity. Is it now or never that we should be listening to the experts, not our politicians? It’s getting far too hot in the sun.

We’re heading home tomorrow completely recharged and radiating ready for the Edinburgh Festival. We’re grateful for all the visitors (airmiles) to our city. Our next trip is our autumn Covid booster for the over 50’s, it’s the rage of the season.

Keep well and keep cool,


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