Good morning lovely people,
One of my first negotiation lectures at University was a group workshop. We were all excited to be doing an activity. Fun? No, anything but.
What unfolded was a simulation of the territorial dispute of the areas of Gaza, Israel and the West Bank. I’ve always thought I was quite good at seeing solutions and feeling confident that I had an answer, even if it was wrong, I could present an argument. On that occasion, as today I was extremely confused and struggled to see what the best path was. What solution was fair and would satisfy all parties? How could peace be brokered?
I’ve never visited the Holy Land. I have no Jewish, Muslim, Arabic, Palestinian or Israeli heritage or family. The civilian casualties we’ve seen on both sides are unforgivable. Brutal. I’ve no personal experience to draw on. Who funds the militants? What peace seeking people would block humanitarian aid? How can 1 million people be expected to move from their homes, and who had the right to ask? This week and every week for a hundred years, is built on five thousand years of hurt. How can we get to such levels of hate towards our fellow man? What would cause such atrocities? Why is there such a need for vengeance? We’re all brothers and sisters are we not? How can the words holy and war ever sit side by side? Our hearts go out to anyone who has been affected by these atrocities. Someone once said I don’t have a fence when I said I don’t sit on one. Conflict, war and building fences has never solved this problem. Who has the desire and skill to negotiate peace? Yet again we find ourselves so fortunate to be able to live our lives.
There is one other place where I feel as safe and as content as I do here in Scotland. Picinisco, the mountain village in the Lazio/Abruzzo mountains where my family is from. If my Italian was fluent and I didn’t have responsibilities, both Victor and I would happily live there.
I didn’t visit until I was 20. My grandparents and father had left the hamlet in 1919 where our family had lived for centuries. I’ve shared this many times. The village is called I’Ciacca. My maiden name is Di Ciacca. After the war my grandmother had bought a house in Picinisco, the main town in the area. It had a church or two, a few shops, running water and far more mod cons than down the hill. When I visited, I’Ciacca it was just a small cluster of abandoned farm out houses. Hints of a communal oven for baking bread, but no electricity or sanitation. Incredibly beautiful but more of a highland bothy than a Scots man’s or Italian man’s castle. Our ancestral home was more ethereal than imperial. The connection to our past was tangible and tragically romantic on a warm May day. This trip was made with my big brother. He’s the oldest of eight and I’m the youngest. 16 years separate us. We’re probably the two most similar in personality, not looks. We both eat the same flavour of ice cream, all the evidence you need in our house for alignment. There was a real sense of belonging, of home and a strong bond with lost generations. Having never met our grandfather, who my brother was named after, somehow made the bond even stronger. I remember the sense of adventure rambling through the ruins, vines and overgrowth. There was no path or road to follow. A hunt for our holy grail, Indiana Jones style.
Well tomorrow, Monday on Channel 4 at 5pm you can share what turned out to be a real life adventure, one Cesidio and his family have managed to achieve through blind faith over the last twenty years. A retirement project that grew deep roots, like the olive trees that have been on the land for almost ever. Huge love, enormous passion, bursting with pride, unflinching determination and a dose of sensible madness. The programme is called “Help. We bought the village”. They have been filming several families over the last two years who have moved to Europe with dreams of a rural life. They even managed to film our team at Contini George Street where we use the olive oil and wine that our family produces.
There are no words or reasons to explain human beings. We are all brothers and sisters. Sometimes we do things that others think are impossible or unimaginable. Some actions can only ever be seen as evil in the extreme, others unmeasurably kind and good. Some choose to even be politicians! My family has a connection to a few hectares of humble land 600m above sea level. I can understand the passion that many share for their homeland. I can understand why many would do anything to hold onto it. I can see how my brother has rejuvenated a rural landscape. He’s done this for his family, for a community that he feels a strong connection to and for future generations. Who can deny anyone that. The only fences he’s built are those to keep the wild boar and bears out. I’ll happily sit on that fence any day.
Keep well and keep safe and thank you as always. Happy viewing.
PS Here is where you can watch ‘Help ! We bought a village’ : https://www.channel4.com/programmes/help-we-bought-a-village
Discover my family’s beautiful sanctuary here: https://iciacca.com/