It’s true, I have been AWOL. AWOL is an acronym for “moving slowly and holding still in the shade while trying to breathe.”
We are now experiencing the seventh hideous heatwave of the summer. I realize we are not unique in this, but I can only speak about what I know. Today it’s hotter in Torino than it is in Palermo.
Each wave has swept over us from the Sarahan wastes of northern Africa, and the only thing interesting about them has been the series of nicknames they’ve been given. I can’t remember them all, but there was “Ulysses” (not sure why), then “Charon” (that’s cheerful), and we even saw the “Colossus of the Deserts” come and go, leaving space for some appropriately catastrophic Roman emperors: Nero and Caligula. I’m sorry the naming committee changed course before giving a moment of glory to Pertinax or Hostilian, but probably they weren’t gory enough.
Moving on, at the moment we’re undergoing the torments of “Lucifer” — another week of temperatures over 100 degrees F. in wide swathes of the old Belpaese. In Venice we have occasionally gotten a bonus of 100 percent humidity. Everything is soggy. This is far beyond poor but honest little afa. Life was good back when a dog-day remained modestly canine, without changing into the Beast of Gevaudan.
On the subject of names, I’m not sure how to surpass the Great Deceiver, but I think we should branch out in finding a big name for the next heatwave — something more international-like. Perhaps “Vlad the Impaler” could work. “Leopold II of Belgium.” “Genghis Khan.”
Crops are devastated by the drought (did I mention the drought?). Not only is 80 per cent of cultivation destroyed in some areas of Italy, even the mussel crop has died off in the overheated waters of their little habitat. And there is the daily disaster of fires scorching endless acres of woodland. One hundred and ten fires just today, most of them ignited intentionally. Forget trips to the Alps: they’re melting too.
All this is not an attempt to seek sympathy, though of course I wouldn’t reject it. It’s just to say I have not forgotten the daily chronicle, but the contents of my cranial cavity have been kept functioning at the most elementary level only by emergency applications of espresso and gelato.