Italian souvenirs by Mirino
In the 'old days' artists had a bound duty to defend their copyright more than might appear to be the case today- thanks to the generous miracle of Internet.
It was signalled to me on one of those 'old days' that someone in Verona was pirating my work in various forms of stationery. I was even given the address. So after writing several threatening letters that proved to be totally ineffective, I decided that the only possible way to resolve the affair would be to go to Verona and corner the culprit. So this I did.
Naively I imagined that it would only take a day, driving there and back, so I didn't take much money. In those days I didn't have much money to take, not that there's ever been any great change in the status quo.
Miraculously I found the place, a sort of prefabricated box building in a seedy suburb of Verona. The director however wasn't there. He was in Torino.
I didn't speak any Italian. I imagined then that everyone spoke French. I told the secretary and others that stared at me with expressions of curiosity and amusement, that I wouldn't leave until he returned. This was impractical because he wasn't due to return until the following day, if not the day after.
In the meantime I decided I should first go to the Chamber of Commerce of Verona in the Piazza delle Erbe. I wonder now how on earth I managed that, but I did. I found myself opposite a huge man who, with impressive aplomb and weighty gestures, smilingly conveyed that nothing is ever that simple. 'One has to be flexible', etc. He telephoned the company and spoke to whoever was in charge in the boss's absence. At one point during the conversation he ponderingly nodded then gave me a conspiring wink. This indicated, I later discovered, that the person he spoke to had made a serious boob which would enable me to gain satisfaction. But I would have to wait a couple of days.
Fortunately I had a credit card with me so I was able to withdraw the amount of cash I thought I would need. I found a little, reasonable hotel and decided to make the most of my stay by visiting the sites of Verona. I walked miles in the mildness of the clear autumnal weather, visited the Giardino Giusti, strolled down the Via Giuseppe Mazzini to the old market in the Piazza delle Erbe once more, and took the time to admire the lofty tower Lamberti. I visited the famous balcony of Juliet Capuleti which adds even more credence and charm to Shakespeare's immortal Romeo and Juliet.
I ate on the terrace of a little restaurant not far from the Roman Amphitheatre. They may have suspected how skint I was from my appearance. I was convinced that they always gave me huge helpings of tagliatelle and allowed me to demolish all the grated parmesan in view of this. Maybe it was this attention, real or imagined, that contributed to my fondness of Italy.
The third day, after what was a short and most agreeable, surprise holiday, I met the fellow responsible for the pirating. He accepted his responsibility with sheepish grace.
We went to his bank. As the appropriate withdrawal that would secure the rights in question was made, his banker looked at me hatefully as if I were committing a hold up. The pirate's car was even more of a wreck than mine. I was even beginning to feel sorry for the poor guy..
With some of the money I haggled for and bought a Pavoni expresso coffee machine. One of those wonderful chrome beauties that necessitate the long and strenuous arm exercise to squeeze out the short expresso. I still have it and regard it proudly as a precious trophy. The element went years later but I was able to replace it in Milan. This cost me more than I originally paid for the coffee machine itself, but this, and Milano, is another story.
Text © Mirino (PW) October, 2009.