Down and Out in England and Italy by Alberto Prunetti

Down and Out in England and Italy by Alberto Prunetti

Italian Non-fiction

Original title – 108 metri. The new working-class hero

Translator – Elena Pala

Source – Review copy

I ask to get sent this intrigued by the title a nod to the Orwell book about being poor and finding it hard to find a job. But when I looked up the original title was a homage to the John Lennon song Working-class Heron and the foundry where had worked when they made a 108-meter railing. Alberto has worked as a Pizza chef, a cleaner, and Handyman. He did these jobs whilst and after getting his degree he still wrote and has published five novels and has translated works by Orwell (Hence the nod to his book in the English title ) He has also worked on a series of working-class books for an Italian publisher.

We the cooks of United Kingdon solemnly swear before Her majesty the queen to fight the infamous pathogenic bacteria, given to all manner of vicousness and capable of inducing the most grevious bouts of nausea and vomitting. We will deny Clastridium perfingens access to the British soil – that ghastly, degenrate agitator that creeps into the restaurant and can count on the logistical support of Botulinum. The fearsome staphylococusureus- devious bowel terrorist.- will be pushed back accross the Channel, together with the so-called European Bacillus cereus, which cause abdominal pain and spasms as well as nefarious bouts of blouting.

The opening chapter called The Oath

The book follows the time in the early 200os when after his Graduation Alberto came to the Uk to earn money as he was from a working-class family his father was a steelworker from Livorno in Tuscany the side of the place we never see hen it shown here. I remember the town from its football team which is considered the most left-wing club in Italy historically. Anyway back to the book and we follow Alberto as he arrived in Bristol and he knocks door to door at the local Pizza restaurants when he got a job he falls into a weird brotherhood of the workers a mix of failed actors, Turks that pretend to be Italian.  He joins the club secret group the SKANK (Stonebridge kitchen assistant Nasty Kommittee) a gang of rogue fast food folks. He drifts then through cleaning jobs where he is watched as he goes around the shopping center where he is employed. Cleaning school toilets working with an opera lover toilet cleaner. What we see is that underbelly as he talks about the dying ember of Thatcher’s time still being felt I feel this is something that has grown Brexit has brought even more of a racist feel to our country.

The atomsphere was, in short , intoerably opressive for us Pizza chefs, and I had proof that my locker was being routinely searched for evidence of my wrongdoing.I remember losing my temper one day, shouting and kicking the furniture in the dining room. It was tin response to the umpteenth punitive task the signora, clearly moticvated by her hatred for the British waitresses, had imposed on the girls after an excruicating shift, she’d ordered them to scrub the legs of all the tables and chairs, it was through such measures that she aimed to puinsh the guilty, encourage the righteousm and warn off the evil-minded – predictably, however, thisonly earned her more insults and abuse

The italian owner of his first place of work in Bristol

I loved this book as it remind me of my own experience which was in the early nineties where I worked in a German packing factory. It opened my eyes to those people we don’t always see those restaurants workers, fast food, drivers who many assume are one thing but Like Alberto was and many of the friends I made working in a German factory a mix of students, Germans and a number of workers from the Balkans I had a great connection to a pair from Kosovohe worked in TV there in the football shows he was a huge Football fan. His wife was a professor of Literature. Like the gang of brothers, he made the way I  connected with these people hardworking and saw the other side of the fence being a foreign worker in a foreign country. even down to the acting Italian, my Kosovan friend had another job in an Italian cafe where he tried to look like he was Italian!!  This also reminds me of the description of the workers that Anthony Bourdain gave in his book Kitchen confidential hard working and on the whole workers from around the world working in the kitchens of New York. He captures those unnamed workers we all see but don’t know as well as we think we do. An eye-opening look at working at the bottom here that I feel is maybe worse now given the Gig economy and zero-hour contracts leaving people on the edge of nothing all the time.

Winstons score – A an interesting memoir about being a foreign and working in the UK !!

 

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Lisa Hill
    Nov 27, 2021 @ 10:24:25

    I hate the way the gig economy has taken over. It’s long term poverty for so many people.

    Reply

  2. Trackback: That was the month that was November 2021 | Winstonsdad's Blog

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