Last weekend I was haunted by visions of places such as Aleppo and Mosul: Apocalyptic civil destruction, the deaths of unknown thousands of ordinary people, the conversion of ancient cultural cities into piles of rock, cement and rubble.
Why? Because it was just so far away from what we were experiencing at the time.
It seemed almost unfair that while people were trying to survive those – and other – hell holes, through no fault of their own, we were floating in a wonderful vision of delight and sensory happiness.
A friend had seen a notice in a shop window in Eaglehawk and invited us to take part in something which at first seemed like just a good idea, but turned into something much deeper.
It was a concert, a small concert, of Vivaldi music played on guitar by Sergio Ercole and the Victorian Chamber Ensemble at a wonderful property named Mica Grange.
The property has amazing gardens and was at its best last weekend. All the cultural ducks were aligned, and it was impossible not to feel that something special was taking place.
Vivaldi’s lively music, played by one of the best classical guitarists around, supported by a cello and three violins, sipping a chilled white wine, while watching birds floating in the warm thermals over the hills of Sutton Grange … with friends.
Money raised at the concert was going to a young Geelong orphan, named Elizabeth, to help her study Vivaldi’s music.
I’m not upset there were perhaps 30 people there. It was a very personal event, made even more so by a conversation with Sergio’s father, Ivano, a colourful Florentine who moved to Australia when Sergio was a child.
We talked about life, children, music, pride and why someone from Florence would find cultural satisfaction in the Victorian countryside.
Ivano’s view was that at that precise moment in time, it was a silly question. In all but name, this was the Tuscany that so many Australians fall in love with.
Mrs Whacked and I have a deep affection for Italy and over the years, I’ve picked up a couple of handy phrases, and it seemed this was the time to try one of them out.
“E un piacere fare la sua conoscenza.” Say it slowly and make grand hand gestures and no Italian will fail to melt.
It is a very formal way of saying: “What a pleasure it is to make your acquaintance.”
But you always have to smile and apologise that you don’t really understand their effusive thanks in response.
Did Ivano and his family miss Tuscany and its capital, Florence? He started to say no, and then adjusted it to say that the thing he missed was to be able to wallow in cultural conversations in his own language, but on this day, that was a small regret.
It was on the way home that I got to thinking about places such as Aleppo and Mosul, where there are children who’ve never known a life without fear of indiscriminate death falling from the sky. Where nice people have never tasted a chilled white wine but are happy with lukewarm foetid water. Whose idea of a bright landscape is one without clouds of smoke and bombs.
Does anyone there even remember what the chaos was all about? Do they have any idea how life can be enjoyed?
There is a TV advertisement for a pain killer here which says: “When pain ends, life takes its place.” We have no idea how fortunate we are to live in this place at this time.