Terroirist Activity @ Fiumicino Airport, Rome
November 6th, I completed my wine tasting course courtesy of Slow Food in Velletri near Rome. Our final session was pretty indulgent, dedicated to the matching of food and wine, a five course binge. The twenty hours of lessons had provided a basic structure with which to organize my own educational regime, which included a series of trips to different wine producing regions of the country to scrutinise their terroirs. One such expedition was to Turin for the Salone del Guston and the surrounding Langhe to check out the homes of two famous Italian wines: Barolo and Barbaresco. of course this was also a good opportunity to pick up a few bottles so as to extend my (ahem!) instruction, in Ireland for example. So I acquired a 2001 Barolo produced Cordero-Montezemolo. Yeah, I know this sounds like a hooray-henry anecdote, but there’s actually a civil liberties nut at its core, and it cracked in my hands the next day, when I arrived at the airport to head home for a few days.
By virture of both their delicacy and potential to dye everything nearby in hues ranging from red to purple, I like to carry my bottles as hand-luggage. Having checked in my bags, I headed towards the security gate but was blocked by a man waving small plastic bags at me, and asking if I was in possession of any fluids. Unbeknownst to me, the European Commission’s new regulations on hand baggage (EU regulation 1546/2006) had come into effect the day before, and only liquids in containers of a 100ml or less, totalling not more than a litre, would henceforth be permitted. But I had nearly four letters of fine wines – what to do?!
I returned to the check-in and explained my dilemma to the ground-staff from Aer Lingus. In fairness to them, they were most sympathetic and allowed me to check another bag. I promptly emptied my computer hold-all of all device gimickry and stripped off down to a t-shirt. I then carefully wrapped four of the bottles in clothes and slotted them in the bag; the woman at the check-in stuck a ‘delicate’ warning on the bag and it was dispatched to the hold. Meanwhile I still had a bottle that I couldn’t fit in, as well as a computer, external hard drive and various other bits and bobs, and by now a fair lather of sweat.
Barolo is made of Nebbiolo and is heavy in tannins which make it excellent for ageing, it develops a complex bouquet and is considered perfect for meats with complex sauces, preferably roasted. And here I was, scurrying downstairs to the cafe to try to persuade them to open it so that I could knock back as much as I could! Outrageous to even think of it, nonethtless prefereble to abandoning it at security: I could see them now, pouring the bottle down the drain before the television cameras – how rigorous we are in rooting out the terrorist threat! The staff in the cafe looked at me as if i was a cheapskate who simply preferred to save money by bringing their own: no help forthcoming. Down again I plunged to arrivals: here, thought I, one could perform an act of random kindness to someone newly arrived or returned. Yet, everyone I approached shied away from me, perhaps believing that my offer was merely prelude to some elaborate scam, or perplexed by the computer equipment gripped to my chest in a small transparent bag; in short I was dismissed as a nutter.
I looked up at the clock, departure time was impending, drastic measures were required. Out the door I charged, and into the car-park opposite the terminal, scouting for the right place to stash the bottle, some dark corner which could be a custodian of this jewel until my eventual return. Out of the light of course, and protected from heat oscillation, I found a bush, and in it went. Having mournfully discharged my duty, I cantered off to take the plane.
The Permanent State of Emergency
Allow me to change register for a moment.Whilst a trifle itself, this incident dervies from yet another backward step in the wanton capitulation to the demands of paranoid and authoritarian governments since September 11th. To take the words of Custine,”the discipline of the military camp substituted for the order of the city, and a state of siege substituted for the normal state of society.” These procedures are little other than the liturgy and ritual of state power, a performance designed to convey the impression that the government is doing something and is in control of its grotesque ‘war on terror’. But if you believe that then you haven’t been following the casualty figures from Iraq and Afghanistan.
This week the Pakistani authorities dropped terrorism charges against Rashid Rauf, supposed ringleader of the conspiracy to blow up planes destined for the US using liquid explosives. So where now for the conspiracy? Yet the absurdity does not end here: under the new regulations a passenger can still bring up to a litre of liquids, apparently ‘experts’ have determined that such an amount cannot pose any threat. but he’s one for the boffins: what if two or three people were travelling together or separatel? Wow! What a terrible vista that opens up!!
Limiting state intrusion into an individual’s behaviour is key to keepiong authoritarian rule at bay, but since 2001 it’s as if the mere invocation of terror is enough to justify anything: state-sponsoired abductions, torture, suspension of the rule of law, access to private finacial information, communication records etc. And what has this achieved? In from of the fomentation of fear what can be the qualitative apparatus by which a government’s performace can be assessed? To have saved their populations from hypothetical and imaginary threats, whilst destabilising them psychologically by weaving an atmosphere of paranoia around them?
Incredibly the new regulations on hand baggage weren’t even published in the Official Register. Secrecy, arbitrariness and non-transparency are the natural byproducts of rule through fear.
December 2nd: I could have flown into Milan, but there was no Barolo waiting for me there, so Rome it was. On exiting arrivals I had to think for a moment: Fiumicino is one of those modernist non-places, where the same feature is repeated over and over, dizzyingly, like a Klee painting. Anticipating this I had mentally logged that the airport bookshop was visible directly opposite the bush. In I darted to the carpark but there were still a number of different candidates. Parking my huge bag, I began rummaging, parting the branches of each one in turn. Suddenly I realised that something was different: the bushes, once resplendent in leaves and brush were now almost nude – autumn had been and gone since the treasure was concealed, leaving my hiding-place exposed to the world. I found the bush but the only bottles there were empty containers of plonk. My disappointment wasn’t that savage; I was glad that it had been found, as I had tried to gift it away, and enjoyed the though that it might have made the gardener or litter-collector’s day a bit brighter. And I hope they knew what they had uncovered and had something nice to eat with it (I had Barolo once with a three euro plate of couscous and it was heaven).
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