An Italian coronadiary – day 19

The heart of San Polino estate

In her final diary entry from San Polino in Montalcino, Katia Nussbaum asks if we are willing to change. Click on the Katia's diary tag for days 1–18. See also this thread about the diary in our Members' forum.

Day 19: 28 March 2020

This is the last day of my coronadiary. 19 days to mark COVID-19.

Everyone has come in to work. Tini in the winery washing the barrels, preparing for racking the wines, Gigi and Avni deciding how and what, Daniel banging nails into poles, me preparing the shipment for Canada.

Everyone is self-distancing from me. My Aunt Ruthi gave me her Romanian (1930s) cure for a cough. Peeled and cut onion soaked in hot water with 2 teaspoons of honey. I don’t think I’ll have proximity issues today.

The weather is cold but sunny. We will work, have lunch, work and then everyone will go home.

The end of day 19, similar to tomorrow and tomorrow, until this all ends. I have no more diary to write, just a list of jobs and numbers of newly infected (decreasing, we hope) and deaths.

We all read the news. We know the US is in deep trouble, we know that Trump is floundering, rude and uneducated, we know Boris Johnson has begged him for ventilators. We know prime minister Conte has begged Europe for money.

What is the symbolism of 19 days?, Gigi asks.

For me 19 days symbolises the randomness of this event. Random in that it just happened. The universe is random. Of course, we know it has a logic of its own, rules of physics and chemistry that tie everything together, etc, etc, but I think many of us are experiencing this moment with surprise and astonishment. Or maybe, we knew it could come but, like children, had to wait for the punishment to feel the full implications of our limitations, and endure the consequences of:

  1. the dysfunctional world that we, ourselves, have forged and
  2. what it means to be alive and die in a world full of other living and non-living beings.

If it hadn’t been for Jancis Robinson, via Walter Speller, I wouldn’t have written, let alone published, these 19 days, I would have given up what was at the start a personal enterprise, as I have found it hard work and time-consuming. I am not used to writing.

Yet I am so grateful to have been given the space, and to have made the commitment.

My unprofessionally written coronadiary has recorded 19 unique days in the life of my family, friends and San Polino. It has spanned continents, stretching from Italy (us), to Germany (sister), Denmark (stepdaughter Maya), the UK (son Giulio and stepdaughter Shani, friend Tina) and Israel (Aunt Ruthi). To India (friends), the US (Yasmin and other friends) and Mexico (Sofia’s family).

The story has been the same: of people coping, in a state of shock. Worried about the future, worried for their jobs, worried for their friends and family. Watching the world in amazement and fear.

And ours are the easier stories, we who can weather the storm, because we have enough money, big enough houses, and enough to eat. What about the others?

This diary will have become boring because life in lockdown is ‘boring’ in the recounting.

Yet I hope it has given you a flavour of our life here, as a winery struggling to cope with the current crisis.

I didn’t write this to push the winery ‘brand’, it wasn’t in my mind. So please do not misunderstand my motives.

I am telling you this because it is true.

I wrote it to introspect and then communicate, because I feel so strongly that something has to change in the world. And if it doesn’t happen, then I will change myself, along with a whole load of other people.

And if many of us change we can elicit a response from businesses, which in turn can put pressure on governments.

I have witnessed the potential of a grass-roots change over the last year or two in Montalcino, where around 30% (+?) of wineries are either organic, or in conversion to organics.

The companies who produce products for vineyards, such as pesticides and fungicides, are now having to upgrade their offers to include ‘green’ alternatives, which were extremely difficult to find on the market 20 years ago. And these new products are proving both popular and effective.

Universities and labs all over the world are researching what is known as ‘biological pest control’, ie combatting ecological problems in agriculture with native species to act as pests, predators or simply to fill up ecological space. This research is being funded by money from the agro-pharma corporations and by governments.

As such we can all become conduits for change. It is all we have left. Change in attitude and manner. The personal is political.

Corporations and governments will not make change until the pressure is on, but we have seen that legislation can be passed rapidly. And money can be found to fund initiatives.

And with the lockdown we have seen that people’s attitudes can change overnight, when the reason is compelling enough.

So my coronadiary can be seen as an appeal, as an anguished cry for help.

None of us is perfect but we can change. And any ideas are welcome. They have to come from us.

I understand that this last Day (19) will be published on 1 April … and I wonder, is this some great horrible cosmic April fool’s joke? [Definitely not - JR]

Can this be the same world that we went to sleep in a month ago?

Did we make a quantum leap, and fall into a parallel universe? Recognisable but extraordinarily different?

Or maybe we will wake up tomorrow and find ourselves back before all this happened? Back to the Future. How would we do things differently?

Pure fantasy. There was no quantum leap, and there will be no Back to the Future.

Time will pass. We will get through this, yet have to wake up to some hard choices.

How can we change things? Now that we have seen that illness and tragedy know no borders, class distinction or colour.

Will we be able to look at our dysfunctional world, join the dots and search for solutions?

Will we invest in State infrastructure? Hospitals, schools and housing and work generally reserved for women?

Will we make sure that billionaires cannot exist?

Will we stop deforestation?

Will we stop pumping chemicals into our soils and the atmosphere?

Will we seriously monitor biodiversity and make this a priority for town and agricultural planning?

Will we ration air travel? Car miles? Meat? Clothes?

Subsidise rail travel?

Will we find a way of cancelling national debts for emerging economies?

Will we allow these emerging economies equal playing fields in global trading markets?

Will we stop using fossil fuels and invest in green energy?

Will we make throwing away plastic a crime?

None of this will solve the problems of viruses, illness and ultimately death. We all must die, that much is certain. But we can re-balance things to make sure we all have the same chance of life, and ultimately survival. And we can make sure that we do not become extinct as a species through some (personal) stupidity of our own making.

Today 889 have died in Italy. I am so sorry, so very, very sorry.

Katia Nussbaum in San Polino vineyard
Katia Nussbaum in San Polino's biodynamically farmed vineyards in happier times last summer