Flat Earth: Po-faced Bossi

Italy seems to be suffering from a collective sense of humour failure over Umberto Bossi. He is the man who wants to split away the richer north from the rest, but since he can't find any linguistic or ethnic borders for the proposed independent nation of "Padania", it has been delineated in socio-economic terms, which might or might not take it almost as far south as Rome.

Lacking any domestic examples for what he is trying to do, Bossi has borrowed liberally from abroad, claiming he has adopted Gandhi's non-violence and William "Braveheart" Wallace's thirst for self-determination. There's a new movie about Michael Collins? Enlist the Irish champion as well!

Bossi has taken Hindu veneration of the Ganges as a model for "mystifying" the Po, Italy's longest river. As you read this, a bottle of water from its source is being ceremonially carried down to the mouth. Today a manifesto will be read out in Venice, Padania's putative capital, which plagiarises the American Declaration of Independence.

Ludicrous, isn't it? When the Po-bottling plans were announced to the foreign press in Rome last week, they fell about. "You may laugh," protested Bossi's deputy, Roberto Maroni, "but what's missing from politics these days is symbolism." This simply made them roar all the louder, to the discomfiture of Maroni. Like other Italian politicians, he is used to gentler handling from local hacks.

Surely this is the problem. People like the Prime Minister, Romano Prodi, who says Bossi poses the danger of another Yugoslavia, are simply giving him the importance he craves. Better to poke fun, like the author of a Neapolitan T-shirt which says "And God created Padania. Then, realising his mistake, he created fog."

Island of dreams

When in Japan one hears an awful lot about tatemae and honne - so much so that I found myself dreaming about them in my jet-lagged sleep. The former is the outward appearance every good Japanese presents to all but his intimates; only they would be privy to the latter, his inmost self.

Having heard these terms again and again during my visit - no explanation of Japan ever omits them - my sleeping subconscious created two islands, Honne and Tatemae. The inhabitants of one were raving extroverts, while their opposite numbers were pathologically inner-directed. Between them was a strait which none had ever crossed.

I related this to our man in Tokyo, Richard Lloyd Parry, who faxed me excitedly the other day that Honne had been discovered! It is in the Gulf of Tonkin, near Thanh Hoa in northern Vietnam. Admittedly it is called "Hon Ne", which has no particular meaning in Vietnamese, but, he tells me, "reports speak of its people being disarmingly frank about their inner feelings".

Anyone seen Tatemae? You should look out for an island full of people obsessed with surface and show: perhaps it is an ancient name for Ibiza or Mustique.

Brassica basics

We wait anxiously to see the effect of this summer's drought on the French wine crop, but by all accounts the weather was perfect for cabbages. Sauerkraut producers are promising a vintage year, we are told.

But Koreans, those other great cabbage-eaters, would be contemptuous to learn that sauerkraut is left to ferment in underground vats for only one night. Their supreme national delicacy, kimche, is not considered fit for consumption unless it has been interred with industrial quantities of chilis and garlic for at least a month. True connoisseurs - those who make a ride on a Korean train such a memorable experience - would keep it there the whole winter.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Technician

£20000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This long established dealer gr...

Recruitment Genius: Contact Centre Team Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Company is the UK's leading...

Recruitment Genius: Shunter / HGV Driver

£23172 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading and fastest growing h...

Recruitment Genius: Property Manager / Estate Manager

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you an experienced Resident...

Day In a Page

Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate