"I told him they were horrible". Photo: Monica Arellano-Ongpin/Flickr
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I enjoyed my time as a kept woman in Italy – less so the beige cashmere, the figs and the secrets

Suzanne Moore’s Telling Tales. 

I have never relied on a man for anything. Except that time when I was a kept woman. Totally kept.

I had arrived in the south of Italy, having hitched around Europe in a ratty cheesecloth dress. I was trying to find out about ferries to Greece when a man picked up my tatty bag and threw it into the back of his Porsche.

“Change this,” he said, sniffing my smelly dress. “We eat.” I changed into basically the same dress with fewer holes. He rolled his eyes and took me to the best restaurant. Everyone knew him and no bills were paid and this was it. A relationship.

Every morning, two guys would come to the door with coffee and pastries for me. In the afternoons we would go to the harbour and pick seafood to be taken to the restaurant for our evening meal. Sometimes we would drive to beautiful houses in the countryside.

“Whose house is this?” I would say.

“Mine,” was always the answer.

Fresh figs grown on his land would be brought for me but I’d never had them before and told him they were horrible.

He would take me to shops and try to buy me beautiful beige cashmere that Italian women wear but I didn’t want any of it. He was mostly exasperated by me, not least during sex, when the language barrier became an issue.

“Ask me my name,” he commanded.

So at the appropriate moment I tried, “What is your name?” or sometimes, “Who are you?”

I think he had muddled ask and tell. Nothing made him as angry as when I asked him where he worked.

“You English. So stupid. With your jobs.”

Once he told me he worked in a pharmacy but I didn’t know any pharmacists who had a hovercraft, as he did.

For a while, though, I liked being looked after but I still wanted to be free again and go to Greece.

“I will only be gone for a while,” I said.

“You go and you never come back. You live here now with me.”

He drove me to the boat and refused to kiss me.

“No woman leaves me,” he said.

Soon, of course, my luck and money ran out and I was back in Italy without a penny to my name.

But I knew which restaurant he would be outside, drinking with his minions. By now I knew the nature of his game. Everyone was in his pay.

So there I was again, with a small holdall and a largely desperate smile.

“Bruno, it’s me.”

He did not even look up. Nothing.

I was destroyed but could not show it. I walked away. Out of nowhere another car appeared. And another man put my bag in his car. As I got in, I only hoped he was under instructions from his boss. 

Suzanne Moore is a writer for the Guardian and the New Statesman. She writes the weekly “Telling Tales” column in the NS.

This article first appeared in the 04 December 2014 issue of the New Statesman, Deep trouble

Steve Garry
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The footie is back. Three weeks in and what have we learned so far?

Barcleys, boots and big names... the Prem is back.

Another season, another reason for making whoopee cushions and giving them to Spurs fans to cheer them up during the long winter afternoons ahead. What have we learned so far?

Big names are vital. Just ask the manager of the Man United shop. The arrival of Schneiderlin and Schweinsteiger has done wonders for the sale of repro tops and they’ve run out of letters. Benedict Cumberbatch, please join Carlisle United. They’re desperate for some extra income.

Beards are still in. The whole Prem is bristling with them, the skinniest, weediest player convinced he’s Andrea Pirlo. Even my young friend and neighbour Ed Miliband has grown a beard, according to his holiday snaps. Sign him.

Boots Not always had my best specs on, but here and abroad I detect a new form of bootee creeping in – slightly higher on the ankle, not heavy-plated as in the old days but very light, probably made from the bums of newborn babies.

Barclays Still driving me mad. Now it’s screaming from the perimeter boards that it’s “Championing the true Spirit of the Game”. What the hell does that mean? Thank God this is its last season as proud sponsor of the Prem.

Pitches Some groundsmen have clearly been on the weeds. How else can you explain the Stoke pitch suddenly having concentric circles, while Southampton and Portsmouth have acquired tartan stripes? Go easy on the mowers, chaps. Footballers find it hard enough to pass in straight lines.

Strips Have you seen the Everton third kit top? Like a cheap market-stall T-shirt, but the colour, my dears, the colour is gorgeous – it’s Thames green. Yes, the very same we painted our front door back in the Seventies. The whole street copied, then le toot middle classes everywhere.

Scott Spedding Which international team do you think he plays for? I switched on the telly to find it was rugby, heard his name and thought, goodo, must be Scotland, come on, Scotland. Turned out to be the England-France game. Hmm, must be a member of that famous Cumbrian family, the Speddings from Mirehouse, where Tennyson imagined King Arthur’s Excalibur coming out the lake. Blow me, Scott Spedding turns out to be a Frenchman. Though he only acquired French citizenship last year, having been born and bred in South Africa. What’s in a name, eh?

Footballers are just so last season. Wayne Rooney and Harry Kane can’t score. The really good ones won’t come here – all we get is the crocks, the elderly, the bench-warmers, yet still we look to them to be our saviour. Oh my God, let’s hope we sign Falcao, he’s a genius, will make all the difference, so prayed all the Man United fans. Hold on: Chelsea fans. I’ve forgotten now where he went. They seek him here, they seek him there, is he alive or on the stairs, who feckin’ cares?

John Stones of Everton – brilliant season so far, now he is a genius, the solution to all of Chelsea’s problems, the heir to John Terry, captain of England for decades. Once he gets out of short trousers and learns to tie his own laces . . .

Managers are the real interest. So refreshing to have three young British managers in the Prem – Alex Neil at Norwich (34), Eddie Howe at Bournemouth (37) and that old hand at Swansea, Garry Monk, (36). Young Master Howe looks like a ball boy. Or a tea boy.

Mourinho is, of course, the main attraction. He has given us the best start to any of his seasons on this planet. Can you ever take your eyes off him? That handsome hooded look, that sarcastic sneer, the imperious hand in the air – and in his hair – all those languages, he’s so clearly brilliant, and yet, like many clever people, often lacking in common sense. How could he come down so heavily on Eva Carneiro, his Chelsea doctor? Just because you’re losing? Yes, José has been the best fun so far – plus Chelsea’s poor start. God, please don’t let him fall out with Abramovich. José, we need you.

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 27 August 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Isis and the new barbarism