"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

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A global marketplace: the internet represents exporting’s biggest opportunity

The advent of the internet age has made the whole world a single marketplace. Selling goods online through digital means offers British businesses huge opportunities for international growth. The UK was one of the earliest adopters of online retail platforms, and UK online sales revenues are growing at around 20 per cent each year, not just driving wider economic growth, but promoting the British brand to an enthusiastic audience.

Global e-commerce turnover grew at a similar rate in 2014-15 to over $2.2trln. The Asia-Pacific region, for example, is embracing e-marketplaces with 28 per cent growth in 2015 to over $1trln of sales. This demonstrates the massive opportunities for UK exporters to sell their goods more easily to the world’s largest consumer markets. My department, the Department for International Trade, is committed to being a leader in promoting these opportunities. We are supporting UK businesses in identifying these markets, and are providing access to services and support to exploit this dramatic growth in digital commerce.

With the UK leading innovation, it is one of the responsibilities of government to demonstrate just what can be done. My department is investing more in digital services to reach and support many more businesses, and last November we launched our new digital trade hub: www.great.gov.uk. Working with partners such as Lloyds Banking Group, the new site will make it easier for UK businesses to access overseas business opportunities and to take those first steps to exporting.

The ‘Selling Online Overseas Tool’ within the hub was launched in collaboration with 37 e-marketplaces including Amazon and Rakuten, who collectively represent over 2bn online consumers across the globe. The first government service of its kind, the tool allows UK exporters to apply to some of the world’s leading overseas e-marketplaces in order to sell their products to customers they otherwise would not have reached. Companies can also access thousands of pounds’ worth of discounts, including waived commission and special marketing packages, created exclusively for Department for International Trade clients and the e-exporting programme team plans to deliver additional online promotions with some of the world’s leading e-marketplaces across priority markets.

We are also working with over 50 private sector partners to promote our Exporting is GREAT campaign, and to support the development and launch of our digital trade platform. The government’s Exporting is GREAT campaign is targeting potential partners across the world as our export trade hub launches in key international markets to open direct export opportunities for UK businesses. Overseas buyers will now be able to access our new ‘Find a Supplier’ service on the website which will match them with exporters across the UK who have created profiles and will be able to meet their needs.

With Lloyds in particular we are pleased that our partnership last year helped over 6,000 UK businesses to start trading overseas, and are proud of our association with the International Trade Portal. Digital marketplaces have revolutionised retail in the UK, and are now connecting consumers across the world. UK businesses need to seize this opportunity to offer their products to potentially billions of buyers and we, along with partners like Lloyds, will do all we can to help them do just that.

Taken from the New Statesman roundtable supplement Going Digital, Going Global: How digital skills can help any business trade internationally

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