Practically speaking, there is only one beer brand available in Sardinia. Ichnusa. Right now the four lads sitting opposite me have just received four huge long glasses of the stuff. They ordered the non-filtrata. It’s more expensive.
“Whats the difference between filtered and non-filtered beer,” I asked The Wizard this morning. He had opted to go the mountain route and was calmly rolling himself a cigarette as we flew round the corners. The Wizard knows things.
“Well first of all, technically, it’s vegan because they haven’t put all those fish scales or whatever into it to settle the sediment,” The Wizard informed me. “Then there’s the alcohol content. They haven’t killed it. It’s alive. So it won’t be what it says on the bottle. Sometimes it’ll blow your head off.”
This non-filtered ichnusa is the most popular thing on this island. I’m told they drink twice as much beer here as they do on the mainland. I can believe it. I come home from site and there are the old guys, sitting outside, imbibing. I get up and go back to work and surely that’s one of the same old guys, still drinking with the dawn, still in the same chair. There was a cyclist this morning, down by the lagoon. He had full lycra gear on and if that wasn’t a bottle of beer in his hand it was an ichnusa branded water bottle. It was a bottle of beer. Hot day. Lycra. Mountain biking. Morning beer. How?
Ichnusa has been bought by Heineken sadly. They haven’t invaded the branding yet though. This beer is a big part of the Sardinian economy, even of the Sardinian identity. But these big companies will own everything in the fullness of time. Identity will be just an illusion. The natural long term unanticipated result of market capitalism will be that one human being will eventually own everything.
The label on the Sardinian beer is a George’s Cross, with the heads of four bandaged men in the white squares. Even though I first discovered this image on the label of a beer, I started to see it on the roadsides everywhere. Turns out it’s the unofficial national flag of Sardinia – it’s the one that people put out in the garden because they kinda don’t like the way things are arranged right now. Funny how St George is tangled up again in the nationalism.
Nobody on the internet knows the origin of the flag. They have headscarves, the four heads. Are they bandages? Were they blindfolds? The easiest theory to find is that they represent four great victories by the Kingdom of Aragon. And they are the heads of “defeated moors”. St George showed up on a magical horse and decapitated some evemies. It’s all too long ago to have any handle on it. But there it is.
A footprint shaped island, hoping for independence, still remembering when they were part of Spain, resenting Italy, drinking their way through the alcohol lottery all night every night and most of the day in the hot South of the Mediterranean. There are four distinct dialects of Sardinian language across this island. They’ve been pollinated by Italy and Spain and all sorts of other places. They fly their independence flag and they write their graffiti. It’s too hot and they are too drunk for revolution. Perhaps they talk of such things as the hot evenings pass and they clutch the image of their independence. “Sardinia is not Italy.” It’s on the walls in the hills. It isn’t Italy here. It really isn’t. But it’s definitely Italian.
Time is long, and we are influenced by the things we are exposed to. Who knows what it’ll be in 100 years here. The Aragonian victories remembered in the flag were around the time of the Norman conquest. How many English people wrote “This is not Normandy” on walls where “This is not Rome” was long faded? We get very exercised about who administrates us, but we rarely do anything about it but complain.
Behind me now some English lads are speaking Italian and ordering beers again. This sleepy town won’t know what’s hit it the coming week, as people start to pour in for the races. The price of coffee in the petrol station has already doubled.