Bon voyage

It’s customary to wish one another bon voyage on the eve of the summer break, yet it’s actually September that brings with it the calendar of engagements, events, and (why not) leisure activities that await us in the “school year” ahead.

At this point we can but wish one another the best of luck, or rather fortune, though in a narrow sense. Oh yes, because for our ancestors the meaning of this term was not wedged between the words money, wealth or chance. It was the winds that represented good fortune. Try going to Florence, specifically to the basilica of Santa Maria Novella, and looking up at the entablature on the right-hand side of the façade: this is where the merchant Giovanni Rucellai, a friend of the Medici family as well as a patron of the arts, had Leon Battista Alberti set his coat of arms. It features the billowing “Sails of Fortune”. How does one maintain the desired course when the winds are blowing against us? A sea merchant like Rucellai must have known a thing or two. Rather than the event itself, which may or may not be in our favour, it’s always our response that sets the pace. “Prudence, patience and magnanimity” was the recipe for having the wind in one’s sails and, hence, for smooth sailing.

So let’s set sail today, ideally armed with a fountain pen, the white sails being the blank sheets of paper on which we’ll write the stories of the year now in the offing. May the wind always be at our backs!