Saturday, July 29, 2006
Reuters is reporting the story but I can't find it on the BBC or Sky sites.
Friday, July 28, 2006
Thursday, July 27, 2006
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
1] "What's this blowy thing, then?"
2] "I guess it's OK as my Mum seems relaxed."
3] "Oh, well, I might as well enjoy it, too!"
Saturday, July 22, 2006
Friday, July 21, 2006
1] The traditional Sicilian way of locking a door. You can imagine that I felt very safe there.
2] Me in the casetta on the night I left it last July.
3] The kitchen corner, leading to the tiny bathroom.
Thursday, July 20, 2006
Here’s a confession: I had never ironed a sheet in my life before coming to live here! When I was a child, I suppose my mother did it; when I went to university, the hall of residence laundry did it; when I moved out into digs, I paid the launderette to do it; and by the time I graduated, we were all into duvets with their non-iron covers and undersheets! But here, in the summer, you just have to sleep in cotton, iron-demanding sheets. [Even now, I refuse to iron an undersheet, though – well, I might for a visitor – as they stretch out perfectly passably once fitted onto the bed. Sorry, Siciliane!]
Sicilian women, of course, iron beautifully and the ironing standards of their British sisters is one thing that exchange students from here have been known to criticise. I have, in the past, been flabbergasted in Sicily when I have observed women ironing everything from underwear to tea towels and I nearly fell on the floor when a friend here – a busy, professional woman - told me she spends half a day each week ironing her husband’s shirts! I think the attitude of most British working women to this would these days be similar to that of a Cardiff friend of mine: “ I buy non-iron clothes for myself and if my husband wants to buy clothes that need pressing, he can do it himself.” Archers fans among my compatriots may remember the fictional contretemps between Hayley [Roy’s wife] and Betty [his mother] when the latter started ironing her son’s shirts again: “He’s perfectly capable of doing it himself!” wailed Hayley [the only time I have ever liked the character].
The dry cleaner’s down the road – there are as many dry-cleaning establishments as there are banks, all coexisting virtually side by side -will wash and iron a single bedlinen set for c. 10 euros but I don’t always feel like lugging the stuff down there or that I can afford it. [I could buy a paperback or several g and ts for that!]
Anyway, dear readers, “dashing away with a smoothing iron” is not something I will be doing very often, despite my change of culture!
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Sunday, July 16, 2006
Friday, July 14, 2006
Thursday, July 13, 2006
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
From next Monday till September many shops will not bother to reopen in the afternoon and others will change and shorten their hours. During the two weeks around the 15th August holiday, many will close altogether. I find this so frustrating!
It is true, of course, that many Modicans are now escaping to their countryside or seaside homes; Raffaele’s [the hairdresser’s] is already quieter and I can quite see that business owners may consider it not worth their while to stick to normal hours. Working less is also a sensible way of coping with the extreme heat of July and August and I appreciate that, but it is interpreted by visitors as a form of laziness. I remember chatting to an interpreter who lived here on my first ever flight to Sicily and her judgement was, “They just deserve the lack of tourism because they don’t make enough effort.”
Indeed, it does seems to have escaped the attention of many business people that this is precisely the period when many tourists would like or are able to come. The island already has opening hours which confuse and confound non-Italians, especially the British, and in high summer the verdict of any tourists will be, “But there was nothing open!” My beloved Sicily, again, if you want tourists you have to compromise a bit and maybe relinquish a little of your summer comfort!
Monday, July 10, 2006
Italians certainly know how to celebrate but they don’t need to get drunk in order to do so. In fact, they don’t understand the binge-drinking British. As I mentioned, car horns sounded and there were cheers for a while after the match ended, but neither last night nor this morning did I witness any signs of a drunken celebration or its aftermath.
Sadly, some road accidents during the night have been reported, mostly involving young people driving at high speed following the victory. But there has been no indication that alcohol was a factor.
Contrary to popular belief, Italians drink moderately: one or two glasses of wine to accompany the long lunch and possibly the same again at the late dinner is the norm. Only on special occasions do the liqueurs and Limoncello come out to round off the meal. [In fact, Italian restraint at apéritif time drives a g and t woman like me round the bend!] And having to survive in the heat as they do, what the Italians are very good at is the manufacture of soft drinks – all types of fruit juices and flavoured fizzy beverages plus Chinotto, which is a bit like Coke, among others. In Modica there is an excellent local mineral water, Santa Maria, too, and, to get back to the football, I note that it was mineral water bottles that were thrown in the air in Rome when that last penalty went in!
There is to be quite a party in Rome tonight, fêting the returning team, but I’m willing to bet that it will be Mercury, in his sporting capacity, rather than Bacchus who will be worshipped there.
Saturday, July 08, 2006
When something like that happens in your country, even when you have permanently left it, it does still affect you and you can feel isolated. However much coverage there is in the media of other countries, it is not the analytical coverage which we take for granted in Britain and, however informed the foreign correspondent writing or broadcasting, he or she is not approaching the subject from the same cultural standpoint.
I didn’t even know about the bombs until the evening: I was still living in the chaos of the first week of the move into the flat and didn’t yet have a TV or net access in it. I’d had no time, that day, to go across to the computer shop and catch up with the British news online, either. So it wasn’t until I saw Marco in the evening that I heard about it and I was, of course, shocked and astounded. Later I was at another friend’s house and we did see some of the Italian news coverage but her children wanted to watch other things and I found that quite frustrating. You can get British newspapers, a day late, down in Modica Bassa, [though without the supplements or review sections, in other circumstances often the most interesting parts] so I had to wait till the Saturday to be able to pick up the Times of 8th July and so begin to understand the horrific extent and impact of what had happened.
My first thought was, of course, for the victims and their families and friends. My second was for the many lovely Muslim ladies I’d taught, who I knew would be feeling scared to venture outside, even as I read. Then you think about the arbitrary nature of it all, how easily you could have been there and so on… Like many British people, I have friends who were not far away when it happened and who could, but for chance, have been involved, or whose sons and daughters use the tube every day. I felt guilty at not being there to support them at that time.
In the ensuing weeks, as further information came to light and the sheer evil and sick nature of what was planned became clear, the Italian press of course covered it thoroughly, asking the same questions regarding the nature of British society as British people were asking themselves. Then Rome was threatened and the mood here became even more sombre, as you would expect. So there was a sense of solidarity.
I have previously said that going through culture shock helps you to realise what you value in your own culture. And one of the things that I value about Britain is that those Muslim lady students of mine had no reason to be afraid, as has been made clear in articles I have read in the British press in the run-up to this sad anniversary.
And now I think the most appropriate thing I can do is to spend a few minutes in the Sacro Cuore Church.
Friday, July 07, 2006
Thursday, July 06, 2006
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
Oh, yeh, I'm still the one who hates sport, has no team spirit, etc...
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
Yes, folks, even though I have no interest in sport and have absolutely no team spirit, I am proudly flying the Italian flag from my clothesline today!
Last week Raffaele asked me what I'd do if Italy had to face England in the World Cup final. I said I'd support Italy, England not being Wales [ a concept, by the way, that is not understood by many Italians].
Well, tonight I might - just might - watch some of the match. The Italian team does have good-looking players, after all!
Saturday, July 01, 2006
It seems to be the tradition to have the body brought back to the house if the person did not die at home and there it remains, usually in an open coffin, for family and friends to pay their respects prior to the funeral [which takes place fairly quickly after the death. In Britain we have to queue for a slot in the crematorium chapel’s schedule, usually, just as we have queued for everything all our lives; the final indignity!] Family members hold a vigil during this time.
Louise Hamilton Caico, writing in 1910, tells us of the women of the house making great outward shows of grief – wailing and screaming which could be heard through the entire village and tearing at their hair - and even, in remote areas, of families paying women to come and cry loudly!
Now when a death occurs the notices giving details are put up on a special board [ they have recently been removed from opposite the café here] and there is often a notice outside the house or workplace of the deceased. The front door or main door of a block of flats is left open day and night for people to come and sit with the bereaved family and, if you do not know them well, you just go in and offer your condolences, sit with them until the next person or group arrives, and then you can take your leave. The purpose of this, of course, is that the family are not left alone. Here you can talk about death, grieving and the deceased person. [In Britain it is not uncommon for an acquaintance to cross the street rather than have to speak to you if you have had a bereavement; people just do not know what to say.] No one, by the way, takes advantage of the open door to commit a crime; Sicilians have much too much respect for death. Some families leave all the windows open, too, so that the soul can depart easily. I rather like that.
Sometimes the death notice, informing you where you can view the body, will tell you that there is no need to take il conzu. This fascinates me: the conzu are offerings of prepared meals as it used to be considered disrespectful for the family to light the stove or cook during this time. [Caico mentions it.] It still seems to me a sensible custom: disrespect apart, a family may be just too distressed to feed themselves properly during this initial period of shock, disbelief and sorrow.
People do still wear black for up to a year after the death of a close relative. I know Queen Victoria overdid it and that’s probably why we Brits are reluctant to openly show our emotions following a death [Princess Diana apart but there was more to that, psychologically]. On the whole, I’m with the Sicilians: it seems to me entirely appropriate to wear, for a while, some outward symbol that says, “I am grieving”. I think it’s much healthier to acknowledge the terrible thing that has happened to you and your distress- and to make as much noise about it as you need to. Following the death of my mother in 1993 I received more understanding here than I did at home from people who had known me for years.
One last, strange detail: during a visit to the Museo Etnografico here in 1993, I heard a child from an Italian school group mention that the people in the pictures on the wall of a replica of a peasant house must be dead. On asking Marco how the child had come to make that assumption, I learned that it was because the pictures were placed flush against the wall: if the people had been alive, the tops of the frames would have projected out from the wall.