Here are the answers to the above quiz: 3. Palermo 4. a Sicilian dessert wine 5. 9.30-9.45pm 6. stuffed, fried rice balls 7. a Sicilian playwright and author 8. take along a book and resign yourself OR sigh and utter "Pazienza". 9. step on the crossing and look determined 10. Agrigento 11. mid-August 12. a type of nougat 13. 9am to 1pm and 5pm to 8.30pm 14. Bellini 15. focaccia breads 16. ask the water office for help nicely. [You could sigh and utter "Pazienza", too, just for the hell of it!]
An hour ago, I had two protruberances of the kind you acquire with age - well, phooey, age, I'm not playing! - burned off my forehead, for the sake of fair vanity rather than health, I should add. This was a three- minute procedure but the waiting time was three hours!
However, the waiting room was great fun: everyone greets everyone else, which we wouldn't bother to do in Britain, being more inclined to just sit there like statues, then the newcomer ambles through to inform the nurse of his / her arrival. More salutations ensue when he / she returns to take a seat and of course we are also kept busy wishing a "buona sera" to all who come out of the doctor's room. So there is no time to read a book or a magazine, what with all this head-nodding and politeness!
Sicilians in general having more pazienza than us northern folk, no one seemed worried about the wait until about 8pm., at which juncture we all started asking each other what time our appointments had been made for. [Mine had been 5.15 pm!] Every now and then , the nurse would appear to call the next patient in or, more often, call someone for il controllo - a check-up on a previous procedure not requiring an appointment - and you gradually lost heart. At precisely 8.10 pm., a lady came in and announced that her appointment was for 8.15 and we all fell about laughing! So, after checking the waiting time with the nurse [which none of the rest of us had had the sense to do] she and her family sensibly repaired to the bar across the street.
Anyway, finally I was "in and done" and everyone was very kind and full of apologies for the delay. I've been here long enough now to be grateful once I am attended to and I have to say that once you are seen you are not in any way rushed, are encouraged to ask questions and you come away feeling that you have had very good care - which, indeed, you have.
I began the day in a grumpy frame of mind, the ascensorista having arrived to check the lift at 8am., which is the crack of dawn to me, and, as ever, I was the only one in to open up for him and sign his form. My mood was not improved by the fact that I felt like browsing in the shops and maybe buying a new top or an ornament or something, then remembered that on Monday mornings only food stores, stationers and florists are open. [Will I ever get my head around that?]
But then I went for a walk with Simi in the sun, read some of A Young Conservative's excellent and effervescent prose, plus a touching post of James's from yesterday which reminded me how lucky one is just to be alive. So by the time I set out for one of the larger supermarkets I was fine. Here are some of the sights and thoughts that gladdened my heart along the way:
1. Brightly coloured flowers like these displayed in containers along the pavements. 2. An almond tree in blossom by a dry-stone wall. 3. A cheerful and inviting fruit lorry like this one, from which I can buy a kilo of mandarins plus 1.5 kilos of bananas for under 2 euros.
4. How enticing was the aroma of bread and arancine cooking as I turned a corner and neared a panificio.
5. How kindly everyone greeted me and asked after Simi. 6. It was January 29th and warm enough to sit on a café terrace. 7. How delightful it is to be in Sicily, Italy on such a glorious day.
It's a brave man who decides to erect an awning when the Scirocco is blowing, but that's what the proprietor of our new fruit shop has been trying to do for the past few days, with the help of his mates. Every evening at around 5.30, they are there, and quite a crowd they draw, too. In Britain, we would all look surreptitiously whilst pretending to mind our own business but here everyone gathers round, cheering and clapping when things appear to be going well, sighing sympathetically and collectively when they do not, offering [surely unwanted] advice and, of course, chorusing, "Pazienza"!
- One and a bit bus rides, really! For most of the clip I am on the other side of the bus from last time, on my way down to Modica Bassa, and for the last few seconds, you can see part of the more scenic route back up to the Sorda. [It has taken all day to do this!]
The borage flowers are out in Sicily, I noticed yesterday. Here the leaves and stalks are often used to make an infusion which is believed to aid digestion and lower cholesterol. The Sicilians are usually right when it comes to natural remedies. Me, I wish I had a bottle of Pimm's!
1. Bronte's other claim to fame is that it is the pistacchio capital of Sicily. Now, I can buy pistacchi di Bronte quite easily here in Modica, but there is just something about buying food in the place where it is produced. And, of course, I can't go anywhere without buying a local cookbook!
2. Citrus groves along the road to Catania. 3. Etna at 1pm., 24.1.07.
1. Looking across to the castle's granary. Excavations in this part of the castle have revealed the Norman apse of the church.
2. Part of the castle's façade.
3. This was as close as I could get to the tiny English cemetery, as it is private and still belongs to the Nelson family. It is at the side of Maniace's cemetery and contains the graves of the fifth and sixth Dukes of Bronte, the fifth Duke's brother, three administrators, one servant and the Scottish poet William Sharp, who died during a visit to the castle. Three Italians who were killed during World War II are also buried there.
Views of the castle's garden and the exterior of its Norman church, which dates from 1173. I forgot to go back and take a photo of the church's magnificent, original portal, but you will find one here.
Blogger wouldn't let me upload the rest of the photos last night so here we go again!
The first photo should answer Liz's question about the floor: the sectioned off tiles are the remains of the flooring that the Nelson family had put in [for the castle had been badly damaged in an earthquake in 1693 and was in a state of neglect when they arrived] while the rest of the floor has been restored. I think they have done a pretty good job. The second photo shows the castle's gallery. Among items displayed here is a letter from Queen Elizabeth II inviting members of the family to her coronation. The third picture shows the courtyard, with a Celtic cross erected in memory of Nelson in 1888.
First, the study. The decanter and glasses in the second photo were used by Nelson on the Victory on the eve of the Battle of Trafalgar. The guide and I were agreed that the dressing table in the third photo is the prettiest piece of furniture in the castle.
Inside the castle: that's a 20th century relic you see standing there among all the 19th century objects! I must say that the guide, whom I had to myself and who kindly took that picture, was very knowledgeable and informative. As often happens in Sicily, she refused a tip!
About 37 miles northwest of Catania, tucked away in the shadow of Etna, lies the town of Bronte, the dukedom of which was bestowed upon a certain Admiral Horatio Nelson by a grateful King Ferdinando [III of Sicily and IV of Naples] in 1799. A little further on still is Maniace, where the former Benedictine Abbey became known as Il Castello dei Nelson. And that is where I have been today. It is a lovely and impressive place, as I hope the photos will show - much lovelier than I had anticipated. I should like to be able to tell you that England's saviour lingered there in the sun with his Emma - and many Sicilians believe that he did - but, alas, he died without ever having seen it. The first of his descendants to arrive there was his niece Charlotte, who, reaching it after a truly nightmarish journey, decided that it was not to her taste and stayed only three days! [More the fool her!] It was later used by other members of the family but under agrarian reform in Italy in 1961 much of the land was redistributed. The Nelson family sold the castle and park to the Comune of Bronte in 1981.
There may, however, be another British connection: the Rev. Patrick Prunty or Brunty, father of another Charlotte plus Emily, Anne and Branwell, changed his name to Brontë in 1802. I like to think that he did it as a homage to Nelson then added the diaeresis for effect and the dates do tally. By the way, I am not of the Mrs. Gaskell school of thought with regard to Patrick Brontë for I do not believe that he was a monster: he saw that his children were educated, encouraged them to write and cared for Branwell tenderly during the latter's last illness. I am also of the opinion that the main reason for his opposition to the Bell Nicholls marriage was concern for Charlotte's health, and in this he was, tragically, proved right. But I digress. Let us at least hope that poor, bereaved Mr. Brontë found some comfort in his name in the winter of his life. I wonder what, if anything, he knew of the little town in faraway, sunny Sicily? He was a well-read man, so it is possible that he knew something....
I now have to confess that I made this trip the lazy way. It would not be possible to get to Bronte and back in a day using public transport, so I hired a car and a driver. This is not a particularly cheap thing to do in Sicily but it was cheaper than staying in a Catania hotel overnight and, more importantly, saved me kennelling Simi for a night. ["And I should think so, too!" she is saying as she sits beside me, waiting for her walk.] This, again, is something the Sicilians need to sort out: no one will use Modica or anywhere else as a base if they can't get around. Not everyone wants to hire a car, as even if you are used to driving in Italy, to do so here is, at the very least, challenging! The best thing that towns of Modica's size could do to encourage tourism would be to organise escorted trips to places of interest such as Bronte.
But let us return to our hero. Nelson, me old hearty, I've always thought you looked terribly lonely all the way up there on that column. So next time I'm in London, I'll sit in the National Gallery's restaurant, gaze across at you and tell you all about your Duchy of Bronte today. How's that?
I am so utterly gobsmacked with myself that I managed to take a video-clip [1st time, which will be obvious], edit out at least a load of garage shutters and some vulnerable, elderly people who came out of their houses at the wrong moment, join Youtube, upload the thing and get it onto blogger that, despite the poor quality, I am rather pleased with myself. I didn't dare fiddle around with it further! Oh, and I can't add music and all that and would be too afraid of copyright infringement to try even if I knew how. A mon cher lecteur mystérieux et francophone, c'est la première fois que j'aie essayé de réaliser un tel projet. Ayez de la patience, je vous implore!
Anyway, that is, more or less, what I see from the bus window on my way up here. Did you notice how the buildings become more modern as we climb? And did you see the little old lady with her duster to the glass door as soon as we passed? Some women here go about permanently armed with dusters, you know - I fear I am not one of them.
Next time I go down there, I'll show you the best part of the ride. Hopefully by then I'll be more adept at this stuff.
Today is supposed to be the most depressing day of the year for Britons and many of us can't even be bothered to get up and go to work on January 22nd., according to a Cardiff doctor. I doubt the truth of this as I should have thought a more likely time for "singing the blues" would be immediately after Christmas. Anyway, dear compatriots, if you are thus affected by the grey skies over there and are contemplating a move to the sun,do bear in mind that you couldn't get away with taking the day off in Italy; as soon as you call in sick, the medico fiscale is sent round to check that you really are!
Thanks to Heather Yaxley for reminding me of this date; she has an interesting take on it here.
Here is the Altro Posto's dish of sausages cooked with onions and black olives. The taste is reminiscent of the "sausages in onion gravy" beloved of British gastropubs though of course Italian sausages have a much stronger flavour and are usually spicier.
Here's an interesting difference from the way poultry is sold in Britain for those of you who do the food shopping:
I've mentioned previously that, in general, whole birds are not cooked in Italy. Therefore you cannot just pick, say, a whole chicken , oven-ready, off the supermarket shelf; you have to ask the butcher there for it. I usually buy from the butcher across the road but this morning I purchased a chicken from the supermarket and there, they were displayed not only with the head still on, as is usual, but also the feet had been put inside the cavity. I told the butcher that I did not want the head , neck or feet but noticed that he weighed the bird with these before discarding them. I paid €10.22 for a chicken weighing 2.282 kg., which seems expensive to me, though I am probably out of touch with British prices by now.
...which I was, yesterday, it now seems that Monday's collision in the Strait of Messina might have been avoided had the Vessel Tracking System been in full operation at the time. Monitoring of the system apparently stops in the late afternoon, except, for some unfathomable reason, on Thursdays, "as if", as one paper remarks, "there were no traffic in the Strait after this time". Today ferry workers have been on strike and have staged a demonstration demanding better safety measures in the Strait. [This was planned before the accident.]
On a more trivial note, I have got raging toothache - must have caught it via cyberspace from James - and the dentist's is closed on Fridays. [There are, of course, emergency ones open, but I would rather put up with it till tomorrow and see my own.]
This is what it's like living in Italy: one day your heart is almost bursting with happiness and delight at the country's beauty, exuberance and rhythms; the next you are tearing your hair out because of those very rhythms.
Never mind: I did well for coffee this morning, having been offered one in the jeweller's, then the perfumery and , of course, when I went to get my "Raffaele fix" [hairdo]. The world can always pause for a minute while coffee is sipped and pleasantries are exchanged with a customer.
- That's me, folks! I know we're not yet a month into 2007 but I doubt anyone could beat me for the title! I was just looking under the "moderate comments" thing because I don't know how to turn the moderation off and I found all the missing comments, right there! So now I have published them and I WILL go back and reply to them, I promise! So apologies to those of you who must have thought I was being very rude and ignoring and /or deleting comments and thank you to you all, especially for being persistent.
I just love the French term, un printemps précoce, for an early spring such as we seem to be enjoying in Modica at the moment. Today we have been blessed with the sort of sunny weather which would have us all virtually stripping off in Britain.
Here are lemon trees and other plants on sale in Modica Bassa this morning. Strawberries are in the shops, accompanied by notices assuring us that they have not been forced.
This is the Church of Santa Maria di Betlemme, the one which contains the famous terracotta crib. I hope that you can just see that there are notices on two of the very closed doors: these have been placed there to advise tourists that the church has been closed to them because the staff have been laid off and the unfortunate would-be visitors are asked to contact the city administrators. Now, what tourist, even if they are fluent in Italian, has the time to do that?! Can the city administrators imagine the disappointment and exasperation of a tourist who only has a day, or even a few hours, to spend in Modica and has read about this church in their guidebook? My beloved Modica, if you want tourism, you are going to have to do better than this! [The notice should be displayed in several languages, for a start.]
It seems that comments are still going astray, although I thought the problem had been resolved last week. I have tried everything I know how to do on Blogger to try to put it right and I just don't know what is wrong. Please be assured that I have not rejected or deleted any comments. It looks as if I'll have to call the folk from the computer shop in to help. Please don't stop visiting!
I wonder if a result will be further calls for the Messina Bridge Project to be reinstated? The Prodi government scrapped it immediately they were elected. Opinion here is divided: the unions want it but a lot of people I have talked to think that money needs to be spent on the infrastructure first.
A gentleman who lives in one of the apartments opposite has just rung the doorbell and he has brought me a pack of 6 bottles of mineral water from the supermarket. Usually, I see him when I am walking Simi and he tells me when he is going shopping in his car and asks if I need water. But this evening, as we had somehow missed each other, he just assumed that I did. [Yes, the tap water here is drinkable but even in the UK, I had the continental habit of drinking only mineral water; I just prefer the taste.] This thoughtfulness makes my day to day life so much easier! In Britain, no one would notice that you didn't have transport, or if they did take the fact in, it wouldn't occur to them that occasionally this can be a problem -if you were looking fit and capable, that is; it's not meanness, just an assumption that you don't need help, combined with maybe a very British wish not to intrude.
The other day I was chatting to a friend on my mobile in the Altro Posto when bleeeeeep! - the battery went. The waiter came straight over with a charger for me to use. Would a barman be that attentive in Britain? I think not. It gives a whole new meaning to a girl's vision of knights and chargers, doesn't it?! Perhaps it's the modern version!
These Sicilian kindnesses mean a great deal to me.
A whole week has gone by without my posting a food photo so here are two traditional Sicilian dishes as served at the trattoria named "Trattoria" around the corner. They are fusilli alla Norma and coniglio alla cacciatora [the cacciatora being the jacket, with huge pockets, into which the cacciatore orhuntsman would put the shot rabbits].
The pasta is named for Bellini's heroine, the story being that his friends were so impressed by the opera that they went around calling everything that was excellent "una vera Norma" and the epithet stuck when it was used to describe this dish. Bellini was a native of Catania and his house there is well worth a visit. The main ingredient of the pasta sauce is aubergines and that is salted ricotta that you can see sprinkled over the top.
The rabbit dish is very popular in Modica and is the "Sunday special" at the trattoria. It is not difficult to make at home.
Continuing yesterday's dog poo theme, a neighbour of mine recently told a friend that I am the only person he has ever seen cleaning up such mess. Is this how I am to be remembered, then? - Not as lasignora inglese [gallese - Welsh, as I've mentioned, being an unknown concept to most Sicilians], la signora bionda, quella del gin-tonic or even quella col cane ["the one with the dog"], but as quella che raccoglieva gli escrementi del cane? This is not quite what I planned for my tombstone; I'd been thinking more along the lines of Dorothy Parker's
And let her loves, when she is dead
Write this about her bones:
"No more she lives to give us bread
Who asked for only stones."
Still, I suppose there are worse epitaphs, though right now I can't think of one!
There is a law in Italy, similar to the one we have in the UK, regarding dog fouling in public places, by the way, and a while ago I read about a blind man in Vittoria [the" fruit bowl of Sicily"] being prosecuted because his guide dog had fouled the pavement. Now, that's taking it a bit far!
I only realised yesterday that I've been tagged by Liz to do the "5 THINGS YOU [PROBABLY] DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT ME" thing:
1. I was adopted at the age of 9 months. Yes, I do have, and have always had, information about my biological parents and no, I've never tried to find them. Note that I said "biological", not "real". My real parents were the 2 wonderful people who brought me up.
2. I fell desperately and hopelessly in love with the milkman's son when I was 14 and I don't think I ever got over it.
3. I swear like a trooper - in private and in company when I know I can get away with it. Being able to let rip in this way is one of the things I miss here.
4. I once got my teaching timetable muddled up and delivered a whole lesson in Spanish when it should have been in French. Not one student noticed.
That's what we have had today and once again I have failed in the good Sicilian housewife stakes and did not have my washing hanging out by the crack of dawn.
When the Scirocco blows at night the shutters creak and sometimes blow open, pots slide about on the balconies and you imagine that you won't have a home left by morning. Then you awake and everything looks surprisingly normal. You go out and see the leaves of the palm trees swaying as they greet you with a swishing sound, the awnings of shops and cafés flap merrily and the perfectly hung washing on the balcony lines [ on a day when there is sunshine, too] also competes noisily for your attention.
Very occasionally, in summer, a locust blown in from the desert will land on the balcony. This scared me to death the first time it happened but now I just sweep them up. They are not, after all, spiders!
It is no mean feat, I must tell you, to be a good citizen and pick up dog poo when the Scirocco is doing its work: bits of the stuff go hurtling along the street away from you, the plastic bags are swept out of your hands and then the scooper [which I will have put down for a second whilst I chase the bags] decides to join in the fun and bounce down the road a few yards as well. By now I am cursing loudly in several languages and Simi, whilst barking happily at the commotion, is pulling like crazy on the lead because she cannot understand why we don't just get on with our walk. We must cut a comical figure!
I have spent a pleasant few hours leafing through the gift catalogue of the supermarket I use the most, because I have to use my punti, of which I have 5, 600, by the end of the month. Of course, I know they are not really “giving” me anything at all, and it would be much simpler if they just sent money-off coupons as most chains do in Britain, or better still, lowered their prices all round. But this opportunity for procrastination is surely a lot more fun!
Maths not being my strong point, do bear with me a minute. 5, 600 points… ummm … I could have:
A set of proper pasta pans including a stainless steel pasta drainer for 5750 points – too many – but you can have it for 4500 points plus 20 euros. If I do that, I can also get a smart, stainless steel doofer for chopping vegetables for 1000 points. [I do so like gadgets and the food processor is a bind to wash…] But I wouldn’t have anything pretty to put in my lounge and I don’t have any cupboard space left in my kitchen.
A pure cotton furniture throw in a Moroccan design for 1500 points plus a pair of matching cushions for 1000 points. 3100 points left over. I could have 2 more cushions for 1000, plus a stainless steel sphere thing for cooking rice in for 500 and still have the chopping thing, which I really want. But hang on, if I have a cotton throw, that’s another item that will require ironing and I can cook rice perfectly well in a pan. I’d have 600 points left over and there’s nothing else for that amount that I fancy.
A pretty single bedspread for 3750 points or 3000 plus 12 euros. But then I’d want the bed linen set to match and that’s 2250 points, so no vegetable chopper. And they’d have to be stored as I’d only be getting them in case of a visitor from the UK announcing their imminent arrival. No, let’s leave that till I need it. Bed linen can be purchased cheaply enough here, anyway.
I could blow all the points on a more powerful vacuum cleaner. No! What am I thinking of?! How boring and besides, it would have to be used, not looked at!!
All this reminds me of my Mum poring over Embassy cigarette coupons catalogues 40 years ago. I still have a casserole dish she got from one. I bet she never imagined that it, and I, would end up in Sicily!!
UPDATE: I went for the pasta pans, together with the vegetable chopper.
Thanks to Liz for alerting me to this in last Friday's Independent. I'm not a fan of detective fiction in general but the "Montalbano" books by the Sicilian author Andrea Camilleri are a bit different: they are well worth reading for their humour, gentle irony and for snippets of information about Sicilian food, locations and attitudes. They are not particularly easy reading, even for an Italian graduate like me, as they contain a lot of dialect and southern-only usages [and I don't know how successfully these have been rendered in the English translations now available], but I am getting to grips with them. The TV films of the novels are hugely popular here and Vitàga in both is actually nearby Scicli and Montelusa is Ragusa. [You can even take "Montalbano" tours now.] So I enjoy watching the films just to pick out the places I know! I would definitely say, if you are not familiar with these books, give them a go. By the way, Steve of Writing and Having Fun, if you don't already know them, I should think they would be to your taste!
This post may seem totally irrelevant to my life in Sicily, but please, bear with me!
On Sunday I received an email from a cousin in New Zealand, informing me that my cousin Robert, who lived in London, had died nearly two years ago. The New Zealand cousin only found out at Christmas, via a card from Robert’s wife, who said she had mislaid the NZ address.
I’m not going to be a hypocrite and pretend that I am deeply mourning Robert: I hadn’t seen him for 15 years and it was I who stopped sending the Christmas cards as I became bitter when he didn’t contact me during my mother’s last illness. [Mum had been fond of him and I’d thought he was of her.] Nevertheless I am sad and not a little shocked: he was only a few years older than me and, after all, I’m at an age when the death of a contemporary can frighten you. And when someone you played with as a child dies, you start to mourn part of your childhood, too. When we were children Robert used to alternately taunt and protect me. Later, he took me to my first international rugby match at what was then Cardiff Arms Park, and boy, was I happy to be seen with him! For he became, and remained, a stunningly handsome man. Later still, his best mate was my boyfriend for a while. Then, when I was in my early twenties and had just started teaching, Robert was kind when my Dad died.
After I moved here I decided it was time to forgive and forget and I looked for Robert on the internet [for I, too, had lost an address] and I think I found him on Friends Reunited. But of course there was no reply to the message I left for him, as during all that time when I was searching he was already dead. What a wasteful and useless emotion bitterness is. I should have confronted him with my anger instead of bottling it up for all those years. We all do our best in this life and I’m sure Robert did his.
“So how does this affect your life in Sicily?” you may ask: well, just as the death of John Peel spurred me into changing my life while I had the chance, this death has prompted me to evaluate my decision. It’s certainly not all plain sailing and I’ve still got many difficulties to overcome but I did achieve my dream. The other bearing it has on life here is that, in a region where family members often all live in the same town and even the same street, the few Sicilians I have told about it are incredulous that cousins could be so distant from each other in both senses of the word, would not have each other’s addresses and that I should have heard the news so late and in such a roundabout way.
I hope Robert achieved his dream, too. He had a son late in life, so I think he did. And it is to that young man, whom I saw only once, when he was a baby, that my thoughts now turn. As the Sicilians say:
La morte a tutti trova E lu munnu s’arrinova
[= “Death comes to us all But the world renews itself.”]
I'm late with this. Jeremy tagged James and James tagged me so here goes. The questions:
1. Do you know what you want to achieve by the end of January? 2. Have you set goals to achieve by the end of the first quarter? If not, why not? 3. Have you taken on too much or are you in a dither as to know what to do? 4. How is it for you on the morning of January 6th?
My answers: 1. More freelance work. Sort out the health cover problem I've mentioned. 2. Three months is too far to look ahead for me! Because I'm lazy! 3. Oh, definitely, permanently, in a dither.
4. It was awful. I always get terribly depressed at the prospect of taking down the Xmas decorations and facing the fact that another year is upon us. I was entertaining that night and didn't even want to start cooking [most unusual for me]. Once I got going it was OK, though and I felt better after spending the evening in good company.
I guess this goes to show that wherever you go you take your essential self with you and if you have a melancholy nature even the sunshine won't make you feel good all the time!
I hate tagging people: it's too much like a game and a game is too much like sport. Like Jean Brodie, I have absolutely no team spirit. But if anyone would like to continue answering the questions, I'd be happy and interested to read your thoughts in the comments [assuming they're working again] or on your own blogs.
Only Cesare and I wanted coffee after the meal on Saturday. "Haven't you got a smaller coffee pot?", asked Irma as I put the one on the right on the hob. "No", said I. Now, I don't go in for the "long" coffees that are served in Britain but I am still British enough to think that there's no point in making the beverage in a smaller pot than this!
Italians keep several sizes of espresso pot and which one to use is often debated after a meal; how they eventually come to a decision remains a mystery to me.
Blogger for us non-beta folk is just up again. It's been a frustrating day! I've had problems with comments since Friday night: I haven't rejected or removed any, except for a "test" one of my own, and I know that some have gone astray. So please don't think I am rejecting your comments if they haven't shown, and please, don't give up on me!
"Per un essere inglese", remarked Irma's husband, Cesare, at the end of last night's meal, "tu fai un buon caffè". ["For a British person, you make good coffee."] - A compliment, indeed, from a Sicilian!
I more or less repeated the menu I prepared for friends last week, partly because Italians are fascinated when presented with a whole, roasted bird. However, having found limes in the shops for only the second time since I've been in Sicily, and avocados being readily available, I omitted the pasta [at the risk of being deemed a revolutionary] and made guacamole and nachos instead. [For some reason my guacamole goes down incredibly well with the Sicilians!]
You may have noted that above I translated inglese as "British". This is because the adjective britannica is hardly ever used, although la Gran Bretagna for "Britain" is. I am sorry to tell my fellow-Celts - and there are some here, here and here - that even an English-teaching friend in Modica has difficulty grasping the fact that we are four nations, not regions!
Today Italian children will hope to have had a visit, during the night, from the good witch, La Befana, whose name is a corruption of Epifania. The legend is explained in detail here.
I am rather attached to my Befana puppet in the top picture, although she lost a finger during the move to Italy and is getting on a bit now. She was made by a Sicilian artist and was given to me by friend Giancarlo during my first Christmas visit to Sicily. I bought the Befana in the second photo yesterday, simply because she looks as if she might cheer me up [for I will need cheering up after tomorrow as I always get really sad when it's time to take the Christmas decorations down].
Well, Irma and family are coming to dinner tonight so I'd better get cooking! I hope you all have a good day, whether you celebrate this festival or not.
Ciao e Buon Anno ai miei lettori! I bet that surprised you! Woof! - It's Simi here again!
Well, I don't know what's the matter with my mummy: fancy posting a portrait of herself and not showing you all Uncle Gino's painting of me! It's much better, don't you think? He did it from this splendid photo of me which appears in my EU doggy passport.
While I'm at the paw-board, I'd just like to wish a Happy New Year to my commenting pal Tobes and to Mojo, Harvey and Holly and all my dogblogging friends out there! This is Simi's New Year message: Take care of your human, and your human will take care of you. XX
In Sicily in winter the men all wear hats: not the baseball or head-hugging woolly caps favoured by the British male but real homburg or fedora hats. A tall Sicilian in a long, black cape-like coat and matching fedora is an imposing figure indeed.
Upon visiting my doctor this morning to obtain a repeat prescription I reflected, anew, on the facts that here there is no waiting for an appointment and no having to get past a military-trained receptionist. There is no receptionist! You just go to the surgery and wait your turn. There is a pile of numbered discs on a desk as you enter but no one bothers to take one. That would be a bit too much like organisation! I also think the Italians prefer the human contact of the conversational approach: you greet everyone who is there and then you establish who was the last person to arrive so that you know whom to follow. There is no sitting in order of arrival - heaven forbid! My doctor here is very affable, kind and caring and likes to have a good chat with his patients. There is no "five minutes per patient" target, as in some surgeries in Britain. This morning I was only the second to arrive but still found myself waiting 40 minutes, which I didn't mind at all. It was the little elderly gentleman next to me whose breathing was so laboured that I thought he might expire during the wait who seemed to running out of pazienza! "He's hearing confession in there, not doing a consultation", he remarked. When my turn came, I got my prescription, discussed politics and what we are both currently reading with the doctor, then, to my relief, emerged to find the little man still very much alive and sharing the same joke with the other patients who had now arrived.
I do, however, mind the wait at the awful post office, as many of you will know by now. This morning it took 50 minutes to get to the counter to post a package to Britain. Everyone loses their pazienza in the queue but no one complains to the manager there! Meanwhile, the new post office is still under construction in my street. Yesterday I noted that 7 smart new counters had been set up inside. The question is, how many of them will be open at a time?!
A friend's husband is a prolific artist and over Christmas he painted my portrait, from a photo, I have to tell you, which was taken on a bad hair day. So here you have it. This is how I am seen by a Sicilian painter. I have hummed and hahed before posting it but what the hell....?!
I had no replies to my post about the invitation I declined for New Year's Eve. This is one of the things that can make you feel an absolute nitwit as a blogger - when you ask a question and no one responds! I'm assuming that the post was just too long for the season. I have, however, received some comments here, where I was probably more succinct. Take a look if you're interested.
I took these pictures last Friday but decided to leave this somewhat grumpy post till the festivities were nearly over. Here, we still have the Epiphany holiday on Saturday to look forward to [more about that on the day] so we haven't quite finished feasting yet; nevertheless, it's time I had another rant about the dangerous road - a different section of it today.
The first photo shows the far end of the polo commerciale, just after the electronics superstore and it's where I have to go when I need something from the large petstore. I hope you can see that access from there to the road is completely fenced off to pedestrians, so if I want to go from this area to a shop in Via Risorgimento, which begins to the left of the road you can see, I have to walk back the whole length of the row of stores [which is further than it looks] in the second photo and back up again along the busy, pavementless road in the third. WHY?! It takes but a modicum of common sense to see that a flight of steps is needed so that you can get out at the far end and I cannot, for the life of me, understand why the traders along there do not campaign for one. I can only surmise that it has never occurred to them that they have some customers who do not have cars!
I am, by nature, a pessimistic and cynical creature. Therefore after the New Year's celebrations I tend to get a little "low" as who knows what will happen in another year?
But this morning at Raffaele's they were all distinctly jovial and something of their positive attitude rubbed off on me. [If you've been following the blog, you will know that my hairdresser also functions as my psychologist, as, I am convinced, hairdressers do for women all over the world.] First they happily proclaimed to all who were there to listen that I was about to have il primo shampoo del 2007 [my first 2007 shampoo], then il primo caffè nostrodel 2007 [my first 2007 coffee at Raffaele's] and finally, la prima piega del 2007 [my first 2007 blow-dry]. Who could not feel better after all that?!
So then I decided to complete the circle [as if I needed an excuse!] by having il primo gin-tonic and il primo pranzo [lunch] del 2007 at the Altro Posto. I've shown you petto di pollo alla palermitana [chicken breast, Palermo- style] before, but here is carne alla palermitana [Palermo -style red meat coated in breadcrumbs and parmesan].