Carlo Levi's book of the same name will be familiar to anyone who did an Italian degree during the same era as me! Having opposed fascism, painter, doctor and writer Levi was "exiled" from his native Turin in 1935 and placed under house arrest in a village in what is now the Basilicata region. Life is so harsh there that the peasants believe that Christianity got no further south than the town of Eboli [Campania]. In a world defined by deprivation, superstition and petty jealousies, Levi also finds kindness, for the peasants share what little they have with him. Gian Maria Volontè gives a wonderfully sensitive performance as Levi in this film.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Monday, January 28, 2008
Sunday, January 27, 2008
4 tablesp olive oil
1 medium onion, 1 carrot & 2 celery sticks, finely chopped
16 oz minced pork
14 fl oz red wine
1 quantity home-made tomato sauce [ie., c. 1 kg tomatoes have been used in its making]
handful flat-leaved parsley, chopped
seasalt & freshly ground black pepper
1lb penne or rigatoni
grated parmesan or pecorino to serve
Saturday, January 26, 2008
Thursday, January 24, 2008
1. A plastic spray bottle containing a few drops of peppermint oil diluted with plenty of water could be a summer friend. Spray some of the contents liberally around your kitchen once or twice a week and ants and flies will be discouraged from trespassing.
2. [A Sicilian one]: Garlic placed on a windowsill should keep mosquitoes at bay.
3. Don’t waste the dregs of bottles of “flat” tonic water or other fizzy drinks. Chuck them down the loo and they will help to clean it.
4. [From here on I am going to cheat and the tips will be about cookery / entertaining]: You will get more juice from a lemon or an orange if you put it in the microwave for a few seconds before squeezing [only I don’t have a microwave here – boohoo!]
5. [From my Sicilian friend Giovanna and I have been doing this for 16 years, now – apologies if you read it on an early blog post here]: Always add a halved potato to the water when cooking pasta.
6. A curdled sauce can nearly always be rescued by the addition and vigorous mixing in of a couple of ice cubes off the heat.
7. When entertaining, set the table before you do anything else. Then it all looks organised even if you get in a panic. Get your glad rags and make-up on and look glamorous even if some of the cooking has to wait. And if you are entertaining the “housekeeping police” spray polish around and then loads of perfume – or invite nicer people in the first place.
"Err, that's it", as they say. Buon divertimento.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
I am a sentimental twit but I just love this clip: the naive scenery, the hair blowing in the wind when the car has not yet moved off and the obvious love of these two [a story that was later to end sadly]. And there is a forgotten line in the song - "Play your music, my guitar, play for those in the world who are never able to sing". I think that's a line that is very much for today's world.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Today the town planners have been having fun by changing the location of pedestrian crossings: there used to be a time when no concessions were made to cars in Italy but now, in this area at any rate, it is pedestrians who receive little consideration. Well, the authorities can move the crossings as often as they wish – the locals [ and I confess I now join them in this] continue to cross exactly where they like, holding one hand out in a “stop” gesture as they do so.
If the post office doesn’t get you, reader, migrating markings and the almost total absence of traffic lights surely will!
Monday, January 21, 2008
Sunday, January 20, 2008
Well, it seems my apprehension has not been without foundation as on Friday night a bombola powering a space heater exploded in the flat of an elderly couple here in Modica. Only because the husband realised that something was wrong and got the thing out onto the balcony on time were they saved. The explosion caused the balcony railings to collapse and the neighbours thought there had been an earthquake tremor.
People use this kind of space heater in their homes because of the energy restrictions I have written about before. [Central heating, if you have it, can only be switched on for 9 hours a day within certain periods, to 19 C, and each dwelling has only 3 kw of electricity.] I am pleased to be able to tell you that I do not freeze in my new place of work, for the boss and secretary make sure my "office" and classrooms are heated, but when one of these bombola heaters is used, reader, I always ask the [adult] students to turn it off at the end of the session!
Mercifully the elderly couple were uninjured.
Saturday, January 19, 2008
Friday, January 18, 2008
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Monday, January 14, 2008
Sunday, January 13, 2008
So sometimes I was “la Patti suora” [“Pat the nun”] for, as I was young and blonde and Italian men used to follow me around, the grandfather of the family thought that, for my own safety, I should become resident in the convent opposite the house! But I would pretend to concur, laugh with him and cajole him and by the end of supper every night he would agree: “Va bene, niente suora”. [“OK, not a nun”.] Actually, I used to watch those nuns going to pray in the early hours of the morning, when the whole city was silent, the sun was just coming up and an Italian “heat mist” lay upon the town: the silence was punctuated only by the bells of the convent and I used to imagine the peaceful life the nuns had. However, reader, I lacked the sense of obedience that would have been required and soon I lacked another essential qualification!
The other name that the family bestowed upon me was “la Patti Pravo” because of my name and again, because I was blonde. Now, Patti Pravo, unlike me, had and has quite a deep voice and I’ve always wondered why men, whilst claiming to love femininity, really go for this: consider the women they find sexy – Pravo herself here in Italy, Bacall, even Thatcher [the latter having been professionally trained to lower her voice]. Could it be that what is really attractive in our times is androgyny? Does this not explain why models no longer have curves but have to make clothes look as if they are “on the hanger”? Twiggy, I notice, is these days on the cover of mainstream women’s magazines like “Good Housekeeping” looking feminine and curvy but it was not always so. There was a time when, if you had a few unfashionable curves, you were deemed undesirable. Thus very feminine women lost out, especially if they were cursed, as well, with that old “disadvantage”, a brain.
All this is a preamble to telling you how much I have always liked the song in the second clip below, for here, in a [just] pre-feminist era, we have a feminine woman telling a man, in no uncertain terms, that she will not be treated as a plaything and discarded “among the 10 other dolls who no longer please you.” Sing it again, Patti!
Saturday, January 12, 2008
1. "A girl can eat her way through this."
2. "This is getting nasty. Better line up my weapons."
3. "Time to shake my toys at this naughty weather!"
I have decided that Simi would make a much better Italian housewife than her Mum as she cannot stand it if any item of furniture, ornament or cushion is out of place. This morning she barked like crazy in the bedroom and what was my "crime"? - I had left a drawer open! By the way, it is no accident that here "Everything all right?" is rendered by, "Tutto a posto?" ["Everything in place?"] If you are not me and are a really tidy person, you might reply, "A postissimo".
Friday, January 11, 2008
At the salon, Raffaele is delighted with his new mural.
This morning I go to the chemist's and receive wonderful personal service. There are times when I long for a Boot's [large UK chemist chain] especially on a Saturday when all pharmacies except the "duty" one are closed. Yet today they cannot do enough for me and I am pleased.
Oh, yes, I got paid today, too: "So what's remarkable about that?" you may ask. "You do a job and so you would expect to get paid, wouldn't you? " Well, yes and no, for this is Sicily , reader and sometimes people wonder if they will ever be paid for their labours . It is not unusual to have to wait a year for your remuneration! Therefore I am more than a little relieved...
So once again, I add up the bilancia [balance] in my unmathematical head and reflect upon how lucky I am to be here.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
This is only my fourth week at the school and of course we have had the interruption of the festivities, but at last I have something which looks like a permanent timetable – or as permanent as it will get, given that this is not only Italy but Sicily! For the past two weeks, students have been coming or not coming, changing their hours, insisting on lots of homework but then, having contended for a week with a houseful of bambini and all the relatives, coming back and pleading charmingly, “I couldn’t to study, teacher” . I won’t lose out financially by the postponement of these hours as they have signed up for a certain number of hours and need to complete them; it’s just that you don’t know when they are going to do so! And even now that the festivities are over, some come for a two –hour lesson and have some reason why it should only last for half that time [“It is the birthday of my friend / I go to skiing with my girlfriend” or even “I see this girlfriend yesterday and today I have to see the other girlfriend” – all very Italian priorities which seem fine to me!] I am becoming Sicilian, reader, and they are such lovely people that my pazienza has not yet failed me!
As for their difficulties with English, apart from the usual ones of present continuous versus present simple tense [not so difficult for Italians as for speakers of languages with no continuous tenses], conditionals and articles or their omission, the two problems that everyone has are: pronunciation of –ed in a past participle [nearly always pronounced as a separate syllable here] and the “use” of use, as in : “Italians use to drive on the right.” So you have to explain that in English you can’t use “use” in that sense, ie., for a habit, and that you have to use the present simple, and then you have the nightmare of “used to” [where Italian uses the imperfect tense], “get used to” [where Italian uses a reflexive and “get” complicates everything] and “be used to” [ a bit simpler].
There are methodology difficulties too, as many adult students expect you to follow every activity in their coursebook in precisely the way it is laid out there and they look at you as if you are crazy when you deviate from it. [This reflects the teaching that they have had at school.] Well, for this teacher the coursebook is a guide and I like to liven things up a bit when I can see it is getting boring or the students are sagging. One of my favourite language games is “expanding text” [from a book called “Five Minute Activities” which has saved me many times, especially at that moment towards the end of a long lesson, when you have finished the main activity but there is not enough time to start the next one, or you know it will confuse everybody if you do]: You put a word in the centre of the board such as “go”. Then the students can add up to three words left or right of it, then left or right of the new text and so on, to see how long you can make the text. You alter punctuation as you go, or ask the students to suggest alterations if they are above elementary level; if your students are at a lower level, you can help them by adding “connectors” like “and/because/so” etc. They all seem to like this activity, once they get over the shock of not adhering to the coursebook all the time. Tonight I taught a newly married couple and just stopped myself from saying, “You could try this at home”. I must really be becoming an old crock, reader for I imagine a newly married couple can think of far more interesting games to play with each other than linguistic ones!
Tuesday, January 08, 2008
Monday, January 07, 2008
Sunday, January 06, 2008
Saturday, January 05, 2008
Feeling very low and melancholy this evening. Some of you will know that there have been some upsetting issues over at "Blogpower" but apart from that my lovely grandad died at this time of year and after tomorrow I'll have to take the Xmas decorations down - a task which, in itself, is enough to plunge me into depression.
Besides, it's been one of those melancholy winter days in Sicily, when you imagine that if the temperature were just a degree or two lower, you would experience again that "chill " in the air which is in the UK right now. - So you see, wherever you are, you still sometimes miss your country!
Anyway, I haven't seen snow for three winters now and so I looked for this to remind myself of it. [Though I want to know why Deneuve doesn't slip in it like I would in stilettoes!] This scene always makes me cry buckets, and, as I am already crying, I decided I might as well make a good job of it! The clip also proves that nothing is ever the end of the world, though it often seems that way. Somehow we get up and get on with our lives.
I just wanted to think about snow tonight.