Friday, May 05, 2006


Surprisingly, I am doing more, culturally, than I used to in the UK: this is probably because I was always at work when there were book signings and the like, and in the evenings I was too tired to go out again to concerts or the theatre. Here, there does seem to be more on at times when I can actually go and concerts or the theatre are not expensive as they are in Britain.

In the winter there are concerts down in Modica Bassa and there are now events at the Teatro Garibaldi all year round. This charming little theatre has recently been restored [well, it was restored before but the roof fell in!] and I had never been inside until I came to live here last year; it was in a sorry state during all my previous visits to Modica. Now its façade sparkles on the Corso and inside it is very comfortable, pleasant and welcoming.

Since settling here, I have attended two presentations of new books, one a volume of poetry by Antonio Lonardo, a teacher I have met at the Archimede School, and the other a novel about Olympe de Gouges by Maria Rosa Cutrufelli, a writer from Messina. I love Prof. Lonardo's poetry, and read one of his poems every day. The Cutrufelli presentation was interesting and was well attended; the Mayor spoke and the media were well represented. The author spoke well about many issues.

In the summer there are concerts in the stunning old villas in and around Modica. Classical music, jazz and many genres are included in the summer programme. These concerts are elegant affairs, in particular the first one of the season, with what seems like everyone in Modica turned out in their finery.

What is not elegant, however, is the scramble for food afterwards! Mouthwatering morsels are laid out on long trestle tables in the magical villa gardens: uniformed stewards stand by; fountains play and the scene is lit by moonlight [for the concerts begin and end very late]. And then what happens? Do the stewards serve the food? They do not. Instead, at a signal which is both invisible and inaudible to me but is obviously clear to everybody else, everyone pushes, shoves and elbows their way to the tables, grabbing as much as they can of this so delicately presented fare while the stewards just stand there. So in the country which has, arguably, the best home cooking in the world, people fight over these offerings as if they had never seen food before!

I might give these occasions a miss this year; the urge to yell at everyone to form a very British queue is too strong in me!

Not long after my arrival last summer, I was lucky enough to attend, with Irma, a performance of "Antigone" in the Greek Amphitheatre in Siracusa [Syracuse]. That is something I had always wanted to do as, although I had been to the Amphitheatre many times, I had never managed to be in Sicily during the performance season. That night, I was mesmerised! The costumes were all black and white, there were imposing white statues of the Greek gods in the background, and just the thought that you were sitting where the Greeks had sat, listening to the words they had listened to - albeit in a different language - was such a deeply spiritual experience for me. And then, just as the very last words about not tempting the gods were uttered, a storm broke. "Perfetto", said Irma; "Perfetto", said I.

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