Wednesday, August 09, 2006


Last night, in the middle of August in sunny Sicily, I sat in a field and froze! I had gone, with Linda and her family, to an open-air Mozart concert at an agritourism farm on the Ispica road. It's in quite a high-up, windy location, so Linda had warned me to take a cardigan and also to wear flat shoes for the walking. Now the only flat shoes I have that are elegant enough to wear out at night are sandals and this choice of footwear did not do me a lot of good!

Of course, Linda and I fall for it every time: if a concert is billed to start at 9pm, as this one was, we arrive punctually at 8.45 and fully expect it to start on time. [We should have "This is Sicily" tattooed onto our British foreheads.] The fact that we arrived at the same time as the grand piano was not a hopeful sign. Nevertheless, we found ourselves boulders to sit on [Linda having brought cushions] and confidently awaited the appearance of the musicians. By 9.20 there was no sign of anything happening and people were still strolling in. A friend found out that the Rotarians, who had organised the event, had not yet arrived and that was the reason for the delay. Why couldn't they come on time? It wasn't as if the roads were busy. By this time the wind had really become chilly and we were getting worried. Then we were told that, in view of the weather, the Mayor had just suggested moving the whole caboodle to the Palazzo della Cultura in town. We had to wait while this proposal was discussed and eventually it was agreed that the idea was impractical at that stage. We were by then miserably cold and I couldn't feel my feet!

To our relief, the concert began at 9.45 but the microphones were poor so instead of being transported, so to speak, by the music, all we could think about was how cold we were. People were obviously uncomfortable and started milling around trying to get warm, which must have made things even more difficult for the performers who were already battling with the Scirocco.

At 11 pm Linda and I, who had retreated to the relative shelter of a high wall, glanced at the programme. "Only 3 to go", declared Linda. "Plus encores and someone's bound to make a speech", said I pessimistically. Then it was announced that, because of the wind, they were going to cut a couple of items. The planned encore was sung and, just as everyone stood up to leave, the conductor began his speech - a short one, mercifully.

I've never seen an auditorium empty so quickly in my life, as everyone raced towards the buffet tables on a warmer terrace and here I witnessed the usual pushing and shoving and deemed it best not to participate. But when I saw several of the most ladylike women I know emerging from the throng with plates laden with focacce, sandwiches, pastries and fruit salads I decided, against my better judgement, to join the fray. So Linda held my handbag as, elbows out, your intrepid blogger plunged into the crowd. After 15 minutes of elbowing and being elbowed, this is what I managed to get onto my plate:
1 napkin
1 fork
2 pieces of ham rolled around something and speared with cocktail sticks
1 cherry tomato
1 olive which had fallen off something else
Oh! I got a glass of pineapple juice, too.

It occurred to me that the person they need to employ at these buffets is the former receptionist at my Cardiff doctor's surgery: this lady used to have everybody sitting in the order of their appointments on a neat row of precisely placed chairs and you didn't dare get up, even to go to the loo if you knew you were in for a long wait. Then she'd make you move up a seat when the person before you went into the doctor's room, even if you were the very last patient. Yes, she'd have sorted out last night's mélange!

At last we decided we could decently leave. [We'd have left earlier if a friend's daughter had not been one of the performers.] We took a back route out to avoid long goodbyes in the cold and to top it all, the organisers had put all the lights out along the rough track to the exit area! [But the ever-practical Linda had brought a torch, fortunately.]

So what should have been a pleasant event - for the musicians were good and deserved better - was ruined by a lack of forethought and organisational skills. I could hardly proudly take a visitor from the UK to such a shambles, could I? Once again, wake up, Sicily!

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